August 5, 2002

East Coast Pro Showcase Top-20 Prospects

Top 20WILMINGTON, NC- The East Coast Professional Baseball Showcase is run by the major league scouts every summer. Six major league teams are sponsors (Devil Rays, Marlins, Mets, Orioles, Diamondbacks, Orioles), with high school players coming from all over the east coast. It takes place the first weekend in August, and there were about 140 players in attendance this year.

In the three previous years I’ve attended, the Florida-represented teams (Devil Rays and Marlins) were far and away the most talented in terms of pro prospects. In fact, the 2001 Devil Rays ECPBS team was then considered by many scouts (including myself) to be the best “showcase team” they’d ever seen.

Believe it or not, this year’s Devil Rays team might have been just as good. They didn’t have the power bats of 2001 (Prince Fielder, Elijah Dukes, Brian Dopirak, Denard Span, Adam Donachie, Denard Span, etc.), but they were close and might edge the 2001 group in other facets (ie. pitching). Six of the Top-20 are off of the Devil Rays roster, including #1, #2, and #3.

The Marlins (South Florida, Georgia, and New York) were solid, but their Georgia contingent wasn’t quite as loaded as it was last year; many of the premier Peach State prospects didn’t show. An argument could be made that the Mets (Mississippi, Alabama, etc), Diamondbacks (Carolinas, Virginia, etc), and/or Rockies (Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, etc) were even better than the Marlins. It’s a testament to the improved baseball in those areas as well as the hard work put in by local scouts to find the athletes at such an early stage.

The Orioles, representing Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, were also noticeably stronger than they were in the past and should have numerous draft picks in 2003, despite being the northernmost represented club.

I felt I had to go to a Top-20 (as opposed to the standard Top-10) because of the depth of talent and I’m sure I still excluded a future first-rounder. That individual(s) could earn the unofficial “Matt Cain award”, in honor of the former Tennessee HS righty who threw in the mid-80’s at the 2001 ECPBS, then developed into a low-90’s, 2002 first-rounder for the San Francisco Giants. There were quite a few projectable pitchers in the 2002 ECPBS who were not much different from Cain in 2001.

On the position player front, there were many “plus” runners and throwers who didn’t make my Top-20, but could easily make one belonging to any random cross-checker in attendance.

An astounding five lefthanded pitchers made the list, including #2, #3, and #4. This draft should be very strong with high school lefties. Four catchers were also ranked.

These rankings are purely my own as are the additional comments. They are based primarily on the player’s showing during the event, but there are many players whom I’d seen prior to last week. Only 2003-graduating players are eligible for the Top-20.

An awful lot will change over the next year (see Matt Cain), but this is how I evaluate their pro draft value at this time.

Check back later in the week as I will do a Best Tools article on the ECPBS, to give even more insight into the talented athletes who performed in Wilmington.

ECPBS TOP-20 PROSPECTS
1. Ryan Harvey, OF, Dunedin (FL) HS 6-5, 192 R/R
Harvey has an exciting package of size, power, speed, and arm-strength. He has four “plus” raw tools right now, and the fifth (hitting for average against MLB pitching) could come in time if he shortens his swing. Even at its current length, he catches up to elite HS stuff while swinging wood. This type of athlete/baseball player is rare to find and Harvey has a chance to go very early in the draft. This is an unusually strong year for high school outfielders and an argument could be made that he’s the best of them all. Harvey’s broad-shouldered at 6-5, 192, and capable of gaining considerable strength in a year, which makes him all the more interesting.

2. Andrew Miller, LHP, Buchholz (FL) HS 6-5, 185 L/L
A long, lean, immature 6-5 lefty who shows a lot of 89-91 MPH, Miller’s most impressive “tool” might be his slider. It is the best “slide-piece” I’ve seen all summer (among high school pitchers) and at times it looks like a major league strikeout pitch. He’ll eventually need something else to work against righthanded hitters. Miller’s arm-action isn’t the prettiest, but it’s fairly easy, and when he puts some meat on his bones, he’s sure to throw consistently harder.

3. James Houser, LHP, Sarasota (FL) HS 6-4, 185 L/L
Houser threw 88 MPH consistently out of a three-quarter slot, and I’ve actually seen him throw harder in the past. His power 78 MPH curveball will get a lot of knockouts and he’s also shown quite a feel for his circle change-up. All three of those pitches are close to MLB caliber today, and Houser’s body and arm-action are still very projectable. He and Miller may be the two best lefties in the country.

4. Ryan Feierabend, LHP, Midview (OH) HS 6-3, 194 L/L
But is Feierabend right on their tail? This is the first time I’ve ever seen him and his delivery and arm-action are ultra-smooth. Everything comes off of his hand easy, including a running/sinking 88-91 MPH fastball and three other pitches (curveball, slider, change-up) that all have MLB possibilities. Such a live, “multi-pitch” arm is rare to find and his northern background leads one to believe he doesn’t have as many innings behind him as the Floridians. His pitchability isn’t quite with Houser and Miller, perhaps for that reason.

5. Sean Rodriguez, SS/OF, Coral Park (FL) HS 6-0, 180 R/R
Rodriguez is a terrific baseball athlete who has the tools to become a multidimensional shortstop or centerfielder. Despite only 7.0 60 yd speed, he is very agile defensively in both premium positions. Rodriguez has the arm and balance to make outstanding plays. His bat is also quite strong and I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a true shortstop who could generate as much bat-speed with wood at the same age. He might need to tone down his swing in situations, but the talent is there to become a run-producer down the road.

6. Robert Valido, SS, Coral Park (FL) HS 6-0, 175 R/R
Valido actually plays shortstop at Coral Park HS while Rodriguez sees more time in center. That’s all you need to know about his infield tools; he’s smooth as silk and might have gold glove potential. Valido also generates bat-speed with wood and has some line-drive power. Valido is not a burner, but has at least average speed. He was timed at 7.01 in the 60 yd last weekend, and was at 6.8 at the Team One Central in early July.

7. Justin Brashear, C, Barbe (LA) HS 6-2, 200 L/R
Brashear will rank among the premier left bats in his class. Not only does he generate bat-speed and power with wood, but his approach is very disciplined and mature. Brashear has the potential to hit for both average and power in the big leagues one day. His defense is solid and I think it could become above-average with continued hard work. There is still some projection left with his body as he is not the stereotypical “thick” catcher.

8. Daniel Bard, RHP, Charlotte Christian (NC) HS 6-4, 185 R/R
Bard has projectability coming out of his ears. He threw 87-89 MPH consistently out of a three-quarter slot, producing good “run” on his fastball. Bard’s curve has a hard spin and MLB knockout potential. With a quick arm and a lanky, immature 6-4 frame, he could really turn into something and will get early-round consideration for 2003.

9. Paul Bacot, RHP, Lakeside (GA) HS 6-6, 195 R/R
Bacot has some projection himself. He’s an athletic, wiry 6-6, with high-80’s arm-strength and a tilting curveball. There is early-round potential, especially if he tweaks his command. There are a lot of moving parts with his gangly frame, which can inadvertently change his slot. Maturity and repetition could work that out.

10. Shane Matthews, RHP, St. Stephens (NC) HS 6-2, 170 R/R
Matthews is another quick-armed pitcher with a slender frame and consistent 88-90 MPH arm-strength. (Detect a pattern?) He comes out of a three-quarter slot and throws a heavy fastball, perhaps the heaviest I saw this weekend. Matthews’s second pitch is a late-breaking slider. He showed a fair amount of pitchability and a lot of deception, which isn’t easy to teach.

11. Jeremy Laster, OF, Hunters Lane (TN) HS 6-1, 185 R/R
Laster was the fastest player in camp, running an official 6.53 60 yd as well as a 4.59 40 yd on my watch (baseball-style). What makes him further intriguing is his ability to generate bat-speed and make hard contact. He does have a hard time catching up to the upper half of the strike zone, with his low-handed, “Eric Davis”-like stance. Defensively, he puts his wheels to use, has a centerfielder’s range, and the potential for an average arm.

12. Jake Stevens, LHP, Cape Coral (FL) HS 6-3, 220 L/L
Stevens is physically mature and doesn’t have a lot of projectability with his body. But his present-day stuff is very impressive and right up with the three lefties ranked ahead of him here. Stevens showed a lot of 87-90 MPH fastballs and both a curve and change-up with big league ambitions. His thick, strong body and healthy arm-action may translate into durability. Stevens needs to use his off-speed more and his pitchability right now is behind most first/second-round lefties.

13. Jon Fulton, SS, Danville George Washington (VA) HS 6-3, 200 R/R
Fulton was all over the place during the weekend, hitting line drives and making the plays at short. Fulton has the hands, balance, and arm to play there at least for a while. He could project into a power hitter and if he gains 20 pounds like I think he’s capable, third base is an attractive alternative. Fulton ran a 6.76 60 yd.

14. Asher Demme, RHP, South Lakes (VA) HS 6-2, 196 R/R
Demme wasn’t quite as dominant as he was at the Team One South two weeks prior, but he still showed his quick arm and promising two-pitch arsenal. Demme was in the 87-88 MPH range and his curveball was sharp. He’s physically strong and athletic throughout his delivery. Demme’s command was “plus” to start, though he lost some of it by the end of his outing.

15. Bill Kleinschrodt, OF, St. Paul’s Episcopal (AL) HS 6-3, 200 R/R
There isn’t a single outstanding tool, but Kleinschrodt could have five very good ones by the time he’s 23. He’s solid across the board and has a big league body. I see him best as a power-hitting rightfielder down the road. The broad-shouldered Alabaman has a natural lift to his swing and when he gets stronger, it should lead to “wood bat” power. He also ran a 6.83 60 yd.

16. Scott Leffler, C, Northside Christian (FL) HS 6-1, 175 L/R
If there’s a better catch-and-throw guy in this class, I haven’t seen him. Leffler is a polished receiver, with soft hands, and quick feet. He’s also capable of registering 1.9-2.0 pop-times in game action, and a tick faster in workouts. He’s starting to show some juice in his swing as well, and his hitting actions are smooth. Whether scouts can project him as a run producer remains to be seen, but he has a chance to hit “enough”. Despite his stationary athleticism, he’s a slow runner and limited to behind the plate. His body has a lot of room to grow stronger.

17. Jon Still, C/1B, Madison Central (MS) HS 6-3, 210
Still was the most enjoyable hitter for me to watch because he was so aggressive and seemed to live for those few minutes in the batter’s box. Still was very comfortable with wood, generating major league bat-speed and driving the ball hard. I didn’t think he was that pretty in batting practice, but in live situations, he got it done with an exclamation point. Still is not a bad stationary athlete and I think he could make it work behind the plate, but there’s a lot of work to do before he’s a big league catcher-and-thrower.

18. Derik Olvey, RHP, Hueytown (AL) HS 6-3, 217 R/R
Olvey has a mature build with a particularly strong lower body. There may not be a lot of physical projection, but his arm works well and his present-day stuff (87-89 MPH, two-plane curve) is already effective at a high level. Olvey shows a mature pitchability as well and may make for a relatively “safe” early-rounder out of high school.

19. Robert Coello, C, Lake Region (FL) HS 6-5, 210 R/R
With all the fine catching talent in Wilmington last weekend, Coello may have shown the most raw talent. He’s a power/power catcher in that the ball absolutely jumps off of his bat and his arm is at least MLB average from behind the plate. And despite just a 7.8 60 yd, Coello has impressive stationary athleticism and showed me a lot of agility blocking balls. A power/power catcher with athleticism? He’ll need to make adjustments and tone down his swing between bombs, but there’s an awful lot for the 6-5 Floridian to work with.

20. John Emmert, LHP, Millbrook (NC) HS 6-3, 215 L/L
Emmert is a long-armer with a lot of deception out of a three-quarter slot. He’s not a pure power pitcher (87-88 MPH), but very pitchable and aggressive inside. He really knew how to bust hitters in. Emmert’s curveball has a natural two-plane break and his fastball can both run and ride in on righthanded hitters. His frame is strong and he could turn into a workhorse.



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