LAKELAND, Fla.—Despite playing the majority of Friday night on unfamiliar terrain, infielders Tucker Neuhaus and Christian Arroyo stole the show as the Florida Diamond Club Showcase kicked off in front of dozens of area scouts and national crosscheckers at Joker Marchant Stadium, home of the high Class A Lakeland Flying Tigers.
Neuhaus (Wharton HS, Tampa) and Arroyo (Hernando HS, Brooksville, Fla.) both typically play shortstop for their respective high school squads. However, because the Diamond Club West team (handpicked by area scouts) also boasts Oscar Mercado (Gaither HS, Tampa), whom is widely regarded as the top position prospect in Florida’s 2013 draft crop, Neuhaus manned the hot corner while Arroyo shifted over to the keystone.
“They kind of moved me over to third for the pro guys,” said Neuhaus. “I’ve never really played outfield but I guess they just may need me to later on. But I’m not complaining because I just want to get out on the field.”
Arroyo, who helped lead Team USA’s 18-and-under squad win a gold medal this summer, felt similarly about his move. “I’m comfortable with (playing second base),” Arroyo said. “As long as I am on the field it doesn’t matter to me.”
In the end, the trio helped the West squad earn a 7-1 victory over the Diamond Club South Team.
While Mercado went 1-for-3 with a triple, two walks, and a stolen base, the two teammates he forced over made their fair share of noise as well.
Neuhaus, a lefthanded hitter, went 2-for-4 with a walk and drove in four runs, three of which came by way of a mammoth home run that he sent over the palm trees in right field.
“He was throwing between 88 and 90 so I was just looking to take him the other way and not do too much,” Neuhaus said of his at-bat against South pitcher Danny Garcia (Westwood Christian HS, Miami). “He came with a fastball low and in and I just turned on it. I love low-and-in pitches.”
Two at-bats later Neuhaus feasted off of a similar fastball, scorching a double into the right-center field gap to drive in Arroyo.
“Same thing—I was just looking to go the other way and not do too much,” Neuhaus said of his double. “He left it over the middle of the plate and I was a little bit out in front, but I was still able to hit it hard and square it up. “
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Neuhaus’ future at shortstop seems limited, and scouts in attendance felt that he is better suited for third base or a corner outfield position. Regardless, Neuhaus is currently committed to play at Louisville, in part because of the coaching staff’s willingness to let him play at his natural position.
“I’ll be able to play short there and I want to stay in the middle of the field as long as possible because I think it is going to help me. The chance to get right in and play and be an impact player is attractive.”
Similarly, Arroyo, a Florida commit, also figures to be an impact player in college—provided he makes it to campus next fall. Standing in at 6-feet and 180 pounds, the Brooksville native is not as physically imposing as Neuhaus, but Arroyo showed an astute ability to barrel the baseball, making solid contact on both of his hits in a 2-for-4 effort on Friday night.
Arroyo, who has been visible throughout the entire showcase season this summer, (with Team USA and at East Coast Pro) also continually impressed with his smooth actions in the field, polish and instincts.
“I’m really used to the whole atmosphere with all of the scouts out here,” Arroyo said. “The biggest thing is you have to stay within yourself. Don’t try to do too much. You got here for a reason so do what you did to get here. That is my mindset.”
• Mercado was a menace on the basepaths—he stole safely once and on another occasion was nearly picked off at first by Garcia but advanced safely as he beat the throw to second.
• West righthander Tyler Danish (Durant HS, Plant City, Fla.) worked two hitless innings, astutely mixing in a 90-93 mph fastball with armside run, 76-79 mph sweeping breaking ball, and a 78-79 mph changeup.
• South righthander Cheyne Bickel (Dwyer HS, West Palm Beach, Fla.) utilized a 90-92 mph fastball and 75-77 mph curveball to strike out four in two innings of work.
• Second baseman Lazaro Rivera (Columbus HS, Miami) was 1-for-3 and scored the South’s lone run.