When the 2013 MLB Draft begins Thursday, the top local college prospects won’t come from the University of Miami or even fellow Division I schools FIU and Florida Atlantic.
Instead, it’s a junior college and a Division II school that have the prospects the pros find most appealing this year.
According to Baseball America, Miami Dade College freshman third baseman Victor Caratini is the 123rd best prospect in the draft. Nova Southeastern University (Division II) boasts junior second baseman Carlos Asuaje, ranked No. 204.
No other local collegian is ranked in the top 250.
If the draft plays out according to those rankings, Asuaje would be selected in the sixth round. Currently, the highest a Nova player ever has been selected was Miles Mikolas, a pitcher picked in the seventh round in 2009.
“I think Carlos will be selected in that five-to-seven range,” Nova coach Greg Brown said. “A big reason is his bat. He has the ability to use the whole field, and his swing-to-contact ratio is high [13 strikeouts in 178 at-bats this season].
“He’s also a true leadoff hitter, and that’s one of the toughest things to find in baseball.”
He could also project as a No. 2 hitter in a pro lineup, according to the editors at Baseball America, who said Asuaje first got on scouts’ radar with his play in last summer’s Cape Cod League.
Asuaje, a 5-9, 160-pounder with line-drive gap power, was born in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, and came to the United States as a 4-year-old. He became a star at St. Thomas Aquinas, where he made first-team All-State as a senior, leading the Raiders to the state semifinals that year.
He signed with Nova, but before he could play a game for the Sharks, a coaching change occurred.
At that point, Asuaje said he began reviewing his college options. But when Brown — who had been a pro scout before coming to Nova — was hired, he made it a point to contact Asuaje.
“I felt that he could become the all-time hits leader at Nova,” Brown said. “His hands were that special.”
Brown’s faith in Asuaje was proven correct. Asuaje was the Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year, leading Nova in batting average (.355) and steals (20). As a sophomore, he was the conference’s co-Player of the Year, leading Nova in batting average (.389), on-base percentage (.480), runs scored (49) and doubles (23).
Asuaje’s numbers slipped as a junior, when he was named second-team All-Conference.
Still, he hit .320 and led the team in on-base percentage (.441), doubles (13) and runs scored (40). He led the conference in steals, swiping 35 in 38 tries, and was second in the league in walks (38).
“He hit the ball well this year,” Brown said. “Opposing teams game-planned for him and used all kinds of shifts. When they played Nova, they were determined to not allow Carlos to beat them.”
Even when he wasn’t hitting, though, Asuaje found other ways to help his team. It wasn’t just the walks and steals but also his defense.
Because of an injury at midseason, Asuaje moved from second base to shortstop and handled the move well. He made only six errors all season. In three seasons, he had a combined 16 errors.
Brown believes that Asuaje’s now-proven ability to play shortstop in a pinch has helped his draft value.
Asuaje, a business administration major with a 3.18 grade-point average, is 24 credits away from graduation.