LOXAHATCHEE, FL- I was only able to watch 2 ½ innings of Kamm Washington on Thursday evening, April 23rd. The Park Vista High School centerfielder pulled a hamstring in the top of the third playing against Seminole Ridge. He had stolen both second and third base without a hitch only to hurt the hammy running home on an RBI double.
In two at-bats, Washington went 1-1 with a walk and a hard line-drive single to center. He had no chances in the outfield.
There is not a consensus of interest among scouts for Kamm Washington. Having watched him at the East Coast Professional Baseball Showcase last August in Lakeland, I thought Washington had one of the three or four best swings at the event. The lefthanded hitter indeed showed a powerful stroke today that belies his 5-10, 180 frame (as measured by the Major League Scouting Bureau in August).
Washington stands slightly open and has a compact stroke with late lift and extension. He doesn’t get cheated, Washington takes a big, aggressive cut with almost every swing. I grade out his present-day bat-speed at 55; only a handful of high school hitters across the country would grade out so high and he will definitely have plus bat-speed in his prime. Washington also has a good trigger mechanism and load; his hands move back and cock, while he strides lightly forward. I graded out his line-drive power (basically how hard he hits the ball ) at 55/65 and his raw power (how far) at 40/50.
Washington has the tools to become a good big league hitter, but scouts are still not sold on his bat because they’ve seen him carved up in the past. This is the first time I’ve watched him in a competitive non-showcase setting. (He was at our Perfect Game 18U National Championship last year, but I was not in attendance.) I could see the flaws in his approach, even in just two at-bats.
Washington chased a low-and-outside curveball in the first inning that he was nowhere near. He didn’t make any adjustment to go the other way, even if he would have hit it. Washington took the same big rip. He ended up working a walk in that at-bat.
In his second and last at-bat, Washington worked a 2-2 count and then drilled a high 82 MPH fastball into centerfield. It was a tee-shot line-drive.
The flaws with Washington’s hitting are correctable. It’s all in his approach and his ability to recognize pitches and make adjustments. What’s harder to teach is a short, powerful swing, and Washington’s already got that.
Physically, he has broad, sloped shoulders that look the part of a hitter. Washington’s waist is comparatively small. His lower half is sturdy but not thick. I think he’ll put on more muscle throughout and be close to 200 lbs by the time he’s mature.
Defensively, Washington has a below-average arm. I graded it a 40 in the workout, but his throws to the cutoff in the game were 35 or 30. Washington has an awkward arm-action. He showed me an improved crow-hop in warm-ups, but in the game he was flat-footed. With work and a better crow-hop, he can get his arm into the 40-45 range. His breaks in the outfield need work, but Washington has good agility and the chance for solid-average range for either corner.
I timed Washington at 6.9 seconds in the 60 yard-dash last August. I believe he is faster on the field because his first step is good and he does well to round the bases. I’m not opposed to grading him a future 60 runner when it comes to baseball-usable speed.
He shows good body control around the bases and in the outfield, which is why I think he can develop a better crow-hop and more carry on his throws.
I would consider Washington a sleeper, for the draft and beyond because I believe he has big bat upside. There are a couple of players he reminds me of; one of whom played in the big leagues more than 20 years ago, another who will play in the next few years.
Former Tigers leftfielder Steve Kemp had a compact stroke like Washington’s in the late 1970s and early 1980s as well as a similar body. Kemp had an up/down hitch, unlike Washington, but shared the good extension and late lift. San Diego Padres outfield prospect Kellen Kulbacki was a 1st-round sandwich pick in 2007. His swing is similar and his thick 5-10 frame might be what Kamm Washington has in 4-5 years.
Washington is signed with Florida. While not every team is on him, I can envision a few scouts asking him if he’d sign in the 5th-7th round area.
OTHER PARK VISTA NOTES: Park Vista defeated Seminole Ridge by the score of 9-3 on Thursday (April 23rd, 2009). They have several other players who are headed to play college baseball including shortstop Cody Dent and third baseman Ryan Lashley. Both are very sound high school players. Dent, the son of Bucky, has a good 6-0, 180 baseball body and is solid across the board, but nothing stands out as average or plus future big league. A lefthanded hitter, he needs to develop power with the bat to become a high draft in three years. I see him as a third baseman down the road. Dent plans to join Washington on the University of Florida campus. Lashley is headed to Stetson. The 5-11, 180 righthanded hitter slugged a homerun in his first at-bat. He has a short stroke to the ball and should become a productive hitter for the Hatters. Lashley doesn’t quite have the projection or the peripheral tools to be a high draft now, but he has an even better chance than Dent to hit his way into prospect status in college…. An interesting sleeper follow for the long run is righthanded pitcher Steve Howell. He’s 6-4, 170, with coat-hangar shoulders, a very loose arm, and athletic delivery. Howell is the picture of projectability, though he only showed 83-85 MPH pitching the seventh inning for Park Vista. His curveball had a good downward spin and he even had feel for a downer change-up. If Howell ends up at a junior college, he could develop into a good draft for 2010. He’d have been an interesting draft-and-follow in the old days. At some point, his stuff will take off if he works hard at making himself better. It would not surprise me if he gains 7+ MPH on his fastball down the road.