Top 10 performers from Area Code Games
Pint, Groome headline notable names at event for high school prospects
The completion of the 2015 Area Code Games means the summer showcase circuit is beginning to wind down.
Scouts have had opportunities to lay eyes on many of the top high school prospects in recent weeks, thanks to USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars, the East Coast Professional Showcase and the Area Code Games. While standard showcases allow for players to be evaluated in a relatively controlled environment, usually just one or two games, the aforementioned events feature more games spread out over several days. It's an ideal situation for scouts, who can get more looks at prospects against top-tier competition.
As with the East Coast Showcase, MLB.com polled several scouts in attendance to put together a list of the top 10 performers from the Area Code Games.
1. Riley Pint, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas High, Overland Park, Kan.
Pint was electric in his start on Friday, hitting 98 mph with his first two pitches -- the top velocity at this year's event -- en route to firing three hitless innings. He needed only 33 pitches to finish the outing despite issuing a walk. The 6-foot-4 right-hander struck out three using his explosive fastball, which sat 93-96 mph with late movement once he got going, and an 81-83 mph slider. The lone changeup thrown by the LSU commit was a good one, too, as Pint showed confidence by using it on an 0-2 count to strike out the first batter he faced.
2. Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat (N.J.) High
Already viewed as a candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2016 Draft, Groome didn't disappoint, striking out two batters in the first inning while hitting 94-95 mph with his heater. The 6-foot-6 lefty lost some steam and worked more in the 89-91 mph range during subsequent innings, but his curveball was consistently nasty, flashing plus potential in the mid-70s with excellent depth and shape. Groome, a Vanderbilt commit, finished with six strikeouts in three-plus innings.
3. Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade College Prep, Simi Valley, Calif.
Rutherford boosted his already soaring Draft stock with a strong performance at the Area Code Games, going 7-for-17 while hitting safely in five of six contests. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound outfielder once again demonstrated a true feel for using the entire field by driving the ball to both gaps, while his quick bat and direct barrel path generated triple-digit exit velocities on multiple occasions. Scouts expect the left-handed-hitting Rutherford to grow into more consistent over-the-fence pop based on his projectable frame and natural hitting ability.
4. Bo Bichette, 2B, Lakewood High, Tierre Vista, Fla.
The son of former Rockies outfielder Dante Bichette, Bo hit the ball consistently harder than any other player at this year's Area Code Games. The 6-foot right-handed hitter has some peculiarities to his swing, with a deep load of the hands and a stiff lead arm, but his bat speed and barrel awareness are off the charts. Bichette recorded an exit velocity of 107.2 mph on a sharp ground-ball to the second baseman on Day 1 of the event, and his triple to the right-center-field gap a few days later registered at 108.3 mph. Meanwhile, the fact that he's improved his outlook at second base this summer makes his offensive profile even more attractive.
5. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Stoneman Douglas High, Parkland, Fla.
Fresh off a strong showing at the East Coast Pro Showcase, Luzardo continued to open eyes last week at the Area Code Games, allowing just one hit while striking out seven batters in four innings across two games. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound left-hander was slightly off in his first outing, but he shined in his next appearance, showing his usual advanced command of a three-pitch mix. The Miami commit consistently worked down in the zone with his 88-92 mph fastball and mixed in some good changeups, while his sharp breaking ball induced a slew of whiffs from left- and right-handed hitters alike.
6. Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon High, Encitas, Calif.
That Moniak isn't higher on this list despite going 8-for-19 with eight runs at the Area Code Games speaks to what scouts have come to expect from the left-handed-hitting outfielder. Beyond his success at the plate, Moniak made one of the best plays in the history of the event, racing back to the warning track in center field to make an unbelievable over-the-shoulder catch.
7. Brandon McIlwain, OF, Council Rock North High, Newtown, Pa.
McIlwain is arguably the top two-sport talent in the 2016 class, having already been recruited to play quarterback for South Carolina. But whether he makes it to campus will depend on his development on the diamond over the next nine to 10 months. After showing plus bat speed (with multiple triple-digit exit velocities) and an improved feel for barreling the ball at the Area Code Games, McIlwain will have a steady stream of scouts coming out to see him play next spring.
8. Avery Tuck, OF, Steele Canyon High, San Diego, Calif.
Tuck had an up-and-down week at the plate, collecting only four hits in 18 at-bats. However, the 6-foot-5, 195-pound outfielder's loud tools were on full display for scouts, who were impressed with his combination of athleticism, speed and massive raw power from the left side of the plate.
9. Reggie Lawson, RHP, Victor Valley High, Adelanto, Calif.
Lawson was utterly dominant in his first outing at the Area Code Games, striking out the side on 10 pitches. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound righty bumped 94 mph and sat at 92-93 while working down in the zone, and the breaking ball is a swing-and-miss offering (especially against right-handed hitters), registering in the mid-70s with good shape and late diving action. The Arizona State commit capped his impressive week with three more strikeouts over two scoreless innings in a start on the event's final day.
10. Ulysses Cantu, 3B/1B/RHP, Boswell High, Saginaw, Texas
Cantu was a force on both sides of the ball at the Area Code Games, as the two-way prospect went 7-for-16 at the plate and also logged two scoreless innings on the mound. The 6-foot, 205-pound right-handed hitter possesses huge raw power, thanks to a combination of physical strength and bat speed, and he's also received rave reviews for his bat-to-ball skills.