There already is a story on Perfect Game’s homepage that talks about the amount of talent that PG has assembled over the first three years of the Aflac All-American Classic. If you enjoy following high school baseball, or want to get a sneak peak at the stars of tomorrow, the event is something you simply can’t miss. From Matt Bush to Justin Upton to Billy Rowell, you also get a sneak peak at the high school players that are most likely to be drafted early 10 months before they are eligible for the draft.
In the aforementioned story off of Perfect Game’s homepage, there is a healthy list of how some of the top talent has fared when it comes to the draft. Since the players that were drafted and signed and have already begun their professional careers were already covered somewhat, I am going to spend a little time focusing on some of the notable players from the 2003 and 2004 contests that decided to honor their college commitments. These players remain some of the best players in the nation.
The inaugural event was highlighted by several fire-balling pitchers, most notably the starters, Nick Adenhart and Homer Bailey, as well as Mark Rogers and Jay Rainville. The team’s starting shortstops, Matt Bush and Chris Nelson, were the star positional players. Neil Walker, Eric Hurley, Gio Gonzalez, Greg Golson and Trevor Plouffe were also first-round picks, while dual-threat Chuck Lofgren is now considered one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. Eric Campbell was the Atlanta Braves first selection, Troy Patton has carved batters up in the Astros organization, and Stephen Chapman is currently enjoying a big season in the Pioneer League as a member of the Helena Brewers. Here are a few more players from that year that are enjoying success both at college and in college summer leagues:
Built more like tight end or linebacker, Beranek blends an exciting combination of size and tools. He suffered a bout with mononucleosis the summer before the Aflac game, and that illness may have reflected his performance in the game. Beranek has bounced around a little bit during his college career, starting at UNLV before transferring to Lake City Community College in Florida for his sophomore year. He’s heading to South Alabama for his junior season, and while he has hit well during his first two years in college, he hopes to put his entire offensive game together to improve his draft status for next June.
Clark is catching the some of the best pitchers in the nation for Team USA this summer, backing up primary catcher J.P. Arencibia (another Perfect Game alum). Armed with a swing made for prodigious blasts, Clark is the Longhorns starting catcher, and hit .273 last season with 19 extra-base hits for one of the best college programs in the nation. He red-shirted his freshman year given the presence of incumbent starter Taylor Teagarden, and is listed as a draft-eligible sophomore for next June’s draft.
Davis posted a 4.91 ERA during his sophomore season at Stanford, pitching primarily out of the Cardinal bullpen. He could find himself in the starting rotation next spring, particularly since their staff ace from a year ago, Greg Reynolds, was selected second overall in June’s draft. Stanford has a knack for identifying and developing polished pitchers, and Davis may be next in line. He currently is racking up outs in the Cape Cod League.
Dunigan presented an imposing presence at the 2003 Classic, powerfully packed at 6’2”, 230 pounds. He decided to attend the University of Oklahoma, and hit .297 this past year with four home runs. Dunigan proved during the summer after his freshman year that he had no problem hitting with a wood bat by swatting 14 doubles and five home runs playing for the Central Illinois Collegiate League, and currently is playing on the Cape this summer. He hasn’t quite put his entire game together, but he has an exciting blend of tools highlighted by his power potential that will make him a player to watch next spring.
It didn’t take long for Emaus to make an impact at Tulane, hitting .321 as a freshman with 32 extra-base hits. He didn’t fare quite as well during his sophomore campaign, but hitting .289 with 23 extra-base hits is nothing to scoff at. The versatile infielder currently is playing for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League, showing his offensive potential using a wood bat by hitting .247 with seven doubles and six dingers and is second in the circuit in RBI with 28. He should continue to put up impressive numbers for the Green Wave next spring on his way to being an early draft pick next June.
One of the more exciting players at the Aflac game for his size alone, Gale proved that he was more about his towering stature with a polished approach that included a very refined changeup. His father, Rich, is a former big-league pitcher and big-league pitching coach. The younger Gale was considered a tough sign away from the University of North Carolina, where he attended his freshman year and played quite well, going 3-1 over 11 games with a 3.38 ERA. He transferred to the University of Florida for his sophomore season, but a lingering shoulder injury limited him to just one inning in his only appearance. With a healthy junior year, Gale could help the Gators bounce back from a disappointing 2006 campaign.
Garabedian had plenty of accolades by the time he reached the 2003 Aflac All-American Classic, and took those accolades with him to the University of Miami. Blocked by incumbent starting catcher Eddy Rodriguez, Garabedian transferred to the College of Charleston, and immediately became the Cougars best hitter with a .366 batting average, 11 doubles and six home runs. He has a very good, strong and durable frame that should easily handle the rigors of catching full-time and a strong arm that can shut down an opposing team’s running game. Garabedian is one of several promising college catchers eligible for the 2007 draft.
If the Iorg name sounds familiar it’s because Cale is the son of former big-leaguer Garth, the nephew of former big-leaguer Dane Iorg and the brother of Eli Iorg, a power hitting outfield prospect in the Astros’ system. Cale started his college career by attending Alabama and did quite well his freshman year by hitting .280 with 19 extra-base hits as the team’s starting shortstop. Following the footsteps of his brothers outside of baseball, Cale is taking a couple of years off to go on a church mission. He is expected to return to Alabama for the 2008 season.
Similar to Andy Gale, Kasparek generated a lot of interest at the Aflac game for his size alone, checking in at 6’10” and close to 250 pounds. He went 5-2 last spring with a 3.80 ERA in 23 games, used as a swing man pitching both in the starting rotation and out of the bullpen. Kasparek is poised to assume a full-time role in the Longhorns’ starting rotation next spring with Kyle McCulloch moving on to pro ball, and with a big spring could be an early draft pick given his combo of size and stuff.
Kirkland will be with his third college team in three years this fall, as he’s transferring from Chipola Junior College to play for the Memphis Tigers. He started his collegiate career at the University of Alabama, where he received limited playing time. A solid all-around backstop, Kirkland hopes to settle in at Memphis, become a regular and make a name for himself for next June.
Kubin was one of the more recognizable power hitters at the inaugural Aflac event, with a powerful and athletic build and the bloodlines to match (his father played in the NFL). He started his career at the University of Florida pretty well, hitting .292 with a couple of dingers in part-time duty during his freshman year. Unfortunately he suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and missed his sophomore campaign. Kubin hopes to bounce back next spring, and likely will be granted an added year of eligibility via a medical red-shirt.
Not too many Washington natives make it out of their home state before playing for the Huskies. While Lentz hasn’t received too much playing time at Washington, he should receive more regular time next spring after hitting six home runs this past spring in just 71 at-bats. This summer he played for the Newport Gulls in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, hitting .240 with seven home runs and three doubles. Lentz has a few good tools working for him, but will need to take advantage of increased playing time to improve his draft status.
Emaus’ teammate at Tulane, McFadden gives the Green Wave two productive offensive players that are former Aflac All-Americans. Last year he started to hit his stride, stroking 24 doubles while batting .382. McFadden decided to add some power to his game this summer, belting 8 home runs with a wood bat on the Cape this summer, which is tied for second best in the league. His 29 runs scored leads the circuit. With his newfound over the fence power, McFadden likely will see his name rise up the top college prospect charts between now and next June.
One of the most athletic players to ever suit up for the Aflac All-American Classic, Taylor was one of the top ranked prep players entering his senior year. He hit .325 with five home runs as a sophomore at Stanford, and was named one of the top prospects in the Alaskan Summer League a year ago. Taylor currently is hitting .243 with seven doubles and four home runs in the Cape Cod League, flashing his power with a wood bat. He has long been considered a top prospect, and it will be interesting to see if scouting directors agree when the draft rolls around next June.
Stan Widmann is a name that gets lost in the shuffle when talking about Aflac All-American alumnus. He was the starting shortstop at Clemson from the moment he stepped on campus, and stabilized the middle of the defense for a team that was ranked number one at one point in time last spring. Rangy and athletic, Widmann offers a little bit of everything without standing out in any one area. He has a contact bat and is a good situational hitter, hitting .307 as a sophomore and currently is hitting .286 for Falmouth on the Cape. Widmann probably won’t be drafted extremely early next June, unless his power blossoms, but he should be a productive and reliable professional given his pure baseball skills.
While the 2003 game was highlighted by pitchers, the 2004 game offered two extremely athletic hitters that went on to be early draft picks in 2005: Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin, both of whom are considered two of the best prospects in all of baseball. Right-handed pitchers Chris Volstad and Ryan Tucker are two of the Marlins better prospects, while the Braves landed a pair of talented pitchers with a couple of their early picks: Beau Jones and Jeff Lyman. C.J. Henry and Austin Jackson were both drafted early by the New York Yankees (Henry was recently part of the Bobby Abreu trade), while Andrew McCutchen, who recorded four hits in the Aflac game, is one of the Pirates better prospects. John Drennen, Jon Egan, P.J. Phillips, Ralphie Henriquez, Sean O’Sullivan, Jeremy Hellickson, Shane Funk and Ryan DeLaughter were all drafted in the first five rounds and are currently playing professional baseball. Here is a quick look at the players from the 2004 game that continue to turn heads in college:
Booker’s exciting tools are highlighted by his blinding speed, which may prompt a move to the outfield down the road. In 55 games for the Baylor Bears, Booker hit .268, and he stands to receive more playing time next year.
Like Michael Taylor in 2003, Bristow is one of the more athletically gifted players to play in the Aflac All-American Classic. Scouts couldn’t decide whether they liked him better as a pitcher or as a hitter leading up to the ’05 draft, and Bristow made it known he would have to be taken early for him to forego his commitment to Auburn. He hit .255 as a freshman and committed 23 errors at shortstop, but he has the natural talent to drastically improve those numbers over the next two years in college.
Danks would have been a first-rounder in 2005 if he wouldn’t have made it clear that he was set on attending Texas. He hit .319 with 14 extra-base hits and a .517 slugging percentage during his freshman year in limited playing time, and could become the Longhorns everyday centerfielder with Drew Stubbs moving on to the next level.
The MVP of the 2004 game after hitting a towering home run down the right-field line, Davis took his two-way talents to Arizona State, leading the team in home runs (20) and RBI (65) while going 2-3 with a 7.42 in 14 games as a weekend starter. He was named a freshman All-American.
David Di Natale
Di Natale, a talented and versatile outfielder, was named to Conference USA’s all freshman team by hitting .276 with 18 doubles, four triples and two home runs.
The powerfully built Dominguez is one of the more fearsome presences in Perfect Game’s showcase history, and routinely put on displays in batting practice. His skills were questioned in game situations, and he only received 10 at-bats as a freshman at Louisville.
Fon is a scrappy, smart player that changes games with his speed and some surprising pop. He made it pretty clear that he was attending Vanderbilt, which caused him to fall to the 49th round of the 2005 draft. Fon had two hits in only 23 at-bats last spring.
Lea enjoyed a very successful freshman campaign at Mississippi State, going 5-1 with a 2.01 ERA in seven starts for the Bulldogs. Expect bigger and better things for the son of former big-leaguer Charlie Lea, as Matt was named a Louisville Slugger freshman All-American.
Built similar to fellow ’04 alum Sean O’Sullivan, Massingham moved on to Cal Poly where he posted a 3.78 ERA in nine games out of the Mustangs bullpen. He is expected to move to the starting rotation for his sophomore year.
Matthes is a toolsy and powerful infielder currently at the University of Alabama. He recently was named the Winter Pines MVP of the Florida Collegiate Summer League by hitting .274 with seven home runs this summer.
Maxie had only 58 at-bats as a freshman at Florida State, where he joined fellow 2004 alum Buster Posey. Maxie should receive more playing time moving forward as the Seminoles starting catcher.
The tall and rangy Ortega is now at Boston College. He had only one hit in 18 at-bats for the Golden Eagles this past spring.
The second of three 2004 Aflac All-Americans to attend Arizona State (Davis, Wallace), Paramore, a switch-hitting catcher, hit .318 his freshman year with three home runs. He also displayed a disciplined eye at the plate by posting a .428 on-base percentage.
Leading up to the 2005 draft scouts preferred Posey’s future on the mound, but Posey wanted to continue his career as a shortstop. He did so at Florida State, where he made an immediate impact by hitting .346 with 20 extra-base hits while proving to be a rock on defense. Posey continued that success by finishing ninth on the Cape in batting (.289) and tied for second in hits (46).
Putnam enjoyed endless success in high school leading up to his senior year, and was considered an early draft pick. A sub-standard senior year and a strong intent to honor his commitment to Michigan made him college bound. That was a good move for Putnam, as he was named a freshman All-American and was named to the second team all Big Ten after posting a 6-2 record with a 2.51 ERA.
Quigley entered the ’04 game as one of the top prospects. He wasn’t drafted as early as he wished, and decided to attend Alabama. Quigley fared quite well during his freshman season, posting a 3.75 ERA over seven games (five starts), with a solid 21 to eight strikeout to walk ratio over 24 innings of work. He could replace fellow lefty Wade LeBlanc as a regular in the Crimson Tide’s rotation next spring.
The rangy and quick Romero decided he was better off attending San Diego State (the host of this year’s game), where he hit .270 with nine home runs and 22 total extra-base hits playing second base for the soon-to-be Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
A talented two-way player, Sebastian currently plays for the Georgia Bulldogs. He went 0-3 his freshman year in limited duty.
Wallace, Paramore and Davis will form a lethal middle of the order for the Sun Devils the next few years, especially if Wallace improves on his .371 batting average, seven home runs and .583 slugging percentage. He followed that up by hitting .248 on the Cape with seven doubles, five home runs and 22 RBI.
Like Diallo Fon, Zeid made it pretty clear that he intended on honoring his commitment to Vanderbilt, and went undrafted due to that intent. He was used primarily out of the bullpen during his freshman year, but has the repertoire and polish to become a starter next spring.
As always, players rise and fall in the draft based on their intent on signing a professional contract as much as their natural, pure talent. So, players that are drafted later than expected or aren’t drafted at all aren’t necessarily taken where they are on merit alone.
There are still a few weeks for such players to sign, but the clock is ticking, and the players that fell in the draft are more likely to honor their college commitments. Here is a quick list of the unsigned and/or undrafted players that participated in last year’s event based on where they were drafted and how likely they be to end up in college:
Hasn’t signed yet, but as an early second rounder it’s hard imagining him not signing with the D-Backs. His father, Frank, is the coach at Oklahoma State, where he has committed, so there is added incentive there for him.
Like Jackson, Bridges went undrafted, and will take over shortstop for perennial powerhouse Cal State Fullerton.
Undrafted and UCLA bound where he could emerge as the top college arm available for the 2009 draft.
Drafted in the 18th round by the Brewers, Clarks has already stated that he intends on going to Ole Miss to prove to teams passing on him early was a mistake.
Drafted in the 14th round by the Padres, Green may be playing in Southern California next spring, but he probably will be doing so for the USC Trojans.
Hammack didn’t pitch much this spring, nursuing a tender shoulder. The Giants took a flyer on him in the 46th round, but he’s probably Texas bound.
Jackson went undrafted, usually a sign that such a talented player made it clear he was college bound. In Jackson’s case, that means suiting up for the Hurricanes next spring.
Ryan Jenkins: A Baylor recruit, Jenkins is almost certain to head there after going undrafted.
Drafted in the 11th round by the Padres, last year’s starter for the East squad was expected to go much higher than where he was. He may be Oklahoma bound.
Miller reportedly wanted first round money to sign, which probably won’t happen as an 11th rounder of the Rockies. He along with Jenkins could give Baylor one heck of a recruiting class.
A 10th rounder by the Twins, it’s going to take big money to sign the exceptioinally talented Mitchell away from a big commitment to LSU, not only in baseball, but for the football Tigers as well.
Undrafted, the athletic Rapoport likely will join Brooks at UCLA.
Robinson is slowly but surely coming back from shoulder surgery. Selected in the 12th round by the Brewers, they’re trying to convince him to go the JC route so they can follow him as a DFE rather than losing him to UNLV.
Shepherd was actually an early pick, selected in the fifth round by the Twins, so I’m a little surprised he hasn’t already signed. He has a commitment to Oklahoma waiting for him if he doesn’t.
Last year’s winner of the inaugural Cal Ripken Sportsmanship Award, Sullivan had Tommy John surgery and likely will be pitching for Oral Roberts University in the next year or two.
Selected in the 37th round by the Mariners, Walden is almost a lock to be on Kentucky’s campus when school starts.
This Walden started the game opposite Matt Latos, and like Latos, Walden slipped further than most thought he would (12th round, Angels). He could be a Longhorn by this time next year.
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.