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April 8, 2014

Draft Ten Pack

USA Baseball NHSI Edition

by Nick J. Faleris

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At the end of March, USA Baseball held its third annual National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball training complex in Cary, NC. The event featured 16 of the top high school programs in the country in a single-elimination tournament format, with each team guaranteed four games via consolation matchups. The First Academy (Orlando, FL) took home the crown after back-to-back Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA) titles (Mater Dei did not participate this year). Below are notes and some video on 10 of the event’s top participants, including a number of first round candidates for this year’s June draft. I’ll have notes and video on more participants in this week’s BP Prospect Team Ten Pack entry.

Mac Marshall (LHP, Parkview (Lilburn, GA)) | Commit: Louisiana State

Marshall is one of the top left-handed prep arms in the draft class. His NHSI start did not include his best velocity to date (he has touched 94/95 in the past), but he sat comfortably in the 88 to 91 mph range for much of the start, showing two above-average secondary offerings in his change and curve. The LSU commit does a solid job of creating angles, and both the change and curve were executed consistently enough to make them extremely difficult pitches for the Venice High School (Venice, FL) bats to find.

He threw the breaker in two different ranges, each with 1-to-7 action, with a hard, tight version sitting in the 77 to 79 mph range with sharp late movement and a slower 73 to 75 mph version coming with more depth and serving as a change-of-pace pitch. The off-speed had late disappearing tumble, and he disguised it well. Marshall has a chance to find the first round come June, and evaluators couldn’t help but walk away impressed with his pitchability and feel of three solid offerings, as well as the athletic on-line delivery. The first two days of the tournament saw temperatures down as low as the 30s, which made Marshall’s (and others’) work that much more impressive.

Touki Toussaint (RHP, Coral Springs Christian (Coral Springs, FL)) | Commit: Vanderbilt
Scouting Video
Toussaint has already been written about plenty in this space, but his NHSI start was unique for him in that he brought to the table his best changeup to date. The off-speed was a deceptive offering that worked in various counts as both a freeze pitch and a swing-and-miss follow to his 89 to 92 mph fastball (he was in the low 90s, touching 94 early on). The drop in velo was not a concern, given the frigid temperature, and the rest of Toussaint’s repertoire—namely his plus (at times plus-plus) curveball—was the model of consistency. Control issues continue to plague the Vandy commit, as he issued five walks over his six innings pitched, but the Orange Lutheran (Orange, CA) lineup could not take advantage, and Toussaint ended up with a six inning shutout and a win, allowing just one hit and striking out 12. He still looks like a potential first rounder, with the next two months determining whether it’s early or late on day one come June.

Josh Morgan (SS, Orange Lutheran (Orange, CA)) | Commit: UCLA
Scouting Video
Morgan had a solid event, showing quality at-bats throughout, loud contact, and solid, comfortable actions at the six spot, putting him squarely in the discussion for day one consideration in this year’s draft. Hitting out of an open stance, Morgan does a good job of sealing his front side and utilizing his hips and core to generate good bat speed. He keeps a fairly tight line with the barrel and has little issue covering both sides of the plate. Most impressive is his ability to read the pitch out of the hand, as Morgan seldom found himself crossed-up or off balance, let alone offering at pitches out of the zone. In the field he handles himself well around the bag and shows enough arm strength for the position. His range is adequate, though he is at his best straight on and to his glove side. While not a burner, Morgan moves well enough on the bases and his lower half is quick enough to get the job done in the field.

Foster Griffin (RHP, The First Academy (Orlando, FL)) | Commit: Mississippi
Scouting Video
Griffin has seen his stock climb this spring, reaching the mid-90s at times while working easily in the low-90s range. On this particular evening, in chilly conditions, he sat almost exclusively at 89 to 90 mph in the early innings, touching 91, and fell down to 86 to 88 by the end of his complete game three-hit shutout. Griffin’s fastball isn’t the liveliest, but it fills up the strike zone and he is effective moving it in and out and pounding the bottom of the zone, elevating deep in the count when needed. In what turned out to be a theme for the top arms at the event, Griffin’s low-80s changeup was perhaps the best evaluators have seen it, with late dive and arm speed/slot deception. The breaker was a 1-to-7 mid-70s offering that teased average but was not its sharpest. There’s a bit of flash on the backside, but hitters didn’t seem to be able to pick up any of the offerings early. He’s another potential first rounder with a projectable arsenal and the makings of a durable pro body.

Braxton Davidson (1B/OF, TC Roberson (Asheville, NC)) | Commit: North Carolina
Scouting Video
Davidson was pitched around for much of the event, but managed to put together a solid line nonetheless, going 5-for-13 with a double, three walks, and a strikeout. His outs included a number of “just missed it” fly outs, including some to the opposite field. Davidson emerged last summer as perhaps the best hit/power combo in the draft class, though since then a combination of inconsistent and, at times, “frustrating to evaluate” showings characterized by few swings and lots of walks have seen some scouts start to sour on the bat. The biggest difference between Davidson at NHSI and the Davidson I saw last summer is he is compacting his body as he enters his swing, rather than staying tall and allowing himself to generate leverage. As a result, there is some power being sapped, his bat isn’t as clean through the zone, and the contact isn’t as loud. There’s a question as to whether he can get back to the swing that produced big power and hard contact throughout the summer, but nothing has fundamentally changed about the potential profile over the last nine months and he could be a real steal if he slips past the late first round.

Michael Gettys (OF, Gainesville (Gainesville, GA)) | Commit: Georgia
Scouting Video
Unlike Davidson, Gettys doesn’t have a strong showcase showing to fall back on, and at this point his offensive struggles have reached the point of troubling. Throughout the event Gettys struggled to square even marginal velocity, regularly swinging through low- and mid-80s fastballs and otherwise making soft contact. He finished the event 1-for-8 with three strikeouts and a walk. The rest of the package is incredible, as the Georgia commit showcased plus-plus arm strength from the outfield, at least plus speed (I’ve clocked him sub-4.0 home to first from the right side), and strong reads off the bat with the ability to both close and finish in center. If the hit tool were present, it would be a potential 1-1 profile at the top of the draft. The hit tool is a real question mark, however, and the inability to make even adequate contact on a regular basis seems to be growing. A team with extra picks could quickly jump on Gettys as a lotto ticket with all-star upside, but at this point it’s tough to picture him as a first rounder for an org with only one pick in such a deep class.

Jacob Gatewood (SS/3B, Clovis (Clovis, CA)) | Commit: Southern California
Scouting Video
Gatewood saw his stock fall off this summer after he entered the scouting circuit as the most highly touted bat in the prep ranks. He is a true plus-plus power guy, but found himself selling out for lift, leaving his swing sharply angled and aggressive, with the barrel spending almost no time matching plane and the contact almost exclusively empty or light. His showings at the NHSI, while not impactful, were a step in the right direction. Gatewood was back closer to the Gatewood we saw as an underclassman, with a firmer front side, less collapse on the back side, and at least a willingness to try and hit the ball where pitched as opposed to trying to yank to the pull side. As usual, he’s a capable defender at short right now, but the lower half is less than nimble, and a shift to third or an outfield corner still remains likely. Gatewood hasn’t been a defensible early-first round candidate since the beginning of last summer, but for the first time in a long time he looks like he could be straightening some things out. A strong high school finish and loud team workouts could get him off the board in the first half of the first round. Otherwise he looks like a late to supplemental-first round guy.

Adam Haseley (OF/LHP, The First Academy (Orlando, FL)) | Commit: Virginia
Scouting Video
Haseley was solid on the bump for The First Academy, stymying Dyer County (Newbern, TN) in a two hit, nine-strikeout shutout, sitting in the mid- to upper-80s and dropping an upper-70s slider that flashed some bite. Where he really stood out, however, is at the plate. Entering the spring Haseley was seen as an arm first, but that has changed over the course of the high school season. His NHSI showing might have solidified him as an outfield prospect for draft purposes, as the Virginia commit went 5-for-12 with a triple, three walks, and two stolen bases. His loudest offensive performance came in the opening game for The First Academy on Day One, with dozens of scouts and front office decision makers on hand to focus on teammate Foster Griffin’s start on the mound. While Griffin was solid, Haseley stole the show with several loud drives, including a missile down the right field line that resulted in a three-bagger. The jury is still out as to whether Haseley is draftable high enough as an outfielder to buy him out of his Virginia commitment, but scouts are starting to buy in, and Haseley is giving no signs of slowing down. If he ends up in Charlottesville, he could be the next in a line of impressive two-way talents to garner early round consideration when he’s once again draft eligible.

Cole Tucker (SS, Mount Pointe (Phoenix, AZ)) | Commit: Arizona
Scouting Video
Tucker is a limby, high-energy player with upside on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Arizona commit covers solid ground, shows good hands at the margins, handles his pivots, and maintains solid footwork throughout while showing the ability to keep throws on line from multiple angles (infield video). At the plate, Tucker remains more projection than realization at this point, showing some inconsistency in swing plane and coverage from both sides of the plate. When it all clicks, he can drive the gaps with the best of them, and the body is going to fill in to the point that he is driving them over the fence at some point in the near future. There probably isn’t enough certainty in the bat, or impact with the glove, to garner big money this go-round, but it’s easy to picture Tucker emerging as an early round target after further development at Arizona. Conversely, evaluators sold on the athleticism and potential could take an early-round flier with an extra pick.

Dalton Guthrie (SS, Venice (Venice, FL)) | Commit: Florida
Scouting Report
Guthrie remains likely to ship off to Gainesville for further refinement, but it was an impressive showing overall for the well-rounded six-spotter. Defensively he gets the job done at short, moving well to and through the ball and showing good accuracy and solid carry on his throws. At the plate Guthrie showed a balanced approach, good hands, and solid line-drive ability up the middle and to pull. He could be a standout performer in the collegiate ranks, with a chance to go in the top couple rounds after adding some strength and further growing his overall game. The profile is ultimately a solid-average player across the board, a player who does everything well and can ultimately provide value in a utility role. If the bat blossoms, he might fit best as an everyday offensive second baseman.

Nick J. Faleris is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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