TORONTO—Canada's first-ever coast-to-coast amateur baseball showcase got its start on Friday at Rogers Centre, and Tournament 12 did not disappoint.
At the top of the talent pool to take the field for the full-day combine was Gareth Morgan, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound outfielder with a big league body, plus power and a good arm. The next most-watched prospects were two prospects for 2015, 6-foot-4, 215-pound outfielder Demi Orimoloye and 6-foot, 225-pound Josh Naylor.
All three performed to the high expectation set for them in the tournament of Canucks. The lefthanded-hitting Naylor put on the most exceptional power display, placing every ball from one of his batting practice rounds at the 350-foot right field fence or into the seats beyond. Naylor sent multiple shots into the second deck of the Rogers Centre.
"They're all used to this environment," an American League scout said. "We know what they're capable of and each of them showed their ability. Naylor had the best day of the three, but all three of them showed their ability and we saw what we would expect out of them."
Orimoloye had the least impressive batting practice of the top standouts, but his bat is making progress and his upside is immense.
"Demi has a chance to be really good," one scout said. "He's a big, physical kid, but he's also one of the best runners in the country. He's pretty impressive for his size. His game is still (very raw), but he flashes strength and speed enough to make him one of the top prospects for 2015."
Heading into the tournament, the aforementioned three names were at the top of scouts’ follow list for Canada. Before the game portion of the tournament begins Saturday, with six games, there were a few players that performed well on the combine day and exceeded expectations.
"[First baseman/outfielder Mitch] Bigras has improved," a scout said. "That was not a surprise but I thought he was a lot better here than when I saw him in the spring. [Infielder] Reid Fritzke stood out and I didn't know him until today. L.P. Pelletier, he had the best run of the day at 6.4 and he can swing it a little bit too. So, Pelletier, Fritzke and Bigras were the biggest surprises of today."
Several interested parties also made mention of J.F. Garon, a 2015 infielder/outfielder who is rumored to have been cut by every team he's tried out for previously. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound 16-year-old from Quebec flashed good speed, a decent arm and a quick bat. Rumor has it that he won't be teamless for long.
Catcher Darren Shred, a member of the 2015 class who is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, also had a strong day, producing above-average pop times behind the plate and showing some raw power at the plate.
Canadian national teams director Greg Hamilton, the most-traveled and well-known man in amateur baseball north of the border, was impressed by the talent on the first day, and incredibly excited at what the Blue Jays-hosted tournament has to offer.
"To expect 17-year-olds to perform to an expectation that is their ceiling is not realistic," he said. "But there is outstanding physicality amongst the players. This event is huge for Canadian baseball coast to coast, because it's an opportunity to bring the scouting world, both collegiate and professional, to Canada for a true showcase that really kind of cuts across politic, cuts across affiliation and just brings the players. It's going to be a great event for Canada."