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High school baseball players to keep an eye on in Tampa Bay

This should be another highly competitive season with the talent stacking up on area rosters.
After a standout sophomore season, expectations are even higher for Osceloa pitcher Corey Braun. [Times]

Usually, our annual list of players to watch is limited to 25. This year’s list stretched to 30. Frankly, it could have been 50. As is often the case, there are many talented players in the Tampa Bay area. And there are sure to be players not on this list who emerge this season.

Here are some players to watch in what should be a competitive 2020 season:

RHP Corey Braun, Jr., Osceola

As a sophomore he emerged as the Warriors’ ace. Pitched 57 ⅔ innings and was 8-3 with a 1.46 ERA. Not an overpowering pitcher, he throws strikes and allows the defense to work. Played a big role in helping Osceola reach the region finals last season.

Related: Regional baseball: Osceola eliminates Lennard with clutch sixth-inning hit

CF Marcus Brodil, Jr., Dunedin

A major contributor to last season’s state final team as a sophomore. Hit .330 in 109 plate appearances and had 23 RBIs. A rangy fielder who is committed to USF.

Related: State baseball: Dunedin returns to first final in 11 years

RHP/1B Chase Centala, Sr., Sickles

Played in 19 games as a junior and hit the ball all over the field. Had a .519 average with 18 RBIs and six doubles. He threw 38 innings as a starter and went 7-1 with 61 strikeouts. Sure to be the ace this season. Committed to the University of Florida.

C Pierce Chambers, Sr., Calvary Christian

Took over for Matheu Nelson last season and barely skipped a beat. Not only a good defensive catcher, he also hit .436 and had 29 RBIs. Committed to Texas Christian.

Related: State baseball: Calvary Christian puts semifinal away in first inning

INF Cole Cothren, Sr., Plant City

Cothren had the highest batting average (.467) of any every-day starter for the Raiders in last year’s championship season. He had 20 RBIs and five doubles. A versatile player who can play infield or outfield.

Related: State baseball: This Plant City team is anything but typical

OF Austin Coultas, Jr., Wesley Chapel

Had a breakout season as a sophomore when he hit .348 with 10 doubles and 19 RBIs. Also pitched 19 ⅔ innings last season, second most on team. Was 3-2 with a 2.49 ERA. Will likely be a dual threat again this season.

RHP/1B Tyler Dowdy, Sr., Plant City

A power pitcher and a power hitter. He hit .360 and led the defending state champs with six home runs. Also went 6-1 with 57 strikeouts last season as the No. 2 starter. With Parker Messick at Florida State, Dowdy will likely be the ace. He is committed to West Florida.

SS Dylan DuPhily, Jr., Hernando

Led the Leopards with 23 RBIs in his sophomore year. Also hit .338 with six doubles and three triples, and threw 18 innings last season. Has been a starter and major contributor since his freshman year.

Related: Late-season surge puts Hernando baseball in good standing for districts

INF/RHP Zach Ehrhard, Jr., Wharton

Hit a team-high .434 as a sophomore. Also had five doubles and 17 RBIs. Used as a reliever last year while mostly playing shortstop. Should be a main offensive weapon again for a team that won 19 games last season.

SS Donovan Garcia, Sr., Steinbrenner

Hit .368 as a junior with a team-high 18 RBIs and seven doubles. He has been a member of the varsity team since his freshman year, along with twin brother Griffin. Both are committed to Flagler College.

OF/LHP Renzo Gonzalez, Jr., Alonso

A bright spot on an offense that struggled last season. He hit .376 and had a team-high five home runs. Also threw 31 innings and had 28 strikeouts. Committed to the University of Miami.

OF Samuel Gordon, Sr., Calvary Christian

One of the top returning offensive players from last year’s 26-4 team. He hit .422 with three home runs 18 RBIs as a junior. Also a rangy outfielder. Committed to State College of Florida.

SS RJ Gutierrez, Jr., Leto

A starter since his freshman year, Gutierrez makes up part of a strong middle infield along with second baseman Coltin Pizzio. Had a productive sophomore season with a .379 average. Also stole a team high 15 bases.

C/DH Tayden Hall, Jr., Steinbrenner

Committed to USF as a sophomore. Hit .388 with nine RBIs last season. Also led the team with 20 walks. A versatile player with size (6-2, 200) and speed.

INF Dakota Harris, Sr., Land O’Lakes

In his third year as a starter. Hit .355 with a team-high eight doubles as a junior. Also had 12 stolen bases. Currently committed to Polk State College.

Related: District baseball: Land O’ Lakes clinches third straight crown

LHP Bryce Holmes, Sr., Springstead

With Jack Jasiak and Steven Fitzgerald graduated, Holmes will get most of the innings this season. He threw 28 ⅓ innings as a junior and had 51 strikeouts. He had a 0.49 ERA. Should be the ace of the staff.

INF Lucas Ismaili, Sr., East Lake

A middle infielder, Ismaili is committed to Pittsburgh. Had a very good offensive season as a junior. Hit .379 with five triples and three home runs. He can also pitch if needed but may not get many innings on this pitching-rich team.

SS Cade Kurland, Fr., Berkeley Prep

Yes, Kurland is a freshman, but he already has two years as a varsity player under his belt. A slick fielder, he hit .359 with 22 RBIs and eight doubles last season. Committed to the University of Florida, he will be a player to watch for years to come.

C Bennett Lee, Sr., Jesuit

Committed to Tulane, Lee battled a late-season injury and missed the playoffs. But the Tigers relied on him throughout the regular season. He hit .442 in 25 games as a junior and had 12 doubles, seven triples and three home runs. He will be hard to pitch to this season.

P/INF Jackson Miller, Sr., Mitchell

A legitimate high-round draft choice, Miller is also committed to Wake Forest. He is a right-handed pitcher but a left-handed hitter who also has power. Hit .464 with nine doubles and two home runs last season. Led the team with 32 RBIs. As a pitcher he was 9-1 with a 0.67 ERA.

RHP Camden Minacci, Sr., Jesuit

Committed to Wake Forest, Minacci was the Tigers’ ace last season and will be again this season. He was 12-1 with a 1.12 ERA as a junior and got the win in last year’s Class 6A state semifinal against Miami Springs. Another pro prospect.

Related: Jesuit’s go-to guy against a stacked slate? Camden Minacci

OF Brad Myers, Jr., Northeast

Hit. 403 in 25 games as a sophomore. Also had seven doubles and a team-high four home runs. He will likely hit in the middle of what looks to be a potent lineup.

RHP/INF Cooper Nelson, Sr., East Lake

One of two aces on the Eagles’ staff along with Ryan Slater. He was 8-2 with a 1.58 ERA last season and had 71 strikeouts in 53 innings. He’ll get the ball every week this season as well as part of one of the best staffs in the area.

INF/OF Josh Pigozzo, Sr., East Lake

Hit the ball all over the field as a junior. Had a .473 average with nine doubles and 22 RBIs. A versatile player, he can play third or first base or play in the outfield.

INF Cole Russo, Jr., Jesuit

Committed to UCF, Russo had a big sophomore season. He hit .342 with 27 RBIs and two home runs. Expect even more power this season as Russo hits in the middle of a very good lineup.

RHP/INF Ryan Slater, Sr., East Lake

A power pitcher who has been committed to Florida since his junior year. He was 9-1 with a 0.92 ERA. He had 71 strikeouts in 69 innings last season. Also hit .357, so he will be a dual threat for the Eagles.

SS Vince Smith, Sr., Calvary Christian

Committed to Florida State, he will take over at shortstop for Christian Cairo this season. He hit .315 last season and had 11 doubles and two home runs. Pitched sparingly but will be used mainly as an everyday player as a senior.

3B Tommy White, Jr., Calvary Christian

White has been mashing the ball for the Warriors since his freshman year. Scary to think what he will do this season. Hit .426 with 36 RBIs last season and had four home runs as a junior. Committed to N.C. State.

C Brock Wilken, Sr., Bloomingdale

Pitching to Wilken is risky business. He hit .468 as a junior and had 12 home runs. He also led the Bulls with 26 RBIs. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he is sure to get a look from major-league scouts all season. Committed to Wake Forest.

Related: What’s with all the power hitters in Tampa Bay this season?

SS Blake Wright, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

Committed to Clemson, Wright is a well-rounded player. He hit .385 with nine doubles and four home runs as a junior. Only made eight errors in 97 attempts at shortstop.

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