Showcase | Story | 6/15/2013

PG National: Day 3 Recap

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Perfect Game

Jeff Dahn Day 3 features: Kodi Medeiros | Justin Bellinger | Touki Toussaint
Matt Rodriguez Day 3 feature: Derek Hill

MINNEAPOLIS – Although the game of baseball comes naturally for Benito Santiago, that doesn’t keep him from working around the clock to improve his game and the performance of his teammates, and it’s paying off big on the grand stage of the Perfect Game National Showcase.

If you’re here, you’re here for a reason and you’re in front of a bunch of scouts and it’s just a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Santiago said, recognizing what it means to attend the PG National Showcase.

On his first day at the Metrodome, Santiago recorded impressive numbers; posting a 1.85-second pop time and an 83 mph throw to second plate from behind home plate. Just as impressive, if not more so, was his 6.79-second 60-yard dash.

A left-handed hitting catcher that can run is always unique,” said Santiago’s Atlanta Blue Jays coach, Anthony Dye. “To have a catcher being able to steal a bag for you running a 6.7-sixty, that’s a weapon to have.”

Despite the tools Santiago already possesses, he is a true student of the game and the type of catcher and teammate every ballplayer wants to have on his team.

He’s a hard worker. He comes to the ballpark everyday to work,” Dye added. “He likes to stay extra, get there early, and work.

He’s always looking to learn and get better. (He’s) always looking to make adjustments, so he asks a lot of questions.”

Santiago takes what he learns and transfers it over to his game a notch above most players his age. At just 17-years-old, he has the major league mindset with his work ethic, approach to the game, and discipline.

Benito loves the game and plays it to have fun, but to him it means much more than just something for him to do for fun. He is locked into the game from the moment he steps into the dugout, soaking in all he can in order to make plays happen on the field.

When you’re in the dugout you can have fun, but you need to be focused at the same time and start looking at the pitcher and the bullpen and what they have,” Santiago said. “Your at-bat starts when you’re on deck.”

Benito prides himself on being the type of player that will always play his hardest and will take his knowledge of the game and use it to make the players around him better. That is the definition of a team player.

Every time I make the lineup they want Benito to catch so I have to manage,” Dye said of Santiago's take-charge approach behind the plate. “You don’t want to wear him out because they take a beating back there.”

Santiago doesn’t seem to mind the popularity amongst the pitchers. In fact, the selfless catcher shares the leadership of veteran MLB players, like Jason Varitek and Yadier Molina, who study the game so closely that they make those around them better players.

I love getting pitchers better,” Santiago said. “I love working with them and seeing them improve as a pitcher. That’s just what you live for.

The talent comes and when you see a pitcher striving and knowing that they got somewhere and at the end of the summer they are better than what they were when they came in, that’s the best feeling.”

Anthony Dye should consider himself very fortunate to have such an advanced player and leader behind the plate.

You really start to understand how good he is when you see him in an environment like this,” Dye said about the National. “You start to really appreciate how good he is, especially behind the plate.”

Dye recalled an impressive display of skills from Santiago when, the other day, Santiago dug a ball out of the dirt with a backhand and then threw the runner out from his knees.

You never know what you’re gonna get from Benito.”

One thing you do know is that you’re always going to get his best.

Matt Rodriguez

Live Streaming

For the second straight year the Perfect Game National Showcase is available for everyone to watch online. The live stream to all of the workouts, batting practice sessions and games can be found on iHigh's dedicated Perfect Game page:


Day 3 Workouts

The last two teams, Vegas Gold and White, arrived at the Metrodome on Day 3 of the National Showcase. While both will conduct their drills (60-yard dash, infield/outfield/catching) on Sunday morning, each of the two teams took batting practice just before the Rawlings Home Run Challenge which capped off Day 3 of the event. Detailed notes from the batting practice sessions, as well as all of the game and skills portions of the National Showcase, will be available in the
scout blogs:


National Impressions

Five games were played on Saturday prior to the Vegas Gold and White teams taking BP, the first three of which were the last games to be played by the first six teams that reported to the Showcase.

The first game of the day, Game 7 overall, Jakson Reetz immediately made an impression by throwing out would-be basestealers in each of the first two innings. The first came at second base, the second at third base. Reetz' defensive skills were impressive during the Day 1 drills (84 mph, 1.94 POP) as he continued to show a very quick transfer and strong throwing arm.

Reetz also took the mound in the seventh inning of Game 7 where he continued to show his impressive arm strength by sitting in the upper-80s.

Brodie Leftridge also made a stellar defensive play, coming up firing from left field on a hard hit ball throwing out the baserunner at homeplate.

Joseph Gatto was Reetz' battery mate and was a very pleasant surprise on the day, not only for his stuff, but for the ease in which he threw and his advance sense for pitching. His fastball peaked at 94 mph, sitting comfortably at 89-91 over two innings, mixing in a sharp breaking ball. He hit the corners well with his fastball, and his loose, currently strong 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame looked as though it still had plenty of room for added strength while maintaining its current flexibility.

Alex Verdugo also looked sharp on the mound in Game 7, sitting comfortably in the 88-89 range while touching 90 mph. He's a good looking athlete that repeats his delivery well and spun a really nice 74-77 curveball. He's not afraid to climb the ladder with his fastball, and his outing was particularly impressive since we learned he had cut his finger prior to the National, making a stop at a convenience store on the way to the Metrodome to pick up some super glue to keep the wound sealed shut.

Keaton McKinney was the third pitcher that turned heads in this contest, as he continues to get better and better the more we see him (which is quite often since he plays in PG Headquarters' backyard). He continues to add strength to his athletic 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame. His fastball peaked at 93 sitting in the 88-91 range while mixing in arguably the most impressive changeup at the showcase so far, thrown in the low-80s.

An impressive overall athlete, McKinney also looks very comfortable in the batter's box with intriguing power.

Gregory Deichmann, already one of the highest ranked players in the 2014 class coming into this event, has definitely cemented, if not improved his status by hitting (crushing) yet another ball extremely hard. Unfortunately the ball in question was pulled just foul, but it landed in the second deck down the right field line.

The hard hits continued in Game 8 as a pair of hitters from the Navy team have been accumulating hard hit balls in bunches. Kevin Williams had another hard-hit single in this game, followed by one for Max George, hitting right behind Williams in the Navy order.

Derek Hill made an amazing catch in deep right centerfield, robbing Spencer Levine of an extra-base hit. Hill was off with the crack of the bat, covering a tremendous amount of ground to make the over the shoulder grab while making full extension. Hill later added a triple in the game, just icing on the cake of what has been a spectacular showing for the young outfielder. Be sure to read Matt Rodriguez' feature on Hill as linked at the top of this page.

Nick Gordon took the mound in the sixth inning, showing just how exciting and well-rounded of a player he is. He pitched effortlessly, throwing mostly 91-92 fastballs while mixing in a handful of upper-70s curveballs. Gordon makes the game look easy in so many different facets, it's hard to imagine him not enjoying success for a long time to come.

Ryan Castellani started Game 8 for Columbia Blue, showing a very athletic and still projectable build, working in the upper-80s and touching the low-90s. He showed very good command and an advanced sense for pitching.

Michael Gettys, who set the event record with a 100 mph throw from the outfield on Day 1, continued to show that impressive arm strength when he took the mound in the same contest. His fastball worked at 92-94 and showed plus life, while also mixing in an impressive power curveball.

One of the most anticipated pitching performances came to fruition in Game 9, the third game of Day 3 at the National Showcase, when electric right-hander Touki Toussaint took the mound. Toussaint has been more electric in the past, including last October's WWBA World Championship, but he was still plenty impressive on this day, throwing his fastball at 91-94 while mixing in a mid-80s slider and mid-70s curveball. Be sure to read Jeff Dahn's feature on Toussaint as linked above.

Evelino Ruibal followed Toussaint in the pitching order for the Purple squad, and while not as electric, he too proved to have a live arm producing low-90s heat with a sturdy, still projectable frame.

Luke Bonfield continues to sting the ball, with Deichmann standing as probably the only other National participant with more loud contact. In Game 9 Bonfield added two more hard hit balls, a single and a double to rigtht-center.

Other big hits in Game 9 included Garrett McCain's booming triple over the center fielder's head as well as Blake Carines lacing a triple of his own down the right field line. Cairnes also pitched in this contest, working in the 89-90 range with a promising mid- to upper-70s breaking ball.

Games 10 and 11, the fourth and fifth games of the day, featured the four teams that arrived that day before. Similar to Day 1 of the event, for teams 1-6, the pitchers stood out early.

Dylan Cease was the first that stood out, starting Game 10 for the Red team. Cease came out firing, showing a very fluid and easy delivery while producing 93-96 mph heat, peaking at 97. He also mixed in a handful of nasty 75-77 mph curveballs. With a lean, wiry strong athletic frame it's easy to envision more from Cease in the near future.

Sean Reid-Foley also stood out in Game 10. He too had a nice, athletic frame with room for added strength, working in the 91-92 range while touching 94. His best pitch may have been his sharp, short breaking upper-70s breaking ball. Reid-Foley also displayed an intense and competitive demeanor on the mound, striking out all six batters he faced.

Trevor Wood carried over his impressive performance during batting practice on Day 2 to Game 10, smoking a double to the gap in left-center.

The theme of big, high-powered arms continued in Game 11 with left-hander Daniel Gooden. Yes another well-proportioned, currently strong yet still projectable athletes, Gooden used his size well throwing on a downhill plane while topping out at 93.

Gage Burland started opposite Gooden, showing good feel for a polished three-pitch mix that included a 89-91 fastball, a sharp, mid-70s curveball and a change.

As the expression goes, it's easy to dream on David Michael Burkhalter, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound right-handed that physically reminded me of Kevin Gausman at the same age with broad shoulders, a high waist and long, wiry strong limbs. His fastball sat in the upper-80s peaking at 90, showing good feel for his breaking ball.

Clarke Schmidt, the younger brother of 2011 National Showcase participant and current Clemson Tiger Clate Schmidt, doesn't have his brother's stuff at the same point in his career, but the younger Schmidt has tons of projection and could really take off as he adds strength to his 6-foot-1, 160-pound frame. In this game he was 87-89 with a sharp upper-70s slider, showing a very good sense for pitching.

Jose Lopez and Liam Sabino both hit triples in the fifth inning of Game 11, both hit to the gap in right-center.

Rawlings Home Run Challenge

After five games in which pitching pretty much stole the show, the hitters were anxious to create some excitement during the Rawlings Home Run Challenge to cap off Day 3. Braxton Davidson socked nine impressive blasts in the first round of the Challenge, advancing to the finals along with Chase Vallot and D.J. Peters.

With four home runs in the final round, Chase Vallot won the 2013 National Showcase Rawlings Home Run Challenge.

Matt Rodriguez will have more details from the Challenge on Sunday.

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