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Tournaments | Story | 10/10/2014

World Underclass Day 1 notes

David Rawnsley         Todd Gold         Frankie Piliere         Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Perfect Game

Lefthander Dion Henderson (2016, Southfield, Mich.) had it all working early on in his Thursday outing for IMG Academy Black, working from a low effort delivery and pounding the zone with an 86-89 mph fastball. He was repeating his delivery well and exerting very little energy to generate velocity. But, most impressive was the development shown in commanding his secondary pitches. Henderson consistently back-doored his 70-72 mph curveball to righties and threaded the outside corner with it. His changeup also flashed the potential to be an above average offering at 76-77 mph, showing big arm-side tumbling action. He also showed a willingness to run this pitch down and in to lefty hitters. Henderson has added significant strength to his frame and has plenty of room to add more. As he does, we are likely to see him add more velocity. He touched 90 mph once in Thursday's outing and carried his velocity well deep into the outing.

Adam Hilal
(2016, Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) was not the same pitcher on Thursday for the Taconic Rangers that we saw less than two months ago at the Northeast Underclass Showcase. The projectable, extra slender 6-foot-1 lefty lived at 79-83 mph at the August showcase, but has clearly found another gear since then. He worked at 84-87 mph in this particular outing and did so with relative ease. Not only was his velocity up, but his secondaries and command across the board were vastly improved. His curveball was sharp and showed two plane 1-to-7 depth at 70-71 mph with late bite. He telegraphed his changeup only a couple of times, and for the most part it was well spotted at 75-77 mph. This is a quality three-pitch lefty with an easy arm that works exceptionally well, as he has the makings of a high performing Division I college pitcher as he continues to add strength.

Austin McNicholas
(2016, Austin, Texas) made an early impression in tournament action, as he showed off outstanding defensive skills at shortstop. McNicholas put on a defensive clinic at the position, not necessarily by making acrobatic plays, but by showing off professional, fluid actions. He shows off plus range going into the hole and has the strong throwing arm to finish off the plays. McNicholas also stood out at the plate, making hard line drive contact consistently, showing good bat speed on the inside pitch and an ability to stay balanced throughout his swing.

We’ve seen
Bo Bichette (2016, Tierra Verde, Fla.) and his exploits at the plate plenty of times before, but he’s still a hitter that catches your attention. His hand path looked particularly quick to the baseball on Thursday night, as he rocketed two hard line drive singles. He’s difficult to beat inside with a fastball, and to his credit he does a good job of repeating his complex swing mechanics. You can nitpick the moving parts in his swing, but you cannot deny his excellent feel for the barrel and ability to use the entire field.

Frankie Piliere


Shortstop
Salvatore Gozzo (2016, Wallingford, Conn.) had his presence felt on both sides of the ball on Thursday evening for Goose’s Gamers. A lefthanded hitter, Gozzo showed a fluid stroke with fast hands, turning on an inside 90 mph fastball that jumped off the bat and bounced off the first baseman’s glove. In his next at-bat, Gozzo, who remains balanced throughout his swing, drove a fastball that was down in the zone with sink and run away from him, getting good extension and driving the ball to the right-center field gap. He moves well to either side defensively and shows solid arm strength and carry on his throws across the diamond.

The WWBA Underclass World Championship provides college coaches and recruiters their first look at some of the young players that their future classes will revolve around. One such player is righthander
Jeffrey Henry (2018, Florence, Ala.) who took the mound for Marucci Elite 16’s to start their first game of pool play.

Henry is no stranger to performing at a high level at Perfect Game events, having thrown two no-hitters this summer at the 15u WWBA National Championship. There the young pitcher was topping out at 83 mph with his fastball, and it’s safe to say he has taken a climb with his fastball, not throwing a pitch under 84 mph early on on Day 1 of the Underclass.

Standing at 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, the long-limbed Henry projects well, especially considering he has yet to throw an inning of high school baseball. With a short, easy arm action, Henry worked in the 84-87 mph range, topping 88 mph with late life when he got on top of the ball. He stays a bit upright at release, and as he continues to incorporate his lower half he will be able to pound the lower quadrants of the strike zone. Henry was able to flash two off-speed pitches and showed a feel for both. His curveball showed sharp 11-to-5 shape at 73 mph, and his changeup offered some dive down in the zone at 78 mph.

Outfielder
Brock Anderson (2016, Huntsville, Ala.) is an uncommitted lefthanded bat that needs to be follow closely throughout the tournament and in the future. With a projectable 6-foot-2 frame, Anderson is able to generate easy bat speed with fast hands and turned on an inside pitch in his first at-bat for a hard line drive double to the right-center field gap.

Cole Stobbe
(2016, Omaha, Neb.) is a player that has been on the national scene and continues to perform at a high level every time he picks up a bat. Yesterday was no different as the uncommitted Stobbe went to the plate with a plan and executed it perfectly. Batting in the three hole, the righthanded hitting Stobbe was looking for a first-pitch curveball and jumped all over it, squaring it up with loud contact off the barrel for a solo home run which set the pace for the Marucci Elite offense.

At this time last year
Grant Stewart (2016, Paxton, Fla.) was pitching in the same tournament and was working in the 80-83 mph range with his fastball. Jump forward with a years worth of added strength and growth and the lefthanded Stewart came out firing with an 86-88 mph fastball that peaked as high as 89.

Throwing from a lower three-quarters arm slot while creating angle from the first base side, Stewart makes for an uncomfortable at-bat, especially for lefthanded batters. There is some effort to his delivery but the ball leaves Stewart’s hand well and he shows a fast arm which he maintained on all his pitches. His 81 mph changeup had late fading action, coming out of his hand like a fastball, and he also mixed in a mid-70s slider with late breaking life, which was virtually impossible for lefthanded hitters to make contact with.

Easton McGee
(2016, Hopkinsville. Ky.) is a pitcher that Perfect Game first saw a year ago at the Ohio Valley showcase and each time we see him he continues to make strides all around.

Now standing at 6-foot-6, the recent University of Kentucky commit still projects extremely well as he continues to add strength to his long, lean frame. More impressive than the 88-90 mph that he maintained on his fastball was the ease of which he was able to produce it. With a short, easy arm action coming through, McGee is able to generate downward plane with sink on his fastball. His front side opens early at times which gets his upper and lower halves out of sync and causes him to stay high in the zone, but when he is working down it’s difficult to square up. Along with his fastball, McGee showed a strong feel for a short-breaking 10-to-4 slider up to 78 mph, and also flashed a nice 11-to-5 curveball at 71 mph which shows potential.

Nolan Williams
(2017, Kansas City, Kan.) is a young, athletic shortstop full of quick-twitch muscle who made a statement at the Midwest Underclass Showcase and is currently ranked in the top 10 for the 2017 class rankings. A righthanded hitter, Williams showed a strong approach at the plate and ability to drive the ball to the opposite field with intent, going with outside pitches. In his first at-bat, Williams drove an outside fastball over the right fielder’s head, who froze trying to judge the hard line drive off the bat. In his next trip to the plate Williams did it again, driving the ball deep into the right-center field gap for a triple.

Robb Adams
(2017, Arcadia, Fla.) might be one of the more projectable arms that threw on Thursday, standing at 6-foot-2, 165-pound with long levers. Working his fastball in the 80-82 mph range early on, it’s Adams’ arm action that leads people to believe he will throw harder in the future, as it is easy, effortless, and comes out clean. Creating angle with his fastball, Adams did a nice job of mixing in his off-speed and pounded the strike zone with all three pitches. His curveball showed slurvy life to it with 1-to-7 shape, and he generates sink on his low-70s curveball.

Jheremy Brown



The difference between Scorpions 2016 Prime righthanded pitcher Todd Peterson (2016, Lake Mary, Fla.) from the PG Junior National Showcase in mid-June and Thursday night could hardly be more profound. In June, the 6-foot-5, 215 Peterson was closer to 250 pounds and noticeably out of shape even for his big frame. He threw in the 86-89 mph range, certainly noteworthy for an underclassman, but his lack of conditioning dominated the scout notes taken at the event.

Thursday night Peterson threw four innings, striking out nine, in what would eventually be a 2-1 Scorpions victory that they pulled out in the bottom of the seventh against a gutsy and short-handed Atlanta Blue Jays squad. Peterson was 91-94 mph with his fastball in the first inning, touched some 93's in the second inning and finished up in the 88-91 mph range. His fastball was low effort and flew out of his hand easily from a high three-quarters arm slot that powered the ball downhill with late arm-side run at times and equally late cutting action when he went glove side. He didn't throw many curveballs, but they were 77 mph and sharp, and he even dropped in a couple of low-80s changeups. It was an impressive performance before a big audience in the marquee game in the last time slot on the stadium field at Terry Park, one that will shoot Peterson up the 2016 class rankings from his present 48th slot.

We've seen a number of instances of a young player becoming serious about his conditioning and diet and transforming himself from a very good player to top level prospect. 2014 PG All-American Willie Burger, who lost, by his own account, 55 pounds in less than two years, stands out as a recent example. It looks like Peterson is on the same path.

If Peterson was the highlight of the first day's action, then the lowlight was easily defined as well. Florida Surge
righthanded pitcher/third baseman Matt DiNenna (2016, Palm City, Fla.) was involved in a nice pitcher's duel with GRB Easton Rays righthander Ryan Schmitt (2016, Hartland, Wis.) when he suffered an apparent serious arm injury while throwing a pitch. DiNenna was throwing in the 83-87 mph range with nice fastball life and an easy, projectable arm action when the injury occurred in the fourth inning. The Perfect Game community would like to wish DiNenna and his family all the best for a speedy and successful recovery.

Schmitt ended up with a complete game four-hitter in what was eventually a 9-1 run rule victory. He attacked the strike zone from a rock and fire, over-the-top delivery with a fastball that topped out at 88 mph with nice cutting action at times.

Teams who have aspirations, if not plans, to be playing deep into the playoffs on Monday approach their pool play pitching in different ways. The Midland Redskins, who are the type of organization who definitely are planning on being on the field Monday playing for a trophy, ran out seven different pitchers during their 8-2 win over the Florida Burn 2016 Navy, with none throwing more than 24 pitches. The two most impressive of the Redskins hurlers had similar stuff but radically different pitching styles that seemed to reverse the expectations of their body types.

Righthander
Jimmy Crabtree (2016, Utica, Ohio) has a strong 6-foot-1, 190-pound build and throws with mechanics that the PG field scout described as very similar to Giants southpaw Madison Bumgarner, with a long, deep arm takeaway and a lower release slot than standard. Crabtree's stuff was very solid, with an upper-80s fastball that topped out at 90 mph with lots of late life, plus a tight 71 mph curveball.

His teammate, fellow
righthander Jay Wilson (2016, Cincinnati, Ohio), has the long and angular 6-foot-5, 185-pound build that one would normally associate with Crabtree's mechanics. However, his arm action was notably compact in back, as was his high three-quarters release point. Both worked together well to hide the ball and create deception. With Wilson's fastball checking in up to 91 mph with sharp downhill angle, that deception and ability to hide the ball probably adds a few clicks of velocity to what the hitter's see.

The Redskins two standout position players,
catcher Tyler Duvall (2016, Lebanon, Ohio) and shortstop Austin McNicholas (2016, Austin, Texas) both had quiet days at the plate, although McNicholas showed off his range and tools on defense. Both will likely be heard from more and more as the championship progresses.

The Iowa Select Navy is one of the most talented teams to come out of Perfect Game's home state in years but find themselves in one of the toughest of the event's 54 pools, with pool games against Scorpions South Underclass, the Jersey Shore Prospects and the Austin Banditos in between them and a playoff slot. Iowa survived their first test, taking a 4-2 decision over the Scorpions in a very entertaining game that went down to the very last pitch.

Third baseman/righthanded pitcher
Grant Judkins (2016, Pella, Iowa) pitched into the seventh inning for Iowa Select, doing an outstanding job of hitting both corners low in the zone with a sinking 84-87 mph fastball. Judkins is athletic with good lefthanded bat speed at third base but is showing more and more that he may be at least an equal prospect on the mound as he is at a position.

Righthander
Tobias Myers (2016, Winter Haven, Fla.) was equally impressive on the mound for the Scorpions, pitching in the upper-80s for four innings with a long and loose arm action that really projects well from a high three-quarters arm slot. Myers showed flashes with his secondary pitches and improving those and learning how to use them will be the next step in his development.

Third baseman
Joey Polak (2016, Quincy, Ill.) and outfielder Kace Massner (2016, Burlington, Iowa) each had key RBI doubles for Iowa sSelect that produced their final margin. Polak, one of the top hitter's nationally in the 2016 class, had struggled against Myers, striking out twice, but turned around a two-strike fastball in his final at-bat and hit a rocket down the left field line that was one of the hardest hit balls of the day at Terry Park.

David Rawnsley


While the lineup card can often tell you a lot about the ability level of the players on the field before the first pitch is thrown, the varying present stages of physical development can cause coaches to play their better long-term prospects in lower pressure roles. Such was the case in the Florida Burn 2017 Pennant's opener, in which middle infielder Shane Shifflett (2017, Venice, Fla.) was unassumingly slotted into the ninth spot in the order at second base.

While Shifflett is developing physically at 5-foot-11 and 160-pounds, he has athletic coordinated movements and an impressive skill-set for such a young player. He showed a highly advanced approach at the plate, making sound decisions and recognizing pitch locations well, he takes his hands directly to the baseball with a compact path and accelerates them very well. Shifflett went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, including an impressive swing on an 0-2 fastball in on the hands that he beat inside for a cleanly struck line drive to left field. He runs well and has athletic actions, and even came on in relief to pitch the seventh inning and worked in the low- to mid-80s with a fast arm that projects well also.

Shifflett wasn't the only standout on the Florida Burn's 2017 Pennant squad by any means however, as the left side of the infield featured a pair of impressive arms in
Graham Hoffman (2017, Clearwater, Fla.) and Cooper Swanson (2017, Fort Myers, Fla.).

Hoffman has a highly projectable frame at 6-foot-2 and 180-pounds with long limbs and plenty of room to fill. He generates good carry on his throws with a short arm action and a good release time. Swanson also showed good carry on his throws and his hands were soft. They both showed potential at the plate as well; Hoffman's load leaves him a bit flat-footed at present, and while he's able to drive the ball anyway thanks to the available leverage, he should be able to generate power as he irons out his swing and utilizes his natural tools. Hoffman has the ingredients for power development and already shows an approach in the box by working a pair of walks.

Swanson hooked a deep drive over the left fielder's head for a double with impressive force, as he got plenty of distance on the shot that might have left a smaller park despite a very top hand heavy swing. Both of these players feature significant long-term upside with a combination of power potential and arm strength to go with solid present skill development at this stage.

The pitching on opening night at Florida Gulf Coast University was heavily lefthanded, as 11 of the 14 innings pitched in the opener between the Florida Burn 2017 Pennant and Knights Baseball-National were thrown by southpaws, all of whom hit at least 80 mph.

Lefty
Tommy Morren (2016, Franlin, Tenn.) got the start for the Knights and combined a mid-80s fastball with a deep sharp breaking slider in the mid-70s that he had good control over. He has a clean arm action throwing from a low three-quarters slot, occasionally dropping down to sidearm at times.

The Knights backed him up with a pair of quality relievers in an impressive opening game victory that puts them in the driver's seat in their pool, as they trotted out righthander
Will Wacaser (2016, Hendersonville, Tenn.) and lefty Daniel Wright (2016, Owens Cross, Ala.), who would each strike out three and allowed just one run over four combined innings. Wacaser worked in the mid- to upper-80s with a fast-paced, deceptive delivery from a high three-quarters arm slot that allowed him to create downward plane. Wright worked in the low-80s with a loose arm action and hid the baseball very well throughout his delivery, and with more lower half utilization can develop additional velocity.

The Burn used a pair of effectively wild young lefties for the first six innings, and while they weren't able to generate the desired results on this particular night, both appear to have bright futures.
Nate Gillen (2017, Estero, Fla.) got the start in the ballpark of the school that he is committed to, and he showed a quick, loose arm action that projects well and generated good tailing life on his low-80s fastball, flashing a good changeup with deep fading action.

Gillen gave way to
Colton Gordon-Zimring (2017, Lakewood Ranch, Fla.) who showed similar velocity and arm speed but with a longer arm action and more moving parts to his delivery. That added deception to his delivery, and he also showed a big-sweeping breaking ball.

While they scored four runs and earned the victory, the Knights Baseball-National squad didn't generate a lot of hits. One of their most intriguing prospects took an 0-for-2, as
Ryan Hatten (2016, Hendrsonvile, Tenn.) crushed a pair of deep drives to left field with plenty of hang-time for loud fly outs that held up for 5.84 and 5.46 seconds respectively. He also drew a walk in impressive fashion late in the game in which he accurately recognized the destination of several borderline breaking balls. Hatten has good coordination of his lanky 6-foot-4 frame and generates plenty of leverage to go with his emerging bat speed and was the biggest power threat in the Knights' lineup.

The nightcap at FGCU resumed the theme of quality lefthanded pitching, as Palm Beach PAL sent impressive southpaw
Kyle Farjad (2016, Loxahachie, Fla.) to the hill. He has a big, thick and strong build at 6-foot and 210-pounds with a loose, fast arm action that works very well. He sat in the mid- to upper-80s with a simple, low-effort delivery that allowed him to pound the strike zone with his fastball. He punched out five over three innings of one-hit baseball. Farjad's diagonal sweeping breaking ball flashed hard spin and he found the feel for it toward the end of his outing. While he didn't get some deserved calls on breaking balls he spun into the corners of the strike zone, it was a promising pitch for him and he responded well to not getting those calls by keeping his composure.

The one hit that Farjad allowed was to catcher/righthanded pitcher
Josh Simon (2016, Laurel, Md.), who went 2-for-3 and scored the game-tying run in the seventh inning after driving a two-out single into left field to spark a game saving rally. In addition to picking up two his team' three hits and scoring their only run, he showed multiple sub 2.0-second pop times in between innings with good carry to his throws and moved well behind the plate. He then got on the mound in relief and worked comfortably in the low- to mid-80s, striking out two of the three batters he faced in a three up and three down inning. The one out he made was a loud flyout with a 5.72 second hangtime, and he even showed good speed for a catcher, rounding first base in 4.55 seconds on his seventh inning knock.

The scoreless drought was broken in this game during the bottom of the sixth inning as Palm Beach PAL center fielder
Reese Albert (2017, Jupiter, Fla.) slashed a sharp ground ball into the 5-6 hole, and while the shortstop made a nice play to get to the ball, it was hit well enough to score the go-ahead run from third. The lefthander showed good speed, both in center field and coming down the line, posting times between 4.2 and 4.3 second in each of his three plate appearances. He has a short, slash-and-run swing and made contact all three times he swung the bat.

Todd Gold


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