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What to watch for: West Memorial Day
Thursday, May 23, 2013
The third annual edition of the WWBA West Memorial Day Classic gets underway this morning in the Phoenix area, at Camelback Ranch and the Goodyear Sports Complex, spring training homes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. 86 teams will vie for titles in the three age divisions: 14u, 16u and 18u.
While this is the unofficial kickoff of the summer travelball season and the breakout stories of the summer have yet to be written, here is a look at what to look out for as the tournament gets set to start.
Teams to watch:
18u- Dbacks Elite Scout Team
While a lot of teams have the word elite in their name, this is a squad that truly lives up to the title. A highly talented group brought together by members of the Arizona Diamondbacks scouting department, they boast most of the top players hailing from the state of Arizona in the 2014 and 2015 classes. While their conservative approach to handling pitcher workloads may prevent them from capturing the 18u division crown, their overwhelming talent should give them a chance to contend anyway.
16u- Arizona Prowlers
This is a group that has been together for several years now and have won the past two West Memorial Day titles (14u in 2011 and 16u in 2012) and have kept together most of their core. After gaining experience playing up a year ago, they will now have the target on their back as they return to defend their 16u title.
14u- East Bay Bombers
This team has rolled through the younger age groups as one of the more dominant teams in the country the past few years. This will be their first Perfect Game tournament and it will be interesting to see how their success at the lower age groups will translate as they enter the high school age ranks. While none of their players have yet established themselves as major division I college prospects on the national stage, this will be the first step towards doing so.
Must-see Hitter: 2014 OF/LHP Alex Verdugo (Angels Amatuer Baseball White)
A year ago it was 2013 MIF Riley Unroe who was the main attraction for scouts, and as we enter the home stretch on preparation for the 2013 MLB Draft, Unroe looks like a potential top 50 pick. This year Verdugo comes into the tournament as the player, who on paper at least, has a chance to follow in Unroe's footsteps. The question though becomes, whether his impressive left handed bat will be his ticket to professional baseball, or whether his low 90s fastball and quality curveball form the left side will cause organizations to prefer him on the mound.
Honorable mention: 2013 IF Dustin Peterson (Angels Amatuer Baseball White)
With the MLB Draft just two weeks away Peterson is listed on the Angels ' roster, and if he decides to use the opportunity to give scouts one last look before they make their final decision on him, he will be a huge draw. But it remains to be seen whether he will choose to play in the 18u division or instead focus on pre-draft workouts with organizations. Peterson has a chance to go as high as the top two rounds in the draft, thanks in large part to his offensive upside.
Must-see Pitcher: 2014 RHP Ryan Castellani (Dbacks Elite Scout Team)
The current event record for top fastball velocity sits at 91 mph, and Castellani hit 90 at this event a year ago and was up to 92 late last summer. He's slowly been gaining more and more coordination as he grows into his lanky frame and as a result his command has improved along with his fastball velocity. What makes things even more difficult for hitters is that with his long levers Castellani comes from a lower arm slot that creates a sharp angle from the third base side, making him especially difficult for right handed hitters to pick up.
Honorable mention: 2013 RHP Tyler Viza (AZ Baseball Club Dodgers)
Viza has picked up a good five miles an hour to his fastball velocity since his last Perfect Game event in the fall. He backs it with a quality slider with short tight break and developing feel that has allowed him to develop into one of the best pitching prospects in Arizona's 2013 class and should get him some draft interest in a couple of weeks.
Best raw power: 2014 OF/1B Gerard Hernandez (Angels Amatuer Baseball White)
While he has the strength and bat speed to generate legitimate home run power without a lot of effort to his swing, Hernandez does not get cheated at the plate. He swings with maliscous intent and when he connects he can crush tapemeasure shots.
Honorable mention: 2014 OF/LHP Alex Verdugo (Angels Amatuer Baseball White)
This is a very difficult category. Herandez's raw power stands above the rest, though Verdugo's power frequency is more consistent thanks to his high level hit tool and the raw power is also close to the impressive raw power of Hernandez. Jakob Goldfarb also belongs in this conversation as well.
Best athlete: 2015 OF Tyler Williams (Dbacks Elite Scout Team)
To say that Williams is a track star is not a figure of speech; he has competed in track and field events throughout the nation. He posted a relatively disappointing 6.55 60 yard dash time at the 2012 National Underclass Session 1 Showcase back in December, but he's likely capable of better than that already.
Honorable mention: 2014 OF Marcus Still (Dbacks Elite Scout Team)
Were it not for his teammate Williams, Still would be the clear cut choice here. His strides aren't nearly as long as Williams' but he's a quicker twitch athlete who can give Williams a run for his money in the speed department and a race between the two would make for an interesting contest.
Best infield actions: 2014 MIF Cole Tucker (Dbacks Elite Scout Team)
Tucker has a very high motor and quick twitch athleticism with good body control and balance to make strong accurate throws while on the move. His hands are clean and his arm strength is solid and projects to increase as he fills out his lanky athletic frame. He's a player who has a somewhat light resume to this point, but the more exposure he gets, the more well known he will become on the national stage.
Honorable mention: 2013 SS Trae Arbet (West Coast Clippers)
Like Dustin Peterson (Must-see Hitter honorable mention), Arbet has the draft within his sights and therefore it is up in the air as to whether he'll decide to show his abilities in one last tournament, or focus on pre-draft workouts with individual organizations. But if he does decide to come out to Arizona with the Clippers, he'll be the clear standout in terms of defensive prowess.
2014 MIF Cole Tucker (Dbacks Elite Scout Team)- a very projectable switch hitting shortstop, Tucker is very athletic and shows outstanding body control defensively. He's got some fine tuning to do to develop his game to earn early round draft consideration next year, but his physical talent suggests that he has a very real chance of doing just that.
2015 OF Tyler Williams (Dbacks Elite Scout Team)
Williams has a rare combination of size and speed, and he's still getting bigger and growing into his frame. There's no telling just how impressive of a physical specimen he will wind up becoming by the time he graduates in two years. The bat has begun to show progress, and if that continues he could wind up becoming one of the better players in the 2015 class. He's coming off a good spring for Kellis High School and we're eager to see if he can carry that momentum into the summer.
2014 OF/1B Jakob Goldfarb (Dbacks Elite Scout Team)- has long shown tempting bat speed for his age and as he's matured physically he's begun to develop into a major power threat. Now the question is if and when he'll begin to put all the pieces together to translate his raw tools into in-game production. He's definetly a player who scouts will keep an eye over the next year.
2014 LHP Andrew Shaps (Dbacks Elite Scout Team)- the Arizona State commit ran his fastball up to 88 mph at the National Underclass Session 1 Showcase in early December and showed advanced pitchability for an underclassmen at the time. Now as the 2014 class steps into their draft year, Shaps has a chance to elevate his status from high end division I college commit to potential draft prospect if he can continue to improve his overall package on the mound.
2015 IF/RHP Tyler Wyatt (AZ Prowlers)- He's run his fastball up to 89 mph (at the 2013 MLK Championship) before the start of his sophomore season in high school, and yet it's his bat that stands out the most. Wyatt has already begun to show over-the-fence power with wood bats and has a chance to develop into a one of the state's top 2015 prospects if he can continue to develop.
This list is by no means comprehensive, as there will undoubtedly be several players who play their way onto the list of impact players from the 2013 West Memorial Day Classic. And that is what makes this tournament great, not only do we get to watch players who have shown potential in the past begin to realize their upside, but we also become acquainted with the next group to make a name for themselves on this stage.
Be sure to check the scout blogs for recaps of all the action.
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