LAKELAND – Ask George Jenkins baseball coach Chad Crosby who is better player, Brandon Howlett or Brady Allen, and expect a long pause. But the same thing happens when the ball jumps off their bats.
The two Jenkins seniors signed major Division I college baseball offers this year and are listed among Baseball America’s Top 100 major league draft prospects – which includes college players.
Both hit five home runs a piece last year and both have laced pitches well over 400 feet in real games.
“When they are taking BP (batting practice) together in the same group, they will hit like 30 balls out. Who hits more or who hits one further? Well, you never know,” Crosby said.
“I separated them in BP now, so they can help two other guys elevate their game. But when I put them together, everyone just stops and watches them. People in the cage don’t get a lot of work done because everyone just stands and watches these guys, which is a lot of fun.”
Comparing and contrasting their strengths and weaknesses, Crosby said they both have worked hard to increase their speed for the pro scouts, which was a bit down last year.
“Brady has worked so hard this year to show he has the speed, so much so he ran 6.69 (60-yard dash) to show he has that center-field speed. He has really made that a priority. So he has the ability to get on base and steal against anybody. Brandon has worked just as hard and is showing when he hits balls into the gap, it is a stand-up double now,” Crosby said.
Howlett, 18, is signed with Florida State as a third baseman. He has great bat speed with power, having hit five home runs with 17 RBIs last year and carrying a .286 average. His sophomore season he hit .354 with three home runs and 25 RBIs.
“Speed and my arm were my two weak spots I have been working on them. I got my speed down this year, and my arm is there now working a lot of long toss three times per week,” said Howlett, who is 6-2, 205 pounds and bats and throws right-handed.
Allen, 18, who was The Ledger’s Hitter of the Year as a sophomore, belted five home runs last year with a .389 average. He hit .462 with 28 RBIs as a sophomore. He has signed to play at South Carolina. He is 6-1, 214 and throws left but bats right-handed.
Despite their similarities, a friendly competition between the two exists, which they both agree makes them better. Howlett said this year his goal is to hit 10 home runs and therefore Allen’s goal is 11.
“The competition is in the back of our heads, but when he does good, I try to do double it, but we try to make each other better,” said Allen, who will lead off this year. “But if I see him hitting some bombs, I will try to hit some bombs. But it always makes me better when I see him do good.”
So who is better?
“I can’t pick,” Crosby said. “I will call it, ‘1A and 1A’ because it just depends. If one is on and one is struggling a bit, and we are talking about them hitting .400 when they are struggling, that is the only way to differentiate. You can hit them anywhere in the lineup. But the important thing for our lineup is you will see both of them in the first inning.”
Allen was also one of the county’s top pitchers last year, posting a 5-0 record with 0.83 ERA and 67 strikeouts. But despite being a dominating pitcher and great hitter, Allen’s real strength may be between his ears.
“Brady’s baseball intangibles are off the charts. His baseball IQ is like nobody that I have ever been around,” Crosby said. “They are like mirror images of each other. One plays the infield, one plays the outfield. One throws right-handed and one throws left-handed. Brady is definitely the talker and Brandon is the more quiet one but it depends on the situation and the day. ”