Showcase Showdowns

The Cape Cod all-star games last weekend kicked off a two-week amateur scouting gauntlet that will play a significant role in the creation of early 2008 draft follow lists, and in turn next year’s draft itself.

As college summer leagues wind down and major league scouts pare down their professional coverage, scouts who haven’t had a chance to bear down on the rising high school class yet can get up to speed effectively by hitting these upcoming events.

Beginning with Tuesday’s Texas Scout Association workout in Houston, continuing this week with the East Coast Showcase in Lakeland, Fla., and then across the country with the Area Code Games and Aflac Classic in Southern California, there will be plenty of Marriott points and frequent-flier miles accrued in the next two weeks.

Because Baseball America offers our Prospects Plus scouting service (which, in case you’re not a subscriber, is loaded with dope on more than 2,000 rising seniors) we’ve already scoped out most of the class’ top players and written about them in detail. And I’m excited about the opportunity to add to that base of information by hitting all these stops, as major league scouting staffs start separating the prospects from the suspects. I’ll offer observations and analysis from road, not to mention news from the ballpark, right here on the Draft Blog, as well as Prospects Plus.

Readers who have followed the summer scouting scene in years past have inquired about the change in venue for the East Coast Showcase this year, as it will be held at the Tigers’ complex in Lakeland rather than its longtime home in Wilmington, N.C. A year ago, the NCAA enforced restrictions on what type of high school events could be held on college campuses, specifically affecting showcases that players attend as individuals rather than with a team.

Between the NCAA red tape and the event’s organizing committee’s (a group of scouts) desire to find a facility affiliated with a professional team, Tiger Town became the new home for the showcase. As in past years, six major league teams sponsor squads for the event, and the rosters are picked by professional area scouts.
“I think the idea that it’s going to be in a pro facility, with outstanding fields and a central location, as well as where the major leaguers play . . . we’re set up for a great week,” said John Castleberry, a crosschecker for the Phillies who has an integral role in the operation of the showcase. “The staff in Lakeland doing everything first class for us. We’re very excited to make it one of the best showcases around.

“We’re going to miss Wilmington, they were great to us, and now this is one of those things that’s a huge step forward for the event.”
While the sweet tea and sandwiches–not to mention the wait staff–at McAllister’s Deli on College Avenue in Wilmington will be sorely missed, Lakeland’s multiple diamonds and covered grandstand will be welcome additions to what had become known as the East Roast Showcase.

The event gets under way Wednesday morning, and if you can’t be there, you already know where to come for all the highlights.