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Tournaments  | Story  | 7/6/2015

17u WWBA Day 3 notes

Andrew Krause     
Photo: Perfect Game

Day 1 Recap | Day 2 Recap

Despite battling some rain early on in the day, Day 3 of the 17u WWBA National Championship went pretty smoothly from a weather perspective, and as the sun shined on North Georgia, the stars of the field were certainly shining as well.

Early in the day, when the rain was still coming down, 2016 lefthander
Dylan O’Connell (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) of Elite Squad Prime 17u took the mound and delivered an excellent performance. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound O’Connell showed off an athletic, repeatable delivery with good arm speed and pretty easy arm action, consistently working in the 87-89 mph range with his fastball throughout the start. He has a bit of crossfire action in his delivery, which can lead to the arm dragging a bit but also adds to the deception he creates from his extended three-quarters slot. He shows the ability to work to both sides to the plate, creating angle and making him very tough to square up. He complemented his fastball with a very good 1-to-7 curveball, showing excellent bite and depth, inducing several swings and misses on the pitch from both righthanders and lefthanders alike. O'Connell showed the ability to consistently throw the curveball down and in towards the back foot of righthanded hitters, allowing it to be a true weapon out-pitch vs. hitters from both sides of the plate.

O’Connell’s teammate, 2016 infielder
Colton Welker (Coral Springs, Fla.), impressed scouts at the PG National a few weeks ago and continued to do so on Sunday, especially with the bat. Welker doubled loudly off the left field wall early on in the game, showing the quick hands and strong wrists necessary to get to velocity on the inner third of the plate and do damage, which he did. He generated some topspin on this particular shot, but has shown the ability to loft the ball with backspin to both gaps and straight away center field, giving him legitimate home run power in spades.

2016 lefthander
Jordan Roberts (Euless, Texas) took the mound for the Dallas Patriots in front of 15-20 scouts and college coaches, and the uncommitted Texan impressed before he even took the mound. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 240 pounds, Roberts looks the part of a Big 12 conference defensive end as well as being an obviously physically imposing presence on the mound. The lefty immediately showed off impressive raw arm strength, touching 90-91 early on in his start and generating significant downhill plane from his high three-quarters arm slot. His very well-built lower half gets involved well in his delivery, and though there is some stiffness in the delivery, his arm works well and he shows the ability to work down in the strike zone to both sides of the plate with his fastball. He settled in around 85-88 for the majority of his start, reaching back for 89 when he needed it, and showed solid arm-side run on the fastball as well. He threw something like 90-plus percent fastballs, but flashed a sharp slider with good depth and tilt when he needed it, though the command of the offering wasn't quite as sharp as he surely would have liked.

FTB Tucci has a truly star-studded roster, full of several prospects who competed at our PG National Showcase just a few weeks ago. 2016 catcher
Herbert Iser (Miami, Fla.) is certainly no stranger to PG events or the national baseball stage as a whole, as he checks in at No. 15 overall in our class of 2016 rankings. Iser has always shown legitimate plus power, generated by excellent strength and bat speed, to go along with a potentially elite-level arm behind the plate. On Sunday, Iser seemed to take a step forward as an overall hitting prospect. Long lauded for that power and strength, Iser’s approach was a “grip it and rip it” sort, trying to pull everything and hit it out of the park. On Sunday, Iser showed a much better command of the strike zone, laying off borderline pitches and taking them for balls, then driving the baseball hard back through the box for a line drive single. The more and more his approach begins to mature, and the overall feel for hitting matures, the more dangerous Iser will become as a hitter. Sunday was a big step in that direction.

Fellow FTB masher
Bo Bichette (Terra Verda, Fla.) has likewise been lauded for impressive bat speed, strength and overall power potential, but on Sunday he showed, like Iser, a somewhat newfound, more refined approach to hitting. He worked two walks on Sunday morning, fouling off some tough pitches and taking a few that in the past would likely have been reached for. He still has that huge bat speed and big-time raw power, making him a threat to leave the park every time he steps into the box. However, with a more patient approach and the ability to lay off pitchers’ pitches, he takes on a whole new level of being dangerous, and that is truly terrifying for opposing pitchers.

FTB Tucci threw several pitchers in short bursts during their run-rule victory on Sunday, and 2016 righthander
Michael Ruff (Apopka, Fla.) wowed scouts in his shortened stint on the mound. The well-built and broad-shouldered Ruff showed off an impressively easy arm action, with his fastball exploding out of his hand and downhill to the plate at 88-89 mph with consistency. He generates excellent plane to the plate from his high three-quarters slot, using his lower half well in his delivery with very good balance throughout. He complemented his fastball with a hammer 11-to-5 curveball, showing excellent feel for the pitch with the ability to throw it in any count and command it throughout the zone (as well as out of it). The pitch features outstanding depth and hard snap, and he got several whiffs on the pitch in just one inning of work.

The Evoshield Canes often boast a roster of the “who’s who” prospects in any event, and the 17u WWBA National Championship is no exception. With a roster literally full of high-end Division I commitments and legitimate draft candidates, there is no shortage of scouts at their games. When 2016 righthander
Joshua Lowe (Marietta, Ga.) took the mound on Sunday afternoon, the LakePoint stands were packed and scouts were four deep around the backstop to watch. Lowe is perhaps the most athletically gifted primary pitcher in his class, as a 6.5-6.6 runner with smooth actions defensively and thunder in his bat, one could easily project Lowe as a high-end positional prospect in next June’s draft. But after his showing at the PG National a few weeks ago, there is little question that Lowe has legitimate high-end potential on the mound. At 6-foot-4, 190-pounds with outstanding physicality, Lowe looks the part of a first round righthander, and the stuff backs up that claim.

With an easy, loose arm action and plus arm speed, Lowe sits comfortably in the 90-93 range right now and projects for more velocity as he continues to mature and add strength, not to mention the fact that he’s only been a primary pitcher for about a year now. Lowe didn't have the plus command that he had a few weeks back, but still managed to work down in the zone with his fastball to both sides of the plate, spotting the fastball on the black on several occasions Sunday. At his best, he’ll show plus potential with both his slider and change, and though the overall consistency in his arsenal lagged a bit on Sunday, he certainly flashed the stuff that has scouts salivating. The slider shows wipeout potential with excellent, late tilt and tight spin, and the change flashes big-time fading action away from lefthanders to go along with great deception out of his hand. There’s little doubt that Lowe will continue to see his name near the top as way-too-early 2016 draft lists start being formulated.

Lowe was followed in the Evoshield Canes’ pitching order by 2016 righthander
Bryse Wilson (Hillsborough, N.C.), a 6-foot-1, 215-pound North Carolina commitment. Wilson was very good on Sunday, working consistently at 91-93 mph with his fastball, showing command to both sides of the plate with very good angle from an extended medium three-quarters slot. Wilson complemented his fastball with a very good slider, showing quality tilt and consistent command of the offering. The slider can get a bit sweepy at times, but it’s very deceptive out of the hand and has legitimate swing-and-miss potential. Wilson is a well-built prospect, close to physical maturity, and he uses that strength in his body and lower half to drive towards home plate with authority without putting much stress at all on his arm. The arm is overall very smooth and easy, and when coupled with his good arm speed, leads one to project even more potential velocity moving forward in his development on the mound.

Not to be outdone, 2016 outfielder
Avery Tuck (San Diego, Calif.), the newly appointed No. 4 overall prospect in the nation, picked right up where he left off at the PG National and put on a display with his bat. The ultra-athletic and ultra-projectable Tuck hits cleanup in the star-studded EvoShield Canes lineup, and there’s no place he belongs better than right there. On Sunday, Tuck fell just a home run short of the cycle, smashing a triple deep into the right-center field gap, a double up the left-center field gap, and lacing a single the opposite way after waiting back on a slow curveball. He combines quick wrists, strong hands and outstanding bat speed with an excellent overall feel for hitting to make an extremely high-end prospect. He already has average-to-above major league power, and as he continues to fill out his 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame, the sky is nearly the limit for him in terms of power and his overall hit tool.

2016 catcher
Brad Debo (Durham, N.C.) is somewhat reminiscent of 2015 top prospect Chris Betts in that he’s a lefthanded hitting catcher with legitimate high-end projection with the bat, both in terms of hitting ability and power. The powerfully-built 6-foot-1, 210-pound Debo has the size you want in a catcher, and certainly projects well behind the plate with good receiving skills, a quality arm and the necessary agility. Where he really stands out, however, is with the bat. He launched a mammoth home run to right field on Sunday, clearing the fence by a good distance. He shows a short, quick stroke through the zone with excellent natural loft and raw power, to go along with good overall feel for the barrel as well.

Brian Sakowski

After a strong showing at both the Perfect Game National Showcase and the Tournament of Stars last month,
Jason Groome (2016, Barnegat, N.J.) was recently classified as Perfect Game’s top-ranked player in the class of 2016. On Sunday evening, the 6-foot-6 southpaw proved that his climb in the most up-to-date rankings was a wise decision. As one would expect given his height, Groome has long limbs, broad shoulders and some room to grow into his large frame. He has some present strength in his lean, well-proportioned body, notably in his long yet strong legs and lower half. As the Vanderbilt continues to mature, he should easily be able to pack on an added 20 pounds or so as there is enough room for further growth and muscle mass in his upper body. Starting from the third base side of the rubber, Groome has an easy, well-paced delivery with a leg lift up to his belt-level and he shows good body control, athleticism and a looseness to his movements that is not often seen from pitchers of his size and age. He uses his strong lower half well in his delivery and does a solid job of staying balanced and online through release. Everything works with extreme ease, and while there is some presentation and wrap on the backside of his long, loose arm-action, it comes through the path and he’s able to repeat his mechanics without any issue.

On Sunday evening Groome displayed wipeout stuff, and he threw six perfect innings, retiring 14 of the 18 batters he faced via the strikeout. Additionally, Groome was extremely efficient, throwing just 66 pitches with 52 of them being strikes. The lefty came out firing, with his fastball sitting in the 92-95 mph range and touching 96 in the first inning. Groome is able to generate good angle and downhill plane from his three-quarters arm slot thanks to a deep release and big extension over his frontside. As he continued to pound the strike zone over the course of his six inning stint, Groome settled more into the 91-92 mph range, but was able to reach back for more whenever he deemed it necessary. Aside from the velocity and angle, the offering showed solid life, with especially good finish in the bottom part of the zone and to his arm side, and because he was able to repeat his mechanics so well his command of the heater was extremely good.

Groome also showcased an extremely effective curveball. The breaking ball largely sat in the 73-77 mph range and flashed easy plus potential. Groome varied the tilt on the offering, which at times had more 1-to-7 shape but was very sharp when it featured more sweeping 2-to-8 shape. Often times Groome used the latter, more sweeping tilt to backfoot the offering against righthanded hitters and on Sunday it proved to be nearly impossible to get the barrel to the ball as the curveball showed good depth, tight rotation and late, sharp break to dive out of hitters’ swing paths.

Finally, while it is a clear third pitch for him, Groome flashed a few changeups in the upper-70s. The results were inconsistent, as he choked a few into the dirt and left one or two elevated in the zone, but a couple showed decent fade and Groome maintains solid arm speed and has the requisite athleticism and feel for pitching that one can see it becoming yet another quality pitch for him down the road.

Like Groome,
Drake Fellows (2016, Plainfield, Ill.) is a talented pitcher from the 2016 class that is committed to Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound righty also has a large frame with broad shoulders, long limbs and room to project additional strength and muscle as he continues to mature. Fellows works from the first base side of the rubber and uses an exaggerated hip turn and coil where he nearly he turns his entire back to the hitter (a la Luis Tiant and Johnny Cueto) before coming uncoiled and picking up the plate in time for release. Despite the upper-body movement and big turn, Fellows does a good job of keeping his front side closed at release and he maintains an online drive and path to the plate.

There is also some funkiness to Fellows’ arm action as he separates his hands a bit later and there is some slight stiffness, stab and wrist wrap on the backside. However, he has such solid armspeed and athleticism that he didn’t have any issues working through to his three-quarters release point, getting extended over his frontside, and repeating his mechanics. While he had been clocked as high as 94 mph in Perfect Game events last summer, Fellows’ fastball consistently sat in the 87-89 mph range in his five innings of work. The heater was a quality pitch, as it featured arm-side run and good late life down in the strike zone. The tailing action and late sinking life made it a tough pitch for opposing hitters to barrel and Fellows induced lots of groundball outs over the course of his start on Sunday.

His slider was his money pitch however, as the 77-80 mph breaking ball showed plus potential with true slider tilt, late break and sharp glove-side finish. The depth of the offering varied a bit, but for the most part the short slider was extremely effective and played very well off of the fastball, coming out of the same plane or pocket as the heater before disappearing to the glove side and breaking away from barrels.

Fellows also showed an advanced feel for his mid-70s changeup, as he did a solid job of maintaining fastball arm speed and arm action and the offering showed good dive and fading life off of the fastball. While the slider was more of a weapon against same-side hitters, Fellows used his changeup almost exclusively (and extremely effectively) against lefthanded hitters. As with his slider, Fellows garnered at least a half dozen swings-and-misses with his changeup, which also shows above-average potential.

Tyler Fitzgerald
(2016, Rochester, Ill.) performed well at the Perfect Game National Showcase, displaying high level tools on both sides of the ball, and he continued to show well on Sunday. While playing shortstop, Fitzgerald moved very well to both sides, showing good lateral quickness and agility for someone of his 6-foot-3 frame, and he was extremely quick and fluid in turning a 1-6-3 double play. At the plate the righthanded hitter shows above average bat speed and a strong feel for the barrel. With a wide base and high hand set, Fitzgerald does a good job of being direct to the ball and he maintains a level swing plane that is geared towards line drive contact. On Sunday, Fitzgerald struck a double into left field on an elevated fastball and also showed the ability to backspin the baseball with a hard-hit line drive that carried directly over the center fielder’s head and resulted in a triple.

A couple other members of the Elite Baseball Training Chicago team stood out as well.
Sam Ferri (2016, Norridge, Ill.) is a compactly built 5-foot-10, 170=pound athlete that shows good defensive chops behind the plate. The Arizona State commit has a strong arm, quick feet, and is able to explode well out of his crouch to post above-average pop times (1.9 and 1.96) down to second base.

Nick Neville
(2016, Fairfax, Va.) is an athletic, lean 6-foot-1, 180-pound outfielder that flashed some solid tools. The lefthanded hitter turned in a 4.2 home-to-first time on a ground out to second base, and he showed good bat speed, strength and barrel utilization in hitting a no-doubt home run to right field on an elevated fastball.

Jake Eissler
(2016, Littleton, Colo.) is yet another talented pitcher from the Denver-based Slammers program. Eissler, like other Slammers players Bo Weiss, Travis Marr, Paul Tillotson, Travis Marr, and Nathan Sweeney, pitched at the PG National. The Texas Christian commit is a strong-bodied, physical 6-foot-2, 210-pound righty that pounds the strike zone. Working from the first base side of the rubber, Eissler has a slight hip coil, loading on the backside and he stays online well with a good, balanced drive to the plate. He worked mainly in the 86-89 mph range and held his velocity very well across his six innings of work, and the pitch shows good life to the arm side down in the strike zone.

As with other Slammers pitchers, Eissler showed good command of his heater, and was able to use it effectively to set up the rest of his arsenal. His upper-70s changeup plays well off his fastball and shows quality fading action and dive below the knees, and his breaking ball showed varied tilt and depth but flashed solid depth and late break from an 11-to-5 shape.

Matt Burkart
(2016, Gill, Colo.) is an intriguing infield prospect. The uncommitted 6-foot-1, 190-pound righthanded hitter splits time between shortstop and third base and has a nice, athletic and well-proportioned build with good present strength and room left in his frame to add even more additional muscle. Burkart has an ease and confidence to his game on both sides of the ball. He displayed good balance at the plate with a medium leg lift trigger and easy weight transfer, and he showed off solid hands and feel for the barrel in going 2-for-4 with singles to center field and right field.

Elliot Zoellner
(2016, Annapolis, Md.) has a long, lean build with sloped shoulders and some strength in his lower half. The uncommitted, 6-foot-2, 175-pound righty had an inconsistent outing, but he flashed some big-time stuff, as his fastball sat in the 89-92 mph range and showed big arm-side run and some late life and riding action when located up in the zone. He also worked in a tightly-rotating breaking ball that had late break, 10-to-4 shape, two-plane movement and solid depth. Most of his breaking balls registered spin rates over 3000 rpm by Trackman (where MLB average curveballs typically register 2700 rpm). Zoellner lost his command and scattered the ball after a few runners reached via error, but the raw stuff is impressive and could play at the next level.

Adam Laskey
(2016, Barrington, N.J.) came on in relief on Jason Groome, and while it would be hard for anybody to match the electrifying stuff that Groome possesses, Laskey displayed two quality offerings in his fastball and slider. While it was a quick one inning look, the Duke commit showed solid command of his 90-92 mph fastball with some late wiggle. Laskey showed the ability to cut the offering and run it to the arm side depending on where he wanted to locate the pitch, and when he kept it down in the zone the heater was a difficult pitch for hitters to square up. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound southpaw also flashed a low-80s slider with two-plane depth, later break and some sharpness when he’s able to stay on top of the ball and extend over his front side.

Bobby Nicholson
(2016, Charlottesville, Va.) displayed good stuff and stamina in a late night start for Chandler World Gold against CBA Marrucci. The Virginia commit sat in the 89-92 mph range with his fastball early in the start, before reaching back and firing in a few heaters in the 93-94 range in the sixth inning. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound righty employs the UVA style crouched setup out of the windup and has an up-tempo delivery that can provide some deception. He struggled a bit with his timing and synching up his upper and lower halves, but when everything is in rhythm he has good drive to the plate and his compact three-quarters arm slot allows his stuff to jump on hitters. Nicholson also worked in two distinct breaking balls, a slider in the 79-81 mph range with short depth and enough late gloveside break and finish to miss bats and a softer 74-76 mph curveball with some more depth and 11-to-5 shape.

Andrew Krause