McCullers, Weickel among top pitchers at 2011 PG National
The last Perfect Game event that Lance McCullers and Walker Weickel attended was the 18U WWBA Memorial Day Classic at the very same stadium here at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Florida three weeks ago.
In fact, the two faced one another on the very last day of the event, with McCullers' Tampa Bay Warriors knocking out Weickel's Orlando Scorpions.
Neither McCullers nor Weickel factored into the decision, since both pitchers were nearly unhittable on that day. Both pitched four scoreless innings, with McCullers sitting 94-95 and up to 96, while Weickel sat 88-91 and touched 92.
“That was a great outing,” Weickel recalled. “It was towards the end of the tournament, so everyone was feeling a little fatigued, especially in the heat being down (here) in Fort Myers.”
Both pitchers are among the top prospects eligible for the 2012 draft, and the two have the utmost respect for each other's abilities.
“Walker is a unique talent,” McCullers said. “I had the opportunity to hit off of him, and it's really tough to pick up his ball. Overall he's a great pitcher, and that kind of pitching matchup created a great atmosphere that was good for everyone there. It was one heck of a game. It was a real privilege just to be about to face such a good pitcher and good competition.”
“It was great going up against Lance and a great team that plays solid baseball all the way through,” added Weickel. “It was a duel back-and-forth, kind of competition within itself.”
The two didn't oppose each other as pitchers at this event, with Weickel throwing Saturday on Day 3 and McCullers tossing on Day 4. Both players made the most of their opportunities, showing stuff better than what they had thrown three weeks ago.
Weickel pitched two scoreless innings, comfortably sitting 92-93 and touching 94. He mixed in a very effective mid-70s curveball and a low-80s change. After throwing one of his changes one scout was overheard saying, “That's what I came here to see.”
The overall repertoire, something Weickel said he is intently working on to improve his overall efficiency and effectiveness, is impressive, and he probably could have dominated his outing by throwing his fastball alone. That isn't the point of a showcase, in which the players are asked, and want, to show just about everything they can do.
“(The competitiveness) is always there,” Weickel said of his participation. “You come out to this event and it gives you a heightened sense of what you're going up against because you're playing with the best players in the entire country.
“You want to get up for every single game and every single situation you face, but you really want to get up for this one because it's the best, you want to be the best and you're going up against the best. It's a treat to be able to put yourself in a situation like this.”
McCullers shared a similar determined approach.
“You want to have fun of course, but at the same time you're here for a reason. You want to show the guys that are here that you're the real deal. You want to throw well off the mound, you want to make plays in the field, steal bases and knock out a few base hits.”
Throwing isn't a problem for McCullers, who set a record at a Perfect Game event by throwing 98 across the infield. He matched that number on the mound, throwing 97, 97 and 98 on his first three pitches before dropping in a true 86 mph curveball. He didn't dip below 94 with his fastball, and his curve settled in at 82-85 in his two innings of work.
His outing was one scouts certainly made sure to stick around for, and in addition to his stuff, his intensity is evident on the mound.
“I'm a real competitive guy,” McCullers said. “I want to win in everything I do, to be the best.”
Rawlings Home Run Challenge/60-Yard Dash recap
The Rawlings Home Run Challenge and the 60-yard dash was conducted on Saturday night, with the players visibly excited to take part in both events.
C.J. Hinojosa won the contest, advancing with seven home runs and adding four more in the finals.
Second-place belonged to Alex Bregman, who put on a show in the opening round by blasting 14 balls out of the park.
Nelson Rodriguez, who hit 12 home runs during the preliminary rounds earlier in the day, hit five to advance and one in the finals.
Six players posted times under 6.50 seconds as part of the 60-yard dash. Fernelys Sanchez led the way at 6.36, followed by Jamal Martin (6.39), Georgie Salem (6.46), Nick Williams (6.47), Ben Johnson (6.47) and David Dahl (6.49).
To view all of the 60-time results, as well as all of the other results from the workout sessions over the last four days, be sure to visit the Perfect Game National Showcase blog.
• Vegas Gold and White were the last teams to take batting practice.
Andrew Pullin and Vincent Jackson were among the Vegas Gold hitters that stood out. Pullin showed a smooth swing and consistently drove the ball hard, adding a triple later in the day during the last game of the event. Jackson also has a nice looking swing from the left side, with a tall, athletic frame and exciting overall potential.
Of the White hitters, Nelson Rodriguez stands out for his large frame, and puts an equally large charge into balls. Javoni Thomas is built more compactly strong, and made consistent, hard contact as a left-handed hitter.
• Right-hander David Gonzalez was the most impressive pitcher from the first game of the day, Game 14 overall during the showcase. He has an electric arm as the ball explodes out of his hand, and sat 90-92 throughout his entire outing. He showed good feel for both a mid-70s curveball and a low-80s slider.
• Fellow right-hander Kieran Lovegrove, also pitching for the Vegas Gold team, has promise as well, with a slender, projectable frame with current strength. His fastball was consistently in the 89-91 range, and showed a nice overall repertoire with a curveball and changeup.
• The biggest hit in the first game came off the bat of Matthew Dacey, who reached third after hammering a pitch off the wall in right field.
• Big hits kept coming for both Rhett Wiseman and Trey Williams in Game 15. Wiseman hit another extra-base hit when he drilled a triple to right-center and showed very good, fluid speed running the bases. Williams smoked a bullet up the middle in the sixth inning for a single, one of the hardest hit balls of the showcase.
• Right-handed pitcher/infielder Carson Kelly was impressive on the mound for the Royal team in this contest. He threw 90-92 fastball with a free and easy delivery, looking like a natural on the mound. His fading changeup gave him a second polished pitch as he cruised through his inning of work.
• While Lance McCullers was the draw for Game 16, Joey Gallo was throwing gas as well. Pitching for the Purple team as a member of the Red squad, he worked at 90-94 in his inning of work. He also threw a sharp 75-76 curveball and dropped in a mid-80s changeup to McCullers.
• Nick Williams had a solid at-bat against McCullers, taking several pitches low while fouling a few others off, including one off of his foot. Williams hung in there, and while he didn't reach, he did hit the ball hard to left field making solid contact off of a pitcher who didn't throw a fastball below 94 mph.
• There were a handful of big hits in this contest, starting with a triple to deep right-center (a popular destination for extra-base hits at City of Palms Park) off of the bat of Christian Helsel. Addison Russell blasted a solo shot over the left-field wall in the fourth, and Courtney Hawkins turned on the jets to leg out a triple after hitting a ball to deep left-centerfield.
• Game 17 featured a pair of intriguing right-handed pitchers between Vegas Gold's Nolan Gannon and Texas Orange's Connor Baits.
Gannon presented one of the more projectable builds at the event, with long, strong limbs and broad shoulders. He attacked right-handed hitters aggressively up and in with a 91-92 fastball. His 75-76 mph curveball was also sharp.
Baits offers a similar build, and while he got hit around a little, he did a nice job commanding his 88-91 fastball while pounding the strike zone. He also mixed in a slow, sweeping curveball.
• Left-hander Nathan Kirby opened the game with a lively 91 mph fastball, eventually settling in at 88-90. He also threw a 79-82 power breaking ball, and struck out six of the eight batters he faced.
• Another lefty, Colin Rodgers, sat in a similar range with his fastball at 87-91. Rodgers also spun a nice 77-79 curveball, leading to five strikeouts.
• Jesus Colon has some effort to his delivery, but goes right after hitters with a 91-92 fastball and a sharp low-80s slider. He also struck out five in is two innings of work.
• Bloomfield, Iowa's Calvin Mathews continues to show good command of his 87-90 mph fastball that has a little bit of running movement to it. He touched 91 once in his two-inning outing, mixing in a curve, slider and changeup. Mathews struck out four of the seven batters he faced.
• Frank Grandinette had the loudest hit of the game, a double to the gap in left-center, and went 2-for-2 in the contest. Corey Oswalt hit a sharp single through the left-side of the infield in the first inning, and Bobby Zarubin had three base hits.
With that, another National Showcase has come to a close. Thank you and congratulations to all of the players, family members, friends, fans, scouts, recruiters and everyone else that attended the 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase.