Showcase : : Story
Monday, December 27, 2010

National Underclass Main Event

       

The WWBA 17U/18U National Championships (number of teams) and WWBA World Championships (number of coaches/scouts) get plenty of attention due to their unique size but there is another event on the Perfect Game calendar that stands out as well, the PG National Underclass Showcase (Main Event).

Held every year in Fort Myers, this event has averaged over 500 players for most of the last decade.  We know of no other full showcase, Perfect Game or otherwise, that can come close to this amount whether it is in sheer numbers or in the consistency of turnout.

In fact, the National Underclass Showcase has been so popular over the years that it has spawned smaller Perfect Game “National Underclass Showcases” at different sites around the country, causing this gathering to be retitled the “Main Event.”  Players from all 50 states and 5 countries have participated in the National Underclass Showcase over the years.

The National Underclass is a special event for the Perfect Game staff as well.  It’s the first event after a rare 1 ½ month layoff and gives everyone a chance to get out of the ice box of the Upper Midwest and down to usually sunny south Florida.  The event also usually coincides with a University of Iowa bowl game appearance in the Sunshine State.

 

The list of Alumni from the National Underclass is understandably impressive.  It includes 17 future Major League players, over 30 future first round draft picks and close to 50 Aflac All-Americans!  Those numbers are sure to grow quickly in future years.

Jason Heyward made his first appearance at a PG event as a 15 year old at the 2004 National Underclass but his report from the 2005 National Underclass stands out.

Jason Heyward is a 2007 1B/OF/P from Henry County High School in McDonough, GA, with a 6'4'', 215 lb. frame.  Named to the Top Prospect Team at the event.  Heyward has a big league body, with some pro level tools.  He put on a performance in Ft. Myers showing why he is one of the best, if not the best, in the 2007 class.  At the plate he was more aggressive and he attacked the ball in batting practice and the showcase games.  Heyward hit everything hard showing power to all fields, and making it look easy.  Heyward has the ability to hit with big time power, and at the same time hit for a high average.  He is listed as a primary first baseman, but his arm strength and athleticism in the outfield is impressive.  Not only can he hit, hit with power, show arm strength, and field well in the outfield and first base, the big guy runs a sub 7.00 sixty.  There isn't much he can't do, and he is a great kid as well.  Tremendous upside to this young player.  He will get huge draft interest next year.

 

San Diego Padres RHP Matt Latos, one of the top young pitchers in baseball, also made his PG debut at the 2004 National Underclass.  Although his mid-90’s fastball didn’t emerge until the next summer, it was obvious the potential was there.

Latos is a 6-5, 200 lb junior right handed pitcher from Florida who was one of the top prospects at the World Underclass Showcase.  In addition to his pitching ability, he would also make the prospect charts as a hitter/athlete as well.  Latos has a long, angular body type, with long legs, a slender waist and sloping shoulders.  There is plenty of present strength in his body but the potential to get plenty stronger.  Latos has a long, flowing and quick arm action and solid delivery mechanics.  He works quickly and throws strikes with all his pitches.  Latos’ fastball was solid in the 86-89 mph range and is very projectable to move into the low and maybe even mid-90’s in the future.  He maintains good downward angle on his fastball from a ¾’s release point.  His curveball lacked ideal velocity at 66-69 mph but he got good depth on pitch and spotted it effectively.  Latos also showed a feel for a 68-70 mph change up.  As a hitter, Latos really showed some nice power potential and showed it in games against live pitching as well as in batting practice.  He has a wide stance with a good hand load, a short path to the ball and very good extension out front.  With nice 7.2/4.37 speed for his size and obvious arm strength, Latos is a DI level corner infield/outfield prospect, too.  Highest Ceiling Prospect!

 

The one high school player who was the biggest surprise in the first round of the 2010 draft was Georgia outfielder Jake Skole, who went to the Rangers with the 15th overall pick.  Look at his report from the 2007 National Underclass, a full 2 ½ years before he become a first round pick.

Jake Skole is a 2010 OF/2B with a 6'1'', 170 lb. frame from Woodstock, GA who attends Blessed Trinity HS.  Plus athletic build, lean and strong.  Calm hitter, very quick hands, plus bat speed, hits hard to all fields, polished hitter with high level hitting tools.  6.88 speed, plays faster, excellent baserunner.  Quick OF actions, good arm strength for age.  Left handed bat could be special.  Good student.  He was named to the top prospect team at this event.

 

Probably the most noteworthy aspect of the National Underclass Showcase is the chance to see and evaluate so many talented young players for the first time, players like Heywood, Latos, Skole and many, many more future big leaguers, college All-Americans and future top draft picks.

Be sure to follow the up to the minute blogs from Fort Myers on www.perfectgame.org as tomorrow’s standouts are evaluated next week.

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