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Thursday, April 24, 2014

PG Spring Top gets top billing

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – This month Iowans are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of the iconic film “Field of Dreams” while reciting the best-known lines from the movie that starred Kevin Costner: “Build it, and he will come.”; “Hey Dad. Wanna have a catch?” and, finally, “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.”

With that anniversary as a backdrop, Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium will host its most Iowa-centric showcase event of the season Saturday and Sunday (see schedule) when the Perfect Game Spring Top Prospect Showcase is held for the 12th straight year. Three games on Saturday and two on Sunday will be played at Cedar Rapids Washington High School.

Nearly 150 prospects in the classes of 2014, 2015 and 2016 will be in attendance and 102 are from Iowa high schools. The PG Spring Top Prospect Showcase was originally designed to give Iowa players an opportunity for exposure in front of the national scouting community during the springtime since the state’s high school athletic association sanctions only a summer season.

The Spring Top isn’t totally inclusive, of course. In fact, this year’s showcase is an international affair with 11 Canadians – 10 from Ontario and one from Saskatchewan – and one Australian signed-up. Players from the neighboring states of Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota will also be on hand, and others are coming from away as California, Maryland, New York and Texas.

Seven of Iowa’s top 11-ranked 2014 prospects will be in attendance, including No. 1-ranked right-hander/first baseman and 2013 Perfect Game All-American Keaton McKinney from Ankeny. McKinney, an Arkansas recruit, is ranked No. 39 nationally in the class of 2014 and ranked as the No. 80 overall prospect in June’s MLB amateur draft.

Other top 2014 Iowans expected include:

Shortstop Ryan Lillard from Urbandale (No. 2 Iowa, No. 134 nation, a Kansas State recruit); right-hander Mitch Keller, Cedar Rapids (No. 3, No. 370, North Carolina); shortstop Jake Westphal, Sioux City (No. 4, top-500, Tennessee); right-hander Nick Biancalana, Des Moines (No. 8, top-1,000, Air Force); first baseman Declan Doyle, Iowa City (No. 10, top-1,000, Iowa Western CC); and catcher J.T. Sole, Cedar Falls (No. 11, top-1000, Iowa).

The Iowa class of 2015 is represented by five of the state’s top-six ranked prospects, three of whom have committed to the University of Iowa. They are:

Outfielder Trey Beckman, Cedar Rapids (No. 2 state, No. 334 nation, Nebraska); outfielder Luke Farley, Denver, Iowa (No. 3, No. 350, Iowa); right-hander Christopher Comito Jr., Norwalk (No. 4, No. 388, Iowa); righty Cole Baker, Grimes (No. 5, top-500, Iowa); and right-hander Drew Denkinger, Johnston (No. 6, top-500, uncommitted).

The only two Iowans ranked nationally from the class of 2016, so far, will also be playing. They are left-hander/outfielder Spencer Van Scoyoc from Cedar Rapids (No. 178 nationally) and outfielder/right-hander Kace Massner from Burlington (No. 206).

Catcher Andrew Sharpe from Odenton, Md., left-hander Michael Peters from Coal Valley, Ill., and outfielder Noah Sadler from Mukwonago, Wis., are among the more highly regarded high school seniors from outside of Iowa that will be attendance.

Sharpe was at the PG National Showcase in June, is ranked 330th nationally (No. 6 Maryland) in his class and has signed with Northwest Florida State College, an NCAA Division II school in Niceville, Fla. Peters is a top-500 national prospect (No. 20 Illinois) who has signed with Des Moines (Iowa) Area CC and Sadler is another top-500 (No. 8 Wisconsin) who has signed with Heartland CC in Normal, Ill.

2015 shortstop and Kansas commit Ty Denzer from Victoria, Minn., will be at the Spring Top as a top-500 national prospect; he is ranked No. 3 in Minnesota.

Four alumni of the PG Spring Top Prospect Showcase have gone to the big leagues, including Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson from Des Moines, who attended in 2003, ’04 and ’05. Chicago Cubs outfielder Ryan Sweeney from Cedar Rapids, Washington Nationals right-hander Tyler Clippard from Trinity, Fla., and Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Anthony Watson from Grimes, Iowa, were all at the event in 2003.

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