Prep Talent Heads To Jupiter

Scouts flock to Florida for showcase

JUPITER, Fla.—The time for high school prospects to make their mark for the 2009 draft  is growing shorter. This week's World Wood Bat Tournament is the last time scouting departments will see the players against the best competition before they draw up their mock drafts in December. After this, only small, side showcases and the 2009 high school season will make a difference.

In its 10th year, this monster of a tournament will again be held at the Roger Dean Complex, home of the Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals of the high Class A Florida State League and the St. Louis Cardinals' spring-training home. There are almost a dozen fields—two clover leafs and another small cluster—that host games simultaneously. The sheer size of this event requires most of the scouts and college recruiters in attendance to use golf carts to go point to point. However, the weather for this weekend is ominous, and with 80 teams playing a guaranteed four games, it could turn out to be a logistical nightmare. Pool play begins Thursday at 3 p.m., and the full beast comes to life Friday at 8 a.m.

The 2008 chapter is shaping up to be just as intriguing as the past. Many of the prospects that will eventually appear on our top 200 list will be in attendance, not to mention other names that might be last-minute pop-ups.

The event actually involves teams playing for a championship, with the title game scheduled for Monday, and there are some clear favorites that expect to be making a run.

The Braves Scout Team, made up of players from all over the country, has six members in the top 50 plus other underclassmen that are already at the top of their respective lists. Lefthander Tyler Matzek (Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, Calif.) is the top prospect for the 2009 draft and will utilize his three-pitch mix as the ace of the staff. Filling out the rotation behind him will be lefthander Chad James (Yukon, Okla., HS) and righthander Shelby Miller (Brownwood, Texas, HS). James is a tall, projectable lefty while Miller is the same from the right side. Righthander Peter Tago (Dana Hills HS, Laguna Niguel, Calif.) will also be a formidable arm and is slated to be one of the top prep pitchers in the 2010 draft.

However, it's not all about pitching for the Braves. Their offense rivals any other team in the tournament and will be led by Las Vegas High phenom Bryce Harper. A catcher/outfielder who is part of the 2011 draft class, Harper is considered the top prospect at any event in which he makes an appearance, even though he's just entered his sophomore year of high school. He has a pro body at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and each of his tools is at least a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale, except for his running, which is average at worst.

The Braves also have the top shortstops for the 2009 and 2011 drafts in Deven Marrero (American Heritage High, Plantation, Fla.) and Christian Lopes (Valencia HS, Canyon Country, Calif.). Marrero is primarily heralded for his plus defense and arm strength at a premium position. Lopes is thought to have more projection in the bat, but is also a smooth and flashy middle infielder.

Next up are the ABD Bulldogs, possibly the only offense that could top the Braves. It will be paced by corner infielders Matt Davidson (Yucaipa, Calif., HS), Cade Kreuter (Valencia HS, Newhall, Calif.), Kris Hobson (Stockdale HS, Bakersfield, Calif.) and Nolan Arenado (El Toro HS, Lake Forest, Calif.), outfielder Austin Wilson (Harvard Westlake HS, Los Angeles) and middle infielders Jiovanni Mier (Bonita HS, Pomona, Calif.) and David Nick (Cypress HS, Huntington Beach, Calif.). The Bulldogs' staff will be anchored by righthanders Chad Thompson (El Toro HS, Lake Forest, Calif.) and Brooks Pounders (Temecula Valley HS, Riverside, Calif.).

Also in this event will be the Diamond Devils, who beat the Bulldogs in the WWBA championships in East Cobb, Ga., this July. Led by power-hitting right fielder Daniel Aldrich (Wando HS, Mt. Pleasant, S.C.), who was the East Cobb tournament MVP, the Diamond Devils will also feature shortstop Chris Owings (Gilbert HS, Leesville, S.C.), catcher Brison Celek (Bishop England HS, Chalreston, S.C.) as well as the pitching staff of righthanders Drew Sisco (Wando HS, Mt. Pleasant, S.C.), Greg Harrison (Hilton Head, S.C., HS) and Colby Holmes (Conway, S.C., HS).

Top 10 prospects Mychal Givens (Plant HS, Tampa), Luke Bailey (Troup HS, LaGrange, Ga.) and Brian Goodwin (Rocky Mount, N.C., HS) will also be in attendance. Givens, a righthander, will play for Winning Inning, while Bailey catches for the Texas Scout Team Yankees and Goodwin patrols the outfield for the Dirtbags/Hooters Scout Team.