Houston Hosts TSA Showcase

HOUSTON–While the talent at the 11th annual Texas Scouts Association
showcase wasn’t overwhelming, the crop
billed as 75 of Texas’ and Oklahoma’s top rising high school seniors
again showed the 150 scouts and college coaches
in attendance the depth of talent in the
region.

“This was good,” said a crosschecker with an
American League club. “If
a lot of these guys are like me, they’ve spent a lot of time
in the Cape, and a lot of guys have pro coverage they’ve been trying to
complete, so to come in for one day and get to see these players I
think was helpful. I thought there were some interesting arms and some
position players who looked good, especially in that second group (the
South team).”

Scouts recommend and select the
players for
the event, which alternates between Arlington and Houston. It’s a
first-class, well run event, played under relentless
95-degree sunshine at Minute Maid Park. The two teams ran
60-yard-dashes, took batting and infield practice
and played an intrasquad game.

The North team had
the field first, featuring players from the Dallas Metroplex,
Oklahoma and northwest Texas. They took a lot of long swings,
and their pitching wasn’t as impressive as the
South’s.

Catcher Boomer Collins (Waxachachie, Texas,
High) might have taken the best BP
of the day, in terms of finding the barrel of his wood bat with
regularity, using the whole field and showing a mature approach.
Catcher/righthander Jordan Swaggerty (Prestonwood Christian Academy,
Plano)
also swung the bat well, as he’s done most of the summer, showing
raw power and plus bat speed.

Outfielder Randal
Thorpe (Heritage High,
Collieville, Texas) ranked among the better prospects earlier this
month at the World Wood Bat Association
17-under tourney in suburban Atlanta, and he reinforced that opinion
with a good
showing in Houston. A toolsy athlete with an average arm, plus bat
speed and
some feel for hitting, Thorpe turned in the top 60-yard time on the
North
team when he ran it in 6.60 secons. He again swung the bat well,
too.

There were not a lot of big surprises, though
scouts who saw Jordan Imhoff at an Area Code Games
tryout earlier this summer might not have believed what they saw today.
The outfielder from Martin High (Arlington) had three
hard contacts in four at-bats, including a solo home run that landed in
the Crawford Boxes in the short left-field porch. Imhoff turned on a
first-pitch fastball from Matt Thompson (Grace Academy, Arlington),
then
squared up an 88 mph heater from Alex Haley for a single through the
five-hole in his next plate appearance.

“I was
awful,” Imhoff said of his showing at the
Area Code tryout last month. He was left off the Rangers team that will
head to Long Beach next week, but still hopes to land a spot with
another
team.

“When I got up there, I was just thinking,
‘Wow. Imagine how many people have stood right here in this same
batter’s box,’ ” he said. “I was ready for this, and it felt good to
come out and
put together some better at-bats.”

Imhoff’s
improvement isn’t entirely coincidental. When he went to get
his driver’s license renewed in May, he failed his eye exam and found
out he had 20/40 vision in his left eye. He has since been fitted
for a contact lens.

“Now that I have the contact in,
the ball looks a lot bigger,”‘ said Imhoff, who committed to Oklahoma
last week.

North teammates Kaleb Merck (Keller,
Texas, High), Ben Grisz (St.
Mark’s Academy, Dallas) and Bobby Bundy (Sperry, Okla., High) all have
two-way
potential in college. Grisz and Bundy, though, didn’t pitch up to the
standards they’d set earlier this summer.

A pair of
strong righthanders who have shown flashes of
dominance, Grisz struggled to throw his breaking ball for strikes and
at times overthrew, while Bundy’s velocity sat between 88-90, a tick
under the 92 mph he showed at the WWBA event two weeks ago. His heater
also lacked the late life it’s had before, and Mark Ginther (Jenks
High, Tulsa) had no trouble slicing a long triple into the right-field
alley off an 89 mph Bundy fastball.

Haley was also
one of the marquee names in the event, as many Texas
area scouts were eager to confirm what they’d been hearing
about the 6-foot-4 righthander. Haley ranked among the top
prospects at the Perfect Game National showcase last month, and could
end up as one of the top pitchers in this class.

In
Houston, however, he struggled to find the zone with his mid-70s
breaking ball, nibbled on the corners and worked deep in counts. He
pitched
at 89, bumping 92 once, down from the 94 mph that was reported during
his longer, two-inning outing last month in
Cincinnati at the Perfect Game showcase.

The
velocities rose with the temperatures in the second game of the
day. No fewer than 12 pitchers for the
South at least touched 90 mph. Outside of arm strength, however, most
of them have significant shortcomings at this stage of their
development.

Jarred Cosart (Clear Creek, Texas,
High) looked ready for his West
Coast swing to the Area Codes and Aflac Classic. He pitched at 90-92
mph with a fastball that had good cutting action. Both his slider and
curveball are below-average pitches, but his stuff and body are
projectable.

Righthander Kyle Winkler’s (Kempner,
Texas, High) 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame is less intriguing, but his
outing was one of the best on Tuesday. The ace of the Team USA youth
squad
that won a gold medal in Venezuela last year, Winkler might have felt
overlooked when he was left off the junior national team
trials roster and the Aflac team. He hasn’t let it affect his
performance, as he
tossed a seven-inning no-hitter earlier this month at the WWBA
tournament and showed an advanced feel for pitching
in Houston.

Shortstop Taylor Featherston (Taylor
High, Katy, Texas) was the best
position player on the South roster. He has a knack for putting the
barrel on the ball, keeps his weight back against good offspeed pitches
and shows feel and instincts on the basepaths and on
defense.

TEXAS SHORTHORNS

• Haley
plans to transfer from San Augustine (Texas) High to Central Heights
High in Nacogdoches, Texas.

• Outfielder Robbie Grossman (The
Woodlands, Texas, High) was in Houston, but was ill and unable to
participate in the showcase.

Walker Kelly (Arlington Heights High), one of
the nation’s most
talented lefthanders, was also in attendance but did not play. Kelly
has been shut down with a sore arm and hopes to resume a throwing
program in November. He will also attend the Aflac Classic,
but will not pitch.

High School | #2008

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