With the Vegas city lights shining in the distance and 80+ scouts and 10 scouting directors on hand to watch, it was an optimum opportunity for 33 of the nation’s best to “showcase” their baseball tools over a two day period. Every player in attendance showed at least one draftable tool while a handful of players showed several that should bring decision makers their way in the spring of 2003.
This list was compiled by myself along with input from Team One G.M. Jeff Spelman, Scouting Director Anup Sinha, East Coast Scout, Stan Brzezicki, Carl Andrietta and Rob Bruno. So, without further adieu …
California OF Dan Perales could use some more mass to help generate added pop but even so you can’t help but love the way he uses his hands in order to simultaneously “square up” ball and bat head. In terms of overall swing template, he’s got a pure stroke with the potential to be a high average/occasional power guy.
Matt Moses and Colin Curtis are way-advanced high school hitters with Curtis flashing a compact, gap to gap stroke and Moses showing a direct, high finish swat and the potential for frequent power down the road.
BEST RAW POWER:
Left hitting Brennan Boesch had the most raw pop and his power ceiling seems limitless considering the rhythm and lift that his swing generates along with the probability that he’ll put on another 25-30 lbs. within the next couple of years.
In what may have been the highlight of the event, Florida’s, Alex Boston and Washington’s Curtis went heads up for 50 yards before Boston exclaimed, “I gotcha now” and finished slightly ahead in a time of 6.66. And while Boston won the “raceoff”, it was actually Curtis who clocked the fastest camp times (6.57-6.59) overall.
Players who graded out even better in shorter, baseball distances include: Sean Henry, Hudson Smart, Moses and Rapoport.
Top gun among outfielders has to go to the lithe Rapoport who has an undersized physique yet powerful left arm stroke. He’s a solid 55 now and at full maturity could end up in the 65 or even 70 range.
Curtis has a similarly powerful left arm action w/ good carry as does Boston who despite playing football up until the past weekend, showed the potential for an above average big league hose.
Catcher Cody Collett put on a pop-time display during the workout portion, registering a 1.74 on my watch and was consistently near 1.85. And while Collett, corner infielder, Mayer and the aforementioned outfielders showed above average arm strength, shortstop Sean Henry had the top positional arm in camp based on pure velocity, carry, transfer quickness and the ability to show zip from numerous arm slots and angles.
Based on his size, some will want to move Henry to the right side of second base going forward (and he could play a quality second base at the Class A level right now) but for me, he shows all the twitch actions, range and more than enough arm to stay at short for the duration.
Outfielders, Rapoport and Curtis can break on and go get a ball with just about any high school outfielder in the country and their defensive skills should only get better with time. Smart has a great first step, soft hands and the glove actions to make tough plays up the middle while Collett stamped his name firmly on any list that includes the top catch and throw receivers in the country. He also showed the ability to control a ballgame and work with his pitchers.
6’6 righty, Jared Hughes is the runaway winner here. Two weeks ago in Peoria, he registered some 95’s on my Jugs radar gun and then followed that up by topping out at 96 in Vegas. Even more impressive was that he threw over 30 fastballs and none were clocked under 90 mph. Along with “plus, plus” velocity, Hughes’ number one has a downward plane and some arm side movement- and he has no problem running the ball in on right handed hitters. Physical maturity and a slight tweak in arm action could get him another couple of mph’s down the road.
BEST BREAKING PITCH:
This may be the toughest of them all so we’ll take one from both the left and right side. Undersized right hander, Ryan Muller has a frail frame but shows a venomous, attack mentality and lightning quick, power curveball that has dominant effects on right handed hitters.
From the left side, John Danks flashes an “ownership” deuce that renders left hitters useless. Tight spin, nasty downward tilt and jelly legged affects aplenty.
Other good ones came from Hughes who compliments his giant fastball with a nasty, “plus” spinner while David Filipiak, Josh Butler and Asher Demme mix in “plus” breakers of their own.
Based on his presence and command of the three traditional pitches including a 90+ fastball and that vicious hook, Danks is a potential first rounder walking.
After a down first effort on Saturday, Demme came back huge on Sunday and flashed a low 90s fastball with life, took something off it and got even more arm side action and also located a "plus" breaker and traditional changeup. If he does that with consistency next spring, he may just wind up a top 5 round guy.
BEST PLAYER-NOW: This one has little to do with projection but more so with present skill-set, baseball sense and ability to play the game- but then again, I guess that tells you quite a bit about what a player will do in the future. Hands down it goes to Sean Henry and whether flashing over the middle to make a play or scampering first to third on a ball hit to the outfield, he’s a playmaker with the ability to make a “wow” play at any time. Put nine Sean Henry’s on the diamond and we’re going to win you some ballgames.
It’s pretty hard to argue with Hughes’ blend of size, arm strength and ability to throw more than one pitch- and that all adds up to a potential staff anchor. He’s going to fill out noticeably and will just as likely be throwing harder than his current 96 in the near future.
BEST PURE ATHLETE: Smart, Curtis, Henry, Johnson and Danks all bring “plus” athleticism to the table but this category belongs to Boston and I can’t imagine, nor have I heard of any athlete who has attempted the football (D-end), baseball (OF), track and soccer (goalie) combination. And while it'll be baseball or football going forward, I'm sure Manchester United would be willing to send someone out next spring.
The Sunday “raceoff” between he and Curtis was classic and I imagine Boston would have found the extra gear to beat just about anyone paired against him that day. He’s certainly a ceiling talent in baseball and has baseball/ football offers from all the biggins’ including Miami, FSU, Florida, Ohio State and Notre Dame. At some point, he’ll have to pick one and I wouldn’t be the guy to bet against him when he does.
BIGGEST SLEEPER: Romeo Newman is an outstanding two-way prospect with enough ability to pitch and play outfield at the college level and do either as a pro but everyday he is looking more and more like an early first day guy as a right handed pitcher.
He is still grasping the nuances and his arm stroke is short (yet clean) but Newman's delivery is full of tempo, his fastball full of life and he’s really starting to “dial in” his breaking pitch. He’s a low 90s guy waiting to happen and doesn’t look like he’s even scratched the surface.
RHP, Nolan Mulligan is just a thrower right now but he projects out of this world and shows the makings of a potentially nasty breaker from an over the top slot. He’ll be one to follow.
Brandon McConnell is an athletic right hander who dealt during his second outing of the weekend. He has a lean frame, short arm stroke and the potential for two “plus” offerings. Amazingly, both he and Mulligan are unsigned.