Deep, Talented High School Stars Shine Brightly In Jupiter
See also: Class of 2007 Top 20 Prospects
See also: Class of 2008 Top 10 Prospects
JUPITER, Fla.--The final wide-scale high school scouting event of the
year is always a test of ability, talent and skill, but simply finding
the strength and energy to persevere through the grueling five-day,
80-team tournament that includes eight games--five in the final 24
hours--is what's paramount.
|Here's a look at some of the best
tools among the draft-eligible players in attendance, as judged by BA's
Alan Matthews in conjunction with scouts in
Batting Prospect||Josh Vitters, 3b, Cypress (Calif.)
Prospect||Michael Burgess, of, Hillsborough HS,
Baserunner||Ryan Dent, ss, Wilson HS, Los
Pitching Prospect||Rick Porcello, rhp, Seton Hall
Prep, West Orange, N.J.|
Porcello, rhp, Seton Hall Prep, West Orange,
Breaking Pitch||Jack McGeary, lhp, Roxbury (Mass.)
Control||Jack McGeary, lhp, Roxbury (Mass.) Latin
Player||Peter Kozma, ss, Owasso (Okla.)
Arm||Danny Rams, c, Gulliver
Defensive Catcher||Yasmani Grandal, c, Miami Springs
Exciting Player||Ryan Dent, Wilson HS, Los
The last team standing at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., at the
ninth annual World Wood Bat Association fall championship not only
secured the designation as the event's best collection of talent, it
also had that key ingredient in sparkplug Andrew Lambo.
With the rest of the Reds Scout Team running on fumes, Lambo, a
sweet-swinging outfielder/first baseman with an effervescent attitude
from Newbury Park (Calif.) High, volunteered to take the ball for the
championship game and promptly thumbed his way through five shutout
innings, pacing the Reds' 3-0 win over the Houston Heat to take the
"He's like the Energizer bunny," said Lambo's teammate Michael Burgess
(Tampa), shaking his head in wonderment as Lambo paraded outside the
dugout. "He just keeps going. All week he hasn't stopped talking,
keeping us loose, and he's still bouncing around like he could play
another eight games."
The tournament's annual ringer entry, the Reds boasted a hand-picked
roster of players from 11 different states and one from Ontario, and
flexed their muscle with dominant pitching and a heavyweight lineup.
Lambo and seniors Patrick Arnold (Huntington, W.Va.); Seth Blair (Rock
Falls, Ill.); Chris Jones (Tampa); Bob Revesz (Grove City, Pa.); Sam
Runion (Asheville, N.C.); Ryan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich.) and Tommy
Toledo (Tampa); and juniors Steve Gruver (Canfield, Ohio); Walker Kelly
(Fort Worth, Texas) and Mike Nastold (Cincinnati) all had a hand in the
Reds' success. The pitching staff allowed just six runs--only one in
three playoff games played successively on the event's final day--on
its way to a perfect 8-0 record.
While Lambo carved up the Heat with a crafty approach and a low- to
mid-80s fastball, his future lies in his hitting ability. He and
Burgess, along with catcher Yasmani Grandal (Hialeah, Fla.) and
shortstops Ryan Dent and Justin Jackson (Asheville, N.C.), formed a
formidable lineup and will enter their senior seasons as potential
first-round picks in the 2007 draft.
"I'm sitting there watching this team play and just started shaking my
head as each guy came on deck," said a scout with a National League
organization. "It was one lefthanded power hitter after another."Rising Stock
Grandal, one of five Aflac All-Americans on the Reds roster, doesn't
fit the profile of a middle-of-the-order hitter, but he helped sew
things together for the Reds. One of the event's most intriguing
subplots was his impressive ability to handle the Reds pitching staff.
A competent switch-hitter, the Cuba native's upside lies in his
catch-and-throw package, which is among the best in a draft class thin
at the position, including collegians. Grandal has improved since the
beginning of the summer, showing aptitude as well as ability. His hands
are soft, he's agile and has above-average arm strength.
"He handled a pretty good pitching staff with a lot of different looks
and deliveries," said a scout with an NL organization. "They had big
righthanders with big arms, funky lefties who would change speeds, and
for a catcher not to waver at all in terms of how he receives, and
still pay attention to game situations, was nice to see. He moves well
behind the plate and can throw, too."
Grandal's performance was understated compared to that of Dent. A
fast-twitch, live-bodied middle infielder from Los Angeles' Wilson
High, Dent swings the bat with a purpose and has the ability to man the
middle of the diamond. When he wasn't turning line drives into doubles,
he was turning in above-average 4.1-second home-to-first times.
He and Grandal may have made the biggest leaps forward in the minds of
scouts in attendance, while Burgess, New Jersey righty Rick Porcello,
Georgians Jason Heyward and Josh Smoker and the California duo of Nick
Noonan and Josh Vitters solidified their status among the nation's top
"I thought that there was a really quality group of players in
attendance," said a scouting director with an American League club.
"Most of the guys we were here to see performed the way we would have
wanted them to perform, and there were other players who have emerged
"This is a complete class. There's a strong mix of both position players and pitchers."Savory Showdowns
The event's signature showdown took place in the second round of the
playoffs early on the final day, just as the Florida sun rose. Two of
the country's top travel club programs squared off, with the East Cobb
(Ga.) Astros edging the ABD Bulldogs 5-2 in what would go down as the
defining moment in a young career of Smoker, who promises to offer many
more similar moments on more significant stages.
The fiery lefty from Calhoun (Ga.) High attacked the Bulldogs lineup
with a low-90s fastball, split-finger fastball, changeup and curveball.
It isn't the best package of pitches among this year's talented crop of
prep pitchers, but when combined with his guile and feel for pitching,
it proved more than enough to help the Astros advance.
The contrast in personalities between the two teams was palpable, and
each time it appeared the cool California sluggers such as Noonan (San
Diego), Vitters (Anaheim) and Brett Krill (Laguna Niguel) had Smoker on
the ropes, he made a pitch to get out of a jam.
Krill laced an RBI triple off the fence in right-center field in the
fifth with no outs before Smoker struck out Vitters, Anthony Rizzo
(Parkland, Fla.) and Daniel Elorriaga-Matra (Cape Coral, Fla.), in
order, to squelch the threat. Smoker pumped his fist as he sprinted off
the mound, capping his outing with 13 strikeouts in five innings and
locking up the event's most valuable pitcher honors for the second year
in a row.
"This is why I think these events have so much value," the AL scouting
director said. "It's so much tougher to see the better hitters during
the high school season because they don't get pitched to. I'm watching
Smoker against Vitters! I'm not going to get that this spring.
"It's as good a competition as we'll see all year and it's games, not a
showcase. You really get to see the more competitive juices, see who
really cares about winning."Pocket Aces
While more reserved and less outwardly emotional, Porcello exhibited
that same will to win during a relief appearance in the first round.
The 6-foot-5, 188-pound righthander needed just three pitches--a pair
of fastballs that came in at 96 and 97 mph, and a 78 mph changeup--to
induce a rally-ending double-play ball. He tossed fewer than 40 pitches
during the event, as his coach tried to preserve him for a late-round
game that never took place when his team was knocked out in the second
round. But his velocity, command and easy delivery validated his stock
as one of the top arms in the country.
"For me he was easily the best arm here, and he also might be closest
to being most complete," the AL scouting director said. "With his
fastball, curveball and changeup, and you factor in the command and the
movement . . . He made a very good impression."
The same couldn't be said for Michael Main (Deland, Fla.), who
skyrocketed atop follow lists in June when he flashed 96-97 mph heat at
a number of high-profile events. Main, two weeks removed from a trip to
Cuba with USA Baseball's junior national team, wasn't at his best. His
only appearance in Jupiter was pedestrian, although he again dialed his
fastball up to 96 mph. His arm strength is evident, but his command and
feel for pitching at times have not been. He was touched up for a pair
of earned runs on two hits with three walks. Five of the six outs Main
recorded were on strikes. Scouts are optimistic he'll refine his
approach to pitching.
One of the most compelling aspects of this year's draft class is the
depth in high school pitching. The athletic Main throws 96, but it's
possible he won't be one of the first three prep pitchers drafted in
Lefthander Jack McGeary could hear his name in the first round, as he
continued his ascent with a pair of impressive appearances at the
tournament, the second of which was inspiring more for the
competitiveness and resolve he showed rather than his stuff. The
Newton, Mass., product walked the first two hitters of the game then
gave up an RBI double before dealing his way through six innings,
finishing with 13 strikeouts.
"That's when you can really learn something about a pitcher, and he
showed me he can go out there and get the job done against good
competition, even when he doesn't have his best stuff," an AL scout
McGeary's delivery is effortless, and he's shown feel for three pitches. His fastball sat near 88 mph in Jupiter.MOONS OF JUPITER
• The event has evolved somewhat for the hundreds of college coaches
and recruiters in attendance. With so many players committing verbally
long before the official Nov. 15 signing date, most college coaches are
focused primarily on underclassmen, while still keeping tabs on the
seniors that they've already received commitments from. There was
plenty of talent on hand from the Classes of 2008 and 2009, as well,
particularly from the state of Florida.
"Florida is down somewhat in terms of the depth in talent for 2007 as
compared to last year, but the '08s could be outstanding," said a
Florida-based scout in attendance.Eric Hosmer
High, Plantation, Fla.) held down the cleanup spot in the Reds Scout
Team batting order and showed power, hitting ability and glove work at
first base reminiscent of a young Casey Kotchman
, a first-rounder from Seminole (Fla.) High in 2001.
• For those coaches and scouts who braved heavy rain early one morning,
they were rewarded with a strong pitching performance from junior Tim
(Holt High, Wentzville, Mo.). The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Melville
started an 8 a.m. game, then sat for more than an hour during a rain
delay before returning--and cruising. Melville's effortless delivery
yielded an 85-88 mph fastball, a good downer curveball and usable
• Lefthander Blake Monar
6-foot-2, 185-pound junior from Rockport, Ind., started the weekend off
in style, throwing a perfect game for the Akadema (Ind.) Yankees
against the Puerto Rico Raiders on the tournament's first day. Monar,
whose best attribute is his advanced feel for pitching, showed good
command of an 83-84 mph fastball that touched 86, a solid 72-74 mph
curveball and feel for a changeup.
• Lefty John Gast
perfect, but he was pretty close in a 17-strikout performance. A senior
out of Lake Brantley High in Altamonte Springs, Fla., Gast had his
downer curveball working well, and showed improved command of his 86-90
mph fastball in a complete-game one-hitter.
• The head of Clemson recruiting coordinator Kevin O'Sullivan
had to be on a swivel during the event's semifinal playoff round. Seven
different seniors O'Sullivan secured verbal commitments from were
playing integral roles on three different teams that remained in
contention--outfielder Chris Epps
(Dunwoody High, Atlanta); second baseman John Hinson
(Reynolds High, Asheville, N.C.); Noonan, righthanders Justin Poovey
(South Caldwell High, Hudson, N.C.) and Trent Rothlin
(Foard High, Newton, N.C.); outfielder Jeff Schaus
(Barron Collier, Naples, Fla.); and Smoker. Schaus gave the Tigers a
clean sweep of tournament hardware, matching Smoker, the most valuable
pitcher, as the event's MVP. Schaus was 12-for-24 with at least a hit
in each of the Reds' eight games.Contributing: Aaron Fitt.