Showcase : : Story
Friday, June 13, 2014

PG National: Day 2 recap

Patrick Ebert         Chris Real        
Photo: Perfect Game

Jeff Dahn Day 2 features: L.T. Tolbert | Hogan Harris

Jahmai Jones is surrounded by athletes in his family.

His older brother Tai-ler played wide receiver for Notre Dame and was recently selected by the Detroit Lions in the NFL Draft. His other older brother, Malachi Jones, is a wide receiver at Appalachian State. His little sister Jayla, 11, is preparing to try out for the U.S. Jr. Olympic equestrian team. And Jahmai’s father, Andre, was a part of Lou Holtz’s Notre Dame team that won the 1988 National Championship.

But this weekend at the 2014 PG National Showcase in Fort Myers is all about Jahmai displaying his baseball talent with and against the country’s best high school players. Jones had already displayed that talent during outfield drills on the first day, throwing a 92 mph strike from right field to home plate. Jones is listed as the No. 5 overall prospect for the class of 2015 and the No. 2 outfielder behind top prospect Dazmon Cameron, who also is in attendance at the PG National Showcase.

Jones said he prepared himself for the National by getting advice from players who participated last year.

I’ve talked to former friends who have been here before, like last year’s people,” Jones said. “They just told me to stay calm and not to treat this as something that needs to be high pressured or I need to put more stress on myself.

If I want to move on to the next level, I’m going to be facing talent like this every day. So it’s not something that I need to stress about or get worried about. If you strike out, it’s a strikeout. It’s not the end of the world. They told me to stay calm and play your game.”

Last year at the Jr. National Showcase, where Jones was a participant, PG scouts wrote the following:

Swings hard and creates good bat speed, ball comes off barrel very hard, has very high ceiling hitting tools. 6.62 runner, quick twitch fast feet, plays lighter and smaller than his size on defense. Plays with a high energy level and enjoys the game.

The 6-foot, 210-pound outfielder attends Wesleyan High School in Georgia and has committed to the University of North Carolina, a school that felt like another family the moment he stepped on campus.

I went on a visit and right when I stepped on campus, I kind of knew there was different feeling than any other college that I’ve been on,” Jones said. “It was a great experience. I went up there, I loved the campus, loved the coaches and all the facilities that they have there. I mean North Carolina is a place I always looked to go to college.”

The coaching staff there is amazing and I feel like they’re going to treat me like family and I can’t wait to be a part of the Tar Heel family.”

His mother, Michelle, accompanied him during his visit to Chapel Hill and said she could tell right away her son wanted to go to UNC.

I love them [UNC]. I loved everybody that we met with,” Michelle Jones said. “The coaching staff is awesome, they’re so nice. They spent the whole day with us and showed us around, and they really didn’t have to.”

We got in the car and he kept looking at me and I could tell something was going on,” Michelle said of her son's reaction with a smile. “He goes ‘this feels like home, this feels right’ and I said just wait a day. We got in the car on our way home and he says ‘no this just feels right’ and I said we'll call them then.”

For Jahmai, family has been an important value all his life. He said he’s always been close to all of his family members, a unit that became even closer in 2011 as they came together for support after Andre Jones passed away due to a brain aneurysm.

We’re pretty close; we’re a family that has become closer due to certain events, like my dad passing away,” Jones said. “We became pretty close from that.”

Jones will take advantage of every opportunity presented to him and not take anything for granted. He’s grateful to participate in the PG National Showcase and thanks everyone around him.

It’s a great feeling just being recognized as one of the top 300 players in the nation,” he said. “It’s just a great honor being able to showcase my talent and just show everyone around me who I am and how much love I have for the game. I have to thank everybody; my mom, my coaches, everybody around me, friends, family and God especially. Without Him, I definitely don’t know where I’d be.”

Chris Real

Live Streaming

For the third 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, and the archives for each if you can't watch them in real time, can be found on iHigh's dedicated Perfect Game page:

National Impressions

The threat of rain and lightning delayed the beginning of Day 2 by roughly 90 minutes, but things kicked off with a bang starting with the beginning of Game 4. Three games in total were played on the day, leading up to teams 7-10 participating in their rounds of drills.

One of the better defensive plays of the day was made by Navy shortstop Carter Hall, who made a nice backhanded play on a ball hit deep to the hole at shortstop and promptly fired a strike to first to throw out the runner.

Lefthander Jovani Moran came out firing in Game 4, filling the strike zone 86-88 mph fastballs and mid-70s curves. In his second inning of work he showed his confidence and aggressiveness, climbing the ladder with an 88 mph fastball to strikeout Brendan Rodgers swinging.

The next batter however, Ke'Bryan Hayes – the son of former big league third baseman Charlie Hayes – laced a base hit to right field and easily cruised into second base. After Hayes' extra-base hit the powerfully built Josh Naylor stepped up to the plate and absolutely crushed a 75 mph curveball that landed just shy of the 420-foot mark in the park, easily a home run at just about any other field that wound up being a stand-up triple on this day.

Moran settled back down to strike out the final batter he faced, the hot-hitting Kep Brown, swinging on another 88 mph fastball.

Later in the game Brown picked up where he left off on Day 1 by hitting a double high off of the wall in left-center field and is enjoying a very solid National Showcase.

Green outfielder Marquise Doherty ripped a double down the third base line for a stand-up double in the third inning, although he was quickly retired by Navy catcher Victor Valentin on a stolen base attempt.

Nick Fortes followed Doherty with a sharp single hit through the left side of the infield and later hit a double to right-center field in the seventh. He also threw out a baserunner in the game.

Devin Davis absolutely crushed a ball in the fifth inning that banged hard off of the Nike
The Future Gets Faster banner hung at the top of the replica Green Monster.

While big hits stood out the most in Game 4, one big righthander left the most lasting impression of the pitchers that took the mound in this contest. Derek West, at 6-foot-5, 230-pounds, stood out immediately for his size alone, employing an old school, roundhouse delivery that produced easy 90-92 mph heat early in his outing. Although he dropped to the upper-80s later in the inning, and even threw in the mid-80s in his second inning of work, his upside was obvious. With a high waist, long legs and the ease in which he throws, it's easy to envision him throwing consistently harder with more experience and instruction.

The focus quickly returned back to the pitchers in Game 5 of the National, the second game of the day, as Gold starter Brock Love squared off against Crimson starter Andy Pagnozzi, the son of former big league catcher Tom Pagnozzi.

Love threw the ball harder of the two, throwing his fastball consistently in the 89-91 mph range, with more 91's than 89's. He also mixed in some big-breaking, slow curveballs as well in the 72-74 mph range, and offers future promise thanks to his projectable 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame.

Pagnozzi showed his usual ultra-competitive approach, going right after hitters with his 86-89 mph fastball and power upper-70s curve. He got hit around a little in his second inning of work, but it's hard not to admire his polish.

Kyle Tucker and Ryan Mountcastle, two of the better hitters in attendance, provided the offense against Pagnozzi. Tucker, a lefthanded hitter, laced a double to left field in which he simply flicked his wrists out to make contact and go with the pitch, slapping it down the third base line. Mountcastle followed Tucker with a booming shot to right-center field that resulted in an RBI triple.

Christifer Andritsos, a powerfully built righthanded pitcher, who also offers a powerful swing from the batter's box, pitched innings 3-4 in Game 5 for the Gold squad. With a broad-shouldered, 6-foot-4, 230-pound build, you can't miss him on the field, and he matches his size with a power approach that includes a 90-94 mph fastball and upper-70s curve. Andritsos went right after hitters, attacking them mostly with his fastball, recording quite a few 93's, and overall looked very impressive.

Hard hitting lefthanded hitting catcher Chris Betts, who also showed off his arm strength behind the dish in the Day 1 workouts, hit a shot to center field that landed in a similar spot as Josh Naylor's blast from the previous game, just shy of the 420-mark. That blast also resulted in a standup triple that would have been a no-doubt home run in just about any other ballpark. Overall Betts has looked very good both at the plate and behind it during game action.

In a recurring theme of big hits, Connor Kaiser, who also looked good when he took the mound for his two-inning stint on Day 1, showed off his two-way skills by hitting a ball hard to left field for a double.

The third game of the day, Game 6 overall, welcomed the first pitcher to top 95 mph, registering 96 numerous times. Beau Burrows was the hurler responsible for the heat wave, a player that has lit up radar guns several times since peaking at the same 96 mph last summer at the 16u WWBA National Championship in Marietta, Ga. He also mixed in a promising low-80s curveball that has the makings of being a true hammer with more development.

Both of the starters for Game 6 also recorded notable radar readings. Orange starter Dylan Cyphert, a lefthander, pumped in quite a few 92 mph fastballs while sitting at 90-92 during his two-inning stint. Cyphert is a good looking athlete with a lean build, and initially was throwing darts with a free and easy delivery before running into trouble in his second inning of work.

Tyler Ivey was the starter for the Black team, and stood out instantly thanks to his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame. He's especially projectable thanks to his long and lean, well-tapered frame with an easy, live and loose arm. There was some added deception to his delivery which had some extra parts moving to it, working in the low-90s with a low- to mid-70s curveball.

Xavier LeGrant, playing shortstop for the Orange team, made a nice diving stab of a line drive to his glove side, getting up to flip the ball to his second baseman to complete an inning ending double play.

Day 2 workouts

As noted above, teams 7-10 reported to the PG National on Day 2 of the event, taking part of the workout drills in addition to batting practice to close out the day.

On this day the catchers in particular stood out, with numerous players recording POP times right around 1.80 seconds.

Dominic DiCarprio's arm strength stood out of this group, and while his 78 mph throw was plenty good, it was his 1.78 POP time that really caught people's attention with his quick release and online, accurate throws to second base.

Isiah Gilliam threw 91 mph from first base, just a few ticks below Josh Naylor's all-time event record of 93 mph from the day before. Wesley Rodriguez matched Brendan Rodgers' 93 mph infield throw for the best velocity at this year's event, and Luke Eigsti joined the 95 mph club from the outfield.

Five players from this group posted 60-yard dash times better than the collective efforts of the first group from Day 1, with speedster Alonzo Jones once again wowing observers by running the dash in 6.17 seconds on the outfield grass, which caused his running mate and the No. 1 prospect from the 2015 class, Dazmon Cameron, to seemingly pull up from his own impressive run in amazement.

Garrett Zech (6.39), Lucius Fox Jr. (6.41), Deacon Liput (6.51) and Nicholas Shumpert (6.52) posted the next four best times.

The Red team took batting practice first among the four teams that reported on Day 2, a roster full of wiry strong, slender athletes that put on surprising displays of power.

Although they don't fall under the category of wiry strong, slender athletes, John Aiello, Bryant Harris and Isiah Gilliam put on the most impressive displays from the batter's box from the Red squad, a team that is likely to display some offensive firepower once their games begin on Saturday.

Aiello, currently ranked No. 3 in the high school class of 2015 player rankings, is an impressive overall athlete with power from both sides of the plate. He routinely smoked the ball, both in the form of hard line drives to all parts of the field and towering drives to the gaps. Already strong with a physique that resembles those you see at the big league level at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, it's easy to envision Aiello getting even stronger as he matures physically.

Gilliam, also a switch hitter, showed two completely different yet equally powerful swings from each side of the plate. He looks to be a better pure hitter from the right side, and the ball made a different sound off his bat as he routinely smoked the ball to left and left-center field. From the left side of the batter's box he added more loft and pure pull power down the right field line, hitting a pair of balls well over the wall in right field.

Gilliam's situation is unprecedented, as he was unexpectedly named eligible for the 2014 draft this past spring, was taken in the 23
rd round by the Cubs in the draft last week, and still opted to attend this year's National.

Harris was one of the strongest athletes to take the field today, with very good present strength and easy power. The ball jumped off of his bat as he too hit the ball consistently hard and is one of the better pure hitters in his class.

Greg Pickett of the Steel team also stood out for his obvious natural strength and overall power potential. He, like Harris, looks like a he was born to hit the ball hard, routinely peppering the gaps with towering shots as a lefthanded hitter.

A trio of hitters from the Texas Orange squad stood out, starting with catcher Elih Marrero, who also shined with strong throws behind the plate during the infield drills. Marrero packs some serious juice in his compactly strong, 5-foot-9, 190-pound frame. He also switch hits, showing exciting power potential from both sides of the plate, and was recently named the MVP of the 18u WWBA East Memorial Day Classic by posting video-game type numbers for the event co-champion Elite Squad 17u Prime.

Nicholas Shumpert, yet another highly ranked shortstop in the high school class of 2015 – a strength that is going to be discussed at great lengths between now and next year's draft – also shined in the batter's box. He crushed one ball out and over the replica Green Monster in left field, and also displayed nice opposite field power to the gap in right-center.

The most impressive display in batting practice may very well have been by outfielder Daniel Reyes, who generates excellent extension from his well built 6-foot-2, 200-pound stature. He consistently hit the ball hard, with the ball making a different sound off of his bat than almost all of the other hitters that took the field on this day. He crushed three balls well out and over the Monster, and also posted solid workout results with an 88 mph throw from the outfield and a 6.72 second 60-yard dash during drills.

To view detailed game results and results from the Day 2 workouts please visit the PG National scout blogs:

2014 PG National Showcase scout blog

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