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Tournaments : : Story
2013 Jupiter Impact Players
Todd Gold    
Published: Wednesday, November 06, 2013


2013 WWBA World Championship feature content
 
The 15th edition of the WWBA World Championship lived up to expectations of being one of the most pitching dominated versions in it's history. The precedent was set when big velocities stole the headlines at the 2013 PG National Showcase in Minneapolis, and most of those power arms, along with a few new ones, delivered on the biggest stage of the year in Jupiter.

For five days each October, the spring home of the Marlins and Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla. becomes the epicenter of the amateur baseball universe. The talent level and atmosphere are unrivaled, and below is a snapshot of some of the elite players who stood out even amongst their impressive peer group. There are players who missed the cut of this list who will go on to be first round picks, all-stars, and possibly earn even higher accolades. Over the course of five days in October, these are the players who set themselves apart.




Stars on Display


The WWBA World Championship was loaded with elite talent and these select few position players stood out even amongst their impressive group of peers.


Michael Chavis (2014 IF, Team Rawlings) - His offensive tools have been apparent on the national stage over the past two years, and while his raw power is impressive, Chavis' hit tool is robust enough to give scouts confidence that the power will play. His improvement in the run and throw departments is remarkable, having gone from a likely future left fielder to being a legitimate 2B/3B prospect, which raises his draft stock considerably. His on-field leadership was evident as well during Jupiter, and it washes with the praise for his makeup that consistently comes from those who know him well. Of course, the thing that most scouts will come away from Jupiter remembering about Chavis was his home run that smashed the windshield of a car parked behind the fence in left center of Field 5 on the Cardinals' George Kissell Quad.

Nick Gordon (2014 SS, Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler) - In a class that has plenty of position prospects to dream on long term, Gordon is the safest bet to play everyday at an up-the-middle position in the Major Leagues. While his ceiling is tied to his ability to add strength (while maintaining his athleticism) to drive the ball, his floor is very high given his high level defensive ability at shortstop. Safe bets to play shortstop at the Major League level tend to come off the board early in the draft, and Gordon continued to show himself to be just that in Jupiter. Being paired with another highly talented middle infielder in the class, Milton Ramos, made the Cardinals Scout Team a fun team to watch.

Brendan Rodgers (2015 SS, Mets Scout Team/Orlando Scorpions) 
- In the third edition of the Jupiter Impact Players series, Rodgers becomes the first underclass position player to make the cut. While Daz Cameron also warranted strong consideration, Rodgers gets the nod after his impressive showing. His elite bat speed is plenty evident to everyone who watches him play, regardless of the level of competition. But in Jupiter, Rodgers got to show his ability to continue overpowering pitchers at the highest level of high school age baseball. He cemented his status as an elite hitter in the 2015 class in his first at-bat of the semifinals when he squared up a 95 mph inside fastball from Grant Holmes. The rocket line drive found the shortstop for a lineout, but it was more impressive to scouts than the 101 mph line drive he crushed over the left fielder's head to break open the previous night's quarterfinal game. Rodgers is also a very solid defender at this point and has shown development there, suggesting he may have a shot to stay up the middle if he can continue that trend. The potential to be a power hitting shortstop would make him an extremely attractive prospect heading into 2015.

Forrest Wall (2014 IF, Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler) - With an elite starting middle infield of Nick Gordon and Milton Ramos, Wall ceded innings in the middle infield in Jupiter. But what he did show was a high level hit tool and present plus speed. His quickness and athleticism suggest he has the capability to be a quality defender up the middle, whether at second base or in center field. Regardless of his future defensive home, he has the combination of hitability and speed to be a valuable asset to an organization. Wall also has the tools to flash occasional power right now, and could continue to develop more as he matures both physically and as a hitter. Batting out of the two-hole for arguably the deepest and most talented lineup in the tournament, Wall showed good judgement at the plate. He showed a good approach, took his walks and showed a willingness to go with pitches, hitting hard line drives to every part of the yard, particularly the opposite field gap.

Alex Jackson (2014 C/OF Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler, 2014 SS), Jacob Gatewood (Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team) - Jackson and Gatewood are the type of alluring high ceiling prospects that cause some scouts to dream on their upside, and others to dwell on their present flaws. Their big reward potential comes with big risk, but both are the type of draft day gambles that can change the fortunes of a franchise. If either reaches their ceiling, they have a chance to become cornerstone players for whichever organization selects them. Despite being below average straight away runners, both are good athletes. Gatewood has good present defensive actions at shortstop and an above average arm, Jackson's plus-plus present arm is a weapon behind the plate and is also well suited for right field. The raw power for both players is tremendous and if all goes right they each have a chance to hit 30-plus home runs a year while manning premium defensive positions. Both strike out a lot even at this level and make infrequent contact, causing a lot of scouts to hesitate despite their gamechanging ceiling. These are the types of prospects that put a lot of pressure on scouting directors holding picks between fifth and fifteenth overall. They will be fun players to follow not only leading up to draft day, but throughout their development as professionals. Work ethic and desire to learn and improve will go a long way to determining whether these two will fail to overcome the challenges of pro ball, or go on to achieve superstardom and leave their mark in the Major Leagues.




Well-Armed


In a tournament where high velocities were the norm, this group of elite pitchers stood out from the impressive field at the WWBA World Championship for their ability to not just throw hard, but for their ability to pitch.


Kodi Medeiros (2014 LHP, Ohio Warhawks)
- Medeiros' start against Chandler Baseball was the main event of amateur baseball's main event. Hundreds of golf carts created a wall four plus rows deep behind the plate to get a glimpse at the 2014 class' most intrguiging prospect. The native of Hilo, a town of aprox. 45,000 on Hawaii's big island, was relatively unknown on the national scene prior to taking the mound at the PG National Showcase in June. His electric stuff took the scouting community by surprise and he continued to impress throughout the summer in one and two inning stints at the Area Code Games and PG All-American Classic. But with his small frame, unorthodox delivery and short track record there has been an ongoing debate amongst scouts as to whether he can maintain his high level stuff through the physical rigors of a role in the starting rotation. Simply put; there has never been a prospect quite like Medeiros. That fact should be viewed as a huge positive, though the lack of a viable comp does make him somewhat more difficult to evaluate. His fastball sits comfortably in the 90-92 range and has peaked as high as 95, but more than the velocity, his fastball features plus movement and life, seemingly accelerating after leaving his hand and darts hard to the arm side with sink. He has shown some feel for locating his fastball on the corners, which is impressive considering it's depth of run. His slider has plus bite and depth, but is a pitch that he's still developing feel for. This should come as no surprise given that very few catchers at this level are able to handle the pitch because of it's devastating late bite and huge depth. Subsequently, he is unable to use it with two strikes or a runner on third in game situations. With high-level catching, Medeiros will have an opportunity to develop better feel for using the pitch in-game situations and begin to realize the pitch's 80-grade potential. His changeup was inconsistent in his previous outings, flashing plus at the PG National before betraying him at the Area Code Games and in the PG All-American Classic. With that in mind he made a point to show it off in Jupiter and with very good results, locating the first three for strikes. In Jupiter his changeup caused several ugly swings, and several of them were legitimate plus offerings, though he still has work to do to improve his consistency with it. His three inning outing was a Rorshach for scouts, as those who view him as a starter will point to his six pitch first inning and quality of changeup, while those who see a future in the bullpen will fixate on his velocity dipping to 88-90 in the third inning. Regardless of his future role, Medeiros is a special talent who has a chance to be among the best pitchers in baseball in that role, should he manage to stay healthy going forward and continue to develop.

Touki Toussaint (2014 RHP, Atlanta Blue Jays) - Touki was one of the biggest stars of the 2012 edition of Jupiter, touching 97 mph with his fastball and tantalizing with his loose whippy arm action, if to say nothing of the depth on his curveball. He was back in 2013 with high expectations, and while he didn't light up the radar gun in quite the same way (sitting 91-94), he showed strides towards converting his raw potential into usable ability. In his first inning of work he struck out four batters and showed improved command of his fastball, thanks in large part to a slightly more streamlined delivery. After beginning his journey playing baseball late, Toussaint has never consistently shown good present command of his electric stuff. That began to change with an impressive first inning in Jupiter. Eventually his wildness caught up with him in the second inning, as his filthy curveball was not only devastating to opposing hitters, but also his catcher and the umpire....leading to dropped third strikes and missed strike calls. His short developmental history and underlying athleticism suggest that with a few years of work in a player development system Toussaint can learn to harness his high level stuff and conquer the many miles of development that stand between his present ability and that elite potential. His career line at the WWBA World Championship includes two earned runs on four hits over eight innings, with 13 walks and 23 strikeouts. He has developed the spin rate on his curveball even further giving the pitch more bite and velocity while maintaining the shoulder to ankles depth it featured a year ago. He has also added a devastating splitter to his arsenal. While some may shortsightedly refer to Touki's present command as a nightmare, he is a Pitching Coordinator's dream project and as such is likely to be a high draft pick come June.

Grant Holmes (2014 RHP, EvoShield Canes) - It doesn't come as a big surprise that Holmes registered the tournament's highest velocity, touching 97 mph with his fastball in the opening game for the champion EvoShield Canes. His velocity has frequently sat in the mid-90s in showcase settings, and low- to mid-90s in a starting role. Just as importantly, in Jupiter he showed the ability to command that heat well. While his command in the semifinal start against the loaded Mets Scout Team doesn't look impressive in the box score with three walks and 59-percent strikes, he was making a noticeable effort to hit the corners of the strike zone. After pounding the zone in the opener, Holmes stayed out of the middle of the plate effectively in the semifinals and his command was good for the majority of that critical game while sitting 91-95 on fairly short rest. That command is key for his draft stock, as his thick stocky build doesn't neatly fit the mold of a classic starting pitching prospect. But in Jupiter he proved that he can command his fastball well and incorporate his hammer curveball effectively over multiple innings while knowing how and when to work in the changeup. That combination puts him in position to become a top 50 pick. His effort in the semifinals gave his team a chance to win against one of the best lineups in the tournament, and he was rewarded with a championship ring.

Sean Reid-Foley (2014 RHP, Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler) 
- While he is still learning to harness the command of his high caliber raw stuff, he has shown good command in stretches while his stuff has been reliable. He struck out four of the six batter he faced in Jupiter, sitting 92-94 consistently, while showing a sharp biting mid-80s slider. He has shown a quality four pitch mix in the past and has touched 95 with the fastball. He has had crisp outings where he commanded the strike zone well and outings where he would miss high and to the arm side. While he lacks polish, he is unhittable when he's on, and he has been on while pitching on some big stages. In a lot of draft classes he would be one of, if not the elite high school arm in the class. The depth of high school arms in 2014 could allow a team to get a very good value on him come June, unless he takes a step forward and begins to separate himself from an impressive peer group in the spring.

Alex Verdugo (2014 LHP/OF, Texas Scout Team Yankees) - The two-way prospect out has scouts split on whether his future lies on the mound or in the outfield. What is certain is that his curveball is a weapon, and he used it with devastating effect in his start against the Dirtbags. His matchup against one of the top left handed hitting prospects in the class (Braxton Davidson) was must-see for crosscheckers. In that matchup Verdugo buckled Davidson's knees with his deep 12-6 hammer, striking him out with it in their second encounter after starting him off with it to begin their first with impressive results. His fastball sat 88-92 as per usual, and a second inning hiccup aside, commanded it well for two of his three innings. Just as importantly, Verdugo bounced back from his spell of wildness in the second inning when his front shoulder began opening early, he managed to make the adjustment and resumed hitting his spots in the third inning, striking out the side on 10 pitches. He also helped himself out a lot in the minds of scouts when he buckled down and struck out Davidson with the bases loaded after a two-out error extended what had been a rough second inning.




Hidden Gems


This is a group of players who entered the WWBA World Championship with their talent mostly unknown to the PG scouting staff as well as many of the scouts and recruiters in attendance. They came away from Jupiter with their ability burned into the back of scouts' minds.


Austin Murphy (2014 OF, Mets Scout Team/Orlando Scorpions) - A look at his player profile page confirms that Murphy was completely off the radar entering the fall of his senior year. He made a huge first impression in Jupiter, showing a smooth lefthanded swing with good bat speed and the ability to whip the barrel through the hitting zone with authority. He not only showed the ability to use the whole ballpark, he runs very well, suggesting that he can be an asset defensively in the outfield. As a late pickup to a loaded organization that plays together year-round, he served in an extra hitter/DH type of role in Jupiter. He will be an interesting prospect to follow this spring, as he has gone from being off the radar to one of the more intriguing position prospects in northern Florida. Murphy hit an attention grabbing .417/.533/.583 in his PG debut with a 43-percent line drive rate.

Jamal Howard (2014 OF, Texas Sun Devils) 
- It's difficult for a player with Howard's chiseled middle linebacker physique to slip through the cracks, but having only played in a couple of prior national tournaments and making his big stage debut at the East Coast Pro Showcase in August, Howard was still a lesser known commodity to most of the industry. One scout commented that the Alabama commit looks like he could suit up for Nick Saban's national powerhouse football team next fall. While he will eventually have to reign in his hyper aggressive approach, he showed that he wasn't afraid to use his quality bat speed. He stole the spotlight on Sunday morning's first set of games, with several pitchers lighting up radar guns around the complex, Howard crushed a walk-off grand slam to push the Sun Devils to victory over the Ontario Blue Jays. His run and throw tools in the outfield are also quite solid, giving him more than just a high upside bat to dream on.

Gabe Gonzalez (2014 RHP, Ohio Warhawks) - While most of the scouting world caught a glimpse of the power armed Las Vegas product in his first outing at the Area Code Games, most of that massive scouting contingent had left Long Beach before he took the mound for his second outing, in which he was far more comfortable. After topping out at 89 mph and finding himself behind in the count too frequently to show any of his offspeed pitches, most scouts didn't get to see the real Gonzalez. With his nerves calmed, his second outing of the Area Code Games was considerably better, and while he still battled some wildness, he sat 88-90 touching 91 and got to use his solid mid-70s curveball and low-80s changeup. In Jupiter he kicked it up another notch, hitting 94 mph in a relief outing. His fastball velocity also plays up due to the combination of a wingspan longer than that of a typical 6-foot-3 pitcher, with his very long arm action and long extension out front. He's still a bit of a mystery as a prospect, but scouts will be watching him closely next spring as they search for clues as to his future. One thing is certain, he has a live arm.

Todd Isaacs (2014 OF, Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team) 
- Isaacs stood out on an all-prospect team that was highlighted by one of the highest ceiling players in the class (Jacob Gatewood). He slashed line drives and hard ground balls evenly between the pullside, opposite field and up the middle. His impressive spray chart from his .500/.533/.500 showing is impressive in it's even distribution, even putting down perfect bunts for hits down each baseline. His carrying tool is his speed and as a present burner he should be able to chew up acres of real estate centerfield. His slash and run skillset is a good fit for his center field profile and his solid arm strength is an added bonus there.


Donnie Everett (2015 RHP, Royals Scout Team) -
Every year the Royals Scout Team is filled with strong candidates for this category, and while Everett wasn't the only talented player who fits well here, he is the one that made the strongest impression. The bleary eyed scouting contingent that arrived at the complex in time for the start of the first time slot on day four, just a few hours after leaving the night before, were jolted awake when the sturdy built 6-foot-2 220-pound underclassmen fired a 95 mph fastball during his warmup. He then sat 90-94 in his first inning of work and backed it with a hard spinning curveball in the low-80s that flashed hard biting action. He's a pitcher who will be watched very closely in his return trip to Jupiter next year.




Indelible Impressions


These are a few of the moments and performances that are etched in the minds of the PG scouting staff from the WWBA World Championship.


Sullivan steals the show (and extra bases) - In a game with a large scouting contingent on hand, Zach Sullivan made the webgem of the tournament. Righthander Scott Blewett was wrapping up a start that saw him vault him up draft boards by touching 95 mph with his fastball and pairing it with a sharp curveball. In the fifth inning with East Cobb threatening to finally break through against Blewett, elite 2015 prospect Daz Cameron came to the plate with a chance to build the deficit. Cameron crushed a breaking ball deep into the gap in left center, but center fielder Zach Sullivan gave Cameron, a high level defender, a taste of his own medicine. Ranging deep into the gap at full speed and laying out for a diving catch at full extension, Sullivan stole extra bases. It was the second out of the inning, Trey Harris alertly stayed close to the bag in spite of how well the ball was struck and was able to tag up and score an insurance run. The trail runner saw the highlight reel catch and understandably perceived an opportunity to tag up and take third. But Sullivan immediately popped up and fired a one-hop strike to nail the runner at third to escape the inning and keep Syracuse in the game. Given Cameron's speed (4.40 home to first on the turn) and where the ball was hit, it may very well have gone for an inside park home run had Sullivan missed on his diving attempt. These are the kinds of high level plays from high level prospects that make Jupiter a special event.

Pavin the way to a playoff run - As a high school first baseman, one of the most scrutinized prospect profiles, Palm Beach PAL's Pavin Smith forced scouts to take notice of his performance in Jupiter. With a playoff berth on the line against a prospect-laden Ohio Warhawks squad, Smith got the start, pitching and serving as his own DH while hitting third in the order. He hit 90 mph and threw three shutout innings, striking out three to just one walk and two hits. While he would earn the win on the mound, he had an equally big impact offensively, going 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI in their 3-1 win. He then went 1-for-2 with a sacrifice fly RBI in their playoff win over the Midwest Warducks and finished the tournament with a line of .421/.429/.579 as Palm Beach PAL made a second round playoff run. Smith doesn't receive a ton of attention due to his long-term profile as a first baseman without prolific present power, but he showed that he can hit high level pitching and came up big on the largest stage in amateur baseball.

Myers topples the Cards - The Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler were among the pre-tournament favorites as they continued their tradition of bringing a roster filled with PG All-Americans. They got off to a 3-0 start in pool play and were one win away from making a return trip to the playoffs. The only thing that stood between them and a playoff run was the 2-1 Midwest Warducks and righthander BJ Myers. Myers is a West Virginia commit, who has a limited track record on the national stage. Myers took advantage of that lack of familiarity, using all four of his pitches to keep their talented hitters off balance and frustrating them for six quality innings. It was a back and forth game, with the Cardinals getting the early lead on an unearned run (caused by their speed putting pressure on the Warduck defense). Warducks first baseman Francisco DeJesus tied it up on a solo home run to right, and then in the top of the seventh the Warducks pushed across a run with a sac fly to break the 1-1 tie. Righthander Garret Hutson came on for the third time in the tournament to nail down the save, and managed to strand, the tying run in scoring position. Myers threw his slider as his primary pitch, locating it consistently to the frontdoor on right handers after starting it from behind them and allowing the depth to carry it into the zone for called first pitch strikes. He also showed good feel for his changeup, throwing it frequently, setting up his upper 80s fastball which he commanded well. It was an impressive performance where pitchability and command allowed him to steal the win, and the pool in one of the most intense and exciting games of the tournament.

Skoug crushes way to MVP honors - It is rare for a player whose team didn't reach the title game to win tournament MVP honors. But Evan Skoug, who was a force in the middle of the order for the semifinalist Reds Midwest Scout Team, did just that. His highlight moment of the tournament came when he crushed a home run to right center against hard throwing 2015 righthander Kyle Molnar. He then stepped his game up when the playoffs arrived, going 3-for-5 with three walks in three games, and finished the tournament with a line of .636/.800/1.000. The muscular lefthanded hitting catcher combined a patient approach with a willingness to attack pitches within the strike zone. His long powerful swing led to very hard contact on a consistent basis and his contact is very loud.

TrackMan Era begins - Jupiter is a tournament that has made a significant impact on the way the baseball industry evaluates potential high school draft prospects. The innovation has not stopped with the formation of the tournament a decade and a half ago, however. In 2011 games began being score live online with Gamechanger software. In 2013 the military grade dopler radar technology that powers TrackMan's measurements made their Jupiter debut. Now instead of scouts noting hard spinning curveballs, TrackMan's data can precisely quantify that spin, along with numerous other insightful measurements. In the five field trial run, there were several impressive results that were captured in the data. For example, infielder/righthander Shane Benes unloaded on a foul ball that would've made scouts take notice, but the 108.1 mph exit speed captured by TrackMan adds weight to that moment. Benes would also hit a 103 mph line drive for an out. Touki Toussaint's hammer curve clearly has hard spin to it, but TrackMan precisely measured that spin at a rate of 2788 RPMs (MLB average is around 2500). This kind of supplemental data has the potential to fortify and enhance player evaluations and represents another step forward in the evolution of the industry.


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