Willie Abreu, 18, could have his name announced twice Friday in two once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The Mater Academy senior outfielder will graduate Friday in a ceremony at the University of Miami, and he also figures to get selected that same day in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which begins with the first round Thursday and ends Saturday.
“It’s a good feeling knowing I have a chance to hear my name called,” Abreu said, referring to the draft. “It’s always been a dream of mine.”
The draft will be televised by MLB Network, and Abreu and his family will be watching and waiting from their home in Hialeah.
Abreu is 2013’s top high school prospect in Miami-Dade County, although it’s not a strong year for baseball talent in the county. Unlike last year, when Mater center fielder Albert Almora was picked sixth overall by the Chicago Cubs, Abreu will have to wait longer to hear his name.
Baseball America ranks Abreu No. 202 among all prospects, an indication that they believe he could get picked somewhere around the sixth round.
That’s not to say that Abreu isn’t an impressive talent. Abreu, a 6-4, 205-pound left-handed hitter and thrower, led Mater in batting average (.513), runs (34), triples (four) and homers (six) this past season.
“When you meet Willie, there’s that ‘freak factor’ because of how big, strong and fast he is,” Mater coach Eddie Gorriz said. “He can also throw 90 mph, so he has a strong arm from the outfield.
“If you can put 20 pounds on him over the next few years, the sky is the limit.”
Abreu, who has a 4.1 grade-point average, has a scholarship to play next season for the University of Miami. But judging by his comments, he seems eager to go pro.
“I’m hoping to go in the top three rounds,” Abreu said.
Even if he does turn pro, Abreu promises he will pursue his degree. Both his parents are college graduates, and Abreu has already looked into taking online courses with an interest in sports management.
Gorriz said the scouting of Abreu, naturally, has not been as intense as with Almora last year, when numerous scouts attended his every game and his every batting-practice session.
Still, Gorriz said teams such as the Royals, Rangers, Brewers, Angels and Marlins have shown a lot of interest in Abreu, who played center field this year but projects to right or left in the pros.
Abreu is fine with that assessment.
“Center fielders in the majors have to be very, very fast,” Abreu said. “I have no problem playing right or left field. I played those positions my whole life before this year, and I played all three spots for USA Baseball. To play the corner, you have to hit the ball out of the park, and that is what I see myself doing.”