CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – With the 2013 MLB Draft taking place today, it is only fitting that the Quad Cities River Bandits and last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Carlos Correa, met the Cedar Rapids Kernels and last year’s No. 2 overall pick, Byron Buxton, at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Perfect Game Field in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday night.
A year removed from the draft, Correa and Buxton have already established themselves as two of the best prospects in baseball. Correa, a 2011 Perfect Game All-American who received $4.8 million from the Astros a year ago, is hitting .275/.380/.398 with 14 extra-base hits in 44 games.
Buxton, who received $6.2 million from the Twins, is tearing up the league, and similar to former Kernels star Mike Trout, his stay in the Midwest League may not last much longer. Through 53 games, the five-tool outfielder is hitting .348/.444/.578 with 12 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs and 26 stolen bases.
The Kernels, with Buxton serving as the team's catalyst atop the order, out-did the River Bandits 14-5, with Buxton once again leading the way with a 5-for-6 night that included a double, two triples and three runs scored.
In addition to the two budding stars, Travis Harrison (2011, 50th overall), Lance McCullers (2012, 41st overall), Hudson Boyd (2011, 55th overall), Rio Ruiz (2012, 129th overall), Jose Berrios (2012, 32nd overall), and Niko Goodrum (2010, 71st overall) are also playing in the prospect laden series. McCullers and Ruiz played with Correa in the 2011 Classic, with McCullers receiving the Jackie Robinson Player of the Year award, while Harrison played in the same game in 2010.
These highly touted prospects have one thing in common: all of them have participated in Perfect Game events. The eight players received just short of $20 million in combined bonus money, and it supports the growth and overall idea that Perfect Game gives players from all over the country, and beyond, the opportunity to showcase their skills.
Coming from Puerto Rico, Correa was concerned he would not get the exposure he needed to become a professional baseball player, let alone the No. 1 overall pick.
“In Puerto Rico, it’s a small island, a couple of scouts (were) there,” Correa said of his desire to receive more attention from the scouting community. “But when I went to Perfect Game (events) I saw all the scouts out in the stands. The Perfect Game events helped me a lot. I wanted to be in the states and show the scouts in the states that I (could) play the game the right way.”
Those events not only helped catapult Correa to first pick overall, but boosted the draft stock of fellow Puerto Rican Jose Berrios as well. Correa and the River Bandits will face Berrios tonight as Berrios makes his next scheduled start.
Georgia natives Niko Goodrum and Byron Buxton also benefitted from the Perfect Game experience. “(Perfect Game) helped a lot,” said Buxton prior to Wednesday's game. “There’s a bunch of scouts at East Cobb (during the 2011 17u and 18u WWBA National Championships) and I did pretty well there. It helped me, it helped my draft stock go up.”
Goodrum, the Twins' second round pick in 2010 who is hitting .270/.382/.388 through the Kernels' first 48 games, also spoke about what he got from Perfect Game.
“It shows you where you’re at, where you need to get to, (and) what you need to work on.”
The Astros 2012 draft may very well go on record as being one of the best planned efforts in recent history, as the team wisely parlayed their draft pool owning the No. 1 overall pick by signing not only Correa, but also their supplemental first rounder Lance McCullers and fourth round selection Rio Ruiz.
McCullers, a regular on the Perfect Game circuit, attended 22 PG events as an amateur, which included him taking the mound to start the 2011 PG All-American Classic for the East squad.
In 13 games this year, eight of which have been starts serving in a piggy-back role, the hard-throwing righthander is 2-4 with a 1.70 ERA, continuing his dominance at the profesional level by striking out 51 batters in 47 2/3 innings.
“I think PG puts you a level in front of the competition,” said McCullers. “You’re always playing against the best competition and in front of the right people. One of the biggest advantages Perfect Game has over everyone else is that everyone wants to be at those events and win those events.”
Rio Ruiz may not be off to the same hot start as his two Quad Cities and 2011 PG All-American teammates, but his talent has been just as evident since his high school playing days.
“I know Perfect Game played a part in me getting drafted,” said Ruiz. “A lot of people wanted to see (the PG All-American Classic). A lot of scouts and a lot of teams want to see that game so I think Perfect Game really helped me expose myself to the country.”
Buxton's Cedar Rapids Kernels teammate Travis Harrison, another one of the Twins' recent first round picks in 2011, finds himself at home playing across the street from Perfect Game's headquarters as a veteran of 27 PG events while in high school. As part of the Kernels powerful lineup, the 20-year old third baseman is second on the team in home runs with nine, while boasting a .270/.353/.485 slash line.
“It’s nice to go to (Perfect Game events) and play against the best players,” Harrison said of his own showcase and tournament experience prior to the game. “(There you got to) play a few games and face some good pitching.”
Each of these players’ testimonies proves that Perfect Game gives players in all corners of the country the opportunity to display their talents.
Jose Berrios put it best.
“Perfect Game helped put me on the map.”