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Notes from the 2012 Petco Park Game

August 13, 2012

Just back from the National High School All-Star game at Petco Park in San Diego. Here’s what I have to say.

This is probably the weakest West team of position players I’ve ever seen at one of these things. I’m not going to identify who and what I don’t like name by name, so I will speak in generalities. I’m not in love with many of the big names, which means I don’t think they will hit. There are a few defenders who will get along in pro ball based on their gloves and arms, but they may be players that I don’t think have the long-term offensive capability to be impact major leaguers. Maybe, maybe, the glove makes one or two of these guys a regular. But there are also a lot of bodies that scare me, and not just the overt ones. Some guys are too fat. Some guys are too thin. Some guys are too stiff. Some guys are too small. And some might not be strong enough for what they are wishing to become. And some might be too strong too young. At the end, I don’t have a lot of confidence in writing these bats up, and I don’t envy the scouts who know they have to turn these guys in, then sit on them endlessly, deal with signability, and do so because they’re the “best” guys in their area. There are simply a few guys whose scouting reports can read, “Can’t hit the curveball,” or “Can’t handle the good fastball.”  Some guys are big names and big names alone. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, once the glow fades and the real world begins, you will hate pro ball.  See, this is why I said no names would be used. If I’m going to be this honest, the least I can do is be civil about it.

Overall, I think the truth of the whole thing is that you can’t call these players the “best 48” high school players in the nation, because while some would be top 50, some would not be, and many players are omitted for reasons that have nothing to do with ability. That’s one big reason why this game is just another high school game in the life of a scout.

That said, this might be the most I have ever liked so many guys on the East team at once. I’d take Clint Frazier first. I see no reason why that guy should not hit. Hard contact, ready to hit the fastball, uses the whole field, flashes raw power and good speed, arm plays, good athlete, good build, and one of his parents clearly has red hair.

Justin Williams has the best raw power here and showed the ability to bring his bat into the game, which, as we all know, is what makes a guy a hitter and not just a 5 o’clock all-star. He’s physical as hell and has the strength to play, loaded with offensive upside. He’s an adequate runner who won’t clog it up and that’s about the worst flaw with the guy. Arm is playable for a corner. Moves around just fine.

Oscar Mercado gives you a rarity – that left-handed hitting high school shortstop who you would sign as a shortstop and then expect to get offense from. He’s got surprising pop in that bat, runs average, hands and feet are good, throws average at least, has a nice easy swing, flashes bat control. He’s got to get a little stronger though to make it work long term, but you’d want to like him.

Josh Hart. Here’s the guy you dream on. Easy plus runner – easy. I got the times to prove it. Baseball instincts – and that ball in the corner ought to tell you all you need to know. Left-handed hitter with a good swing. I thought a touch behind offensively from Frazier and Williams but not enough to scare me away.

Austin Meadows has some offensive upside from the left side. Lanky guy with some ability to put backspin on the ball. Average arm plays at a corner though his motion scares me. Average runner.

Chris Okey can catch and throw. Take what you get from the bat. John Sternagel is a gutty little grinder whose tools aren’t explosive but puts the ball in play and knows how to play.

As for the West, the guy who is probably a lot less famous than the 5 o’clock all-stars is Nick Banks from Texas. Plus runner who sprays the ball with limited power. Good athletic body and good actions. Podsednik.

As for the pitching, this was not the year for the big name, big-armed pitcher. Really the only guy with 94-95 gas who pitched in this game was Kohl Stewart, who saved the better gas for this look than the velocity he showed at the Area Codes. Stewart has a very loose arm and a lot of fastball life that shows up in run, sink and some occasional giddy-up high in the zone. His slider should get more consistent in time, though he throws it hard at 87-88. Change is average at 81-82. I would want to see how this guy progresses over the next few months. He’s a bit gangly and growing into his body and has a lot of moving parts and needs better coordination and strength in the coming months and years. Now he needs to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself in the meantime. Scouts do not like seeing white elbow sleeves on the throwing arms of teenage pitchers.

Brett Morales flashes good stuff, a good arm and had trouble throwing strikes, ranging 92-94 and sitting 93. You can see upside in his slider as a pro weapon and an average change.

Chris Oakley looks about as safe a bet as a high school right-hander as you can see. Fastball sits easy 93, slider flashes bite, got a little split working there. Easy arm, good body, has some strength, chance to be a three-pitch starter.

Casey Shane was 91-93, mostly 92, flashes fastball life and control, slider is enough to dream on, average change.

Dustin Driver, I liked at Area Codes, but he burned his best bullets at Blair. He touched 94 here once that I saw, struggled along mostly at 91, tried working backwards with a slider (78-83) that was just decent and a change at 77 that was smoke and mirrors.

Lefties Jonah Weseley and Stephen Gonsalves have two different types of bodies. Weseley also burned his best bullets at Blair, touching 93 here, and getting by 90-91 without the same breaking ball bite he had at Blair. Gonsalves, whose mechanics just arrived from the 1940s, was 89-91 and his curveball was 72.  Average looks for both guys. Ian Clarkin was just fine, 91-93 from that closed delivery and the 71-72 curve, so people will project with two slightly above average major league weapons. Robert Kaminsky was 91-93 with some fastball life and 80-83 with two different breaking balls. He’s got an average frame.

Two more lefties require scouting imagination. Trey Ball III was 90-92 with a roundhouse 75-77 curveball. A.J. Puk was 90-91 with a 71-73 curveball.

As far as the rest of the right-handers go, Robert Tyler (91-93) has some funk and some mechanical points to clean up in his future. Jared Brasher (90-91) and Kacy Clemens (87-89) are college guys right now. Clemens is smooth, not explosive at this time, has some body to grow into. Good delivery points. Total college guy for me right now. Kevin Davis (92-93) has some arm strength and is very max effort, a college guy for me right now who ought to be groomed for the bullpen. Mayky Perez spells his name in such a way that my spellchecker wants to smack him, but he’s young, throws 89, looked a little overwhelmed, and is pretty much a follow because while he’s young, the ball didn’t exactly explode out of his hand. So who knows what we’ll get in the future.


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