JUPITER, Fla.–Just as many of the scouts and college recruiters were catching flights out of West Palm Beach Sunday, the year’s final major scouting event was offering exhilarating baseball and a fantastic stage to see which players performed under pressure.
The 80-team field at the World Wood Bat Association fall championship was trimmed to 32 Sunday afternoon, and teams played three more games as they tried to reach Monday’s quarterfinals.
The top two hitters at the event might be hitting back-to-back in the same lineup, and they helped their team reach the playoffs.
The lefthanded bats of Eric Hosmer (American Heritage High, Plantation, Fla.) and Kyle Skipworth (Patriot High, Riverside, Calif.) were not enough to help the U.S. junior national team come away with a gold medal at this year’s Pan Am Championship in Mexico, but since the twosome has been batting back-to-back in the same travel team lineup this weekend in Jupiter, the Braves Scout team looks unbeatable.
Hosmer is a first baseman with a good approach and plus bat speed. He wasn’t off to a stellar start this weekend, but seemed to find his stroke Sunday, as he was squaring up the ball with regularity. Because he’s a first baseman, he’s going to have to convince teams he’s going to be a middle-of-the-order run producer in order to be drafted in the top of first round, and signability, of course, is always a factor as well.
Fellow Arizona State signee Skipworth has been the most electric hitter in the tournament. He’s got quick hands and wrists and has just blistered the ball from the left side of the plate this weekend. He also might be one of the best defensive catchers in the field, though his arm is well ahead of his receiving skills at this stage.
The Rangers also put together a ringer team entry in this year’s tournament, and Arizona product Jaff Decker, a UCLA signee and another lefthanded-hitting corner guy, has once again shown an advanced ability at the plate. He sets up a lot like Adam LaRoche of the Pirates, with a high back elbow and narrow, upright and open stance. He repeats his swing extremely well, and has fired rockets to the alleys and over the fence.
J.P. Ramirez, a lefthanded-hitting outfielder from Texas, is another one of the event’s most polished hitters.
"You look at how good all those guys’ approach is, and they’re really fun to watch,’ a scout with an American League team said. "Ramirez and Decker aren’t as well rounded players as Skipworth, but you know you’re going to get a good a-b anytime you see them."