Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Observations from Perfect Game Classic
By Keith Law
Grant Holmes, a right-hander from Conway, S.C., impressed at the PG All-American Classic.
The 11th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic took place Sunday evening at Petco Park, and as usual, it featured a large percentage of the top prep prospects for next year's draft. Here's a rundown of some of the guys who stood out at this outstanding event.
• Shepherd, Texas, right-hander Tyler Kolek, all 6-foot-6, 245 pounds of him, showed big velocity yet again. He worked 93-97 mph, throwing just one off-speed pitch in an 81 mph curveball. Assuming he stays healthy, he'll probably be the first prep pitcher taken next spring because of his sheer size and fastball. However, other guys in the class have better feel or command.
• One of those is Grant Holmes, brother of former South Carolina pitcher and current Atlanta farmhand Colby Holmes. Grant is bigger and taller than his older brother, working from 92-95 on Sunday, including seven straight 93 mph fastballs to open the game, with minimal effort involved. His 81-82 mph slider had promise as well. He is committed to Florida.
• Lefty Justus Sheffield, younger brother of unsigned Boston draft pick Jordan Sheffield, had to drop out of school for a few days to participate in this game -- because Tennessee has some really stupid rules for student-athletes, apparently. He showed a four-pitch mix in his inning of work, with a 90-93 mph fastball and a hard-diving slider at 82-83 the standouts. He's committed to Vanderbilt, where his older brother will continue his rehab from Tommy John surgery this fall. And hats off to Justus for a little civil disobedience.
• Touki Toussaint showed his usual arm strength, although 89-94 is actually a little low for him. His curveball, at 72-73 mph, ranged from a 59-footer to an absolute hammer, but he had no command of anything. That has been the norm for him in showcases. He's lean and athletic with a quick arm and he's hit 97 mph lots of times, but I'd like to see Touki (pronounced TOO-key) show he can pitch too.
• Hawaiian left-hander Kody Medeiros showed a 93-94 mph fastball from a sidearm slot, so it's hard to think of him as anything outside of a reliever. But he'd be some kind of reliever, with riding life on the fastball and good deception as well. His 78-80 mph slider was also plus, with hard, visible break, a real knee-buckler for left-handed hitters. High school pitchers who project as relievers typically don't go high in the draft, but Medeiros' raw stuff is so good, meaning he could move a little more quickly to the majors, that he might be an exception.
• Brady Aiken was one of two players in the game from San Diego's Cathedral Catholic High School, along with infielder Sean Bouchard. Aiken started for the West team, working from 90-92 with good deception and an average or better curveball at 73-76. He's shown better velocity than that and is one of the more advanced arms in the class.
• Georgia right-hander Dylan Cease produced 93-96 mph velocity despite a stiff delivery with some head violence at release, with the fastball coming out at surprising speed given how his arm works. He threw 28 pitches in his one inning of work, but his only other pitch was a below-average slurvy curveball that he'll have to replace with a slider given his arm slot and delivery.
• The position player crop wasn't as promising as the arms were. Alex Jackson and Jacob Gatewood are the two famous names in the draft class, with Gatewood particularly gaining wider notice after his performance in the home run derby at Citi Field, but neither player looked good this weekend or at the previous week's Area Code Games (which I'll discuss in a separate post). Gatewood seemed to have "homeritis," trying to pull everything as far as he possibly could, even though scouts know he has huge raw power and would prefer to see him make contact and use the whole field more. He does have a plus arm at short that would play at third base. Jackson scuffled behind the plate -- to be fair, I didn't get a throw time under 2 seconds from any catcher during my whole week in SoCal -- and was overrotating at the plate, also trying to do too much. I think he's the better pure hitter, although his future probably isn't as a catcher.
• North Carolina outfielder Braxton Davidson looks like one of the best pure bats in the class, with a simple, direct swing that should produce line drives. He doesn't stride and doesn't get much hip rotation, however, which limits his potential power output unless he starts using his lower half more. He showed an above-average arm in right field and should be fine to play there in pro ball rather than shifting to left field or first base.
• Florida outfielder Michael Gettys showed the best fielding arm, a legit 80 from center field, as well as plus running speed, which he showcased on a line drive to the right-center gap; even though the center fielder cut it off, Gettys never stopped running and ended up with a double.
• Tiquan Forbes has a lot working against him as a prep position player from Mississippi -- a class of players with a pretty high failure rate. He has an inconsistent swing and isn't a plus runner. He did, however, make the play of the game: At third base, he jumped to save an errant throw from the catcher then came down and swept his glove to tag the runner all in one movement. On a day when we needed outs when we could get them, Forbes' move was much appreciated.
(If you're curious, with Billy Hamilton still in Triple-A and having a rough ride, the last Mississippi hitter to sign out of high school and produce at least 0.5 rWAR in the majors is Bill Hall, drafted in 1998 by Milwaukee, who has produced 9.6 rWAR. He's second all-time in this group, behind Charlie Hayes at 10.4 rWAR and ahead of Dustan Mohr at 2.4 rWAR. Only two Mississippi prep bats have gone in the first round in the past 10 years: Wendell Fairley in 2006 and D.J. Davis in 2012. We should evaluate players individually, but the low caliber of prep baseball in Mississippi seems to be a limiting factor for those kids in pro ball.)
• I get a lot of questions from Canadian readers about outfielder Gareth Morgan, who has the hype but not the tools to be a high pick next year. He's strong, but his weight transfer is inconsistent and he didn't show any above-average bat speed, struggling to catch up to 92-93 mph fastballs. He has an average arm and is a below-average runner. I see a left fielder who has power, though he will have to hit a lot more than he did last week to get to that power potential.
• Just a few other names to keep in mind from the game: catcher Jakson Reetz of Hickman, Neb.; right-hander Luis Ortiz of Sanger, Calif.; right-hander Joe Gatto of Hammonton, N.J.; right-hander/shortstop Nick Gordon (son of Tom) of Windermere, Fla.; and right-hander Sean Reid-Foley of Jacksonville, Fla. All are at least potential Day 1 picks.