Prep Baseball Report

Digging In: All-Time Great Super 60 Performances

By Sean Duncan
Executive Director

The 15th annual Super 60 Pro Showcase is set for Sunday, Feb. 5 at The Max in McCook, IL. The Super 60 is a true spectacle, certainly my favorite event of the year. Last year’s event was incredible, providing further proof that, despite being from predominantly cold-weather states, the talent is as strong as anywhere.

I still remember the very first Super 60 in 2003. In hindsight, it was embarrassing. The hitting and pitching was done inside a gutted-out barn, and there was a steady hum from a heating generator pulsing throughout the day. For the defensive portion, the scouts and players had to drive five minutes away to a tiny gymnasium. We put a lot of holes in the gym walls. It was ugly.

I’m proud to say the Super 60 has come a long way. It has become one of the most heavily scouted preseason events in the country for draft-eligible prospects. And we no longer need generators to keep us warm; The Max is a state-of-the-art 125,000 square foot open turf facility. And yes, it’s heated.

Over the years, more than 250 players have gone on to be drafted, including 24 players in the top two rounds. In the 2016 draft alone, there were six past participants who were drafted in the first round. 

Over the years there have been countless incredible performances - and not-so-great performances from players who turned out to be great. Having scouted all the past 14 Super 60s, here is a list of the top 12 all-time great showings, for one reason or another:

1. Justin O’Conner, C/SS/RHP, Cowan HS, IN (2009)
The single greatest all-around Super 60 performance was without question O’Conner’s in 2009. At the time, O’Conner was a 6-foot, 180-pound junior. The PBR Indiana scouting director said he was special, but what he did that day was absolutely jaw-dropping. First, he was 96 mph from shortstop (backhand, plant, throw in the hole). Back then, he was known primarily as a shortstop/pitcher. Nevertheless, he geared up and proceeded to fire consistent 1.75-1.82 pop times, showcasing ultra-athletic feet and plus arm strength (86 mph from crouch). At the plate, his hands were electric. He capped off his day on the mound, sitting at 93 mph. Till this day, O’Conner still holds the infield velocity, catcher velocity and pop time records at the Super 60. Not a surprise O’Connor was a first-round pick the following year by the Rays. O'Conner is currently widely considered the top defensive catcher in the minor leagues.

2. Trey Ball, LHP/OF, New Castle HS, IN (2012)
Not far behind O’Conner was Ball’s performance in 2012. At the time, he was a junior, 6-foot-6 and rail thin. After watching his all-around performance, never had I been more convinced that a Midwest junior prospect was destined to be a top 20 pick in the draft. He was the rarest of talents, in that he had the ability to be a high draft as both a position player and as a pitcher. For his size, he was freakishly athletic: he ran a seemingly effortless 6.67 60. Offensively, he was one of – in not the best – hitter at the event. From the outfield, he was clocked at 93 mph. On the mound, Ball didn’t disappoint either. Long and loose, the left-hander topped at 90 mph with undoubtedly a lot more in the tank. He also threw an 80-84 mph slider and a 78-80 mph changeup. A year later, Ball was selected No. 7 overall by the Boston Red Sox.

3. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Minooka HS, IL (2010)
The 6-foot-5 right-hander was already a well-known prospect in the Midwest, but his showing at the Super 60 solidified him as an elite national arm. With an easy, athletic arm action, Foltynewicz sat 92-93 with a power 77-78 mph breaking ball. Later that spring, his velocity continued to climb as high as 96. Foltynewicz went on to become the 19th pick overall by the Astros in June. He made his major-league debut in 2014 with the Astros.

4. Joe Benson, OF/C, Joliet Catholic Academy HS, IL (2006)
One of the most tooled-out athletes I’ve covered over the last 13 years in Illinois, Benson was a physical 6-foot-1, 190-pound outfielder and catcher in 2006. He was also the top running back in the state. Benson had the rare speed-power combination. Back then, we didn’t have space to run a 60, but Benson was a 6.5-6.6 runner who punished baseballs. He also was clocked at 93 mph from the outfield. Benson was drafted in the second round with the Twins.

5. Joey Wentz, LHP, Shawnee Mission East HS, KS (2016)
No player raised his draft status more at last year’s Super 60 than Wentz, who decided to put down the bat and come only as a pitcher. After his bullpen was finished, the highly projectable 6-foot-5, 220-pounder had established himself as one of the top left-handed prospects in the country. Long, lean and athletic, Wentz’s fastball sat at 92 mph, topping at 93, with late arm-side finish. His arm worked clean and effortlessly, indicating there likely is more in the tank as he fills into his frame and focuses more on pitching. His delivery was simple, balanced and athletic; stayed tall and works downhill well. Wentz continued to dominate in the spring, and was a supplemental first-round pick. 

6. Ryan Borucki, LHP, Mundelein HS, IL (2012)
The 2012 edition of the Super 60 was absolutely loaded with top-level arms. Of all the impressive pitching performances, Borucki stood above the rest. And it’s not just because the 6-foot-4, 180-pounder topped out at an event-best 92 mph, or that he sat comfortably at 90-91. It was his secondary stuff – 83-84 mph cutter and 79-80 mph changeup – that were equally electric. And also because he was all legs and arms, loose as can be, and far from reaching his physical peak. So good was his performance that, despite barely pitching that spring due to an elbow injury, he was drafted in the 15th round by the Blue Jays and signed.

7. Jake Smolinski, SS/RHP, Rockford Boylan HS, IL (2007)
Smolinski makes the list largely for his two-way abilities, but also because of the uniqueness of the situation. That year, an area Illinois scout decided he wanted to run a competing event on the same day. Smolinski was one of the few that originally chose the other event. Apparently he caught word that the majority of scouts were at the Super 60, so he left the event and got to the Super 60 at the end for what was essentially a private workout. Smolinski showed the balanced, powerful swing and overall athleticism that eventually made him a second-round pick by the Nationals. He is now in the big leagues with the A's.

8. Nolan Watson, RHP, Lawrence North HS, IN (2015)
Every time we had ever seen Watson, he’s been good, dating back to when he earned MVP of the PBR Future Games three years ago as a sophomore. He was lights out at the PBR Labor Day Challenge, really solid at Area Code Games and showed well as a junior at the Super 60. What we’ve come to expect is a lot of strikes, highly competitive outings, consistent 88-91 velocity with a short, tight slider. However, two years ago, looking noticeably stronger, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Vanderbilt recruit took the mound with a quiet confidence and, seemingly, something to prove. After he completed his bullpen session, Watson certainly proved to everybody that he deserved to be right at the top of the list of high-level arms in the deep 2015 class. Watson sat 91-93 with his fastball, topping at 94 on his final pitch, with late arm-side sink. He was also throwing his slider considerably harder, in the 82-84 range, to go along with a 79-81 mph change. In the end, one could easily argue that Watson had the most impressive bullpen session of the entire event. Watson carried his Super 60 momentum into a dominant spring and, ultimately he was drafted No. 33 overall in the first round by the Royals.

9. Nick Martini, OF, Prairie Ridge HS, IL (2008)
In 2008, a SPARQ crew came to the Super 60, back when SPARQ was en vogue. The left-handed hitting Martini was the top score in every category. Few really knew what that meant, other than he was highly athletic and explosive. He also was a top-level offensive player, 91 from the outfield and, above all, a hard-nosed baseball player. Martini attended Kansas State, and was eventually drafted by the Cardinals in the seventh round.

10.  Luke Shilling, RHP, Notre Dame Prep, MI (2015)
Word started to come across the wire that this 6-foot-5, 250-pound first baseman/catcher had made the move to the mound and he was throwing the baseball very, very hard. When it was finally verified by some credible sources, we added Shilling at the last minute. Glad we did. Shilling was the biggest winner at the Super 60, not only because he effortlessly pitched at 93-95 mph, setting the 13-year event record, but because few had even known about him. In this day and age, a hulking 93-95 right-hander (in early February, mind you) isn’t kept quiet for long. After his pen, the Illinois recruit had become one of the higher interest draft prospects in the Midwest.

11. A.J. Reed, 1B/LHP, Terre Haute South HS, IN (2011)
Reed wasn’t highly regarded coming into the Super 60. But he was a hulking 6-foot-4, 228 pounds and left-handed. A few days before the event, our Indiana Scouting Director asked if Reed could also hit at the event. He said he had seen Reed tank a few balls in BP and might open some eyes. Sure, why not? At the Super 60, Reed was rather pedestrian on the mound, sitting in the mid-80s, but he put on one of the best shows of raw left-handed power we’ve ever seen at the event. Reed went to Kentucky as a two-way player, and earned the college player of the year honors as a junior, dominating both ways, and was drafted by the Astros in the second round as a power-hitting first baseman. Later I was told that the Super 60 was the only showcase Reed had ever attended in high school.

12. Zack Burdi, RHP, Downers Grove South HS, IL (2013)
Zack’s older brother, Nick, a second-rounder two years ago, was a standout in 2010, but the younger Burdi stole the show in 2013. The athletically built 6-foot-3, 195-pounder had the most explosive fastball at the Super 60, sitting at 93 mph, touching 94 with late, hard sink. Coming from a 3/4 slot with a loose, lightning quick arm, Burdi’s changeup, which sat at 82-84 mph with late arm-side sink, was equally impressive. He also threw two breaking balls: a 74-77 curveball and an 80 mph slider. With his 3/4 angle and arm action, his slider also has the potential to strikeout pitch. Zack is now a junior at Louisville and considered a high-round draft prospect.

12. Matt Vierling, RHP, Christian Brothers College HS, MO (2015)
In terms of two-way performances, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Vierling did it all last year. Never mind that the Notre Dame recruit had missed the summer and fall seasons with a broken leg; what he did was nothing short of remarkable. In the positional workout, Vierling ran a 6.73 laser-timed 60; he later said it was the first 60 he ran in like a year. Defensively in the outfield, Vierling told me he was trying to save his arm for the pitching segment, yet he posted an event-best 94 mph strike to the catcher. Offensively, he showed a balanced and rhythmic swing with bat speed and burgeoning power potential. After doing all that, Vierling led off the pitching portion by firing 92-93 mph fastballs with arm-side life (a week before he was reportedly up to 95). He also threw a tight 78-81 mph slider and an aggressive 84-85 mph changeup.

Hopefully more indelible memories will be created this Sunday. More importantly, I hope all the players perform up their best abilities. Should again be a packed house.

Position players begin promptly at 9 a.m. Pitchers should get going around noon; done around 3 p.m. Enough time to get home for the Super Bowl. Who’s even playing in it, anyway?

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