CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – With his final high school baseball season just behind him, 18-year-old right-hander Ryan Harris needed to find a place to play ball. It was really no coincidence that place happened to be about 1,300 miles from his Jupiter, Fla., home.
Harris was at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium May 16 to participate in the Perfect Game National Pre-Draft Showcase. The showcase gives some of the country’s top prospects a venue where they can get in front of professional scouts in the weeks just ahead of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, which begins June 6.
“It’s another chance to get out and play. I get to play some more baseball, and that’s important,” Harris said from one the dugouts at Perfect Game Field.”It’s a good opportunity for me.”
It was also an opportunity Harris didn’t waste.
Harris, an athletic 6-foot-2, 195-pound pitcher and outfielder, was one of 20 pitchers who threw in an 18-inning game at the PG National Pre-Draft, and one of 14 who threw 90 mph or better.
Junior college right-hander Vincent Spilker reached 96 on the gun and free agent right-hander Ricky Bowen topped-out at 95 to lead the way. Harris was right behind at 93.
He added an 84 mph slider that “flashed plus action at times,” according to Perfect Game national scouting director David Rawnsley. Harris’ repertoire, by his own account, includes a 2- and 4-seam fastball, a splitter and a slider.
His pitching prowess wasn’t the only thing that stood out at the Pre-Draft. He had the top outfield arm velocity at 94 mph and ran a 6.75-second 60-yard dash, the seventh best effort of the day and fifth-best among the high school prospects.
Rawnsley put Harris in the No. 2 spot on his list of the top 15 prospects at the National Pre-Draft, second only to top catching prospect Eric Haase from Westland, Mich.
Living and playing in the baseball hotbed of Florida, Harris’ talents certainly hadn’t gone unnoticed. He attended the 2011 Perfect Game World Showcase in January and caught the eye of a PG scout even though he didn’t pitch at the event.
The report on Harris read:
“Athletic build, good present strength. Open stance, short quick swing, line drive plane, looking to pull, shows some lift, very good raw bat speed … Very good outfield actions, easy arm strength, loose whippy arm, accurate throws, charges aggressively.”
It’s somewhat ironic that Harris traveled all the way to eastern Iowa to a showcase held in a stadium just across the street from Perfect Game headquarters. The WWBA World Championship, the most prestigious tournament on Perfect Game’s schedule, is held in Harris’ hometown of Jupiter.
He was on the Palm Beach Select roster for both the 2009 and ’10 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, and played with Palm Beach Select in other PG tournaments.
In still others, he has been with Marucci Elite (’09 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship, Fort Myers), and with Palm Beach County PAL for a PG BCS tournament in Fort Myers and a WWBA tournament in Marietta, Ga.
Eleven PG events, including the National Pre-Draft, are listed on his profile.
“It helps get you noticed and gets you out there. It can’t hurt,” Harris said.
Harris had just completed a fine senior season at Jupiter High School before arriving at the National Pre-Draft. Jupiter High finished 26-7 after losing to Park Vista Community, 7-6, in a Class 6A Regional semifinal in early May.
“We probably had one of the best teams our school has ever had, according to our coach,” Harris said. “We had a hell of a season and it was a lot of fun. We played some good baseball.”
Harris has signed a national letter-of-intent to play baseball for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan at Division I power and No. 4-ranked Florida next year. Gainesville isn’t far from home and the program’s rich history – six College World Series appearances, including one in 2010 – and the coaching staff were enough to sell Harris on the Gators.
“Coach O’Sullivan is a real good guy and I really like him as a pitching coach,” Harris said. “He’s the main reason I wanted to go there because I like him so much, and I think he can really help me get (better). They’ve got a great program up there and great facilities and everything up there is pretty amazing. I’m really excited.”
Harris is Perfect Game’s No. 52-ranked top national prospect and the No. 10 prospect in the state of Florida. He has been identified as the 105th top high school prospect in June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft by Perfect Game’s Allan Simpson.
The rankings and projections aren’t something Harris obsesses over. Neither is the draft itself.
“It’s just something out there that’s an opportunity,” Harris said. “If it happens, it happens and it’s not something I’m putting too much pressure on myself about.”