I covered the Perfect Game Showdown in Fort Myers this weekend that, like last week's NHSI tourney, had a number of big time high school teams competing and a number of top prospects.
- The most notable performance that I saw was of 2014 LHP Mac Marshall (Georgia signee) of Parkview High in Atlanta. I have a 2014 notes article coming later today that I'll save the details for, but suffice to say Parkview has become quite the baseball factory in recent years. In the past, they've produced big leaguers like Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Keppinger and Clint Sammons. Last year they had Oakland sandwich pick 1B Matt Olson and this year they have another top two round prospect in CF Josh Hart. Next year they may have their best prospect of this run with the 6'3 lefty.
- The big prospect attraction for scouts was Parkview CF Josh Hart, the top 2013 player in the tournament and a Georgia Tech signee. I've seen Hart a lot the past 12 months and so have most scouts, as they saw him last year when scouting Olson, this year in a loaded Atlanta prep class (including likely top 10 overall picks Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier in his district) and last summer/fall as a showcase staple and leadoff hitter for the perennial power East Cobb program. Hart has plus-plus speed and has developed in the last year to include some gap power to his formerly slap-hitting ways. He has good defensive instincts that lets his speed play in center and an above average arm. Hart has hit consistently everywhere he's been and has some looseness and bat speed to a sound, middle-of-the-field approach.
I mention how much scouts have seen Hart and how sound he normally is because that made this weekend a different task than other scouting assignments. When a scout knows the player, his ability and a long performance record, a spring look is commonly to make sure the tools and physicality are the same and nothing more. Even poor performance isn't an issue when there's a long track record of performance and it's usually caused by poor mechanics that would get fixed in pro ball and aren't usually noticed by high school coaches.
As you might guess, that's what is going on with Hart. All the tools and abilities are the same but he went 0-for-8 in the three games I saw and his mechanics were differing enough swing to swing to be affecting his performance, which caused him to start pressing. Hart was staying back a little too long, letting his front leg stiffen and lock, then getting upright and not using his legs at all. This all caused his head to move more than usual and contact was more difficult, so the swing that already lacked much punch due to his legs staying in the dugout got even more slappy in approach.
I'm not too worried about this development for the above reasons and Hart's track record and tools package are rare enough in this draft, I still have trouble seeing him getting out of the top 50 picks. That said, he may be performing poor enough in key late looks by decision makers that he may be more of a mid second round pick now than a late first rounder I had him as entering the season.
Longhi has had a tough spring after hitting everywhere he went this summer. He's another guy like Hart that this doesn't trouble scouts a ton, but Hart has the tools to still be drafted highly where Longhi is starting to look like a guy that will go to school. Longhi is a below average runner with a solid average arm that plays right field now but likely moves to first eventually. On top of that, Longhi is a maxed-out 6'2, 208-pound, right-handed hitting corner guy with fringy power. On the bright side, Longhi is one of the youngest players in the class and has a long track record of hitting with wood against good pitching. It looks like Longhi has lengthened his swing just a bit by employing a late hand pump that caused him problems when Marshall hit 94 and Longhi whiffed on a number of fastballs over three at bats. All that said, scouts love Longhi's makeup and his mature, all-fields approach but he never really profiled as a righty-hitting first baseman with average power, so some struggles at the plate make the decision easier. Longhi is a 4th-6th round prospect for me and he'll probably put up huge numbers at LSU and go in the top couple rounds as a polished college bat in 2016.
I wrote about Abreu last week and the report still holds. He's an athletic, physical lefty hitting right fielder that didn't hit a ton this summer but has plenty of tools to go in the 3rd round. Some teams don't think he'll hit enough and performances facing mediocre high school pitching likely won't change their opinion. Abreu has an above average arm, average raw power with some projection and is a fringy runner that should lose a step as he fills out.
- I didn't see every team in the tournament, but some of the other 2013 players worth mentioning are Mater Academy's 3B J.C. Escarra (Florida International signee) and C Kevin Abraham (Florida Atlantic) and Sarasota HS outfielders Dylan White (Miami) and Jason Sierra (Vanderbilt). Escarra is a third baseman now with solid hands but likely moves to first base eventually. His lefty swing and approach are solid but his below average power makes him more of a really good college hitter than high level pro prospect. Abraham is the best of the bunch as a solid defensive catcher with an average arm that is limited offensively but has low double digit homer raw power. Abraham isn't a fantastic athlete and the length of his limbs will make his more power-focused swing longer, but I could see him, like Longhi, being a top 3 round draft out of college, though Abraham has a longer way to go. White was a top pitcher as an underclassmen but shoulder injuries have ended the 6'5 lefty's pitching career for now. He's a solid athlete with a little pop but his length causes problems with contact. Sierra is more of a traditional right/right corner guy that is a left field/first base fit that should be a very good college player and lower draft choice like Escarra.
- After a marathon notes article from last Friday, you thought I was all out of scout buzz but here's a little more.
- I'm hearing the Red Sox are another club bringing in their top evaluators for due diligence on Atlanta-area prep CF Austin Meadows. The Sox own the 7th pick and Meadows looks like he'll be 8th on this week's forthcoming Draft Top 50. Like I mentioned last week about the Yankees looking for big tools late in the first round given their situation, the Red Sox should be in an even more drastic situation, with possibly their only top-10 pick for a long time that would be a waste to use on a polished college player. It wouldn't surprise me if the Sox are also focusing on Oklahoma prep C Jon Denney along with the high upside industry consensus top five I mentioned last week.
- North Carolina prep RHP Joe O'Donnell had been a mystery to many scouts for the summer but had his first outing last week and worked 85-90 mph from a low slot. O'Donnell is 6'2, 185 pound two-sport athlete that plans on playing play guard and pitcher at N.C. State. He's super athletic, has limited experience on the mound and rumors had him being up to 93 over the summer/fall. It's still very early and if the velo comes, he could work his way into the top 100 picks.
- Arkansas righty reliever Colby Suggs has been having a lot of trouble finding himself after a bit of a coming out part on the Cape this summer. Suggs has been 93-96, touching 98 in the past with a curveball that will flash 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale and a usable changeup, as I saw him in 2012 and others saw him on the Cape. In 2013, he's been often in the 92-94 range, with inconsistent off-speed and at times terrible command. It sounds like the culprit for Suggs issues is his delivery, losing his release point and variable timing, somewhat common with higher effort relievers. Suggs has fallen from a possible sandwich pick into more of a third rounder right now, but has some time to regain his former draft status.
- Braves RHP Rafael Briceno isn't the top pitcher in the low minors for Atlanta, but has taken a step forward in the early going. A scout passes along that Briceno has been sitting 92-94 and hitting 95 with late life and solid off-speed. I saw Briceno last year and he was 89-92 with a fringy four-pitch mix, so this velo bump raises his profile to a possible back-end big league rotation piece if things continue progressing.