While high schools in many southern states are beginning to move toward the start of the playoffs, some of their northern counterparts are just getting their seasons underway.
One solution to the cold, early-spring weather is to take a trip south during spring break. That's what right-hander Scott Blewett and Baker (N.Y.) High School did this week, travelling to Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.
Blewett, who entered the spring ranked No. 40 on MLB.com's Top 50 Draft prospects list, made one start while the team was in Florida. He struck out 13 batters in six innings and threw his fastball in the low-90s.
For teams that are unable to play out of the cold, the weather can wreak havoc on early-season schedules as Holman (Wisc.) High School and outfielder Jeren Kendall have found out this year.
Kendall played well in several high-profile showcases last summer and was ranked No. 49 on the early Draft prospects list. But, between the late start of Wisconsin's high school baseball season and poor weather in the Upper Midwest, he has played just four games. Already, seven of Holmen's games have been postponed or cancelled.
Kendall, who is committed to Vanderbilt, is attempting to become the first Wisconsin high school player to be drafted in the first 100 picks since 1985. His tools are good enough to make that happen, if the weather can cooperate enough for evaluators to make their way to Holmen to see him play.
Fisher makes powerful return for Virginia
Outfielder Derek Fisher returned to the Virginia lineup this week, just in time for one of its biggest series of the season: a weekend visit to Florida State.
Fisher, who entered the spring ranked No. 15 on MLB.com's Top 50 Draft prospects list, had been sidelined since early March when he suffered a broken hamate bone in his right wrist. The injury required surgery, keeping him out of action for about five weeks.
Fisher returned to the Cavaliers lineup Sunday after a 25-game absence. After going 0-for-3 against North Carolina in his first game back, he homered in both of Virginia's midweek games.
Fisher said the injury gave him a new perspective on the game, a change which he credited with helping him make such an easy return to action.
"Keep things simple, go up and hit balls hard regardless of stats and outcomes and result," Fisher said. "Go up with a clear mind and hit baseballs hard.
"Our time at UVa is limited and we know that. Just go out there and have fun. If we play uptight and try to prove things, that's when things start to downward spiral."
The Cavaliers are getting Fisher back at an opportune time. Virginia, ranked No. 1 by Baseball America, and Florida State, No. 4, are tied with Miami for the best record in the ACC. This weekend's series will be critical to sorting out postseason seeding.
The timing of his return is beneficial to Fisher as well. Scouts will immediately get to see him against an elite pitcher, as Florida State will start right-hander Luke Weaver on Friday night.
Weaver was ranked No. 23 on that preseason list and has maintained his projection as a first-round pick. He has a 2.83 ERA and is holding opponents to a .214 batting average this season.
The Cavaliers roughed Weaver up when they faced him last season, scoring seven runs on six hits, including a two-run home run by Fisher. Still, Fisher knows how good Weaver can be and is excited to face him again.
"Luke's very blessed and he's honed his ability and done a very good job with it," Fisher said. "We'll be ready to face him at his best and have some fun this weekend."
Teammates Railey, Sands climbing Draft boards
Two of the fastest rising prospects in this year's Draft class are teammates at North Florida Christian High School in Tallahassee. With excellent springs, outfielder Matthew Railey and left-hander Carson Sands, who are both committed to Florida State, have played their way into consideration for the first three rounds -- or higher -- of the First-Year Player Draft.
Railey stands out for his athleticism and his feel for hitting. While scouts wonder if he is fast enough to remain a center fielder as a professional, they think he'll hit enough to profile in a corner if he does have to move.
Improved velocity has been the key to Sands' rise this spring and he now consistently throws his fastball in the low-90s, touching 94 mph. But scouts also like his size -- he's listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds -- and his feel for his curveball and changeup.
Together, Railey and Sands have helped North Florida Christian to a 14-game winning streak. They are among the favorites in Florida's Class 3A and got their state championship campaign off to a good start Thursday with an 11-2 victory against John Paul II Catholic High School. Railey had three hits in the game and Sands struck out nine batters in four innings.
One area scout said a deep run in the state playoffs would only serve to boost their stock more.
"With all the attention they'll get if they go deep in the playoffs, it wouldn't surprise me if they go a little higher than where they are now," the scout said. "They should go far in the state tournament and get seen more."