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Showcase | Story | 2/20/2020

14u Showcases Providing Insight

Blake Dowson        
Photo: Conner Bennett (Perfect Game)

2020 14u Showcase Event Schedule

The third annual Perfect Game 14u South Showcase will be held this weekend in Tomball, Texas and will serve as the official start to the 14u showcase season, which lasts through September, culminating with the 14u PG Select Baseball Festival in Fort Myers.

In all, Perfect Game will host 22 14u showcase events in 2020, in regions all across the United States. It is an event and an age level that has grown in recent years, since the first 14u Select Baseball Festival was held in 2016.

“We had that inaugural 14u Festival, and obviously the talent was there,” PG National Crosschecker Jheremy Brown said. “What that was doing was just providing this platform a year earlier and allowing these players to get their numbers and metrics a year earlier. That allows them to build off of those numbers. And we’re seeing 14u players committing [to colleges], so why not let them showcase their talents amongst their peers rather than have them play up in a showcase? You get to see them on a level playing field.”

From 14u showcases in the South (Texas), Southwest (Arizona), East (Florida), West (California), Central (Missouri), and many other locations in between, younger prospects are now able to showcase their talent and establish a baseline of metrics to build off of during their prep career.

From those initial regional showcases, PG scouts can make assessments and determine invites to the 14u National Showcase, also held in Fort Myers at the end of July. From there, selections will be made for the 14u PG Select Baseball Festival in September.

PG scouts aren’t looking for pitchers throwing 90-plus mph at these events, and they aren’t showing up expecting to see hitters peppering the outfield walls during batting practice, according to Brown.

These early 14u events are to provide a glimpse into a prospect’s future.

“Looking at 14u compared to 17u, obviously they’re not as physically developed yet,” Brown said. “You do get some players who are already way stronger than their peers. So for me personally, I’m looking for one or two tools that can help set them apart from their peers. You’re looking for athleticism, body control, the way they move on the field. You know most of them are going to get stronger, they are going to grow.

“So if they have command on the mound, say, and a clean arm action, but the velocity isn’t there yet…you know it’s coming, so that’s obviously a name you’re going to write down and follow. Same goes for position players. In the infield, if they show good actions, softness in the hands, lateral range, footwork, but the arm strength isn’t there yet, you know that will come with added reps and time.”

The inaugural 14u Select Baseball Festival in 2016 aimed to highlight players in the 2020 graduating class who had shown a couple tools already in their game.

The list of alumni from that game is already quite impressive, and grows more remarkable as more players from the class stand out at different events.

Seven of the 2019 Perfect Game All-Americans also attended the inaugural 14u Festival – Michael Brooks, Dylan Crews, Alex Freeland, Mick Abel, Calvin Harris, Robert Hassell III, and Robert Moore.

Blaze Jordan, also a 2019 PG All-American, was at the second 14u Festival in 2017.

And Nate Wohlgemuth, of Jupiter fame after his 14-strikeout no-hitter there last fall, was also rostered in 2016.

The 2019 14u PG Select Baseball Festival roster was full of players who first attended more regional showcases.

Conner Bennett, the No. 7 catcher in the 2023 class out of Spring, Texas, attended the 14u South Showcase before being selected for the 14u National Showcase and later the Festival.

Walter Ford, the No. 3 shortstop in the 2023 class, and Aidan Miller, the No. 2 overall player in the class, were both at the 2019 14u Sunshine East Showcase in Fort Myers, where both were named to the Top Prospect List and Top Prospect Team.

They are examples of players who showed signs of becoming high-level prospects in the future, so PG scouts earmarked them and followed along with their progress throughout the year, and will continue to do so.

“I always say with 14u, you’re just looking for a couple pieces of the puzzle,” Brown said. “You’re not going to complete the puzzle as a 14-year-old. You just want to find one or two pieces, maybe find a third. Then as you watch and they continue to develop and add another piece to the puzzle, hopefully by the time they are a senior, you kind of get that complete puzzle and you know who they are as a baseball player.”

With the seven 2019 PG All-Americans who attended the first 14u Festival back in 2016, along with Jordan and Wohlgemuth and many others, it came full circle. Brown and other PG scouts first saw them as 14-year-olds with a couple pieces of the puzzle put together.

Fast-forward a few years, and those same guys have mostly put the whole puzzle together, with first round draft selections and major Division I contributions in their near futures.

For most, if not all of them, it started at a regional event, wanting to prove they were better than the other players in that region.

What 14u PG showcases also do is allow prospects to compete against themselves throughout their career as they look to better those baseline numbers they put up at those initial showcases.

“You’re seeing most of these players for the first time, and that’s really what this is all about,” Brown said. “We want to reach into these regional showcases and find players we haven’t seen before. Then we can build our database of names and kind of get a feel for the class…It’s a good thing. You’re getting your name on the map, and what it provides for us at PG is it provides some solid numbers. We might see you in a tournament setting, but we won’t get your 60 time, your velocity across the diamond. In a tournament, maybe you just keep walking and we don’t even get to see you swing. In a showcase, you’re guaranteed those swings. It’s a more individualized look.”

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