Recent Standout Performances and Other Memories From Past Under Armour All-America Games
After looking back on memories of the first five Under Armour All-America Games in a previous post, it’s time to remember some of the more recent prospects that are now making a name for themselves at all levels; playing collegiately, at all levels of minor league systems as top prospects and on major league teams.
While the position players seemed to be in the spotlight in ’11 and ’12, the pitchers certainly made their presence felt in 2013.
The National Team rolled out eight pitchers that were all premium arms. While first round pick and current White Sox top prospect, Michael Kopech, had the most impressive outing – striking out the side while showing two plus pitches – there were several other good performances. That staff included fellow future first rounders Touki Toussaint, Grant Holmes, Foster Griffin and David Peterson along with second rounders Joe Gatto and two-way star Alex Verdugo, and 8th rounder Micah Miniard. That’s quite a challenge for any lineup. Of course, Verdugo was drafted as an outfielder and his opposite field double showcased his offensive ability as well. Shortstop Nick Gordon (Minnesota Twins prospect) was also outstanding throughout the event and proved to be one of the top middle infielders the Under Armour All-America Game has seen.
2014 stands out for a few reasons. At the top of the list is Luken Baker. The current TCU star put on the most impressive HR Derby display the event has seen. In winning the title, he hit a ball off the Toyota sign that used to sit atop the bleachers in deep left center field at Wrigley. Luken didn’t stop there. He also touched 93 mph on the mound and singled on a breaking ball during the game. Another standout was Kyler Murray. The top two-sport athlete in the nation attended practice as the starting QB for his high school team in Texas the morning of the game before flying to Chicago, hitting a few balls into a net on the Wrigley Field cement concourse, and then going 2-for-3 with two stolen bases in the game. Other memorable moments from that game include RHP Mike Nikorak’s (Colorado Rockies) dominant outing and MVP Ryan Mountcastle’s (Baltimore Orioles) ability to hit everything all week in both batting practice and the game.
It’s hard to figure out the most impressive moment of the 2015 event. It could have been Will Benson nearly knocking down the dorm at the University of Illinois – Chicago campus, with line drive home runs during the opening round of the HR Derby. Maybe it was Riley Pint touching 99 mph in the first inning, or it could have been Carter Kieboom singling on that 99 mph offering (1 of 2 hits on the day for him). Perhaps it was Forrest Whitley or Jesus Luzardo who both had perfect outings on the mound while showing dominant stuff. Of course Andrew Yerzy hit an opposite field HR, Michael Amditis hit a grand slam into left field and Bo Bichette tripled and played outstanding defense as well. Add in Taylor Trammell reaching base in all five of his plate appearances and it becomes apparent that many of these prospects showed the scouting community how talented they are. It’s no surprise that many of the players mentioned above ended up as first rounders in the 2016 MLB Draft.
That takes us up to last year’s game where the most noise, and loudest contact, came from Heliot Ramos. Heliot came into the game as a somewhat under-the-radar prospect, but his 3-3 performance that included a single, triple and home run earned him immediate respect and recognition in the scouting community. Not to be outdone, several players from Southern California proved that they were among the best in the class. Starting pitcher, Hunter Greene, was dominant on the mound while Royce Lewis homered deep to left field. Fellow SoCal star, Nick Pratto, proved throughout the weekend that he was among the best hitters in the country. Two-time Under Armour All-American, Jo Adell, also displayed his special talents with a towering HR in the derby that hit off his picture on the Wrigley Field video board in extremely deep left-center field and with two hard hit balls in the game. Those five players alone proved to be selections 1, 2, 10, 14 and 19 in the most recent MLB Draft. Add in the outstanding hit/power combination from HR Derby Champion, Ryan Vilade, the perfect inning and premium stuff from Shane Baz, and the outstanding defense behind the plate from MJ Melendez, and the most recent edition of the Under Armour All-America Game was loaded with talent.
Of course, this just scratches the surface of the outstanding players that have been a part of this great event over the last nine years.
It leaves out the Cecchini brothers, Garin and Gavin, who participated in the Under Armour All-America Game two years apart, and have both played in the Major Leagues. It also fails to mention talented left-handed hitters Dominic Smith and JP Crawford who are currently two of baseball’s top prospects, or Kevin Gausman, who participated as a high schooler from Colorado and went on to star at LSU, becoming a first round pick of the Baltimore Orioles, where he is a mainstay in their major league rotation.
I could continue to go on and on reminiscing about the great performances we’ve witnessed over the years, but it’s time to concentrate on this year’s game. Another group of ultra-talented players from the US, Canada and Puerto Rico stand ready to show the baseball world that they are the game’s next superstar. On July 29th, we get to see them perform in the 10th edition of the Under Armour All-America Game.