It was a sterile, odd atmosphere for a baseball event, feeling equal parts athletic competition and science experiment. Maybe I found it strange because this was the first high school showcase event I had ever attended, and I had no frame of reference from which to compare it. The showcase was held at the Diamond Xtreme Training Facility in Kernersville, NC about 20 minutes west of Greensboro. It’s a 30,000 square foot building, which is large enough to house a full-sized infield and some batting cages.
The benefits of this sort of event are obvious; it provides access to many of the best area players under one roof. In my estimation, the PBR team did a great job hosting the event. Scouts were provided with packets that detailed player heights, weights, schools, and left open space for notes. As players began various drills, PBR announced their names. It was efficient and easy to follow. To my surprise, they will even provide scouts with data packages via email that will include velocities for pitchers, 30-yard dash times for position players, pop times for catchers, etc.
While useful, this is still only a showcase, and it has its limitations. For example, on the catcher pop time drill there were no breaking balls thrown. There was no pressure of a runner getting a good jump. Clearly, it would be a different situation in-game. In fairness to PBR, they did the drill in two phases. In the first phase, pitches were thrown directly to the catcher. In the second phase, balls were thrown “in the dirt”. The catcher had to block them, then throw to second. Still, this drill lacked a lot of nuance that an in-game throw to second necessitates. Now that you have a feel for what we were working with, let’s move on to player notes.
Devin Bartley of Southeast Gilford was in the 1.95-2.02 second range with his pop times. His throws were accurate and on a line. Trent Harris of Crossroads Flex had a very quick release and a pop as low as 1.86 seconds, but the accuracy of his throws were less consistent than Bartley’s.
The pitchers threw around 20 pitches each. The first half were from the windup and the second half were from the stretch. Their full array of offerings were used. Most of the kids were high 80s with their fastballs. A few touched 90. The breaking balls were of varying quality and a few displayed nascent feel for their changeups. Logan Whitaker of Ledford was the pitcher I liked best. At 6’5” 175 lbs, I think his frame is projectable, and I think he had the best feel among the pitchers present, especially with his changeup. It was an easy delivery with little effort. Chris Villaman also of Ledford touched 90 with his fastball. It was a crossfire ¾ delivery, which resulted in natural cut to his glove side. His curveball was good at times and stayed up at others. Ryan Chasse of Middle Creek had some head whack. The delivery did not look polished, but maybe counter-intuitively, that made me like him because I am curious to see how he performs if it is refined. His arm is fast and he gets good rotational velocity.
There were some impressive outfield arms in the building. CJ Conrad of Apex touched 95. Sam Zayicek of Lake Norman touched 93. Trent Harris touched 94. Keep in mind these were all with a crow hop. Xaiver Bussey of Garner had the best 30-yard dash time at 3.7 seconds on my watch. Jaylen Guy of Southeast Gilford and CJ Conrad were not far behind at 3.76 and 3.85, respectively.
In my opinion, Jaylen Guy was the owner of the best BP of the day. He was hitting the most consistent line drive contact. It’s a smooth, balanced swing. I think Tyler Tuthill of Pro 5 Academy had the most power. He was capable of easy loft. It’s worth noting all or almost all of his contact was pull-side. Trent Harris did a decent job at using “both fields”.
Take this event for what it’s worth. There were some intriguing tools on display, but let’s not get too carried away. At the very least, it was a fine way for scouts to spend their Sunday when nothing else of value was going on.