Okey makes favorable impression
Chris Okey (2013, Eustis HS, Mt. Dora, FL) is no stranger to Perfect Game events. His first event was the 2010 18u PG WWBA Memorial Day Classic and his twelfth is the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase currently being held at the Metrodome. He came into the showcase ranked 21st nationally and showed why on his first day.
Okey looked good during Thursday’s workouts. He recorded a pop time of 1.85 and threw 84 mph from behind the plate. He added pop times of 1.90 and 1.94 during Thursday’s game action.
As good as his defensive skills are, Okey also stands out at the plate. After putting on an impressive show in batting practice, he laced a single up the middle on a 92 mph fastball in his first at bat in game action.
In an event with so much talent on display, Okey’s stand out.
“Perfect Game is always a good event to go to,” Okey said prior to taking the field on Day 2 of the National Showcase. “I mean if you look at their catalogues... all the good players have gone. So my goal is to be in their shoes and I want to get the best route possible so that’s why I choose Perfect Game.”
For as good as he looks on the big stage, it’s taken some time for him to get used to the spotlight.
“At my first (Perfect Game) event I was a little nervous,” Okey said. “But I got to know the guys, met a lot of new faces. Now I’ve learned to stay within myself and play my game. “
The past year has been exciting for Okey, After participating in the 2011 Junior National Showcase, he played for the FTB travel team in several notable WWBA tournament events, including the 2011 17u National Championship, the 2011 Underclass World Championship and the 2011 World Championship. He also was a member of Team USA and helped to bring the gold medal home from the Pan-American Games in 2011.
His growing success has lead to increased attention, and after having several options to choose from he decided to commit to Clemson.
“The agencies and colleges coaches really came out of nowhere,” Okey said. “It’s the things off the field that can really affect your game, if you just continue to do your thing good things will happen.”
- Kira Olsen
A change of pace for Morales
On Day 2 of the PG National Showcase—a day that featured several talented arms—Brett Morales (2013, King HS, Tampa, FL) stood out the most.
“Morales is probably one of the best arms we’ve seen so far,” said PG Scouting Coordinator, Ben Collman.
Morales threw 90-92 mph, peaking at 93. And then he devastated hitters a change-up that set the press box abuzz.
“That change-up,” Collman raved. “For me, that’s the best off-speed pitch we’ve seen so far: 78-80 mph with great arm-action on it. We also saw a curveball at 74 mph. I’d say he’s probably my favorite arm of the showcase so far.”
Scouts weren’t the only ones excited about Morales’ performance.
“I felt really good. Very confident,” Morales said. “I just threw all my pitches really well. I feel like I’m starting to work on my off-speed a lot. And the curveball too, I threw the curveball a lot today.”
This is Morales’ sixth PG event. While today’s showing might’ve been the most beneficial to his future, he has a soft spot for last year’s 16U PG WWBA Memorial Day Classic.
“We (Carrollwood Gators) won that tournament,” Morales said with a smile. “I played third base and in the Championship game I pitched the last three innings. I hit pretty well in that tournament, too.”
If he continues to pitch like he did today, he won’t have to worry about hitting.
“I’m very thankful to be here,” Morales said. “I just hope to impress people and we’ll see how it goes.”
From the gridiron to the Metrodome, Sandberg's a hit
Cord Sandberg (2013, Manatee HS, Bradenton, FL) recently committed to Mississippi State on a football scholarship. But that didn’t stop him from attending the PG National Showcase this week.
“I’m just trying to get exposure and get my name out there,” Sandberg said. “It’s good to come to here and play in front of the scouts.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder impressed scouts with his physical presence before he even stepped onto the field. And when the games started, he didn’t disappoint. On Thursday night, the left-handed Sandberg ripped a hanging curveball for a triple off the right field wall.
“I just saw one swing and knew he’s going to be good,” said PG Scouting Coordinator, Kenny Gardner.
In the morning drills, he threw 87 mph from the outfield and ran a 6.64 60-yard dash.
“That was the first time I’ve ever ran the 60,” he said. “In football I always run 40s, but this was cool. I enjoyed taking BP and playing games. It’s been a lot of fun.”
On the gridiron, Sandberg plays quarterback. He received offers from Arizona, Auburn, Baylor and LSU, among others. Ultimately, Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen—who has mentored quarterbacks Alex Smith (Utah), Chris Leak and Tim Tebow (Florida)—won him over.
“SEC football is big time,” Sandberg said. “And with Coach Mullen, it just felt right.”
Sandberg has been playing football since he was “seven or eight,” he recalled, but he’s been playing baseball even longer.
“When it’s football season he loves football, when it’s baseball season he loves baseball. He loves them both,” said Sandberg’s mom, Kelsie.
Sandberg and his mom hope this performance at the National Showcase will open up some new opportunities.
“(The showcase) has been a very pleasurable experience,” Kelsie said. “It’s very well organized and very beneficial. It helps him get his name out there and meet new people. He’s already met someone that’s going to Mississippi State. So he’s excited about that.”
Sandberg’s dad, Chuck, played baseball at Florida and was drafted by the Red Sox in the ninth round of the 1979 draft.
“He was all-SEC at first base,” Sandberg said of his dad. “He was a good player.”
As far as his own future is concerned, Sandberg is committed to following his father’s footsteps on the diamond.
“If the situation opens up with the (MLB) draft, I’ll pursue that,” Sandberg said. “That’s obviously what I want to do. I want to show that I do have a sincere interest in baseball.”
- Nick Kappel
National streamed live
Don't forget that you can tune into all of the action here at the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase live, and even better yet, for free. Stay tuned to www.perfectgame.organd visit iHigh.com Perfect Game page.
• The Green team is really loaded with promising bats reminiscent of last year's Red team that included Joey Gallo, David Dahl, Lance McCullers, Jameis Winston, Addison Russell and Jesmuel Valentin Diaz. Oscar Mercado, Christopher Rivera, Justin Williams, Cord Sandberg, Andrew Dunlap, Anfernee Grier and Dalton Dulin have all been impressive during this year's event.
In the first game played on Day 2, the fourth game overall, it didn't take long for the Green team to get on the board, thanks to a sharply hit ground ball by Williams that drove in a run in the first inning. Dunlap hit one of the hardest balls so far, hitting a double that just missed going over the fence in left-center. Dulin continues to show an aggressive all-out approach to the game.
In addition to the offensive firepower, Cord Sandberg made a pair of highlight diving plays in Game 4, one while playing left field, the other coming in right.
• The power arms started to make some noise starting on Day 2, with Brett Morales, as profiled above, being the most impressive of the pitchers that took the mound on Friday. Morales worked at 91-93, but his best pitch was a 80 mph changeup that he pulled the string perfectly on more than one instance. His pitch sequence, as one veteran Perfect Game scout put it, was masterful.
Navy pitching mate Taylor Blatch also pitched in Game 4, with a loose, wiry strong frame. His first pitch registered 91 mph, and he peaked at 92 with plenty of reason to believe he'll add velocity as he adds strength. He also threw a sharp 75-78 breaking ball that could develop into a dominant second pitch.
Cheyne Bickel, Alex Phillips and Rivera were among the pitchers that stood out on the Green team. Bickel was 88-90 with a low-70s curveball and a big, strong body. Phillips showed advanced command of a polished three-pitch repertoire that included a 87-88 fastball. Rivera, who has looked good at the plate and up the middle of the infield as a shortstop, also showed well on the mound, with live arm and a low-90s fastball.
• Left-handed pitcher Jonah Wesely stood out among the pitchers that took the mound in Game 5. Wesely has very good size with a strong lower half, using his 6-foot-2 stature well to throw on a downhill plane with a 89-92 mph fastball. It took him a little while to get feel for his 75-77 curveball, but when he did he proved that it is an obvious second plus pitch.
• Game 5 featured several pitchers that were impressive. Among the other arms from the Maroon team, right-handers Trevin Haseltine and Brett Snyder both had tall, projectable frames with plenty of room for added velocity. Haseltine is a well proportioned athlete with a loose, live arm capable of producing 91-92 fastballs. He worked quickly and did a nice job keeping the ball down in the zone.
Snyder also used his 6-foot-7 size well to throw downhill with his 84-87 sinking fastball and mixed in a couple of promising mid-70s changeups.
• Among the Gold pitchers, Right-handers A.J. Bogucki and Zach Burdi both showed loose arms and the ability to reach the low-90s.
• Gold catcher Brian Navaretto continues to have a strong event, and smoked a triple to the gap in left-center in Game 5. Outfielder Corey Ray, also of the Gold team, has also looked good, with an intriguing package of gap power and game-changing speed.
• The Purple team also boasts a pretty impressive lineup, with John Paul Crawford, Dominic Smith and Jan Hernandez hitting at the top and in the middle of the order.
Crawford is a quick-twitch athlete that also pitched in Game 6. He slapped a double down the left field line in the first, and touched 90 on the mound.
Smith and Hernandez added doubles of their own in this game, and while Smith continued to show one of the easiest swings of those in attendance, he also looked light on his feet at first base.
• Left-handed pitcher Stephen Gonsalves took the mound for the Columbia Blue team in Game 6, the last game played on Friday. The 6-foot-5 left-hander has obvious athleticism and projectability, working in the 89-91 range with a big, slow curveball. He's easy to dream on.
• Another promising lefty took the mound for the Columbia Blue squad in this game, Chris Kocher. Kocher didn't throw as hard as Gonsalves with a 87-89 fastball and a polished, 78-80 change, but with his size and live, loose arm, it's easy to think of him adding considerable velocity in short order as well.
Right-hander Steven Farinaro, a UCLA recruit, was also impressive on the mound for Columbia Blue, throwing 88-91 with a sharp 73-75 curveball.
• Drew Ward, the top player in the class of 2014, attended the 2012 Junior National Showcase and decided to stick around for the National as well. Ward's physique stands out, and he proved why he is so highly rated. In game size he had one of the hardest hit balls from the event, a double that recorded 101 mph off the bat.
Workout session recap
Teams 7-10 (Red, Royal, Steel, Texas Orange) arrived to the Metrodome in the middle afternoon on Day 2, conducting the same workouts teams 1-6 did in the morning of Day 1. That started with the 60-yard dash, continued to the outfielder, infield and catcher drills while moving on to batting practice.
Catcher Nick Ciuffo stood out among the catchers today, recording a 1.83 pop time and 82 mph on his throws to second.
Nathaniel Maggio edged Jextin Pugh for the top velocity at first base at 91 mph.
Spencer Trayner threw 95 from across the infield, notable since his Jesuit High School teammate, Lance McCullers, set an event record a year ago at 98.
Clint Frazier was the star of the workouts and the buzz of conversations after Day 2 came to an end. He threw 98 from the outfield, ran 6.42 in the 60 and had an impressive showing during BP.
The full workout results are posted on the Perfect Game National Showcase blog.
Quick BP notes
• Zach Collins showed one of the most impressive batting practice displays. With a smooth and effortless left-handed swing, Collins launched several balls over the wall in right field.
• Of the Royal hitters, Brennon Lund, Adrian Chacon, William Penn Murfee, Eugene Vazquez and Tim Willittes stood out.
• The Steel team's Nathaniel Maggio hit a home run off the facade in right and overall had a strong performance.
• Reese McGuire had an impressive round for the Texas Orange team, hitting several out to deep right field. Clint Frazier also put on a display hitting several balls hard to all fields. Texas Orange teammates Austin Meadows, Aubrey McCarty, Gosuke Katoh and Aldo Koutsoyanopulos also had strong showings.
• The ball jumped off the bat of both of the Dominican players in attendance, Leury Vargas and Richard Urena, both of whom are playing for the Vegas Gold team. Vargas in particular is intriguing in that he's only 15 years old, and hit a handful of screaming line drives.
Be sure to read Jeff Dahn's player features on Justin Williams,Stephen Gonsalves and Zach Collins.