Ross Highfill isn’t a stranger to playing in front of MLB scouts. Last year, the highly-talented catcher at Madison Central (Miss.) High School played alongside two-way star Braden Montgomery, who drew a plethora of MLB draft interest.
Montgomery was an intriguing prospect with the talent to go in the first two rounds of last year’s draft. But Montgomery honored his commitment to Stanford University instead of pursuing a pro career last summer.
Watching Montgomery go through the draft process last year will aid Highfill this spring. Highfill possesses an exciting toolset behind the plate. He is athletic and has strong tools in all facets of the game, profiling as a balanced catcher in pro ball.
Scouts project Highfill as a potential early-round pick in this year’s draft. Despite the attention, Highfill prides himself on his team-first mindset and tries not to let the process distract him from leading his team to a successful season.
“The draft attention is great overall,” Highfill said. “Over the summer, I talked with a lot of scouts, and before school baseball started, I had some in-home visits. But now that the season is here, I am trying to block all that out and not have any in-home visits and focus on a team-first mindset. I just really want to work on my game and just show them my competitiveness to help my team win.”
Highfill is a 6-foot, 210-pound catcher known for his all-around tools, especially his defensive skillset. He is extremely athletic, as he moves well behind the plate. He also possesses a strong and accurate arm. Besides his physical attributes, Highfill serves as a leader on the field.
While Highfill will remain behind the plate long term, scouts also believe he has the athleticism and arm strength to play in the outfield.
“My biggest strength is my defense,” Highfill said. “It has all come naturally to me with playing multiple sports growing up. I started as a middle infielder. Then at 12 or so, the catcher got hurt, and I went behind the plate. I just stuck with it. Having that athletic background has helped me and worked out for the best.”
Offensively, Highfill has a slightly open stance and a powerful right-handed bat. He is direct to the baseball with his low-effort swing and hits the ball hard, especially to the right side of the field. Scouts project Highfill to hit for above-average power in pro ball.
Unlike some catchers, Highfill runs the bases well and isn’t afraid to pressure the defense.
“My offense was always decent growing up,” Highfill said. “But throughout my junior year, things started to really click. It showed over the summer against the big challenges. I showed well with the barrel, which helped my confidence and helped people see that I have a decent barrel.”
Besides his status as a top draft prospect, Highfill also is a Mississippi State commit. The Mississippi State initially committed to Southern Mississippi before flipping his commitment.
Highfill announced his change on Aug. 13. After Mississippi State expressed interest and gave him an offer, Highfill knew he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend his favorite program.
The Bulldogs won the national championship last year and have a proven history developing talent for pro ball, including their starting catcher on this year’s roster in Logan Tanner.
Tennessee, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Texas Tech also expressed interest in Highfill throughout the summer.
“Mississippi State was the dream,” Highfill said. “Coming from the south and seeing them play, you want to go to State growing up. When I decommitted, they were the first offer, and I knew immediately that is where I wanted to go.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.