Cary, NC - Righty Robert Stephenson (Alhambra HS, CA) was the biggest attention-grabber on Thursday. The 6’2”, 180 pounder threw at the Perfect Game National and didn’t make my Top-50 largely because his fastball was straight and his peripheral pitches not nearly as sharp. Stephenson had trouble getting hitters out today in two innings of work, but he showed a full arsenal and a very good delivery to go with it.
Committed to Washington, Stephenson has the whole physical package. He’s lanky and projectable, but already strong in his core and lower-half muscles with a quick, loose arm. Throwing over-the-top, Stephenson dealt in the 90-92 MPH range and showed a big league curveball at 76-78 MPH which for me projects to a plus pitch. His 76-81 MPH change-up is advanced as well.
So how did Stephenson get hit? Pitching for Pony against a strong American Legion lineup, Stephenson didn’t do well to mix his pitches and the elite high school hitters were able to work him to a fastball count. Stephenson throws hard, but his fastball doesn’t have a lot of movement or deception right now, and when he comes over the plate, mashers like Dan Vogelbach (Bishop Verot HS, FL) can give it a ride.
Scouts note performance, but they’re more interested in upside and Stephenson’s arm, delivery, body, and arm-action are hard to find. The northern California native will need to learn to change speeds and locate his fastball for sure, but he has the raw material to become a big league pitcher and that alone will give him a long look.
Stephenson might have been the most physically gifted pitcher who threw on Thursday, but I’ll put Mason Hope even higher for a combination of tools and polish. The 6’2”, 180 pound righty from Broken Arrow (OK) HS has a similar wiry build and very good athleticism for a pitcher. He turns his hips well and keeps his balance throughout, even following through and finishing like a big league pitcher. Hope’s fastball hovered around 90 MPH and his 73 MPH curve has big league break already. He threw strikes and worked hitters and ended up pitching two scoreless for the Stars, striking out three with one hit and no walks.
The hardest thrower was actually 5’9” Ricardo Jacquez from Franklin HS in El Paso, Texas. Throwing the last inning for Babe Ruth, Jacquez dealt 91-93 MPH cheese with good running action. His curve wasn’t as sharp as it was in the Trop last week, but the delivery was every bit as athletic. Jacquez’s size will definitely downgrade him compared to pitchers like Hope and Stephenson, but his arm is so good that I don’t think scouts can completely ignore him.
I got a longer look at Brandon Nimmo, the outfielder from Wyoming (Cheyenne East HS) who impressed me with his quick bat and plus speed on Wednesday. The 6’1”, 165 lb Nimmo showed more holes in his swing today, striking out twice on outside pitches and having trouble waiting on a change-up. The bat-speed and natural loft are there and I think it’s just a matter of Nimmo getting more quality repetitions against strong pitching.
He showed a pretty good radar in center field for a high school kid and an average MLB arm on a throw to the infield. All-in-all, it’s quite a package and I’d say his potential ranks among the top ten high school outfielders I’ve seen thus far in the class of 2011.
Another outfielder caught my eye after watching him two days in a row and his name is Derek “Bubba” Starling. Starling has already signed with Nebraska on a football scholarship but before he sets foot in Lincoln, he’ll get considerable attention from baseball scouts and probably have a difficult decision to make after his senior year.
Standing a sturdy 6’3”, 210 lbs or so, Starling has a little length to his swing, but a decent stroke with very good extension. He will develop power when he adds the inevitable 15-20 lbs to his frame. Starling also showed solid-average major league speed, I got him home-to-first from the right side at 4.26 seconds and at 4.45 seconds on a turn.
I only saw one throw and it was very accurate back to the infield from center, but it didn’t have a lot on it. I’ll pay close attention to his arm tomorrow.
Rivals.com has Starling ranked as the #5 quarterback in the nation and #99 overall in their Football Rivals100. Oddly enough, I watched their #1 quarterback, Orlando Hagerty High’s Jeff Driskell, play the outfield last week at the Perfect Game National. Driskell ran and threw better and had a stronger body, but Starling has a much better chance to become a good big league hitter in my opinion.
On Friday, they have planned an extensive batting practice and workout session and I’ll have more notes from Cary before flying back to Florida on Saturday.