Tournament Of Stars: Gorgas, Kopech Among Day One Standouts

With nearly a hundred major league talent evaluators watching at the Tournament of Stars (TOS), a player can emerge from obscurity to become one of the top priority follows for area scouts, especially when that player hails from the typically talent-starved Northeast. East Hampton (Conn.) High righthander Marvin Gorgas did just that when he entered a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh inning with his team down by a run to team R.B.I.

Gorgas’ explosive fastball sat 90-92 mph and touched 93. He struck out two hitters and induced a groundout to end the inning, although an error cost American Legion a run. Gorgas, who is used as his school team’s ace reliever, is accustomed to taking the ball in such a high leverage situation.

“I have entered into big situations many times,” Gorgas said. “I went through it in my state championship back in 2011,” Gorgas said.

Only a freshman at the time, Gorgas secured the state title for the Bellringers. Those types of experiences, coupled with his performance Wednesday, could make him an attractive candidate for the Team USA, which will be playing in pressure-packed environments overseas in front of raucous crowds.

Gorgas has a different perspective than most players he is competing against. He was born in Chicago but moved to Puerto Rico when he was only 1 year old. Puerto Rico allowed his love of the game to foment. The bi-lingual Gorgas became enamored with the game at the age of three. His love only grew, and his father saw an opportunity to return to the United States but made sure that the baseball programs in Connecticut would help develop his son’s potential. Marvin and his father moved back to the U.S. before he entered seventh grade, just two years before securing a state title win for his school.

When he is not pitching, Marvin serves as the team’s starting shortstop, but his future is on the mound.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Gorgas has an explosive lower half and very quick arm. He gets good extension in his delivery from a high three-quarter arm slot.

“I think of myself as an overpowering pitcher,” Gorgas said. “But I want to improve my command and breaking balls.”

Gorgas throws four pitches but he is most confident in his slider, a 77-79 mph power pitch with three-quarter tilt.

Gorgas recently committed to Connecticut and will resume playing with his legion team after TOS concludes.

Day One Notes

• Outfielder Derek Hill was a standout in the field and at the plate during PG National. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Elk Grove (Calif.) HS product ran a 6.44, 60-yard-dash, threw 92 mph from the outfield, and had the best catch of the event, an amazing diving catch to rob extra bases. His strong play continued at TOS as he went 2-for-3 with a walk on Wednesday. On one single, Hill, a righthanded hitter, got to first in 4.0 seconds, with some scouts timing him in the low 3.9s.

• Lefthander Devin Smeltzer, a Florida Gulf Coast commit, threw an impressive two and two-thirds innings by striking out four. The Florida Gulf Coast commit’s fastball sat in the high-80s and touched 91 mph. A thin-framed lefthander listed at 6-foot-2, 175-pounds, Smelter’s athletic delivery creates deception with his loose, whippy arm action. He repeated his delivery well and threw strikes. Smeltzer showed one of the best breaking balls of the event, a mid-70s curveball with tight rotation and two-plane break. The Bishop Eustace Prep, Voorhes, N.J., product drew comparisons to lefthanders Matt Purke and Brett Cecil, but not because of his pitching. They all wear similar-looking glasses while pitching.

Alex Destino, a lefthander from North Buncombe High, Weaverville, N.C., struck out four of the six hitters he faced on his way through two perfect innings. The strongly built 6-foot-3, 210-pound lefthander showed three pitches on Wednesday, mixing an 88-90 mph fastball that touched 91, low-80s changeup with good armside fade, and a sweeping mid-70s breaking ball.

• Physical lefthander Cody Reed netted six strikeouts, the most of any pitcher on the day, in his three innings. Using a drive and drive delivery, Reed sat 87-90 mph, touching 91. He showed good feel for a mid-70s breaking ball with 1-7 action and good depth. His low-80s changeup with good vertical movement was inconsistent but showed potential. Reed is one of five Vanderbilt commits on the PONY squad. He attends Ardmore High, Athens, Ala.

Michael Kopech

Michael Kopech (Photo by Hiromi Fujita)

• The first game of the day featured two big, hard-throwing Texas righthanders in Tyler Kolek and Michael Kopech. Kolek, a Texas Christian commit, sat 91-95 mph with his fastball through his first three innings of work before dipping in his fourth frame. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Kolek showed some feel for pitching by also mixing a mid-70s curveball, 80-82 mph slider and low-80s changeup. Kopech, who is uncommitted, sat 88-90 mph with his fastball and touched 91. His velocity peaked at 94 mph on Sunday at PG National. He throws two breaking balls, a low-70s mph curveball with 11-5 tilt and a 74-76 mph slider with two-plane break.

• A strong combined pitching performance by the opposing team wasn't the only thing Kel Johnson was battling.

The Dixie outfielder from Palmetto, Ga. commit, was battling nausea from the time he woke up, and though it got better as the day went on, he still had to play through it against Babe Ruth. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Johnson is committed to Georgia Tech and will play travel ball for the East Cobb Braves. He is a homeschooler from Georgia.

And though his stomach wasn't cooperating, the Georgia Tech commit still had a strong day at the plate. In batting practice he hit four straight home runs at one point. Many of those shots cleared the trees well beyond left field., In the game he made loud outs to left and center in his first two at-bats before cracking a home run over the left field fence in his final at-bat.

His bomb certainly impressed some of the multitude of scouts watching, but the key to Johnson's plate approach, he said, was putting the audience out of his mind.

“Make sure not to press," he said. "Just get in there, see ball, hit ball, you know, don't try to do too much. A lot of guys get our here, there was a ton of scouts at the game, you know, a lot of guys are just getting out there trying to hit the ball 800 feet. The fence is only 400 feet away."

Contributing: Ian Frazer