Deep Keepers: Under Armour 2012 Part I
After a few years of conflicting schedules, with both games falling on the same weekend and precluding players from attending both, the Perfect Game All-American Classic and Under Armour got it right and chose consecutive weekends. This allowed a second look at players like Austin Meadows, Clint Frazier, Trey Ball, Brian Navaretto, Joey Martarano and several others.
This piece will be structured much like my Perfect Game notes: three-inning chunks with individual player notes. I’ll do my best to highlight players not commented on in the PG columns, but also want to comment on those second looks and my impressions, good, bad or ambivalent.
RHP Hunter Harvey was first up, and he generally confirmed what I’d been told. The son of two-time All-Star, closer Bryan Harvey, Hunter is probably going to get dismissed as a reliever by many. His delivery is still a bit raw with the arm slightly behind, and he didn’t show the secondaries in this look that we want to see in a starter. That said: the arm works. It’s loose and on-line and the ball comes out of his hand well. He starts open — nearly squared to the plate — orienting himself to the batter before rotating through his delivery. My immediate impression was that he was not getting good extension out front, and a side view confirmed that. He’s landing shorter and taller that he should, and that effected his command and his breaking ball.
The FB was a fine pitch, coming in at 90-92 with some ride on it. He wasn’t getting much downward plane (there’s that tall finish again), and in fact often missed up and away to the glove side in the first. He flashed a slurvy mid-70s breaking ball that was not effective, though it was sharper in his second inning.
OF Austin Meadows had a good plate appearance, battling Harvey and ultimately flaring a tough inside pitch to the CF triangle. Every write-up has (of course) focused on his big hit later in the game, but Meadows again showed that he has the ability to pull his hands in and put the ball in play. This, as much as his obvious tools and projection, are why he’s one of the top high school bats.
Fast rising catcher Brian Navaretto flashed his arm, throwing Meadows out on a stolen base attempt. Jon Denney keeps getting the nod as the catcher who has helped himself out in the summer showcases, but Navaretto is neck-and-neck. The defensive actions are still a bit stiff, but he reminds me a bit of the Indians’ Carlos Santana. There’s no way to project the hit tool, but Navaretto is extremely athletic, can run a bit, and looks to have above avg potential with the hit and power tools.
RHP Dustin Driver started the bottom half of the first, and while he showed the big FB, the secondaries didn’t show in this half inning. He also caught too much of the plate and gave up some loud contact even with the FB in the low-90s.
INF J.P. Crawford had already received good marks at both CF and SS the last two years, and now you can add second base to the list. He looked right at home at the keystone, making a nice play behind Driver.
Home boy OF Corey Ray showed off a nice swing, quick and fairly short to the ball. The bat was a little behind better FB’s, but he showed good hands and some contact ability. He’s a well built player — but not really toolsy or projectable enough to break into the upper echelons of the 2013 OF class. He might be more interesting after three years of college.
OF/1B Dom Smith picked up where he left off the week before, dropping the bat head and hitting a hard grounder down the right field line. He had good hits in both the Perfect Game and Under Armour showcases, but mostly of the seeing eye variety. It’s odd, as he’s routinely lauded as one of the best bets in the class, and looks like he should loft the ball a lot more.
Harvey returned for the second inning and continued to miss to his glove side with his FB and breaking ball. He did throw what looked like a change-up — and a decent one at that as it came in at 81 mph — then backed it up with a 90 mph FB to the same spot. It was two pitches out of many, but that’s the sort of sequencing to look for. He also got a called third strike to end the inning with his sharpest curve of the day. He looked better this inning, which points up the difficulty in gauging players based on one-inning stints as these games so often necessitate.
OF Ivan Wilson came to the plate this inning, and is a huge player. The swing was shorter than expected with above avg bat speed, and he laced a single to CF.
One of the games two Dominican Republic prospects, INF Lucas Tirado, played 2B behind Harvey, muffing a chance at a double play and then committed the cardinal sin of failing to get the out at first as well.
Navaretto showed off his blocking chops, keeping Harvey’s bounced curves in front of him with aplomb.
3B Joey Martarano’s swing looked longer than it had at Perfect Game the week before, and like many of the players he seemed to drag a bit.
Driver then took his half of the inning , and after three innings I’m honestly starting to wonder what I’m missing, as he is consistently ranked in the top ranks of this class but comes off as just average. I do like the delivery as it is compact and efficient. The FB is already solid average, but he was aiming it in this look. He threw more breaking balls this inning, most in the 73-75 mph range, moving them around, but suffered from control problems and dealt out walks and wild pitches. He may be safer than some other players, but that’s as tepid an endorsement as it sounds.
I got a good look at Navaretto in the box, and noted again his interesting stance. I like where he starts his hands, just above shoulder high, and he gets them in good position when he starts his swing. The interesting part is the timing mechanism, as he starts open and comes closed after a quick swivel of his front leg. He drew a walk in this plate appearance and then showed off his above average athleticism by stealing second.
INF Jan Hernandez was another Perfect Game carry over, playing 3B. I was glad to get another look at him at the plate — and I liked what I saw. He was a little more quiet this time up, and despite starting his hands fairly high showed an ability to drop the bat head well, keeping the bat in the zone for a healthy amount of time.
OF Lewin Diaz, the other D.R. player, is a long-limbed and projectable player in the mold of countryman Ronald Guzman. The actions are good at the plate, with a quick up and down front foot, good hand and wrist flex, and a disciplined and repeated swing path. Like Guzman, he may catch some flak for the lack of overt bat speed. His swing could use some shortening, and he came off as a bit of a slow poke.
Tirado helped ameliorate his defensive gaffe with a nice opposite field single.
INF Chris Rivera showed his range with a nice pick, but then missed on the throw to first.
Nick Ciuffo showed his usual solid catching skills, blocking most balls well, but also showed his youth by stabbing at ball that darted past him.
LHP Trey Ball started the top of the third, looking as athletic and projectable as ever. He came in pumping a steady 90 mph FBs, and while he left one up to Clint Frazier that got clubbed for a double (no shame in that as Frazier is a clearly elite bat), he also threw one past Rivera for a swinging strike. He was getting good angle on the pitch and complemented it with a nice 76-79 mph slider to the arm side of the plate. He also showed an ability to move the pitch around as he threw two excellent sliders to the glove side against left-handed hitting K.J. Woods Jr. Ball’s delivery did get out of sync, and he started missing with the FB down and away to the glove side, leading to some walks.
OF Billy McKinney pinch ran for Frazier again, as he had in the first thanks to Frazier’s battling hamstring issues. This time he got to show off his wheels, scoring on a Dom Smith error, Smith trying to come home for the force out and throwing it away. McKinney is considered one of the best and fastest runners in the class.
Martarano continued to look overmatched as Ball threw a FB under the hands and then an arm side slider for swings and misses.
RHP Derik Beauprez continues to impress and is becoming one of my favorite sleepers in the class. He got easy groundball outs to begin and end the inning, with another nice play at 2B from Crawford, and flashed his plus FB/change-up combo. Beauprez has a great build, sound delivery, a FB that sits low-90s with potential to tick up, and rare feel for a change-up from a player with his experience. Watch this space.