ST. PETERSBURG -- With so much talent spread across high school baseball fields in Florida, it's possible to overlook a hidden gem or two.
That is why the Prospect Development Pipeline program can be a boon to players from smaller prep programs like Trinity Christian Academy. The Warriors were represented by three rising juniors -- first baseman/pitcher Angel Tiburcio and infielders Kaeber Rog and Bertram "B.J." Murray -- in the PDP Premiere event at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Monday.
The showcase event, a joint venture between MLB and USA Baseball, brought together 42 of the top prep players from the class of 2018 and 2019 from around the state to display their talents in front of big league scouts. The players from Trinity Christian -- the most represented school at the event -- were elated to get the chance to be featured alongside some of the best competition in the Sunshine State.
"It puts us against some of the best players out there to see how we stack up," Murray said.
As a private school in Lake Worth that plays in the state's Class 2A division, getting noticed by top collegiate programs, let alone professional organizations, can be tough. The Florida High School Athletic Association breaks down its member schools into eight classifications based on student populations. An 8A school can have up to 4,500 students. A 2A school, such as Trinity, has a total enrollment between 32 and 227 students.
"It is harder to get scouted because of our competition that we play isn't always good so it is hard to get scouts to see us playing against good competition in high school," said Tiburcio, who led his team in home runs and also served as one of its top pitchers.
The trio of Trinity players put up gaudy offensive numbers for the Warriors as they led the program to its second straight state championship last week. Several of the scouts in attendance Monday agreed that the disparity in the competition can make it hard to identify which players could succeed as professionals.
"It can be difficult to evaluate in the lower divisions," one of the pro scouts said. "You want them to dominate at that level, but you want to see how they'll do against players at this level. That's why the biggest thing we look for is if they have the physical tools available to succeed."
Events like the PDP are a reminder that success won't always come easily for players and also serve as a way for those players to evaluate themselves agaisnt their peers. Along with normal baseball-related activities, participants were tested on their agility and speed, as well as undergoing biometric analysis.
"When I see some of these guys, I'm like 'I've got to be better and I've got to train harder' so I feel like this has been a great experience," said Rog, who emigrated from Curacao this year to pursue his baseball dreams and batted .436 with 20 extra-base hits for the Warriors.
Among those taking part in the showcase was outfielder Elijah Cabell of TNXL Academy in Longwood. Cabell, who has already verbally committed to play baseball for LSU, put his offense on display by launching multiple home runs during batting practice.
"It was a good feeling," Cabell said. "It's a Major League field and it is my first time ever hitting on a field like this before so it was fun to see how far I could hit it. All I can say is that I am blessed and happy that I was able to do it."
In the next group, Tiburcio connected on a line drive that left the yard in center.
"I got to show what I could do," he said. "It felt good to put one out of the park in front of the scouts."
J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.