Showcase : : Story
Sunday, June 19, 2016

National a 'blessing' for Scherff

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Joy Absalon


Also see: Royce Lewis feature

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A brief rain shower and some distant lightning made top Texas right-hander Alex Scherff wait an additional two hours before he could make his much-anticipated Father’s Day start at the 16th edition of the Perfect Game National Showcase.

Weather delays are commonplace at baseball events in Southwest Florida this time of year, and both Alex Scherff or his dad, Brad Scherff, shook this one off like a duck shakes a handful of raindrops off its back. The sun was bound to come back out at some point, the grounds crew at jetBlue Park would have the tarp removed and the field playable in no time and, hey, it was Father’s Day. Where else would a father and son rather be than at a ballpark?

“Oh my god, this is the best thing in the world,” Brad Scherff said in the moments before his son finally trotted out to the mound at jetBlue to make his start in front of a large and very tuned-in gathering of scouts. “He’s a good kid, this is a great (event) and he’s just a great kid to come out and watch on Father’s Day.”

Speaking hours before his originally scheduled start, Alex Scherff expressed many of the same thoughts about his station in life his dad did much later in the day:

“I think it’s a huge blessing to be here,” he said. “I’m just glad I can meet some new guys and be around a bunch of great players. I’m hoping to advance my play and learn from my peers and learn from some great coaches. I just want to come in and just play my game and just pitch how I pitch. I really want to leave it all on the table.”

Scherff is a 6-foot-5, 225-pound 18-year-old senior-to-be at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, who calls Colleyville, Texas, home. Before he and his dad, Brad, and his mom, Whitney, arrived in Southwest Florida early last week, word had spread that Scherff’s fastball had been gunned at 97 mph during a recent workout back home in Texas, so the scouts’ interest was understandably piqued.

He worked two innings late Sunday afternoon and didn’t disappoint, with his fastball sitting consistently at 93-95 mph while also showing good command of his changeup and slider. This was Scherff’s first PG showcase experience after racking up tons of tournament time playing with Ray DeLeon and the Houston Banditos Baseball organization. He went out to the mound at jetBlue, analyzed the situation and made the decision to not change a thing about his approach.

“I think it’s important to keep that same mindset,” Scherff said. “If you go into something with a kind of half-effort, you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. I think that’s always really important to remember not only out on the baseball field but in everyday life.

“If you go out here just feeling like you’re going to pitch seven (innings) and you have a great mindset, you’re going to do great,” he said. “The competitive atmosphere (in a showcase environment) is really enjoyable for me personally. I think it’s really fun to be around this sort of thing and I really enjoy it.”

The list of pitchers that walked off the mound after turning in eye-opening outings at this year’s PG National – which concludes Monday – got longer with each passing day, and Scherff really only wanted to add his name to that list.

There were quite a few pitchers at the event ranked higher nationally than the tall, Texas right-hander (he came in at No. 117 but that is sure to improve) and with his commitment to Arizona State University (and his remarkable 4.1 GPA) he knew he belonged in any conversation scouts might have about ability, reliability and character.

Florida pitchers like right-handers Tyler Ahearn and Brandon McCabe, and left-handers Logan Allen and Jordan Butler; California hurlers including the right-handers Kyle Hurt and Hunter Greene; Alabama righty Tanner Burns and Georgia lefty D.L. Hall, and fellow Texan Shane Baz were among the most impressive before Scherff took his turn. It’s safe to say he’s joined a select group that will be considered for inclusion on a roster at August’s Perfect Game All-American Classic, but those rosters won’t be finalized and announced until mid-July.

The Scherff family was very appreciative of the invitation Alex received to the PG National and fulfilled a dream of his. Coincidentally, perhaps, a couple of days ago when the family was already in Fort Myers, Alex received an invitation from USA Baseball to attend the tryouts for the 18u National Team in Cary, N.C., which begin on Tuesday.

It does seem to be an early reward for the hard work Alex Scherff has already put in. His father recalls his son seeming to have knack for the game when he was as young as 3 years old, and it wasn’t long after that Brad began to coach him. Brad had some experience wearing the coaching cap with Alex’s older brother, Chris Scherff, a 2015 high school graduate who also played with the Banditos and is already in Tempe as a member of the Arizona State baseball program.

“One of the greatest joys in my life was not having to coach (Alex) anymore,” Brad said with a laugh. “He’s become so good that I guess I could say he’s beyond my limits, so turn him over to these professionals is another blessing. PG has always done really well with everyone and it’s very nice to sit back and watch him grow.”

While coming of age, Alex and Chris were very close and Alex always played an age-group or two up with his older brother’s teams, even all the way through the Chris’s 17u Banditos teams. Brad recalled an instance when Alex was 9 years old and was playing with his brother’s 11u team, and he watched Alex pick up a ground ball at shortstop; his throw to first base almost took the first baseman’s head off, he threw it that hard.

“That’s when I first noticed Alex had velocity,” Brad Scherff said. “We started letting Alex pitch at 10 playing up on 12u teams and he was dominant; he’s done that his whole life. And I would say Alex is probably the kid with the biggest heart I’ve ever met in my life. He’s extremely coachable, he’s knowledgeable and very much a student of the game, and now I get to sit back and watch.”

The association with DeLeon and Houston Banditos organization has been nothing but positive, Brad Scherff said, and that’s due in large part to DeLeon himself and the people he allows to be associated with the program. Brad noted that two years ago Alex’s pitching coach with the Banditos was Shane Reynolds, and last year it was Roger Clemens with a big assist from Andy Pettite. On top of that, Rafael Palmiero is a neighbor of the Scherffs in Colleyville, “right across the pond from us,” Brad said.

As is the case with every other prospect in attendance at the PG National Showcase over the past six days, the summer of 2016 is a very important one for Alex Scherff. He has the college commitment that he is extremely proud of and excited about – “That’s just where I’ve wanted to play college ball for a long time,” he said of ASU – and if he can equal or improve upon his performance at the PG National Showcase when he’s in Cary at the USA Baseball event this week, his stock in the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft is going to soar.

And on this Father’s Day, he can also rest assured he has the total support of his family behind him. Brad Scherff might have been the proudest dad in attendance at jetBlue Park Sunday afternoon, and that’s saying a lot considering the quality of kids down on the field and the quality of dads that populated the stadium seating area.

“First and foremost, Alex was raised a Christian,” Brad Scherff said. “He’s learned on his mission trips – and thank God baseball has allowed him to do this – how to become a better Christian. … He’s met a lot of great people and he’s expanded his knowledge in baseball and in life, I guess. It’s a wonderful thing what he gets to do here. The doors that have opened and all the people that have really treated Alex so well has just been a positive thing for him.”



National Showcase Day 5 Standouts

Here are a few of the players that stood out on Day 5 of the 2016 PG National Showcase. To view the workout results and read more about the participating players in the scout blogs please click on the links supplied below.

Workout Results | Scout Blogs | Day 1 Standouts | Day 2 Standouts | Day 3 Standouts | Day 4 Standouts

D’Mond LaFond impressed on the mound as an uncommitted arm with a short, compact arm action from a high three-quarters arm slot. LaFond did not rely much on his lower half, but showed impressive arm speed from the windup and stretch with his fastball sitting 90-92 mph and hitting 93 mph from both with good angle towards the plate. He worked downhill exceptionally well and showed a 12-to-6 curveball with good depth. He also threw an intriguing changeup in his two innings with downward, slightly arm-side dive.

Another impressive arm in the long list on Sunday was Arizona commit Matthew Sauer. The projectable righthander, standing at 6-foot-4, 192-pounds, has tons of room to fill which will continue to add to his fastball and durability. In addition, he has a very loose, whippy arm action from a three-quarters arm slot with good extension down the mound. He located very well with his 88-92 mph fastball that touched 93, showing arm-side life with good angle towards the plate. Sauer missed a lot of bats with his slider that showed good tilt and also showed feel for a changeup.

A player who made consistent, loud contact through batting practice and in game action was Canadian outfielder Adam Hall. The Texas A&M commit found the barrel driving a ball through the right side with a strong lower half and good rhythm through his weight transfer. He showed impressive hand speed and leverage in other swings after showing his pull power in batting practice.

In an event filled with lots of pitchers who showed legitimate arm strength – whether it be it positionally or on the mound – Alex Scherff (as featured above) stole the show on Sunday with his display of not only arm strength, but command and secondary stuff as well. The strong, physical righthander and native Texan was simply outstanding over his two innings, working 93-95 mph with his fastball, featuring solid running life on the pitch and complementing it with two off-speed pitches that both project at least above average in his slider and changeup. The changeup is especially advanced right now, already flashing 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, with excellent arm speed/action replication and fading action on it, and he was especially comfortable in working backwards by starting hitters off with the changeup. The slider projects well too, showing good spin and bite with tilting life, and as he throws it harder as he matures it will become sharper and sharper until it too, like the changeup, becomes a plus offering. He has the size, delivery and full arsenal to project as a legitimate starting pitching prospect, and over the course of the summer should vault himself into the upper echelon of 2017 prospects across the country.

Luis Campusano has really burst onto the national scene in the past few days, showing a very well-rounded overall game, both offensively and defensively, while being one of the best all-around catchers in attendance. The swing is short, direct and leveraged – built for hard line drive contact with solid pop – and he projects well with the stick to hit for average and gap-to-gap power at the next level. Combine that with his defensive prowess behind the plate, where he shows the quick-twitch athleticism and mechanical feel necessary to profile there long term, and you have an exciting prospect at a demanding position. His fundamentals are sound, his arm is strong and the athleticism is advanced for the catching position. He consistently pops sub-2.0 seconds in game, a weapon at any level, and with the offensive profile he has he looks to be one of the best catchers in the class of 2017.

The Vanderbilt Commodores have the top-ranked 2017 recruiting class on a national level and among their 18 talented recruits is Tennessee native Hugh Fisher. A top-100 prospect in the 2017 class (No. 88 to be exact) Fisher has long been an ultra-projectable arm, though he’s added strength to his 6-foot-5 frame and with it he’s starting to show high-level stuff. The arm action is quick and loose through the back side and over the course of the first inning the lefthanded Fisher worked rather comfortably around 91 mph, bumping a 92 once or twice. And though he’s already showing noteworthy velocity, there’s plenty of optimism among scouts that even more is on the way given the physical projection and overall delivery. On top of the velocity Fisher showed comfort in spinning a tight curveball with hard spin and downer shape as well as a changeup, which he showed plenty of comfort in throwing with diving life to his arm side at 78 mph.

Ben Ramirez has long been a known name on the circuit as he was an early commit to the University of Southern California and he certainly had the skills to back it up. Since committing his tools have progressed just as most expected and there’s even more room for the California native to grow stronger. A 6.89 runner with arm strength across, Ramirez showed off both his range and athleticism while playing second base – despite being listed at 6-foot-3 – as he moved extremely well to his left to snag a soft flare in shallow right field. The lefthanded swing just may end up being his biggest tool however, and after taking a quality round of batting practice on Saturday night, Ramirez showed that his stroke translated well against live pitching. He picked up a double down the left field line and found the barrel with regularity throughout the day, showing comfort as well as an ability to work to the opposite field.

Speaking of quality workouts, Notre Dame commit Brian Morrell showed extremely well during the drills portion of the event as he swung a quality stick from the right side and showed big arm strength (94 mph) as well as smooth actions up the middle of the infield. And as loud as those tools are, he’s listed in the program as a primary righthanded pitcher where he again turned in a solid performance. Morrell comfortably sat in the low-90s with his fastball over his two frames and touched 93 mph while mixing in both a sharp curveball and slider, each showing distinct shape.

Of the slew of players to take reps in the outfield during the skills portion of the showcase Gustavo Rodriguez and Bo Majowski had two of the top nine outfield velocities at 95 and 94 mph respectively. The reason for these two names being singled out is that both Rodriguez, a young prospect from the Dominican Republic, and Majowski, a Clemson commit, uncorked throws to the plate to nail a runner in game action showing the same exceptional arm strength they did in drills. On a sharply hit ball to right field Rodriguez came charging in hard and delivered an on-line strike, showing exceptional carry and accuracy to beat the runner by a couple of feet, while Majowski’s was a just as impressive with a one-hop strike to get the runner on a bang-bang play.


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