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Showcase  | Story  | 12/22/2022

Main Event: Historical BP Standouts

David Rawnsley     
Photo: Benny Montgomery (Perfect Game)
Batting practice is one of the most valued rituals in all of baseball as well as a key component of any Perfect Game showcase. And at no event does it take on more importance and grandeur than at the National Underclass Main Event Showcase, if simply due the huge multi-day size of conducting BP.

In 2021, PG scouts Jered Goodwin, John McAdams and myself scouted 32 teams of batting practice on the first day of the Main Event, followed up by 25 teams on the second day, before Jheremy Brown and Tyler Russo took over for another 25 teams of younger players on the third day. If there is any one-day scouting task as arduous and demanding as scouting 25-32 teams of players (figure up to 475-500 individual players) in a single day, I don’t know what it would be.

That got us to thinking about the best batting practice rounds we’ve seen over the last 20 years of this event, not coincidently the number of years I’ve been at the event scouting batting practice. I reached out to Goodwin and Brown, along with PG’s two most prolific and durable PG throwers, Lloyd Thompson and Rico Billups, to tap into their memories.

Here are the highlights (showcase year in brackets).

Jason Heyward (2005): Heyward took BP at Clemente Field at Terry Park and put on a show, putting five or six straight balls over the National Guard shed over the right field fence. The BP pitcher, Billy Nicholson, grinned at Heyward after the round and said “Found your spot didn’t I, Jason?” Heyward then went over to the Stadium Field to play in a showcase game and hit the ball off the batting eye for triples his first two trips to the plate.

My notes on Heyward from that BP read: Best batting practice of the year. Attacked the ball. Huge power. Light tower shots. Plus/plus bat speed. Still hits with limited movement towards pitcher but is so strong he doesn't need it. Ball exploded on contact.

Eric Hosmer (2006): Hosmer remains one of the best high school hitters I’ve ever scouted. After seeing what he was capable of doing in high school, it’s always been frustrating to the entire scouting community how little relative over the fence power he’s shown as a big leaguer. It was easy for him as a teenager.

Hosmer: Looks to be in great shape, man's body, ML body, open to close approach, ++ bat speed, back hand comes off early, easy power, hit 3-4 out. Comes easy to him.

Ryan "Scooter" Gennett (2007): People always seemed surprised when Gennett, all 165 pounds of him, hit home runs, whether it be in high school or when he hit 50 during the 2017/2018 big league seasons. But if you watched him in batting practice you knew where it came from. He was my Home Run Derby favorite at the 2008 PG National Showcase but lost out to Jonathan Singleton.

Gennett: HBE, wraps bat Julio Franco style, + bat quickness, Dead Red pull hitter, spread crouch stance, bat speed, quick twitch athlete, solid pull contact, shows power.

Dwight Smith (2008): Smith was the son of a big leaguer and even as a sophomore was one of the top hitters in high school baseball. He was the 53rd overall pick in the 2011 draft and has played in parts of four big league seasons but seems like he never decided whether he wanted to be a home run hitter or a high contact hitter.

Smith: Compact build, very strong, mature for age, open stance, balanced swing, has serious bat speed when pulling, hit big bomb well over building in RCF, tends to be stiff and take hands with him when going middle/oppo.

Edwin Rios (2010): This was a surprise nomination but Jered’s memory proved correct with a look at the notes. Rios was a slender 6-foot-3, 165-pound athlete with no PG track record at all when he showed up at the 2010 Main Event. He left as the number six player on the event Top Prospect List.

Rios: + long legs, slender, lacks present strength, very quick hands, + hand use in swing, gets barrel out, hits easy, tension free swing, ++ projection, has + hitting tools, really like!

Kel Johnson/Dazmon Cameron (2012): These East Cobb teammates need to be lumped together as they went together in the same BP round. The rounds were completely different but equally as amazing as two of the best rounds ever at the event. Note that Cameron was a year younger than Johnson and only a sophomore. The notes say it all.

Johnson: Ungodly power display in the Mark McGwire/Dave Kingman mode, 7 balls out, very busy load, almost casual approach, doesn't show exceptional raw bat speed/barrel acceleration but ball comes off barrel like he's swinging a 5 iron. Can't show your tools any better than this.

Cameron: easy swing, easy plus power, plus/plus bat speed, approach is so calm and balanced, tall stance with ideal weight flow, just peppered the LF wall and put a few dents in it, one of the best BP's I've seen in some time.

Brendan Rodgers (2012): Like Daz Cameron above, Rodgers made his Main Event debut as a sophomore, which was relatively rare a decade ago. This was really his coming out party as a prospect, which eventually led to his being the top ranked player in the 2015 high school class and the third overall pick in the 2015 draft. The talent was obvious as a sophomore, though.

Rodgers: very projectable build, big stride in, stronger than he looks, really generates bat speed with whole body, ball jumps hard, big LCF power, accelerates the barrel, put 4 in net in LCF, going to be a stud.

Jack Barrie (2013): If you’ve never heard of Barrie, that’s fine. The 6-foot-4, 253-pound Australian signed for $200,000 after his Main Event performance in 2013 but only lasted 76 at-bats with the Twins in rookie ball. But on this day, his BP won him a big bonus and a standing ovation from the JetBlue Stadium audience. In true Aussie fashion, Barrie jogged out to the mound to shake BP pitcher Tim Lowery’s hand in thanks afterwards.

Barrie: + strong, strong and short swing, BIG jump on contact, crushed some balls, loud line drive contact when not lifted, hit one out just to side of batter's eye, got standing ovation from crowd at finish.

Yoel Tejeda Jr (2018): Tejeda was a 15-year-old freshman and listed at 6-foot-6, 180-pounds when he attended the 2018 Main Event. Despite his gangly and very young appearance, he routinely lifted 400-foot fly balls to the deepest part of JetBlue with a low effort swing. Tejeda and Kel Johnson (above) might be the only two times ever that I’ve made a golf club reference in BP notes.

Tejeda: LH only, + tall, open stance, lifting swing, swings hard and has + projection, high extended finish with natural loft, mid F lift, hitting easy low effort 380-400 foot 9 irons to CF, high ceiling potential when he adds strength

Tommy White (2018): “Tommy Tanks” power didn’t show itself in games much in high school, taking the form of doubles rather than home runs, but batting practice was a different matter. White ruled batting practice at basically every showcase he attended.

White: + spread, swings hard, power is definitely there, 2 completely out of the yard, big shift in even with being spread, not pretty to see until the ball hits the barrel, then it's BAM

Benny Montgomery (2019): Montgomery’s 2019 Main Event performance across the board ranks among the most impressive in the history of the event. He ran a 6.42 and threw 97 in drills. He had a double and triple in the games and threw out a couple of runners on the bases. Batting practice was just a cherry on the cake.

Montgomery: straight stance, has seriously explosive hands, hits deep in the zone, LCF, can pull his hands in, playing pepper with the wall with serious jump, sweet.

Dillon Head (2020):
That anyone was able to show out in 2020 was notable given the struggles simply to find places to work out during the year during the pandemic. And Head was hardly a household name in the prospect community, ranking 406th in the 2022 class coming into the Main Event. But show out he did, displaying his athleticism all over the field and especially in BP.

Head: Big coil, bat speed, open start, pulls, big shift in, plenty of intent, balanced and out front, like this, hard pull, really projects.