Minnesota will never be confused for a baseball hotbed, but after having a second-round pitcher last year in righthander Mitch Brown from Century High in Rochester, the state looks like it will produce another high pick next June.
Outfielder Ryan Boldt from Red Wing (Minn.) High has been impressive so far on the showcase circuit. Last week at the Perfect Game National Showcase, Boldt showed above-average speed and a sweet lefthanded swing with good bat speed.
Playing in the Metrodome was a thrill for Boldt, who has lived in Minnesota his entire life and roots for the Twins.
“When I found out the Perfect Game National was there, I got pretty excited,” Boldt said. “I grew up going to Twins games and they’ve got their new stadium now. I’ve only been to it once, but hopefully this year by the end of it I’ll go to a couple more games.”
Now, Boldt is playing in USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars for the PONY team. The Nebraska recruit got things off to a good start on the first day of the event, by smoking a double into the left-center gap as Cornhuskers head coach Darin Erstad watched from the stands.
“It’s tough when you come down south like this and see all these live arms,” Boldt said. “There’s a few up north, but they’re rare. So it’s nice coming down here and being able to see live pitching. Just playing with all these great players, it’s just a good experience. I’m having a lot of fun.”
This season, Boldt’s Winger Birds went 22-3 and made the state tournament for the first time in 35 years.
Boldt has always been a lefthanded hitter, but growing up, he was more known for his prowess on the mound—as a lefthander. But he hurt his arm in Little League and decided to just start throwing righthanded instead. He did everything else righthanded anyway, like writing and holding his fork, but the transition still took some time.
“It went undiagnosed for quite some time and I kept pitching,” Boldt said. “Then it started bugging me a lot and I got an MRI and they found out I had growth plate damage. So they told me to switch and I just started throwing.
“It was tough. My Little League coach threw me out at shortstop and kind of threw me into the fire, which made it difficult, but it made me better in the long run. . . It wasn’t an easy transition, but I guess it was easier than it could have been.”
• While the showcase season focuses on players for the upcoming draft, it’s also an opportunity to get a peek at underclassmen as well. A few stood out today, mostly on the mound. Cam Varga is a righthander from IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He has a good frame at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. He sat 90-93 mph with his fastball and touched 94, but his secondary stuff needs development. Lefthander Christian Martinek of Jesuit High in Portland, Ore., came on for the end of the day’s final game and showed a fastball in the high 80s and flashed a curveball that sat at 67. It’ll likely gain velocity as he develops, but it already shows tight break and good potential. Touki Toussaint is a wiry righthander from Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian High that stands at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds with long arms. He sat 89-91 with his fastball and showed a decent curveball. Ryan Castellani, a righthander from Brophy Prep in Phoenix already has a physical frame at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds. He sat 88-90 mph with solid secondary offerings including a 76-78 mph changeup and a 74-76 mph curveball.
• Thomas Hatch is a righthander from Jenks (Okla.) High and has a sturdy frame at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds. He stood out at last year’s Breakthrough Series and will be an interesting arm to follow this year, but he wasn’t at his best today. He sat in the high 80s, but didn’t have the usual life and sink to his fastball and he lacked command. His secondary stuff also wasn’t sharp, but he did get through three innings and allowed just one run on three hits and two walks while striking out one.
• Catcher Nick Ciuffo of Lexington (S.C.) High showed a strong and accurate arm by throwing behind a runner at second to pick him off and then squared up a 90 mph fastball for a double over the right fielder’s head.
• Reese McGuire, a catcher from Kentwood High in Convington, Wash., swings from the left side and showed fairly easy power to the opposite field by driving a double in the left-center gap and following with a single to left field in his next at-bat.
• Lefthander Stephen Gonsalves has a skinny frame at 6-foot-5, 180 pounds and sat 89-91 mph with his fastball. His curveball was loopy but could be a good pitch if he maintains his delivery and arm speed.
• Bryce Harman stands at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds so it’ll be interesting to see him on the mound, but he looked good at the plate today, squaring up pitches in three consecutive at-bats for hits. He is from Bird High in Chesterfield, Va.
CONTRIBUTING: Nathan Rode
Photo: Ryan Boldt (Alexis Brudnicki)