LAKELAND, Fla. -- Florida Diamond Club’s annual showcase started Friday in Lakeland, Fla., showcasing the talents of some of the state’s top high school prospects. The Florida Diamond Club was founded by scouts in 1972 with the objective to promote the game at all levels within the state of Florida.
The showcase annually features many of the players who will go on to be selected in the following year’s MLB Draft, with over 150 attendees drafted over the past three years alone. The event is selected and run by scouts, and splits up players by region: north (represented by the Cubs), east (Padres), south (Rockies) and west (Royals).
Rain threatened to delay the game between south and west on Day 1 Friday afternoon, but players took batting practice in indoor cages before playing a quickened game (all counts started 1-1) on a turf backfield, and finally taking batting practice on Publix Field--home of the Lakeland Flying Tigers, Detroit’s high Class A team--under the lights.
Here are a few players who stood out either in-game, in batting practice, or both:
J.P. Gates | LHP | Nature Coast Technical High, Spring Hill, Fla.
Gates, the No. 40 high school prospect in the country, was the first pitcher to take the mound Friday afternoon and threw a game-high three innings. He wasn’t as sharp as he’s been at times this summer, but still maneuvered threw three frames while facing just 10 batters. He struck out five and allowed just one hit to first baseman Triston Casas, who singled up the middle in the first inning. After Casas’ single, Gates retired seven straight batters. Of the five batters he fanned, two (Xavier Edwards and Raynel Delgado) were top 50 high school prospects.
Gates has a quick arm from the left side, and worked from the third base side of the rubber mostly, using a high hand pump in his windup, with some head whack in his delivery to the plate. Gates is thought of as a real prospect as a position player as well, though he had just one at-bat Friday.
Addison Barger | SS | King High, Tampa
Barger, a Florida commit, went 2-for-2 for the west team, including a single in the third inning against righthander Roberto Pena and one of the biggest hits of the day against fellow Florida commit Kris Armstrong in the sixth inning: a no-doubt homer to right on an elevated fastball that Armstrong left over too much of the plate. In addition to his display of power, Barger stole a pair of bases. And while players have yet to run 60s thanks to the rain, it seems like a safe bet that Barger is at least an average runner.
The 6-foot shortstop has a lot going on in his swing, with an interesting leg kick that includes a slight pause and flick of his front foot, but he has obvious bat speed and hit a good number of line drives during on-field batting practice.
Triston Casas | 1B | American Heritage School, Plantation, Fla.
The top-ranked player of the day showed why he is such a highly regarded hitter Friday afternoon, going 2-for-2 with a walk, including his aforementioned single vs. Gates and a backside double to left-center against righthander Franco Aleman--who gave up three consecutive doubles to Xavier Edwards, Raynel Delgado and Casas, all of whom are top 50 prospects.
Jack Anderson | RHP | Tampa Jesuit High
Anderson pitched just one inning for the west team, but the Florida State commit made the most of it, striking out each of the three batters he faced--one looking and two swinging.
Anderson pitches from a clean, three-quarter slot and did a nice job locating his fastball to both sides of the plate against batters in either box. He worked from the first base side of the rubber, used a high leg lift and finished well in his delivery over his lower half.
Other players to note:
• Shortstop Blaze Alexander looked noticeably simpler in the box Friday afternoon, compared to events he’s played at earlier in the year such as the Under Armour All-America Game and the Perfect Game All-American Classic. Alexander said he’s been working on keeping his elbow down the last two weeks, to keep his hands quieter in his load and his swing. The video above shows Alexander’s quieter hands, compared to his previous swing here. Alexander is the No. 37 high school prospect in the class.
• Catchers! The 2018 high school class has a number of talented catching prospects--a stark contrast to last year’s class and potentially this year’s college crop--and three Florida backstops were impressive for various reasons Friday. North Carolina State commit Luca Tresh showed solid footwork on a throw to third base in-game, easily catching a runner attempting to steal from second with good carry on his ball. In batting practice, Tresh showed some pull power by homering into the foul pole down the left field line. Adrian Del Castillo, a Miami commit, showed some of the best barrel control of any hitter in Friday’s batting practice, spraying line drives to the pull side, up the middle and the opposite way. While he didn’t show much of it Friday, Del Castillo has some real power in his swing as well. Lastly, North Carolina commit Caleb Roberts had an impressive round of BP as well, setting up in a wide stance with great balance, and hitting line drives all over the outfield.