FIU first baseman Edwin Rios and closer Danny Dopico are the first two Panthers expected to be drafted in the Major League Baseball Draft today when the selections resume with the third round at 1 p.m. That's what several major league scouts that I spoke to during this past season think as far as the early order of FIU players to be taken in this year's draft.
Rios, who hit .314 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI this past season, is expected to be drafted between the fourth and sixth rounds, but could sneak into the third round. Rios finished tied for fourth in the nation in home runs. Among the parts of Rios's game that scouts mentioned were the power and the ability to hit to all fields. Rios's season took off after he hit three home runs against Charlotte on March 21. Since March 21 the junior had hits in 33 of his last 39 games, including in two of the three Coral Gables regional games.
Dopico began the 2015 season working in the back end of the FIU bullpen before taking over the closer's role shortly thereafter. Dopico is expected to go from the seventh round on. The right-hander introduced himself at FIU by striking out six batters in 1 2/3 innings of work against Tennessee and recording the win in the season opener. For the Panthers, Dopico's strikeouts were not fascist as they usually led to saves. With 11.32 strikeouts per 9 innings, Dopico would have been 13th in the nation in the category if he had pitched enough innings to qualify. Dopico tied for the Conference USA lead with 10 saves. Scouts raved about Dopico's velocity (low to mid 90's), movement and his makeup as a closer where he would not get flustered in tight situations. This season it was amusing to see MLB scouts rush over for a seat behind home plate with their radar guns and video cameras whenever Dopico entered the game.
Expected to go late in the draft, likely on Wednesday, is Josh Anderson and possibly Brian Portelli. Anderson got it going during the UAB series and rode the wave to the Conference USA tournament MVP. The senior third baseman saw his average rise 40 points from May 8 to May 31 after missing 16 days earlier in the season after groin surgery. Several scouts like Anderson as a catcher, even though he's never played the position, because they say he has soft hands, a good arm and he's tough-minded. They also like his power at the plate.
Portelli hit .350 last season and .343 this season after 142 more at-bats this season than in 2014. Scouts like his consistent bat and his approach at the plate. Portelli is also an underrated outfielder who gets to fly balls and line drives and has a good arm.