Texas Showcase Rounds Up Plenty Of Talent

Workout offers depth but few first-rounders

HOUSTON—While the talent at the 11th annual Texas Scouts Association showcase wasn't overwhelming, the crop billed as 75 of Texas' and Oklahoma's top rising high school seniors again showed the 150 scouts and college coaches in attendance the depth of talent in the region.

"This was good," said a crosschecker with an American League club. "If a lot of these guys are like me, they've spent a lot of time in the Cape, and a lot of guys have pro coverage they've been trying to complete, so to come in for one day and get to see these players I think was helpful. I thought there were some interesting arms and some position players who looked good, especially in that second group (the South team)."

Scouts recommend and select the players for the event, which alternates between Arlington and Houston. It's a first-class, well run event, played under relentless 95-degree sunshine at Minute Maid Park. The two teams ran 60-yard-dashes, took batting and infield practice and played an intrasquad game.

The North team had the field first, featuring players from the Dallas Metroplex, Oklahoma and northwest Texas. They took a lot of long swings, and their pitching wasn't as impressive as the South's.

Catcher Boomer Collins (Waxachachie, Texas, High) might have taken the best BP of the day, in terms of finding the barrel of his wood bat with regularity, using the whole field and showing a mature approach. Catcher/righthander Jordan Swaggerty (Prestonwood Christian Academy, Plano) also swung the bat well, as he's done most of the summer, showing raw power and plus bat speed.

Outfielder Randal Thorpe (Heritage High, Collieville, Texas) ranked among the better prospects earlier this month at the World Wood Bat Association 17-under tourney in suburban Atlanta, and he reinforced that opinion with a good showing in Houston. A toolsy athlete with an average arm, plus bat speed and some feel for hitting, Thorpe turned in the top 60-yard time on the North team when he ran it in 6.60 secons. He again swung the bat well, too.

There were not a lot of big surprises, though scouts who saw Jordan Imhoff at an Area Code Games tryout earlier this summer might not have believed what they saw today. The outfielder from Martin High (Arlington) had three hard contacts in four at-bats, including a solo home run that landed in the Crawford Boxes in the short left-field porch. Imhoff turned on a first-pitch fastball from Matt Thompson (Grace Academy, Arlington), then squared up an 88 mph heater from Alex Haley for a single through the five-hole in his next plate appearance.

"I was awful," Imhoff said of his showing at the Area Code tryout last month. He was left off the Rangers team that will head to Long Beach next week, but still hopes to land a spot with another team.

"When I got up there, I was just thinking, 'Wow. Imagine how many people have stood right here in this same batter's box,' " he said. "I was ready for this, and it felt good to come out and put together some better at-bats."

Imhoff's improvement isn't entirely coincidental. When he went to get his driver's license renewed in May, he failed his eye exam and found out he had 20/40 vision in his left eye. He has since been fitted for a contact lens.

"Now that I have the contact in, the ball looks a lot bigger,"' said Imhoff, who committed to Oklahoma last week.

North teammates Kaleb Merck (Keller, Texas, High), Ben Grisz (St. Mark's Academy, Dallas) and Bobby Bundy (Sperry, Okla., High) all have two-way potential in college. Grisz and Bundy, though, didn't pitch up to the standards they'd set earlier this summer.

A pair of strong righthanders who have shown flashes of dominance, Grisz struggled to throw his breaking ball for strikes and at times overthrew, while Bundy's velocity sat between 88-90, a tick under the 92 mph he showed at the WWBA event two weeks ago. His heater also lacked the late life it's had before, and Mark Ginther (Jenks High, Tulsa) had no trouble slicing a long triple into the right-field alley off an 89 mph Bundy fastball.

Haley was also one of the marquee names in the event, as many Texas area scouts were eager to confirm what they'd been hearing about the 6-foot-4 righthander. Haley ranked among the top prospects at the Perfect Game National showcase last month, and could end up as one of the top pitchers in this class.

In Houston, however, he struggled to find the zone with his mid-70s breaking ball, nibbled on the corners and worked deep in counts. He pitched at 89, bumping 92 once, down from the 94 mph that was reported during his longer, two-inning outing last month in Cincinnati at the Perfect Game showcase.

The velocities rose with the temperatures in the second game of the day. No fewer than 12 pitchers for the South at least touched 90 mph. Outside of arm strength, however, most of them have significant shortcomings at this stage of their development.

Jarred Cosart (Clear Creek, Texas, High) looked ready for his West Coast swing to the Area Codes and Aflac Classic. He pitched at 90-92 mph with a fastball that had good cutting action. Both his slider and curveball are below-average pitches, but his stuff and body are projectable.

Righthander Kyle Winkler's (Kempner, Texas, High) 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame is less intriguing, but his outing was one of the best on Tuesday. The ace of the Team USA youth squad that won a gold medal in Venezuela last year, Winkler might have felt overlooked when he was left off the junior national team trials roster and the Aflac team. He hasn't let it affect his performance, as he tossed a seven-inning no-hitter earlier this month at the WWBA tournament and showed an advanced feel for pitching in Houston.

Shortstop Taylor Featherston (Taylor High, Katy, Texas) was the best position player on the South roster. He has a knack for putting the barrel on the ball, keeps his weight back against good offspeed pitches and shows feel and instincts on the basepaths and on defense.


• Haley plans to transfer from San Augustine (Texas) High to Central Heights High in Nacogdoches, Texas.

• Outfielder Robbie Grossman (The Woodlands, Texas, High) was in Houston, but was ill and unable to participate in the showcase.

Walker Kelly (Arlington Heights High), one of the nation's most talented lefthanders, was also in attendance but did not play. Kelly has been shut down with a sore arm and hopes to resume a throwing program in November. He will also attend the Aflac Classic, but will not pitch.