One way or another, the stage will soon become a lot bigger and the spotlight will get a little brighter for Nick Eicholtz.
After dominating small-school competition this spring, the Cambridge Christian right-hander projects as one of the bay area’s top MLB draft prospects this week. Eicholtz will then choose between starting a professional career in the minor leagues or accepting a scholarship offer to Alabama.
“Right now, I’m probably 50-50,” Eicholtz said. “Bama is a great option if everything doesn’t work out.”
There’s a good chance things could work out.
Eicholtz has captured the attention, if not imagination, of pro scouts in recent months. His size (6-foot-4 and 180 pounds with plenty of room to fill out), arm strength (mid-90s fastball and a low-90s breaking ball) and sound throwing motion have drawn interest from a number of MLB clubs, something not all that common for a pitcher at the Class 2A level.
All that translated into an impressive senior year, when Eicholtz compiled an 0.73 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 48 innings while leading the Lancers to the 2A state semifinals.
“He has all the elements that you want — all of the things that allow teams to dream about what he might become,” said Kiley McDaniel, a Tampa-based analyst with Scout.com. “Teams are trying to keep him under the radar. But he’s getting harder to hide.”
McDaniel said Eicholtz could go as high as the second round but should be selected somewhere in Rounds 3 or 4. “Even if he does,” McDaniel said, “he’ll probably get paid as a late second-round talent.”
In the past week, Eicholtz has had workouts at Tropicana Field with the Rays and at PNC Park with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s also met or spoken with representatives from most other major-league clubs.
Like most other high school prospects, Eicholtz said he’s enjoyed the pre-draft process and looks forward to seeing how the draft unfolds Thursday and Friday. It’s all been, obviously, quite a far cry from pitching against the likes of Sarasota Out-of-Door Academy or Tampa Bay Christian.
“Not a lot of kids from small schools have an opportunity to be invited to meet with major-league teams,” Eicholtz said. “That in and of itself has been humbling.”
He’s not just in demand at the pro level: several members of Alabama’s coaching staff plan to visit with him in Tampa in the coming days.
“They’re great people,” he said. “They’re coming down to hang out with me and see where I am on everything.”
Leopards' Lawson awaits his chance
Hernando pitcher Brandon Lawson has had two weeks with nothing to do.
Since classes ended last month, he’s had day after day to work out, savor his summer and dwell on a possible pro career that could begin if he’s drafted this week.
“I thought about it a lot,” Lawson said. “If the offer’s right, I’ll take the chance.”
Lawson isn’t one of Baseball America’s top 500 prospects, but he still has a shot to get drafted. Scouts flocked to Brooksville to see his teammate, shortstop Christian Arroyo.
A handful of them were present in the Class 5A region semifinal against Eustis and its top-100 prospect, Chris Okey. They saw Lawson, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, strike out 12 batters in a 3-1 victory.
Lawson’s stuff isn’t overpowering, but he locates his pitches well with a low-90s fastball and allowed only three earned runs during his 11-0 season.
Lawson said he’s fielded calls from a few teams this week, and he’s used the downtime to discuss financial deals with his parents. He’s still not sure when or if he’ll receive a call from the pros this week. If not, he’ll honor his commitment to USF.
“It’s a win either way,” Lawson said.
Springstead's Brosher sees good things ahead
Springstead senior Brandon Brosher is confidently looking forward to Thursday’s draft.
The pitcher and first baseman has seen his stock rise steadily the past nine months, and after speaking with advisers, he believes he has a good chance of being picked in a good position.
“I don’t want to be too specific, but I am expecting to go in a good spot,” Brosher said. “I have my expectations in the draft. If they’re not met, I always have the option to go to school.”
After a prep career for both the Eagles and Hernando Christian, Brosher committed to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., on a full scholarship .
He hit .407 with 23 home runs, 120 RBIs and 117 runs scored in a five-year span. He also amassed a 16-6 record on the mound with 10 complete games, 216 strikeouts, a 2.39 ERA and only 74 walks in 164 2/3 innings.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound right-hander’s confidence started to grow in October at the Florida Diamond Club Showcase at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. Brosher was one of the last prospects invited , but he had a solid batting practice and played well in the game in front of dozens of pro scouts.
“I was under the radar when I got there, and I didn’t think I really belonged,” he said, “but I did well in batting practice and then in the game. It was a big confidence boost for me. I knew that I could play with those guys that day.”
According to Perfect Game USA, Brosher was one of only 123 pitching prospects in the country clocked at 90 mph or above in 2012.
The circus of the past couple of weeks would be overwhelming to some, with trips to Marlins Park in Miami and Tropicana Field to perform for scouts, but Brosher is aware of the pitfalls. His travel ball coach is former Cambridge Christian coach and first-round MLB pick Sam Marsonek.
Marsonek was picked 24th overall in 1996 by the Texas Rangers, the same season the team took last year’s Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey. Marsonek pitched only once in the majors, a relief appearance in 2004 with the Yankees. His knowledge and advice have been instrumental in helping Brosher cope with the process.
Staff writer Matt Baker and correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.