Underclassmen take their turn at showing off
In the spring of 1950, New York Giant scout Eddie Montague was dispatched to Birmingham, Ala., to observe a first baseman named Alonzo Perry.
Unimpressed with Perry, Montague wired the Giant offices. "I don't know about the first baseman," he opined, "but they've got a kid playing center field barefoot who's the greatest player I've ever seen."
The kid's name was Willie Mays.
The dozens of scouts who on Wednesday attended the MLB Scouting Bureau's summer showcase at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. ostensibly came to evaluate the talent available in the Southern California 2009 High School Draft class.
Like Eddie Montague nearly 60 years ago, scouts attention was instead drawn to someone else—Bryce Harper, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound lefthanded hitting catcher/third baseman from Las Vegas High. To the dismay of every organization in baseball, Harper is only a freshman and won't be draft eligible until 2011.
Harper is perhaps the finest high school prospect local scouts have ever seen. He began the evening with a stunning wood bat BP display, blasting tape measure shots all over the Academy. Harper's finest effort was a bullet that flew over the center field wall in a nanosecond and deflected off the hitting backdrop like a golf ball bouncing off a trampoline.
From behind the plate and from third base, Harper displayed a throwing arm that already grades out to 70 on the 20 to 80 scouting scale. His POP times ranged from 1.84 to 1.91. Harper's only non celestial tool is his 7.03 speed.
When asked about Harper's speed, one scout said, "Who the heck cares?"
After Harper, the most impressive hitter at Compton was Christian Yelich, a tall and stringy lefthanded hitting first baseman from Westlake High in Westlake Village, Calif.
Yelich has a picturesque swing which is beautifully smooth and fluid and is reminiscent of Chase Utley. He easily drove pitches to all sections of the field and sailed several drives over the wall. Yelich is scheduled to graduate in 2010.
The 2009 class had several position player standouts, including:
Jake Marisinick, of, Riverside (Calif.) Poly High:
|1. Bryce Harper, c, Las Vegas HS (2011)
|2. Christian Yelich, 1b, Westlake (Calif.) HS (2010)
|3. Jake Marisinick, of, Riverside (Calif.) Poly HS
|4. Cameron Garfield, c, Murrieta (Calif.) Valley HS
|5. Cade Kreuter, 3b/of, Hart HS, Newhall, Calif.
|6. Matt Davidson, 3b, Yucaipa (Calif.) HS
|7. Christian Lopes, ss, Valencia HS, Placentia, Calif. (2011)
|8. Brooks Pounders, 1b, Temecula (Calif.) Valley HS
|9. Giovany Mier, ss, Bonita HS, La Verne, Calif.
|10. Ivory Thomas, of, Downey (Calif.) HS
Marisinick was the only prospect with five-tool potential in the 2009 group. Tall, athletic and projectable, the righthanded Marisnick ran a 6.7 60-yard dash and exhibited a plus outfield arm. Questions remain about his bat, but his BP session showed glimpses of hitting ability and power.
Cameron Garfield, c, Murrieta Valley High, Murrieta, Calif.:
The solidly built Garfield is the most advanced catcher in the SoCal 2009 class. His best POP time was 1.91, and Garfield shows intriguing loft and pull power from the right side.
Cade Kreuter, of/3b, Hart High School, Newhall, Calif.:
The son of former major leaguer Chad Kreuter, Cade is tall, lanky and highly projectable. A bit gawky previously, he now shows a strong arm from both third base and the outfield and enough coordination and athletic ability to hold down any corner spot. His hitting power should emerge as he develops and adds muscle.
Matt Davidson, 3b, Yucaipa (Calif.) High:
Davidson is a strong and mature framed third baseman whose lack of nimbleness may move him to first base or possibly behind the plate. However, he does possess a strong arm and a powerful righthanded bat, but he will need to prove to scouts that he can catch up to quality pitching.
Twenty pitchers auditioned at Compton on Wednesday, and the following three hurlers show the potential to be top three round draft picks in June of 2009:
Tyler Matzek, lhp, Capistrano Valley High, Mission Viejo, Calif.:
Matzek is the 2009 version of Mike Montgomery, selected last Thursday as the 36th overall pick by Kansas City. The lefthanded Matzek features a lively 89-91mph fastball that peaks at 93, and a terrific 74 curve that shows tilt, depth and two plane drop.
|1. Tyler Matzek, lhp, Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, Calif.
|2. Matt Hobgood, rhp, Norco (Calif.) HS
|3. Tyler Skaggs, lhp, Santa Monica (Calif.) HS
|4. Trevor Bauer, rhp, Hart HS, Newhall, Calif.
|5. Beau Wright, lhp, Los Alamitos (Calif.) HS
|6. Adam Plutko, rhp, Glendora (Calif.) HS (2010)
|7. Chad Thompson, rhp, El Toro HS, Lake Forest, Calif.
|8. James Needy, rhp, Santana HS, Santee, Calif.
|9. Ruddy Acosta, rhp, Mt. Miguel HS, Spring Valley, Calif.
|10. Garret Hughes, lhp, La Costa Canyon HS, Carlsbad, Calif.
Matzek works efficiently, displays advanced command and craftily utilizes both sides of the plate. The evening was dragging when Matzek came in and quickly dispatched 4 hitters. "Now that's more like it!" a scout within earshot exclaimed.
Matt Hobgood, rhp, Norco (Calif.) High:
Hobgood is an offensive tackle-sized righthander whose 93-95 fastball was by far the fastest in Compton. In his attempt to impress scouts and light up radar guns, Hobgood grunts audibly as he fires his four seam toward home plate.
Hobgood will need to sharpen and develop his secondary offerings. He'll also need to improve his control. Several of his rockets caused the MLB Bureau scouts sitting behind a netting in back of home plate to duck for safety.
Tyler Skaggs, lhp, Santa Monica (Calif.) High:
Skaggs elicits comparisons to Edgar Olmos, selected in the 3rd round last Thursday by Florida. Skaggs is tall, lanky and exceptionally projectable, and he figures to add velocity to his 88 mph fastball as he grows and matures. He shows a decent feel for his promising 68-70 mph curve and an 80 mph change.
In past appearances, Skaggs exhibited more ease and freedom in his buggy whip throwing motion. Possibly due to nerves, his arm action Wednesday seemed slightly restricted on the back end and somewhat forced and "short" on his follow through.
Most scouts concede that the 2009 Southern California High School class contains many fine players but pales in comparison to the local classes of 2007 and 2008.
Scouts cannot be blamed for looking ahead to obtaining Christian Yelich in 2010. Of course, the biggest prize will be in 2011, when the remarkable Bryce Harper becomes available.