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June 21, 2013
Scouting the Draft
Summer Circuit: PG National Showcase, Part I
Each summer, the scouting circuit kicks off with the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase and the Perfect Game National Showcase—back-to-back events (with rare exception held at the Metrodome in Minneapolis) highlighting the top underclass talent and rising seniors at the prep ranks. This year’s 2014 draft talents shined bright at PG National, with a bevy of arms and up-the-middle standouts portending a deep high school crop—the former being our focus for Part 1 of this two-part mini-series.
With over 300 players partaking in the five-day PG National Showcase, we are only scratching the surface with the notes and video in these two recap pieces. Throughout the summer and offseason, we will continue to introduce you to this exciting collection of 2014 draft prospects. To whet your appetite, check out the play of the showcase—an amazing highlight-reel grab by SoCal outfielder Derek Hill (Elk Grove HS (Elk Grove, CA)):
Now, on to the pitchers…
Introducing the Arms
Touki Toussaint | RHP | Coral Springs Christian (Coral Springs, FL)
Toussaint’s coming-out party was last October at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Florida, where he reached 97 mph with his fastball, backed up by a plus two-plane curve. His velocity didn’t reach the upper 90s last weekend, but he showcased a deeper repertoire and the same easy arm action that had scouts dreaming last October.
Toussaint was primarily 90-92 mph with his fastball, touched 94 mph once, and mixed in a two-seamer with arm side life in the 89-90 mph range and a new-to-me cutter that ranged from 86 to 90 mph. The pitch showed deeper slider action on the lower part of that spectrum, and tight, traditional cutter bite in the 88-90 mph range. His curve was crisp with good shape, sitting 75-78 mph, and he flashed a solid 80 mph changeup, rounding out an impressive arsenal.
Touki’s frame and stuff both project incredibly well, with room to comfortably hang additional mass and an easy, athletic motion that should facilitate adjustments and allow for tweaking in execution of each of his offerings. The addition of a slider/cutter and greater comfort with his changeup help to move Toussaint from an arm strength and projection guy to a legit top-of-the-draft-caliber talent. In a deep class of high school arms, Toussaint stands out as one of the best.
Four More Standout Arms
Cease has emerged early on as one of the top two-way talents in the 2014 draft class, showing some of the best pure stuff in last weekend’s Showcase. The Georgia prepster’s primary weapon is a 94-96 mph fastball that he throws well to both sides of the plate to both right- and left-handed hitters. His curveball is a power breaker thrown with excellent spin and tight action, sitting 72-75 mph and arriving with two-plane trajectory. He also shows a great deal of confidence in a 76-80 mph changeup with solid arm-speed deception.
Cease has a confident and “in control” demeanor on the bump, and he already shows a high level of comfort mixing his three offerings and working backward when it suits him. He has projection in his medium-broad frame and stood out at the Metrodome as one of the class’ best blends of “now” and “future” stuff. One of the more exciting arms in a stout collection, Cease should hold a prominent position on follow lists come next spring and should be a name frequently mentioned throughout this summer’s scouting circuit.
Grant Holmes | RHP | Conway HS (Conway, SC)
Holmes is yet another power arm in this stacked 2014 stable, sitting 94-96 mph with his four-seamer and 90-93 mph with his two-seamer (coming with arm-side action boring in on right-handed bats). Out of a true three-quarters slot, Holmes creates solid plane on his pitches and, despite a fairly deep arm swing in back, shields the ball well from batters, helping the pitch to play up.
He throws both a low-80s slider and a mid-80s changeup, with each coming out of the same fastball arm slot and arriving with good arm speed and fastball trajectory. The foundation is here for three above-average major-league offerings if he can prove capable of maintaining his stuff over longer stretches. (Holmes saw his fastball velocity decrease a couple of miles per hour in his second inning of work.)
Michael Kopech | RHP | Mt. Pleasant HS (Mt. Pleasant, TX)
Kopech had one of the most impressive two-inning performances, notching six strikeouts (one reaching base on a dropped third strike) and showing off a quality 1-2 punch with his fastball and curve, and lots of room for his stuff to progress. Kopech throws with a loose, whippy arm and creates good deception with his mechanics, making it difficult for hitters to pick up his pitches until late in their path. His four-seamer sat 91-93 mph out of the full windup and his two-seamer in the 89-91 mph range; each pitch drops one to two miles per hour out of the stretch.
Kopech’s breaking ball is an 11-to-5 mid-70s curve that comes out of the same slot as his fastball, proving most difficult for hitters to ID. He showed an ability to draw swings out of the zone as well as to drop the breaker in for a strike, and the pitch was generally consistent in shape and execution. Kopech’s third offering was an upper-70s changeup that he threw with some feel, though the pitch is still in its early stages. Kopech projects well physically and could gain velocity over the next 12 months.
Tyler Kolek | RHP | Shepherd HS (Shepherd, TX)
At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Kolek is an intimidating presence on the bump before he even throws the ball. Once he starts to deal, however, the intimidation factor increases exponentially. Kolek’s power stuff is led by a mid-90s fastball that explodes on hitters and reached 97 mph on some guns. Although a little straight, hitters had trouble finding the ball with the barrel of the bat against Kolek’s premium velocity, and the big righty has enough deception in his release that the ball can be difficult to spot out of his hand.
Kolek brought two distinct breaking balls to the table, with his low-80s slider grading out slightly better than his mid- to upper-70s curve. Kolek is the definition of a power arm, throwing with some effort out of a big, burly frame. There is work to be done with regards to both control and command, but the raw stuff is as exciting as you’ll find.
Ten More Arms: Quick Hits
Carson Sands (LHP, North Florida Christian (Tallahassee, FL)) followed up Medeiros on the Purple squad, sitting 88-90 mph and reaching 92 a couple of times. Sands struggled early, missing up in the zone as a result of over-throwing, but settled in to carve up the opposition to the tune of six strikeouts. Sands’ best secondary was an advanced upper-70s changeup that he turned over to produce tough late fade. He also boasted a low- to mid-70s 1-to-7 curve that he both dropped in the zone and buried as a chase pitch. Scouting Video
Justus Sheffield (LHP, Tullahoma HS (Tullahoma, TN)) was true to form, sitting 88-92 mph while showing a four-pitch mix consisting of his fastball, curve, slider, and changeup. The slider showed best out of the secondaries, sitting low 80s and coming with solid bite, while the curve and change each sat in the upper 70s and flashed average. Scouting Video
Brandon Murray (RHP, Hobart HS (Hobart, IN)) showed low-90s velocity, climbing as high as 94 mph throughout his two-inning stint on the bump, with the heater exhibiting some late arm-side life. His breaking ball was a firm upper-70s slider that was at its best the couple of times the pitch broke 80 mph, flashing hard, late action. Murray also turned over a nice mid- to upper-70s change with fade to match the fastball’s trajectory. Scouting Video
Luis Ortiz (RHP, Sanger HS (Sanger, CA)) followed Murray’s performance with big velocity of his own, reaching 94 mph on the gun and sitting in the 92-94 mph range for the duration of his outing. Ortiz’s best offering, however, was his 81-83 mph slider, which came with tilt and hard, late break. He spotted the pitch to both sides of the plate and showed excellent feel for the offering, dropping on the back foot of lefties and freezing righties on the inner half. He also dropped a couple of “show me” changeups still in the early developmental stages. Scouting Video
Michael Gettys (RHP/OF, Gainesville HS (Gainesville, GA)) wowed all weekend with his arm strength, footspeed, and quick bat, but it might be on the mound where the Georgia commit shows the most promise. Through two innings of work, Gettys pumped low-90s fastballs, topping out at 93 mph (94 for some guns), and backed up the heater with an upper-70s to low-80s slider with a hybrid shape. Gettys showed impressive feel for the breaker, utilizing it as both a chase pitch and dropping it in the zone after setting it up with the fastball. He also flashed an 80-81 mph changeup that showed some late tumble. One area of improvement for Gettys will be his time to the plate, which was generally around 1.84 seconds (about a half-second too long for a right-handed pitcher). Scouting Video
Keaton McKinney (RHP/1B, Ankeny HS (Ankeny, IA)) pumped low-90s fastballs out of an intimidating 6-foot-5, 220 pound frame. He mixed in two quality secondaries—a low-80s changeup with arm speed deception and some drop-and-fade, and a 78-80 mph slider that matched his fastball’s release and trajectory, and was particularly impressive running in on the hands of left-handed batters. He established his fastball and changeup combo first, mixing in the slider more frequently in the second inning of work, and showed a highly impressive feel for all three offerings, as well as an idea as to sequencing. Scouting Video
Mitch Hart (RHP, Granite Bay HS (Granite Bay, CA)) may have shown the best feel of any player at the event, mixing three solid offerings during his two-inning outing en route to recording four strikeouts. Hart’s fastball is a heavy offering sitting in the 88-90 mph range and nudging 91 mph. He commanded the pitch incredibly well and utilized it primarily to set up an 80-81 mph changeup, which he turned over to produce such fading action that the pitch literally disappeared from the batter’s view down in the zone. His 1-to-7 curve is a third pitch that projects to average or better. It played up due to Hart’s ability to command it. The mid-70s breaker showed solid depth and shape, and came with tight spin. He also snuck in one upper-70s slider with short, tight break. Scouting Video
Bryce Dyrda (RHP Oakdale HS (Oakdale, CA)) relied on a fastball/curve combo to produce empty swings, mixing in a couple low-80s changeups as well. The fastball reached 92 mph out of the windup but was generally upper-80s out of the stretch. Dyrda’s curve was a hard mid-70s 12-to-6 breaker with good plane deception with the fastball, and he even broke off two “soft” low-70s curves with deeper action as a change of pace. Scraping six feet in height and with a medium frame and build, evaluators will look to see if Dyrda can maintain his quality fastball and curve deeper into games. Scouting Video
Andrew Karp (RHP, West Orange HS (Winter Garden, FL)) mixed four offerings effectively, including a particularly well-sequenced showdown with one of the top power hitters in the class—Justin Bellinger (1B, St. Sebastian’s (Weston, MA)). Karp’s fastball ran from the upper 80s to 93 mph, and he moved the offering north, south, east, and west with like effectiveness. His secondaries were headlined by a 76-78 mph change with fade, and he showed both a low-70s curve and a mid- to upper-70s slider, each with distinct shape and action. Scouting Video
Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses in Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.