Showcase : : Story
Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The World at their doorstep

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Just one year removed from a show-stopping performance by Carlos Correa that ultimately impacted the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, is it possible another young Puerto Rican prospect can have a similar impact at this weekend's 2013 Perfect Game World Showcase?

Nothing, certainly, can be ruled out at this point.

2012 Perfect Game All-American shortstop Jan Hernandez from Puerto Rico will be at the 16th annual PG World Showcase Saturday and Sunday at Terry Park looking to make a splash similar to the one Correa made just 12 months ago.

That was when 2011 PG All-American Correa put on an exceptional hitting and defensive display that enhanced his standing in the eyes of the MLB scouting community and eventually led to him being the No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Astros in the 2012 draft.

Hernandez enters the 2013 PG World Showcase as the nation's No. 18 overall prospect (No. 1 in Puerto Rico) in the class of 2013 and is one of nearly 60 Puerto Rican prospects that will be here this weekend. The PG World Showcase -- with close to 220 participants this year -- continues to take on more of an international flavor every year, with mostly upper class players from the Dominican Republic, Canada and this year Germany, joining those from nearly all of the lower 48 states and Puerto Rico.

The World Showcase will be staged simultaneously with the 2013 PG World Uncommitted Showcase and 2013 National Underclass Showcase-Session 3. Those events will bring more than 200 additional prospects to Terry Park this weekend.

Hernandez will be among the most closely watched. He was the recipient of the 2012 PG Nick Adenhart Award at the PG All-American Classic presented by Rawlings in August, an award that recognizes a prospect's heart and character. He has done nothing but continue to impress at every PG event he's attended since the Classic, including being named the top prospect at the inaugural PG Caribbean Showcase in Puerto Rico in November.

Hernandez has not committed to a college and is widely viewed as a first-round draft selection in June.

All of the island's top 10-ranked 2013 prospects will join No. 1-ranked Hernandez here this weekend, including No. 2 catcher Carlos Diaz, No. 3 right-hander Joe Alexander Jimenez, No. 4 catcher Rene Melendez Pena and No. 5 shortstop Edwin Diaz. Puerto Rican No. 8-ranked shortstop Johneshwy Fargas, named the No. 2 top prospect at the Caribbean Showcase behind Hernandez, will also be here.

No young ballplayer has been more active over the holiday break than standout shortstop/right-hander Nicholas Gordon from Windemere, Fla. Gordon, the son of former MLB closer Tom "Flash" Gordon, is a junior at Olympia High School and is ranked No. 3 nationally in the class of 2014.

He spent last weekend here performing at the 2012 PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event and was named the event's No. 2 overall top 2014 prospect. PG's national scouting director David Rawnsley noted that Gordon's "left-handed swing is crisp and short" and his "shortstop skills and tools keep maturing and he may be the top defensive player in the 2014 class." He also threw 91 mph off the mound at the event.

Top 2013s from the mainland that will be in attendance include No. 24-ranked Jon Denney, a catcher from Yukon, Okla.; No. 45 Wesley Jones, a shortstop from Lithonia, Ga., who was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2012 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., while helping East Cobb Baseball to the championship of that event in late October; No. 50 first baseman Nick Longhi from Venice, Fla.; and No. 72 shortstop Connor Heady from Prospect, Kentucky.

Denney has signed with Arkansas, Jones with Georgia, Longhi with Louisiana State and Heady with Kentucky.

Three highly regarded Dominican prospects -- left-hander Jacob Constante, third baseman Rafael Devers and outfielder Manuel Sanchez -- are expected to make their PG debuts. They were originally scheduled to be in Jupiter at the end of October but weren't able to make the trip from their homeland due to Hurricane Sandy.

The World Showcase was the first national-level showcase ever staged by Perfect Game, making its debut in 1997. One of the first attendees at the event was a young outfielder from Carlsbad, N.M., named Cody Ross who was selected in the fourth-round of the 1999 MLB amateur draft by the Detroit Tigers and has enjoyed nine productive seasons in the big leagues. He signed a three-year, $26 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks late last month.

Ross enjoyed his first experience at the 1997 PG World Showcase so much he returned again in 1998 when he was joined at Terry Park by MLB All-Star Carl Crawford, among others.

“I came down (to Fort Myers) and there were quite a few scouts and quite a few college (recruiters) in the stands watching a bunch of us play,” Ross recalled during a conversation with Perfect Game at spring training last March when he was a member of the Boston Red Sox.

“I remember somebody telling me ‘It’s going to be good for you because a lot of these college teams and a lot of these scouts have never seen you because you’re on the West Coast.’ It was great exposure for me there.”

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