Tournaments | Story | 7/4/2015

17u WWBA Day 1 notes

Andrew Krause        
Photo: Perfect Game

Inclement weather forced a number of postponements on the opening day of the 17u WWBA National Championship, but thankfully the turf fields at LakePoint Sports allowed many talented teams and players to take the field and showcase their skills.

Cole Ragans
(2016, Crawfordville, Fla.) has been a known commodity on the showcase and travel ball circuit for a few years now, and many scouts were on hand to watch the southpaw lead the Scorpions Prime 17u team to an 8-0 victory. Ragans, a Florida State commit, owns an extremely loose, lean and projectable 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame and he recently displayed his tantalizing potential at the National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., late last month.

At the PG National, Ragans’ fastball sat comfortably in the 88-91 mph range and touched 92. On Friday afternoon it was much of the same as the lefty came out firing in the low-90s in the first frame and settled in at the 88-90 range over his next three innings. Ragans showcased an improved feel for and rhythm in his delivery.

While he has always been a tremendous athlete, at times Ragans has had some issues consistently repeating his delivery which features a pause and hunch over his knee, but on Friday he had little issue syncing up his delivery and repeating his mechanics. With his delivery adequately synchronized, Ragans was able to pound the strike zone with his lively fastball, which has significant downhill plane and angle from a high three-quarters arm slot. He showed a solid feel for locating the pitch to both the glove and arm side, making the heater a high-quality offering that opposing hitters had difficulty dealing with.

Ragans also mixed in his low-70s curveball, which flashed above-average potential. At times the offering had a bit looser, softer break, but at its best the breaker had good depth and tight rotation from a 1-to-7 shape. While it’s still his third-best offering at present, Ragans showed developing feel for a mid-70s changeup, which he used a handful of times in his impressive four inning stint.

Ragans was relieved by
Tyler Baum (2016, Ocoee, Fla.). Although it was only a brief one inning look, Baum also turned some heads as the lanky righthander came out firing. Like Ragans, Baum was a participant at the PG National, and like Ragans he also showcased some low-90s heat. Listed at 6-foot-2, 165-pounds, Baum has a slender frame and while he projects to add on strength and more muscle, he probably won’t end up being an imposing physical presence on the mound. It is not matter though, as Baum currently has the raw stuff to intimidate many opposing hitters.

He uses a side step into his leg lift out of the windup, and Baum is a good athlete that displays the ability to repeat his delivery consistently. Working to an arm slot that is just a tick higher than three-quarters, Baum has a long, whippy arm action and serious arm speed. Both at the PG National and on Friday afternoon, the North Carolina commit consistently worked in the low-90s, topping out at 93 in Friday’s inning stint. Aside from the velocity, the offering has plus life with arm-side run and heaving sinking action, especially when located down and to the arm side.

Baum only really needed his heater on Friday, but he did break out a couple of breaking balls in his 1-2-3 inning. Ranging from 74-77 mph, the offering had varied tilt, as one had more depth and a curveball look while the other featured less depth and more sweeping slider shape. Back at the PG National Baum’s breaking ball showed more traditional slider tilt and tight spin, with the offering garnering solid reviews from staff members in attendance.

Drew Mendoza
(2016, Minneola, Fla.) wasn’t able to participate in the PG National Showcase because of a minor injury, but he showcased some of the skills that have made him Perfect Game’s 33rd ranked player in the high school class of 2016. The lean, projectable 6-foot-4, 195-pound infielder oozes with confidence at the plate, and in his first at-bat of the tournament Mendoza ripped an 85 mph fastball over the middle of the plate for a home run over the scoreboard in right field.

The lefthanded hitter has a slightly open stance and a simple, easy weight transfer that allows him to stay balanced and fluid in the batter’s box. After his home run, Mendoza was pitched to carefully, and showed good plate discipline and tracking skills to take two consecutive four-pitch walks in his following plate appearances. The Florida State commit will definitely be one to watch as the tournament progresses.

Luis A. Curbelo
(2016, Carolina, Puerto Rico) was one of several standouts from Puerto Rico at the National Showcase last month. Curbelo had an impressive workout, showing off above average raw power and bat speed in batting practice and soft hands and solid actions in the defensive drills. He also performed well in game action and displayed a high-energy approach to the game.

On Friday morning, playing for the Beyel Brothers Bulldogs, Curbelo flashed some of the same standout skills. He only was tested once defensively while manning shortstop, securing the final out of the game on a routine groundball, but it is evident that he has the athleticism, hands, and actions to be a solid infielder at the next level.

At the plate, the righthanded hitter starts with a wide base and uses a medium-sized leg lift into an aggressive weight transfer. He can get a bit front-footed at times, but he generally does a good job of keeping his hands back and with his strength and bat speed, Curbelo is still able to impact the baseball when he uses the barrel and squares balls up. In his final at-bat of the game, Curbelo (ranked No. 73 in most updated version of 2016 National Rankings) displayed some of that impact potential with a sharply hit double to left field.

Chase Cheek
(2016, Orlando, Fla.) hit leadoff for the Scorpions Prime 17u team on Friday, and it is easy to envision him as a table-setter at the next level as well. In his first plate appearance, the lefthanded hitting outfielder dropped down an expertly placed bunt near the third base line and jetted down the first base line in 3.78 seconds. His outstanding foot speed has been well documented in the past as the Duke commit posted a 6.40 60-yard dash in last month’s National Showcase event.

Despite occasionally opening his frontside a bit early, Cheek also flashes some feel for the barrel and good hands at the plate, and he served a single into the opposite field in his third plate appearance. His speed, defensive prowess, and improving feel at the plate make Cheek an interesting player to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Andrew Krause

In a tournament full of 2016 stars, 2017 righthander
Jamil Vanheyningen (West Orange, N.J.) caught the attention of several onlookers when he took the mound for Farrah Scout on Friday morning. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 200 pounds, he’s a broad-shouldered athlete with good present build and excellent physical projection. Though the delivery and overall pitchability are raw at present, Vanheyningen showed legitimate high-end upside on the mound. Pitching from an extended three-quarters slot, he does a good job getting his lower half involved in his delivery and generating good drive downhill to the plate. Topping out at an impressive 91 mph early in his outing, he settled in comfortably in the mid- to upper-80s with solid life to the arm side.

He was able to throw strikes with relative consistency, though the command down in the strike zone was a bit inconsistent, something that can easily be ironed out as he continues to develop as a pitcher. The ball comes out of his hand easy and gets on opposing hitters quickly, certainly due in part to the good extension he creates. He was able to miss bats by overpowering hitters up in the zone, and mixed in a solid slider with good potential. The slider break was a bit inconsistent as well, but at it’s best it showed very tight spin with sharp tilt and lots of depth. He’s certainly one to watch moving forward in the class of 2017.

No stranger to Perfect Game events, 2016 righthander
Paul Tillotson (Monument, Colo.) was once again very impressive in front of a bevy of scouts, following up on his impressive performance just a few weeks ago at the PG National. The 6-foot-2 Tillotson was much the same as we’ve seen before, pitching the vast majority of the time with a very heavy fastball in the 87-90 mph range, peaking at 91. He generates true plus sink on the fastball, running it down and in to righthanded hitters and generating a very high amount of weak groundballs all over the infield. He has the ability to elevate the fastball to get swings and misses as well, showing the advanced fastball command we have come to see regularly.

He has also added the “swingback” fastball to his arsenal, which is to say starting it off the outside corner to the glove side and then “swinging it back” over the corner for called strikes, both to righthanded hitters and lefthanded hitters. He showed a quality 12-to-6 curveball at times as well, with good depth and tight spin, though once in awhile he would get to the side of the pitch and it would flatten out on him and stay up in the zone. On the whole it was another impressive performance to add to his ever-growing collection of such performances.

After Tillotson threw six strong innings for the Slammers Black team, 2016 teammate
Nathan Sweeney (Centennial, Colo.) came in for the save, and quite frankly just blew away the competition. Working a quick final inning, Sweeney sat 90-92 with good life, commanding the fastball down in the zone to both sides of the plate with effectiveness. He works downhill well, generating plane and doing a good job getting over the front side in his delivery. His fastball is very hard to barrel up when down, due to an effective combination of velocity, plane, and sink. He also snapped off an impressive curveball with 12-to-6 shape and hard, late snap in the low-70s.

2016 righthanded pitcher 
Nick Long (Sarasota, Fla.), coming off of an impressive PG National, took another step forward on Friday afternoon at Lake Point. After battling his fastball command a little bit in the first inning, Long came back to throw six innings of one-run ball, striking out seven and just completely dominating from the second inning on. Mixing and matching with a four-pitch arsenal, Long was able to miss bats and barrels, and kept opposing hitters off balance after the first two hitters of the day.

Long’s fastball worked in the 88-91 range pretty much throughout his whole start, topping at 92 several times. He’s a large-framed prospect with excellent body build and quality physical projection as well, combining athleticism with very good mechanics to create an excellent pitching prospect (though he can swing the bat, as well). He generates excellent drive to the plate with his lower half, all while not sacrificing plane to the plate. His fastball shows some life to the arm side, especially when located down in the zone. He mixed and matched a slider and curveball primarily, and flashed a changeup in the later innings as well.

The slider is very sharp with consistent two-plane break, while the curveball is somewhat similar to the slider but 3-4 mph slower with bigger depth and overall break, though not quite as sharp. He has quality feel for the change as well, thrown with good arm speed and deception while adding a bit of fading life, though he did miss up in the zone with it at times. Overall, Long has taken massive strides forward on the mound over the course of the last 9-10 months and it’s exciting to think about the strides he could continue to take moving forward.

Long’s teammate, 2016 catcher/infielder
Jake Sullivan (Valrico, Fla.) helped his pitcher early in the game by leaning on a fastball on the inner third of the plate and hitting a monster home run well over the left field fence. At 5-foot-11 180-pounds, Sullivan is a strong prospect who projects to continue to get stronger, and that strength is put on display when he steps into the box. He combines that impressive present strength with quick hands and good bat speed, remaining balanced throughout his swing and showing the natural loft necessary to drive the baseball out of the ballpark, which he did on Friday afternoon.

Opposing the Florida Burn Pennant 17u team was the Mid-Atlantic Red Sox, who started 2016 righthander
Trent Rider (Warfordburg, Pa.). Rider was very impressive in his own right, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at a well-proportioned 215 pounds. The uncommitted righthander shouldn't be that way for long, as he showed a deceptive delivery that added to the effectiveness of his fastball, which sat in the 86-89 range for the majority of his outing. With an arm action that is a bit unconventional and shorter than you’d expect from a 6-foot-5 pitcher, Rider throws pretty easily with good life on the fastball when located down. He ran into trouble when he left the fastball up, but the same can be said for 99.9 percent of pitchers on the planet.

Also using a curveball and changeup to round out his arsenal, Rider was able to do a solid job of keeping the Burn hitters off balance, striking out six over his five innings of work. The curveball worked in the low-70s and showed both 11-to-5 and 12-to-6 shape at times. He was able to throw the 11-to-5 CB for strikes; while the 12-to-6 was the one he did a solid job of burying down out of the zone. His changeup command was inconsistent, but at it’s best it’s a quality pitch with good deception and some slight tail;, getting hitters out in front and eliciting weak contact.

One of the more impressive PG National performances came from 2016 righthander
Karl Kauffman (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), who took the mound late Friday night for the Midwest Athletics. While he may not have had his “A” stuff, Kauffman showed an innate ability to battle through and still be very effective. His fastball started at 85-88, and gradually ticked up to more 88-90, touching 91, by his third and final inning of work. He broke about four bats, running his fastball inside to both righties and lefties, and did a good job of elevating the fastball to get even weaker contact when the need arose.

The curveball came and went as far as effectiveness, but at it’s best it was 12-to-6 with good bite and quality depth; with the ability to throw it for strikes and as a chase pitch. The changeup flashes good tumbling action with deception out of the hand, though the command of the offering was inconsistent on this night. Kauffman is a well-built, large-framed athlete with quality balance throughout his delivery and a very easy arm action despite some wrist wrap in the back of the arm swing. At his best, he gets over the front side well with balance and is able to work downhill with plane to the plate, making his fastball tough for opposing hitters to square up.

Brian Sakowski

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