Canada's top talent gathers in front of scouts

Canada's top talent gathers in front of scouts

TORONTO -- The five-day long Tournament 12 showcase, presented by New Era, began Friday at Rogers Centre with a player-evaluation workout in front of a large presence of scouts.

Representatives from a number of Major League Baseball teams and American universities were on hand for the single biggest display of amateur baseball talent on Canadian soil ever. Players from all across the country were split into 10 teams, and each had an hour to demonstrate their running, fielding, throwing and hitting abilities in preparation of the 24-game tournament, which runs through Tuesday.

"From a recruiting perspective and a scouting perspective, you get a look at the whole spectrum of Canadian players, which is special and of value," said Greg Hamilton, the director of Baseball Canada's national teams. "It's an opportunity for the scouting world to come to Canada and watch Canada's best."

There's no shortage of talent, and the scouts who came to see Day 1 of the event were not disappointed with the collection of elite players ranging from Quebec to Ontario to British Columbia. With Canada's climate and vast geographical landscape, it makes it difficult for scouts and coaches to get extended looks at the top talent in the country.

Tournament 12 saves scouts plenty of time and money in travel, and ensures players who may have otherwise gone unnoticed or flown under the radar a guaranteed chance to show what they're made of. The batting practice, fielding drills and 60-yard dash provided scouts with a framework of each player, and the round of games could help put some on the map.

The depth of talent was raved about, and Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar -- a special assistant to the Blue Jays and the commissioner of the event -- is thrilled to be involved.

"This is an opportunity for the young players to be seen, something they don't get often," Alomar said. "I think it's good for baseball, good for the Canadian youth, and hopefully we can find some talent."

Who to watch for:

While there are a number of players who will get scholarships to Division I schools and drafted by Major League teams, there is a general consensus as to who the top three at the showcase are.

"For me, it's a three-man race," said one American League scout. "It's Demi Orimoloye, Josh Naylor and Gareth Morgan. They are a dynamic three players. They are exciting and the guys with the upside."

Morgan (Ontario-Green) and Naylor (Ontario-Black) of the Ontario Blue Jays -- one of the top travel teams in the country -- displayed the most power of anyone on Day 1, both hitting multiple home runs in batting practice, including shots into the second deck. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Morgan is eligible for the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, and many believe he has the tools to warrant a first-round selection. The AL scout said he has "elite, elite power" and one of the top outfield arms of the crop.

Naylor, the scout said, has "power and hitability," while another scout was impressed with how well the 6-foot, 225-pound first baseman ran the 60-yard dash. Orimoloye (Ontario-Black), meanwhile, was described as a "freak athlete with some physicality" who can run. Naylor and Orimoloye are considered the top Draft-eligible players for 2015.

Darren Shred (Ontario-Green) was another player who received praise. Shred also plays on the Ontario Blue Jays and was said to have the best pop time among catchers at 1.9 seconds. Mitch Bigras (Ontario-Maroon) and Charles LeBlanc (Quebec-White) were also mentioned among the standouts.

The top outfield arms were said to belong to Morgan, Jean Francois Garon (Quebec-White) and Tosh Semlacher (British Columbia-Orange), who an AL scout said "probably had the best arm of the day." He added that all three ran well, too.

Potential under-the-radar players were said to be Reid Fritzke (Prairies-Brown) and LP Pelletier (Quebec-White), who ran the fastest 60-yard dash at 6.4 seconds.

"You see those guys for the first time and they wow you," a scout said.

As far as pitching goes, one coach familiar with the players said Kurtis Horne (British Columbia-Orange), Michael Soroka (Alberta-Red) and Zach Pop (Ontario-Green) were the top three arms. Horne, a lefty, is said to have a good breaking ball and a fastball that he can run up to the high-80s. Soroka, Draft-eligible in 2015, was described as someone who could be "very special," while Pop is said to have the highest velocity, capable of throwing 90-92 mph.

Cole White (Ontario-Black) and JP Stevenson (Maritimes-Grey) were also named as two players to watch.

Chris Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.