Gives Scouts Plenty of Reason
Overlook Tough Weather Conditions
N.C.—Despite temperatures in the mid-40s and a brisk wind that made
playing conditions less than ideal for the first game of this year’s
National High School Invitational, more than 100 scouts in
attendance, including a number of scouting directors, found plenty of
reason to warm to the occasion.
(S.C.) High catcher Nick Ciuffo (pronounced SHOE-fo) was the feature
attraction and showed scouts why he is considered one of the top
catching prospects in this year’s prep class, though he went just
1-for-3 with an RBI while leading his school, ranked 12th nationally by Perfect Game, to an easy 4-0 win over Florida Christian
6-foot-1, 200-pound Ciuffo is currently ranked No. 18 by PG among the
top prep prospects for this year’s draft, though grades out as only
the fourth catcher on the list behind Reese McGuire of Kentwood High
in Kent, Wash., Jon Denney of Yukon (Okla.) High and Zack Collins of
American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla.
High catcher Chris Okey, ranked No. 27 overall and fifth among
catchers, is also participating in this week’s 16-team NHSI,
sponsored by USA Baseball.
depending on which scout was asked Wednesday, Ciuffo may be at the
head of the class among high-school catching prospects for this
think he’s the best catcher in the country, and I’m a bit
surprised that he’s not ranked No. 1,” one scout said. “He may
not have quite as much raw power as a couple of the guys he’s
competing with, but I think he’s the most well-rounded of all the
catchers in this year’s class. His arm sets him apart.”
who has attended a dozen Perfect Game tournaments and showcase events
during his high-school career, has a strong, accurate arm, and it was
on display Wednesday as he easily gunned down the only Florida
Christian runner that attempted to steal against him, nabbing him at
second by as much as 6-8 feet. He generally has pop times in the
1.8-1.85 second range, and doesn’t hesitate to showcase his arm,
especially throwing behind runners.
remainder of Ciuffo’s game defensively is also solid. He is
athletic and mobile behind the plate, and his ability to take charge
sets him apart from most of his peers.
was little question that Ciuffo was the leader of his team, both in
his words and actions. He also has a very mature approach to the game
and was quick to deflect praise for Lexington’s win Wednesday to
senior lefthander Josh Reagan, a fellow University of South Carolina
recruit who went the distance and blanked Florida Christian on four
hits, all singles, while walking one. He threw 89 pitches in all, 65
for strikes, though his fastball was typically in the 83-84 mph
wasn’t overpowering, and probably can’t break a pane of glass,”
Ciuffo said of Reagan, “but he’s a pitcher, not a thrower, and
I’d put him up there with any pitcher in the country with his
ability to locate. I just put up my glove, and he hits it every time.
He’s a lot like Michael Roth (former South Carolina All-American
lefthander) the way he can drop down, mix his pitches and throw
the cold, windy conditions that have plagued most of the eastern half
of the country almost the entire spring were evident again Wednesday,
causing most scouts to bundle up warmly, Ciuffo never let the
elements affect any phase of his game, and hasn’t to date.
his first 10 games this spring for unbeaten Lexington High, the
lefthanded-hitting Ciuffo was batting .500-3-13, and had walked eight
times while striking out just once in 28 at-bats. Opposing pitchers
have consistently worked around him, and he was retired twice on
Wednesday on two hard hit balls to the first baseman, on pitches that
got in on his hands. He normally has little trouble turning on balls
with a loose, extended swing.
Ciuffo performs over the remaining three days of the National High
School Invitational, which has brought together a large delegation of
scouts and nine teams in Perfect Game’s ranking of the nation’s
Top 50 high school clubs, may go a long way to determining where
Ciuffo factors into this year’s draft—and whether he can overtake
any or all of the three prep catchers currently ranked ahead of him.
it was obvious Wednesday that he made a strong first impression.