Pitchers star at East Coast Showcase
By Alan Matthews
WILMINGTON, N.C.--After two intense months of evaluating rising high school seniors--following a 2005 draft that featured 19 high school players taken in the first and supplemental rounds--scouts say the Class of 2006 is a tick below last year's in overall talent.
The annual East Coast Professional Showcase provided more than 400 scouts and college recruiters a long look at next year's East Coast crop. And while the class appears to lack premium position players like Justin Upton or Cameron Maybin, and polished power pitchers, it does offer intriguing arms and a handful of hitters who have considerable ceilings.
"Overall, there were some very interesting guys," a scout with an American League organization said. "No definite first-round position players but a lot of guys you would love get in the second or third round."
About 150 players from 26 states came to
Righthander Jeremy Jeffress from Halifax County High of
"I saw the whole East Coast this year and I didn't see one person hit 98, and he did it three times," one crosschecker said. "He really impressed a lot of people there and he appears to have a decent feel for the zone. He's got a long way to go with the secondary stuff, his breaking ball is just okay, but when you're running 96s and 97s up there, as long as you can get your breaking ball near the zone, you've got enough to make someone (draft you high) and work with it."
One game featured five arms that could potentially become
high-round picks, including all three of the pitchers on the Reds team, made up
of players from
Lefthander Bryan Morgado of
Colton Willems, a 6-foot-4 righthander from
"Coming in to (the third day), I would have just said the arms are about like they always are--some good guys but nothing overly impressive at the top and not the deepest bunch. But after seeing five guys trot out there and show the stuff they did, I think I'd have to say the arms are a pretty good class," one scout said. "Jeffress . . . (Matt) Latos, these guys aren't the total package like a Gavin Floyd, Zack Greinke or Chris Volstad. They've got power but you've still got some questions about the secondary stuff and the control. But there's reason to be optimistic about next spring, and the group behind (Jeffress and Latos) is deep and solid."
Righthanders Ryan Butner and Nick Fuller were among the pitchers opposing the Reds' trio. Butner's opening inning was arguably the most impressive all week--until Fuller trumped him. The 6-foot-4, 170-pound Butner, from Hialeah (Fla.) High, painted the outside corner with an 88 mph fastball to catch Ryan Jackson looking, then carved up John Tolisano, one of the event's best hitters.
Fuller featured a fastball/slider mix that one scout compared to Brad Lidge's, as he ran 93 mph fastballs over both corners of the plate and spun an 83 mph slider with excellent, sharp break.
Jackson and Tolisano were two of the Reds' handful of
impressive position players, and it looks like
Max Sapp's prowess at the plate was less surprising, as he's been recognized as an outstanding hitter since his youth days, but the lefthanded-hitting catcher fortified his reputation with another good showing.
• The aforementioned Matt Latos continued his impressive summer. In his first game action since touching 96 mph at the World Wood Bat Association Summer Championship, an outing in which he threw well over 100 pitches, the 6-foot-5 righthander was dominant albeit with less velocity. Latos threw three innings and retired all nine hitters he faced while fanning six. Latos pitched at 91 mph, touching 93 with good arm-side run.
• Latos' teammate Marcus
Lemon also opened some eyes, particularly in the field. The son of former
big leaguer Chet, Marcus displayed
impressive range at shortstop. His performance was even more remarkable when
you consider that he was playing with 17 stitches and 11 staples in his right
leg, the result of catching the spikes of a catcher while sliding into the
plate at a recent tournament in
• One of the more complete players at the event was Ryan Adams of Jesuit High in
• Similar to Pigott, Drew
Poulk was another hitter who broke out at the event. Although he couldn't
run at full speed due to a pulled quadriceps muscle, the outfielder from
• One of a bevy of southpaws who emerged at the event was Matthew Petiton from Garden City (N.Y) High. Petiton features a deliberate delivery with a high leg kick that evokes Dontrelle Willis. Petiton's fastball sat in the high 80s and he controlled it, as well as his secondary stuff, impressively. His command wavered when he pitched from the stretch, but he boasts a wicked pickoff move.
• Matt Bryant of
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