See Also: Nix, Astros Settle Grievance
See Also: Nix To Headline SoCal Workout
UPLAND, Calif.—Former big league pitcher Dave Coggin gave Southern California area scouts a belated holiday gift this year—the opportunity to watch 15 draft-eligible pitchers throwing from the indoor mound at his Performance Fitness for Athletes training facility (www.pfafitness.com) on the day after Christmas.
Upward of 60 talent evaluators from nearly every major league organization crammed into the limited space at one corner of the 6,000-square foot facility to watch high school and college pitchers throw about 20 pitches. It was an informal setup, with no radar guns used and scouts straining to get a good viewing angle.
Coggin believes it's just one step in the process of evaluating the players as they head into their spring seasons before the June 2015 draft.
"This was just kind of letting a glimpse to the scouts, teams and organizations that are interested in signing these guys so they know that, 1) they're serious about what they're doing, and 2) they're going to be in the same (training) environment even when they sign their contracts no matter how much money they're making," Coggin said.
One look around the facility prior to the showcase confirms what Coggin said about players adhering to the program throughout their careers. Among the athletes at the facility that morning were Athletics top prospect Daniel Robertson, A's lefthanded pitching prospect Chris Kohler, Mariners minor league righthander Steve Landazuri, and former big league pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes, a 30-year-old minor league free agent.
The showcase's biggest draw was righthander Jacob Nix, who was drafted last year by Houston. Nix agreed to terms and passed a physical before the contract offer was withdrawn due to draft pool issues encountered by the Astros when they couldn't come to terms with No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken. A grievance with the Houston organization was recently settled, with Nix receiving an undisclosed payment from the Astros.
The appearance at the PFA showcase was just Nix's second time on a mound in seven months. Currently not working on his breaking ball, Nix delivered fastballs with his first 10 pitches, working both sides of the plate, before finishing the short workout with a mix of fastballs and changeups.
A product of nearby Los Alamitos High, Nix regularly delivered his fastball in the 93 to 95-mph range last spring, topping out at 97 mph. He dropped to the fifth round in 2014 due to a strong college commitment to UCLA, but projects to go higher this year.
Nix has yet to solidify plans for the spring, with rumors including Golden West (Calif.) JC and the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. On Friday, all he would say was, "We should be figuring that out fairly soon. It's getting down to the wire, so I'll be making my decision soon."
Regardless of where he winds up, Nix will just be glad to have his long ordeal over. Despite what he went through last summer and fall, he's remained upbeat and optimistic about his future.
"Everything happens for a reason," Nix said. "You're in control with what you do with your life, so just never stop fighting."
While radar guns weren't being used at the workout, at least one pitcher's velocity passed the sound test, with righthander Cody Ponce popping fastball after fastball into the catcher's glove with a loud thump. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Ponce, a junior at nearby Division II Cal Poly Pomona, was recently ranked No. 24 among draft prospects coming off a strong summer in the Cape Cod League. In addition to his heater, Ponce mixed in changeups, sliders and curveballs among his 20-pitch quota, working each of his pitches both in and out from the plate.
Was Ponce looking to impress the scouts with his power repertoire?
"I'm not worried about it," Ponce said. "I've got until June 5 to worry about all that kind of stuff,” he said. “I'm going into the season being able to throw my off-speeds in any count—behind in the count and in front of the count."
Tyler Witt has a more unique situation heading into his senior season at Claremont High (about 15 minutes away from PFA) than other pitchers participating in the PFA workout. The 6-foot-6, lanky southpaw was recruited by Oregon early in his scholastic career, but that commitment was recently withdrawn.
"They thought my performances this summer and fall weren't up to their standards," Witt said, "so they wanted to part ways … I did what was best for me and just moved on."
With plenty to prove to the baseball world, Witt pitched impressively during his turn near the end of the PFA workout. Coggin was certainly pleased with the way Witt handled himself.
"What he did today impressed the scouts," Coggin said. "When he started throwing a lot of video cameras popped up, and that's always a good sign that these scouts are recognizing that there's a lot of value in this 6-6 lefthanded pitcher."
Witt said that he's currently weighing several offers from Division I schools, as well as having junior college and Division II options still available.