Summer Showcase Circuit Revs Its Engine

LAKELAND, Fla.—With the first day of August upon us, the high school summer showcase circuit gets back in full swing as the East Coast Pro Showcase begins today. The event is a four day, game-style showcase, featuring the top high school prospects from the 2009 class broken into six teams. Each day of the event includes three games, batting practices and infield-outfield sessions to give the nearly 300 scouts in attendance a chance to evaluate the players.

Held at the Detroit Tigers’ spring training and minor league headquarters at Joker Marchant Stadium, the event is headed up by the major league scouting community and serves as an opportunity for evaluation but also a chance to inform prospects on what to expect during the next year’s draft season, and also what it’s like in the minor leagues.

Last night, a banquet was held in which several members of the scouting community spoke to the prospects and their parents on topics such as the pros and cons of dealing with agents, the process of scouts making house visits in the spring and what to expect come draft time. Also, the players are housed, for the duration of the event, in the minor league housing (old army barracks—four to a room), building a setting of fellowship similar to that of players in Rookie ball after being drafted.

While the Perfect Game national showcase and USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars event in June are the first major summer events, introducing the newest crop of the next year’s draft talent, the East Coast Pro Showcase is the beginning of the stretch run of events at which these prospects have a chance to establish themselves at the top of teams’ follow lists heading into the spring. Last year, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2008 draft, Tim Beckham, was ranked by BA as the top prospect from the East Coast Pro event and continued his superb play up until this past June.

Following this event, many of the players will immediately travel from coast to coast, as the Area Code Games and the Aflac All-American game take place in the greater Los Angeles area Aug. 5-10. Following that, Baseball Factory’s Under Armour All-American game will take place at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Aug. 17.

For me, the next 19 days (July 31-Aug. 18, including stops in Lakeland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago) will be a chance to experience a sample of the grind major league scouts must undergo. At the trip’s conclusion, the summer scene will be finished and scouts should have a firm grasp on the talent in the 2009 class.

Check back to the Draft Blog for daily reports on the events and my stories from the road.