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All American Game : : Story
Aflac Impressions
Published: Thursday, August 17, 2006

The fourth annual Aflac All American Classic is in the books. Once again, another impressive collection of talent was on display on national television, a collection that most believe is the best group of high school players as the event continues to get bigger and better. If you haven’t checked them out already, be sure to read the day-by-day reports from the event from Jerry Ford and Allan Simpson on PGCrosschecker.com.

In those day-by-day reports, both Ford and Simpson noted the overall size of the players, the big time arms and the big-time power hitters that were in attendance. They also talked about the overall generally sloppy play of the game, which often happens when a bunch of players come together to play as a team for the first time, and also when those same players are trying to give it their all on each and every pitch and with each and every swing knowing they are playing in front of dozens of scouts and thousands of viewers nationally on television.

I’m going to focus on a few of the players that stood out to me, a baker’s dozen from each squad. These players aren’t necessarily the best prospects from the collection of talent in San Diego, and it’s important to remember that these are impressions coming from just one game combined with my familiarity with the players from previous events. If you remember my reports from last year, and in other columns, you probably know that I prefer polish over potential.

East Squad

Michael Burgess

There were quite a few players with impressive power on display during batting practice and as part of the home run derby, but none were more impressive than Burgess. While he didn’t fare very well in the game itself, striking out twice in four at-bats (one on a 94 mph fastball from Michael Main, the other on a nasty hook from Kyle Blair) you could definitely see the offensive potential from his stance, his swing and his overall approach. Burgess has big-league bat speed, and when he stays within himself he is going to smack the ball to all parts of the field. Top it off with a cannon for an arm, and you have a potential superstar in right field.

Kentrail Davis

Davis stepped up to the plate and I thought I was watching Kirby Puckett. Short and stout, Davis defies his stature by showing off good power, quick hands, solid bat speed, and impressive foot speed. During the game he walked and hit an infield single, swiping a bag each time he was on base. Davis also shows good range in the outfield and an average arm at worse. He may not be the 6’4”, 200-pound athlete scouting directors pine for, but you know what you’re getting in Davis.

Derek Dietrich

Dietrich impressed me with his hitting base when he stepped into the batter’s box. A left-handed hitter, he showed me some solid hitting mechanics and a quick swing despite being generally regarded as raw as a hitter. Dietrich hit an impressive opposite field ground-rule double in the second inning off Paul Demny. I think Dietrich ends up at second or third base, and could turn into a player similar to Todd Walker.

Jason Heyward

Heyward is a blend of physical tools and established baseball prowess. He is very tall and well built with a high waist and long, strong limbs. Given his size you would think he would have a very long swing, but he controlled the strike zone very well and was short to the ball. Heyward was 2-3 in the game with a pair of RBI singles and a pair of walks. He also showed off his impressive speed for his size by swiping four bags. Had the East won the game, he would have easily been the MVP.

D.J. LeMahieu

It was hard not to take notice of LeMahieu, who is built long and lean, with an upright stance at the plate reminding me of the way Chipper Jones looks in the batters box. Everything LeMahieu hit was hit to the opposite field (right), which included a towering RBI double in the second inning. He has very quick hands, and his willingness to take the pitch the other way is a good sign of a solid hitting approach. When he starts to pull inside pitches he’s going to hit them a very long way given his stature and bat speed.

Neil Ramirez

Ramirez was the first pitcher in the game that caught my eye. Michael Main, Matt Harvey and Robert Stock did a fine job lighting up the radar guns, but Ramirez was the first pitcher that truly pitched. All of his pitches showed good movement, and there is a fair amount of deception to his delivery. Ramirez looks like a throwback player, and with a low-90s fastball and hard breaking ball with his command he should enjoy continued success as he heads into his final year in high school and moves onto either college or the professional ranks.

Sam Runion

I don’t think anyone commanded their stuff as well as Runion did. He spotted his sinking 90-93 mph fastball extremely well, mixing in a very good changeup and a solid curveball. Built tall and thick with a strong lower half, Runion should have no problems sustaining the rigors of starting every five days in the professional ranks. Guys like Ramirez and Runion made it hard to believe that I was watching players that had yet to enter the senior years of high school.

West Squad

Tim Alderson

Alderson and Runion opened my eyes more than any other player. Alderson used all of nine pitches to get out of the fourth inning, the only pitcher in the game that didn’t allow a single baserunner. He employs somewhat of a violent, herky-jerky delivery that creates a fair amount of deception and seems to make his stuff faster than it actually is. Alderson spotted his low 90s sinking fastball extremely well, and once he set batters up with that pitch, he put them away with a nasty, nasty slider. Yet another pitcher with a big, strong frame, the sky is the limit for Alderson.

Christian Colon

The game’s MVP, Colon went 2-3 with three stolen bases and three runs scored. He showed very strong defense at shortstop with good range and solid arm strength. At the plate, Colon used quick hands to make very good contact. There is some power potential down the road, but Colon is going to earn his keep by solidifying the infield defense and getting on base at the top of the batting order.

Jon Gilmore

Gilmore resembled D.J. LeMahieu quite a bit, with a nice, tall frame, sloped shoulders and perfect athletic proportions. Unlike LeMahieu, Gilmore seemed to prefer to pull the ball. In his first at-bat in the first inning he turned on an inside 94 mph fastball from Michael Main for a double hit high off the wall in left field. His size may cause him to move to third base once he enters pro ball, but he should have enough arm strength and power potential to justify the move to the hot corner.

Erik Goeddel

Goeddel was the last pitcher to throw for the West squad, pitching the ninth inning. He has a slow, deliberate wind-up before his arm whips through in his delivery. He has a good pitching frame, with wide hips and strong upper legs, offering plenty of room for more strength throughout. His present day stuff is very good, as his fastball sits in the 89-93 range, and once he settled in he snapped off several very good curveballs, using a pair of 77 mph breakers to strike out Danny Rams and John Tolisano to end the game. No other Aflac All-American showed that kind of command of such a lethal one-two punch like Goeddel did.

Greg Peavey

Peavey worked incredibly fast, getting the ball in his glove, getting the sign from the catcher and letting it fly. He started off by missing high, which seemed to be part of his almost impatience on the mound. But once he settled in he started to lower his low-90s sinking fastball, and flashed a very nasty curveball. Peavey walked Heyward to open the third inning, and then retired Hunter Morris, Rams and Tolisano in order, Morris and Rams on a 91 mph fastball and nasty hook respectively.

Tanner Robles

Robles reminded me of Brett Anderson from a year ago in that he had a clean delivery and an advanced idea of what he was doing on the mound as a left-handed pitcher. Robles is a much better athlete than Anderson is, built long and lean, with broad shoulders and strong limbs. Robles showed good command of his 88-92 mph fastball, but he will need to tighten up his fairly loopy curveball. His fastball has been recorded as high as 95 in the past, and his curveball has looked much better than what it did on this day, so it seems as though Robles may have been working without his best stuff, another tribute to his moxie on the mound.

Josh Vitters

I’ll save the best for last. No player showed as much current baseball polish as Josh Vitters did. He may have some work to do defensively, and isn’t the fastest of players, but he currently has the most polished approach and skills at the plate that I have seen from any 2007 draft eligible player. Using quick hands and a disciplined eye, Vitters had his best at-bat in the first inning. Facing Michael Main, Vitters fouled off several very good fastballs and curveballs to stay alive to wait for a low, 94 mph fastball that he ripped to left field in a 10-pitch at-bat. He added two more doubles in the game, walked once and recorded only one out in five plate appearances.

The thoughts and opinions listed here do not necessarily reflect those of Perfect Game USA. Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and Brewerfan.net, and can be contacted via email at pebert@brewerfan.net