The summer showcase season for high school prospects for the 2014 First-Year Player Draft is in high gear. It started with the Perfect Game National Showcase and continued with USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars. The most recent event, finishing on Saturday in Syracuse, N.Y., was the East Coast Professional Showcase.
The four-day showcase, featuring prep talent from all over the eastern United States, is run by Major League scouts and gives the industry an opportunity to see players over a longer stretch than in a one-day All-Star Game setup. It allows pitchers to throw more than once, and often for as many as three innings, as opposed to the one-inning stint they'll get at the two All-American Games taking place later this month.
The Area Code Games is set up similarly, with multiple games over several days. That's currently taking place in Southern California, giving scouts a must-see 1-2 event punch that leads to a ton of frequent-flier miles.
There were dozens of scouts in Syracuse taking in the action, and not surprisingly, that led to a wide variety of opinions about what they saw. There was a bit of consensus about who the top players were in the showcase, and the list below reflects conversations with a range of scouts, from area guys up to scouting directors, about the top pitchers at the showcase. While there was a small handful of players who were almost universally praised, there was a fairly large group -- with too many names to list everyone -- who was thought to play well, even if they didn't necessarily separate themselves.
1. Dylan Cease, RHP, Milton HS (Ga.): In his first inning of work, Cease threw a steady diet of 95- and 96-mph fastballs in a very effective inning. His velocity dropped in his second and third innings, not typically an issue, and he did have trouble commanding his breaking ball a bit. Still, Cease had as big of an arm as anyone at the event.
2. Mac Marshall, LHP, Parkview HS (Ga.): Marshall had suffered a minor oblique injury at the Perfect Game showcase in Minneapolis, so this was his first time back on the mound. He clocked 90-92 mph, but typically throws much faster. But Marshall commanded his breaking stuff well and was very efficient.
3. Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian Academy (Fla.): One of the more projectable pitchers at East Coast, Toussaint was up to 94 mph and showed a curve and a slider. He wasn't always consistent, though he did get better as his outing went on, and scouts love his arm and upside.
4. Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Sandalwood HS (Fla.): Scouts like to see improvement as the summer goes on, and Reid-Foley threw better at East Coast than he did during Tournament of Stars. During three hitless innings, the right-hander was at 92-94 mph with his fastball, with a ton of sink.
5. Sean Blewett, RHP, C.W. Baker HS (NY): A local kid from just outside of Syracuse, Blewett is going to make scouts travel back to New York next spring. At 6-foot-6, there's projection here, and he hit up to 93 mph during his outing.
6. Cobi Johnson, RHP, James W. Mitchell HS (Fla.): The son of former big leaguer Dane Johnson, the big right-hander was very efficient, throwing just 28 pitches over three innings. He showed a very good breaking ball, had excellent command and threw everything downhill.
7. Justus Sheffield, LHP, Tullahoma HS (Tenn.): Sheffield could have been higher up on this list, perhaps hurt slightly because he more or less threw the way people have come to expect. There's also the fact that he is a bit undersized, albeit while throwing left-handed. Sheffield reached 94 mph in this event, but some feel he needs a tighter breaking ball.
8. Joe Gatto, RHP, St. Augustine Prep (NJ): Gatto is 6-foot-5 and touched 94 mph. While he was very fastball heavy, he maintained his velocity for three innings and filled up the strike zone.
9. Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS (SC): Holmes faced Sheffield and more than kept up. The 6-foot-2 right-hander reached 94 mph and showed a very good breaking ball.
10. Jake Godfrey, RHP, Providence Catholic HS (Ill.): Godfrey threw his fastball 91-93 mph and coupled it with a very nasty curveball.
Other pitchers of note: Austin DeCarr, RHP, Salisbury School (Mass.); Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (Fla.); Alex Destino, LHP, North Buncombe HS (NC); Zach Shannon, RHP, Anderson HS (Ohio); Alex Faedo, RHP, Alonso HS (Fla.); Bryan Dobzanski, RHP, Delsea Regional HS (NJ); Justin Steele, George County HS (MS).