CHICAGO—Most of the top high school hitters in the 2014 draft class are on hand for the Under Armour All-America Game, powered by Baseball Factory. Friday's workout at the University of Illinois-Chicago's Miller Field featured batting practice, infield and outfield and a home run derby, winnowing the field for Saturday's derby prior to the game at Wrigley Field.
As expected, hitting did not take center stage Friday. This prep draft class has shown hitters with tools and raw power but lacks a polished premium hitting prospect.
Friday's most intriguing performer was outfielder Dazmon Cameron, the rising junior who is the son of ex-big league outfielder Mike Cameron. The oldest of Cameron's four children, Daz showed fast hands and plenty of bat speed. He had the best rounds of batting practice on the afternoon.
Of the 2014 players, shortstop Milton Ramos (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.) put on the best show Friday. Ramos, who played at Florida Christian High in 2013 and will attend American Heritage this upcoming academic year, entered the summer with a reputation as a flashy, at times brilliant defender, and he didn't disappoint in the workout.
"I want to see him on grass, on the dirt (at Wrigley)," said Red Sox international scout Rolando Pino, who serves as a coach for the game and was hitting infield grounders. "But he had a good day today.
"His feet work. He shows very good actions. He showed the arm strength you want to see, he made throws from all angles, and he has those good hands."
Ramos has a young face and frame at 5-foot-11, 158 pounds, his measurements earlier in the month at East Coast Pro, and his swing showed some potential in the rounds of BP, though he's further away offensively than defensively. A Florida Atlantic signee, Ramos has passion for the game and big league bloodiness, as he said Braves righthander his cousin.
"My little brother is the only American—the rest of us were born in Colombia," said Ramos, who points to Colombian product Edgar Renteria as his favorite player other than Teheran. "I want to represent Colombia in the major leagues one day. I just want to play baseball and let God take care of the rest."
Ramos, an outgoing personality, has some similarities to Oscar Mercado, who also moved from Colombia to Florida as a child and became one of the top middle-infield defenders in the 2013 draft class. Mercado played in this game last year and signed for $1.5 million this June as a second-round pick of the Cardinals.
Scouts who have seen both said Ramos has a chance to be better, both defensively and offensively. But like the rest of the 2014 draft class, he has a ways to go.
Cameron Stands Out
The track record of underclassman invited to the Under Armour All-American Game, powered by Baseball Factory, is impressive, and Daz Cameron is the next rising junior to receive this rare distinction. The outfielder from Eagle's Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, Ga., was the most impressive hitter during Friday's workout day at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Under Armour has had five underclassmen in its history. The 2010 event showcased shortstop Addison Russell and righthander Lance McCullers Jr. Russell was the 11th pick in the 2012 draft and although McCullers went 41st overall to the Astros, he received the 12th-largest bonus in the class. Last year, catcher Alex Jackson and lefthander Brady Aiken attended, and Jackson is one of the top position players in the class while Aiken is one of the best lefthanders.
On a day when many of the top hitters in the 2014 class did not have their best rounds of batting practice, Cameron was dynamic during his three rounds. Not only did Cameron hit more batting practice home runs than any other player, he showed explosive bat speed, lightning quick hands and created more loud contact than any hitter. From a tall, narrow stance, the righthanded hitting Cameron smacked frozen rope after frozen rope to his pull side.
Scouts gushed about the 16-year-old Cameron's hitting ability. And his teammates were left in awe by his feel for the barrel and natural strength. In an informal straw poll, Cameron's teammates unanimously said that he was the best hitter of the day and it wasn't even close.
"Daz Cameron is unreal," righthander Cameron Varga said. "I can't believe he is only a 2015. His bat speed is special."
The 6-foot-1, 184-pound Cameron has an athletic build that will hold more weight as he gets stronger. He currently runs the 60-yard-dash in the 6.8 second range and said one of his top goals for the fall was increasing his speed. Cameron said he would like to be as fast as his father, three-time Gold Glove winner Mike, who ran a 6.4 in his prime and had seven seasons with more than 20 steals.
The elder Cameron was in attendance to see his son on the national stage. Mike's last season was in 2011, and he said that although there are days when he misses his playing days, being around his son everyday allowed him to get his baseball fix. Encouraging and supportive of his son but not afraid to have fun with Daz, Mike let out a loud "C'mon!" in a joking tone on one of one the rare swings where Daz fouled off a pitch.
Cameron got on some scouts' radars when he attended the WWBA in Jupiter as a freshman, which is extremely rare. He precocious talent was evident then as he competed against players three years older. Currently uncommitted, Cameron is considering a few of the top schools in the country, including Florida State, Louisiana State and Georgia.
• Righthander Tyler Kolek, the top pitcher in the 2014 prep class, said Friday night he will pitch in the game Saturday. Kolek originally was expected to pitch for the USA Baseball 18U national team but decided to come to the Under Armour Game after not being selected for Team USA. There was talk Kolek would attend but not pitch, but the Shepherd (Texas) High righty said he expected to appear.
• Saturday's game has a 2:30 p.m. Eastern (1:30 p.m. local) start and will be shown on MLB Network. The two teams will once again be managed by MLB Network commentators Larry Bowa and Billy Ripken, marking the third year of this arrangement.
• The preliminary round of the home run derby was held Friday and eight players advanced to the final round, which will be held Saturday before the game. Jacob Gatewood, Michael Gettys, Alex Jackson and Ryan Johnson will represent the American squad. Daz Cameron, Luke Dyksra, Grant Holmes and Chase Vallot will represent the National team.