All American Game : : Story
Friday, September 11, 2009

Aflac Impact

Patrick Ebert        

The Aflac All-American Classic slowly but surely is starting to make a significant mark on Major League Baseball. Since the event started in 2003, it of course takes some time for the talent that participates in the de factor high school all-star game to develop and progress as needed to make it to the highest level.

This past week Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner was called up to become the most recent former Aflac participant to make his MLB debut. He skipped past AAA on his way to San Francisco to make a spot start for injured ace Tim Lincecum. He responded quite well, tossing 5.1 innings against the Padres, giving up a pair of solo home runs while striking out four.

While he was 12-2 with a 1.85 ERA between two minor league levels this year, his strikeouts were down from previous seasons, as the Giants may choose a slightly more patient approach with him to make sure he doesn’t burn out his arm so early in his career. That means AAA, and not the big-leagues, may be a better idea for him to open 2010, as he already has been moved about as fast as a high school pitcher can, at least one not named Rick Porcello, as the Giants continue to churn out talented, power arms.

His MLB debut came before that of his teammate, Buster Posey, who has yet to take the field after being called up by the Giants, who are in the middle of the National League Wild Card race, about a week before Bumgarner to provide catching depth for dinged up backstop Bengie Molina. Posey was the fifth overall pick from a year ago, and has soared through the minor leagues, becoming the first Aflac All-American to attend a four-year university to make his MLB debut.

All Posey has done is hit since being drafted, with a .327/.421/.538 line in 125 minor league games. He began the year at high-A San Jose before being bumped directly to AAA Fresno, and now figures to be a significant part of the Giants’ 2010 plans.

San Diego’s Matt Latos and Baltimore’s Chris Tillman have also made their big-league debuts this summer, both members of the 2005 Aflac event.

Latos is 4-5 with a 4.62 ERA so far, including a pair of impressive seven inning starts since he made his debut in mid-July. One was a two-hitter two weeks ago over Atlanta, the other a one-hitter against the Reds in his third appearance.

Tillman is only 1-3, but has a 4.66 ERA since making his debut in late July. He has been consistently pitching five to six innings a game for the Orioles, recently suffering his worst of his eight appearances: A game against the Rangers in which he gave up five earned runs over six innings of work.

This quartet joins the 13 former Aflac All-Americans that were already contributing at the MLB level during the 2009 season.

A few of the more notable players include 20 year old Rick Porcello, who has flashed moments of brilliance during his young career, posting a 12-8 record and 4.26 ERA for the first-place Tigers in the AL Central. A potential significant concern for the Tigers is that Porcello, 141 innings into his big-league career, has never tossed more than 125 innings in a season prior to this year, and he is going to be asked to shoulder a heavy load down the stretch and into October. Most would argue that is a good problem to have, but his young arm does need to be handled properly if he is going to enjoy a long and fruitful career.

Brett Anderson doesn’t have that “problem,” but he has been handed the ball in 26 starts this year, posting an 8-10 record with a 4.45 ERA over 151 innings of work. He continues to master the strike zone, keeping his pitch count down which has allowed him to consistently work deep into games.

Righty Chris Volstad is part of a very talented, young Marlins pitching staff, and even though he has been roughed up over the last month or so, he has one of the best power sinkers in the game, and is off to a very nice start to his career.

The recently turned 22 year old Justin Upton is enjoying a big, break-out season playing regularly in right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was an all-star this past year in St. Louis and is one of the best, most exciting young players in the game.

Dexter Fowler is leading off for the NL Wild Card leading Rockies, getting on base with a patient eye (.372 on-base percentage) while showing off his speed by swiping 26 bags. He has been a huge part of the Rockies’ resurgence this season.

While the Pittsburgh Pirates are not having a very good year, Andrew McCutchen is a big bright spot for them. He along with Fowler are going to be considered for the National League’s Rookie of the Year award, and like both Fowler and Upton, McCutchen offers and exciting blend of power and speed.

And of course Nick Adenhart’s MLB career started brilliantly just before his life was taken from him in a car accident.

There is a lot more to come in the not-so-distant future. Pitchers Tim Alderson, Kyle Drabek, Kasey Kiker and Jeremy Hellickson will be knocking at the door to the big leagues next year. Hitters such as Jason Heyward, Austin Jackson, Hank Conger, Brett Wallace and Josh Vitters are considered some of the best positional prospects in the game, and it won’t be long until they too are all playing in the majors.

Stretching to a few more areas where former Aflac All-Americans are making their mark, team USA late this summer has a trio of former Aflac participants, including Kiker, Ike Davis and Trevor Plouffe.

Joining those above as professionals, this past year’s draft offered first rounders Donovan Tate, Zack Wheeler, Jacob Turner, Tyler Matzek, Grant Green, Jiovanni Mier, Jared Mitchell, Slade Heathcott, Kentrail Davis, Matt Davidson and Aaron Miller, as well as other early round picks including Everett Williams, Brooks Pounders, Mychael Givens, Keyvius Sampson, David Nick, Luke Bailey, Ryan Jackson, D.J. LeMahieu, Chris Dominguez, Jerry Sullivan and Robert Stock.

Next year’s college draft class offers some exciting bats that project to go in the early rounds, including Christian Colon, Derek Dietrich, Hunter Morris and Yasmani Grandal, as well as pitchers Matt Harvey and Kyle Blair.

The 2011 draft will have a very impressive collection of former Aflac All-American pitchers that decided to go to college out of high school. Gerrit Cole, Taylor Jungmann, Alex Meyer, Sonny Gray and Jack Armstrong were all part of the 2007 team, and could all go in the first round.

From the big leagues down to those that have just played in this year’s Aflac All-American Classic, who have just entered their senior year in high school (or in Bryce Harper’s case, his freshman year in junior college), the talent is spread far and wide, and is making an impact at nearly every level of both amateur and professional baseball.

The thoughts and opinions listed here do not necessarily reflect those of Perfect Game USA.  Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and, and can be contacted via email at

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