Prospect Development Pipeline event features seven players on Draft top 50 list
By AJ Cassavell
LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. -- Southern California has long been a baseball hotbed, so it comes as no surprise that Saturday's Prospect Development Pipeline event in Lake Elsinore featured some of the best young talent in the country.
Seven of MLBPipeline's Top 50 Draft prospects were on hand for the PDP event -- the fourth stop of its kind across the country, featuring arguably the most impressive crop of prospects yet.
PDP is a joint venture between MLB and USA Baseball created to enhance opportunities and exposure for 16- to 18-year-old prospects ahead of the Draft. The event began in the morning with drills and batting practice, before culminating in an eight-inning game in the afternoon.
"There's a lot of talent here," said Padres senior advisor to the general manager Logan White, who addressed the high-school players beforehand. "And that was one of my main messages to them. This is a real honor to be here, and some of these guys are going to go on to some big things. Enjoy the moment, enjoy every little detail along the way, because it goes fast."
With nearly 100 scouts on hand for the event, Huntington Beach first-base prospect Nick Pratto had the most impressive afternoon, going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles.
"Any time you get to come on a field with this much talent, it's always a special thing," said Pratto, MLBPipeline's No. 42 Draft prospect. "I was really just concerned with improving, getting better and working toward the spring. Now that things are starting to ramp up again, and I'm seeing things come into place -- it's exciting. You can't not get excited by this."
Added Nick Allen, who is ranked No. 26: "It's truly an honor. I feel very appreciative for the chance to be out here. Not everyone gets this chance. ... And you get to know these guys on a more personal level than just seeing them on a baseball field and that's it."
White's message to the prospects was essentially a call for them to believe in their potential. He paused during his speaking session and asked the group, tongue-in-cheek, 'Who's the National League MVP here?'
"There possibly is an MVP in this group, there possibly is a Cy Young, a Rookie of the Year," White said. "I've done this long enough and been around it long enough and watched similar groups where I've watched young men like [these] grow up to become Cy Youngs, MVPs. Some of them are sitting there going, 'Yeah, I'm going to make it, I'm going to play in the Major Leagues.'"
Here are some of the highlights from the event:
• Pratto, a USC commit, wowed during batting practice, launching four balls over the 35-foot fence in right field. His smooth yet powerful swing has drawn rave reviews, and he put it on display in the game as well, with a pair of rocket doubles to center field.
No. 42 Draft prospect Nick Pratto putting on a show in BP. Huntington Beach product cleared 35-foot RF wall at Lake Elsinore 4 times. pic.twitter.com/kADS24nmfO
• With an impressive summer, pitching prospect Jeremiah Estrada has himself at No. 43 in the Draft prospect rankings. He pitched the bottom of the first and breezed through the top of the opposing lineup, striking out a pair. In the only matchup of Top 50 Draft Prospects on the afternoon, Estrada got Allen looking with a breaking ball on the outside corner.
• Allen would make his mark on the game nonetheless, smacking a two-run double to straightaway center field in the bottom of the third. He showed off his wheels as well, swiping third base on the next pitch and doing so again three innings later. Allen stands just 5-foot-9, but his quick, strong hands make him a threat at the plate, and he's solid defensively in the middle of the infield.
• Hagen Danner -- Pratto's teammate at Huntington Beach and the No. 27 Draft prospect -- showed his patience and his pop in the same at-bat. In the top of the sixth, he worked a full count before launching an opposite-field double off the right-field wall -- an impressive piece of hitting. Danner, a two-way prospect who can also pitch, is committed to UCLA.
No. 27 Draft prospect Hagen Danner (catcher, Huntington Beach) works a full count then goes oppo off the RF wall for a double. pic.twitter.com/OQ74el1xzA