Texas High School Lefty Matt Purke
This year’s Aflac game showcased what appears to be a very strong year for high school power pitchers. I don’t know if any class can match the high school crop of 2007, but these guys are going to try to give them a run for their money. The cream of the crop is a pair of lefties Matt Purke and Tyler Matzek. Look for my lengthy complete report on the pitchers in this year’s game after the break.
By far the two most impressive players in the game were lefties Matt Purke and Tyler Matzek. They both possess now ability, knowledge of pitching, and tons of projection. Right now Purke is the guy with a little more upside because his stuff is a notch better. In his inning of work he was humming his fastball up to 95, and didn’t dip below 92 mph. He also was dropping in a down right nasty slider at 81 mph. He has a lightning quick arm that could lead to even more velocity as he fills out his 6’3″ 170 pound frame. Even if he doesn’t add any more velocity, he already has two plus pitches from the left side and surprisingly he commands both pretty well. Purke does have a little more effort in his delivery than Matzek, but it shouldn’t be a problem. The obvious comp would be Scott Kazmir, another dominating Texas high school lefty, but I think the better comparison would be a shorter version of David Price. Either way you get the idea of the kind of ability this young man possesses.
Tyler Matzek was equally as impressive, but did it a little differently. He may be considered more of a polished pitcher, but don’t think he is lacking for stuff as his fastball sat comfortably in the 91-93 range. Matzek also threw a sweeping curve in the 74-77 range that he easily threw for strikes. Another positive with Matzek is his silky smooth mechanics and polished approach. His game is very similar to this year’s first pitcher taken with a similar last name, Brian Matusz. If I am a scouting director I would be hoping for the 1st or the 3rd pick in the draft. Stephen Strasburg is clearly the #1 talent, but I would hate to have to choose between these two lefties. It may be a case where you can’t go wrong either way.
While the lefties were the cream of the crop, there were also some very impressive right-handers with Jacob Turner and Zack Wheeler leading the way. Turner, a St. Louis area native, holds the top spot among prep righties at the moment thanks to his ultra polished approach and good stuff. He fanned 5 in his 2 innings of work thanks to very good command of a 91-93 mph fastball with movement. When trying to think of a comparison the name that kept coming to my mind was a Chris Carpenter type fastball. He didn’t need anything other than his fastball to dominate, but he also featured a 78 mph pitch that was either a change or a tight slider. Either way it was a nice secondary pitch. Turner also looks like a horse out on the mound with his 6’4″ 220 pound frame.
Zack Wheeler gave up a run, but he put on a show. He may not have Turner’s polish, but he has a little more velocity clocking in at 93-95 and it also had a little movement. For a guy with his power fastball, I was surprised to see him flash two above average off-speed pitches. He threw a tight low-80′s slider and a low-80′s change that had some fade away from left-handed hitters. The sky is the limit for Wheeler as he still has a lot of room to fill out his 6’4″ 180 pound frame and potentially add even more velocity. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wheeler pass Turner and claim that top righty spot by the time the draft rolls around.
Those weren’t the only pitchers to impress, as there were no less than 11 guys who hit 94 mph. There were several two way stars who flashed a lot of talent on the mound. Top shortstop Mychal Givens came out and recorded 2 outs on 2 pitches, a 96 and 98 mph fastball. Outfielder Slade Heathcott also showed a big arm from the left side. He blew the save in the 9th, but he was showcasing a 90-93 mph fastball and a nice curve in the 75-77 range. He also flashed a couple changes at 84 mph. Catcher Austin Maddox also lit up the radar gun bumping his fastball up to 96 mph, but he is extremely raw on the mound.
Chad Thompson is the guy that has been ranked the second best righty in this class, but while he has talent, he is all projection at this point. Its easy to dream on a workhorse when you see his massive 6’8″ frame, but his fastball was only in the 89-91 range. He has a hard curveball in the high 70′s, but his off speed stuff needs to be sharpened up. Thompson could be Chris Volstad, or he could be Stu Pomeranz.
A guy that really impressed me was Daniel Tuttle. He was 93-94 mph with movement and also featured two very good secondary pitches in his 78-79 mph slider and 83 mph change. He was able to throw all three pitches for strikes, and he has a very smooth delivery. This kid has good stuff and knows how to pitch. Another standout was Keyvius Sampson. He is an athletic righty with a super quick arm that unleashed fastballs in the 93-94 range, and he also had a nice sharp curve. There is a lot of projection, but he could be the next Edwin Jackson.
Here is a quick run down of some of the other guys who flashed first round potential. Brooks Pounders showed three solid pitches including a 92-94 mph fastball and a good idea of what he was doing on the mound. Lefty Ian Krol has stuff very similar to Tyler Matzek with a 90-93 mph fastball and 76-78 mph curve, but he is just not as advanced. If he can sharpen his command, he could find himself in the running for the first round. Chris Jenkins is a huge guy at 6’7″ 225 pounds and showed a nice sinking fastball in the 91-94 range. Michael Heller showed three pitches including a fastball that touched 95 mph. Scott Griggs also touched 95 mph, but he missed most of his junior year with injury and looked pretty raw on the hill. Matt Graham used a Max Scherzer type delivery to generate 93-94 mph fastballs.