“Does this thing have any scouting value at all?”
The question hung in my head for a few minutes as I prepped the camera behind home plate. “It’s just a really aggressive batting practice no?” re-assuring myself I wasn’t wasting valuable SD card space. This was the Cape League Home Run Derby. An event only eclipsed in terms of importance by Catalina Wine Mixer.
The contest featured six players with varied degrees of pedigree, but all with substantial power. The contest rules were simple, each contestant got three minutes to clear the fences as many times as possible. The top four would advance to the finals, where the totals would be reset, and the winner would be crowned for the highest total in the second heat.
The most impressive first rounds belonged to eventual champion Tyler Hardman of Brewster and the University of Oklahoma, Harwich and Norte Dame slugger Niko Kavadas, and Hunter Goodman of Hyannis and Memphis. All three hit double digits in the first round.
The most disappointing round belonged to Georgia Tech’s Baron Radcliff, a player with arguably the most raw power of anyone in the circuit this season. Perhaps it was the pressure of leading off. Not sure, but his mom was sitting next to our Anthony Franco and she wasn’t pleased. Too bad, Radcliff has the ability to hit some of the longest and loudest flyballs at any level of baseball.
I was able to get on the field to take some open face shots, in addition to the camera I setup behind home. Below I’ve included some split-screen shots of five of the six participants. Unfortunately my Radcliff video wasn’t up to par, so he’s the only one I excluded.
Champion: Tyler Hardman, 3B Oklahoma (Brewster Whitecaps) - Easy power to all fields, Hardman hit more homers to all fields than any other player, depositing balls to right, left, and center, with big loft and hang time. Majestic is the word that best describes Hardman’s rounds. The best combination of bat speed and strength in the contest.
Finalist: Niko Kavadas, INF Norte Dame (Harwich Mariners) - A violent aggressive stroke, leveraged to the gills. Kavadas specializes in hard hit fly balls. It’s leverage and strength raw power over bat speed. Finished the season tied for the CCBL home run lead with T.J. Collett of Kentucky.
Finalist: T.J. Collett, 1B Kentucky (Brewster Whitecaps) - One of the more unique setups in the contest. Collett is a big boy who molly-whops the ball. Instead of a leg kick or toe tap, the Kentucky slugger employs a wide stride forward. His bat path shows naturally loft due to his long levers, and upright stance. It’s actually a surprisingly short path to the ball. It’s absolutely strength and leverage over bat speed.
Finalist: Hunter Goodman, C Memphis (Hyannis Harbor Hawks) - Big raw power, that easily drives ball to his pull side. Goodman’s swing is long, and powerful. When he extends on pitch over the plate he can slug balls to the deepest caverns of any park. His slight leg kick engages his lower half, as he gets good drive from his back leg. Force that he carries through his hips and load. Due to his setup, Goodman looks to strike early and draw everything to his pull side. His approach doesn’t deviate much in game either based on about eight at bats I caught over the course of the summer.
Oraj Anu, OF Kentucky (Cotuit Kettleers) - Easily the most tooled up player in the derby, Anu likely had the fastest bat in the contest, but his plus in game power didn’t translate the way others did. The best pro prospect among the competitors but it only resulted in six or seven homers.