CARY, N.C.—USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars began Tuesday in Cary, N.C. and will run through Sunday and BA will be there in full force to cover it. The event is held with the purpose of selecting players for the 18-and-under Junior National Team trials and is an eight-team tournament, including many of the top high school players from across the country.
Naturally, when top prospects are brought together in one venue, so are the scouts. Representatives from almost every major college baseball program and all 30 major league teams were in attendance for what turned out to be a lackluster first day, especially on the mound.
After a morning of sixty-yard sprints, batting practices and infield/outfield drills, three nine-inning games were held (1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.), displaying six of the eight teams in the field. There wasn’t a pitch thrown all day above 91 mph and most were in the low to mid-80s range. Righthanders Trevor Bauer (Valencia, Calif.) and Matt Carasiti (Berlin, Conn.) were the best two pitchers on the day, each throwing between 88-90 mph with decent secondary stuff.
The top performers in the field and at the plate on day one were outfielder Donovan Tate (Cartersville, Ga.) and catcher Max Stassi (Yuba City, Calif.). Tate, who emerged as one of the nation’s top 2009 prospects last summer, hit the ball squarely in each of his five at-bats and fell a triple short of the cycle. Stassi got that triple Tate was lacking as he went 3-for-3 on the day.
Day two was similar to day one with batting practices in the mornings and games beginning at 1 p.m. as well. However, Tate couldn’t come up with an encore performance to match his effort in the first day. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and failed to square up a ball once. The contrast of Tate’s performance shows how fickle scouting summer showcases and large events such as the Tournament of Stars can be, and how even the best prospects can look very ordinary on any day
For a scout that only came to the Tuesday games, here is what they saw, pitch-by-pitch of each Tate at-bat:
FB—Fastball, CB—Curveball, SL—Slider
First at-bat: FB 86 mph—home run over the left-field wall.
Second AB: FB 85 swing and miss, CB 77 ball, CB 75 foul, FB 86 ball, CB 75–hard line drive to right-center field caught for flyout to right.
Third AB: CB 68 ball, CB 68 swing and miss, FB 84 strike, FB 84—hard single over the second baseman’s head.
Fourth AB: CB 77 strike, FB 86—line drive into right-center field for a double.
Fifth AB: FB 87 foul, CB 74 ball, CB 73 swing and miss, CB 73–line drive to right field for an F9.
A scout that came only to Wednesday saw this:
First AB: CB 77 swing and miss, FB 90 ball, FB 88 strike, CB 78 swing and miss–strikeout
Second AB: CB 77 swing and miss, CB 77 swing and miss, CB 78 swing and miss–strikeout.
Third AB: CB 77 strike, CB 76 strike, CB 78 ball, FB 88–ground ball to third base for a FC.
Fourth AB: CB 72 strike, FB 84 strike, CB 73 ball, CB 72 swing and miss–strikeout.
On Tuesday, Tate swung at 10 pitches in five at-bats, making contact with seven of them. Wednesday, Tate swung at seven pitches and only made contact once. A scout seeing Tate on Tuesday would write him up as a player with a plus bat, power and running ability. The Wednesday viewer would say Tate can’t hit a breaking ball and swings and misses too much. That’s why in scouting, multiple looks is key.
Moving focus from the batters box to the mound, Wednesday’s first two games offered nothing new in comparison to what was seen on Tuesday–just more fastballs topping out at 90 mph. However, in the 46th total inning of the tournament the scouts and radar guns were finally given something in which to light up. Game three on Wednesday boasted quality pitching throughout, beginning with righthander Jacob Turner (St. Charles, Mo.).
At 6-feet-4, 205 pounds, Turner has the ideal pitcher’s frame and a good delivery. With a fastball between 90-93 mph and a downer curveball at 77 mph, Turner struck out six of the 10 batters he faced and allowed only one runner (Stassi hit by pitch) in three innings.
Following Turner was 6-feet-3, 185-pound lefthander Tyler Matzek (Mission Viejo, Calif.) as he pitched innings four through seven. His fastball was consistently between 90-92 mph, topping out at 94. He commanded the zone and mixed in a hard-dropping curveball to tally five strikeouts in the three innings of work. Matzek also throws a slider and changeup, giving him a four-pitch mix—all of which are average. He is the frontrunner for being the top pitching prospect in the 2009 class.
Two other pro pitching prospects entered Wednesday’s nightcap in righthanders Brooks Pounders (Temecula, Calif.) and Chris Jenkins (Westfield, N.J.). Pounders pitched the ninth inning and topped out at 91 mph. He showed a plus slider in the low 80s and a good curve as well. Jenkins is 6-feet-7 and throws a fastball up to 93 mph and a slider with projection.
We’re headed back out for Day three soon. For full schedule and statistics from each game, check out the USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars schedule webpage.
Contributing: Anthony Tynan.
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