After dominating on mound on Day 1, prep lefty showed off bat on Day 2
By Special to Tom Shanahan
CARY, N.C. -- The dozen-plus Major League Baseball scouts that pointed radar guns at senior Braxton Garrett jotted down notes more detailed than the speed of his pitches. They also saw his mental command on the mound.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound left-hander from Florence High in northern Alabama, who is on the cusp of hearing his name called in the first round of the MLB Draft, is a rare high school pitcher who calls his own game.
"There are a lot of guys that throw hard and have electric stuff, but they don't know how to pitch," Garrett said. "I'm not a flamethrower, but I have good arm speed and command. I know what to throw and I take a lot of pride in that. I take a lot of pride in being a good pitcher without being a flamethrower."
Whether Garrett spends this summer starting his professional career or preparing for his freshman year at Vanderbilt, he won't be a Nuke LaLoosh character from "Bull Durham" that needs a "Crash" Davis to help him learn the game. The maturity of the No. 41-ranked Draft prospect by MLBPipeline.com was especially revealing as he picked up a 2-0 win in Wednesday's opening day of the fifth annual National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball Training Complex.
Garrett allowed a leadoff triple in bottom of the fourth inning of a scoreless game, but he composed himself to strike out the next two batters. He got out of the inning with a soft bouncer back to the mound.
The scouts look for such play under pressure. Once general managers hunker down into their Draft rooms, that mental part -- as well intangibles -- could move Garrett into the first round, ahead of less mature players.
"You put everything together when you're scouting a player," said one MLB scout, who asked to remain anonymous, on Garrett calling his own game. "You want to see all the tools he has and how he handles things."
Garrett picked up the complete-game shutout on four hits in an extra-inning, eight-inning contest. Florence scored two runs in the top of the eighth, and Garrett finished off the shutout over Liberty Christian Academy (Lynchburg, Va.), with three ground-ball outs.
"We help out our other pitchers, but Brax calls his own pitches," said Steve Garrett, his father and Florence's head coach. "I don't always agree with his pitches on 1-2 and 0-2 counts, but he knows how to pitch. All that [Liberty Christian] guy needed was a good ground ball, but Brax got us out of it."
A father coaching his son can raise red flags, but Steve Garrett, a pitcher and catcher at Troy (Ala.) University, is open to letting others influence his son. Braxton said he learned how to call pitches the summer before his sophomore year in high school while playing for a travel ball team, the East Cobb Astros of Marietta, Ga., coached by Guerry Baldwin.
"My Dad will tell you himself he's always learning -- you never know everything about the game," Braxton said. "He's always learning from other coaches. He trusts me to know what's right and wrong. We're player-coach on the field and father-son at home. It's a fine line, but we execute it well."
Scouts only had to wait one more day to see more of Garrett's intangibles to note that can improve the pitcher's Draft stock.
Garrett played center field in Thursday's 5-4 eight-inning, extra-inning victory in the quarterfinals over The First Academy of Orlando, Fla., the 2014 NHSI champion. On a deep ball crushed by Cash Case to right-center field, Garrett sprinted and went into a full extension to catch the ball. He came up empty on the dive, but the effort belied any notion he's worried about risking injury to his Draft status.
"That's all for my team, my school and town," Garrett said. "I love playing baseball. I don't just pitch. I loved to the play the game. When I play I'm going to play all out."
That effort was also made despite Garrett playing with a bout of food poisoning. Garrett said he ate his usual road-game meal of chicken fingers the night before, but he woke up in the morning vomiting.
Garrett didn't eat before Thursday's 1 p.m. start, but he contributed more than defense. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI single, although the two hours in the 72-degree sun contributed to his illness. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth.
"I played as long as I could," he said.
Garrett's pinch-hitter, Zac Perkins, came up again in the eighth and executed a squeeze bunt to score the game-winning run.
"The boys are coming through," Garrett said with the enthusiasm of a true teammate.
Garrett also is producing despite the questions surrounding whether he can lift himself into the financially lucrative first round of the Draft.
"I don't have any pressure," Garrett clarified. "I like to play baseball. It's a game to me. I love to play. Whatever happens, happens."
Tom Shanahan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.