St. Petersburg - I briefly stopped by the PG Jr National Showcase on the 2nd and final day of the event. Living in Tampa, the drive is roughly 30 minutes down to Tropicana Field. I joined fellow PW Scout Anup Sinha, who is covering the event in it's entirety.
Perfect Game was fortunate to have the Tampa Bay Rays on a road trip so they could use the MLB Indoor Stadium over an extended period of time for their annual event. At a beautiful facility and a good event, I was able to see some of the up and coming talent in the underclass portion. The workouts were yesterday, and I was able to catch a couple of games today. Since Anup was there for the duration of the event and saw all of the players, I will leave it to him to rank them and sort it all out. I did have some thoughts to share that may be of interest on a few players, which I organized below:
1. Stryker Trahan - I haven't stopped talking about this kid since I left, but Stryker Trahan (Scott, Louisiana) had to be my favorite player of the day. Forget that he has a big league name for a moment and hear me out. The 6'1/215 pound catcher can also play the corner infield and outfield - so there is versatilty and he's one of those athletic catchers. At 6'1/215, he ran a 4.32 home to first on the turn and a 4.12 home to first on a pulled ball to first. It's important to note Stryker hits from the left side as well. He has a well developed lower half and wide hips, yet he darts out of the batters box, covers ground, and looks like an outstanding base runner. He had great instincts running the bases, on his turns, etc. I saw him take 2 at bats: his first at bat was a good stroke on the outside half of the plate. He didn't try to do too much with it, and slapped it to left field while running out of the box. His 2nd at bat he hit a sharp groundball down the line at first base, it was bobbled and he nearly beat it out, running a 4.12 down the line. Trahan looks like a kid with an advanced approach, and combined with his speed and power potential in his body, I categorized him as "an offensive weapon" in my short time there. As an offensive weapon that plays a premium position like catcher, I am going to look for Trahan to be a big time name when it is all said and done. We will be following Stryker closely over the next few years.
2. Lance McCullers - Lance McCullers (Tampa, FL) was one of the highlights on the mound today, sitting 93-94mph and flashing a few 95s. Anup had McCullers up to 97mph at the FHSAA Finals, so the velocity is legit. His breaking ball is 83-84mph, very sharp, and probably illegal in 6 states. And he flashed a changeup at 82mph - nearly a 12mph difference. Strangely, in an event where underclass kids swing wood bats, and 9 inning games end up with a grand total of 3 hits combined, McCullers did also give up one of the hardest hit balls of the day - which brings me to my next thought.
3. Kyle Overstreet - It's a common occurence how a player can make a name for himself off of the hype/celebrity of another player. You could hear a pindrop when McCullers was on the mound because the college coaches and pro scouts stopped chatting with each other and all eyes were on McCullers when he took the mound. Then stepped in Kyle Overstreet (Boaz, AL) who turned around a 94mph fastball about as quickly as it came in. A sharp line drive right back up the middle at McCullers, and a smooth stroke with balance suddenly made Kyle Overstreet the buzz at the moment. I overheard at least 5 baseball people around me begin to rave about his swing after he smoked that pitch. There is no doubt, Overstreet can swing it, but the buzz on him wouldn't have been as loud if the hit didn't come off of McCullers. Kudos to Kyle for taking advantage of his opportunity.
4. Addison Russell - If you would have read some of the reports and information on Addison Russell (Pace, FL), and then attended these games and watched him play, you may have wondered what anyone is thinking when they watch him play. After going 1-for-the-event on an infield single, Russell is the classic example of how any player can have a poor showing. Russell has hit very high levels of pitching about as easy and consistent as anyone I have seen at his age, and he will be fine.
5. Kayden Porter - My last point continues off point #4, this time from the pitching perspective. The RHP/1B from Utah Kayden Porter (Spanish Fork, UT) started the 2nd game and was an imposing presence on the mound at 6'4"/230. His fastball was 88-92mph and he was bringing it. Porter made a good name for himself this week as a 2-way guy. The problem was he probably walked about 3 guys, and even hit the backstop with one pitch. Despite the walks, he struck out a lot of guys. And this all happened in his first inning on the mound. In his 2nd inning, he settled down and dealt. His velocity stayed the same, but he looked a lot more comfortable out there after getting the butterflies out. The point here is to always remember when watching a showcase that it isn't a natural game setting and you always have to grade "on a curve" when watching a 15 or 16 year old kid play in front of decision makers. Porter's first inning was all butterflies, and his 2nd inning was all talent. What a difference a little experience makes.