Photo: Todd Gold

Impact Players from Marietta

Tournaments : : Story
Todd Gold        
Published: Friday, July 29, 2011

After five weeks, 818 teams and well over 15,000 players competed in Marietta, GA at the 2011 WWBA National Championships. A lot of players emerged from the massive field and made strong impressions on talent evaluators. That group is far too large to recognize each one individually, but here are a select few that made some of the strongest impressions on the PG scouting staff at the 2011 WWBA National Championships.

The Breakouts

This is a group of players that have shown flashes of impressive talent in the past but made large jumps this year and are beginning to emerge as big time prospects.

Byron Buxton (2012 OF/RHP, Round Trip Baseball)- From a town of 4,150 people, Buxton is a player that may have slipped through the cracks a couple of decades ago. The supremely athletic OF with plus plus speed is a two sport star for Appling County High School (also a star QB), preventing him from getting much exposure during the fall. When PG last saw Buxton he showed flashes of what he would become, in spite of going 2-for-14 as a RF the scouting notes suggested that he was capable of much more. In 2011 Buxton announced his presence as a big time prospect for the 2012 MLB Draft at the 18u and 17u WWBA National Championships. Buxton hit .393/.500/.675 and went a perfect 6-for-6 on stolen base attempts while also going 2-0 with a Save, allowing just three runs over 12 innings, striking out 16 and walking just three. Buxton’s fastball topped out at 94 mph, but his impressive arm strength is eclipsed by his blazing speed. Buxton posted phenomenal home-to-first times for a right handed hitter, with PG scouts clocking him between 3.96 and 4.12 seconds. With improving swing mechanics and quick hands, Buxton has a chance to develop into a legitimate 5-tool player and after his performance in Marietta, he will be followed very closely leading up to next year’s draft.

Duane Underwood (2012 RHP/OF, East Cobb Astros 16u)- PG was first introduced to Duane Underwood at the 16U National Championship in 2009. Underwood was a primary OF for the Georgia Blue Jays, and he made a mildly positive impression with his bat. The scouting notes on Underwood from that event read: “high hands, late start, athletic, quick hands, spins out on curveball, runs well.” The pitching notes were more positive on the secondary RHP who sat 82-84, topping out at 86, throwing all fastballs. Underwood showed enough raw talent to be invited to the 2010 Jr National Showcase, where he touched 89 mph on the radar gun and flashed potential with both his curveball and slider and a much improved swing. In 2011 Underwood absolutely blew us (and opposing hitters) away with his ability on the mound. With significantly improved mechanics Underwood’s live arm now routinely generates low-mid 90s velocity, touching 96 on the PG gun with sharp downhill plane. One of the best power arms in the country, Underwood’s bat is almost as impressive and he’s a big time two-way prospect who will be representing the East team at the PG All-American Game on August 14.


Kolby Copeland (2012 OF, Texas Sun Devils)- Copeland turned some heads at the 2010 Sunshine South Showcase, impressing scouts with his raw hitting tools. But as a primary infielder at the time, he appeared to lack a position. Fast forward a year and Copeland’s power has begun to shift from projectable to present, and his improved swing mechanics have allowed him to begin to get more out of his high level hitting tools. A shift to the Outfield has also suited him well, impressing scouts enough with his play in CF this month that some believe he has a chance to stick there. Copeland’s breakout performance at the 17u WWBA National Championship included at .476 average with 4 Home Runs, 9 Runs, 11 RBI and 2 stolen bases. He followed that up by capturing 17u BCS Most Valuable Player honors as he led the Sun Devils to the title. Copeland also touched 90 mph with his fastball, suggesting that he will have enough arm for RF should he be force to move off of CF at the some point down the road.


Jamie Jarmon (2012 OF/RHP, Del Mar Va Canes)- Like Buxton, Jarmon is another kid who may not have gotten a lot of attention in spite of his obvious talent. A rare big time baseball prospect from Delaware, Jarmon made a good impression on PG scouts in the past, primarily as a pitcher. Praised for his power arm and overall athleticism, one scout’s note on Jarmon from last year bluntly stated “needs lots of work at the plate.” This year PG scouts have had a markedly different take on Jarmon as a hitter. Though he has come a long way at the plate, Jarmon still has some work to do to live up to his lofty potential. In spite of hitting .250 at the 17u WWBA National Championship (over a small 6 game sample) Jarmon drew rave reviews for his upside. His lightning quick bat and strong lean athletic body portend for impact power, combined with good speed and a cannon arm (up to 93 on the mound) Jarmon has legimate 5-tool potential…and he has shown progress towards reaching it.


John Kilichowski (2013 LHP, Team Tampa)- Kilichowski made a big splash at this year’s Junior National Showcase, topping out at 88 mph with a very projectable left arm. Pitching for Tampa Jesuit High School, he got quite a few looks from scouts who were in attendance to watch high profile teammate Lance McCullers. A report from late this spring had him sitting 82-84 mph with his fastball. Pitching for Team Tampa in the 16u WWBA National Championship Kilichowski ran his fastball up to 90 mph from his deceptive low ¾ arm angle. At 6’ 4” 185 pounds with a very quick arm, Klichowski likely has just begun to scratch the surface of his potential. Kilichowski has drawn favorable comparisons to 2010 All-American Henry Owens (36th overall selection of the Boston Red Sox).


Out of Left Field

None of the players in this group are left fielders at present, but all of them came from nowhere to catch the PG scouting staff by (pleasant) surprise with their talent this month

DJ Reader (2012 1B/RHP, Hitting Zone)- Weighing in at over 300 pounds you wouldn’t expect Reader to sneak up on many. But the two-sport star did just that, surprising the PG scouting staff with his athleticism and two-way talent. Reader is an elite Offensive Guard prospect being sought after by nearly every ACC and SEC powerhouse. Barton Simmons, National Recruiting Analyst for 247sports said of Reader:

“He’s so big and so athletic that he could project all over the line of scrimmage on the next level. At [over] 300 pounds you don’t see many high school kids hovering around 5 seconds in the 40 yard dash but that’s exactly where you’re going to find Reader. At 247Sports we have him rated as the No. 3 offensive guard in the country.”

After playing at the 2008 14u and 2009 15u WWBA National Championship events, Reader did not attend a PG event in 2010. It appeared that he had understandably chosen to pursue football full-time, where his future is extremely bright. But in 2011 Reader was back and armed with a fastball that is up 25 mph (up to 91) from the last time we saw him pitch. The improvement is almost as remarkable as how well Reader moves for his size, though the tool that stands out most for Reader is his exceptional bat speed and massive power. Reader has stated that he wants to be a two-sport athlete in college and he certainly has the talent to compete at any level of college baseball.


Trey Wingenter (2012 RHP, Atlanta Blue Jays)- Wingenter is a previously unknown flamethrower from rural Alabama who made a big impression in his PG debut in Marietta this year. Wingenter, a 6’ 7” righty sat 87-91 with his fastball with a balanced delivery, sharp downhill plane and good command (62.8% of his 207 pitches for strikes ). Wingenter’s long lean frame projects for significant added strength and his loose easy arm action and low effort delivery portend for increased velocity. Wingenter allowed just 2 ER over 13 2/3 innings between the 17u and 18u WWBA National Championship events, a very successful debut to say the least. Wingenter is currently uncommitted (to our knowledge) but we expect that to change soon after his impressive showing this summer.


Tyler Alexander (2013 LHP, DBAT Mustangs-Sharp)- In his PG debut the tall lanky southpaw (appears taller than the 6’ 2” he is listed as) was overpowering. Alexander struck out 9 to earn the victory, throwing 66.2% of his 80 pitches for strikes. Alexander sat in the 84-86 mph range with his fastball, with a low effort delivery and a deceptive low ¾ arm angle. His fastball showed good tailing action and good command. His secondary stuff has a ways to go but his curveball showed good depth and has the potential to develop into an out pitch down the road. He also worked in a changeup with excellent fade and dive at 75 mph. While he is a solid pitcher at present, Alexander projects to become much more. We would not be the least bit shocked to see Alexander join The Breakouts group next year.

Nicholas Buckner (2013 OF/LHP, Houston Banditos Black)- Buckner barely qualifies for this group, as he was impressive at the 14u WWBA National Championship last year. One scout wrote of Buckner “going to be a prospect.” But that scout was watching the strong athletic lefty pitch, and while the reviews of his hitting were good, scouts were generally more impressed with his arm and his speed. A year later Buckner has gone from potential future pitching prospect to legitimate power hitting prospect. The arm and the speed are still there and Buckner is on the verge of fitting into the legitimate 5-tool category and he put on an impressive display in Marietta this month. Buckner drove in 14 runs and put up one of the best games of the 16u tournament, going 2-for-2 with a walk and a pair of towering Home Runs. The second of which came on a 3-0 pitch after his first base coach instructed him "if you get something you like, hit it out."

Jordan & Justus Sheffield (2013 RHP, 2014 LHP, Knights Baseball-National)- The Sheffield brothers made a big splash in their PG debuts at the 16u WWBA National Championship. The elder Sheffield, Jordan, touched 94 mph with his fastball. The younger, Justus, a southpaw, was up to 88. Jordan mixes his low 90s heat with a sharp curveball and a late breaking slider. Justus' repitoire features a curveball and a changeup. Jordan threw 7 innings, allowing just one run and striking out 11. Justus went 5 innings, allowing 2 runs (both unearned), fanning 3. Both are players that will be a lot of fun to follow over the next few years. 


Big Time Performances

This group is made up of players that have impressed with their tools in the past and put them to use, coming up with a monster performance this year

Kyle Hayes (2010 RHP/3B, San Diego Show)- After graduating high school as a 17 year old in 2010, Hayes enrolled at San Diego State where he appeared in 19 games this spring. After pitching just three (scoreless) innings and 27 at bats Hayes elected to transfer to a junior college. Hayes rejoined the San Diego Show for the 18u WWBA National Championship looking to find a home for the 2011-12 school year. Hayes’ performance no doubt generated him a lot of interest from juco programs across the country. Hayes pitched in two games for the Show, both complete game victories (one shutout and one against the East Cobb Braves 17u in the semifinals). Hayes touched 95 mph with his last fastball (though he generally lived at 89-91 with plus command) as part of an impressive three pitch mix. Hayes displayed the kind of advanced pitchability you would expect from a pitcher with Division I experience. Hayes also hit .400 with 3 Home Runs (including the game winner in the semifinals) and piled up 11 RBIs.


Phillip Evans (2011 SS, San Diego Show)- The 23rd ranked player in the PG Class of 2011 player rankings slipped all the way to the 15th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. Most of the time, players with the type of talent that Evans possesses slip this far due to large signing bonus demands. If that is in fact the case, Evans’ performance in Marietta will make it very difficult for the New York Mets to let Evans walk away and spend the next three years at San Diego State. Evans hit .409 with 7 RBIs and a pair of stolen bases for the Show. But more importantly, his defensive play at Shortstop was nothing short of spectacular as he led the Show to the 18u title, earning tournament MVP honors.


Jesse Winker (2012 OF, FTB)- Winker has long been seen as a big time up and coming OF prospect by Perfect Game. Over the course of his high school career the notes on Winker have slowly transitioned from “projects for power” to “big present power.” Winker’s 2011 PG National showing was extremely impressive, leading one scout to note:

“quick hands, good extension, easy bat speed, hits bombs, pull power, good timing, ball jumps, backspin creates good carry, laughing while hitting bombs, confident approach, same in games, can just flat hit.”

Hit is exactly what Winker did in FTB’s matchup with the Orlando Scorpions in the semifinals of the 17u WWBA National Championship. Playing on yet another big stage with the field narrowed down to just four teams playing at the East Cobb Complex on the final day of the largest amateur baseball tournament in history, Winker went off. With two outs in the first, Winker caught a piece of a fastball off the end of his bat and popped it up…but with his strength the lazy fly ball carried over the wall in right center field, easily. In his second at bat Winker made his only out of the day, a towering fly ball to left. In his third AB Winker hammered a deep home run to center field and was intentionally walked (wisely) in his fourth trip.


Zach Collins (2013 C, South Florida Elite Squad Black)- The strong lean left handed hitting Catcher from Pembroke Pines, FL is no stranger to Perfect Game. Collins attended his first PG event in 2009, showing impressive hitting tools from day one. But in his 10th event, the 2011 16u WWBA National Championship, Collins turned in a monster performance. Collins went 18-for-29 with 2 Home Runs, and most impressively, bashed 7 doubles (in one day) during the South Florida Elite’s playoff run to capture tournament MVP honors. The 6’ 2” 200 pound rising  junior is committed to nearby Miami has always shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields, and this summer he has begun to live up to the power potential that he has shown in the past.


Clinton Hollon (2013 RHP, Kentucky Baseball Club)- While a big increase in fastball velocity might normally make a pitcher a candidate for The Breakouts group, when you were already throwing 91 and ranked in the top 5 of your class, it’s a little late to call it a breakout. Hollon was a well known player coming into the WWBA National Championship, having earned a perfect 10 at both the 2010 Ohio Valley Showcase and the 2011 Junior National Showcase while also pitching very well in the playoffs of the 15u WWBA last year. But Hollon surprised PG scouts by unleashing a 96 mph fastball and mixing it with a pair of plus breaking balls (79 mph curveball and 81 mph slider). Hollon was almost unhittable at the 16u WWBA National Championship...almost. He actually gave up one hit in his 7 innings of work, while striking out 9.


Young Guns

The group of underclassmen (2014 and 2015 grads) that made a big impression this year and have a chance to develop into big time prospects over the next few years

Brady Aiken (2014 LHP/OF, East Cobb Astros/San Diego Show)- In Aiken's first season playing at PG events he starred with the East Cobb Astros 14u powerhouse, playing a key role in their title run at the 14u tournament, their run to the semis in the 15u and yet another deep playoff run that included a first round bye in the 16u. Aiken is already a high level two-way prospect, who not only excites scouts with his low-mid 80s fastball (up to 85) and his 70 mph curveball which shows the makings of a quality second offering, but the bat is impressive as well. Aiken showed power potential and good present bat speed, but as a 6’ 2” lefty with a quick projectable arm his potential power bat from the left side may ultimately be icing on the cake for a high level LHP prospect. Aiken looks like he could develop into a high level prospect at either position.With the 2014 MLB Draft just under 35 months away there is no great urgency to figure out which one is his future just yet.


Jake Jarvis (2014 MIF/RHP, Houston Banditos)- Jarvis would have easily made this list last year as a significant piece to the Banditos deep run in the 16u tournament (reaching semifinals before falling to eventual champions in extras) and the development he showed from 2010 to this summer put him on the cusp of joining The Breakouts list. Jarvis has already commited to the Texas Longhorns after having just completed his freshman year of high school a couple of months ago. Jarvis ran his fastball up to 90 mph in the 16u semifinals and continued to show improvement at the plate. Jarvis looks like one of the best players in the class of 2014 at this point and the experience he's gained playing against older competition will serve him well in the coming years.


Blake Hennessey (2014 SS/RHP, Marucci Elite 16s)- At 15 years old Hennessey is already a PG veteran. Having made his debut at the 2008 16u WWBA National Championship and beginning his varsity baseball career as an eighth grader (in Florida no less), Hennessey is a very advanced player for a 2014 grad. Having seen him develop over the years it is easy to forget that Hennessey has three more years of high school left to improve, and its scary to think how good he could ultimately become. We look forward to seeing his continued development, he will be a fun prospect to watch over the next few years.


Max Wotell (2015 LHP, East Cobb Astros 14u)- Its impossible not to get excited about Wotell’s potential. The 6’ 2” lefty sat 81-85 with his fastball and touched 86 mph. That would make a 16 year old player an interesting prospect, but at 14 years old, Wotell has already raised some eyebrows. PG scouts praised Wotell’s bulldog mentality on the mound and aggressive pitching approach, traits rare in a pitcher his age. His 76 mph changeup shows a lot of promise. How the changeup and his raw curveball come along will likely be the key to just how effective Wotell can ultimately become. If he continues to work hard to improve the sky is the limit. Stay tuned.


Daz Cameron (2015 OF, East Cobb Astros 14u)- The leadoff hitting CF for the East Cobb Astros turned 14 years old in January and will begin his freshmen year of high school next month. At such a young age Cameron has already made a name for himself as a potential 5-tool player. At 5’ 10” 155 pounds Cameron has yet to fill out but already shows flashes of power. Between the 14u-16u tournaments Cameron hit .492 with 27 R, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 5 triples and 9 stolen bases over 23 games. Daz is a chip off the ol’ block of his father Mike, a 17-year Major League veteran with three Gold Gloves and an All-Star Game to his credit.

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