Summer Stock

Cape Cod all-star game proves disappointing for both scouts and fans

SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass.--The 2005 Cape Cod League all-star game featured North Carolina teammates Daniel Bard and Andrew Miller on the mound to start the game, beginning a scoreless duel that also featured pitchers such as Tim Lincecum and Brandon Morrow who pushed radar gun readings toward the 100 mph mark.

The big pitching name of the 2006 edition of the game was . . . Matt LaPorta?

"Hey," one scout joked while the all-star affair was still ongoing, "he hit 88 (mph)."

LaPorta, the Florida slugger who led the nation in home runs in 2005 and has 54 career homers in three seasons with the Gators, said it was his first time on the mound in a game since he was a freshman at Charlotte High in Punta Gorda, Fla. Yet that was the type of affair the Cape Cod all-star game at Dennis-Yarmouth High's Red Wilson Field devolved into. The East won 7-2 behind three RBIs, including a two-run homer, by Orleans' Josh Satin (California). Satin hit just .222/.311/.299 for the Bears this spring.

About the only thing more surprising than Satin's star turn was the fact he didn't pitch. The losing pitcher for the West was Mitch Moreland (Mississippi State), who was added to the all-star roster after winning the early-afternoon home run derby with a 25-blast display. Moreland and LaPorta were among the four position players used on the mound in the all-star game who don't usually pitch, a situation that vexed the approximately 80 scouts on hand, as well as the quiet crowd of 3,761.

Scouts were headed for the exits by the seventh inning, which would not have been the case if actual pitchers were being used or if all the players were running out every ground ball.

"I've never seen anything like it, and I think I can speak for the other scouts that we're all very disappointed," one veteran scouting director said in sentiments echoed by at least three of his colleagues. "The clubs take scouting the Cape Cod League very seriously, and you can see all the scouts who are here and are leaving early.

"This is about as bad as I've seen it for an all-star game. The league is probably going to hear about this from the clubs."

Cape League officials were girding for such a discussion. A difficult summer weather-wise, with plenty of postponements, led to a compressed schedule and several doubleheaders scheduled for the season's last two weekends. East manager Scott Pickler (Cypress, Calif., CC) of host Yarmouth-Dennis said the integrity of the Cape schedule and pennant races were more important than possibly damaging arms scouts wanted to see, such as closers Josh Fields (Georgia) of Y-D or Falmouth's Eddie Kunz (Oregon State).

"If we had used a pitcher for an inning here who say pitched two days ago, we're changing the rotation for one of the teams going for a pennant, and I don't want to ruin a team's chance to win a pennant because that would damage the integrity of the league," Pickler said. "I don't know if a day off would help either, because the scouts don't just come here for the all-star game--they're here for a week, and if you take a day away with five games the day before, that would seem to be worse."

Commissioner Paul Galop said the league would be happy to discuss possible changes with Major League Baseball and its clubs but added that the later NCAA schedule--as recently as 1998, the College World Series ended June 6; now it ends three weeks later--already has compressed the Cape schedule significantly.

"We need to establish how we handle it in the future," Galop told the Cape Cod Times. "This year . . . is a bit of an aberration (because of the weather). But that's not to say it can't happen again."

The game had its highlights. Falmouth outfielder Brad Chalk (Clemson) continued his solid summer (.310) with a pair of hits and a stolen base, while a pair of high-profile transfers also performed well. Hyannis third baseman Matt Mangini had a hit in two trips; he's moving from North Carolina State to Oklahoma State, rejoining assistant coach Billy Jones, who recruited him to Raleigh but now works in Stillwater.

West starter Charlie Furbush tossed a scoreless frame, retiring highly touted East starters Buster Posey (Florida State) and Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech). Furbush, who pitched for Division III St. Joseph's (Maine) last spring and threw a no-hitter against Bourne this summer for Hyannis, will transfer to Louisiana State.


Scouts, Players Roast At East Coast

WILMINGTON, N.C.--The East Coast Showcase featured a bevy of the top prospects from the Class of 2007. But not even the 94s and 95s that were flashing on radar guns could match the heat at UNC Wilmington's Brooks Stadium.

With temperatures climbing near 99 degrees and heat indices in excess of 105, the four-day showcase wasn't easy to endure for the players or the hundreds of scouts and college coaches in attendance. The event, which was been dubbed the "East Roast Showcase," has never lived up to that moniker better than this year.

"It's always hot, but it's hard to remember all four days being this intense," said UNC Wilmington head coach Mark Scalf, his gray t-shirt drenched with sweat.

Fortunately, the talent lived up to expectations, too. An impressive collection of the nation's best rising seniors from the eastern half of the country largely reinforced the perception that this year's prep class is potentially one of the best the new millennium.

"It seems like there's some good depth in high school and some guys at the top who have a chance to be front-line major league players," said a scout with a National League organization.

The conditions at the East Coast Showcase took a toll on the position players, as well as the pitchers, but at week's end it was the pitching on hand that stood out the most.

Righthander Michael Main (Deland, Fla. High) entered the event as the highest ranked player in the class, and he pitched well in a three-inning outing, but it was clear that he has some company at the top of the list. Matt Harvey (Fitch High, Groton, Conn.), was the first pitcher to toe the rubber at Brooks Field, and he might have been the best. The righty struck out six in two innings, sitting near 90 mph and touching 93 mph. The son of a coach, Harvey's feel for pitching and secondary stuff are advanced and refined. He shows an ability to spot his pitches to all four quadrants of the strike zone, and he overmatched good hitters.

Main was up to 94 mph, and while his athleticism is superior to Harvey's, his delivery isn't as clean or effortless. Harvey's fastball command might be ahead of Main's as well, as indicated when Main was touched up for two runs on four hits. He showed deft feel for a nasty changeup in his second inning and finished stronger than he started, leaving for a compelling debate.

"Main had the best velocity, but is it the best fastball that plays? I wouldn't say that without some hesitation," a scout said. "And Harvey is the same way. I have seen guys get pretty decent cuts off him. Main threw some good changeups, so that is going to help his fastball, obviously, but it's a good argument: Who pitches best with his fastball?"

Rick Porcello, a righthander from Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, N.J.), made his second appearance on a national stage in less than a week and was as efficient as any pitcher in Wilmington. Porcello followed a poor outing at the Cape Cod Classic four days earlier with two impressive innings. He touched 94 mph and flashed a 71 mph curve that was among the best at the event.

Lefthanders Madison Bumgarner (South Caldwell High, Hudson, N.C.) and Jack McGeary (Latin High, Roxbury, Mass.) also impressed, with Bumgarner matching up with righthander Jarrod Parker (Norwell, Ind., High) in a showdown of differing styles.

Parker's velocity was down from the mid-90s he flashed earlier in the summer, and he was touched for seven hits in three innings. He's lean and athletic, with a good delivery and feel for his breaking ball and changeup. Bumgarner, 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, struck out five with one hit allowed in three shutout innings. His delivery and arm action are exquisite, helping make up for the fact he threw just one below-average breaking ball in his stint.

"The one thing he showed us he could do was pitch off his fastball, and he did that effectively," said a crosschecker with a National League club. "And it looked like if he needed to get some more, he could go get it. It's so early that he has got to be one of the top guys in the country, at least the top lefty."

McGeary's feel for pitching could be the best in the class. His fastball sits in the mid-80s, but because of his smooth delivery and athleticism, his upside is apparent.

Commitments to summer league teams precluded three of the top position players from the East Coast from attending the showcase. Noteworthy was the absence of outfielders Michael Burgess (Hillsborough High, Tampa) and Jason Heyward (Henry County High, McDonough, Ga.) and shortstop Justin Jackson (Roberson High, Asheville, N.C.). Without the trio, there was a void of position players with high-round draft potential.


Preps Put On Better Cape Show

WAREHAM--In contrast to the Cape all-star game the next day, the second annual Cape Cod High School Classic, staged by Baseball Factory and Team One Baseball, went off without a hitch. Team One's squad beat Baseball Factory 6-1.

The score of the game was essentially immaterial. The approximately 75 scouts who signed in were there to see some of the top players in what appears to be a strong 2007 high school draft class. The event was clearly planned with the scouts in mind--the home run derby started at 8:30 a.m. and the game began at noon, which gave the scouts and college recruiters on hand time to see the game, then fan out to Cape regular-season games that afternoon and evening.

Middle infielder John Tolisano (Estero, Fla., High) has played in major showcases since he was 14. In the fall of 2003, Tolisano was the lone class of 2007 players at Perfect Game's World Wood Bat tournament in Jupiter, Fla. Now finally coming to his draft year, the home-schooled Tolisano has worked hard to maintain his place near the top of the '07 class. He won the home run derby and showed solid tools both at the plate (with a quick, short stroke) and in the field, though scouts doubt he'll remain a shortstop.

"The summer schedule is really important because there's more continuous playing, more of a professional schedule," Tolisano said. "I love playing so much, it's not really a problem that the schedule gets kind of long. I've been to East Cobb (Ga.), Perfect Game events, then I'll go to Wilmington (East Coast Showcase) and the Aflac game, but I love to play, so I don't think it's a problem that there are so many events.

"This event is as good as any. I've got family from Connecticut that was able to come up here and see me, which was great, and they treated us very well. It was a good group of guys and a fun couple of days."

Tolisano edged lefthanded-hitting Anthony Rizzo in the home run derby, and Rizzo also had an RBI single as part of his impressive day. Team One's Rizzo was one of three players from Florida's Douglas High in Broward County who played in the game, as teammates Joey Hage and Daniel Elorriaga-Matra played for Baseball Factory. Two other impressive performers were Cypress (Calif.) High infielder Josh Vitters, who took home the MVP for Team One with a pair of hits, and Canadian righthander Phillippe Aumont, who flashed an 89-92 mph fastball and one of the most impressive frames at the event at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds.

"This was a great experience because I really like facing this kind of competition," Vitters said. "I think I thrive more against better pitchers, guys who throw harder. These pitchers are consistently throwing harder than what I am used to seeing in high school.

"Playing in the Cape has been something I always wanted to do, and whether or not I play in college, now I can at least say I've done that."