Showcase : : Story
Wednesday, June 13, 2018

National ready to rock The Trop

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Bobby Witt Jr. (Perfect Game)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reinforce your rafters, Tropicana Field. The Perfect Game National Showcase is back in town and ready to rock-and-roll under your domed roof in air-conditioned comfort for the first time since 2010, and the excitement generated by its return is palpable.

Action at the 18th annual PG National Showcase will unfold at The Trop over the next four days from Thursday through Sunday. The PG National was held at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., the last four years (2014-17) after being held indoors at the old Metrodome in Minneapolis in 2012-13.

The Trop, home of the MLB American League Tampa Bay Rays, previously served as the host of the PG National – the country’s most highly regarded and heavily scouted amateur baseball showcase aimed at prospects entering their senior year in high school – in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2010. The 2001 and 2002 dates were the first two years the event was held.

“We are very excited about returning the PG National to Tropicana Field,” PG President Jerry Ford when the announcement was made In January. “There are so many great memories from previous years at The Trop. Players, scouts, coaches – everyone will enjoy watching the top players in the country while seated in air-conditioned comfort, without worrying about weather problems.”

The PG National Showcase serves as the kickoff event for what will prove to be the most important summer of the 2019 prospects’ baseball lives in regard to the college recruiting process and the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft.

It also serves as the last and most important step in the PG All-American Classic Selection process. The PGAAC, played at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park, televised live on the MLB Network, features the top 50 rising high school seniors from the U.S. and Canada.

Adding to the excitement that surrounds the event’s return to an indoor venue is the fact that nearly all of the highest ranked prep prospects from the class of 2019 will be out on the field performing in front of the hundreds of scouts that annually attend the PG National.

Nearly 300 top guns from the U.S., Canada and the Dominican Republic will be showing off their wares, and the members of PG’s experienced and knowledgeable scouting department will be on hand to document and record their every move – along with those hundreds of MLB scouts and college recruiters.

The talent pool this year is as deep as it’s ever been. No fewer than 147 of the top 150-ranked 2019s will be at The Trop, a total that includes 19 of the top 20.

It’s always prudent to start at the top when examining such a list, and the class of 2019’s No. 1 ranking belongs to shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., an Oklahoma commit from Colleyville, Texas. The next 18 highest ranked dudes will also be there, and the potential and projectability they have packed in their equipment bags should put the entire national scouting community on alert.

Next up behind Witt Jr. is No. 2 left-hander Hunter Barco (Jacksonville, Fla., uncommitted), and then No. 3 outfielder Riley Greene (Oviedo, Fla., U. of Florida), No. 4 shortstop Rece Hinds (Niceville, Fla., Louisiana State) and No. 5 right-hander Brennan Malone (Matthews, N.C., North Carolina).

The rest of the top-10 is in place with No. 6 righty Matthew Thompson (Cypress, Texas, Texas A&M), No. 7 shortstop CJ Abrams (Alpharetta, Ga., Alabama), No. 8 outfielder Jerrion Ealy (Carthage, Miss., Ole Miss), No. 9 right-hander Wesley Scott (Riverside, Calif., Vanderbilt) and No. 10 righty Joseph Charles (Celebration, Fla., North Carolina).

The next five occupying seats 11 through 15 are outfielder Logan Britt (Benbrook, Texas, Texas A&M), outfielder Judson Fabian (Ocala, Fla., Florida), righty Daniel Espino (Statesboro, Ga., Louisiana State), righty DJ Jefferson (Las Vegas, Nev., Southern California), and the right-hander Brandon Walker (Tallahassee, Fla., Florida State).

Those keeping score at home will notice that seven of the top-15 prospects in the class of 2019 are primary right-handed pitchers and three others are shortstops.

Sixteen through 19 continues that trend with right-hander Matthew Allan (Sanford, Fla., Florida), righty Isaiah Bennett (Fayetteville, N.C., North Carolina), catcher Jake Holland (Clermont, Fla., Miami) and shortstop Cade Doughty (Denham Springs, La., uncommitted). The final tally of the top 19: 10 right-handed pitchers, four shortstops, four outfielders and a catcher.

The players at this year’s PG National Showcase will be working to join an exclusive group of alumni that features many of the best players in the game today; as of early this week, 325 former PG National standouts had made their Major League Baseball debuts.

That alumni list includes former NL MVPs Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (2001 PG National), Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (2004), Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (2004) and Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (2009).

Past MLB Rookie of the Year Award winners include PG National alumni Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2004); Posey, San Francisco Giants (2004); Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays (2008); Bryant, Chicago Cubs (2009); Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins (2010); Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (2011); Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (2011) and Cody Bellinger, Dodgers (2012).

In the wake of last week’s 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft, 2,308 PG National Showcase participants have now been selected in the MLB Draft, with 226 first-rounders (22 this year, 16 from the class of 2018).

Those first-round picks include eight selected with the No. 1 overall pick: Justin Upton (2004 PG National); Tim Beckham (2007); Gerrit Cole (2008); Mark Appel (2008); Correa (2012); Brady Aiken, (2013); Mickey Moniak (2015) and Royce Lewis (2016).

The PG National Showcase welcomed thousands of prominent young prospects into its fold in its previous four visits to The Trop, many of whom went on to careers in Major League Baseball, with several of them performing at the highest levels of the game.

The 2001 National featured Scott Kazmir, Melvin Upton, Votto, Denard Span, Jeff Clement, Alex Gordon, Prince Fielder, Lastings Milledge and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, among others. Milledge and Saltalamacchia returned in 2002 when guys like Andrew Miller and Chris Perez were also in attendance.

The 2004 event at The Trop will always be remembered as one of the biggest in terms of star-power with future National League MVPs McCutchen and Posey being joined on the field by future No. 1 overall MLB Draft pick Justin Upton. Gerardo Parra, Cameron Maybin, Ike Davis, Austin Jackson and Colby Rasmus were also on hand in 2004.

The 2010 National at The Trop featured Javier Baez, Jose Fernandez, Francisco Lindor and Daniel Norris among its head-liners.

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