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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Looking to impress at P/C Indoor

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Right around 85 top pitching and catching prospects from the high school classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015 will congregate at Perfect Game headquarters on this city’s near southwest side Saturday and Sunday for the 14th annual PG Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase.

They’ll come largely from cold-weather states, eager to perform in front of an ardent scouting community weeks before they’ll be able to get outside to play. But regardless of where they come from, each one will enter the event with something to prove, even if they’ve already proven themselves time and again over the years.

Clinton Hollon is a 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-hander out of Lexington, Ky., who pitched at the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase in Minneapolis, was selected for the prestigious Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego, and has already signed with the University of Kentucky in his hometown.

It’s a very important event for Hollon, who is scheduled to throw on Saturday morning. It provides his first opportunity to pitch in front of scouts since the East Coast Professional Showcase in early August; he didn’t pitch at the PG All-American Classic because of mild flexor tendonitis in his right forearm.

The fact that Hollon was the first prospect to sign-up in mid-November for the PG P/C Indoor speaks volumes of his eagerness – and readiness – to get back out on the mound and provide scouts with another opportunity to see him work before June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Perfect Game ranks Hollon as the No. 13 overall prospect in the 2013 high school class and the No. 53 overall (college, juco, high school) prospect in the draft. As of Wednesday afternoon, 15 top-500 pitching and catching prospects from the class of 2013 and five top-300 prospects from the class of 2014 had signed up for the event.

No. 22-nationally ranked left-hander A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids, Iowa); No. 52 left-hander Jake Brentz (Ballwin, Mo.); No. 68 right-hander Devin Williams (Florissant, Mo.); No. 87 right-hander/catcher Andrew Dunlap (Houston, Texas) and No. 180 catcher Chuckie Robinson (Danville, Ill.) joined Hollon as the highest-ranked 2013s that will attend. Puk, a University of Florida signee ranked the No. 46 overall prospect in the draft, will step in to hit but won't pitch at the showcase.

Brentz, who has committed to Jefferson (Mo.) College, was first noticed by scouts when he threw 94 mph at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in late October; this event gives scouts a second opportunity to observe the raw prospect. Williams has signed with Missouri and Robinson with Southern Mississippi.

The highest-ranked 2014 that will be in the house is No. 41 right-hander Alex Lange (Lee’s Summit, Mo.), a Louisiana State commit. Lange’s fastball touched 91 mph at several PG events last summer, including the PG Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis in mid-June. Catcher Tanner Gragg (Overland Park, Kan.) has risen to No. 109 in the 2014 national prospect rankings, and will also be in attendance.

Thirteen alumni of the PG Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase went on to play in the major leagues, including first-round picks Jeff Clement (here in 2001, ’02) and Chad Billingsley (2002); second-round pick Ryan Sweeney (2001, ’03) and fourth-rounder Jeremy Hellickson. One hundred-and-seventeen alumni have been selected in the first 10 rounds of the draft since 2002.

All of the young prospects in attendance this weekend can dream of duplicating Hellickson’s career path.

Eight years ago, in February of 2005, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound right-hander from Des Moines, Iowa, arrived at Perfect Game’s headquarters to perform in the 5th annual P/C Indoor Showcase. Hellickson had already pitched at the 2004 Aflac All-American Classic and the 2003 PG National Showcase, and by the time he was out of high school he had participated in 17 PG events in all.

By showing up at the 2005 P/C Indoor, Hellickson proved there is no such thing as too much exposure. He returned to Cedar Rapids for the ’05 PG Spring Top Prospect Showcase and the ’05 PG Pre-Draft Showcase and weeks later was made a fourth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 2005 draft. In 2011, he was named the American League Rookie of the Year while pitching for the Rays.


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