Skipworth Impresses With The Leather

Baseball America’s Dave Perkin attended yesterday’s high school baseball game between Patriot High and Newport Harbor High in California to check in on Kyle Skipworth.

Defense is rarely the primary topic of praise when scouts discuss Kyle Skipworth.

Scouts have long been convinced of Skipworth’s ability to hit. Proof was abundant in the showcase season, particularly when Skipworth hammered long home runs in both the Aflac All-Star Game in August and in the MLB Showcase at Compton in February.

Similar consensus has never existed on Skipworth’s defensive ability. Some have whispered about a move to first or possibly the outfield. His previous catching flaws have included difficulty in receiving hard stuff to his left and a distinct weakness in turning his glove over and handling the pitch directly between the legs.

While few doubted the strength of his throwing arm, Skipworth was losing nanoseconds on his POP times with a slight pause in his glove to hand transfer and a small "cranking" motion on his deliveries.

No more.

Skipworth has obviously worked on his receiving and throwing skills in the offseason and the results are impressive. Skipworth’s hands, as well as his shifting and blocking ability, have improved immensely, and his transfer and release are significantly quicker and smoother. Skipworth still needs to further refine his catching ability with practice and game experience, but Tuesday’s display should quiet the speculation of a position switch.

The highlight of the game occurred when a Newport Harbor runner attempted to steal early in the game. In textbook fashion, Skipworth caught the pitch and in one continuous and quick motion whipped the ball down to second to catch the runner by five feet. BA caught the throw in 1.91 seconds; another scout was overheard to have recorded a time of 1.86.

Many more scouts are filming prospects this season. One scout sitting near me did not have his camera whirring when Kyle threw out the unfortunate runner.

"I wish I had that on video," the scout remarked ruefully.

Not to worry. Skipworth’s bat, and catching skills, figure to provide video highlights in the big leagues for many years.