Two weeks ago on August 16th Perfect Game USA brought together 50 of the best high school baseball players in the country to San Diego for an exhibition game at Petco Park. In addition to quality television for MLB Network, this game is an outstanding opportunity for scouts and front office executives to see several of the top prospects available next summer.
Unlike the Under Armour high school All-America game played the previous day, this event was dominated by pitching, as the East squad narrowly defeated the West, 3-1. Below are my scouting notes on a few of the many exceptional players who participated in this game.
Jason Groome LHP Barnegat, New Jersey
Perhaps the top high school prospect in the 2016 class, left-handed pitcher Jason Groome started the game for the East team and catches the eye with his tall frame, long legs and projectable body. Standing 6-6 180lbs Groome has an easy, repeatable delivery with a natural rhythm throughout and gets quality extension toward home. Groome also impresses with how effortless he achieves his velocity, sitting 92-95mph with strong command of his fastball and showing off a sweeping 73-75mph curveball. In addition Groome also threw a 76mph changeup with outstanding deception, replicating his fastball arm speed perfectly.
Groome possesses everything one would seek in a top high school pitching prospect and there is an outside chance he goes #1 overall next year. Signed to play collegiately at Vanderbilt, there is almost no chance Groome is not playing professional baseball in 2016.
Khalil Lee CF Flint Hill, Virginia
Batting leadoff for the East team was local product from Northern Virginia and Flint Hill High School, centerfielder Khalil Lee. Committed to Liberty University, Lee is a speedy 5-10 170lbs left-handed hitter who possesses a keen batting eye and obvious bat speed. He has loose wrists and uses a rather impressive leg kick as the trigger to his swing, which has some present excess length. In addition he has a strong arm, clocking 90+mph off a mound.
Lee needs to mature physically and make refinements to his swing, but with good speed, a strong arm and excellent athleticism, he projects as a plus defensive centerfielder with a chance to hit atop the lineup. He would likely benefit from three years of college baseball, but his collection of tools will likely have him shunning campus life for professional baseball.
Joe Rizzo DH/3B Oakton, Virginia
Another local product, Joe Rizzo from Oakton, VA, served as the #2 hitter for the East and immediately made an impact, gathering the first hit of the game on an opposite field single. In his 2nd at-bat Rizzo showed an advanced eye, working a walk after recognizing and passing on two breaking pitches out of the zone.
Rizzo is a thick, well-built 5-11 215lbs third baseman who looks more like an amateur wrestler than a high school baseball player. He possesses a short, compact left-handed swing with obvious bat speed and strength, along with quick, loose wrists. In short, he looks the part of a top high school power-hitting prospect. Rizzo has made South Carolina his college of choice but his potential for an above-average hit and power tool will make it unlikely he escapes the top-50 picks in 2016.
Reggie Lawson RHP Victor Valley, California
Listed at 6-4 205lbs, Lawson is an obvious athlete with a projectable, near ideal pitchers’ frame. Lawson appeared extremely amped to start a game on national television in a major league stadium, as his control was off throughout the appearance. It is obvious he needs to refine his balance and tempo in his motion, as they were consistently inconsistent in this outing as well. That said Lawson was extremely impressive, showing a relatively simple delivery with some deception, along with a 91-93mph fastball with life and a hammer 72-75mph curveball with plus potential. Like any teenage pitcher he needs repetitions, but Lawson has excellent potential and enters his senior season as one of the top high school righties available.
Austin Bergner RHP Windermere, Florida
Pitching the bottom of the 2nd inning for the East was Florida high school pitcher, Austin Bergner. Immediately Bergner is physically impressive, standing 6-4 195lbs with long arms and plenty of projection remaining in his frame. Bergner features a slight drop-and-drive delivery, which is often difficult to replicate, but he repeats the motion well and achieves some deception from this movement as well.
In this outing, Bergner flashed a 4-pitch arsenal, featuring a 94-95mph 4-seam fastball with excellent life, along with a 92-93mph 2-seam sinker with outstanding arm-side movement. Additionally, Bergner showed a fringy mid-70s curveball with good spin and a potentially plus 84-85mph changeup with splitter-type action. Bergner has a lightning-fast arm plus a mature approach to pitching and a refined arsenal – these skills should allow him to be selected early in the 2016 draft.