Getting to jet to Hawaii to watch baseball has to be one cushy assignment, right? It seems like a tremendous perk, if you're lucky enough to be an area scout in the region.
Maybe not so much. Anyone who thinks it's just fun in paradise should reconsider. Even for scouts who want to scour the islands for talent, it's a whole lot of work and no time for play. And this year, at least according to one who has The Aloha State in his area, there isn't much talent to see.
"It's a complete nuisance," said the area scout, who also patrols Southern California. "There's so much to do in SoCal, why would you stay there [in Hawaii]? The time is not worth it. You need to fly in and fly out and move on to the next guy."
The purpose of flying in, though, is to see left-hander Kodi Medeiros, currently sitting at No. 25 on the Top 50 Draft Prospects list MLB.com released in the fall. Medeiros put his name on the map last summer, pitching as well as any high schooler on the showcase circuit. The Pepperdine recruit was very good at the Area Code Games and was even better at the Perfect Game All-American Classic. He wasn't quite as electric in the fall at Perfect Game's World Wood Bat Association World Championship, but he still threw well. In other words, scouts couldn't wait for him to get going in Hawaii to see if he was the real deal.
Medeiros made that highly anticipated debut in early February at the Maui High School Invitational, and while he understandably wasn't quite as crisp as he was over the summer, he was plenty good enough.
"He came out of the chute sharp," the area scout said. "He was the same guy as at Area Codes and PG, but not quite as overpowering. But it was February. He's definitely that guy."
Medeiros has thrown well in his two starts since, getting his fastball as high as 93-94 mph, with it sitting at 91-92. He's shown a decent breaking ball, and as is often the case with high school pitchers, he hasn't really needed to use the changeup much.
One of the biggest problems in evaluating Medeiros early is the general lack of competition, particularly in his native Hilo, the same place Cardinals rookie second baseman Kolten Wong is from. The second issue has been his sporadic schedule. Medeiros had two weeks off between each of his first few starts.
Medeiros will start going more regularly beginning next week, though his regular season runs only until April 19, giving scouts just five starts, not counting the state playoffs, to see the southpaw in action. That won't keep the scouts away, even if it's not the fun-filled trip many think it would be. Medeiros' talent will make the nuisance worth it.
"His stuff is consistent; his body looks great," the area scout said. "I put him in the first round. He definitely has a high ceiling."
Nola's stock rising as streak continues to grow
Jim Callis wrote a note last month about Louisiana State's Aaron Nola. At the time, the No. 10 Draft prospect had extended his streak of not allowing an earned run to 40 2/3 innings, a run that began last season.
Well, Nola is still at it. The right-hander pitched eight shutout frames against Purdue at home on Friday, striking out 12 while allowing just two hits. That ran his streak to 53 innings. And while some of his opponents this season haven't exactly been juggernauts, it's important to keep in mind that the streak ran through postseason play and included a shutout victory against Jon Gray and Oklahoma in the Super Regionals. Besides, the way he was throwing on Friday, it wouldn't have mattered who the opponent was.
"His command was outstanding; he commanded both sides of the plate with all three of the pitches," a national cross-checker said. "I don't think he broke a sweat. It was a very business-like, professional approach. You could see him setting up the hitters like he would in a big league game."
Nola's fastball was up to 94 mph, while sitting at 91-92, and it looked better because of how well he commanded it. He threw his breaking ball and changeup for strikes. The scout remembered maybe one three-ball count all game and recounted one sequence in which he hit a batter with a changeup, then struck out the next hitter on three perfectly painted pitches.
"It was like he felt bad for the scouts and wanted to give them some [velocity] from the stretch," the cross-checker said. "It's not just that he isn't giving up a run. They're not even getting to second base. You want the stuff to be a tick better, but at what point does Aaron Nola's pitchability overtake someone like Jeff Hoffman and his 95-mph plus fastball and his 3 1/3-inning, seven walk performance?"
Early on against Purdue, a fellow scout turned to the cross-checker and dropped a doozy of a comparison on Nola: Greg Maddux. The cross-checker cautioned against going too far. Maddux is a Hall of Famer, after all, and while Nola was good, he saw him more as a No. 7-15 pick.
"By about the fourth inning, I was chuckling, thinking this guy might be right," the cross-checker said. "It was like watching a guy paint a picture. It was fun to watch. It's hard to walk out of that place not liking him."
Scouts go hunting, spot elusive Cardinals' Burdi
Getting to see a college closer in action can often be an elusive prize -- a Moby Dick for scouts across the country. There's often no rhyme or reason regarding their schedules and there's definitely no guarantee a scout will get to see the reliever in question pitch with the game on the line.
Still, scouts will try to minimize the risk by examining the schedule closely. When they looked at the box scores from the first two games of Louisville's home series against Miami (Ohio), many took a shot and headed there for Sunday's game in the hopes of seeing the Cardinals' Nick Burdi pitch in the late innings.
They got their wish. Burdi pitched the ninth, and while he did give up two hits, he also struck out the side to ensure a shutout. Unfortunately, it was a 9-0 white-washing, so it wasn't exactly the pressure-filled save situation they would have preferred.
"I figured there was a good chance he'd get some work," a scout who saw him on Sunday said. "When you're drafting a guy and you know what role he's going to be in, it's hard not to see him in that situation. As much as you'd like to see him, you'd like to see him in that save situation."
Nonetheless, there were some good takeaways from the outing. Burdi was at 97-99 mph with his fastball and complemented it with a solid slider. He's now appeared in five games and has yet to record a save, though he hasn't allowed a run and has struck out nine, while walking two.
This isn't one of those common situations where a guy who closed in college is seen as a setup man at the next level. Scouts will keep trying to guess right to see Burdi because he has the chance to continue finishing games at the highest level.
"Is he a future closer?" the scout asked, rhetorically. "I think so."