Most of the top Southern California high school talent in the 2010 class spent last Saturday attending the Southern California Invitational Showcase at Major League Baseball’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
The event, which is run by the Major League Scouting Bureau, has become sort of a season-opening event in what is usually the most talent-intensive part of the country. This year it was held a week before the start of the college season, insuring a very healthy turnout of professional scouts (estimated at about 150 by one observer) with no obvious scheduling conflicts.
After talking to about a half-dozen different sources at the showcase, it was pretty clear what the strengths and weaknesses of the showcase were as far as talent went.
“The pitchers are so much farther ahead of the hitters at this point of the year, it’s not even close,” said one American League scout. “It’s actually pretty deceiving in a way. These pitchers have had weeks and weeks of preparation for one inning of work. Just about everyone who took the mound threw 90-93 mph, literally.
“These are also kids who we’ve seen throw a lot in the past and will see more of this spring,” he said. “They aren’t all going to be throwing like this when they are throwing seven innings for their high school teams in April.”
A number of Aflac All-Americans took the mound and all looked very healthy and ready for the spring. Dylan Covey, Aaron Sanchez, Peter Tago and Tyler Shreve all pitched in that 90-93 mph range and scouts thought they saw a better breaking ball from Tago and a better changeup from Shreve than they have previously seen.
Some of the other pitchers who stood out included:
-- RHP Vincent Velasquez: Velasquez is a 6-3, 185-lb right hander who has been a primary shortstop (“smooth silky defensive actions, plus arm, BP power, no chance at all to hit good stuff,” per one scout) but took the mound and was lights out. His fastball touched 94 mph and he had an outstanding changeup and promising curveball. One scout compared him to Aaron Sanchez for his build and potential.
Velasquez has rarely been seen on the mound due to his desire to play in the infield, a situation that led him to decline an opportunity to pitch for the ABD Bulldogs travel club in the past. That looks like a situation that will change this spring.
Interestingly, one scout said that in addition to his athletic ability at shortstop and his obvious pitching potential, Velasquez is also ambidextrous and can throw in the mid 80’s lefthanded as well.
-- LHP Griffin Murphy: Murphy is a veteran of numerous Perfect Game/WWBA events and topped out at 91 mph at the PG National Showcase last summer before losing velocity later in the summer and fall. He sat at 91 mph in Compton and touched 93 but perhaps more importantly showed a much better curveball than he has previously shown. With a complete dearth of high level southpaws in the 2010 class, Murphy could step right up to the front of that demographic with a couple of similar outings early in the spring.
-- RHP Gabe Encinas: Encinas has reportedly been working on getting his release point elevated a bit more to get better leverage and angle to the plate and the results were very promising. He sat at 91 mph and topped out at 93, not too much different than what he normally throws, but showed better command of all his pitches and a sharper breaking ball without sacrificing his hard and late fastball movement.
-- RHP Tony Amezcua: Amezcua is similar to Velasquez in his loose, lanky build and his background as a shortstop. In addition to being 2-3” shorter, Amezcua has spent much more time on the mound, so much that he took an extended amount of time off from pitching this summer and fall due to a tender elbow. He has reportedly been up to 94 mph in scout team games this winter and was a solid 90-92 mph at the showcase. He also has a power 78 mph curveball that is a potential strikeout pitch.
-- RHP Scott Frazier: The 6-6, 205 lb Frazier is another pitcher with an extensive background as a position player (outfielder) who lacks polish and consistency on the mound, but not talent. He has as much high-end potential as any of the pitchers above, especially in terms of pure velocity, but must continue to develop his off-speed pitches and ability to pitch from the stretch with his long, extended arm action. He was also in the 90-93 mph range.
The position player who universally got the most praise was 1B Christian Yelich. The 6-4, 190 lb Yelich ran a 6.68 60 and had the most consistent approach and results in both batting practice and in the games. His triple off a 92 mph Frazier fastball was one of few truly hard hit balls in live game action.
C Jake Hernandez also showed well, although scouts still question about his ability to consistently hit high-level pitching. His throwing arm and overall defensive tools/skills are big league quality and he showed good power at the showcase.
Another catcher, Will Swanner, showed well, prompting one scout to say that if you could combine Swanner’s athleticism and bat and Hernandez’s defensive ability you’d have one heck of a prospect.
OF Austin Wilson looked as strong as always and showed a 60/70 level arm from the outfield and ran 6.8 in the 60, giving him two present average-to-plus tools on the ML grading scale. His bat was inconsistent, although he did take a solid second round of batting practice.
OF Angelo Gumbs showed his athleticism and hitting ability, along with running a 6.85 in the 60.