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Showcase | Story | 6/15/2019

Curtain drops on '19 National

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Jared Kelley (Perfect Game)

PHOENIX – The first Perfect Game National Showcase staged west of the Rocky Mountains reached its conclusion late Saturday afternoon when the curtain dropped after five days of workouts and games at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ roofed and air-conditioned Chase Field.

By every measure, the 19th annual PG National was a gift that kept on giving over its five-day run in the desert. Hundreds of MLB scouts and college recruiters got an early look at the top prospects from the national prep class of 2020, sending them out into what will be the most important summer of their early baseball careers.

“This is really one of the best experiences that I’ve had, playing against the best in the country,” top Mississippi corner-infielder Blaze Jordan said. “You’re going to see all of these guys in the draft next year and most of them are going to major D-I schools so it’s pretty cool to be able to play with all these and compete against them.”

An overwhelming majority of the 2020 prospects here this week already have the D-I commitments in hand, and the usual suspects – referring to the schools – have been hard at work. A quick count revealed that 12 of the commitments were to Miami, 10 each to Arkansas and Vanderbilt and nine to Louisiana State. Ten alumni of the 2018 PG National were first-round picks in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft two weeks ago.

Former head high school (Hegarty HS, Oviedo, Fla.), travel ball (FTB) and college coach/recruiting coordinator (Florida International) Jered Goodwin recently joined Perfect Game as its National Scouting Director. By his own recall, he’s seen just about every pitch thrown at the PG National since the event was held at the old Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, Minn., in 2009.

“I don’t think there’s any other amateur showcase that you can go to that’s like this,” Goodwin said as the final games at the 2019 edition were being played. “For the college recruiters, it allows them to come to see their guys that they probably haven’t seen because the college season is so demanding.

“On the professional level, the draft just gets done and this allows them to build a list of the guys they haven’t seen,” he continued. “This is the (event) that starts the prep list for the next draft … and they’ll start building resumes with each kid.”

The class of 2020 looks like quite a special one. Pitching velocities went through the Chase Field roof at this event, especially in the first two days. At least 15 pitchers delivered their fastballs home at 94 mph or better and eight of those topped 95 mph.

Refugio, Texas, right-hander Jared Kelley (ranked No. 5 overall and No. 2 right-hander, Texas commit) topped the field at 98 mph, followed closely by Cedar Mill, Ore., righty Mick Abel (Nos. 8/3, Oregon State) at 97 mph.

Kokomo, Ind., right-hander Charez Butcher (Nos. 43/10, Tennessee); Whittier, Calif., righty Jared Jones (Nos. 4/1, Southern Cal); Miami right-hander Victor Mederos (Nos. 22/6) and Sterling, Va., left-hander Nate Savino (Nos. 14/1, Virginia) all touched 96. Norman, Okla., righty Cade Horton (Nos. 59/10 SS, Oklahoma) and Fort Mills, S.C., right-hander Mikey Tepper (Nos. 326/97) both threw 95 mph.

That was the pitching side of things, but as this edition of the PG National moved forward, it became evident there was much more of this story to be told.

“I don’t think that I’ve seen position players that are as top-end toolsy as this class has been as far as arm strength, as far as running speeds and things like that,” Goodwin said. “We’ll see as we go how much they develop and how much they can do in-game, but that’s the biggest thing that I saw.”

There were two event records tied during the three workout sessions held Tuesday through Thursday, with the efforts coming in the infield and outfield throws.

Puerto Rican shortstop Sabin Ceballos unleashed a 99 mph throw across the infield, matching an effort turned in by Blaze Alexander in 2017; the right-hander/outfielder Jared Jones threw 100 mph from right field, tying the event mark set by Michael Gettys in 2013.

Shortstops from Puerto Rico, including Ceballos, turned-in three of the top four infield velos with Steven Ondina (FIU commit) throwing 97 mph and Anibal Saez throwing 95. Sandwiched between them was Gilbert, Ariz., third baseman Ethan Long (Nos. 19/2, Arkansas) with a 96 mph effort; six infielders topped the 94 mph mark.

“That’s weird, right? It’s crazy that Puerto Rico would send some really, really good shortstops,” Goodwin said with more than a hint of light-hearted sarcasm in his voice. “But every year there’s always going to be a couple of shortstops from Puerto Rico that have tools and I don’t think it was any surprise to anybody here that Puerto Rico is still producing these guys that are so smooth with big arms and who can run.”

Remember that MLB stars Javier Baez (2010), Francisco Lindor (2010) and Carlos Correa (2011) are all Puerto Rican and alumni of the PG National Showcase.

Three other outfielders came close to hitting the century mark with their throws: Elk Grove, Calif.’s Chase Davis (Nos. 12/4, Arizona), Kennesaw, Ga.’s Brad Grenkoski (61/14, Georgia Tech) and Miami’s Jonathan Ramallo (t-500/98) all threw 99 mph; 14 outfielders threw 95 mph or better.

The Woodlands, Texas, catcher Drew Romo showed observers why he is ranked the No. 1 catching prospect (No. 18 overall) by recording an event best 1.76 Pop Time with an 83 mph velo; he threw out two would-be base-stealers in the same inning of an early game.

Last year’s PG National at the domed Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., proved that 60-yard dash competitors can be at their quickest when they’re running indoors on artificial turf, and that carried over to Chase Field this year; 16 runners turned in times of 6.50-seconds or better.

Huntington Beach. Calif., outfielder Jake Vogel led the parade with a blistering 6.15-second effort that was just two one-hundredths of a second off the event record of 6.13-seconds set by Jerrion Ealy a year ago.

Edmond, Okla., outfielder Dominic Johnson (Oklahoma State) crossed in 6.22, Hialeah, Fla., outfielder Enrique A. Bradfield Jr. (Vanderbilt) in 6.26, and Gainesville, Fla., outfielder Asher Akridge and Puerto Rican outfielder Mario Zebala (FIU) both ran the distance in 6.32-seconds.

“I think it’s a really good year as far as athletes go,” Goodwin said. “And again, that’s the cool thing about this event. You can see those athletes, there are tangible numbers, there is some data we can build around and it’s scouts’ jobs our jobs to go out and see from those athletes who are really good baseball players.”

Having worked at numerous levels of amateur baseball, Goodwin felt qualified to declare that the PG National gives everyone involved more opportunities than any other amateur baseball showcase in such a short amount of time. It’s well-run, it takes place in an MLB setting and his able to attract the best rising seniors from all 50 states; if they’re out there, PG will find them.

“One of the things that’s attractive about (working for) Perfect Game is that you get to go out and you get to see some of the best players in the country,” Goodwin concluded. “You also get to find guys that are not as known commodities, and that’s one of the platforms that Perfect Game provides is to help everybody get to the next level. That’s the attractive part for a lot of people about what Perfect Game does.”

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