Jeff Dahn is a staff writer for Perfect Game and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Jeremy Hellickson grew up in the city of Des Moines in a state (Iowa) that doesn’t have a high school spring baseball season.
In an effort to get noticed by professional scouts who might not have been able to see him pitch during his summer high school season, Hellickson made it a point to attend three Perfect Game Spring Top Prospect Showcases (2003, ’04, ’05) at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
After his third Spring Top in 2005, a PG scouting report noted:
“Scouts attending the Spring Top Prospect Showcase couldn’t have expected much more from Hellickson. …He was as sharp, if not sharper, than he has been all spring. … You aren’t going to see many more talented or polished high school pitchers anywhere in any class than Hellickson.”
The scouts certainly noticed, and the Tampa Bay Rays made him a fourth-round selection in the 2005 MLB June Amateur Draft. He then worked his way up through the minor leagues – he was the 2010 Minor League Player of the Year – and today the right-hander is part of the big-league Rays’ starting rotation.
Perfect Game will hold its 9th Annual Spring Top Prospect Showcase Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17, at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. More than 70 top prospects will be looking to impress the dozens of scouts expected to be in attendance, just like Hellickson did six years ago.
The event is designed to provide a spring scouting opportunity for professional scouts and college coaches to watch young prospects who do not play spring high school baseball, which is the case in Iowa and parts of Wisconsin.
Hellickson isn’t the only early round draft pick to take advantage of the exposure the Spring Top offers.
Oakland A’s outfielder Ryan Sweeney – a second-round selection of the Chicago White Sox out of Cedar Rapids Xavier High School – participated in the first Spring Top in 2003, and still holds event records in the 60-yard dash (6.53 seconds) and outfield arm velocity (92 mph).
Sweeney’s younger brother, Kellen Sweeney, was a second-round selection of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 out of Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School, and is starting his first full season in the minor leagues. Kellen participated in three Spring Tops in 2008-10.
Jon Gilmore (first-round), Anthony Butler (third), B.J. Hermsen (sixth), Zach Kenyon (ninth) and Anthony Watson (ninth) are other early round draftees who are Spring Top alumni.
This weekend’s event should be highlighted by the expected appearances of as many as six top prospects from the class of 2011 who have already signed with NCAA Division I programs.
Solon, Iowa, outfielders Derrick Loveless and Nick Day, middle-infielder Jacob Peter from Mason City, Iowa, and left-hander Andrew Hedrick from Polk City, Iowa, have all signed with the University of Iowa.
Cedar Rapids left-hander Austin Christensen has signed with Nebraska and Mount Pleasant lefty Braden Shull with Kansas State. In addition, Cedar Rapids right-hander Dakota Freese has signed with national junior college power LSU-Eunice.
Perfect Game has Loveless, Hedrick and Christensen ranked the Nos. 1, 5 and 7 top prospects in Iowa’s class of 2011.
The two top prospects from Iowa’s class of 2012 who happen to be teammates at Davis County High School in Bloomfield are also expected to be in attendance.
Right-hander/third baseman Calvin Mathews and shortstop/right-hander Josh Martsching are Perfect Game’s No. 1- and No. 2-ranked top prospects in their class, and both have verbally committed to Iowa.