Southeast Regional Feature: Ringgold revives and rebuilds
This is the third of a ten-part series previewing all ten regions of the United States. The schedule is as follows:
1. Byron Buxton
The toolsy outfielder has made a meteoric rise from a year ago with his standout performance at the 18u and 17u WWBA as well as at East Coast Pro. He has been compared to players like Eric Davis, and BJ and Justin Upton and has the same long, lean body with loose athleticism, tons of speed and arm strength and lots of potential at the plate. Georgia area scouts and cross checkers will be making the trip south to Baxley, GA (pop. 4400) to see the player currently ranked #5 in PG’s 2012 rankings. Buxton figures to be off the board early in June with whispers of him even being the #1 overall pick. He will be closely followed throughout the spring season.
2. Repeat Title Winners
Any coach will tell you repeating as champion is even harder than winning the first one. A handful of highly ranked Southeast teams will look to bring another title to their school this spring. Parkview (GA) won the AAAAA title and is the favorite to win another one with the amount of talent they return in 2012. Columbus (GA) won the AAA title and brings back its top players. Farragut (TN) won another Tennessee title in 2011 but will have to overcome the loss of LHP Phillip Pfeifer (Vanderbilt) and C Nick Delmonico (Orioles, 6th round) as well as an injury to top LHP Xander Taylor. Petal (MS) won their third straight Mississippi title and opens the season as one of the top teams in the state.
3. Georgia’s Top Team
Parkview and Columbus are the early favorites as the state’s top team. They will get lots of competition from a ton of teams throughout the state. Teams that began the season in the PG Top 50 are Loganville (#39) and Brookwood (#48). Ringgold also figures to be a top in AAA and Luella, Grayson, Pope, Woodward Academy, and Winder Barrow all look to sport top teams with lots of talent.
4. Alabama 2012 Class
Many longtime scouts have called this Alabama’s best prep draft class in years. The state has it all with high level athletes, hitters, power arms and depth. David Dahl, Jameis Winston, and Tucker Simpson highlight the list but 25 Alabamians are in the Top 500 in the 2012 class. Check out the full list here.
5. Ringgold’s Recovery
Some stories transcend sports and the city of Ringgold’s recovery from last year’s April tornadoes is the story of a town coming together. Click here to read Jeff Dahn’s article.
March 7 Columbus (GA) @ Russell County (AL)
The two schools sit only 16 miles apart and are two of the top schools in the Southeast, routinely producing high level prospects. This year Columbus starts the season at #13 and features LHP/OF Kyle Carter and 3B JT Phillips. Russell County starts at #24 and RHP Ray Castillo is an early riser with velocities in the mid 90s and OF Anfernee Grier is a highly ranked player in the 2013 class.
March 17 Cullman (AL) @ Oxford (AL)
Oxford is the preseason choice for top team in Alabama led by RHP Tucker Simpson, OF Matthew Goodson, and 3B/RHP Jackson Stephens. Cullman counters with top 2013 RHP Keegan Thompson who was All-State as a sophomore and also starred for 16u Team USA last summer.
March 23 Parkview (GA) @ Grayson (GA)
Parkview won the AAAAA Georgia title last year and returns a ton of talent led by 1B/RHP Matt Olson and OF Josh Hart. Grayson is an up and coming team led by 2013 OF Austin Meadows, a power left-handed bat and top level athlete currently ranked #2 in the class.
April 3/21 Acadiana (LA) @ Barbe (LA)
The matchup features two of the top teams in Louisiana but the marquee matchup is between each team’s top prospects, Acadiana C Stryker Trahan and Barbe SS Gavin Cecchini, friends and teammates on the Texas Sun Devils travel team and Ole Miss commits.
April 7 Madison Central (MS) @ Petal (MS)
Madison Central looks to be the top team in the state led by LHP Zach Irwin an Ole Miss commit, as well as underclassmen Austin Sanders and Kyle O’Keefe. Petal is a traditional power and features the state’s top prospect, football star OF Anthony Alford, a dual sport commit to Southern Miss.
Southeast High School Dream Team
C Stryker Trahan, Sr. Acadiana (LA)
Trahan has an impressive total package with a solid, very strong 6’1 215-pound frame and lots of athleticism, running a 6.54 at the 2011 National Showcase. Trahan has a strong left-handed bat with power to all fields and is also a quality defender showing his athleticism and arm strength, popping a 1.81 with 85 mph velocity. Other catchers worthy of consideration are Zack Bowers (GA), Ian Rice (AL), Dalton Todd (MS), and Chris Eades (LA).
1B Matt Olson, Sr. Parkview (GA) (2-time Southeast Dream Team)
Olson is a top two-way player, also throwing in the upper 80s from the mound, but it his power left-handed bat that is his calling card. His long, strong swing produces some of the best power in the class and he is the top player on a highly ranked Parkview team that is looking to repeat as AAAAA champions. Another Georgia bat, Cole Miller, gave Olson a run for his money with a very advanced approach and lots of strength in his swing.
2B Jordan Ebert, Sr. Baldwin County (AL)
Alabama is strong in 2012 at the second base position as two of the top in the country call the state home. Jordan Ebert gets the slight nod over Kyle Overstreet. Ebert is a good athlete and defender but his bat carries him with power to all fields and lots of bat speed. Overstreet is the more prototypical second sacker with high level defensive skills, athleticism, quick bat and top of the order skills. Ebert is committed to Auburn, Overstreet to Alabama.
SS Gavin Cecchini, Sr. Barbe (LA) (2-time Southeast Dream Team)
Cecchini may be the best pure baseball player in the 2012 class. He is fundamentally sound in every phase of the game, shows very good defensive actions, is rarely fooled at the plate, hits every ball with authority, and plays the game with a passion that is unmatched. AJ Simcox (TN) and 2013s Wes Jones (GA), Reid Humphreys (MS), and Dalton Dulin (TN), are phenomenal players with bright futures who deserve mention.
3B JT Phillips, Sr. Columbus (GA)
Overshadowed at times at teammate Kyle Carter, Phillips is a top prospect in his own right. He is long, strong, and projectable with a power right-handed bat, easy fluid defensive actions and plenty of arm strength for the 3B position. He continues the tradition of top players coming thru Columbus HS, playing for Coach Bobby Howard. Georgia is rich in 3B talent this year with 2012s Chase Scott and Palmer Betts and two highly ranked 2013 prospects to watch in Travis Demeritte and Clint Frazier.
OF Byron Buxton, Sr. Appling County (GA)
OF David Dahl, Sr. Oak Mountain (AL)
OF Jameis Winston, Sr. Hueytown (AL)
Outfielders is a position that the Southeast excels at producing. This class may rank among the region’s best ever. Tools are the theme and the list of players not included on the Dream Team is impressive in its own right. Skye Bolt (GA), Vincent Jackson (GA), Matthew Goodson (AL), Anthony Alford (MS), Kolby Copeland (LA), Rock Rucker (AL), George Salem (AL), DJ Davis (MS), D’Vone McClure (AR) in the 2012 class and Austin Meadows (GA), Terry McClure (GA), Justin Williams (LA), and Josh Hart (GA) in the 2013 class all would be likely Dream Team choices in any other region. Buxton is has the best tool set in the class and is a likely Top 10 pick and has been compared to a young Eric Davis. Winston is a star quarterback and is committed to play both sports at Florida State. It goes without saying that he is an incredible athlete, running a 6.59, throwing 93 from the outfield, 92 off the mound, and showing power from both sides of the plate at 2011 PG National. Dahl is the third best athlete of the trio and all he does is run a 6.49 sixty throw 95 from the outfield. He is a true 5-tool talent, showing high level hitting tools and lots of power at the plate.
UTIL Kyle Carter, Sr. LHP/OF Columbus (GA) (2-time Southeast Dream Team)
Carter has been in the spotlight ever since leading Columbus (GA) to a Little League World Series title in 2006. He has developed into one the best players in the country, a legit two-way prospect with 90 mph velocity from the left side and an athletic center fielder with power. He helped lead Columbus to a AAA title in 2011 and they are the favorite to repeat. Other players like Vincent Jackson (GA), Duane Underwood (GA), Matthew Olson (GA), and Byron Buxton (GA) will star on both sides for their HS squads as will OF/RHP Sean McLaughlin (GA) a left-handed hitter who runs a 6.76 sixty and was up to 96 at East Cost Pro last August.
P Duane Underwood, Sr. RHP, Pope (GA)
P Lucas Sims, RHP, Sr. Brookwood (GA)
P Clate Schmidt, RHP, Sr. Allatoona (GA)
P Tucker Simpson, RHP, Sr. Oxford (AL)
P Matthew Crownover, LHP, Sr. Ringgold (GA)
The pitching in the Southeast in deep and talented as usual with a quartet of highly ranked Georgians leading the way. PG has watched Underwood closely over the last three years waiting for his potential on the mound to come to fruition and he exploded in 2011 hitting 97 at the 17u WWBA, 98 at East Coast Pro, 96 at the Perfect Game All-American Game, and 95 at the WWBA World Championships in October. Sims, also a Perfect Game All-American, is a pitcher with tons of potential. He is a good athlete, has a smooth delivery and ran his heater up to 97 at East Coast Pro. Schmidt doesn't have the physical build of Underwood or Sims but has one of the fastest arms in the class, has been up to 96, also throwing a hammer curveball and changeup. Crownover doesn’t have the top end velocity of the trio mentioned above but sits 89-91, pounding the strike zone. He has consistently performed at a high level against top competition. Simpson is a big, strong pitcher who has consistently dominated and made big improvements throughout the summer of 2011. All five have a chance to be early round picks, Sims, Schmidt, and Crownover are all Clemson commits while Simpson and Underwood are Florida and Georgia respectively. LHP Colin Rodgers is the top pitching prospect in the state of Louisiana with low 90s arm strength and good off speed stuff, and RHPs Jordan Sheffield (TN), Trevor Clifton (TN), and Keegan Thompson (AL) are three of the top arms in the 2013 class
Southeast Region Best Tools
Best Hitter For Average Gavin Cecchini, SS, Sr. Barbe (LA) (2 time SE Best Hitter for Average)
If there is a better pure hitter in the 2012 class, PG hasn’t found him yet. Cecchini flat out hits. Every tournament and showcases he has attended sees him consistently ripping line drives to all fields. He has a very sound approach and great pitch recognition, is rarely fooled and has deceptive power for his build. Hitting against high level arms and velocity is no problem for Cecchini either as he excelled at PG National, Tournament of Stars, East Coast Pro, Area Codes. Skye Bolt (GA), David Dahl (AL), and Mikey White (AL) are also pure hitters with tons of offensive potential.
Best Hitter For Power Justin Williams, OF, Jr. Terrebonne (LA)
Williams has been identified as a top prospect at past PG tournaments but his offensive potential really stood out at the National Underclass Main Event Showcase in December where he was named Top Prospect, showing athleticism and power potential and what one PG scout called “legitimate big league bat speed.” Other players with big time power are Skye Bolt (GA), Kyle Carter (GA), and Matt Olson (GA).
Best Baserunner Byron Buxton, OF, Sr. Appling County (GA)
For many, ranking the best base runner amounts to finding the fastest player, the one with the best 60-yard dash time. But that is not really answering the best base runner question, which is based on instincts, quick first step, and knowing the fielders and their alignment. Buxton fits the bill on both categories. An absolute blazer Buxton has been clocked at an astounding 3.95 home to first from the right side. He is also the most intimidating base runners when on base. He gets greats jumps and has instincts, taking the extra base whenever possible.
Non-Buxton Division: DJ Davis, OF, Sr. Stone (MS)
Davis was a revelation at his PG first event, the WWBA World Championship in October stealing five bases in six games. Playing for Royals Baseball Club, Davis impressed with his athleticism and bat speed, but really stood out on the bases, routinely flying around the basepaths with the kind of reckless abandon that scouts love. A few others that deserve mention are Cole Billingsley (AL), George Salem (GA), Anthony Alford (MS), Dylan Dore (GA), and Matt Gonzalez (GA).
Best Defensive Catcher Zach Bowers, C, Sr. Harrison (GA)
Bowers is a top level receiver who stood out at East Coast Pro with his combination of strength and athleticism as well as a quick release and online throws with arm strength. He has an ideal catcher’s build at 6’1 185 and is also a very good hitter at the plate with bat speed. Peter Pizarro (LA) stood out as a defensive catcher at the WWBA World Championships and has low 80s arm strength from behind the plate and Dalton Todd (MS) is one of the best receivers in the class.
Best Defensive Infielder Gavin Cecchini, SS, Sr. Barbe (LA)
Cecchini has always been a very solid defender with good lateral movement, strong actions, and an accurate arm. He stepped it up a level in the summer of 2011, showing more range, increased arm strength and some flash to his defensive game. He is also very good around the second base bag with a quick release and good footwork. 2013 Connor Justus (GA) is a standout defender who has shown SS actions with a quick release, arm strength, and flashiness playing for the East Cobb program. Other players that deserve mention for their standout glovework are SS Mikey White (AL) and 2B Kyle Overstreet (AL).
Best Defensive Outfielder Byron Buxton, OF, Sr. Appling County (GA)
Buxton uses his blazing speed to track down balls that many other outfielders could not get to. He takes good routes to the ball, gliding effortlessly and his body control and athleticism allow him to stay balanced and get rid of the ball very quickly.
Non-Buxton Division: David Dahl, OF, Sr. Oak Mountain (AL)
Dahl may have the best fielding actions in the class. He routinely runs sub 6.6 sixty, plenty of speed for the CF position, gets in good position to throw and shows OF velocity up to 95 mph with very good accuracy. Jameis Winston (AL) is also a top level outfield defender.
Best Infield Arm JT Phillips, 3B, Sr. Columbus (GA)
Phillips has plenty of arm strength for the 3B position and doubles as a pitcher with 90 mph velocity. What sets Phillips arm apart is its accuracy and his ability to throw on the run and from multiple angles. With a power bat and those tools, Phillips looks to stay at 3B for a long time. Matt Gonzalez (GA), Travis Demeritte (GA), Clint Frazier (GA), and Wes Jones (GA) have all displayed arm strength that plays easily at both left side positions.
Best Outfield Arm Byron Buxton, OF, Sr. Appling County (GA)
Buxton was up to 94 on the mound at the 18u WWBA and that arm strength is a serious asset in center field. He has easy, loose arm action and easily generates tons of arm speed. Many scouts believe he has the ability to throw in triple digits if he spends more time on the mound.
Non-Buxton Division: David Dahl, OF, Sr. Oak Mountain (AL)
Dahl would dominate the Best Tools list if not for Buxton. Dahl has 95 mph arm strength from the outfield and is smooth with his motion and release, leading to accurate throws with carry that will play from center or right field.
Best Fastball Duane Underwood, RHP, Sr. Pope (GA)
Underwood has the fastest, loosest arm of the Georgia pitchers and has made the jump from low 90s up to 98 in a sixth month span. Underwood has easy arm action and his mid to upper 90s heater jumps out of his hand. It is not hard to envision Underwood throwing 100 in the near future. Lucas Sims (GA), Clate Schmidt (GA), Sean McLaughlin (GA), Tucker Simpson (GA) have all been in the mid-90s with their heaters. RHP Ray Castillo (AL) has been clocked as high as 95 in the early going in 2012 and 2013 grad RHP Jordan Sheffield is a hard thrower who was up to 94 at last year’s 16u WWBA.
Best Offspeed Stuff Clate Schmidt, RHP, Sr. Allatoona (GA)
Schmidt’s ultra-fast arm allows him to throw as hard as 96 with his fastball and also to throw a hammer curveball at 81-83 with big shape and sharp late break. The pitch has a chance to be plus and is a true knee-buckler. Schmidt has throws a changeup at 85 with very good arm action, giving him a very impressive three-pitch arsenal. Lucas Sims also compliments his mid 90s heater with a sharp biting curveball with very good arm speed at 75-77 and a changeup that he has good feel and lots of confidence in.
Best Command Matthew Crownover, LHP, Sr. Ringgold (GA)
Crownover doesn’t wow with velocity, usually sitting around 90, occasionally spiking up to 92-93. What he does well is repeat his delivery, throw a ton of strikes and avoid hard contact. He is deceptive in his delivery and hides the ball, showing the advanced ability to dominate to high level competition even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Fellow Georgia lefty Mason Felt is another pitcher who throws in the upper 80s but does a great job controlling the zone and avoiding contact while still throwing a ton of strikes.
Best Pitchability Matthew Crownover, LHP, Sr. Ringgold (GA) (2-time SE Best Pitchability)
The big velocity of others is enticing but if forced to pick a pitcher to win a game right now, Crownover is as good a bet as anyone. He doesn’t walk batters, controls the running game with one of the best pick-off moves in the class, and routinely pounds the strike zone with a fastball at 89-91. He is primarily a fastball pitcher but controls and commands it so well that it is sometimes the only pitch he needs. He also has showed a curveball with bite at 72-73 and a straight changeup with very good arm action at 75-76. Crownover routinely performed well in big games and is as polished a pitcher as we have seen over the last few years.
Southeast Top 25 Regional Rankings
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