MINNEAPOLIS—Less than a week after the 2013 draft concluded, scouts were already bearing down on talent for next year's draft at the Metrodome at the Perfect Game National Showcase.
The theme of game action on the first day of the event was big velocity, as 18 of the 24 pitchers on Thursday touched at least 90 mph, and the first game set the tone.
The first four pitchers of the day were up to 93 mph, but a pair of righthanders pitching for the Navy team displayed the best velocity of the day. Luis Ortiz and Brandon Murray both sat 92-94 mph and touched 95 in their two innings of work.
Luis Ortiz’s previous experience on the showcase circuit was at USA Baseball’s National Team Identification Series in Cary, N.C., where parents of other players on his summer team, Central Cal Baseball Academy, raised the necessary funds for the 6-foot-3 pitcher to travel cross country and attend the event. The 17-year-old Ortiz turned heads with his natural arm strength, showing a 91-93 mph fastball and 80-82 mph slider.
But Ortiz looked like a completely different pitcher less than 10 months later.
“My biggest improvement has been losing weight,” Ortiz said. “I was 245 and I dropped down to 205. I was sick and tired of hearing I was overweight. I wanted to prove people wrong.”
Scouts would be forgiven if they had seen Ortiz previously and mistook him for a different player Thursday. With the extra weight around Ortiz’s midsection and lower half gone, the Sanger (Calif.) High pitcher has a strong, durable build with muscular, toned legs and a room to add more muscle to his upper body.
With his remade body and increased strength, Ortiz’s delivery has become more balanced and his stamina has improved.
His stuff has taken subsequent strides. Ortiz’s fastball shows explosive life was reportedly up to 97 mph at an Area Code Games tryout. Ortiz mixed in a low-80s changeup and slider just a few ticks higher that flashed plus. A few of Ortiz’s offspeed pitches drew “oohs” from scouts. He recorded three of his six outs on strikeouts.
“I feel very comfortable with my changeup and slider because I realize that to move up through the levels, I need to have at least three pitches,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz, who is verbally committed to nearby Fresno State, will next pitch at USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars next week.
It has been more than 20 years since Ortiz’s school, Sanger High, has had a player drafted.
Brandon Murray started the game for Navy. His first pitch registered 95 mph on most guns, although the stadium gun said 98. Murray, who attends Hobart (Ind.) High, sustained 92-94 mph through his two innings.
Although more than 300 players were in attendance, Murray, a South Carolina commit, was the only player from the Hoosier State, which has sent Indiana to the College World Series for the first time.
“As a Northern guy, it is a different preparation from guys on the West Coast or down South," Murray said. “But it felt great to compete against the top talent across the country.”
Murray, a former three-sport athlete who decided to focus on baseball, has an athletic 6-foot-4, 200-pound build. With sloped shoulders, a tapered waist and strong legs, Murray has a prototypical pitcher's frame. He throws from a three-quarter slot and has a quick arm. His fastball has good armside run, but there is some effort in his delivery.
Attending his first showcase, Murray struggled with his control at times, leaving his pitches up.
“Usually my go-to pitch is my slider, but something mechanical was off with my slider today,” Murray said. “My slider is usually my out pitch but I had better control of my changeup, so I went with it a little more than I usually go with it.”
On Thursday, Murray’s slider sat in the upper-70s and his changeup was 81-83 mph, showing some deception.
After the game concluded, the day was far from over for Murray, who left Minneapolis to fly home. Murray will rise at 5 a.m. Friday morning to join his travel team, Region Storm, for a tournament at Central Michigan University, which is a three-hour drive from Hobart.
“It’s been an eventful day,” Murray said late Thursday evening. “But today was a pretty satisfying performance on my part.”
Following an impressive performance on the national stage, Murray will be a fixture on the showcase circuit this summer. He will also be at TOS, which will be held in Cary from June 19-23.
The righthander already holds the Hobart High record for career strikeouts. Hobart High has never had a player drafted, although former first-round pick (1999) Larry Bigbie went to Hobart before attending Ball State. Murray will likely end that distinction.
• Outfielder Carl Chester ran an official 6.28 60-yard dash, the fastest time at the event. The tightly-wound 6-foot, 175-pound righthanded hitter showed at least an average arm from the outfield. Chester attends Lake Brantley High, in Altamonte Springs, Fla., the school the produced Jason Varitek, Johnny Venters and Nick Franklin.
• Gainesville (Ga.) High outfielder/righthander Michael Gettys was one of the stars of the day. Gettys, who has a powerful 6-foot-2, 205-pound build, ran the third-fastest 60 of the day, an official 6.43. He has an easy plus arm and was clocked throwing 100 mph from the OF, which broke an event record held by Reds competitive balance round pick Michael Lorenzen. The Georgia commit hit a few home runs in batting practice, showed good bat speed, and had a hard opposite field single during game action. From an athleticism, height/weight and tools profile, Gettys has some similarities to Padres first-round pick Hunter Renfroe.
• In his first inning, righthander Cameron Varga of Cincinnatti Hills Christian Academy, Loveland, Ohio (formerly of IMG Academy), sat 93-95 mph with his fastball. He settled into 90-92 in his second inning with a 78-83 spike curveball with good depth and a high-70s changeup. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound North Carolina commit throws from a three-quarter slot and gets good extension on his fastball.
• Murray and Varga weren’t the only Northern arms that showed good velocity today, as rigthander Keven Pimentel (N.Y.), a Vanderbilt commit, sat 91-93 and touched 94 in his first inning. The strong-bodied 6-foot-3 Pimentel threw a mid-70s curveball with 11-5 break that had the makings of an average pitch.
• Righthander Grant Hockin has a nearly effortless delivery that he consistently repeats. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound UCLA commit sat 88-90 with two breaking balls, a mid-70s curveball with 11-5 break and a low-80s slider that is currently ahead of the curveball.
• Uncommitted lefthander Kodi Medeiros sat 90-92 and touched 93 with his deceptive fastball. The 6-foot, 180-pound southpaw mixes in a low-80s changeup and 72-76 mph slider with more lateral movement than vertical tilt. Medeiros produces good armside run from a low slot.
• Carson Sands, a lefthander from Tallahassee, Fla., sat 88-90 with his fastball, touching 91. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Florida State commit mostly works away to righthanded hitters with a fastball that features good armside sink. He throws an inconsistent low-to-mid-70s curveball with his best curves thrown toward the higher end of that velocity range with tighter rotation.
• Righthander Spencer Adams (Cleveland, Ga.) was another arm that impressed. The 6-foot-5, 180-pound Georgia commit has a lean, angular frame with wide shoulders and a tapered waist. He produces 90-92 mph fastballs with his loose, easy arm action. Adams hides the ball well with a compact arm arc. His mid-80s slider has some depth and he mixes in a low-80s changeup.