SYRACUSE — While many of the day’s top performers at the 2012 East Coast Pro Showcase were players who have already been on the high school showcase circuit for nearly two months, one pitcher opened some eyes as a relative newcomer.
Righthander T.J. McDonald from Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville, N.C., stood out first with his strong but projectable, 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame. His fastball sat in the 89-91 mph range and he touched 92 while also mixing in a sharp 74-77 mph curveball. McDonald threw two perfect innings and recorded four strikeouts.
McDonald said he’s enjoying being around the other players and being able to receive instruction from professional scouts.
“It’s been fun,” McDonald said. “I’m learning some new things and just taking everything in. The scouts have just been telling us to ‘play hard’ and ‘play pro. . . play cocky. Just give everything you’ve got. Don’t hold back and just showcase what you’ve got.’”
McDonald was born in Alaska, but moved to North Carolina before his first birthday and has lived there ever since. The East Carolina recruit is also an outfielder who hits lefthanded and would play both ways for the Pirates, if he winds up on campus, though he shows more pro potential on the mound.
McDonald, though, said he prefers playing every day.
“I like playing the field better than pitching,” McDonald said. “There’s more action. Hitting is the funnest part of the game.”
Playing both ways does give McDonald a small advantage
“It helps me realize how to pitch better by just remembering recent at-bats and what the pitcher did to me and try and copy the same thing,” McDonald said.
• The Phillies Northeast team featured a couple interesting arms today. Six-foot-8 righthander Chris Oakley from St. Augustine Prep in Richland, N.J., was his typical 89-91 mph and touched 92. He also mixed in a 75-77 curveball. While Oakley has been a name on the scene, another righthander on the team, Mark Armstrong, was a pleasant surprise. The Pittsburgh recruit didn’t have to travel far, as he attends Clarence (N.Y.) High, about 135 miles west of Syracuse. Armstrong has a solid, 6-foot-3, 200-pound build. He gets good direction to the plate and threw his fastball in the 89-91 mph range while mixing in an 80 mph changeup and a 74 mph curveball. He only needed 11 pitches to get through a perfect inning. After the Phillies played, the team hopped on a bus and visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
• Righthander Clinton Hollon from Woodford County High in Versailles, Ky., was pulled from his start after 1 1/3 innings after feeling some soreness in his elbow. His fastball was in the 90-93 mph range and he added a 74-77 mph curveball.
• Several players at the event have famous relatives. Most notably, there’s Jacob Heyward (brother, Jason), Jordan Wren (father, Frank), Kyle Serrano (father, Dave), Hunter Harvey (father, Bryan), Cal Quantrill (father, Paul), Dylan Manwaring (father, Kirt) and Brantley Bell (father, Jay).
• Follow @ConorGlassey on Twitter for live updates throughout the next three days at East Coast Pro (#ECP).