The White Sox announced the signing of first-round pick Gordon Beckham for a $2.6 million bonus today. Beckham, the eighth overall pick who led Georgia to the College World Series finals and tied for the NCAA Division I lead with 28 homers, will report to low Class A Kannapolis.
Beckham became only the second first-rounder to sign this month, with 10 yet to come to terms and the signing deadline looming at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday.
The final week remaining before Friday’s 11:59 p.m. EDT signing deadline opened Monday without any of the 11 remaining unsigned first-round picks coming to terms. But five players in the first 10 rounds did receive bonuses that exceeded MLB’s slot recommendations, with the Nationals handing out three such deals.
Washington signed Long Beach State shortstop Danny Espinosa (third round) for $525,000, Jenkins High (Lakeland, Fla.) lefthander Graham Hicks (fourth) for $475,000 and American Heritage High (Plantation, Fla.) catcher Adrian Nieto (fifth) for $376,000. Espinosa’s and Nieto’s bonuses were the highest thus far in their rounds of this year’s draft, while Hicks’ was the third-highest.
The Phillies landed Esperanza High (Anaheim) righthander Jon Pettibone (supplemental third) for $500,000. The Yankees inked Clemson righty D.J. Mitchell (10th) for $400,000.
For our expectations of what will unfold for the unsigned first-rounders, check out the latest edition of Ask BA.
The conclusion of the Aflac and Area Code events draws the curtain on the summer showcase season on the West Coast, as the action moves this weekend to Chicago for the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field this Sunday.
All the scouts and BA staffers have seen game after game and have filled out reports, compiled lists, and evaluated scores of players. After all the games and all the requisite paperwork, I was left with three primary impressions of the Southern California portion of the 2008 Showcase season.
As the Area Code and Aflac Games draw to a conclusion, my colleague Matt Blood will give readers the lowdown on the top prospects: the Bryce Harper, Tyler Matzek, Donovan Tate types. Of course, not every player participating is a first rounder, and not everyone will be incessantly followed by scouts, agents, online ranking services, and glossy student sport publications.
At the Area Code games, one player from each squad caught my eye as a "sleeper"–imperfect players with some qualities that caught my eye. They are:
Stephen Bruno, ss, Gloucester Catholic HS, Audubon, N.J., 2009:
As a middle infielder, Bruno can pick everything in the orchard. His lack of size–5-foot-9, 149 pounds–and 7.02 speed will no doubt turn most scouts off. However, Bruno is a high energy player with dazzling defensive skills who can dash around and make any type of difficult play. His lightning quick hands enable him to turn double plays in a flash.
LOS ANGELES—The date of the Aflac All-American Game has been circled on my calendar since the day it was officially announced, and on Saturday the event did not disappoint. My day started at 8 a.m. with a 35 minute drive through Los Angeles to Dodger Stadium which is just north of the city. In the morning, the teams took batting practice and then infield/outfield before giving way to the finals of the home run derby. Matt Davidson ended up taking home the derby crown, hitting three balls into the left field bleachers.
The game itself was a real treat. It is always exciting to watch the best players compete against each other, but today there was an added bonus as the contest was close and decided in the ninth inning. The first eight innings were fast paced and dominated by some impressive pitching. The West squad pushed across a run in the first inning on a RBI single from right fielder Slade Heathcott (Texas HS, Texarkana, Texas) and a run in the fourth inning on back-to-back doubles from Max Stassi (Yuba City (Calif.) HS) and Matt Davidson (Yucaipa (Calif.) HS).
The West pitchers completely dominated the East hitters for eight innings, allowing only one hit and striking out 12. However, the East had success on the mound as well and was able to keep it close for the rest of the game, setting up a dramatic four-run explosion from its offense in the top of the ninth inning. With two outs in the final frame, Brian Goodwin (Rocky Mount (N.C.) HS) drove in the tying and go ahead runs with a single to left field. Richie Shaffer (Providence HS, Charlotte, N.C.) scored the winning run, and crossed the plate while letting out a burst of elation. Shaffer was pumping his fists, chest bumping and celebrating with teammates as if they had won the seventh game of the World Series. [...] Continue Reading »
LONG BEACH—Taking a two day hiatus from the Area Code games to switch focus to the Aflac All-American Game, on Friday I traveled 25 miles north from Long Beach to the campus of the University of Southern California. While the actual All-American game is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, the teams had workouts Friday at Dedeaux Field. Both teams took infield/outfield and batting practice before competing in the preliminary rounds of the homerun derby. All 35 players that will participate in the game on Saturday took their hacks in a 10-out derby style format, with the four players hitting the most homeruns moving on to the finals to be held in Dodger Stadium on Saturday before the actual game.
After keeping a close eye on the teams during Friday’s events, here is a breakdown of what to watch out for in the game on Saturday—which will be broadcast nationally on FSN. [...] Continue Reading »
One of the premier features of the annual Area Code Games is SPARQ testing, which was first instituted at the Long Beach event about five years ago.
In the chronologically distant and technologically backward 1990s, scouts timed players with stop watches as they ran 60-yard dashes across the outfield turf. These and other neanderthal methods were used to measure a players speed, leaping ability and throwing arm strength.
Of course, these methods are pathetically and hopelessly outdated in the computer dominated and scientifically advanced world of the 21st century. SPARQ tests are designed to test rotational strength, fast twitch muscles, and explosive core power. In other words, speed, leaping ability and arm strength. Apparently, no athletes had cores prior to 2002.
LONG BEACH—It has been a week since I left comfortable Durham, N.C. for this journey across America, and the effects of travel are now starting to kick in. The days seem to be running together, the cash in my wallet needs to be refilled and I need to do laundry sometime soon. I know the scouts are feeling it too, as I have seen many familiar faces that have followed my same path from Lakeland straight to Long Beach immediately after the conclusion of the East Coast Pro Showcase.
The word I like to use to describe the summer showcase circuit is "relentless" as most of the events pack as much baseball into the multi-day timespan that encompasses the event. Thursday, the action began at 8:30 a.m. and finished at 7:30 p.m. Four games were played, one on top of the other, 30.5 innings total. Thus far, 71 different pitchers have taken the mound this week—31 of which pitched on Thursday alone. Sitting behind the plate, I have been able to get velocity readings on every prospect and will have a spreadsheet posted on our Prospects Plus website Monday, similar to the spreadsheets from PG National, the T.O.S. and ECPS, detailing all of the pitchers’ velocities from the Area Code Games.
Through three days at the Area Code Games, the highest velocity reading has been 94 mph, touched by three different pitchers: Stetson Allie a 2010 two-way prospect from St. Edward HS in Almsted Falls, Ohio, Matt Hobgood from Norco (Calif.) HS and Shelby Miller from Brownwood (Texas) HS.
While those three guys lit up the radar guns, these three lefthanders raised my eyebrows with their overall performances:
Colton Cain, lhp, Waxahachie (Texas) HS
Cain is a two-way prospect with power both on the mound and at the plate. At 6-feet-3, 225-pounds, Cain offers a high-80s fastball, topping out at 90 with good command. He delivers from a high 3/4 arm slot and also throws a mid-70s curve ball and changeup to complement his heater. On Thursday, Cain faced 10 hitters, allowing only one base hit and striking out three.
Ian Krol, lhp, Nequa Valley HS, Naperville Ill.
Krol was the very first pitcher to throw in the event and immediately set the bar high. Pitching two innings, Krol struck out four of the first five batters that he faced, mixing his upper-80s fastball with a hard breaking two-plane curve ball and advanced changeup. Krol pitches from a low 3/4 arm slot from which he is able to generate natural sink on his fastball. Krol threw 34 pitches on the day, eight of which were balls, three of which were taken for strikes, five of which were put in play, seven of which were fouled off and nine of which were swung on and missed. That means that 43% of the time a batter swung at Krol’s pitches, he completely missed—that’s pretty good.
Josh Turley, lhp, Texas HS, Texarkana, Texas
Turley is a 6-foot, 170-pound lefthander with a fastball that sits between 84 and 85 mph. However, this is the second time I have seen Turley pitch, and it’s the second time that he has absolutely dominated the nation’s top high school hitters. The first time I saw him was at USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars in June where he pitched five perfect innings, striking out 10. At the Area Code Games on Tuesday, Turley pitched two innings, striking out five of the six batters that he faced. Even more impressive, Turley threw only 19 total pitches in those five strikeout at-bats. He struck out the side in the first inning, throwing nine total pitches. Turley complements his fastball with a very good curveball, changeup and slider—commanding all four pitches well.
Friday and Saturday I will take a break from the Area Code Games and attend the festivities involved with the Aflac All-American Game. The actual game is being held in Dodger Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The highest bonuses in the seventh and eighth rounds this year were handed out Thursday. The Indians signed North Carolina outfielder Tim Fedroff for $725,000, while the Orioles inked Sperry (Okla.) High righthander Bobby Bundy for $600,000.
Fedroff’s bonus eclipsed the $600,000 that the Rangers gave Texas high school righty Matt Thompson in the seventh round. A draft-eligible sophomore, Fedroff batted .404 and led the Tar Heels with 12 homers this season. He’s a lefthanded hitter with a compact yet powerful stroke, and he also has plus speed. His fringy arm may relegate him to left field as a pro.
Bundy’s bonus surpassed the $425,000 that the Astros paid Texas prep lefty Brad Dydalewicz in the eighth round. Bundy projected as a possible first-rounder until he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee playing basketball in December. He had surgery that usually requires a nine-month rehab, but he returned to the mound with a knee brace this spring and led Sperry to its second Oklahoma 3-A title in the last three years. Though he wasn’t 100 percent, he still pitched at 88-91 mph and topped out at 93, and he maintained his big-breaking curveball and command. Bundy, who had committed to Arkansas, threw 91-94 mph last summer before the injury.
Wichita State third baseman Conor Gillaspie and Sterling High (Baytown, Texas) righthander Brett Marshall received lucrative bonuses on Wednesday. Gillaspie, a supplemental first-rounder, signed for $970,000 with the Giants. Marshall, a sixth-rounder, landed a $850,000 deal from the Yankees.
Gillaspie broke out by winning the MVP award in the Cape Cod League last summer, leading the circuit in batting (.345) and slugging (.673), and followed up with a strong junior season. A gifted hitter, he consistently squares balls on the barrel of his bat and controls the strike zone. As a pro, he projects to hit for a high average, with much of his power coming in the form of doubles rather than home runs. Some scouts questioned his ability to stay at the hot corner, pointing to just adequate range and average arm strength, but he’s an underrated athlete who will work hard to remain there.
Gillaspie’s signing leaves Stanford lefthander Jeremy Bleich (Yankees, No. 44 overall) as the lone remaining sandwich-rounder who hasn’t come to terms.
Marshall caught scouts’ attention by hitting 96 mph with his fastball early in the spring, and he sat at 91 mph and topped out at 94 as the draft approached. His slider still needs refinement, but it maxes out at 86-87 mph and has the makings of a power pitch. Just 6 feet and 185 pounds, Marshall does have some effort in his delivery. A consensus second- or third-round talent, he slid in the draft because he had committed to Rice.
To lure Marshall away from the Owls, the Yankees gave him the highest bonus thus far after the second round of the 2008 draft. Fellow Texas high school pitcher Ross Seaton, a supplemental third-rounder of the Astros, had held that standard with a $700,000 bonus. Both Marshall and Seaton are represented by Rob Martin of Icon Sports.
On Tuesday, the Rays matched out the highest bonus in the fourth round thus far this year. Tampa Bay signed Tigard (Ore.) High outfielder Ty Morrison for $500,000. The Cubs previously signed California high school shortstop/catcher Matt Cerda for the same amount.
A member of Oregon’s first recruiting class for its resuscitated baseball program, Morrison has plus speed, raw power and potential quality defense in center field. After moving to Oregon in the spring, he emerged as the state’s top high school prospect. His bat is raw, so he’ll likely need time to develop. Morrison’s athletic prowess allowed the Rays to take advantage of provisions for multisport athletes and spread his bonus over five years, with MLB calculating the present value of his deal at $400,000.
LONG BEACH—With the East Coast Pro Showcase only a day in the past, the Area Code Games started up in Long Beach on Tuesday and will run through Sunday. The event is being at held at historic Blair Field—the home field for Long Beach State’s baseball team—which was built in 1958. The stadium has undergone renovations since 1958 but still has an old-time feel. The outfield wall is cinder block with an old layer of blue paint, the stands are half metal bleachers and the dugouts are for the most part uncovered. It is a place where many of the scouts in attendance have a lot of experience either watching games or even playing. While walking up the bleachers to get some shade, one scout stopped me and asked if I had ever been to Blair before. As this is my first time at the field, I responded with a “no”.
“You know, this is where the game was invented,” the scout said to me half jokingly.
Regardless of the actual validity of the statement, I can see why someone would want to invent a game such as baseball in Long Beach—solely based on the weather. The difference between the brutal heat at the East Coast Pro Showcase and the enjoyable mild and sunny weather at Blair Field is night and day. Imagine the most ideal climate for watching a baseball game, and you have a good idea of what I’m trying to say.
The action on Tuesday began with batting practice and was followed by two nine inning games. There was one more nine inning game played Wednesday morning, followed by two seven inning games. For the rest of the showcase, days will consist of four seven inning games per day, except for Sunday when there will only be three games played.
With five of the 20 games already in the books, I have had a chance to see every team play at least once. From a first look, here are a few position players (not necessarily the overall best prospects) from the 2009 class that have created some buzz thus far:
Jacob Marisnick, rf, Riverside (Calif.) Poly HS
Marisnick played in the second game of today’s action and wasted no time getting noticed as he drove a ball at-least 380 feet off the left-centerfield wall for a triple. The ball would have been long gone out of most ball parks, but at Blair the symmetrical fence reads 348 in left, 387 in left-center and 400 in centerfield. Marisnick is a 6-feet-4, 200 pound physical specimen with both strength and athleticism. He ran a 6.7-second 60-yard dash in the preliminary testing and also posted a vertical jump of almost 36 inches. Playing right field, Marisnick showed an above-average arm, possibly the best of any position on his team.
Mitchell Haniger, rf, Archbishop HS, Santa Clara, Calif.
Like Marisnick, Haniger showed plus-power potential at the plate and a strong arm in the outfield. He made solid contact in two of his at-bats, driving one ball off the very top of the left field wall for a triple. Haniger is listed at 6-feet-2, 180-pounds and showed off a powerful throwing arm from right field.
Randall Grichuk, of, Lamar HS, Rosenberg, Texas
The popular phrase to describe Grichuk is “wiry strong”. Listed at 6-feet, 195-pounds, the sound of the ball hitting Grichuk’s bat was distinct both Tuesday and Wednesday as he made solid contact in five of his seven at-bats. Grichuk runs well at 6.85 seconds but can not play centerfield. Offense will be what gets him to the next level.
Geno Escalanate, c, Ridriguez HS, Fairfield, Calif.
Escalante first grabbed my eye when I saw him throw a few times from behind the plate. He has a very strong arm, that at-times seems like it could be erratic, but during tonight’s game, he made several strong accurate throws chasing runers. I clocked him at 1.9-seconds to second base on two separate occasions as runners tried to steal. Then at the plate, Escalante singled up the middle in his first at-bat and stroked a fly to ball over 390 feet to deep centerfield in his second at-bat. I liked Escalante’s approach at the plate, his strong arm and physical body. He is listed at 5-10, 185 pounds.
Jacob Lamb, ss, Bishop Blanchet HS, Seattle
At 6-feet-3, 190 pounds, Lamb is a physically strong athlete that caught my eye during infield/outfield practice before his game today. He showed an above-average arm at the short stop position—possibly the best arm of all the position players on his team—and smooth actions. Then, at the plate, he hits from the left side and has bat speed and power potential in his stroke. The question is whether Lamb will be able to stay at the shortstop position throughout the next level of baseball. If he fills out anymore, he may outgrow the position, and he already is not a good runner as he ran the 60-yard dash in 7.28 seconds.
With only three games being played Wednesday, I was able to eat dinner and be back to my hotel by 7 p.m. It almost feels like I took a half day at work. With four games slated for tomorrow, beginning at 8:30 a.m., I’ll probably need the rest.
Now in its 22nd year, the Area Code Games have morphed into a blend of baseball showcase, job fair, gossip mill and industry convention.
Scouts, college coaches, agents, parents, press, players and various onlookers descended on Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif. for Tuesday’s opening festivities, which featured wood bat batting practice and the lovable SPARQ physical skills testing. More on SPARQ tomorrow.
Several hitters stood out, including:
Randal Grichuk, of, Lamar HS, Rosenberg, Texas
Wiry and relatively short in stature, Grichuk out hit his taller and bulkier compatriots, hammering several balls out of Blair, a notorious hitters graveyard. His best effort was a rifle shot which clanged loudly off a light standard behind the left field fence.
Jonathan Walsh, c, Coppell (Texas) HS
A powerfully built switch-hitter, Walsh loves to turn on the inside offering and clobber it. Walsh hit well from both sides, but his righthanded swing appears to be more natural. [...] Continue Reading »
For the first time in 15 days, another first-round pick has signed. The Brewers inked Canadian catcher/infielder Brett Lawrie for $1.7 million today, making him the 19th of the 30 first-rounders to agree to terms.
The 16th overall pick in June, Lawrie is considered one of the best hitters ever to come out of Canada, following in the footsteps of Justin Morneau and Larry Walker. He owns a keen batting eye and should hit for average and power. A member of Canada’s Olympic team, Lawrie recently won the triple crown at the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, batting .469-3-16. His future position remains in question, but he’s athletic and runs well. He wants to catch and the Brewers will try to make him a full-time backstop once he reports to instructional league.
Clubs have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 15 to sign their draft picks (though college seniors with no remaining eligibility can turn pro after the deadline). Last year, the first draft with a deadline, all 30 first-rounders signed—though 13 of them didn’t agree to terms until Aug. 14 or 15.
The Angels signed Flanagan High (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) shortstop Rolando Gomez on July 31 for $450,000, the fourth-highest bonus known to be given to a player drafted after the 10th round this year.
Gomez is a small (5-foot-9, 160 pounds) yet strong shortstop who has drawn comparisons to Rafael Furcal. He’s a lefthanded hitter with plus speed and some pop. While he’s a smooth fielder, some scouts wonder if his arm is better suited for second base. A cousin of former all-star shortstop Tony Fernandez, he had committed to Miami before signing.
The only players to receive higher bonuses after the 10th round this year are Wichita State shortstop Dusty Coleman ($675,000 in the 28th round from the Athletics), Tennessee high school outfielder Tyler Massey ($525,000 in the 14th round from the Rockies) and Kansas prep infielder Logan Watkins ($500,000 in the 21st round from the Cubs).
Coleman, whose imminent signing was reported the previous week, officially turned pro on Aug. 1. Regarded as a fourth- to sixth-round talent, he had extra leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore and that scared teams off. He has nice actions and a strong arm at shortstop, and good strength and power potential for the position. He helped himself by hitting .330 and earning all-star honors in the Cape Cod League this summer.
Other above-slot signings from last week included:
LAKELAND, Fla.—The heat was on today in Lakeland for the third day of action at the East Coast Pro Showcase. By far the hottest day of the weekend, most scouts sitting in the sun were drenched in sweat from head to toe for the duration of the first two games—and so was I. Luckily, the games today were played at a quick pace, leaving some time in-between to cool off. With my hotel just down the street from Joker Marchant Stadium, I utilized the swimming pool as a quick refresher, visiting it twice during the afternoon. I also used the opportunity to change clothes both times, and I noticed that some scouts did the same.
Getting to the on-field action, a pitcher’s performance in the first game brought up an interesting comparison of the difference between college coaches’ and major league scouts’ approach to evaluating talent. Listed at 6-feet, 185 pounds, C.C. Watson (Cleburne County HS, Heflin, Ala.) entered the game in the seventh inning and struck out the side—which included two considered to be top prospects in Bobby Borchering (Bishop Verot HS, Alva, Fla.) and Michael Zunino (Mariner HS, Cape Coral, Fla.). [...] Continue Reading »
LAKELAND, FLA—The second day of action at Joker Marchant Stadium for the East Coast Pro Showcase took place exactly according to the plan. Beginning at 9 a.m., the day was free of interruption and included 12 full hours of baseball. With no rain or sudden power surges, all three games were played on schedule in their entirety. Also, the teams that missed out on taking batting practice and running the 60-yard dash yesterday, were able to do so today.
Billy Hamilton of Taylorsville (Miss.) HS posted the events best time with a 6.53 second dash. Daniel Fields from the University of Detroit (Mich.) Jesuit HS followed closely behind with a time of 6.56 seconds. An interesting time to note is LeVon Washington of Buchholz HS, Gainesville, Fla., registered a time of 6.7 seconds. Washington is thought by many to be the fastest prospect in the 2009 class as he ran a 6.23 60-yard dash at the Perfect Game National Showcase in June. To be fair, Washington’s team ran the 60’s at 9 a.m. this morning when the grass was still wet. If you ask me, this time isn’t indicative of the smooth-running Washington’s actual leg churning ability. [...] Continue Reading »
LAKELAND, Fla.—After beginning at 9 a.m., the first day of on-field activity at the East Coast Professional Showcase came to an end at 11:05 p.m. Friday night. In a day that was anything but smooth, the tournament staff managed to get all three games at least semi-completed.
I arrived at Joker Marchant Stadium at 8:15 this morning and bought a credential ($100) similar to what the college coaches buy that includes a scout book with player information. Since the event is being put on by the major league scouting community, admission for scouts affiliated with major league teams comes with a 25% discount, driving their fee down to a mere $75 for entry. That not only gains them access to the grounds and a scout book, but also a nice showcase t-shirt made by Nike. I also noticed that the fee for agents was $500. Ouch. [...] Continue Reading »
LAKELAND, Fla.—With the first day of August upon us, the high school summer showcase circuit gets back in full swing as the East Coast Pro Showcase begins today. The event is a four day, game-style showcase, featuring the top high school prospects from the 2009 class broken into six teams. Each day of the event includes three games, batting practices and infield-outfield sessions to give the nearly 300 scouts in attendance a chance to evaluate the players.
Held at the Detroit Tigers’ spring training and minor league headquarters at Joker Marchant Stadium, the event is headed up by the major league scouting community and serves as an opportunity for evaluation but also a chance to inform prospects on what to expect during the next year’s draft season, and also what it’s like in the minor leagues.
Last night, a banquet was held in which several members of the scouting community spoke to the prospects and their parents on topics such as the pros and cons of dealing with agents, the process of scouts making house visits in the spring and what to expect come draft time. Also, the players are housed, for the duration of the event, in the minor league housing (old army barracks—four to a room), building a setting of fellowship similar to that of players in Rookie ball after being drafted.
While the Perfect Game national showcase and USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars event in June are the first major summer events, introducing the newest crop of the next year’s draft talent, the East Coast Pro Showcase is the beginning of the stretch run of events at which these prospects have a chance to establish themselves at the top of teams’ follow lists heading into the spring. Last year, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2008 draft, Tim Beckham, was ranked by BA as the top prospect from the East Coast Pro event and continued his superb play up until this past June.
Following this event, many of the players will immediately travel from coast to coast, as the Area Code Games and the Aflac All-American game take place in the greater Los Angeles area Aug. 5-10. Following that, Baseball Factory’s Under Armour All-American game will take place at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Aug. 17.
For me, the next 19 days (July 31-Aug. 18, including stops in Lakeland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago) will be a chance to experience a sample of the grind major league scouts must undergo. At the trip’s conclusion, the summer scene will be finished and scouts should have a firm grasp on the talent in the 2009 class.
Check back to the Draft Blog for daily reports on the events and my stories from the road.
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