August 2009

AFLAC, finally

With the signing deadline, a big story on the Draft system, another one on the AFL rosters and some Pirates game coverage, getting on here to write about the AFLAC All-American Game, which took place way back on Aug. 16, has been more difficult than I would have imagined.

Better late than never? Here are some thoughts on players who participated in the game:

Bryce Harper, C: The “big” name, the phenom who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the presumptive No. 1 pick for next year. A word of caution: A lot can happen between now and then. Not saying he’s not good, just don’t crown the guy just yet. At the AFLAC game, he showed bat speed and plus arm strength. There were some concerns with his approach at the plate, where he seems more focused on hitting long home runs and didn’t make adjustments. His release on his throws was a little longer than it’s been in the past. He still showed plenty of tools, but he didn’t make in-game adjustments

Jameson Taillon, RHP:  He looked like a Top 10 pick, throwing an explosive fastball up to 95 mph and locating it to both sides of the plate. He showed a slider and a curve, the latter of which might be a plus pitch down the line. The FB and slider are plus offerings right now. He even showed a changeup. He’s big, strong and showed an ability to throw down and to both sides of the plate.

Tony Wolters, SS/2B:
He really knows how to play the game. He’s got good hands and a strong arm. The only thing that might keep him from being **** down the road is below-average speed, but he could be the type who sticks because of instincts and positioning. At the plate, he should hit for plenty of average, but not a lot of power.

Zach Alvord, SS/2B: He played second in this game, but he’s got the tools to play short for sure. He can really play defense. He has the chance to be a middle infielder who moves up quickly on draft boards next spring, kind of like Jio Mier did this year.

Reggie Golden, OF: He’s got all the raw tools you’d want to see and might have the best overall tool package in the Draft class. He’s an above-average runner, he’s got raw power to spare. The question is whether he’ll make adjustments. If he does in the spring, he’ll move up in a hurry.
 
There were a number of big-armed pitchers, guys I’ve written about in discussing other summer showcases. Stetson Allie was up to 97 mph, but looked more like a thrower than a pitcher right now; AJ Cole showed plus velocity as well, with questionable secondary stuff. DeAndre Smelter was up to 94-95 mph and was aggressive, going right after hitters. Cam Bedrosian looked ok, but a little nervous. Keep an eye on Peter Tago. The boxscore doesn’t look pretty, but some scouts liked his arm action. He was up to 94 mph and threw a slider at 82 mph that has the chance to be a good pitch.

On the hitting end, Yordy Cabrera showed good power and a nice swing — it reminded some of Andruw Jones’s finish —  though since he’s a little older (he’ll be 19 1/2 come next year’s Draft), he’s tougher to evaluate. Brian Ragira showed a really good approach at the plate, laying off breaking balls and showing he can hit a fastball anywhere. When the game sped up, he kept up. He’s a Stanford commitment, so he might be hard to woo away from college. Chevez Clarke showed a good, short and quick swing, but he didn’t run as well as some had advertised.

AFL news: Strasburg to debut in Fall League

I know I promised some info on the AFLAC All-American Game played last weekend, but that’ll keep. Instead, I want to talk about the Arizona Fall League.

Now, I always like talking about the AFL. As I’ve been saying for years, I think it’s the best-kept secret in baseball. It should be a great vacation destination for baseball fans, but it tends to be relatively desolate on the fan front.

That might change, at least in terms of people paying attention to the elite finishing school for Minor Leaguers. That’s because it seems likely that Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 Draft, will make his unofficial pro debut in the AFL, which begins its 18th season on Oct. 13.

Strasburg, of course, made headlines when he agreed to a record-setting $15-million-plusstrasburg.jpg Major League contract with the Nationals right at the signing deadline. He was introduced to Nats fans at a press conference/event on Friday. Now it appears the first time he’ll represent the organization on the mound will be in the desert. He’ll be a member of the Phoenix Desert Dogs, who will be aiming for their sixth straight AFL title. The odds seem pretty good that he’d be a part of the Rising Stars Showcase, set to be held in Surprise, Arizona on Nov. 7.

It also could be a springboard to a quick rise to the big leagues. A year ago, Orioles first-rounder Brian Matusz got his first taste of pro ball in the AFL and landed in Baltimore’s rotation after the All-Star break.

Strasburg will not be the only high pick from the 2009 Draft likely to be a part of the Fall League this season. Fellow National pitcher, and No. 10 pick overall, Drew Storen, is also expected to pitch for the Desert Dogs. The reliever out of Stanford has gotten off to an outstanding start to his pro career, signing quickly and already up in Double-A. Through Saturday’s games, the right-hander had a 2.35 ERA and seven saves in 30 2/3 IP across three levels. He’s held hitters to a .180 batting average and had a ridiculous 42:5 K:BB ratio. He’s yet to give up a run in six Double-A innings.

No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley should get a chance to take his hacks against the Nationals’ duo. The newest member of the Mariners organization, out of the University of North Carolina, will go to instructs in Peoria and then stay to play for the Javelinas. Joining him in Peoria, but on the other AFL team there — the Saguaros — will be No. 7 pick, LHP Mike Minor (Braves), and the No. 8 overall selection, RHP Mike Leake. Leake, of course, will be in familiar surroundings after starring for three years in Tempe for Arizona State.

Official rosters will be released in the near future and if this early news in any indication, the Arizona Fall League could be ready for its best season in what’s been a very, very successful run.

Area Code Games

OK, so I’m a little bit behind. Been a little busy, on my behalf, what with the Draft deadline and all. In case you missed it, some guy named Stephen Strasburg got a lot of money. My recap on the craziness that was deadline day can be found here

Now it’s time to play a little catch up. The Area Code Games are held annually in Long Beach, Calif., and they are typically chock full o’ talent. And it always draws plenty of scouts. Here are some names of players who stood out at the event, which covered about five days earlier this month, in no particular order:

Stefan Sabol, C: Scouts really liked the way he swung the bat and he had good athletic skills as well. One felt he was better at this point than Devin Mesoraco was, and he ended up a first-round pick in 2007.

Tyrell Jenkins, RHP: Tall and projectable, veyr athletic. Was up to 93 mph and easy to dream on him throwing a lot harder in the future. Two breaking balls and both could be good ones. Threw strikes at this event.

Drew Vettleson, OF:  Good bat, tools a little fringy. Not typical aproach, but hit ball hard with consistency
.
Josh Sale, OF: Another good bat. Other tools aren’t as good. Excellent bat speed, good strength to swing.

Some other names: Dylan Bundy RHP; Archie Bradley, RHP; Tyler Kuresa, 1B; Anthony Wolters, SS; Austin Wilson, OF; AJ Vanegas, RHP; Aaron Sanchez, RHP

The AFLAC All-American Game was held this past weekend. I’ll have some info on that tomorrow. 
 

Draft Deadline Day Tweeting

Today is going to be a very busy day, without a doubt, with 14 first-round picks still unsigned and the midnight deadline (12:01 a.m., to be precise) looming. I’ll be providing updates on MLB Network beginning at 6 p.m. ET, so be sure to tune in.

Until then, during then, after then, follow my updates on Twitter all day long. They can be found @JonathanMayoB3.

Under Armour All-American Game

Hey folks. Sorry for the dearth in coverage, but I’ve been on vacation with the B3 family, doingbandelier ladder.jpg things like going to Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico and climbing ladders like these (and some much longer) into caves once inhabited by Native Americans.

But I did want to check in and update everyone with what’s going on in the wonderful world of amateur baseball and the Draft. Draft-wise, the signing deadline is looming and I’ll be at the MLB Network from 6 p.m. on to provide updates on signings, etc. With Bobby Borchering signing with Arizona, that leaves 18 unsigned first-round picks, with plenty of late-round above-slot signings to come, I’m sure. More on that in the days to come, especially on Monday, either here or on Twitter, where you can follow me @JonathanMayoB3.

In the past week, though, there have been some real good amateur showcases/events with scouts flocking to see the best high school talent for the Draft Class of 2010. I’ve got some information on the Under Armour All-American Game, held at Wrigley Field on Aug. 8. I’ll have some dirt on the Area Code Games for you soon as well.

As for the UA Game, last year’s contest, so you know, included 2009 first-rounders Bobby Borchering, Nick Franklin, Matthew Purke, Zack Wheeler, Donavan Tate, Tyler Matzek and Jacob Turner. In other words, it’s worth paying attention. Here are some top performers from this year’s edition:

Hitters

Yordy Cabrera, SS:  Big, physical kid with serious hitting potential. Went deep in the game. Played well at East Coast Showcase as well. Some at this game thought third base would be better for him defensively in future.

Chevez Clarke, OF:  Good tools across the board. Not as much power as some others, but good athlete who’s fun to watch.

Nick Castellanos, 3B: Won the HR Derby, went 4-for-4 in game, with 4 extra-base hits. . Lots of life in bat. Has a hitch, but have to like the results. 

Reggie Golden, OF:  Hit a huge homer onto Waveland Avenue, but didn’t do much else in the game. But he’s got five-tool potential.

Austin Wilson, OF:  Also hit a long homer in the game, has thunder in his bat. A real physical specimen. with some serious tools. Good arm in right field.

Pitchers

Stetson Allie, RHP:  Size, strength, big fastball, up to 96 mph, along with hard slider. Got out of leadoff walk jam in this game well.
.
AJ Cole, RHP:  Big fastball, power guy. Hard curve to go with heater up to 94 mph. Command a bit off in this outing. But stuff and projectability are exciting.

Kevin Gausman, RHP: At 6-4, 180 lbs., easy to project a lot more in the tank.

DeAndre Smelter, RHP:  More power from the right side, up to 94 with fastball, slider up to 85 mph. Throws strikes as well. Goes right after hitters.

Andrew Smith, RHP: Good potential with velocity and ability to spin a breaking ball.

Jameson Taillon, RHP:  Dominant stuff. Struck out side, up to 96 mph, good hard slider. Size and strength.

Bobby Wahl, RHP: Big and projectable (6-4, 200) with plenty of room for future velocity.
 
Karsten Whitson, RHP:  Big, strong righty, up to 94 mph in this game. Slider up to 80 mph. Command was a little off, but still one to watch.

East Coast Showcase

While there are less than two weeks until the 2009 Draft signing deadline — and there are 20 unsigned first-rounders — serious work is already being done for the 2010 Draft. The summer showcase circuit is in full swing and the 2009 East Coast Showcase
was one of the first — and biggest. Held from Aug. 1-4, rest assured
there were several players at this event for high schoolers who’ll be
high draft picks next June.

Don’t believe me? How about these alumni from the 2008 East Coast
Showcase who were taken in this year’s Draft, with draft spot in
parentheses:

Zack Wheeler, RHP (No. 6 overall, Giants)
Bobby Borchering, 3B (No. 16 overall, Diamondbacks)
Mike Trout, OF (No. 25 overall, Angels)
LeVon Washington, 2B (No. 30, Rays)

And that’s just the first rounders; there were also two second-rounders
and three third- rounders who attended last year’s event. So knowing
who stood out at the recently completed ’09 version is a good head
start to knowing who the top prep picks will be next June.

I spoke with some scouts who were in attendance and here’s who they felt stood out in Lakeland, Fla.:

Stetson Allie, RHP/3B: One scout called him a freak. He’s been
around the showcase circuit for a while and is strong, physical young
man who can throw hard on the mound and hit the ball far from the
plate. On the mound, he’s touched 100 mph and threw 92-97 mph in the
Showcase. He’s got a slider he throws in the 88-91 mph range. He’s got
below-average command and some would rather let him hit first. He’s got
big, legit raw power.

Eric Arce, C/1B, Lakeland HS:
The best hitter at the event, a
left-handed bat who was the most mature hitter there. He’s got a loose,
easy stroke and a professional approach at the plate. He’s got good raw
power and uses the entire field. He had lit it up at East Cobb and
has kept going. His arm is fringe average behind plate and can  play a
decent first base. Right now, he’s a bat without a position.

Cam Bedrosian, RHP, East Coweta HS, Ga.:  He looks a lot like
his dad, former big leaguer Steve. And he’s got the same aggressive
demeanor on the mound. He fills the strike zone with 92-95 mph
fastballs and a nice short breaking ball, thrown 77-79 mph.

Yordy Cabrera, SS, Lakeland HS:  He’s physically impressive and
looks like a big-leaguer now. He’s got potential for all five tools. A
plus arm with a chance to stay at shortstop. Lots of strength with the
bat to work with. He’s got good bat speed and makes hard contact. He’s
got good actions, footwork at shortstop and runs well for his size.

Chevez Clarke, OF/INF, Marietta HS, Ga.:  As toolsy as they
come, all the physical tools to be a star. He plays a very easy center
field with a good arm and above-average speed. He didn’t hit well in
the Showcase, but when he’s on, he’s exciting to watch with a very high
ceiling.

AJ Cole, RHP, Oviedo HS, Fla.:  He’s got a power arm with average to plus breaking ball, up to 96.
Easy, no effort. A little Porcello like in body type. Clue up there,
mature

Delino DeShields, INF/OF, Woodward HS, Ga.: Another exciting
toolsy player, much like his dad was in the big leagues. He’s kind of a
more physical and right-handed hitting version of Juan Pierre. He plays
center when he plays the outfield and that might be the best place for
him. He ran a 6.48 in the 60, to give you an idea of his speed.

Manny Machado, SS, Miami Brito HS:  He may have played himself
into being a top first rounder at this showcase. He’s silky smooth and
does everything easy. He’s got a plus arm at short with good hands and
actions. He’s got a smooth, easy stroke at the plate and the ball just
jumps off his bat. He’s an average runner, but is better underway.

DeAndre Smelter, RHP, Tatnall HS, Ga.:  He throws 92-95 mph with a quick arm. He’s got a good breaking ball (75-77 mph). Another power arm, kind of like a
more physical Edwin Jackson at this age. The ball jumps out of his hand and is very heavy when it crosses the plate.

Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley HS, Fla:  He wasn’t at his best at
the Showcase, where he was up to 92 mph, but he’s been seen as high as
96 mph. The ball jumps out of his hand and he’s got a good hard
curve/slider that he throws 78-81 mph. He’s big and projectable and
repeats his delivery well, allowing him to throw strikes and keep the
ball down in the zone.

Bobby Wahl, RHP, West Springfield HS., Va.:
  He’s got a little more
pitchability than the other arms on this list, but that doesn’t mean he
doesn’ thave stuff. He was still up to 92-93 mph and with a projectable
frame, there might be more in the tank. He’s got a good breaking ball
and mixes his pitches well, throwing everything for strikes.

There you have it. Store these names in the back of your head for next
June. It will be interesting to see who continues to excel during the
next season.

 

 

 

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