Looking Ahead: North Carolina, Tennessee Underclassmen

 by Nathan Rode/BA
While Conor Glassey and I have been hitting the road for a lot of 2011 draft coverage, we’ve seen a few guys at games that stand out as players to watch for the future. Here are some thoughts and quotes on a few of them we’ve seen recently:

A.J. Simcox, ss, Faragut HS, Knoxville (2012)
Simcox is a junior shorstop at Tennessee powerhouse Farragut High. He’s a string bean right now at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, but shows very good range in the field, soft hands, a strong arm and good baseball instincts. Simcox’s father, Larry, was also a shortstop that spent three seasons in the minor leagues with Houston.

“He’s a high-upside player,” Farragut head coach Matt Buckner said. “Defensively, he’s special. He’s got a big arm and he’s long and rangy. At the plate, he stays inside the ball and goes gap-to-gap. He’s been tremendous this year and he’s got a bright future. He has several SEC offers and I think he’s 20 pounds away from being a pretty high draft pick. He’s got all the physical ability in the world and he’s a really good kid, too.”

Will Craig, 3b, Science Hill HS, Johnson City, Tenn. (2013)
Craig is a physical corner guy that held is own against a talented Farragut team. He looks good in a uniform standing at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. He had a solid batting practice session and shows good strength. In the game he went 1-for-2 with a single and two walks. He made an error at third base late in the game, but it’s too early to judge if he needs to move off the position.

“He’s a guy that has a lot of skill at the plate,” Science Hill head coach Ryan Edwards said. “He’s one of the few guys I’ve seen that can hit a ball 400 feet to the opposite field. He can kill a ball oppo, but he can still turn on one. He made that error in the last inning, that’s not like him usually. He can usually really pick it at third. I feel like defensively at third we’re solid because of him. I like him. He’s another up and coming guy that has a chance to play at a high level.”

Jackson Campana, 3b/rhp, Providence HS, Charlotte (2012)
Campana jumps out on the field with his 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame. He looks fine defensively at third and has a plus arm, but scouts have been raving this season about his batting practice sessions. In to see 2011 catcher Brett Austin, scouts see Campana’s raw power on display and say it rivals Richie Shaffer’s, a Providence alum and current Clemson corner infielder. Campana is verbally committed to Clemson and has recently started to see some time on the mound. He got on the mound late in the game against local rival Ardrey Kell High and faced one batter, striking him out with 87-89 mph fastballs.

“He’s a three-year starter for us, started since he was a freshman,” Providence head coach Danny Hignight said. “Obviously, he has raw power, and he’s a heck of defensive third baseman. He’s just starting to get on the mound a little bit. Tonight was only his second outing all year. He’s a special one. We’ve had a few All-Americans here and he’s probably going to be the next one.”

Ty Buttrey, rhp/of, Providence HS, Charlotte (2012)
Buttrey got the start against Ardrey Kell and worked with an 87-90 mph fastball. He has a long, projectable frame with plenty of room to fill out at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds. He also worked with a mid-70s curveball that was loopy at times, but did flash sharp break. Buttrey also swings from the left side and had the game-winning hit against Ardrey Kell after giving up a game-tying three-run home run in the fifth inning. Overall, he went five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out three.

“He was real good, but started to miss his spots a little bit,” Hignight said. “His pitch count got up. We knew it was time. He made a mistake, but I mean, Trent Thornton can hit. He’s going to Carolina obviously. We made a bad pitch and he hit it out. Coming to the plate in that situation, I’ve got a lot confidence in our hitters. We swing the bat well. With a good guy on the mound, we found a hole.

Trent Thornton, rhp/of, Ardrey Kell HS, Charlotte (2012)
Thornton is a small righthander, standing at only 6-feet, 155 pounds, but he can do some damage on both sides of the ball. He went 2-for-3 against Providence with a walk, two home runs and four RBIs. He tied the game in the fifth and gave the Knights the lead in the top of the seventh with a solo blast. The pitches were down and he showed some pop for a little guy. On the mound he showed arm strength by running his fastball into the high 80s. The home run he surrendered was a changeup down in the zone that Austin did a good job of dropping the barrel on. Thornton is verbally committed to North Carolina.

“He’s a special player,” Ardrey Kell head coach Hal Bagwell said. “He’s one of our top hitters. He’s a gutsy player. He showed that tonight. He carried us offensively. Carolina is getting a real good, solid two-way player in my mind. He’s got pop, no doubt.”

CONTRIBUTING: Conor Glassey

About Josh Fitzgerald

Enjoying life and Baseball. Playing For Team Usa San Diego,Australia 2012. Represent USA

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