2009 East Coast Professional Showcase Standouts
Big league bloodlines on display in Lakeland
For the 13th-consecutive year, the East Coast Professional Showcase served as essentially the East Coast complement to the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif. The event started in Chapel Hill, N.C., then moved to UNC-Wilmington for several years. For the past three years, the event has been played at Tigertown in Lakeland, Fla., the Tigers' spring training complex and in-season home of the high Class A Lakeland Flying Tigers.
There are six teams in the event, split up by geographic regions. Scouts get to pick their players and coach the teams, and they've done a good job of bringing in the cream of the crop over the years.
"The number of drafts that come out of here are pretty impressive," said Giants East Coast crosschecker John Castleberry. Castleberry has been involved with the event since its inception. "Last year, we had 84 guys that were drafted out of here, out of 100-something. The year before it was 88, the year before that it was 104. It depends on the talent and I think this year's group is pretty good. The teams do a good job of identifying guys."
Some of the players that have participated in the event in the past include: Mark Teixeira, Josh Hamilton, David Wright, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Jake Peavy, Brian McCann, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton, to name just a few.
It's evident that the event is run by scouts and geared for scouts. Over the four days, the players get the chance to play against some of the best competition the country has to offer and be evaluated by hundreds of scouts and college coaches. They get personal instruction from the scouts, take vision and psychological tests issued by the Major League Scouting Bureau and stay on-site in the dorms, so the scouts also get to know the players personally and evaluate their makeup and work ethic.
"This is an event that's for professional baseball people," Castleberry said. "Scouts get treated pretty bad when they go to college stadiums. Not all of them, but some of them. There's one school that charges $32 to go to a game and they don't even have assigned seating for scouts, and I think that's wrong. This is a great opportunity to evaluate the players and educate the parents and the players about what professional baseball can offer, how the year will play out, how the draft works and what their minor league career would be like . . . and we give them a little taste, maybe a mini-taste, of what Gulf Coast League or Arizona Fall League baseball is going to be like. You've got to get up early, got to be on time, how to wear your uniform, the proper way to do things."
Here are 15 players that made a good impression at the event . . .
Mike Antonio, ss, Washington HS, New York
Antonio comes from the same high school that produced Rod Carew and Manny Ramirez. He's a toolsy athlete that ran a 6.69-second 60-yard dash and he can put on a show in batting practice. That said, he's a definite project. He struggles against live pitching because he loses his front side during his swing, making it difficult for him to hit offspeed pitches and fastballs away. During infield drills, he tried to look flashy, but it backfired on him a few times and he ended up looking a little sloppy.
Jesse Biddle, lhp, Germantown Friends School, Philadelphia
At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, Biddle has undeniable mound presence. In three innings, he allowed just one hit and struck out five, working downhill with an easy delivery. He sat 87-89 mph with his fastball, mixing in a 67-69 curveball and a 77 changeup that he located well to both sides of the plate.
Jake Cave, lhp/of, Hampton (Va.) Christian HS
Cave, a 2011 graduate, is promising as both a pitcher and position player. On the mound, he kept hitters off balance by working quickly out of a high-three-quarters arm slot with a riding 88-91 fastball and a 75-76 slider. Cave also showcased his athleticism, as the Louisiana State commit made a nice diving catch in right field and flashed power potential at the plate.
Drew Cisco, rhp, Wando HS, Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
Once again, Cisco carved up the opposing lineup. He doesn't quite have the best stuff in the class, but his stuff is still very good and he shows an extremely advanced feel for pitching befitting his bloodlines—his grandfather Galen was a big league pitcher and pitching coach for 30-plus years. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder has a bigger, better body than older brother Mike, who just reached Double-A in the Phillies' system. He threw his fastball in the 88-90 mph range with a 74-77 mph breaking ball and a changeup. The Georgia recruit commands all three of them well and keeps hitters off-balance by working fast and throwing any pitch in any count.
Nicky Delmonico, inf, Farragut HS, Knoxville, Tenn.
An athletic 6-foot-3, 195-pounder, Delmonico played all over the infield—including catcher—during the tournament's four days. He exhibited an aggressive approach and good bat speed at the plate, recording at least one hit in every game. Delmonico ran a 7.11 60-yard dash and is one of the top prospects in the 2011 prep class.
Delino DeShields, inf/of, Woodward Academy, Atlanta, Ga.
The son of the former big leaguer with the same name, DeShields doesn't have his father's size, but he has his speed. The younger DeShields is currently 5-foot-9, 180 pounds and he ran a 6.46-second 60-yard dash. He bats and throws righthanded and has a short, quick swing that resulted in line drives all over the field during batting practice and contact in nearly all of his at-bats in the games.
Ben Gamel, of, Bishop Kenny HS, Neptune Beach, Fla.
Like his older brother Mat, who plays third base for the Brewers, Gamel shows good hitting ability and some power for his size. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, he's not as big as Mat yet, but has a very good understanding of the strike zone and displayed good athleticism with a 6.90-second 60-yard dash at the event. He is committed to Florida State.
Trey Griffin, of, King HS, Stockbridge, Ga.
At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Griffin is a good athlete with a big league body. He's tall and thin with room to fill out as he matures physically. With a sore ankle, Griffin split time between right field and first base at the event, but profiles more as a left fielder because of his below-average arm. At the plate, Griffin shows good bat speed and has the strength to drive the ball the other way. In batting practice, he actually looked better going to the opposite field than he did pulling the ball. Griffin isn't as athletic as his half brother, Orioles prospect Xavier Avery, but he ran a 6.97-second 60-yard dash at the event.
Alex Lavisky, c, St. Edward HS, Lakewood, Ohio
Lavisky is an agile and instinctual backstop whose defense is a step ahead of his bat right now. He consistently registered pop times around 2.00 and displayed solid receiving skills throughout all four days of the event. Using strong wrists and a muscular lower half, he showed good power, although he is somewhat pull-conscious.
Ty Linton, of, Charlotte (N.C.) Christian HS
Linton has hit the ball hard all three days and really turned some heads today when he crushed a long home run onto the berm in left-center field. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he's very athletic and ran a 6.69-second 60-yard dash. He is also a talented outside linebacker on the football field and is committed to North Carolina for both sports.
Manny Machado, ss, Brito Miami HS, Coral Gables, Fla.
Machado has looked consistently good throughout the summer showcase circuit. He played well at PG National, stood out at Tournament of Stars and has looked like one of the best players at this event. At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Machado has long legs and definitely looks the part. He's silky smooth on defense and has consistently hit the ball hard. Machado committed early to Florida International.
Justin O'Conner, ss/rhp, Cowan HS, Muncie, Ind.
O'Conner didn't stand out at the plate like he did at PG National and Tournament of Stars earlier this summer, but his natural ability and premium athleticism was still readily apparent. Although reluctant to swing at breaking pitches off the plate, his quick, strong wrists and exceptional hand-eye coordination allow him to consistently make hard contact when he does get something he likes. O'Conner also pitched on the second day, touching 92 mph on the gun with a sharp 74-76 breaker.
T.J. Pecoraro, rhp, Half Hollow Hills West HS, Dix Hills, N.Y.
Pecoraro is smallish at 6-foot, 155 pounds, but he was one of the most impressive pitchers at the event, striking out the side in his second inning of work. With a quick arm and compact delivery, he generated good velocity (he sat 89-90 mph and touched 91) and spun a tight 78-79 slider that he routinely threw for strikes. He also showed a promising changeup with sink that was clocked at 79.
Robbie Ray, lhp, Brentwood (Tenn.) HS
This year's high school class doesn't appear to have the power lefthanders like Tyler Matzek and Matt Purke last year. But Ray pitched well at the event, putting him in the discussion for this year's best high school southpaw. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder has an athletic build and featured a fastball in the 89-91 mph range that he commanded to both sides of the plate. The Vanderbilt commit also mixed in a breaking ball and a changeup that were both in the 77-79 mph range.
Dickie Joe Thon, ss, Academia del Perpetuo Socorro, San Juan, P.R.
The son of the 15-year big leaguer is fun to watch. At shortstop, the 6-foot, 180-pounder is light on his feet and makes quick, strong throws across the diamond. At the plate, the righthanded hitter is short to the ball with a line-drive approach. He's a good athlete that also excels in three other sports: basketball, volleyball and track and field. At the event, Thon ran a 6.84-second 60-yard dash and plays the game hard. He is committed to Rice.
Contributing: Jesse Burkhart