Amir Garrett's plus fastball gets him looks for the MLB draft

St. John's 2011 signee Amir Garrett is a fantastic small forward with potential through the roof. He is an "extra-terrestrial athlete" according to Tom Konchalski, and he rocks some style in his haircut.

Amir Garrett can also throw a baseball.

Hard.

In the mid-90s. And he's a lefty.

And that means he's on the radar of baseball scouts, even though Findlay Prep High School doesn't have a baseball team. With the Major League Baseball draft coming up this week - June 6th-June 8th, on the MLB network and MLB.com.

For those who find it unrealistic that a player who hasn't played organized baseball in a year could get drafted, he does intrigue scouts; Baseball America has Amir Garrett as the 200th rated prospect overall. Will it be enough to get him into a major league baseball organization?

Incoming forward Amir Garrett could be faced with intriguing choices - come to St. John's to play basketball, or pursue the dream of baseball on the professional level, or try to do both. More on Amir Garrett's baseball chances, and video of him pitching, below the fold.

Backstory: Amir Garrett was a two-sport star at the Las Vegas area's Sierra Vista High School in Las Vegas, and continued at California's Leuzinger High School before moving on to Findlay Prep to concentrate on basketball. Findlay Prep has been great for raising Garrett's profile; the "school" is comprised of Division I athletes who take classes at a nearby prep school, and they play a non-league, national schedule against the best programs. The players get a lot of television exposure; Findlay is a bit like an elite basketball camp.

Obviously, Garrett is serious about basketball. But he was a a baseball player with potential, playing on club teams with the Washington Nationals' top prospect Bryce Harper. For Garrett, like other players with two-sport ability, a second sport is a nice hedge for one's future career. Why stop playing if it doesn't interfere with his studies and doesn't destroy his training for his scholarship sport, basketball?

Obviously, Steve Lavin and the staff would probably prefer a basketball-focused Amir, and baseball folks would prefer a pitching-focused Amir.

Two sport stars? Schedule-wise, playing basketball and baseball is less difficult than football and basketball; those two sports' seasons overlap in college more than basketball and baseball do.

Many have played baseball and basketball in college; Andrew Brackman from NC State is one, Chris Young - current New York Met - is another, while he was at Princeton. And some have been pro in baseball while maintaining their college eligibility in another sport - Kyle Parker from Clemson, Kenny Kelly from the University of Miami, for example.

Garrett's potential: But is Amir Garrett good enough for a professional baseball team to pay him a bonus and only have his athletic attentions for half of the year? A quartet of quotes about Garrett's baseball potential:

From ESPN, on a May 4th workout Amir Garrett had for baseball scouts:

Word spread quickly around Major League Baseball that the 6-foot-6 lefty had a bullpen workout at 2 p.m. National cross-checkers and supervisors were in attendance along with over 20 scouts.

Garrett hit 94 mph on the radar gun, impressing those in attendance.

"He showed a lightning quick arm and performed very well for the setting he was in," one National League scout said. "There will be attempts by other scouts to do more evaluations of him leading up to the [MLB] Draft."

From Jonathan Mayo's MLB.com affiliated blog on Amir Garrett's stuff/ viability for baseball:

And during his approximately 40-pitch long workout, he was throwing fastballs in the 92-95 mph range, with a report or two of 96 mph. He doesn’t have much in the way of secondary stuff, throwing a couple of curveballs and changeups, neither of which really stood out. A cutter might work for him down the line. While he’s obviously very raw on the mound, the athleticism he has on the court showed up on the mound. He may not have had much of an arsenal yet, but he looked fairly effortless in pumping in plus fastballs.

And more from Mayo:

Well, it seems like the hoops recruit (St. John’s) who’s at least toying with the idea of pitching instead, threw to live hitters for the first time since he started workouts for scouts. The lefty threw to hitters from the College of Southern Nevada, where Garrett has had his other bullpen sessions. According to one source, he was up to 95 mph and continued to show improvement with his curve and changeup, throwing 55 pitches in total. There are a number of teams who have continued to show interest in Garrett and he might try to squeeze in one more private workout before Draft day. It’s going to take a good bonus to sign him away from basketball, but there are teams that might be willing to meet that price after taking him in the second or third round.

ESPN's Keith Law:

Amir Garrett.... Lot of scouts thinking this is a money grab, that he wants to get paid to play a little over the summer while he pursues the NBA at St. John's. Threw well in a few workouts and then was not good at the last one last week.

Garrett could be an intriguing pick in the MLB amateur draft. The draft is built on potential, and so many baseball players never make the big leagues from high school. High school pitchers and hitters are also high-risk; it's a bit like throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks, even when the players are heavily scouted. So why not a player who throws effortlessly and hard?

The "decision": The bonus - and the baseball commitment - are the interesting points. Will teams take a risk on a hard throwing lefty? Yes.

Will they take that risk if he's not committed for the full year? Unsure.

Will they do that while paying a bunch of money that they might not get back? Depends on how much money is involved.

It's not at all clear that it's possible to sign Garrett AWAY from basketball. He enjoys the game, has recently tweeted about how he's excited to show his true game at St. John's. The St. John's staff loves his game; they kept recruiting him after signing another stellar defensive small forward in Sir'Dominic Pointer.

And I see why; Garrett's barely touched his potential on the hardwood. He is exclusively left-handed with his game and needs to develop a dribble; he needs to develop his shot and extend his range. And he could put on a little more muscle. But Amir Garrett plays hard - and is playing defense every time you see him, even in all-star games. He's athletic (see Garrett's Ball is Life dunk contest performance - he won). And he's willing to do the dirty work.

Obviously, losing Amir Garrett from the recruiting class leaves the stellar St. John's class down to 8, with only one returning player. And the class loses a bit of versatility and defense, which could be the difference between the NCAA bubble and a bottom-4 finish in the Big East.

Still, if Garrett can get paid to pitch a little baseball in summer-season leagues while getting his education and working on his basketball game, that's not a bad look. ESPN's Ketih Law points out that some scouts see this as a "money grab" - which sounds like a pejorative term to me. Isn't this the American dream? To be able to leverage one's gifted and trained abilities and make some money from anyone who will pay you?

Moreover, touted prospects often don't pan out. And if they don't pan out, they don't make major-league money. There isn't enough certainty in Major League Baseball to make a player like Amir Garrett give up hoops for the minor league bus rides, potential to be cut, and the potential to hit his ceiling at Double-A and try to scrape by in Independent leagues.

We'll keep an eye out on Garrett. And Amir does have the possible option of pitching for St. John's in the basketball offseasons if he isn't drafted, or turns down the contract he is offered, which is his prerogative.

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