Fort Myers, FL - The 2011 WWBA Underclass World Championship is big and loaded as always, with 144 teams vying for the championship under the sun of Southwest Florida. I spent Day One trolling games in Fort Myers and while I saw a number of prospects, the most intriguing was a Cuban defector who has yet to enroll in a high school.
Yogey Perez is a switch-hitting outfielder playing for the South Florida Bandits Seminoles. At a sculpted and broad-shouldered 6’2”, 195 lbs, Perez looks the part just walking off the bus. He showed a fluid lefthanded swing with developing bat-speed and loft power. Perez went 1-3 with a long home run to right-center and a hard flyout to straightaway center.
He’s easy to dream on. I didn’t get to see Perez handle any difficult chances or throws in the outfield, but everything he does is graceful and athletic.
I’m told he’s being advised by Bart Hernandez, a South Florida-based agent who represents many Cuban-born players. Where he goes from here remains to be seen, but Perez is going to get a lot of attention from scouts when his name gets out. It’s unclear what his school year will be, but he had to prove he was of underclassman age to play in this tournament.
That Bandits Seminoles team was easily the most talented I saw on Friday and I’d guess they have as good a shot as any to win the tournament. Some of their best prospects are pitchers who haven’t thrown yet, but one who has is lefty Ben Bowden. Bowden was in the 86-88 MPH range, the hardest thrower I saw on the day. He’s a physically matured 6’3”, 220 junior from Lynn English HS in Lynn, Massachusetts. He also threw a big curveball at 67-69 MPH that befuddled his underclass opponents but will need to be tightened to work in pro ball in a couple years.
You can see Bowden is still gaining body control and coordination of his limbs, so I expect him to throw harder and with better control by the 2013 Draft.
Third baseman Hunter Hope (Jupiter HS, FL) is another likely pro prospect for 2013. Hope is a big-framed and projectable 6’2”, 188 lb righthanded hitter with good hitting actions and lots of leverage on his swing. He has power potential and he moves well around third base. It will be fun to watch him play the next couple of years for a high school that regularly puts out pro and D1 players.
FTB Mizuno brought three teams to the event and I got a look at FTB Mizuno Black, who had a number of D1 prospects.
Catcher Willie Estrada is a 5’11”, 180 lb kid from Celebration (FL) HS who is unusually advanced defensively for a junior. I saw him last summer at the Perfect Game Junior National and his game is coming along. Estrada has very good agility and hands behind the plate to go with what is already close to an average arm. He has plus potential as a receiver at the big league level. Throw in a quick righthanded bat with line-drive pop and you have a prospect despite a solid but less projectable 5’11” frame.
One of the best pitchers I saw was FTB Mizuno Black’s Brandon Lawson, a righty from Hernando HS in Florida. Lawson has an athletically proportioned 6’1”, 180 lb frame with a live delivery and good arm-action. He comes over the top and throws in the mid-80s and it’s easy to add MPH to him by the time he graduates in 2013. Lawson’s curveball is mostly a slow roller right now at 66 MPH, but it will get sharper as his arm gets quicker.
There’s a full slate of games for Day Two on Saturday, so check back for my next report on the 2011 WWBA Underclass World Championship.