CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – This past weekend’s Perfect Game Spring Top Prospect Showcase at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium offered a serviceable collection of 18 fairly established 2012 prospects together with a very nice sampling of more than 80 2013s and 2014s.
At least five of the top 2012 arms from three Midwestern states put their talents on display Sunday. They included Iowa right-handers Alec Rash from Adel (ranked the nation’s No. 71 overall prospect and No. 1 in Iowa) and Calvin Mathews from Bloomfield (217-2), along with right-hander Carlos Pena from Columbus, Ohio, and left-hander J.D. Nielsen from Winterset, Iowa. Rash has signed with Missouri, Mathews with Iowa, Pena with Sinclair Community College (Ohio) and Nielsen with Illinois.
The fifth top prospect was hard-throwing right-hander Kevin Elder from Burlington, Ill. Elder, a University of Arizona signee, started and pitched three innings for PG Navy on Sunday, reached 90 mph with his fastball and struck out six on a sunny but chilly afternoon. Rash and Pena followed him in the PG Navy rotation, with Rash touching 94 and Pena 88.
“The first inning was a little rough, but after I got in my groove it was a good day after that,” Elder said right after his outing. “Everything was working pretty well for me; the curveball was a little flat but then I got it to break a little bit more toward the end. I mix them up pretty well, especially with the two different arm slots, because it gives the hitters different looks and they don’t know what’s coming.”
A Perfect Game scout noted in a blog entry that Elder “showed a nice arm action and good off-speed offerings to go with his fastball.”
Elder is ranked 264th nationally and 10th in the state of Illinois for prospects in the class of 2012. He is ineligible to play for his Burlington (Ill.) Central High School team this spring because he transferred into Central from Westminster Christian in Elgin, Ill., at the semester break. He is instead playing in the Perfect Game Iowa Spring Wood Bat League.
“I like it because it gets me in a groove because I know when I’m pitching each week and I can get a routine down and I can just stick with that every week,” Elder said.
He was at Perfect Game Field on Sunday to once again stretch out his arm and get in front of the scouts, quite a few of whom were in attendance to watch the strong contingent of pitching prospects, 28 of whom were scheduled to throw in three 10 inning games.
The Spring Top was the 11th PG event Elder has attended and follows a summer of 2011 that wound up being one long highlight reel for Elder. He pitched for the East Cobb Braves 17u squad that won Perfect Game national championships at the 2011 PG WWBA 2012 Grads or 17u National Championship and the 2011 18u PG BCS Finals, as well as the title at the 2011 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational. Those Braves team featured 2011 Perfect Game All-Americans Skye Bolt, Matthew Crownover and Tucker Simpson.
In between those championships with the Braves, Elder participated at the 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
“That was a great experience because every one of the top-100 guys were there, and all the scouts were there,” Elder said. “I got to pitch against some of the best hitters like Joey Gallo and all those other guys, so that was a great experience, for sure.”
Elder concluded his 2011 summer and fall seasons by playing on the Reds Midwest Scout Team that won the PG WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship at Perfect Game Field and then advanced to the semifinal round at the prestigious PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.
Elder pitched five scoreless innings and struck out nine at the World Championship and was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Reds Midwest Scout Team teammates Zach Stoner, Nathan Mikolas, Andy Honiotes, Brent Stong and A.J. Puk.
“I really liked it,” Elder said of the World Championship experience. “The exposure to all the scouts was big for me and just the atmosphere and everything, I just really enjoyed that.”
Elder committed to Arizona in August, just before his senior year. He feels that his involvement in PG events may have helped him get noticed by the UA recruiters.
“I believe so, because all of the kids I was playing against are all Division I players or possible Division I players,” he said. “Being exposed to all that different talent will help me big-time when I go to Arizona.”
Elder is hoping he finds himself having to make a decision between enrolling at Arizona in the fall or possibly playing professionally as early as this summer. He admits the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft (June 4-6) is on his mind.
“As I move forward – I don’t know if it’s a possibility but I think it is – I’d like to get drafted,” Elder said. “If that doesn’t happen I just want to work hard and be prepared for the fall and spring next year when I’m in Arizona, and work harder so that someday maybe I can get drafted.
“I think about (the draft) a lot, actually, now that it’s getting closer and it’s exciting,” he said. “I want to take it day-by-day and do what I can to put myself in the best situation for that happen.”
Elder is scheduled to be at the 2012 Perfect Game National Pre-Draft Showcase May 14 back at Perfect Game Field.