CARY, N.C.- With winds gusting and the temperature in the 30s to start the day, the weather was top of mind for most in attendance on the first day of the National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C. Just before games started, a high level scouting executive said “This is the wrong day to evaluate players, especially the guys from Florida.”
Despite the conditions, two of the top outings of the day were turned in by marquee Florida arms, Touki Toussaint of Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy and Foster Griffin of The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.).
Toussiant, who was 93-97 mph in multiple starts earlier this month, showed less velocity, which is expected given that he has never pitched in weather this cold, but showed a dramatically improved third offering compared to the summer and showed stretches of improved control.
“He didn't have his best stuff today but he showed he could pitch without it,” a National League crosschecker said. “You are so used to seeing guys throw two innings a game over the summer but Touki showed that he could compete over extended innings.”
The righthander went six innings and started the seventh before being lifted. His fastball sat 92-94 mph through his first two innings before sitting 90-91, touching 92 the rest of the game. Toussiant’s heavy fastball featured plus life with glove-side run and tail. Toussiant has the physical attributes necessary to manipulate the baseball with big, strong hands and long fingers. The high-waisted Toussiant also has long legs and very long arms for his 6-foot-2 frame. A plus athlete, Toussiant has elite hand speed.
His changeup was a much improved offering compared to the showcase circuit. Over the summer, Toussiant would often get on the side of his changeup, causing the pitch to cut. The action caused the evaluators to think the offering was a cutter or slider at times because of its glove-side movement. But Toussiant’s 83-85 mph changeup that he throws with a split grip had considerable tumble and fade on Wednesday.
“It is light years ahead of where it was last summer and it was really good earlier this spring,” a National League scout said. “This spring he started to throw it more and his timing has been better, so he hasn't been cutting through it anymore. Now he is working through it and finishing it. It has really taken off and shows the makings of a plus pitch.”
He showed enough confidence in the pitch to throw three of them to the best hitter he faced, the righthanded-hitting Josh Morgan (Orange Lutheran), including one on the first pitch.
His 72-75 mph curveball flashed at least plus, although it was inconsistent in the early going, sharpening later in his outing. The depth on his breaker left some scouts laughing at how the pitch flashed at its best.
Despite his immense stuff and plus athleticism, Toussiant struggled with his control this summer and walked five (19.2 percent) and plunked two (7.7 percent) of the 26 hitters he faced on the day. He showed an improved ability to stem the tide with his bouts of wildness, as three of his five walks came on two-strike counts.
“When it starts to go awry he does a much better job reining it back in and throwing strikes,” the scout said. “Before he would let like eight, nine or 10 go off the plate but now it will be two or three off the dish, then he will get composed to be able to throw strikes. But before he just seemed like he was trying to throw it harder and faster and it would snowball.”
On the day, 58 percent of his pitches went for strikes. Toussiant, who worked from the far third base side of the rubber, has made a few mechanical changes since the summer, as his arm path has shortened.
Toussiant, who is young for the class and won’t turn 18 until after the draft, did not allow a run on one hit and 12 strikeouts in a 1-0 victory over Orange Lutheran.
–Foster Griffin tossed a three-hit complete game shutout, walking two and striking out eight (31 percent of all hitters faced), displaying athleticism, strike-throwing ability and advanced feel for a changeup.
Griffin, who sat in the low-90s in prior starts and touched 94 mph, mostly sat 88-91 mph on the day, touching 92 with natural run. His velocity fell to 86-88, as he threw 102 pitches on the day. He showed the ability to locate his fastball to either side of the plate consistently.
“I wouldn't call him a command guy, but he is a strike-thrower, an aggressive strike-thrower,” an American League crosschecker said.
He showed advanced feel for a low-80s changeup that showed the makings of an above-average offering. In the first five innings, Griffin’s changeup went for a strike on all but one of the nine times he threw the offering, generating five swings and misses. Griffin used the changeup more frequently than his breaking stuff, which lagged behind the changeup on the day.
The Mississippi commit has a strong, athletic 6-foot-3, 210-pound body with long extremities that evaluators look for.
“The body really looks great. You can tell he put in some serious work to add strength in the offseason,” the AL crosschecker said.
Griffin was a busy defender on the day, showing athleticism in making stops on three comebackers in the first inning and another in the third.