Our region has already given baseball its best player. Twenty-four players were selected before Mike Trout in the 2009 baseball draft, but nobody has been better than the Millville, N.J., native since he arrived in the big leagues in 2011.
His 1.000 OPS since then is by far the best in the game over the last nine years, as are his 903 runs scored. He was the best player of the last decade, and he’s still only 28 years old. One day, we will have a conversation about where the greatest star in Los Angeles Angels’ history ranks among the greatest players of all-time.
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It’s possible our region could be about to provide baseball with another great player. That’s how good many scouts believe Nick Bitsko might end up being.
Haven’t heard of him?
You will. Soon. Hopefully soon.
At the moment, Bitsko’s future, just like the baseball season itself, is in limbo. For now, he is a draft-eligible player with an interesting story who is awaiting word about when the 2020 baseball draft is going to take place.
Bitsko, 17, was in the midst of his sophomore season at Central Bucks East High School a year ago at this time. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was already on the radar of professional baseball scouts. Baseball America projected that he would be the top player in the 2021 draft. He also had already been offered a scholarship by the University of Virginia. That came after his freshman season.
Shortly after the calendar flipped to 2020, however, Bitsko announced that he would accelerate his graduation and become eligible for this year’s draft. Kyle Dennis, the coach at Central Bucks East since 2008, did not disagree with the family decision.
“That was strictly his decision, and I support it fully,” Dennis said the other day, after teaching a couple of classes online. “He’s ready for the next level. It didn’t matter if he pitched this season or not.”
Bitsko, of course, is not going to pitch again in a high school game, because the high school spring seasons sadly have been shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were on the practice field when the assistant principal came to us and shut it down,” Dennis said. “None of us knew what was going to happen. I know Nick is disappointed that he did not get one more season with his teammates, but I don’t think he regrets his decision.”
Bitsko has been advised not to talk to the media until after baseball decides exactly when it’s going to hold its draft. The first round of the draft was originally scheduled for June 10, but it could be pushed back to as late as July 20.
Having not pitched at all this spring, it will be interesting to see where Bitsko is drafted. He might not have been available at the Phillies’ No. 15 pick if Central Bucks East had been able to play its season, but he might be now, because teams might be leery about taking a high school player in the first round after not seeing him in action since last summer.
In its latest mock draft, Baseball America has Bitsko being selected 23rd overall by Cleveland.
“I think all high school players are going to be hurt by what has happened,” one American League scout said. “If you don’t see a guy pitch in the spring, it’s pretty hard to go out on a limb and make that kid your first pick. You at least want to see that the arm is working and the velocity is still there. There are so many things you want to see that you won’t be able to see.”
A National League scout said he believes Bitsko will still be a first-round pick.
“I don’t think the shutdown is going to have too much of an impact on him,” the scout said. “He might be an aberration in that regard, because he had already impressed so many people. I know our guys are really excited about him, and they think he’s going to be a very high pick.”
Even though Dennis did not get to have the services of Bitsko for one final season, he still offered a glowing scouting report about the pitcher and the person.
“He’s the most athletically gifted player I’ve ever had,” Dennis said. “But if you took away the athletic gifts I’d still take 20 of him on my team, because of the way he carries himself. He’s not just a great athlete and baseball player, he’s a great teammate and a hard-working kid.”