Dave Perkin has spent the past two months scouring Southern California for high school talent, providing scouting reports and analysis to Prospects Plus subscribers, as one of more than a dozen of the service's content providers. Readers can see the Aflac Classic through the eyes of Dave, who has spent the past seven years scouting the area for professional teams.
SAN DIEGO'"The presence of the Aflac duck was unmistakable at the Aflac Classic on the campus of San Diego State on Saturday.
A gigantic inflatable duck towered above the stands like a water tower over a small farming town. He looked down on the proceedings like a friendly Godzilla looming over Tokyo.
Two large stuffed ducks guarded the entrances to both dugouts. Around the fifth inning, the duck near the third-base dugout got knocked on its side, golden tail feathers pointed to the sky.
Our friend was prone for a couple of innings before being righted. He was, presumably, struck by a fowl ball.
There were no turkeys on the field in this game. Both rosters were loaded with more high draft picks than Scott Boras' rolodex.
The festivities began with the home run derby. I was most impressed by Destin Hood, an outfielder from St. Paul's Episcopal High in Mobile, Ala.,'"the same region of the country that produced a guy named Hank Aaron.
Hood is one of the few high school hitters who understands how to hit with a wood bat. He does a wonderful job of getting his hands moving and loaded prior to swinging'"perhaps the most important factors in driving the ball with a wood bat, and one scouting director said that Hood might have the best pure bat speed of any player on the field.
His story is an intriguing one. Known primarily as a football player prior to this summer, Hood took a jaw-dropping round of batting practice at a tryout for the East Coast Showcase in June, landed a late invitation to a Perfect Game showcase in Cincinnati, where he took another impressive round of batting practice, and thus landed on the Aflac East team.
His performance in games hasn't been as impressive as his BP sessions, but with plus-plus raw power and premium athleticism, he'll be a guy to watch for next year's draft, for certain.
All of the usual suspects were present and performed well, also, at the Aflac game. Outfielder Aaron Hicks (Wilson High, Long Beach) ripped a double to deep left-center field. In a wild mound stint, he nonetheless hit 93 mph on the radar gun consistently, and showed a variety of vicious breaking pitches. Issac Galloway (Los Osos High, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) moved and threw well on a tender ankle and had two hits, though neither ball was hit terribly well. Catcher Kyle Skipworth (Patriot High, Riverside, Calif.), who has probably made the biggest jump up scouts' lists this summer among Southern California prep prospects, blasted a long home run to right field. Infielder Chris Amezquita (Servite High, Anaheim) hit arguably the hardest line drive of the day, a single that skipped past Hood in left field and allowed Amezquita to reach third.
The big names of the East squad also distinguished themselves. MVP Tim Beckham (Griffin, Ga., High) showed both foot and bat speed, tripling to deep right-center and driving two long sac flies. Third baseman Harold Martinez (Braddock High, Miami) made a stunning defensive play. Xavier Avery (Cedar Grove High, Ellenwood, Ga.) showed his speed and quickness on the bases and in the field, and did what a leadoff man should do'"get on base.
However, my eye was drawn to two players who perhaps are less obvious prospects than several others in the 2008 class. Brent Warren is an outfielder from Xavier High in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and one of only two position players in the game from a non-Sunbelt state. Warren has a tall, athletic and extremely projectable frame. His lefthanded swing is easy and smooth, despite the fact he was a bit overmatched here. I was impressed by Warren's speed: he got down the line in 4.1 seconds on a full swing, and 3.8 on a drag-bunt base hit. Several scouts and regional supervisors sitting near me admitted that they'll be making trips to Cedar Rapids in 2008.
This game featured several impressive pitchers, but my favorite was probably everyone else's: Tim Melville, of Holt High in Wentzville, Mo. The Jackie Robinson award winner as Aflac's player of the year flashed a 91-92 mph fastball, a curve in the 76-78 range, and a change around 81. Best of all, he has an easy arm action, quality mechanics and a decent feel for all three offerings. Melville is also a smart player. He batted with a runner at third and less than two outs on the middle portion of the game. Realizing that he needed to hit the ball to the right side to score his man, Melville took a severely inside-out swing at an inside pitch and drove it to right for a base hit.
While the game itself was sloppy, at times, the talent on the diamond was unmistakable. I have no doubt that the autographs many players signed prior to and following this game will be quite valuable in about 10 years.