CARY, N.C. -- Touki Toussaint was the main attraction on Day 1 of the 2014 National High School Invitational on Wednesday, and he didn't disappoint.
The ace of the Coral Springs Christian team out of Florida struck out 12 and gave up just one hit while pitching into the seventh inning of a 1-0 win against Orange Lutheran from California. It was the first main stadium game of the tournament held at USA Baseball's National Training Complex.
Toussaint, ranked No. 8 on MLB.com's Draft Top 50 from the fall, brought a huge crowd of scouts behind home plate for his start, and he was getting his fastball up to 92-94 mph right out of the chute. Toussaint threw 116 pitches and was still hitting 89-92 mph in the sixth inning. As impressive as the velocity was, though, it was Toussaint's plus curve that was particularly effective, often freezing Orange Lutheran batters, racking up six called strikeouts.
top draft prospects
|7||Jacob Gatewood||Clovis HS (Calif.)||USC|
|8||Touki Toussaint||Coral Springs Christian HS (Fla.)||Vanderbilt|
|10||Michael Gettys||Gainesville HS (Ga.)||Georgia|
|13||Braxton Davidson||T.C. Roberson HS (N.C.)||North Carolina|
|34||Mac Marshall||Parkview HS (Ga.)||LSU|
|41||Josh Morgan||Orange Lutheran HS (Calif.)||UCLA|
"He threw more strikes than I've ever seen him," one cross-checker on hand said. "It probably cemented him in the top 20-30 spots in the Draft."
"The breaking ball is his out pitch, and to me, he was spotting it well," Coral Springs Christian head coach Matt Cleveland said. "That was his best pitch today, and he did a good job of keeping them off balance."
Toussaint has had on-and-off trouble with his command throughout his amateur career, and that has been the one concern as teams bear down on him as a potential first-round pick. He did walk five and hit two batters, so it would be a stretch to call him super efficient. But after a long third inning that saw him walk two and hit a batter, Toussaint was locked in, striking out seven over the next three frames. He even mixed in some effective changeups, throwing a few early, then shelving it, then telling Cleveland after the fifth that he wanted to start throwing more.
"I didn't start feeling my fingers until like the third or fourth inning," said Toussaint, who is not accustomed to throwing in the 40-degree climate that came to North Carolina. "I try to throw [my breaking ball] a lot before, and in the bullpen I got a feel for it and got acclimated to this weather. I was just on."
Scouts bear down on newly eligible Gilliam
CARY, N.C. -- Parkview High School in Georgia has long been a stopping point for scouts, with players like Jeff Francoeur and, more recently Matt Olson and Josh Hart, coming through the program and on to the pro ranks.
This year, the main attraction is left-hander Mac Marshall. There was some hope Marshall would pitch the opener in the main stadium, but because he took the mound against rival Brookwood back home on Saturday, he wasn't slated to go until Game 2 on Thursday. But there was still reason for scouts to stick around to watch the Georgia powerhouse take on Regis Jesuit from Colorado.
That reason came in the form of first baseman Isiah Gilliam. Until recently, Gilliam was seen as an underclassman whom scouts noticed but didn't focus on when they came to see Marshall. The recent news that Gilliam is now eligible for this year's Draft instead of 2015 has the scouting industry scrambling to evaluate him.
Things didn't go well for Parkview, losing to Regis Jesuit, 6-1, in a bit of an upset. But Gilliam, a switch-hitter who looks like he might be best suited for an outfield corner, picked up two hits, really the only two hard-hit balls against Regis Jesuit right-hander Zach Heath. Batting left-handed, Gilliam absolutely scorched balls in the fourth and the sixth with a good number of scouts on-hand.
Getting to see four games' worth of at-bats from Gilliam is a huge benefit of coming to this tournament, especially for national scouts and scouting directors, who likely didn't pay much attention to the athletic and strong first baseman prior to now.
"He has a short, quick bat," said a cross-checker, who estimated Gilliam could go as high as the second round, while noting that it was still early in the evaluation process. "I'm not sure how much current power there is, but I like the look of the approach."
The Parkview coaching staff compared Gilliam's power potential to that of Olson. Olson, now in the Oakland A's system, is ranked as the No. 5 first-base prospect in the Minors, one given a 60 power grade on the 20-80 scouting scale.
Prospect report from the back fields
CARY, N.C. -- While two games were played in the main stadium Wednesday, a total of six were played on the back fields at the complex, with some solid Draft prospects on display.
Lefty Foster Griffin from Florida's The First Academy probably drew the largest crowd. Griffin isn't quite on the same level as Mac Marshall or Brady Aiken out in Southern California, but he's an intriguing 6-foot-5 southpaw. He certainly was effective in shutting out Milton High School from Georgia, tossing a three-hit shutout with eight strikeouts. But while his velocity was around 88-91 mph early on, he did seem to tire and was described by some scouts watching as "just OK." He got high marks for competing well and throwing strikes, but some felt his stuff was a little down from previous outings.
Gainesville's Michael Gettys, ranked No. 10 on the Draft Top 50, starred in his team's 6-3 win over Venice High School from Florida, but it was on the mound, not at the plate. A two-way player who most teams see as a toolsy outfielder at the next level, Gettys went the distance, throwing 113 pitches while giving up eight hits and four walks. As a hitter, the University of Georgia commit had an uneventful day, going 0-for-1 with a run scored, an RBI, a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
Gettys wasn't the only bat to go quiet on the back fields. T.C. Roberson's Braxton Davidson went 0-for-1 with two walks in a 5-0 loss against Huntsville. Davidson is considered one of the best pure bats in the high school crop, ranking No. 13 on the Top 50.
Clovis High School's Jacob Gatewood, No. 7 on the list, has big-time power but scuffled on Day 1. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI as Clovis beat ThunderRidge, but he didn't look comfortable in his at-bats.