Quite A Catch

Backstops impress at Perfect Game National Showcase




MINNEAPOLIS—The 2008 draft is hardly over, and the 2009 draft cycle is already getting under way.

The Perfect Game National Showcase has become an event signaling the kickoff of a new amateur scouting season. Coaches from every major university and multiple representatives from each major league club convened to get their first serious look at the next draft class.

TOP 10 PITCHERS
Tyler Matzek lhp 6-3 185 Mission Viejo, Calif.
Mychal Givens ss/
rhp
6-2 185 Tampa, Fla.
Matthew Purke lhp 6-3 170 Spring, Texas
Jacob Turner rhp 6-4 205 Saint Charles, Mo.
Chad Thompson rhp 6-8 215 Trabuco Canyon,Calif.
Beau Wright lhp 6-2 205 Los Alamitos, Calif.
Zack Wheeler rhp 6-4 180 Dallas, Ga.
Justin Bellez rhp 6-1 185 San Diego
Daniel Tuttle rhp 6-2 185 Randleman, N.C.
Keifer Nuncio rhp 6-2 195 Katy, Texas
This year's event was held June 13-15 at the Metrodome, with 11 teams made up of 20 or more of the top 2009 high school players. The teams played 11 games over the three-day run of the event, giving each team two games to be seen by the scouts.

In addition, each player got the chance to be evaluated on specific skills, because every team goes through an extended batting practice and infield/outfield session before its first game, and all prospects are timed in the 60-yard dash.

During the actual games (10 innings instead of nine for maximum exposure), position players continually move to field the multiple positions they may play in the future, and pitchers each get two innings of work. With 11 games, 11 BP sessions, 11 rounds of infield, a home run derby and the 60s, scouts stuffed about 40 hours of evaluation time into three days.

"It's a grind, but it must be done," a National League scout said. "It's a great first look at the next draft class."

And the next high school draft class looks like a pretty good group, especially behind the plate. Four of the top 10 position prospects from the event were catchers, including three of the top five.

Max Stassi (Yuba City, Calif.) was the most impressive, showing above-average hitting and defense. Stassi posted pop times better than 1.9 seconds in games and 1.76 during infield. He also made consistent contact, barreling balls all over the field throughout the weekend.

Catchers Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Luke Bailey (LaGrange, Ga.) also had good showings. Both have serious raw power at the plate and above-average arm strength behind it. Maddox may have the best arm of anyone in the class, and when given a chance to pitch he hit 94 mph. Quality behind the plate doesn't end there as Michael Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) made the top 10 list and five other catchers all made good impressions: Tucker Barnhart (Brownsburg, Ind.), Nathan Gonzalez (Clermont, Fla.), Dane Phillips (Nacogdoches, Texas), Andrew Susac (Roseville, Calif.) and Jonathan Walsh (Coppell, Texas).

Yet the best pure position player prospect at the event played center field. Donovan Tate (Cartersville, Ga.) is a true five-tool talent, showing an above-average arm (95 mph from the outfield), above-average speed (6.34 60-yard dash) and above-average hitting. Tate can also hit for power and showed strong defense in the middle of the outfield.

TOP 10 POSITION PLAYERS
Donovan Tate cf 6-3 200 Cartersville, Ga.
Max Stassi c 5-10 187 Yuba City, Calif.
Austin Maddox c 6-3 220 Jacksonville, Fla.
Mychal Givens ss/
rhp
6-2 185 Tampa, Fla.
Luke Bailey c 6-0 195 LaGrange, Ga.
LeVon Washington of 5-10 170 Gainesville, Fla.
Rudy Flores 1b 6-3 203 Corpus Christi, Texas
Bobby Borchering 3b 6-4 195 Alva, Fla.
Michael Zunino c 6-2 185 Cape Coral, Fla.
Jonathan Singleton 1b 6-2 220 Lakewood, Calif.
The top pitching prospect from the event was lefthander Tyler Matzek (Mission Viejo, Calif.). At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Matzek is projectable and athletic on the mound, offering a fastball that touched 93 and sat between 89-91 mph. He also showed a slider and curveball that were average with the potential to be above-average. Matzek's changeup is a decent pitch with projection. Matzek pounded the strike zone in his two innings of work, striking out five batters and walking none.

Mychal Givens (Tampa) showed the best now stuff in three plus pitches, including a fastball touching 94 and sitting between 91-93 mph. Givens' slider and changeup were also above-average as he is able to create life and deception from a low, almost sidearm slot. Givens' stuff was electric, but at a generous listing of 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, and also being a premier shortstop, he may not end up on the mound when it's all said and done.

The pitching class had depth from both the right and left side. More than 30 players hit 90 mph or better on the radar gun, with the highest reading coming in at 94 by five different players.

While this was the first event of the new scouting season, scouts weren't given much of a break before the second. The Tournament of Stars, hosted by USA Baseball in Cary, N.C., began on Tuesday and will include many of the same players. The weeklong event is held with the purpose of choosing players for the 18U national team but serves as an extended showcase as well.