Thursday was the second day of games at USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars (Friday is reserved for a second workout/evaluation day). Some highlights from yesterday’s games, according to scouts in attendance:
Xavier Legrant (Phillip O Berry Academy of Tech, NC) homered. He’s been swinging bat well (4-for-9 in 2 games). The athletic infielder has also shown good defense at second base. He’s got good speed as well (ran a 6.69 60 on Tuesday).
Reggie Pruitt (Kennesaw Mountain HS, GA) continues to impress, especially with his speed. He had stole three bases on Wednesday. On Thursday, he only went 1-for-5, but played a very good center field for the Pride team, the only 2-0 squad in the event. He’s a little raw with the bat, but he has tools to work with there.
Chris Chatfield (Spoto HS, FL) continues to stand out. The outfielder homered on Wednesday and doubled on Thursday. He has the kind of athletic body scouts love and he’s really swinging the bat well.
Daz Cameron (Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, GA) came in as perhaps the top prospect at TOS and he hasn’t disappointed. He has three hits over two games, including a triple on Thursday, flashing all of the tools that have made him “a guy” from the outset.
Matthew McGarry (Menlo HS, Calif.) went three shutout innings for the Free team on Thursday, allowing just one hit. He was 90-93 mph iwth his fastball and showed glimpses of a good breaking ball and changeup.
Chris Andristsos (The Woodlands, TX) squared off against McGarry, starting for the Stripes. He also went three innings, allowing one run on three hits and two walks while striking out three. He was up to 92 mph with his fastball.
Austin Smith (Park Vista HS, FL) tossed two shutout innings for the Stars on Thursday, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out one. He was also up to 92 mph. His secondary stuff needs work, but at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he has the size teams like and is athletic on the mound.
Stephen Kolek (Shepherd HS, TX), the younger brother of No. 2 overall pick Tyler Kolek, is already making a name for himself. He threw two perfect innings for the Pride, striking out two. He doesn’t throw as hard as his brother, but was 88-90 mph (He’s thrown harder in the past) on Thursday. He also showed a good curve/changeup combination, giving him the makings of a very nice three-pitch mix.
Nolan Kingham (Sierra Vista HS, NV), is another younger brother, this time of Pirates prospect Nick Kingham. He actually threw on Wednesday and while he gave up a pair of runs, he was up to 90 mph and at 6-foot-4, 180 lbs, screams projection.
Riley Thompson (Christian Academy of Louisville, KY) gave up three runs in 2 1/3 IP, but he did strike out four on Thursday. He was up to 93 mph with his fastball
Games began at the USA Baseball complex in Cary, North Carolina on Wednesday. It makes for a long, and hot (high was 101, folks), day for all involved, but it’s also the chance to see all the players at the Tournament of Stars in game action.
Three games are in the books, all six teams in action, starting at 10 a.m. You can check out all of the boxscores on usabaseball’s TOS schedule page. Mike Persinger’s Day 1 Notebook is a good read as well (check out all the game coverage he provides as well).
Rather than rehash that, I want to use this space to pass along what scouts who were on hand had to say. Here’s a list, not exhaustive by any stretch, of players who stood out (in no particular order):
Donnie Everett — Up to 94-95 mph, showed makings of good secondary stuff. Good arm.
Ryan Mountcastle — He can flat out hit.
John Aiello — Good, aggressive at-bats
DJ Wilson — Good swings, aggressive play, ran well down line. Fits leadoff profile
Beau Burrows — 90-93 mph, impressive arm strength
Trenton Clark — Very good feel to hit, with advanced approach. Good K zone knowledge and made hard contact
Chad Smith — Swing bat well, hit 3B off top of right field wall
Daz Cameron — top of 1st round ability, exciting tools
Chris Chatfield — Good left-handed swing with power
Mitch Hansen — great left-handed swing
Cole McKay — 91-94 mph
Donnie Everett up to 95-we’ve seen up to 96 in past
The summer showcase circuit is upon us! USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars kicked off on Tuesday with its Evaluation Day. Games start tomorrow, so today was reserved for workouts. 60-yard dashes, infield/outfield, batting practice, that sort of thing.
Much as I wish I could be in North Carolina for the TOS, I’m not. But I will be talking to people who are there. Not a ton to report from the eval day — there will be more once games get going (keep in mind that USA Baseball uses this to determine their 18 and under National Team). But there was the 60-yard dash times…
Here are the top 10 times overall. A total of 70 players ran it at least once, with most running it twice. There are some repeats — these are just the top 10 times overall:
|Blake Perkins||OF||Litchfield Park||AZ||Verrado||6.43|
|Reggie Pruitt||OF||Kennesaw||GA||Kennesaw Mountain||6.49|
|Nick Madrigal||IF||Elk Grove||CA||Elk Grove||6.5|
|Tyler Williams||OF||Peoria||AZ||Raymond S. Kellis||6.53|
|Tyler Williams||OF||Peoria||AZ||Raymond S. Kellis||6.57|
|Reggie Pruitt||OF||Kennesaw||GA||Kennesaw Mountain||6.6|
|Trenton Clark||OF||Fort Worth||TX||Richland||6.62|
|Chad Smith||OF||Snellville||GA||South Gwinnett||6.63|
|Nick Madrigal||IF||Elk Grove||CA||Elk Grove||6.63|
|Nicholas Shumpert||IF||Lone Tree||CO||Highlands Ranch||6.66|
A couple of other early impressions: Chris Betts and Brandt Stallings did well during BP; Nick Madrigal (listed above) looked sharp in the middle infield and Nick Dalesandro impressed as an OF/C who showed good arm strength and excellent athleticism (he ran a 6.7 in the 60).
More to come.
Is there any Draft prospect in this year’s class tougher to figure out than Jacob Gatewood (Michael Gettys fans, you’ll just have to wait)?
It’s been tough to figure out where the NoCal high school shortstop will go when considering mock drafts (I had him going No. 22 overall in my first projection of the opening round). While it’s still very unclear if that’s the right spot for him, I have been getting more and more feedback that Gatewood belongs in that neck of the woods, with interest coming from the mid-first round on down.
“I think you would have to consider him [in that area],” one cross-checker said. “I think he’s right around there. I think he’s still going to go towards the end of the first round. I’d feel comfortable taking him in that area.”
There are a couple of things to consider about Gatewood before trying to pass any kind of final judgement about his future. The first is that people were probably a little too over-zealous in their praise and that expectations were too high after the summer. If he had been thought of as a mid-to-late first round pick all along, there wouldn’t be talk about him sliding, etc. (Call it a market adjustment).
Gatewood has a playoff game on Tuesday, giving scouts another look in a pressure situation as the Draft rapidly approaches. And there are sure to be private workouts, which can really help a player like Gatewood.
It’s also important to recall other hitters who had similar concerns, i.e., the swing and miss in their game and what it meant in terms of them reaching their power potential. Some examples:
Joey Gallo. Gallo and Gatewood aren’t great comps, because Gatewood is more athletic, but there were the same issues being voiced by scouts when the now-Rangers prospect was a high school Draft prospect in 2012. He ended up going in the supplemental first round (No. 39 overall) as a result. Sure he struck out 172 times in 2013, his first full season, but he also topped the Minors with 40 homers. He’s doing it again this year (18 homers) and he’s also hitting .342 in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. He’s, that’s right, making adjustments at the plate.
Kris Bryant. Yup, that Kris Bryant. When he was coming out of high school, there were all sorts of questions asked about his hit tool. He was an all-or-nothing type with tremendous pop, but holes in his swing. The question was: Would he be the Kris Bryant we all see now? Teams weren’t sure enough to really go after him. Three years later, he’s one of the top offensive prospects in the game.
Giancarlo Stanton. He was Mike back in 2007, a multi-sport athlete who every team in the first round overlooked. What it came down to was the work a scout with the Marlins did to really know what Stanton was all about.
“Stanton wasn’t really anything out of high school. That Marlins scout was on that one and was relentless. He did not relent since Area Codes. Everyone who tried to catch on to that late, he knew the makeup, that he wanted to play. Someone will have to know that about this kid.”
That’s what the key will be for Gatewood, for one team to know him well enough and feel comfortable that he’ll be able to make adjustments. Baseball has been full of guys like this who have become superstars. And a fair share have gone the other way.
But could Gatewood be Stanton? Absolutely. And the team that thinks he will be — and has done the exhaustive homework about his makeup, his approach, his process — is the one that will take him before the first round is over.
This time of year, information starts coming in fast and furious regarding the 2014 Draft class. I’ll try to update everyone as I get good intel in.
Today, it’s all about pitching. Here’s what I’ve been hearing the last day or two:
- Hawaii high school lefty Kodi Medeiros (Ranked No. 24 on the Draft Top 100 currently) made his final start of the season on Wednesday, a tough 2-0 playoff loss to St. Louis HS in the quarterfinals. But Medeiros was impressive, up to 95 mph with his fastball and showing his outstanding slider. He maintained his velocity throughout his 119-pitch performance with a lot of scouts in attendance.
- He was bested by St. Louis HS right-hander Jordan Yamamoto. Yamamoto isn’t on the same level, Draft-prospect wise, as Medeiros, but he certainly helped his stock in this duel. He tossed a complete-game shutout, a two-hitter that needed 100 pitches to finish. He was at 92-93 mph all game and had outstanding control. He’ll likely be in the Top 200 we unveil closer to the end of the month.
- Questions about Luis Ortiz’s (Ranked No. 33) health may have been answered on Thursday. The NoCal high schooler had missed time with a forearm issue, but appears to be 100 percent now. On Thursday, he threw a two-hit shutout, striking out 11 and walking none. He was 93-97 mph with his fastball and maintained that velocity throughout.
- One of the wild cards in the first round is TCU left-hander Brandon Finnegan (No. 11). He missed time with shoulder stiffness and teams want to see if he’s healthy before making a call on him. If healthy, he’s a top 10 pick candidate. If not… who knows? He made his second start since missing time on Thursday. The results weren’t great — 3 1/3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 3 K — but scouts were pleased with how he threw. His velocity was fine; he just wasn’t sharp as he continues to shake off the rust. He’ll get a conference tournament start and a likely regional appearance to further convince teams he’s good to go.
- Hartford lefty Sean Newcomb had a rare Friday morning start today. The early start didn’t seem to bother the southpaw, ranked No. 14. Through his first seven innings, he allowed one run (on a play that should’ve been an error), walking one and striking out eight while getting his fastball up to 95 mph (sat at 92-94 throughout) against Stony Brook. Nothing was hit hard and he was commanding his fastball very well. Among those in attendance: Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, for whatever that’s worth
Last week, I wrote a feature that focused on Courtney Hawkins, Brandon Nimmo and Trevor Bauer and how, in different ways, they were all bouncing back from either up-and-down or subpar seasons in 2013 to have solid-to-outstanding 2014 campaigns to date.
As is often the case, I had way too much information from the conversations I had with players and farm directors. Rather than send them into the vitrual trashbin, never to be seen again, I figured I’d post them here for your perusal. Some of it was used partially, but most of it didn’t make it into the final version of the story.
“The numbers weren’t horrible, but they weren’t where I’d like them to be. This year, one of the biggest things was in the offseason, I got to some warmer weather sooner. I was little more focused on bringing the baseball aspect of it into my workouts instead of just focusing on strength and speed. Going to IMG for seven weeks really helped. We worked on everything from mental to vision to strength and speed and flexibility. We also would go on the field and work on the swing, get out there, hit with guys like Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Starlin Castro. To hit with those kinds of guys, I really benifitted from picking their brains a little bit. I’m stronger, more control of my body, which is going to happen as I mature.”
“I put the work in this offseason, lets see the results. So far, so good. There will be some bad times, but I’m trying to be more consistent and iron out those down times more.”
“You can’t let one bad game spiral into a week or two of bad games. Or maybe you had a good game, or got some cheap hits, you need to realize that’s not what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to hit the ball on the barrel all the time. You’re picking up small things that might help you not fall into those long droughts. When you’re in the droughts, you try to [remind yourself] it takes a little bit of time. Maybe you created a bad habit and it’s not going to take one swing to get out of it. [Learning to deal with success and failure are] both essential in developing for a Major League career.”
“I had my times where what I was capable of would pop out. I’d start feeling good and say, ok time to breakout. You really do have to take things pitch by pitch, day by day. If you let one at-bat get to you, you’re going to be screwed that whole game. I can tell you from personal experience.”
“I don’t worry about the media stuff this year. Last year, I’d read stuff and say, ‘I’m going to prove them wrong.’ I just go out and play ball now.”
“At instructs, I was hitting well again. It didn’t really click until this offseason. My second offseason, I knew how to go about stuff. I didn’t take much time off. I stayed in the groove and kept going at it. When I came into the hitting camp in January,they could tell the difference. I felt good in Spring Training. Toward the end of Spring Training, they lowered my hands more. Since then, I’ve been putting my bat on the ball more.”
“Last year, whenever they told me to do something, I did it. That’s why you saw so many different stances. I kept tyring to find something that was clicking. You ‘d be back to square one every time. Lowering my hands clicked fast for me. But it doesn’t always work that way. You have to work on it.”
“I was tyring to get that callup, but you can’t think that way. It’s so much easier to play when you’re not worrying about the other stuff. That first summer, I had the mentality, all I worried about was just playing ball. My whole mindset changed. Now I’m back to that, just go out and play ball and not worry about anything else.”
White Sox farm director Nick Capra (on Hawkins):
“This last year, experience of first full year of baseball, maturity has a lot to do with it, him learning he didn’t have to be in a hurry to get in the big leagues. In his mind, he thought he was on a fast track. He got ahead of himself.”
“We moved him from CF to LF this year. He’s responded tremendously. His defense has improved. He looks like an OF with a passion to [play defense].”
“There are different personalities, different kids. They have to find themselves somehow, rather than look at what other people are doing. They have to focus on what they are capable of doing and how they’re doing.”
On whether in hindsight they feel they rushed him:
“I don’t think so. When he signed, he progressed rapidly. We got him to Kannapolis and he really stood out in the SAL. We got him to the Carolina League for the playoffs and he excelled. We thought he’d settle in during his first full year and grow on the success he had before. It’s easy to look back, but no I don’t think so.”
On his progress:
“I think it was more of a gradual thing. He worked on things in instructs that he brought into Spring Training. Then we worked on other things in Spring Training. A lot of it was the mental things that figure into how you play. He’s adjusted to things rather well. You have to have confidence and it plays a big factor in how you compete. This kid had never failed before. He failed a little bit last year. Now it’s about how he responds to failure. He is definitely a more confident player last year.”
Indians farm director Ross Atkins (on Trevor Bauer):
“I can tell you I haven’t met many pitchers that are as passionate about delivery mechanics, about pitching philosophically and mechanically, as Trevor. It’s been great for us to learn with and from him about him and about pitching. He has incredible toughts about pitching.”
“Even last year, when he wasn’t at his ‘best,’ we were still extremely encouraged. His results and velocity weren’t where they were. We didn’t see him back off from trying to master his skills and craft. Obviously, this year in Spring Training, you see the spike in velocity and strikeouts, how he’s pitched this year, we’ve been extremely encouraged. Although the results have varied, we’ve never been disappointed with his commitment. I know he had a hard time with last year. He was extremely frustrated. The fact he was coming close to making such a significant adjustment to his approach and still was competing, it gave us faith he’d find that comfort level eventually.”
“With Trevor, we really have been, from the start, extremely impressed and encouraged by his process and how committed he is to being great. He’s never tried or focused on , ‘I’m going to show or prove to someone,’ it’s not about how he was traded. It’s always about how can I be great. That’s why we’ve always been so encouraged. Now that he’s having more productive results, obviously we’re encouraged by that. I can honestly say , there were never levels of discouragement. He’s always been in a very good place.”
“All pitchers have ebb and flow. He’s now higher than we’ve every seen him, consistently in the mid to high 90s. His curve, slider and changeup are all average to slightly above-average weapons. They vary which one is most effective; that makes him more interesting.”
That’s right, folks. Today’s the day we get to watch all those prospects (save those in the big leagues) in action. You can check out my story about where the Top 100 prospects are playing right here. And I highly recommend the MiLB.TV package so you can watch these guys in action.
Obviously, I’m not the only one excited for Opening Day. The players are fired up about the start of the 2014 season. I asked Marlins prospect Andrew Heaney (He pitches Friday for Double-A Jacksonville, a game that is on MiLB.TV.) about what Opening Day means to him and what his hopes for the 2014 season are. Here’s his outstanding response:
“Opening day means a fresh start both individuals and as a team. It’s my first minor league opening day because I was hurt last year. I wanna prove myself throughout the course of a full year. I want to get better at the things I need to work on. If I can do that I’ll consider it a successful season for myself.” — Andrew Heaney
The Twitterverse has been ablaze with Opening Day excitement as well. Here’s a string of what some of the game’s best prospects have been tweeting yesterday and today:
A couple of days ago, it was reported here that Dylan Cease would miss this year’s National High School Invitational, which began on Wednesday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina (Cease’s Milton High School lost its opener to The First Academy).
At the time, Cease was hopeful that rest would be all he needed for an elbow that had been bothering him. An initial MRI reading, he reported, showed no tear.
While he still hopes to avoid surgery, there might be a little less cause for optimism. MLB.com has learned that an additional reading of the MRI uncovered a small tear of the UCL. UCL tears often lead to Tommy John surgery.
For now, though Cease is opting to get what is called Platelet-Rich Therapy (PRP), where platelets are injected into the elbow. Will Carroll does a discusses the treatment in this thorough discussion of Matt Harvey’s injury (Harvey waited weeks after being diagnosed before having the surgery, trying to rehab first).
Cease will be out for about six weeks and it seems doubtful he’ll pitch again for Milton. If all goes well, he could potentially be able to throw in pre-draft workouts for scouting directors and general managers as the June Draft approaches.
This approach is not without precedent, though the majority do end up going under the knife. Takashi Saito, says Carroll, is the first Major League player known to have tried PRP therapy for an elbow injury. Zach Greinke also had the injection for his elbow and avoided surgery (Chad Billingsley, on the other hand, had the PRP treatment late in 2012, but ended up going under the knife in April 2013). Adam Wainwright suffered a UCL sprain in the Minors in 2004, managed to avoid TJ surgery until 2011.
Cease should get the injection early next week and then it will be time for everyone, Cease, pro teams, even Vanderbilt University (where Cease is committed), to wait.
Updates to this story will come as news develops.
Dylan Cease, ranked No. 26 on MLB.com’s Draft Top 50 list from this past fall, was slated to be among the highlights at the 2014 National High School Invitational. Instead, an elbow issue will force him to be able to only watch the action as his Milton High School team returns to th NHSI for the second straight year.
Cease, owner of one of the better fastballs in the class that regularly touches the upper-90s, is resting his powerful right arm for a month after dealing with a sore elbow. Cease said that he first felt discomfort in a start with game-time temperatures of around 30 degrees.
“I got to the fifth inning and it started feeling sore,” Cease said. “I should’ve rested for two weeks, but I tried to work through it. It’s still sore, so now I’m going to give it a month.”
Cease will receive an injection and will hope that rest and rehab will do the trick. He had just gotten MRI results back and was told there was no ligament damage, allowing the Vanderbilt commit to breathe a sigh of relief.
“I don’t need surgery,” Cease said. “I was just happy to hear that. I’ll get the shot and see what it does and we’ll go from there.”
Cease has tried to remain optimistic about the prognosis, and the MRI results certainly helped. But he admitted the tension over the condition of his right elbow had gotten to him a bit.
“It is kind of stressful,” Cease said. “People act like it’s armaggeddon, like I’m going to have to have my arm cut off. But I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”
If all goes well with this course of action, Cease could return to the mound with enough time to show scouts that he’s fully recovered and ready to go.
Not a lot of extras from my final camp visit. I guess I left it all out on the field. You can see if you agree by reading my Spring Training camp report. You can also view the Cubs’ Top 20 list, Bernie Pleskoff’s take on how the system fists the big league needs, as well as Jim Callis’s 21-25 prospects (he did their Top 20).
Here’s the video piece:
There was one answer Neil Ramirez gave me, before we were rudely interrupted by a team meeting (what nerve). I asked him about what had happened to cause him to kind of back up after he made that huge leap forward in 2011, and what he’s been able to do to get past it (He was better in 2013 than in 2012).
Ramirez: I think I put a little too much pressure on myself after 2011 coming into 2012. I thought I had to do a little too much. Now I’m back to worrying about what I can control.
Good news for the Cubs, who while rich with hitters, could use Ramirez’s contributions on the pitching front.
With that in mind, my One More Guy is another arm:
OK, it might seem like a copout because Callis has him at No. 21, too, but I still like Duane Underwood‘s upside, even after his terrible 2013. One of the key reasons for his struggles was the fact he was not in good shape to start the year. But when I was in Cubs camp, farm director Jaron Madison used Underwood as an example of one of a few arms who had really worked hard this offseason. I’m intersted to see what that translates to on the mound in 2014.