Scouting the Braves—The East Cobb Braves: Part 1-The Hitters

In the last few weeks, the East Cobb Baseball Complex in Marietta, Georgia saw some of the best prep players of the 2008 Draft Class compete in a couple of tournaments. Luckily, Marietta is 25 miles from where I live, so I was able to attend and do a little scouting during the event. Since they were the “hometown” team and the favorites in the events, I was able to watch about four of the East Cobb Braves’ games. Today, I’d like to present a little scouting report (with video of course) on some of the more impressive members of this powerhouse team.

3B Ethan Martin

I was told that I needed to see the Braves’ 6-foot-3, 200-pound third baseman play. Very often, players that get this much hype don’t impress me as much as people tell me I should be impressed. Um, not so with Martin—He’s the real deal. According to his Perfect Game USA player page, Martin has been clocked at 95 mph on his infield throws, runs a very respectable 6.98 60, has plus plus bat speed and has top level power potential. On the subject of power potential, I couldn’t agree more. Here’s a couple of his swings….

That’s a powerful swing. Martin has a simple, no-nonsense stance at the plate. While his swing has just a little length to it, Martin’s swing has “power” written all over it. Notice how well Martin loads his hands, carries his body forward and turns violently against his front leg. Focus on how quickly he rotates, as his hips and hands turn together into contact.

In the games that I saw, Martin struggled a bit in the hitting department. As a results-oriented stathead, it is sometimes difficult to overlook when a player has a few below average games. However, from a scout’s perspective, it’s really difficult to not like this kid. Martin has an absolute hose (and isn’t afraid to show it when rifling throws over to first), and a simple yet violent hack. His swing might need to be tweaked ever so slightly at the next level, but Martin has such a good swing already (and the athletic ability) to make the adjustments that he’ll need to make.

SS Tyson Workman

Why didn’t anyone mention Workman, the Braves’ 6-foot, 165-pound shortstop to me? Somebody really should have. His Perfect Game USA page says:

Tyson Workman is a 2008 IF/RHP with a 6’0”, 165 lb. frame from Tallahassee FL, who attends North Florida Christian HS. Named to Top Prospect Team. 2-way prospect, may be better RHP. Very quick arm, aggressive approach, 90 mph FB explodes late, tight downer SL is potential + pitch. Solid hitter, good bat speed, gap to gap power, simple approach, stays short. Smooth IF actions. Top follow.

How quickly did he impress me? Well, I saw him swing and miss one time and said “This little guy swings like a big boy” and then proceeded to videotape as many of his at bats as I could. Workman sprayed line drives all over East Cobb the last few weeks and by looking at his swing, it doesn’t surprise me. Here ya go…

Similar to Ethan Martin, Workman’s swing is just a bit long as his hands get away from his body just a tad. He did get a little jumpy on some swings, but I’d rather see a jumpy aggressive swing than a jumpy slappy swing any day. That said, Workman turns powerfully against his front leg and rotates quickly through the ball. Workman also showed smooth actions on the field and a very good arm. As I wrote about Andrew Cumberland, the 46th overall pick by the Padres, the worst thing somebody could do with Workman is to typecast him as a singles hitter because of his slight build. Workman swings it like a big boy (compare him to Martin) and as his body matures, I wouldn’t be surprised if he develops more than the “gap power” which I’m sure some will project for him. I was enraged when (with Workman up at bat) and the Braves leading 5-0 late in one of the games and with a 1st and 2nd, nobody out situation, East Cobb’s manager put the bunt sign on, and still left it on when Workman got to 2-0 and 3-1 counts.

Dear Mr. Manager,
Let this kid swing away, you’ll be happy that you did.

C Taylor Hightower

Defensively, this 6-foot-1, 190-pound catcher is legit. Easily the best defensive catcher I saw, Hightower has solid receiving skills, a good arm, and quick (and I do mean quick) release….

According to his Perfect Game USA player page, Hightower had an uberquick 1.73 pop time to second base in the 2006 National Underclass Showcase.

Offensively, Hightower has a little work to do. Perfect Game says this:

Raw power at plate, good bat speed, easy power, tends to commit early, tools to develop as a hitter.

Here’s a clip comparing Hightower (on the left) to Workman…

Hightower is a strong kid with good bat speed. He loads his hands well and has an aggressive approach. However, his main problem is that he leads with his hands. This is where it happens…

Compare Workman’s “move” on the right to Hightower on the left. Notice how Workman has turned his hips into the ball while Hightower’s hips lag behind. Hightower has good bat speed already, and he has the potential to develop mammoth power when he learns how to “connect” well, with the hips and hands turning together. In the previous sentence, notice I said “when he learns..” instead of “if he learns…” I say that because Hightower has begun to work with ex-big leaguer Tim Hyers, whom I respect immensely and is a top-notch hitting instructor. I have little doubt that Hightower will be one of the top catchers in next year’s draft, very little doubt.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

References & Resources
Special thanks to Mike Chismar from Perfect Game, Perry Husband and his Effective Velocity crew and to Tim Hyers. Extra special thanks to Earl Hightower for providing me with his unique scouting reports and for introducing me to some of the players and parents at East Cobb.

In the near future, I will break down a few more players in the event, with emphasis on the pitchers.

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