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Tournaments  | Story  | 5/18/2024

Beast of the East Quick Hits: Part 1

Jheremy Brown      Tyler Russo     
Photo: Chase Cotton (Perfect Game)

Dexter McCleon (Buford, Ga.) has already established himself as one of the premier talents in the 2028 class and he did nothing but add to the allure with his start in game one on Opening Day for USA Prime. Working 3 innings on the mound, the 6-foot-3 McCleon continued to find his release point on the mound as he ultimately walked 5, but also struck out 4, and showed improvements in his comfort level as he was able to find his balance at the foot strike, though the arm talent was immediately undeniable. Opening up and living comfortably in the 89-92 mph range, the primary outfielder grabbed a couple of 93s along the way and let one rip in the third inning that registered at 94 mph with the ball absolutely exploding out of his hand. The fastball is without a doubt the headliner but each of his secondaries have made a jump as well, particularly with the changeup and slider as he showed comfort landing both in the zone in the low-80s, turning over a couple quality changeups (video above) while showing real spin on the slider as well. 

Like so many arms on day one, right-hander Chase Cotton (Lincoln, Calif.) was limited in his pitch count and outs but the 2028 California native made the most of his time on the mound. Ever refining and tinkering with his delivery, Cotton also showed a jump in his velocity as he opened up sitting right around the 88 mph mark, bumping a 90 on the gun early from a similar compact and hidden arm stroke we’ve come used to seeing. He’s both poised and in control on the mound, incorporating his lower half with improved lower half direction towards the plate which turned into a plethora of strikes while maintaining that mid- to- upper-80s mark throughout. It was a fastball heavy approach in this brief outing, showing a couple shorter breaking balls in the low-70s as well as a few mid-70s changeups in the zone. 

One of the better swings I saw in the opener came from the 13u level courtesy of Peyton Lopez (New Caney, Texas) as the 12u Select Festival alum went 2-for-2 on the day for Elite RBI. Appearing bigger than his listed 5-foot-9, 159 pounds, Lopez kicked his tournament off by seeing a low-80s heater from the left-handed Greyson Bell deep into the zone, but given how direct and quick his swing is, the Texas native was still able to drive the ball the other way to split the right-center field gap for a stand up double. His next at-bat was a mirrored swing in terms of mechanics, sending a hard ground ball through the 6-hole for a single, setting the tone for the rest of the weekend. 

Left-hander Greyson Bell (Douglasville, Pa.) is a younger-for-the-class 2028 and took the hill for SBA National in the 13u opener. A long and lean 6-foot-1, Bell continues to see his velocity climb as he opened up and sat in the 81-83 mph range with his heater out of an extended slot, creating some real angle while showing the ability to locate to either side of the plate. The ball hops out of his hand very cleanly, jumping on hitters from a stretch-only operation and just when hitters started to sit heater, Bell went to his low-70s breaker which he landed comfortably and played extremely well off of his fastball. 

Opposing Bell was fellow Festival alum Russell Nelson (Gilbert, Ariz.) who got the start for Elite RBI and went 3.1 innings, surrendering just one hit while punching out 3 without handing out any walks. Utilizing some drop and drive in his lower half, Nelson sat comfortably in the 82-84 mph range throughout, showing some real riding life up in the zone at a velocity that on its own can miss plenty of bats. Over the course of his outing the slider sharpened with each offering, showing tight spin from a similar release in the upper-70s which helped make the fastball all the more effective, maintaining his release and getting hitters to chase off the plate. 

It was an extremely quick look at Brody Costantine (Deltona, Fla.) on the mound as he worked just a lone inning, meaning we’ll likely get another look as the tournament continues to unfold, but he was still able to show a nice uptick from when we last saw him throw. A long and lean primary outfielder, Costantine ran the fastball up to 88 mph and lived very comfortably in the mid-80s out of a higher release point, powering the ball downhill when he was on time with his delivery. The arm speed stands out immediately and as he continues to incorporate additional lower half, that number will creep towards that 90 mph rather quickly. Despite a steady rain the young Floridian managed to rip a couple solid sliders as well, working upwards of 78 mph with some teeth through the zone. 

-Jheremy Brown

2028 RHP Nolan Slaymaker (Fort White, Fla.) was the first to get the ball here this weekend and worked 2+ solid innings of work while showing some easy stuff. It’s a mid-80s fastball with good extension out front, which allows him to create life in the bottom of the zone, and while the breaking ball is on the softer end right now, there’s good components that’ll allow it to mold into a solid offering. He has good size and overall, it’s a cleaner operation already.

2028 SS Bryan Mesa (Hialeah, Fla.) only had a single hit, but it was one of only a few to go for extra bases on the day given the quality of arms that rolled out to start the event. He’s a very well-known young prospect as a Top 10 player in the class, and he continues to show that there’s an enticing blend of now and ability and long-term upside. He’s consistent with the bat, showing excellent bat speed and impact already, while his prowess at shortstop already makes him one of the better pure defenders in this group; he’s very well-rounded.

2028 OF Chase Potter (Davie, Fla.) had a couple hits to get his weekend going, driving in 3 in total leading to an opening win. He’s one of the more physical hitters here, generating some serious bat speed which in turn creates some of the hardest hit balls of this age group. He gets separated/extended very well in his swing process, which allows him to both create leverage and use the whole field as he needs. It’s an intriguing power-bat profile to follow.

2028 OF/LHP Carter Shouse (Middletown, Ohio) got the ball for the late game and although he fell on the losing end, he still showed the kind of stuff that positions him up toward the top of the class. He’s an athletic two-way with a big arm, showing that from the outfield at times, while on the mound he’ll run it into the upper-80s with a bit of ease, creating angle and filling the zone with comfort. The secondaries are headlined by a very good changeup out of the same release, but he can spin it too. The bat is a good one with physicality that creates higher-end bat speed and good impact already, and overall, he does a lot of things well.

-Tyler Russo