While there were few representatives from MLB clubs watching him today, 2016 outfielder Blake Rutherford (Simi Valley, Calif.) showed the type of progress that scouts look for in young players. Rutherford has filled out and added strength since we last saw him, but that is only part of his progress. He has cut down on his pre-swing movement, particularly in his hand load. It has made a difference in improving his timing and rhythm, and the results speak for themselves. In his first at-bat of the game today Rutherford took a couple of close pitches, immediately identifying them as balls out of the strike zone before teeing off on a fastball for a three-run home run to right field. After walking on four pitches his second time up, he battled back from an 0-2 hole before grounding out with a sharply hit 92 mph ball back up the middle.
He didn't see much action in center field, but did get on the mound in relief, topping out at 84 mph. Rutherford is currently ranked No. 5 in the class of 2016 and he looked very deserving of that lofty ranking today. If he continues to progress at this rate, he has a chance to be the biggest scouting draw of the 2016 18u PG MLK Championship.
Following up teammate Drew Rasmussen's impressive pitching performance for Team Northwest on day one, 2014 righthander Gage Burland (Seattle, Wash.) also drew the largest scouting turnout of the day. Burland posted a similarly dominant line of four innings pitched, no hits, one walk and seven strikeouts over four shutout innings, throwing 38 of his 58 pitches for strikes (65.5 percent). Burland pushed the needle a tick, posting the highest fastball velocity of the tournament thus far by hitting 92 mph a couple of times, which ties the all-time best for the tournament's four year history. He did a very good job of working down in the zone in the second inning after some early rustiness, especially to the bottom corner on the arm side. He struck out the side that inning using his fastball and 11-to-5 mid-70s curveball with hard spin and downer break. He also worked in several solid changeups in the low-80s during his outing and has a long, quick arm action.
After showing well defensively behind the plate yesterday for Team Northwest, 2014 catcher Joey Morgan (Sisters, Ore.) continued to prove he belongs in the conversation of the top high school prospects in the state of Oregon this year by picking up a pair of hits and squaring the ball up well against a crafty lefty. Teammate 2014 outfielder Stuart Fairchild (Seattle, Wash.) had another big day at the plate with a two-run triple in the sixth that proved to be the game winner.
Rutherford wasn't the only player who has shown progress since last season for CBA Marucci. Fellow 2016 outfielder Josh Stephen (Chino Hills, Calif.) didn't see much to hit, walking in his first two at-bats before singling to right in his final at-bat. But like Rutherford, he showed a more refined approach that will allow him to utilize his own high end hitting tools, and has also developed additional physical strength.
The 11:30 am matchup between the So Cal Cavs and Prospects National Team featured plenty of interesting prospects, an exciting finish to a tight game, and most importantly, good left handed pitching. Hazahel Quijada (2015, Highland, Calif.) topped out at 87 mph and showed hard spin on his curveball, striking out four in two shutout innings and throwing 68 percent strikes. He was countered by 2014 outfielder and lefthanded pitcher Andrew Shaps (Scottsdale, Ariz.) who threw four shutout innings for the Prospects National Team, sitting in the mid-80s from his low three-quarters slot. 2014 lefties JoJo Romero and Jackson Simonsguard also hit mid-80s from the left side in a game flush with lefthanded pitching. The other scouting highlight from this high quality game was an outstanding play charging the ball coming in from shortstop by 2015 Nick Shumpert (Lone Tree, Colo.).
2014 righthander Blaze Bohall (Glendale, Ariz.) is an interesting projection arm in Arizona. He worked in the mid-80s topping out at 87 with a quick arm and a long stride to the plate that gives his fastball a bit of extra life. He flashed hard spin on a sweeping curveball that projects well and was in the mid-70s today. He kept the ball down in the zone consistently. If he adds strength to his long slender frame he could take a step forward with his raw stuff and generate some draft interest, whether that occurs this spring or over the next few years at UNLV, remains to be seen. Either way, his long term upside warrants the attention of four corners scouts going forward.
2015 first baseman and catcher Marcus Skundrich (Scottsdale, Ariz.) was an interesting player that is still somewhat new to PG. He has a big projectable frame and showed good bat speed from the right side, making loud contact with a balanced swing, and pulled the ball with authority.
2014 middle infielder Austin Bernard (Valley Center, Calif.) continued to square the ball up consistently for the second day in a row. He homered in the opener yesterday and adjusted well to a curveball today, hooking one into left field for a single coming off the bat at 87 mph. His at-bats so far this tournament have been very impressive, especially within the context of a tournament in January where most of the hitters have looked rusty against live pitching.