St. Petersburg, FL - There’s really too much to write about, given that the Perfect Game National has 300 players, most of whom are prospects. The event program proudly boasts that 19 players from last year’s National were selected in the first round (including supplementals) of the 2010 Draft. Many more 2009 PG National alums will be 1st-rounders by the time they get out of college in 3-4 years.
Every scout and their brother says “the talent is down this year”, but they say that every year. On Day One, I didn’t see a lot of obvious early draft pitchers and I fell into the trap of glorifying the Jameson Taillons and Karsten Whitsons of yesteryear. But Day Two showed a much better pitching crop, a number of hurlers who are easy to project as first and second round picks next June. Day Two brought the much-awaited appearance of West Boca (FL) High’s Michael Kelly and the 6’5”, 195 lb. righty threw steadily in the 91-93 MPH range with a big league curveball and a projectable average change-up. On Day One, the likely early-round arms included righties Jose Fernandez (Tampa Alonso HS), Dylan Davis (Redmond HS, WA), and the precociously pitchable Eric Holdren (Rancho HS, Las Vegas).
Last year, the state of Georgia was the talk at the Perfect Game National. As it turned out, a record five Georgia high school players were taken in the true first round (first 32 picks) of the 2010 Draft and several others could have had they been signable.
This year it seems that North Carolina is loaded. Not quite to that extent, but they certainly have top-end talent, led by righthanded pitcher Dillon Maples from Pinecrest High School. The 6’3”, 197 lb Maples threw 91-95 MPH with a big league slider for his two innings of work and has all the makings of an early pick. He pitched against another potential early-round North Carolinan righty named Adam Griffin, from Forsyth Country Day. Those two and Rocky Mount HS righty Benton Moss are a high-end trio who’ve all signed with the University of North Carolina. The lanky 6’2”, 177 lb. Moss featured a consistent 89-90 MPH fastball, very good arm-action, and one of the handful of major league change-ups at the event thus far.
On the positional side, Southeast Guilford middle infielder Joshua Tobias grabbed a lot of attention from scouts. They’ve yet to run the 60 yard-dash, but Tobias is an obvious plus runner who went home-to-first in 4.11 seconds from the right side. Tobias also showed a tremendous first step stealing second base. At 5’9”, 194 lbs, he’s solidly built though he lacks for projection. Tobias has a chance to develop into a good major league hitter from both sides of the plate and his defensive actions speak best for second base. It’s not often a 5’9” kid gets scouts excited, but the ones who do have Tobias’s all-around skill set.
There are a number of good catchers at the Trop this week and I think it will be a good draft for high school backstops.
Austin Hedges (Serra HS, San Juan Capistrano, CA) set my personal pop-time record in the workout. Twice I got him on practice pops at 1.75 seconds! I’ve never had so fast a time in my 18 years of using a stopwatch on high school players. Hedges showed plus arm-strength, but it was his footwork and remarkably quick glove-to-hand transfer that made his time so exceptional.
Then in the game, someone tried to run on Hedges in the first inning. His throw was so quick and accurate, that the second baseman had to wait for the runner to make the tag. It was a 1.87 pop-time, which is exceptional for a high school catcher during a game. When I’ve popped big league catchers, the average runs around 1.95, to give perspective.
Oddly enough, Tyler Marlette (Hagerty HS, FL) had pop-times that were nearly as impressive in the workouts, registering on my watch between 1.79 and 1.86 seconds. His throws were very wild, however, and I didn’t expect it to translate as well to the game. My suspicions were correct; the pop I got in live action was 2.01 seconds.
Bur Marlette’s bat is the separator, the 5’11”, 195 lb. righthanded hitter can generate big league bat-speed and raw power right now with wood. Don’t be fooled by his lack of size! And don’t be fooled by the way he steps in the bucket when he swings, Marlette isn’t bailing out, he keeps his hands back and was able to hit the ball hard twice to the opposite field. He’s one of the event’s most advanced hitters. Marlette’s receiving skills have a ways to go, but his bat and his arm will get him early-round looks all year.
Manheim Township (PA) HS catcher Cameron Gallagher also shows clear early round potential. The 6’2” 200 lb righthanded hitter has big power, an average arm, and quick feet behind the plate. He showed the ability to hit a good curveball in the game. Like Marlette, Gallagher needs a lot more reps to become a solid big league caliber receiver.
Among middle infielders, another central Florida player stood out from the pack defensively. Francisco Linder (Montverde, FL) is very smooth with plus big league actions at shortstop. He makes it look so easy, you forget that the throw from the hole is 130 feet. Linder’s hands are very quick and he can do all kinds of acrobatics. He’s mostly a slap-hitter from both sides of the plate and at 5’10”, 160 lbs., Linder will never be a physical player. But that glove alone is going to get him long looks for early in the draft.
There are a number of good outfielders and standout individual tools, but right now there isn’t a guy out there who stands out to me well above the rest. I may change my mind as I see more games, or watch the two remaining teams over the weekend.
There are clearly some outstanding athletes among the outfield group, but it seems the best hitters are actually the above-mentioned catchers and corner infielders. One notable exception is Travis Harrison (Tustin HS, CA), who played left field as well as some third base. The 6’1”, 215 lb righthanded hitter takes a very good rip and hits the ball as hard as anyone in the Trop. He also showed an ability to dump hits the other way. Harrison projects for an average arm as well and showed a workable radar for the outfield, enough that I think he’s a better fit out there than the hot corner.
We still have two more teams to come in and Science Hill (TN) HS lefty Daniel Norris is expected to show tomorrow. Perfect Game has ranked him the #1 prospect in the country just ahead of Harrison, so I’m eager to watch Norris personally for the first time.
Check back tomorrow night and over the next few days for more reports from Tropicana Stadium.