There’s a simple reason Plantation American Heritage’s Zach Collins is South Florida’s top MLB draft prospect this year.
“It’s not that often teams can find an elite catcher with his bat speed and home run power from the left side of the plate,” Heritage coach Bruce Aven said. “They just aren’t out there.”
Collins, who figures to get selected in the first three rounds, is ranked by Baseball America as the 112th best prospect in the draft.
However, Baseball America’s scouting report said “scouts aren’t sold on [Collins] as a catcher,” which is why he is also listed as a first baseman.
Collins admits that scouts were once split “50-50” as to whether he could stay at catcher, where his power bat would have much more value than at first base.
But, Collins said, those doubts have since evaporated.
“I worked with Yasmani Grandal the past two years, and he taught me a lot,” Collins said of the former University of Miami catcher who plays for the San Diego Padres. “Now, 100 percent of the scouts like me as a catcher.”
Collins, a 6-2, 220-pounder, has worked out for about 15 major-league organizations. The workouts usually consist of Collins taking batting practice, throwing to second from behind the plate and handling interview-type questions.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” Collins said. “I’m trying to stay calm.”
Collins, who has a 3.7 grade-point average, has a baseball scholarship to the University of Miami.
If he doesn’t like the signing bonus offered, Collins could be playing — and likely starting — for the Canes next year.
He certainly has the credentials.
In 2011, he led USA Baseball’s 16-under team to a gold medal at the World Youth Championships in Mexico, earning MVP honors.
Last year, he led Heritage to a state championship.
This year, the Patriots opened the playoffs with four consecutive victories, beating their opponents by a combined total of 48-0. But Heritage was eliminated by Estero, 3-2, in a Class 5A regional final.
Collins hit .388 with seven doubles, one triple, five homers and 31 RBI as the Patriots lost their first and last games of the season but went 25-1 in between.
And although his numbers were strong, Collins said he struggled early, which can happen when 25 scouts are watching you play.
Collins also had to make an adjustment at the plate because pitchers — aware of his power — gave him few if any pitches to hit.
“They were pitching to him like he was Babe Ruth,” said Aven, who moved him to second so he could get on base more often.
To his credit, Collins did not chase many pitches. He had an on-base percentage of .533 and had more walks (23) than strikeouts (22).
That type of patience is yet another reason why Collins is this region’s best prospect.