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Monday, April 15, 2002

The National Scouting Hot Spot

Perfect Game Staff        
Sunday April 14th, Carroll Stadium, Carroll, Iowa

Carroll, IA.- About a dozen Scouting Directors spent Sunday in Carroll, Iowa of all places. They were joined by scouts, cross checkers and other high level major league personnel, making the small Iowa town of Carroll the nation’s hottest scouting spot for one day. So what could cause all this ruckus? The Perfect Game Spring Scout League. This league has produced every high school player drafted out of Iowa for the past seven years.

While there are several excellent prospects in the league this year, these scouts were there for one reason…make that two reasons and they were both on the same team. Catcher Jeff Clement and big right-handed pitcher Zach Hammes. Other top seniors from Iowa in Carroll this past weekend were, James Peterson and Derek Schermerhorn who have both signed with Wichita State, Zach Daeges and Eric Wordekemper who have both signed with Creighton. There are several other excellent players in the league who have yet to commit to a college. It’s really unfortunate when some of these guys get overlooked by college programs. The major league teams sometimes draft players out of this league even though colleges have shown little interest in those players.

The day started with a short BP. Daeges whose team played the second game missed the BP. He pretty much smoked the ball all weekend and hit a long (over 400’) homerun during the third and final game of the day. Peterson, has looked much better, but he hit the ball fairly well in BP. Clement with all eyes on him didn’t disappoint! After hitting the ball to the opposite field a few times he showed people what they came to see. Several line shots and a couple of long ones well over the 380’ mark in right center. Wordekemper and Zach Hammes started the first game on the hill. Wordekemper threw OK (88-89), but we’ve seen him much better. That brings us to Mr. Zach Hammes who has steadily been moving up our national prospect chart. There’s no secrets anymore, Zach Hammes showed everyone why we are so high on him. In the first inning, the 6’7/230 pounder threw nearly all his fastballs 90-93 with unreal life at times. He flashed a couple of nice breaking balls and one pretty decent changeup. In the second inning it was more of the same, 91-92 with an even better curve ball at 77. The third inning, he was mostly 90-92, but he showed two or three outstanding, sharp breaking balls at 78. He started to tire in the fourth, but still was around 89-91. Overall it was a good show for those who haven’t seen him before. Zach Hammes throws with almost NO effort. In fact one high level scout commented “It’s too bad he has to labor so damn much”. That comment caused a lot of laughter among the scouts. For those that haven’t seen Zach Hammes, it comes out of his hand like he’s throwing BP… Only it’s in the 90s with plus life! In our estimation, he might have the highest ceiling of any high school right-hander in the country. We think, these Scouting Directors will agree after seeing him a few times. He is nowhere near good baseball shape yet. We think he will be mid 90’s very soon.

Back to Mr. Clement who is the more well known of the bunch. Clement is rated one of, if not the, best left-hand bats in the draft this year. And for a good reason…he really is! He hit the ball hard a few times and just missed a homerun that bounced off the right field wall even though he hit it off the end of the bat. He was 4 for 4 in the first game and hit a triple in the second game. In high school they might walk him, but the pitchers in this league are going after him. Clement also looked pretty good behind the plate, doing a good job of handling Zach Hammes. Earlier this year we got Clement throwing as high as 92 mph from the mound, but he did not pitch this weekend. Overall, we would say it was a decent performance by Clement, but we’ve seen him much better.

It’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that Clement and Zach Hammes will be the two top picks from Iowa this year. When comparing to other recent draft picks from the state they both look like very high picks. While Chris Tritle was only a 19th round pick, he was named the player of the year and the top prospect in Rookie Ball last year. Brad Nelson was selected in the 4th round last year by Milwaukee and is hitting .300 in the Midwest league so far. Matt Macri, a potential first rounder took himself out of early consideration because of his commitment to Notre Dame. Macri had Tommy John surgery done last week. Drew Davidson was another drafted hitter out of Iowa last year. He is at the U of Illinois hitting .400 with 8 or 9 homeruns so far. He is considered one of the top true freshman in the country. With that said, none of the above mentioned players was on Clement’s level as a hitter. In fact they weren’t on his level while playing in the league. He is probably the best hitter to ever come out of Iowa!

When comparing Zach Hammes to recent Iowa pitchers there’s only one real comparison. While the league has produced many pitchers who were drafted including Jim Magrane (a top prospect with the D’Rays) the one true comparison is Joel Hanrahan who went in the 2nd round to the Dodgers two years ago. Both Hanrahan and Zach Hammes threw in the 90+ range, but Zach Hammes can live there…Hanrahan had a very good power slider, Zach Hammes has a very good curve ball. The third pitch was just OK for both in high school. Sounds like they’re pretty comparable right? No way! Zach Hammes at 6’7/230 has the best arm action as we’ve seen in a big high school pitcher. He also shows the best two-seamer we’ve seen this year in high school. It’s thrown in the 90’s with at times “unhittable” life. He has a lot to learn and the brains to learn it. Like Hanrahan, Zach Hammes is tough and seems to have the necessary pitcher’s makeup. While there may be more polished pitchers out there, no one has more potential.

We will see even more Scouting Directors and Cross Checkers this coming weekend at the new Veterans Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This weekend we are holding a small showcase and we plan to have some Jeff Clement / Zach Hammes match-ups. In addition, there will be some other outstanding talent on the field.
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