TUCSON — Many in baseball will argue that there is no offseason, but there certainly are high and low tides. Nearly 400 players from across the country have descended on the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz., for the Under Armour All-America Preseason Tournament, powered by Baseball Factory. However, it’s January so if you’re looking for big velocities on the radar guns or majestic batting practice sessions, you’re being unrealistic. Everyone is either coming off another sport’s season or simply in the early stages of getting in shape for the spring. This event gives evaluators a glimpse of players that should be followed as the year progresses and a select few will get the opportunity to participate in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
One of the players that is clearly on the radar is Ryan Castellani, a junior righthander from Brophy Prep College Prep in Phoenix, about 120 miles northwest of Tucson. He stands at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, with long legs and room to add strength. Innings at this event consist of five batters, no matter the outcome, and Castellani pitched two innings for the American team. He threw about 40 pitches and sat 87-88 early before settling into the mid 80s.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “It’s still January so I still have to get back into pitching shape. I was commanding my fastball well to both sides of the plate and my offspeed was working. It was a good day overall just for being in January.”
Castellani flashed two breaking balls in his outing, a curveball and slider. The curveball showed some sharp downward bite in the mid 70s while the slider was more slurvy and a tick harder. Both show good potential. In the two innings of work, Castellani struck out three, walked two and hit one batter, but did not surrender a hit.
“The big thing for me is not just having control, but having command, placing the ball where I want and staying out of the middle of the plate,” Castellani said.
Castellani travels with the Diamondbacks Scout Team during his summers, but is part of a strong program at Brophy under head coach Tom Succow. The Broncos won a state championship in 2006 and have had eight players drafted since 2007. They’ll be in rebuilding mode for 2013, but Castellani still likes their chances.
“We lost 13 seniors, seven starters,” he said. We have seniors that will step up and be leaders. We’ll have a good team. We have really good pitching coming back. We just have to find our last outfielder and we’ll have a set defense. Coach Succow will get us there.”
Also tuning up for the spring today was Kacy Clemens, the son of Roger and a senior righthander/first baseman at Houston’s Memorial High. Clemens also pitched to 10 batters, striking out six and walking three.
“I felt good,” Clemens said. “Just getting out here playing against good players, I felt all right. A little bit under water. I haven’t thrown this much just because of football season. It’s early. When I got my curveball down, it really bit. If I keep throwing strikes I’ll get batters out. I’m still trying to find a feel for the strike zone, but it’s early. We’re getting there.”
Clemens pitched in the 86-89 range, flashed a mid-70s changeup and snapped off several good curveballs in the low 70s. A few slipped out of his hand, but when it was right, it had sharp downward action. Clemens also showed off some pop with the bat, hitting a home run late in the game.
• Righthander Garrett King (Orange, Calif., Lutheran High) showed off his knack for throwing strikes at the 2012 National High School Invitational and he is still playing to that strength. He sat in the low to mid 80s today with a low-70s, downer curveball and most of his pitches were down in the zone and for strikes. A junior, King is verbally committed to Nebraska.
• Parker Kelly, the younger brother of Cardinals third baseman Carson, is just a sophomore and should be a player to keep an eye on. He’s grown since last summer and has a good, projectable frame. He threw in the low 80s, but has a clean, easy delivery and throws from a three-quarter slot.
• On the same team as Clemens is 2014 outfielder Stone Garrett of George Ranch High (Richmond, Texas). He has big shoulders and stands at a lean and projectable 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. While the pitchers are working on getting in pitching shape, the hitters are working on getting into a rhythm and finding their timing. Garrett didn’t have a loud batting practice and could benefit from using his lower half more, but he has an easy, strong swing and a high ceiling.