Scouting The 2019 Under Armour Baseball Factory All-America Preseason Tournament
MESA, Ariz. — The 20th annual Under Armour All-America Preseason Tournament, hosted by Baseball Factory, regularly attracts some of the top high school talent in the country. Among the major league stars who have appeared in the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend event are Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant and Astros third baseman Alex Bregman.
Perhaps Florida high school outfielder Dylan Crews will add his name to that list sometime in the next decade. Already regarded as one of the top high school players in the 2020 class, the 6-foot, 180-pound Crews returned to Mesa for a second straight year. Built with a strong, athletic frame, Crews is a consistent, intelligent hitter with plenty of bat speed that gives the ball a different sound coming off his bat. His throws from the outfield get plenty of carry as well.
A Louisiana State commit, Crews was one of four players named to this summer's Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It will be Crews’ second appearance in the mid-summer all-star game, as he was one of the few underclassmen there in 2018. He didn't need to play in the Mesa event this year since he had already been named to the Wrigley Field game, but Crews saw value in taking the field over MLK weekend.
“It’s my first event for the 2019 year,” Crews said. “So it’s a good chance to get my reps in, get to meet some kids, and it lets me know what my hard work has been doing.”
An additional benefit, according to Crews, was getting to play in front of the plethora of scouts at the tournament.
The goals that Crews has set for himself heading into his junior year at Lakewood High School in Longwood, Fla. are quite simple.
“Just try to hit over .500 this year and hit over 10 home runs,” Crews said. “That’s about it.”
Another tournament participant named to Wrigley Field game was 2020 Arkansas commit Robert Moore, a shortstop from Shawnee Mission East High School in Leawood, Kan. The son of Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore impressed scouts and coaches with his defense, showing advanced instincts, quick feet and outstanding actions at both middle infield spots. Despite his smaller stature at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Moore, a switch-hitter, showed some pull-side power and good extension on his swing. But it’s the intangibles that make Moore stand out.
“(It’s) in game play where he normally excels,” said Steve Bernhardt, Baseball Factory’s Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations. “He’s the kind of guy that may not stand out on registration day when you see him walk up or when he goes to the dugout, but once the umpire yells ‘play ball,’ it’s a little bit different level for the way those guys handle the game.”
Moore has the advantage of having been around the game his entire life, getting to spend time with the Royals during the summer. He remarked that he’s learned a lot by working with special assignment coach Jason Kendall and infield coordinator Rafael Belliard, the latter of whom, like Moore, was also a smaller-sized shortstop during his playing days.
Getting to be around the big league club can be a disadvantage at times, although it’s something that has made Moore stronger as a person.
“You need to prove yourself a little more because, right or wrong, people think things have been given to you,” Moore said. “The truth of the matter is that it’s actually harder. There have been multiple times that my dad has told people not to pick me for teams. He always wants me to prove it.”
In addition to appearing in the Under Armour All-America Game this summer, Moore is looking forward to competing for a state championship with his high school team and then hopefully qualifying for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team.
Moore wasn’t the only player at the preseason tournament with Major League bloodlines. Shortstop Cole Roberts, a 2019 Loyola Marymount commit from Cardiff, Calif., is the son of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts—who was in Mesa to watch his youngster play. At 5-foot-7, 150 pounds, Roberts lacks size but still stands out on defense with good instincts, good feet and a reliable glove. He showed his defensive skills on day two of the tournament, when he ranged far behind second base and made a strong throw to first base.
Like Moore getting to spend time working out with his father’s big league team, Roberts soaks up as much as he can from Dodgers players, most notably infielder Justin Turner.
“He always takes time out of his day to make sure I’m doing alright,” Roberts said about Turner, “giving instruction and seeing if I have any questions.
The timing of the Mesa tournament, with spring training still almost a month away, provided a chance for the younger Roberts to play in front of his father.
“It was great having him out here,” Roberts said. “He doesn’t get to come see a lot of games, but him being out here was really special to me. He got to see some of my at-bats and gave me a little bit of instruction.”
As much as Roberts liked having his dad in stands, the elder Roberts enjoyed it even more.
“I just like watching him compete, seeing kids from around the country and seeing how he stacks up. For me to just be a father and support him is most important. I don’t get these opportunities often, so for me to just sit back, lock in and support him . . . It’s a win.”
Now in his senior year at Santa Fe Christian School, Roberts is looking forward to launching his college career at Loyola Marymount. It was an easy choice for him to commit to the school.
“The coaches really got me,” Roberts said. “They really made the impression that they’d take good care of me and provide good instruction. I love the campus, and it’s not too far from home. It was just a great combination.”
While most of the participants in the pre-season tournament were underclassmen, Xander Hamilton was one of the few high school seniors on the field over the weekend. The Virginia Tech commit from Raleigh, North Carolina drew quite a bit of buzz from pro scouts, both for his pitching and hitting. That attention completed a goal for the event set by Hamilton.
“I’m already committed to Virginia Tech, so the college process is over for me,” Hamilton said. “I’m looking more toward the pro scout guys . . . The eyes are locked on you. It’s just a big part of the game now for me.”
On the mound, Hamilton’s fastball ranged from 86-90 mph. Hitting from the left side of the plate, Hamilton has an aggressive swing, some pull power and good feel for the barrel.
Other standouts at the Under Armour All-America Preseason Tournament:
Mario Zabala (2020 OF from San Juan, P.R.) showed above-average speed from a large, muscular body and near triple-digit exit velocity at the plate. He hit an inside-the-park home run over the head of the left fielder in one of his games on Sunday morning. Zabala is committed to Florida International.
Dylan Carmouche (2020 LHP/OF from Denham Springs, La.) was an effective strike-thrower on the mound, getting up to 88 mph with his fastball, spinning a breaking ball and showing feel for a changeup. He also tripled in one of his at-bats on the second day. Carmouche is committed to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Trejyn Fletcher (2020 OF/RHP from Portland, Maine) has a very strong, athletic build and makes hard contact at the plate with the ball making a loud sound off the bat. He turned in one of the better run times with a 6.52-second 60-yard dash, as well as touching 90 mph off the mound. Fletcher has a verbal commitment to Vanderbilt.
Kimble Schuessler (2020 C from Llano, Texas) has advanced catch-and-throw skills and good presence behind the plate for his age, and he made hard contact at the plate. He’s committed to Texas A&M.
Eddie Park (2020 OF from San Jose, Calif.) showed a nice, clean swing and projectable power on a hard-hit triple to the right-center gap in one of his last at-bats of the tournament. The Stanford commit should continue to add strength to an athletic 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame.
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Thirty-two teams and nearly 500 players participated in this year’s Under Armour All-America Preseason Tournament, up from the 26 teams at last year’s event. The participants played games and received professional coaching over Saturday and Sunday. This event is different from other showcases in that instruction takes precedence over actual competition, with daily sessions dedicated to hitting and fielding work for each team. Games are structured so that sides change after five batters regardless of the number of outs and all batters start with a 1-1 count to keep the action moving quickly.
In addition to Crews and Moore, two other athletes were named to the Under Armour All-America Game during Friday night's Opening Ceremony at Sloan Park in Mesa, the spring training home of the Cubs. Righthander/outfielder Jared Jones (Whittier, Calif.) righthander Victor Mederos (Miami), who are both members of the 2020 class, were in the 2018 game as underclassmen and will be returning for the 2019 All-America Game.
The Baseball Factory team looks at more than just tools and skills in making its selection for the annual All-America Game.
“We look a lot at how they can use those skills in the game,” Bernhardt said. “Can they really play or is it just an impressive workout? We also want good people. We want guys that have the makeup that seems to lead to future major leaguers . . . guys that are driven, have that work ethic, are coachable and are good teammates.”