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All American Game : : Story
AFLAC All-Star Game
Published: Sunday, August 17, 2003

The AFLAC All-Star game will be held in Ft. Myers, Florida on Saturday, August 23 and televised over the Fox Network. The game features 38 of the top Class of 2004 high school prospects in the country, broken into East and West teams, as selected by Perfect Game USA. Actually, it is far more than a single all-star game. The players will be flying into Ft. Myers on Thursday and participate in a variety of charitable events and workouts before the actual game on Saturday night. Between now and next Saturday, we’ll take a closer look at the players who have been chosen to participate in what everyone hopes will become an annual event. Today, the featured position is Catcher. David Armstrong (West) Country Day HS, Arlington, TX: Texas native Armstrong is a rare catcher who is solid in all five tool areas. He has run as low as 6.81 in the 60 at showcases and was named All-Area as a pitcher as a sophomore, although he threw off the mound less as a junior in 2003. Armstrong pitches in the 86-87 mph range. At the plate, Armstrong has growing gap to gap power. Scouts save their top accolades for Armstrong’s work behind the plate. He’s excellent at blocking pitches to either side and shows the kind of intangibles and intelligence that are so important for catchers. Comparable Major League Player: Ramon Hernandez (Oak). Well rounded skills across the board with growing power. Preston Clark (West) Rockwall HS, Rockwall, TX: A broken finger suffered during practice for the USA National Junior Team set Clark back a month this summer, but not before he established himself as perhaps the best catching prospect in the country. Certainly Clark has the best balance of offense and defense at the position. At 5-10 and a strong 180 lbs, Clark has a quick bat with surprising power to all fields. His defensive actions are quick and short and he shows the kind of fire and leadership ability that scouts love to see in a young catcher. Comparable Major League Player: Mike Lieberthal (Phil). Tools play much higher than his size, especially for power. Alex Garabedian (East) Columbus HS, Miami, FL: Garabedian has long been considered one of the top catchers in the 2004 class. He has a very mature, strong body that’s enabled him to dominate his peers from a young age. Garabedian’s a “Power/Power” player as a catcher. He has an above average arm that’s capable of generating pop times in the 1.80’s. Even more impressive is Garabedian’s power at the plate. He generates above average bat speed with an aggressive, powerful pull oriented swing and hits the ball as hard as any young player, regardless of position, in the country. Comparable Major League Player: Javy Lopez (Atl). Power potential and strong body. Christian Garcia (East) Gulliver Prep HS, Coral Gables, FL: Either Garcia or fellow all-star Chris Kirkland would garner the most support for strongest arm among the high school catching class. In fact, Garcia’s arm is so loose and strong, plus his 6-4, 185 lb body so projectable, that many scouts feel his real future might be throwing pitches instead of catching them. Garcia has also dabbled in switch hitting but is primarily a right handed hitter who has good power when he gets his long arms extended. Comparable Major League Player: Benito Santiago (SF). Strong, whippy arm, slender physique. Chris Kirkland (West) South Doyle HS, Knoxville, TN: Kirkland was a highly regarded prospect as a sophomore before flying below the radar for much of the last year. A hand problem affected him at the plate and losing 40 pounds (He is now an athletic 6-3, 190) “took all my strength away” in his own words. Kirkland reemerged at the start of the summer, playing well in a couple of national events and being named Top Prospect” at the Perfect Game Southeast Top Prospect Showcase. He has well above average arm strength that is capable of touching 92 mph off the mound and handles all the rest of the catching chores well. The key in Kirkland’s rise up the prospect charts has been his improved power and bat speed at the plate. Comparable Major League Player: Mike Mathany (StL). Arm and intelligence can control a game, regardless of the bat. Neil Walker (East) Pine Richland HS, Gibonia, PA: The switch-hitting Walker has laid early claim to the distinction of best hitting catcher in this year’s high school senior class. He has an especially sweet swing from the left side, combining both loft power potential and good contact ability, although his right handed approach has plenty of pop to it also. Walker is also very athletic, with 6.9 speed in the 60 and the kind of actions that would make him a top prospect at many different positions, not just as a catcher. Walker has an unconventional throwing stroke but a tick above average arm strength. He’s the type of catcher whose game pop times are frequently better than his workout times. Comparable Major League Player: Jorge Posada (NYY). Power hitting, switch hitting catcher.