FORT MYERS, Fla.—As has become custom since the Perfect Game National Showcase moved to JetBlue Park, the first day of the event was marred by rain and the seemingly constant threat of lightning delays. For liability purposes, players are removed the field whenever lightning strikes within eight miles of the stadium. A blaring siren marks each delay, which forces everyone to leave the field of play for 30 minutes. After the all-clear is given, there’s some field preparation and the players need to loosen up, meaning each delay takes about an hour.
On Friday, the unofficial first day of the 2018 amateur scouting circuit, there were several delays. While most of the day’s schedule was devoted to workouts, there were parts of two games played. In total 11-and-a-half innings were played in the 13 hours from the time the day began until it was finally called.
With the atrocious weather, observers got looks at fewer pitchers, but many of those who did appear in game action showed significant promise.
Adam Kloffenstein out of Magnolia (Texas) High was the first pitcher to take the mound, and he set the bar extremely high. Kloffenstein, listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, is a physical specimen with broad shoulders and a thick, muscly build. In two innings, the Texas Christian recruit struck out four batters and got two ground balls—one of which resulted in an infield single.
Kloffenstein showed a well-balanced delivery, gathering himself well over the rubber and driving down the mound with both power and stability. He threw strikes with three pitches, pitching at 90-92 with his fastball. He located the pitch down away from hitters often and showed some potential with a sharp 78-81 mph breaking ball, as well as a mid-80s changeup.
Kloffenstein threw his changeup with fastball arm speed, and was able to spot it down and to his arm side against lefty hitters. The pitch had a fastball look to it out of his hand, and flashed late arm-side run and short tumbling action. His breaking ball showed three-quarter shape when he finished out front with it and had more straight top-to-bottom action when he got around it or spotted it to his arm side. The pitch showed the potential for above-average bit, and Kloffenstein competed with it for strikes in the zone, sweeping it through the front door against righties or to the back foot of lefties.
In his two innings, Kloffenstein faced the minimum six batters. After Ryan Bliss reached on an infield single in the first inning, he was caught stealing by Noah Naylor. Naylor, the younger brother of Padres prospect Josh Naylor, showed intriguing defensive tools. In his workout, Naylor took ground balls at shortstop, showing solid footwork and average arm strength. Behind the plate, his arm looked even better; he was cheating a bit, sitting high in his crouch to reduce his pop time, but he showed true plus potential with his arm. In the game, he caught Bliss with a 2.00 pop to second base on a pitch low and to his right. He exuded comfort moving around behind the plate, with loose hips and a strong and steady glove. Naylor was able to get underneath low pitches and showed natural instincts to scoop or block balls.
Offensively, Naylor showed some rhythm in the batter’s box during batting practice, with a quick bat and loose hands. He’s a lefthanded hitter with a modest load and an open-to-closed lower half. His batting practice wasn’t anything crazy, as he showed below-average raw power and average bat speed. Naylor struck out in each of his first two plate appearances in the game, and then pulled an outside fastball on the ground through the right side of the infield for a single.
Following Kloffenstein on the mound was Heritage High (Ringgold, Ga.) righthander Cole Wilcox, who could be one of the better pitching prospect in what is looking to be an exceptional class for prep pitching. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound righthander has a loose, full arm action and throws from a lower three-quarters arm slot. He gets his shoulders over his front side well and lands online with balance and stability.
While his command wasn’t elite, Wilcox was around the zone with his heavy 91-93 mph fastball, which peaked at 94. His slider showed short side-to-side shape at 80-83. It wasn’t an average pitch on Friday, as Wilcox didn’t have great feel for it to start, but it improved as he settled in and has the elements to develop into a useable secondary weapon for him.
Wilcox has similarities to Red Sox 2017 first-round pick Tanner Houck, albeit with fewer red flags to his delivery. Like Houck, Wilcox showed physicality, a lower arm slot, a heavy fastball and a functional-but-inconsistent slider.
Other promising arms included Austin Becker, Matt Liberatore, Landon Marceaux and Tyler Ras. There are plenty intriguing position players, but some of the early standouts included Kendall Logan Simmons, Jeremiah Jackson, Elijah Cabell, Nick Decker, Andrew Benefield, Mason Denaburg, Nolan Gorman, Grant Lavigne, Sean Guilbe and Ryan Bliss.