Approximately 30 to 40 scouts, including roughly a half-dozen scouting directors, were in attendance at Morse Stadium at the College of Southern Nevada for the first game of the Coyote Slugout between Southern Nevada and Chipola College.
Two of the game’s brightest stars took the field, projected top prospect Bryce Harper and ’09 first-round pick LeVon Washington. Harper started the game behind the plate while Washington, who was appearing in his first game in two weeks, was eased back into the starting lineup.
“It’s getting better,” said Chipola Coach Jeff Johnson before the first game of the tournament in response to how Washington’s injured hand was progressing. “He’s going to DH today to take some pressure off. He’ll play the outfield tomorrow.”
Because the College of Southern Nevada plays with wood bats, Chipola agreed to do so as well for its three games against the Coyotes. You could really sense that the comfort level of the Chipola hitters was off, as for the most part they really had trouble driving the ball past the infield. That was something Coach Johnson was concerned about entering tournament play. “They’ve got a lot of of good arms. (Wood bats) will make that more difficult to adjust to.”
That comment was rather telling, as the only game Chipola won over the weekend was the one it played on Saturday against Cypress College, using aluminum bats. Conversely, the only game CSN lost over its four games was its contest on Friday against Cypress, the only other game (out of the five) in which aluminum bats were used.
CSN, which entered the season on top of PG Crosschecker’s NJCAA poll, took three of its four games over the weekend. They don’t play another game until March 5, wrapping up a rather challenging pre-conference schedule with a 13-3 record.
Cypress, which beat CSN for the first time since 2006, split its two games to push its record to 7-2. The Chargers have three more games before they begin their extremely difficult Orange Empire Conference slate on March 2.
Chipola left the Las Vegas area disappointed, and looked a little sloppy on the field while getting outscored, 26-10, in its three games against CSN. As noted above, they did salvage one of their four games with an 8-7 victory over Cypress.
Harper in the spotlight
Harper was of course the main reason so many scouts and scouting directors made it a point to be in attendance. He started the first and third games (out of four) behind the plate, and the other two at third base and centerfield. He didn’t have a single fielding chance in his one game at third base, and aptly handled both Joe Robinson and Donn Roach in his two games at catcher.
In game one he blocked an Aaron Kurcz wild pitch fairly well, quickly getting his body down on the ball to keep it from trickling too far away from home plate with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning. That play prevented the Chipola runner on third base from scoring the game-tying run.
In the same game, two opposing baserunners stole second base against Harper, the only two stolen base attempts against him over the weekend. His arm continues to be one of his best tools, but his delivery is on the long side as he cocks his hand back before making his throws.
The first thing that jumped out to me being in the dugout and on the field prior to the game was just how big Harper is. For a 17-year old he already has the size and stature of a big-leaguer, and while I personally think he’s a different overall player than Joe Mauer, that is who he reminded me of physically.
And he exudes the same type of confidence. Even in the cage during batting practice he carried himself differently, and he has the looseness in both his body and his swing that makes swinging a wood bat seem effortless. He easily put on the best BP display, consistently making hard contact and peppering balls to all parts of the park.
And it didn’t take long for him to make some noise in game action. During his first at-bat, he smashed an Austin Wright fastball (a big lefty who sat in the 90-92 range) back up the middle for an RBI single. It was his only hit of the day.
He had two more hard-hit balls during the second game of the tourney, both to left field. The first was a single over the shortstop’s head against Rodney Quintero, the second a booming double that carried further and further away from Chipola left fielder Jonathan Gilbert before it bounced off the base of the wall near the foul pole.
The most impressive part about his double was how easy of a swing he put on the ball. He simply reached his hands out and went with an outside pitch, making the art of hitting look all too easy.
However, he didn’t always look so comfortable at the plate. There were times in which he looked impatient, expanding his own strike zone on a couple of strikeouts, and also went down swinging on a pair of high fastballs by Quintero. In his defense, he did go down looking in game three against Cypress’ Ray Hanson on an outside fastball called a strike on a full count that missed the strike zone by nearly a foot.
Unfortunately, most of the scouting community had left after the first game of the doubleheader on the second day of the tournament. In doing so they missed an opposite-field shot by Harper, his only home run of the tournament.
Overall he hit .333 (4-for-12) on the weekend, with a double, home run, five runs scored and three driven in. He struck out six times and drew four walks, and now is hitting .356/.451/.712 for the season with seven doubles and four homers.
One common concern for the scouts pertaining to Harper is CSN’s remaining schedule and competition. For the most part, the most difficult part of their schedule is behind them. Expect their two remaining series against Western Nevada College (which entered the year 12th on PG Crosschecker’s NJCAA poll) on March 12-13 and April 16-17 to once again be well represented by the scouting community.
As noted above, LeVon Washington returned to the field for the first time in two weeks and looked very good at the plate during the first game. Going against one of the top juco pitching prospects in the nation in right-hander Joe Robinson, Washington looked very comfortable at the plate, especially with a wood bat, showing a very patient and disciplined approach. He drew a pair of walks and smoked a pair of singles in five at-bats as Chipola’s designated hitter, which included a line drive up the middle off a 92 mph fastball by Robinson in the second inning.
“I was just trying to stay short with my swing because they were throwing pretty hard,” Washington said. “Since I hadn’t swung in two weeks I wasn’t trying to do too much.”
In watching him both during the game and during batting practice, I found his stance rather interesting. He has a wide base, with his legs spread far apart. However, he keeps his hands very low, somewhat of a throwback load that you don’t see too much anymore, at least not since a few of the game’s better hitters in the 1980s and 1990s such as Wade Boggs and Paul Molitor.
He has the bat speed to catch up with good fastballs and the plate discipline to wait for one. His head remains steady and overall he shows good extension. During BP moreso than during the game it seemed as though he was trying to crush the ball more than he should be, so I was encouraged to see him play more within himself when it came to game time, at least during the first contest. I had previously heard that he was hitting for more power in the fall and in practices leading up to Chipola’s regular season schedule this year, and I hope that he doesn’t fool himself in thinking that he will be a regular power threat.
If Washington isn’t 6-feet tall, he falls just short of that. He has a great athletic frame, built long and lithe with wiry strong limbs and plenty of room to add strength. His speed is known to be his best tool.
Unfortunately he didn’t have the opportunity to show off his wheels on the basepaths despite reaching base four times in the first game, and also didn’t have a chance to chase any balls down in the gaps.
He had only one ball hit his way in center in the second game of the tournament, a line drive that was hit right at him. Washington was clearly handcuffed and didn’t know how to react as the ball dropped in front of him. While it was a play that he should have made, it was important to remember that not only was it the hardest play for a centerfielder to make, but he is also new to the position and had missed two weeks.
“At first I didn’t like it (the move from second base to centerfield), but now I’m getting comfortable out there,” Washington said, recognizing the need to improve defensively. “By the end of this year I’ll be where I need to be.”
While he’s far from a finished product, he knows what needs to be done to reach his lofty potential. “This season I need to get healthy, and be healthy when the draft comes.”
Best of the Rest
Here are some quick reports on some of the more talented positional prospects in attendance not listed above.
College of Southern Nevada
Trevor Kirk, OF
Kirk led the Coyotes in hitting a year ago with a .366 average and was successful in 30 of 33 stolen base attempts before he was drafted by the Brewers in the 47th round last June.
This year he’s already hitting .373 with 11 swipes in 12 attempts. There isn’t much power in his swing, but he does a nice job of working the count and making contact. While I’m not sure if we will ever drive the ball much better than what he currently does, he’s a solid player across the board and receives high marks for his makeup and work ethic. He briskly jogs to first base when he draws a walk, and can be seen talking with the umpires, his teammates and coaching staff regularly trying to soak in as much of the game as he can.
And he may have been the MVP of the tournament, collecting eight hits in 13 at-bats, including a triple and his first home run of the season, while drawing five walks, scoring six runs, driving in three and stealing three bases.
Trent Cook, 1B
After serving missionary work and being away from the game for a couple of years, I think Cook is a player who is going to get a chance at the next level and could benefit greatly from being on a team that is going to get a lot of looks from the scouting community.
He has a good, well-proportioned body that has plenty of room for him to add strength. He’s a left-handed hitter with a solid swing, and on the weekend he showed the ability to go the other way with power while swinging a wood bat. In one of his at-bats during the first game, he drove a fastball over the left-fielder’s head to deep left-centerfield, nearly 375 feet away.
Age is the biggest thing working against Cook, who at 22 years old will need to continue to impress and develop quickly.
Marvin Campbell, OF
Yet another big, left-handed hitter in the Coyotes’ lineup, Campbell impressed me by the way he made consistent, hard contact with a wood bat. He led the team in home runs (six), RBI (51) and almost every other notable power category a year ago, and already has three home runs this year. He blasted a towering home run to left-centerfield that cleared the wall 375 feet away against Chipola starter Rodney Quintero in the second game of the tournament.
He has a big body, with broad shoulders and strong legs. He is somewhat stiff as an athlete and is probably limited to left field or first base at the next level, but definitely will get a chance to show what he can do professionally.
There is enough to like in first baseman/designated hitter Ryan Thomas, outfielder Joe Demello, infielder/outfielder Gabe Weidenaar and second baseman Scott Dysinger to believe they all will be playing somewhere at the professional level this summer.
Michael Revell, 3B
Revell was drafted by the Rangers in the 16th round last June and figures to be selected a lot higher than that in this year’s draft. In a recurring theme with many of the best hitters in attendance, he offered a great presence as a left-handed hitter, with good proportions and an aggressive swing tailor-made for driving the ball. He didn’t fare particularly well during the tournament, as his batting average dropped nearly 100 points, recording only one hit while striking out four times in eight at-bats.
“He’s still learning to hit college pitching,” said Coach Johnson about Revell’s progression at Chipola. “We’re working with him to control the outer half. (Defensively) he’s coming along.”
He handled all of his chances cleanly at third base in the first game of the tournament, and started Chipola’s third game at second base. He even made a brief cameo behind the plate in Chipola’s fourth and final game, but I think his future at the next level will lie on either an infield or outfield corner.
Cody Martin, 1B
Martin is off to a good start this year, hitting an even .400 so far while showing a patient eye at the plate by drawing 13 walks in only 40 at-bats. He has a strong, compact frame, listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, and shows an equally strong, compact swing from the left side of the plate.
The Twins took him in the 31st round of the draft last summer out of high school, and he seems to be fairly advanced at the plate. I’m not sure how much over-the- fence power is presently in his swing, as he seems to be geared more for driving the ball from gap-to-gap, and I’m also not sure if he can play anywhere other than first base.
Martin does receive bonus points in my book for being a vocal leader in the dugout, actively cheering on his team every chance he had and exhibiting good leadership skills for such a young player.
Joey Rapp, OF
Rapp presents a big, intimidating, physical presence at the plate that immediately reminded me of big-league slugger Jonny Gomes. Rapp was drafted by the Angels in the 41st round last summer after hitting .356 with 10 home runs for the Indians a year ago.
“He can hit,” Coach Jeff Johnson simply stated when asked about the best hitters on his team. “He really gets good wood on the ball.”
Left field will likely continue to be his best positional fit at the next level, and since he rarely gets cheated at the plate, he is also prone to strikeouts.
Chipola second baseman Andy Fermin has a nice, athletic body and a line-drive swing as a left-handed hitter, giving him some promise at the next level. Eric Sauls is a similar athlete as a right-handed hitter with the ability to play both the infield and outfield, giving him some value as a versatile utility player.
Ben Waldrip, 1B
Waldrip is an interesting prospect, having transferred from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., where he hit .394 with 14 doubles a year ago. He offers a huge physical presence at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, and all of that weight is perfectly placed, as he resembles a tight end or a linebacker more than a baseball player. That type of size for a baseball player may elicit comparisons to Troy Glaus, but as a left-hander Waldrip is limited to first base.
He had gotten off to a slow start this year, but enjoyed a huge day at the plate as Cypress came out swinging with aluminum bats against the College of Southern Nevada in the third game of the tournament. Waldrip went 3-for-6 with two runs and four RBIs that day. Despite his size, he has yet to record an extra-base hit this year, as his swing seems to be tailored more for contact than for driving the ball as you might expect from just looking at his measurables.
He doesn’t run particularly well, but he receives high marks for his character and flashes a pretty good glove at first base.
Be sure to check back in a few days for my thoughts on the deep and plentiful pitching that was on display during the Coyote Slugout.
The thoughts and opinions listed here do not necessarily reflect those of Perfect Game USA. Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and Brewerfan.net, and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.