November 25, 2014
Before They Were Pros
As part of Perfect Game's partnership with Baseball Prospectus, David Rawnsley, Todd Gold, Frankie Piliere, and Patrick Ebert will be conducting a “Before They Were Pros” series, providing scouting reports on some of the top prospects in baseball from when they were in high school attending PG events. This six-part series (one for each division in MLB) will appear once Baseball Prospectus has provided their own detailed scouting reports of the top prospects, team-by-team, as part of their own series.
We continue with a look at the National League Central. Be sure to read Baseball Prospectus' features on each of the five teams:
Cubs | Brewers | Pirates | Reds | Cardinals
And here are links to last year's series where more reports can be found:
NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West
Kris Bryant – 3B
Baseball's top power hitting prospect, along with fellow Las Vegas native and former PG All-American, Joey Gallo, Bryant was a much scouted and debated player in high school without there being a consensus about any of his future tools or even his future role.
One thing that Bryant could do back at Bonanza High School was, not surprisingly, hit for power. He started his swing from a fairly high hand position for a long, power-oriented swing and generated tremendous back spin on the ball from his swing plane. My notes from the 2009 Perfect Game National Showcase evoked a comparison to Dave Kingman—who arguably hit the highest pop-up/fly balls in the game's history—for how high Bryant's balls went in the air and how long they stayed up there. There are no 7.0-plus second hang times recorded in the PG database, but they surely existed and were probably frequently repeated. It was a fairly calm and low-effort swing for such huge power and it stood out more for its leverage than for the raw bat speed.
The rest of Bryant's tools, and his future position, along with his ability to make enough square contact to use his prodigious power, were the subject of debate. He had balanced actions at third base and even played some shortstop at times, but was a 7.0 runner in the 60-yard dash and had only average arm strength across the diamond. There was plenty of talk about first base and left field.
High school pitching wasn't much of a challenge for Bryant and he hit .489-22-51 as a high school senior, although scouts were still only lukewarm in their evaluations, similar to what Gallo was to go through two years later with similar performance numbers. Bryant was considered a very difficult sign with a strong desire to go to college at San Diego, and it was a surprise to no one when he was only picked in the 18th round by the Blue Jays as a speculation pick.
While Bryant's first two collegiate seasons were very strong (.365-9-36 as a freshman, .366-14-57 as a sophomore), they merely set the stage for his junior year. At a time in college baseball when players just weren't hitting home runs and entire teams barely broke double figures in long balls, Bryant hit 31 home runs all by himself despite getting walked 66 times in 57 games. In addition, Bryant had matured athletically as a defensive player at third base and much of the doubt about his future at third base had been quieted.
Bryant, along with college right-handers Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray, were generally considered the top three prospects in the 2013 draft. When the Astros went with Appel with the first pick, the Cubs chose Bryant and signed him to a $6.7 million signing bonus. —David Rawnsley
Billy McKinney – OF
The most important tool for a position player is the hit tool. It is also the most difficult to accurately grade and just so happened to be Billy McKinney's carrying tool.
The Plano (Texas) High School product and 2012 PG All-American topped out at average or slightly below in every other tool category. That typically precludes a high school prospect from first-round draft consideration. In the case of McKinney however, it led to a wide range of opinions amongst scouts. He was seen as a major wild card, with some scouts extolling his bat-to-ball virtues, and others suggesting he was a streaky hitter with a moderate power ceiling.
David Rawnsley broke down McKinney's offensive profile in his pre-Draft Focus profile by saying the following:
He has very sound hitting mechanics, with a left-handed swing that is very quick and compact to the ball with outstanding raw bat speed. He is especially aggressive on the inside half of the plate and can pull the highest velocity fastballs with authority. McKinney also has some lift in his swing plane and the ability to put back spin on balls and hit them deep to the gaps. The teams that are most interested in McKinney are going to likely grade him out at least as a 60 (MLB plus) in both the hitting and power categories.
While there was some question as to whether McKinney would be picked in the first round, there was rampant speculation as to which team would be the one to pull the trigger if given the opportunity. Organizations show tendencies as to which types of profiles they prefer and which tools they place highest priority upon. There were a small handful of organizations that seemed to fit the bill as potential suitors for McKinney who held picks in the late first round. Oakland likely realized this and knew that he wouldn't be on the board when their second pick came around, even though he didn't look like a traditional first-round high school prospect.
Given his advanced hit tool it shouldn't come as a huge surprise in hindsight that McKinney was able to skip low-A entirely and not miss a beat. The question about his ceiling remains as a corner outfielder with average present power production. But in terms of contributing on both sides of the ball, McKinney has hit the ground running as a professional and is justifying his draft position. —Todd Gold
Devin Williams – RHP
Live-armed right-hander Devin Williams provided an interesting case study of a pitcher who, step by step, gradually improved as the 2013 MLB Draft approached, something David Rawnsley explained in great detail in Williams' Draft Focus feature from April of 2013.
Playing for the St. Louis Pirates travel ball organization, Williams performed at a high level at numerous high-profile tournament events across the country, beginning the summer after his sophomore year in high school. He first took the mound as a 6-foot-3, 165-pound right-hander at the 17U WWBA National Championship where he peaked at 87 mph and threw four different pitches for strikes.
His stuff, and overall status, took a significant step up the following February at the 2012 Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase, entering the event as the 306th high school prospect in the 2013 class, a ranking that shot up after throwing his fastball in the 88-90 mph range while peaking at 91.
That showing led to an invite to the 2012 National Showcase, where he flashed similar stuff, although didn't take another step forward as hoped. That happened four months later in Jupiter, Florida at the WWBA World Championship where Williams' fastball was much firmer, up to 93 mph, with improved bite on his slider, now his go-to breaking pitch, and more polish to his changeup.
Williams once again took the mound at the Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase in 2013, and amidst a group of several high-profile arms that included fellow St. Louis Pirates hurler Jake Brentz and PG All-American Clinton Hollon, Williams may have had the best performance. Throwing loose and easy, with an athletic, repeatable delivery, his fastball now peaked at 94, and his changeup, thrown with the exact same arm speed and overall action as his fastball, continued to be a very good secondary pitch for him.
Later that spring Williams, who grew to 6-foot-4, 190-pounds, appeared to have finally tabled his curveball for his slider, a pitch he seemed hesitant to throw, but when he did, showed very good potential. A hard-biting breaking pitch, he could throw his slider as hard as 85 mph, and also learned to take a little off of his fastball, now up to 95, for two-seam life in the upper 80s to low 90s, to go along with his usual low-80s change.
All of this led to Williams being ranked PG's 14th best high school prospect and 29th overall draft prospect prior to the 2013 draft, which put his name in the conversation for the first round. Although there were some indications that he could go as high as the middle of the first round, he slipped to the middle of the second, where the Brewers, who had lost their first-round pick after signing Kyle Lohse as a free agent the previous offseason, were thrilled to pick him up. —Patrick Ebert
Jorge Lopez – RHP
A lean, projectable, and well-coordinated 6-foot-4, 175-pound athlete in high school in Puerto Rico, Lopez was a gifted all-around athlete that excelled in numerous sports, including basketball, track and field, and volleyball. His volleyball talents in particular could have led to a promising collegiate career, but it was his progression as a pitcher as a converted shortstop that pointed to the best route for a professional career.
Lopez attended numerous PG tournament events stateside to make him a well enough known commodity, seeing a steady progression to his fastball velocity from the mid-80s in 2009 to his peak velocity of 91 at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Florida in late October of 2010. However, it was his appearance at the 2011 World Showcase in early January that may have ultimately led to him becoming such an early-round draft pick (second round) later that year.
Here is his report from that event:
Slender, young build, should gain strength but not much weight. Slow-paced, low-effort delivery, high 3/4's release point, pulls off some on release, very long and loose arm, good use of his lower half. Fastball to 91 mph, velo comes easy. Flashes hard curveball spin when on top of the ball, changeup shows nice sink and should be thrown more. Very nice young pitching prospect who should keep improving.
That performance also led to Lopez being ranked the 83rd prospect in the high school class of 2011. With an upper-80s to low-90s fastball, a promising overall three-pitch mix, and a lean, projectable frame Lopez gave Puerto Rico, usually known more for producing toolsy middle infielders and strong-armed catchers, a rare top-flight pitching prospect who appeared to be just scratching the surface of his potential. Because of that, Lopez garnered pre-draft comparisons to 14-year MLB veteran Javier Vazquez, who coincidentally played his last year in the big leagues the same year Lopez was drafted. —Patrick Ebert
Tyler Wagner – RHP
Although Wagner had no shortage of opportunities to be seen playing for national powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School outside of Las Vegas, it wasn't until he made a permanent transition to the mound that he started to get noticed by scouts and recruiters. He also made the most of his appearance at the 2008 West Uncommitted Showcase, where he threw in the 86-89 range with a mid-70s curveball, which helped lead to his commitment to play for Utah. Here's the PG scouting report from that event:
Tall athletic build, body projects well on the mound, long arm action, quick and easy, balls come out of his hand well, good feel for curveball, 11-to-5 curveball with tight break, stays tall, new to pitching, very good projection, strong student, plays for a very strong high school team.
As expected, his velocity continued to improve while pitching for the Utes, where he was used exclusively in short relief. He made only 10 appearances as a freshman, recording three saves and a 2.11 ERA prior to his breakout sophomore season in which he saved 12 games with a 2.04 ERA in 35 1/3 innings of work.
By his junior year Wagner was peaking in the mid-90s with a relatively fresh and still-improving arm, although he didn't perform as well as he did during his sophomore year. Leading up to the 2012 draft he was ranked the 121st overall draft prospect with many wondering how well he would fare in a starting role at the next level, and garnered this report:
The rangy 6-foot-3, 195-pound Wagner has an explosive arm with a fastball that frequently touches 95 mph and gets on hitters quickly from a three-quarters slot. He also has a second plus pitch in a power slider, giving him two weapons needed to excel as a closer. Wagner had only two saves in 17 appearances in early May, though as his opportunity to close out games was limited. At the same time, Wagner struggles to throw strikes consistently, which led to a 2-5, 3.98 record, while walking 21 and striking out 29 in 32 innings. Had he pitched more like he did in 2011, Wagner might have been a fit as early as the third round, though is still expected to be the state’s top pick.
Wagner was drafted almost exactly where he was ranked, going in the fourth round—155th overall—to the Brewers in the 2012 MLB Draft. —Patrick Ebert
Reese McGuire – C
McGuire first appeared at a Perfect Game event in August 2011 after his sophomore year, traveling down to San Diego from his Washington home to play in the PG National Games following the Perfect Game All-American Classic. It was love at first site for this scout, as McGuire almost immediately pegged himself as a potential first-round candidate for 2013. Here are my notes from those first two days at the USD field:
Low and flexible set up, + hands, + arm, easy actions, stud, hosed guy from knees on perfect release/throw, one of the best game blockers I've seen in ages, plays C like a shortstop. Solid build, square strong shoulders, thin waist, loose quick swing, lifts and shows power, good bat speed, aggressive swing, solid pull contact, HRs, tries to hit it hard, 4.38 Like!
That may be the only time that I've ever written "plays catcher like a shortstop," in my notes and it was a reoccurring theme with McGuire over the next two years. There was one sequence at the 2012 Tournament of Stars when McGuire was catching left-hander Stephen Gonzalves—a fourth-round pick of the Twins—in a late-inning, bases-loaded jam. The six-pitch sequence to the hitter was perfectly symmetrical: First pitch 59-foot curveball that McGuire blocks, second pitch 91-mph fastball for a strike, third pitch 59-foot curveball blocked again, fourth pitch 91-mph fastball for a strike, fifth pitch, etc. McGuire's ability to completely deaden pitches in the dirt, especially breaking balls, completely separated him from his peers behind the plate. He had an extremely rare combination of anticipation, cat-like quickness, and polished, high-level technique to his blocking.
Of course, it didn't hurt his overall defensive profile that McGuire also had a plus arm and was regularly in the 1.90's during games on his pop times and in the low 1.80's during drills.
McGuire went on to star for the gold medal winning USA 18U National team, leading them in batting average (.400), runs scored (11) and walks (nine versus only three strikeouts) in 13 games while splitting the catching duties with fellow Perfect Game All-American Chris Okey.
That combination of defensive and offensive ability enabled McGuire to go 14th overall in the 2013 draft, the second highest a high school catcher has been selected, behind Kyle Skipworth (sixth overall pick, 2008/Marlins), in the last 10 years. The Pirates signed him out of a University San Diego commitment almost immediately after the draft, giving him a $2,369,000 bonus. —David Rawnsley
Austin Meadows – OF
2012 PG All-American outfielder Austin Meadows fit comfortably into two appealing draft demographics coming out of high school: the “performer," and the "jeans salesman."
The former is self explanatory, as Meadows performed at a high level throughout his prep career. He burst onto the national scene by hitting .571 for Team USA's 16U National team in 2011. He put up big numbers in high school ball and made a lot of contact against quality pitching on the national showcase circuit. While scouts give very little weight to high school stats, performance track record is often a tiebreaker between two similarly talented prospects.
The latter is a term borrowed from Michael Lewis' bestseller Moneyball. Within the book, Oakland A's GM Billy Beane is quoted as telling his scouts in the draft room that "we're not selling jeans here," in regards to the importance placed on player body types. As a high school prospect, Meadows had the "prospect body," with a long, high-waisted 6-foot-3 frame and strong, lean 200-pound build with room to carry additional muscle mass.
The equation created by being a strong present contact hitter who would likely offer at least solid contributions in the average department, combined with his above-average speed and strength projection, hinted at the potential to be an impact player. His arm strength was the only tool that scouts were confident didn't have plus potential, giving them the opportunity to dream on a four plus-tool player. The fact that he didn't show present power and had a swing that would require adjustments to tap into his raw power potential created some risk, but his solid floor was seen as relatively stable. Prospects who offer relative certainty tend to go high in the draft, but those whose security come with upside are the type that come off the board in the top half of the first round.
There was also some question as to his future defensive home. The straight-line speed he showed in the 60-yard dash suggested he had the potential to be an above-average defender in center field, though he didn't take that same speed into the outfield at the time, leading many to project him to wind up in left field long term. Had his speed translated from the 60-yard dash and his raw power converted from batting practice, Meadows might have been one of the first players selected in the 2013 draft. He didn't last very long regardless, going ninth overall. —Todd Gold
Michael Lorenzen – RHP
Big tools have always defined Lorenzen's game, with one of, if not the best combination of speed and arm strength of those eligible for the 2010 draft. His speed is shown by the 6.54 60-yard dash time he recorded at the 2009 West Coast Top Prospect Showcase, and his arm strength by the 99-mph throw he made from the outfield at the 2009 National Showcase, one of the best such throws at any Perfect Game event.
Here is the report he received from the National:
Lean athletic build with sloped shoulders, loose actions. Two-way prospect because of special arm. Huge OF arm strength, 99 mph in drills, 6.80 speed. Balanced hitting approach, good clean swing, creates bat speed, gap to gap power, can handle the bat head, projects much more strength. Arm strength translates to mound, FB easy 91-93 mph, simple delivery with long arm stroke, low effort release, SL has good depth, CB spins hard, may have higher ceiling as RHP. Could explode by next June as a pitcher. Early draft possibilities especially on the mound.
Lorenzen's performance led to him being selected to play in the PG All-American Classic that same summer, and despite being drafted by the Rays the following June in the seventh round as the 54th best high school prospect in the 2010 class, he decided to forego his pro career at the time and honor his commitment to Cal State Fullerton.
His career with the Titans, which initially began as a primary outfielder, got off to a good start as he hit .342 with a .427 on-base percentage and was 19-for-26 in stolen base attempts. He didn't take the mound his freshman year, but that changed during his sophomore season, recording 16 saves in a two-way role. He never hit as well as he did during his freshman season, posting a .297 batting average as a sophomore and .335 as a junior, but he added 19 more saves during his final season at Cal State Fullerton, giving him 35 in two years while setting the school's all-time record.
Offensively, his profile was similar to that of another former college standout, Drew Stubbs—also a first-round pick of the Reds—with good speed, great range, and instincts in center field, his strong arm and intriguing power potential, especially to the right-center-field gap as a right-handed hitter. However, the more time Lorenzen got on the mound the more it became impossible to ignore his special arm strength, as noted in the showcase report shared above, peaking as high as 99 mph during his junior year and routinely working in the mid-90s in short relief stints to go along with a sharp breaking ball.
Ultimately the Reds selected Lorenzen in the supplemental first round of the 2013 draft. It was believed leading up to the draft, when he was ranked by PG as the 44th best overall prospect, that he may be allowed to begin his career as an outfielder, with pitching being a very realistic fall-back option down the road. However, the Reds selected him with the intent of him pitching at the professional level from Day 1. —Patrick Ebert
Ben Lively – RHP
At 6-foot-4, 180-pounds, Lively offered a lean, projectable frame with obvious growth potential. He frequently peaked in the low 90s, as he did at the 2009 WWBA World Championship, and was ranked the 235th high school prospect in the class of 2010 prior to being drafted in the 26th round by the Indians that year. That wasn't early enough to sign him away from UCF, although he didn't truly break out until the summer of 2012 during his time spent on the Cape.
However, during that time, he was often overshadowed by being part of what has to be looked back at as one of the great pitching staffs in the history of the Cape Cod League. The Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox staff staff included Andrew Thurman, Chris Anderson, Alex Gonzalez, and Aaron Blair—each of those pitchers were taken in the first 40 picks in the 2013 draft.
The impressive aspect of Lively’s Cape emergence was how well he carried his stuff deep into the summer. In fact, his stuff ticked up somewhat by summer’s end. He mostly worked at 91-93 mph with his sinking fastball and he relied very heavily on this pitch. His 76-78 mph curveball flashed solid action, but was fringy over stretches of the summer. His 81-84 mph changeup was a reliable offering, but if he got into trouble, it would still be his fastball that not only induced weak contact, but allowed him to miss bats as well. That ability to stay off the barrel on the strength of his fastball was what opened the eyes of many scouts during that summer.
The numbers spiked for Lively in his final spring at UCF, as the 6-foot-4 righty finished his collegiate career with a flourish. He posted a 2.04 ERA, allowed just 88 hits in 106 innings, and struck out 101 batters along the way. The velocity was closer to 89-92 mph at times during the spring, but he did top as high as 94 and consistently showed that heavy fastball life that put him on the map the summer prior. That led to the Reds taking him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. —Frankie Piliere
Nick Travieso – RHP
A native of Southeast Florida, Travieso put his name on prospect lists at an early age as he was topping out at 92-93 mph the summer following his freshman year in high school. However, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander never saw his name near the top of those lists and wasn't selected as a Perfect Game All-American.
The reason for those snubs was that Travieso rarely pitched until his senior year in high school. He attended two powerhouse programs in American Heritage (freshman/sophomore) and Archbishop McCarthy (junior/senior) and was a middle-of-the-order, power-hitting corner infielder and occasional relief pitcher with those deep and talented programs. In fact, Travieso only threw 18 innings his junior year. It was much the same story for the South Florida Elite Squad team he played for in the summer and fall.
Travieso, who was committed to Miami, began working as a starter as a senior and regularly pitched in the 93-95 mph range while topping out at 98-99 mph on a consistent basis. There were even reports of him touching the magical 100 mph mark on some radar guns. Even with that type of velocity, Travieso wasn't getting across the board recognition as a probable first-round draft choice. While his lack of innings on the mound and his overall athleticism gave him the fresh arm and clean health resume that scout's value, he had also spent very little time working on his secondary pitches. The PG database shows numerous events when Travieso didn't throw a single breaking ball and only a couple of rare changeups.
While Travieso's slider showed improvement with use and repetition during his senior year, it still was a hard pitch to project due to his delivery and arm action. This breakdown of Travieso's mechanics appeared on the PG website in his pre-draft report in May, 2012:
Travieso has a well-paced delivery with a compact and short high arm circle in back and gets very good use of his strong lower half to generate power and torque prior to release. He also leans off pretty severely on release and spins to the first base side. The result is when Travieso releases the ball he’s coming inside and over it in a pronounced way. That makes it very difficult for him (or any pitcher) to get on top of and out front of a breaking ball and create consistent quality spin on the ball and also presents somewhat of a tip to advanced hitters because he has to change his hand angle and position for a breaking ball.
His breaking ball has gone between a upper-70s slurve type curveball to a low- to mid-80s slider over the past year and reports out of Florida this spring seem to indicate that he’s becoming more consistent throwing a true slider with more consistency as he gets more repetitions. He also throws a changeup that is in the developing stages and pitchers with this type of arm action and mechanics have frequently been able to develop power split-finger fastballs as they mature.
The Reds, who scout Florida as heavily as any organization in baseball, knew all of this, of course. They also place a premium on high-ceiling, young, fresh arms and had seen virtually every one of Travieso's outings that spring. They surprised some of the industry by grabbing Travieso with the 14th overall pick and proceeded to sign him only a couple of days later for a $2 million signing bonus, $375,000 under the MLB recommended bonus for that slot. —David Rawnsley
Phil Ervin – OF
A gifted overall athlete and a three-sport star in high school, Ervin was a part of state championship teams in both baseball and football at Leroy High School in Alabama. Since he didn't focus on just one sport prior to attending Samford, Ervin wasn't a well-known commodity on the travel circuit prior to his collegiate career. In fact, the only PG event he attended was in 2007 as a 14-year-old at the 15U WWBA National Championship.
That changed quickly in college, with Ervin hitting .371 during his freshman year on his way to being named a Freshman All-American. The productivity continued throughout his sophomore and junior years, as well as the summers in between, as he was named the No. 22 prospect in the Northwoods League in 2011 only to earn MVP honors on the Cape the following summer.
Despite being 5-foot-10, 205-pound coming out of college, Ervin showed true five-tool ability. Although you wouldn't think he could generate significant pop, his electric bat speed, among the best of those eligible for the 2013 draft, made up significant ground on sluggers with more prototypical statures. He also displayed good foot speed, routinely showing advance instincts in the outfield, and his arm strength allowed him to take the mound occasionally, where he would peak in the 92-93 mph range.
Here's his PG draft report coming out of Samford, when he was ranked the 30th best overall prospect:
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Ervin established himself as a first rounder last summer in his first 15 games in the Cape Cod League, when he went deep eight times on his way to earning league MVP honors. He has continued to sting the ball at a steady clip this spring for Samford, hitting .364 with a team-high 10 homers, even as he has been pitched around extensively … Though he isn’t overly physical in his sub 6-foot frame, Ervin generates excellent bat speed with his lightning-quick hands and flashes raw power to all fields. More than just a power threat, Ervin has a solid all-around approach to hitting with good bat control and a patient approach, and stays inside the ball well while emphasizing going the other way. His speed and ability to run down balls in center field are also significant assets, and he has been clocked up to 93 mph off the mound in occasional stints as a pitcher.
A three-year starter in center field for the Bulldogs, Ervin finished his junior year hitting .337-11-40 with 21 stolen bases in 23 attempts and was selected by the Reds in the first round with the 27th overall selection in the 2013 draft. —Patrick Ebert
St. Louis Cardinals
Rob Kaminsky – LHP
Polish has always been a word scouts have heavily associated with Rob Kaminsky, and one that has been featured in his scouting reports dating back to his early years in high school. It’s something he ultimately acquired through years of pitching at the highest tournament levels with the Tri-State Arsenal.
Despite his less than prototypical pitcher’s frame, Kaminsky showed signs of precocious velocity as far back as 2010, coming off what was only his freshman year in high school. Pitching at the 15U WWBA National Championship, the young Kaminsky showed an 84-90 mph fastball, and perhaps more importantly already showed a tight and hard 75 mph curveball, a pitch that has come to define his game.
However, it was his absolutely dominant and eye-opening performance at the 2012 PG National Showcase that vaulted Kaminsky up the rankings, which he continued to climb thanks to a strong senior year, finishing his high school career as the number two prospect in his class.
Here’s his report from the PG National:
Steady low-90s fastball, topped at 94 mph, mostly straight with occasional small run. Nasty curveball with velocity, hard spin and depth, can manipulate shape of CB and spot it to both sides of the plate, plus/plus pitch, one of the best seen at this level. Rare changeup but it was also plus with late diving action and good arm speed. Absolutely no contest vs. hitters.
Kaminsky went on to start the PG All-American Classic later that summer for the East squad. In a number of ways, the scouting community went into the spring of 2013 looking for ways to nitpick Kaminsky’s game. There was a large degree of uncertainty at the top of the high school pitching crop, and despite his often electric displays of stuff and advanced command, it seemed that many remained skeptical of the hard-throwing lefty.
But, to his credit, Kaminsky battled the often frigid Northern New Jersey spring conditions and put together an outstanding and consistent spring. And, on April 27 against rival Don Bosco, Kaminsky put together an outing that may have cemented his status and erased many remaining doubts scouts had voiced. Here is Perfect Game’s account of that outing:
Rob Kaminsky is continuing to make a strong case as the best prep left-hander in the 2013 draft class. His velocity has jumped over his last two outings, and he showed two clear plus pitches against Don Bosco on Friday. Kaminsky pitched consistent at 91-94 mph over six innings of work, and showed two variations of his plus breaking ball. The harder version topped at 85 mph, while the more traditional curveball we've seen from him in the past worked at 77-80. After having some minor command problems early, Kaminsky was able to locate his curveball with tremendous consistency throughout the game.
This mid-spring performance was as good as we’ve seen Kaminsky in terms of velocity and crispness to his breaking ball. But, his value still lies in his ability to locate his elite-level, plus curveball. It’s always been the equalizer for him, and even in outings where his velocity was closer to 88-91 as an amateur, he still left scouts impressed with his ability to dominate on the strength of that true hammer curveball. Some teams and scouts interpreted the use of his curveball differently, referring to it as a crutch.
It was that, and his less than prototypical 5-foot-11 frame that allowed him to fall to the Cardinals at 28th overall. The teams that looked past his frame saw the value in his plus makeup, ability to repeat his delivery, and advanced feel for pitching at a very young age. —Frankie Piliere
Charles Tilson – OF
Tilson grew up on the north side of Chicago near Wrigley Field, but was a virtual unknown outside of Illinois before August 5, 2010. His New Trier High School baseball team played together in the summer locally and Tilson played football in the fall. He never played at a Perfect Game event nor any other national level tournament or showcase prior to the 2010 Area Code Games.
Dan Durst, the White Sox scout (now with the Orioles) who organized the Midwest Area Code Games team, told me just before the event started, "Wait until you see this center fielder I have, you're going to love him. Nobody's ever seen him play outside of Illinois. He's even committed to Illinois because none of the southern schools know who he is."
Durst, of course, was correct. The 6-foot, 165-pound left-handed hitter was the star of the week, using his blazing speed to wreak havoc on the bases and track down everything in center field, then hitting the only home run spacious Blair Field allowed that week as a bonus. Scouts were left scrambling to figure out the new talent they had shooting up towards the top of their lists.
My notes from the event read as follows:
Outstanding prospect, strong athletic build, medium frame, quick hands at the plate, has deceiving pop, drives the ball, impact speed on bases, 3.18 steal, aggressive, 4.05, 6.54 in the sixty, drove 92 FB hard, plays at 100% speed/effort, center fielder with + range/quickness, solid average arm. Potential 1st round type.
Tilson went on to be the Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior when he hit .406 and stole 28 bases. The Cardinals drafted him in the second round (79th overall pick) and signed him to a $1,275,000 bonus right at the August 15th deadline. —David Rawnsley
Todd Gold is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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David Rawnsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Patrick Ebert is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Frankie Piliere is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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