Summer Circuit: On the Road Day Four

LAKELAND, Fla.—The heat was on today in Lakeland for the third day of action at the East Coast Pro Showcase. By far the hottest day of the weekend, most scouts sitting in the sun were drenched in sweat from head to toe for the duration of the first two games—and so was I. Luckily, the games today were played at a quick pace, leaving some time in-between to cool off. With my hotel just down the street from Joker Marchant Stadium, I utilized the swimming pool as a quick refresher, visiting it twice during the afternoon. I also used the opportunity to change clothes both times, and I noticed that some scouts did the same.

Getting to the on-field action, a pitcher’s performance in the first game brought up an interesting comparison of the difference between college coaches’ and major league scouts’ approach to evaluating talent. Listed at 6-feet, 185 pounds, C.C. Watson (Cleburne County HS, Heflin, Ala.) entered the game in the seventh inning and struck out the side—which included two considered to be top prospects in Bobby Borchering (Bishop Verot HS, Alva, Fla.) and Michael Zunino (Mariner HS, Cape Coral, Fla.).

However, while the good inning from Watson peaked interest from college coaches, major league scouts didn’t seem so enthused. Watson is listed at 6-feet but that could be generous—either way he is undersized. Lefthanded, Watson’s fastball was 87-88 mph as he pitched from a ¾ arm slot. Hitters have a hard time picking up the ball from Watson’s hand as he creates deception with a short arm stroke.

“With his size, arm action and arm slot, you have to see crazy movement or high velocity to jump on a guy like that,” an American League scout said.

Then the scout used a common phrase heard in the scouting community.

“For me, he’s a college guy,” he said.

After watching Watson, I gathered the opinion that if he does end up in college—I believe he is committed to Mississippi State—he would be a very good pitcher there.

So, I asked a college coach for his thoughts.

“Yeah, with his body and arm action, I really like him,” the coach said. “You can keep a kid like that.”

Watson pitched three innings, striking out four and didn’t allow a single hit during his outing.

To be fair, the scout did mention that Watson is a good pitcher and is still a prospect. This comparison is just meant to detail the difference in the level of excitement a player of his profile creates.

On the defensive side of things, Anthony Gomez (Don Bosco Prep Academy, Nutley, N.J.) and Stephen Perez (Gulliver Prep HS, Miami, Fla.) continued their impressive weekends with the leather. Today, both prospects made a couple very tough plays look smooth and easy. The two are solidifying reputations as tremendous defenders at the shortstop position.

On the mound, top prospects and Aflac All-Americans Chris Jenkins of Westfield (N.J.) HS and Keyvius Sampson (Forest HS, Ocala, Fla.) made appearances in their respective games. The 6-feet-7 righthander Jenkins pitched mostly at 90-91 mph and touched 92 mph during his two innings of work. He also showed a slider at 80 mph. Jenkins struggled some with his command, striking out three, walking three and hitting one batter.

Sampson is listed at 6-feet-1, 185-pounds and has been rumored to be a mid-90s pitcher, but today his fastball was 90-91 mph. He did touch 93 and 92 mph a few times each. Sampson’s breaking ball is a curve with depth at 72 mph.

Three homeruns were hit on the day as Wil Myers (Wesleyan Christian Academy, Thomasville, N.C.) hit his second four-bagger of the weekend. Myers is a versatile prospect that is very interesting, and I will have to touch on him again in the Draft Blog soon. Jayce Boyd (Tate HS, Cantonment, Fla.) and Tarran Senay of South Park (Pa.) HS also went yard.

Monday is the last day of the event, with three games scheduled to be played, beginning at 9 a.m. Inclement weather is in the forecast for the afternoon which doesn’t bode well for my 5:45 p.m. flight from Orlando to Los Angeles.