GRAHAM, N.C.–Because of the capricious nature of scouting amateur players, each spring there always are a handful of players that pop up as prospects that were not previously well known on a regional or national level.
Kick over some rocks, and you might find something interesting. In 2003, Braves scout Billy Best uncovered a projectable lefty at a small school in rural Creedmoor, N.C., South Granville High, and Atlanta drafted him that June in the third round. He was Matt Harrison, who has developed into one of the top lefties in the minors, presently pitching in Double-A.
Sometimes it takes a little luck to find these hidden gems, and this year South Granville’s Chris Luck might just be another version of the unheralded pitching prospect to break onto the scene the spring leading up to the draft.
At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Luck has the long, lean look of the prototypical projectable pitcher, and Tuesday night he took the mound in his team’s regular-season finale in front of a handful of scouts. There’s a lot to like about Luck, but there are also a lot of reasons for scouts to pass on him. As the best athlete on his team, he had pitched just 18 innings prior to his senior season, spending most of his time in center field or shortstop as an underclassman. But last fall Luck concentrated on improving his mechanics and control, and came out throwing in the low-90s with his fastball.
He took the loss Tuesday, allowing an earned run in six innings, but sat at 88-90 mph and flashed an above-average but inconsistent breaking ball at 72-74 mph. In 10 outings he’s got a 1.48 ERA with 95 strikeouts, 33 hits and 14 walks in 52 innings.
Luck’s still just a thrower, but his arm is lightning-fast and his delivery requires minimal effort. He snaps his head slightly as he releases the ball, and he doesn’t achieve maximum extension, occasionally locking his front leg. He was reluctant to throw his changeup, and the few he did throw lacked effectiveness. He didn’t show anything in his arsenal that runs away from lefthanders, as his fastball had some riding life but not much arm-side run or fade.
The consensus among scouts is that Luck requires lots of seasoning, and college might be the best place for him to get it. He’s committed to Surry (N.C.) Community College, but my hunch is there’s at least one club that likes his upside, drafts him in the fourth- to seventh-round range, develops him patiently and hopes he blossoms. His arm speed can’t be taught and is a key in fastball velocity and spin on a breaking ball. Plus, some of his flaws are correctable, and with experience, he could become a nice prospect.
â€¢ Damien Seguen, a righthander from North Bergen (N.J.) High, fits a similar mold as Luck. He’s pitched near 88-90 mph with an occasionally plus breaking ball, and is more physically developed than Luck. He’s flown under the radar most of his career, but was garnering attention thanks to a strong spring.
â€¢ Good news on Kempsville (Va.) High senior righthander Neil Ramirez. After missing about a week with a sore back, the Georgia Tech signee has been cleared by a doctor to return to the mound. “He was released today, just a minor back strain,” said Terri Ramirez, Neil’s mom on Wednesday. “He threw a bullpen and is going to close the game out on Friday.”
Ramirez felt back pain during a mid-April outing against Princess Anne High (Virginia Beach), left the game and missed his next start. “We really don’t know what happened with it,” Neil’s father, Mike Ramirez said. “It’s been so cold around here . . . (he) just never really seemed to be able to get loose. We had him work some with a therapist and he’s ready to go.”
â€¢ The news on John Gast‘s health isn’t as good. The hard-throwing lefty from Lake Brantley High (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) will have Tommy John surgery Tuesday, May 1, and will miss the rest of his senior season. Gast was considered a cinch top three-round pick prior to the injury. Gast was 5-1, 0.58 with 66 strikeouts in 34 innings this season. He has committed to Florida State.
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