LAKELAND, Fla.–One of the biggest challenges of holding the East Coast Showcase in central Florida instead of North Carolina (where it had been for the past decade) is the weather. For the second day in a row, heavy showers postponed play and played havoc with scheduling.
Just one game and a couple of sessions of batting practice were held Thursday, and Friday's docket begins at 7:30 a.m., and will likely carry late into the night, as showcase organizers attempt to get as much baseball in as possible. The action we did see featured three prominent sons of big leaguers.
For the second year in a row, the Ohio Valley and eastern portion of the Midwest offer promising prep pitchers, and the Yankees ECPS team–which last year produced Diamondbacks first-rounder Jarrod Parker (Norwell High, Ossian, Ind.)–has another contingent of top arms, including righthander Bubba Meyer (Greensburg, Ind., High).
Meyer faced a tough Reds lineup Thursday night, and acquitted himself well against a strong crop of central and south Florida hitters. The gangly 6-foot-7 rigththander doesn't look fluid, and some scouts harshed on his high-three-quarters arm slot that occasionally tends to get over the top, but Meyer was efficient with his pitches and showed two plus offerings in his fastball and curveball.
He carved up Casey Kelly (Sarasota, Fla., High) with a first-inning curve that checked in at 82 mph, and needed just 28 pitches, 17 of which were strikes, to get through three innings, touching 92 mph with his fastball. Kelly, the son of former big leaguer and current Reds bench coach Pat Kelly, has been a marked man this week. He's somewhat of a teaser for scouts, because he has an athletic body, easy actions and can do things on the field that can't be taught. But he's a big-time football recruit as a quarterback, hasn't concentrated on baseball, doesn't play with a lot of energy at times and has been tough to see, as he's split time between the two sports, even this summer.
He played well in spurts at the Tournament of Stars in June in Cary, N.C., ranked as the No. 10 prospect in attendance, and was elected to the Cape Cod High School Classic last week, but this week is a crucial one in his status as a baseball prospect. After he went down swinging against Meyer, he striped a double to left field in his next at-bat, displaying a level swing with plus bat speed.
"I'm not giving up on him, not with those tools," said a scout with an American League team. "The mystery will be what he wants to do. I think he likes to play football during football season and baseball when he's playing baseball, so he's still figuring some things out. He's one of those athletes that don't come around often."
Another son of a big leaguer, Jack Armstrong, Jr., started for the Reds and threw well. Like Meyer, he's tall and skinny, and still trying to learn how to stay balanced over the rubber and repeat his delivery. The righthander from Jupiter (Fla.) High pitched at 85 mph, touching 90. He struggled with his command, but hit the outside corner with his fastball a couple of times and struck out four with one walk in three innings.
His high school teammate, Tyler Thompson, is the son of former major leaguer Robbie Thompson, and is also playing on the Reds team this week. He was 0-for-1 with a walk, but took some nice cuts in batting practice, and one scout said he believed Thompson's swing is one of the best in the event.
Two days down, two to go, and whether Thompson can parlay his BPs into games will be one of the many things we'll watch for this weekend.