Top 10 Underclassmen Who Stood Out At NHSI Tournament

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CARY, N.C.—When draft prospects gather in one location to play, the scouts tend to come out in droves. Summer showcases easily attract crowds of talent evaluators in the triple digits, but attendance thins out at spring games as players are spread across the country and prospect showdowns are less common.

That's one of the reasons the inaugural USA Baseball National High School Invitational  created so much scouting buzz, with seven players from the Baseball America High School Top 100 in action.

More than 100 scouts showed up to see the tournament, which was won by Mater Dei High of Santa Ana, Calif. The Monarchs won four games, three against teams ranked in the BA Top 10: No. 1 Carroll High (Corpus Christi, Texas); No. 2 Bishop Gorman High (Las Vegas) and No. 10 Harvard-Westlake High (Los Angeles). Mater Dei moved up to No. 5 from No. 18 in the latest rankings.

The event did not disappoint, with several tightly contested games and big performances from potential early-round picks. And beyond the 2012 players who were already well known to scouts, several underclassmen put themselves on the radar for 2013 and beyond. Here are 10 underclassmen who stood out:

Shaun Anderson, rhp, American Heritage High, Plantation, Fla.: A member of the 2013 class, Anderson has an ideal pitcher's frame at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. His fastball sat in the mid 80s, but he touched 88-89 mph and has a quick arm that could lead to increased velocity as he matures. Anderson also flashed a very sharp slider in the high 70s. He made two appearances at the NHSI, throwing 91⁄3 innings and allowing just one run on seven hits and three walks. A Florida signee, Anderson struck out seven.

Zach Collins, c, American Heritage High: Collins' return to Cary went well as he hit .400/.500/.600 with two RBIs as he helped American Heritage to the semifinals. A member of Team USA's 16-and-under team in 2011, Collins has a strong frame at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. He catches for the Patriots, but his future at the position is uncertain.

"For a high school junior, looking at the body, your initial concern is how athletic is he," an American League crosschecker said. "But I like his bat and I've seen power from him. He's probably going to more of a power guy than hitter. He's pretty aggressive."

Bruce Aven, the head coach for American Heritage, is a former major leaguer and believes in the Miami signee's ability.

"He has professional at-bats," Aven said. "He has an approach up there. He takes good cuts. It's just a matter of him getting a little bit bigger and little bit stronger.

"A year or two ago everybody was saying he was probably going to move to first base. He's a catcher. He can block. We've let him call most of the pitches most of the year so he's understanding how to pitch. We had him out here today watching teams to see how to pitch to them so he can learn more and become more of a (game) manager."

Jack Flaherty, rhp/3b, HaRvard-Westlake High: Just a sophomore, Flaherty may be one of the most coveted recruits in Southern California. He has legitimate two-way ability and stands out on the field with a lean, athletic frame at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. He struggled at the plate during the tournament, but showed quickness and good defensive ability at third base. He has a strong arm and serves as the Wolverines' No. 2 pitcher with Lucas Giolito on the sidelines. He sat in the low to mid-80s in his complete-game win, allowing two runs (one earned) on eight hits while striking out six.

Anfernee Grier, ss/of, Russell County High, Seale, Ala.: Most of the players mentioned here were known entities to some degree, but Grier was relatively unknown before the last week of March. He has a lively body at 6 feet and 170 pounds. He started at shortstop in Russell County's first game, but played right field the rest of the time. At shortstop he showed good range with nice actions and a strong arm that plays in right field. He went 4-for-11, with good bat speed that allows him to let pitches get deep. He scored three runs and drove in two.

"The first day I walked in I saw him playing shortstop and he stood out," an American League scout said. "Without bearing down, I noticed him."

Josh Hart, of, Parkview High, Lilburn, Ga.: Coaches in Georgia have been buzzing about Hart's abilities for a while now and he gave spectators just a taste in Cary. A junior, Hart has a wiry frame and stands out for his speed and defense. While he had a quiet performance, Hart did square up an elite pitcher in lefthander Max Fried for a single and then made a spectacular diving catch in center field later in the game.

Garrett King, rhp, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High: With Orange Lutheran losing to Sarasota (Fla.) High in the quarterfinals, King's start was relegated to a consolation game. However, he didn't hold back and added to an already impressive season. In a complete-game win, King allowed four runs (one earned) on seven hits. He walked none and struck out two, but was arguably the most efficient pitcher of the event. He needed just 64 pitches to get through the seven innings and threw 54 for strikes. King is a 6-foot-3, 170-pound sophomore with big potential.

"He probably sits 83-85 mph," Orange Lutheran head coach Eric Borba said. "Right now I'd consider him a finesse pitcher. Anytime a 15-year-old kid can throw a complete game and only throw 10 balls says a lot about his ability to command the strike zone. He's going to be a big-time pitcher. He's got a good frame that's just immature physically. He's going to fill out and it wouldn't surprise me to see him in the 90-mph range when he gets older and if he can continue to command the secondary pitches like he does now, they're only going to develop too."

Jeremy Martinez, c, Mater Dei High, Santa Ana, Calif.: Probably the best-known underclassman at the NHSI, Martinez didn't disappoint, hitting .538/.625/.615 with two RBIs and four runs in four games. Everyone notices the junior's stance as it resembles Albert Pujols'. He handles the bat well, has good defensive skills and is a strong leader.

"He's a catcher with a good bat," a National League scout said. "He has a durable size and a strong arm. And he's a hitter."

Ryan McMahon, 3b, Mater Dei High: It's easy to get noticed when you're teammates with a player like Martinez, but McMahon has caught scouts' eyes this season and is already getting buzz as a potential early-round pick for 2013. He didn't have a huge week at the plate but made his hits count, collecting RBIs in key situations and crushing a no-doubt home run in the NHSI championship game. Also the starting quarterback at Mater Dei, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound McMahon says he is more interested in baseball and is eyeing UCLA. Stepping away from a sport at a school that has produced two Heisman Trophy winners may be easier said than done.

"I had never seen him," the American League scout said. "He stood out for his body, it's projection and lean strength. He has a loose hack and there's leverage in his stroke. The ball jumped off his bat. He has a real nice package of athleticism and bat speed."

Arden Pabst, c, Harvard-Westlake High: If there's any question about Pabst's ability to catch velocity, just ask Giolito and Fried how they feel about their batterymate. The two give Pabst, who has a strong frame at 6-foot, 200 pounds, blue ribbons for his receiving. He has solid catch-and-throw skills now and handled the bat well at the NHSI, showing a short swing and squaring up pitches regularly. He is committed to Georgia Tech.

Brandon Perez, ss, Mater Dei High: One of the youngest players at the NHSI as a freshman, Perez held his own on a strong offensive club. He started the season as the third baseman with McMahon at shortstop, but coaches swapped the two when they started slowly. It turned out to be a shrewd move, as both players have picked things up and Perez made a few dazzling plays in Mater Dei's championship run. He has a strong arm with an ability to make throws from the hole. Perez understandably has a small frame now, but he hit .364 in the four games and drove in four runs.