Draft : : Prospect Scouting Reports
Thursday, April 11, 2013

Draft Focus: Matthew McPhearson

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game
Every weekday leading up to the 2013 MLB Draft, Perfect Game will be providing a scouting profile on a notable draft-eligible prospect.  Stay tuned to Perfect Game and be sure to visit the Draft Page for all of the latest info and reports pertaining to the draft.

Matthew McPhearson Perfect Game profile

Position:  OF
Height:  5-10
Weight:  170
Bats/Throws:  L-L
Birthdate:  April 18, 1995
High School:  Riverdale Baptist
City, State:  Columbia, Md.
Travel Team:  Marucci Elite
Commitment: Miami
Projected Draft Round:  2-3

The scene was in late July at the 2012 Perfect Game 17u World Series in Peoria, Arizona. A group of players from the eventual champion South Florida Elite were hanging around behind the backstop at the Mariners complex waiting for their game. The conversation (minus a few adjectives) went something like this:

“Hey, that kid who just committed to Miami is playing in this game,” (most of the Elite players are from the Miami area).

“Yeah, he can really fly, ran a 6.22 at the National last month, I was there.”

“That’s sick, there’s no way that anyone can run that fast, man!! What’s his name?”

As is normal for teenagers, they couldn’t come up with Matt McPhearson’s name right away, which I was happy to supply for them. It’s a name that they are probably much more familiar with now and will become increasingly so in the future.

McPhearson did indeed run a 6.22 in the 60 at the Perfect Game National. One of the phenomena’s about the Perfect Game National is that the 60 has evolved into as much of a “Rock Star” type event on the turf at the Metrodome as the Rawlings Home Run Challenge. Players do not run the 60 at the Area Code Games due to NCAA regulations, and they run them hand timed on thick grass in the outfield on a team by team basis at the East Coast Pro Showcase and don’t find out their times until later. The allure of electronic times, with immediate and very public feedback in front of all your peers (not to mention the scouts and coaches), is a big deal with the players.

And just as sluggers such as Justin Williams and Rowdy Tellez have gained notoriety for their home run contest exploits, McPhearson is the “Rock Star” in the 2013 class when it comes to the 60. It comes with the requisite swag and stature.

There are plenty of other players who have posted fast times in the 60. Top outfield prospects Austin Meadows and and Clint Frazier ran 6.31 and 6.42, respectively, at the National Showcase. Josh Hart, another speedy pure centerfielder, ran a 6.49. Times from home to first base, where McPhearson is regularly in the 4.0 to 4.1 range, are frequently used in evaluating speed on the baseball field.

But once all those numbers are crunched and put into context, it still boils down to whether the player is a just a very fast runner who is trying to play baseball, or whether he is a skilled baseball player who just happens to be very fast. One of the separators for McPhearson is that he is a very skilled baseball player who has an instinctive and developed understanding of his speed and how it can impact the game in every area offensively and defensively.

McPhearson’s instincts for baseball do come somewhat as a surprise, although his athletic ability does not. His father and four of his older brothers have all played Division I football, some at major schools. McPhearson, ironically enough, fell in love with baseball at a very early age and has never played football seriously.

Offensively, the left handed hitting McPhearson has a very short quick twitch swing that emphasizes contact and hitting the ball to all fields and usually on the ground or as a line drive. He’s definitely not a slap hitter, although a fair number of his contacts are to the middle of the field or to the opposite field, and can drive the gaps on occasion, especially when he pulls the ball.

This is a very important distinction when evaluating the type of hitter McPhearson could be as a big leaguer. The two basic prototypes for the smaller, blazing fast left handed hitting centerfielder are Michael Bourn and Ben Revere. The difference in the two and the reason why Bourn is the better player is that he has the strength and bat speed to produce 25-30 doubles and close to double figures in triples every year, while Revere only has 22 doubles and 9 triples in his two full seasons combined. With all else being equal, that’s the difference between a .675 OPS and a .750 OPS for two otherwise similar players.

McPhearson performed at a very high level at all the major events and against top level pitching last summer, and did show that occasional extra base power along with a good eye (walks that turn into doubles when he steals second) and very high contact ratios.

He also hit .355-0-22 with 30 walks and only 13 strikeouts during his 40 game high school season last summer. Perhaps most impressively, McPhearson stole 68 bases in 72 attempts and scored 47 runs. There is no official national high school statistical leaderboard, but MaxPreps.com, which collects statistics from many high schools around the country, lists McPhearson as the national leader in steals in 2012 by a margin of seven over his nearest competitor.

McPhearson has the same type of ability to use his speed on defense. He has outstanding range in centerfield in all directions and gets quick jumps and runs solid routes. He played left field a couple of times during the summer and, whether by coincidence or just skill, was absolutely dominant at that position, especially coming in on the ball. McPhearson’s raw arm strength is fringy average but very accurate, with sound footwork and a quick release.

So for a scout evaluating McPhearson, it’s pretty easy to write a report that has three future plus tools in his speed, defense at a premium position and his ability to hit for a high average. With a strong and healthy spring, that should be enough to likely get the Maryland speedster into the top two rounds in June.

Perfect Game events attended:

   2010 WWBA 2011 Grads or 17u National Championship
    2010 WWBA Underclass World Championship
    2010 WWBA World Championship
    2010 National Underclass Showcase-Main Event
    2011 Jr National Showcase
    2011 WWBA 2012 Grads or 17u National Championship
    2011 WWBA Underclass World Championship
    2011 WWBA World Championship
    2012 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational
    2012 National Showcase
    2012 WWBA 2013 Grads or 17u National Championship
    2012 17U BCS Finals
    2012 17U Perfect Game World Series
    2012 WWBA World Championship

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