Tournaments | Story | 7/4/2016

17u WWBA Day 3 Scout Notes

Matt Czechanski        
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Day 3 of the 17u WWBA National Championship got under way with the Houston Banditos Black taking on North East Baseball Jaxx. The Banditos sent out an uncommitted righthander in Justin Quinn (2018, Texas). Quinn has a strong, filled out 6-foot, 180-pound frame with present arm speed from a longer arm action and slight stab at the end of his circle. He utilized a drop-and-drive delivery and showed a strong ability to mix pitches and keep hitters off balance. Quinn worked his fastball around the zone at 85-88 mph, topping out at 89 with arm-side life. What he really did well was replicate arm speed for his changeup up to 80 mph that showed late tumble, generating swings and misses. His third pitch was a 11-to-5 shaped curveball that showed depth and above average spin. He slowed his arm slightly for the pitch and cut his extension, but landed in the same spot and repeated his overall mechanics. As noted, Quinn threw all three pitches for strikes and held his velocity well over his three scoreless innings.

Quinn’s teammate and starting shortstop was Texas commit Jordan Groshans (2018, Texas). Groshans has a projectable, athletic frame with room to continue to fill out and the agility to play shortstop. In the first inning he made a nice play up the middle with a quick transfer and strong arm across the diamond with carry. He matched the ability at the plate collecting a pair of hits with a very elastic, fluid swing. His hands work well with quickness through the zone and some leverage created through his lower half. His second hit was a home run that cleared the left field wall landing 359 feet from the plate and left the bat at 94 mph. He has present bat speed and strength to drive the ball through the zone and swings with intent.

On the same field in the following time slot was catcher Luis Campusano (2017, Ga.) for Baseball Scoutz. Campusano, committed to Missouri, has a good bit of strength in his frame and uses it well in his swing. He starts with a deeper, slightly stiff hand load with a stride to the ball. His aggressive approach works both for and against him at the plate with a tendency to jump on first pitch fastballs. He took a pair in his first at-bat before driving a double 96 mph off the bat that one hopped the wall. His aforementioned strength drives the power through his swing and he created good leverage through his lower half. The ball comes easily off the bat, though he has a tendency to lose plane at times. He also showed similar receiving skills behind the plate with strength in his wrists to spot up pitches.

For the Florida Burn, University of Florida commit and lefthanded pitcher Jordan Butler (2017, Fla.) took the mound over at Etowah during the 11:30 a.m. time slot. Butler continued to impress on the mound generating a high number of swings and misses with his fastball, slider and curveball combination and deceptive arm slot. He landed more online than seen in the past, starting from the third base side of the mound with a very quick arm to the plate with a compact arm action. He works very quickly with an upbeat delivery and works well downhill with his fastball. His fastball garnered the highest number of swings and misses with good arm-side run. The pitch was very heavy out of his hand with heavy life and he held his velocity at 87-89 mph and hit 90 mph in the fourth inning. He located it impeccably well and had hitters looking very uncomfortable in the box.

Butler’s top secondary offering was his slider that worked in the low- to mid-70s flashing tightness and late snap. He threw the pitch for strikes, while also showing the ability to bury it in the dirt. His third offering was a slow, sweeping curveball at 70 mph with depth, but with a noticeably slower arm towards the plate. He struck out the first six hitters he faced, then mowed down the following three on weakly hit groundballs. In total, he collected 11 strikeouts over seven 3-hit innings in a brilliant complete game performance.

A pair of interesting uncommitted arms pitched for the Dallas Patriots 17u Stout in their early afternoon game at LakePoint in lefthander Tyler Thomas (2017, Texas) and righthander Kamron Fields (2017, Texas).

Thomas started the game as a lean, athletically build lefthander with good arm speed and simple mechanics and a longer arm action. He landed online with a medium stride towards the plate and was very balanced throughout. He threw a fastball with late arm-side wiggle at 85-88 mph, touching 89, around the zone and challenged hitters. He also spun an impressive 1-to-7 shaped curveball with depth and above average spin. The curveball was the better of the two offerings for Thomas, but he worked both around the zone. He struck out three batters over four scoreless innings.

The second arm the Patriots sent out was Fields who certainly has the frame for a pitcher, despite being listed as a shortstop, at 6-foot-2, 175-pounds with lots of room to fill out. A highly touted quarterback in the state of Texas, Fields has no shortage of arm strength. He has a very minimal stride towards the plate with no shift of weight to his backside. He used a very short, compact arm action with impressive arm strength working his fastball 90-92 mph in his lone inning of work with slight wiggle. He also worked in a developmental curveball that he slowed his arm for, but was something to work with.

A staple arm of PG events is East Cobb Astros righthander Joe Lancellotti (2017, Pa.) who pitched in a close matchup against the Triton Rays Prime. The UNC commit threw from a three-quarters slot with impressive arm strength and generated good extension down the mound. He showed a longer, extended arm action with a drop-and-drive in his delivery and a slight backside collapse coming towards the plate. He worked his fastball efficiently at 89-92 mph, touching 93, with good life and heaviness in the lower third of the zone. His primary off-speed offering was a 76 mph curveball that showed some slurvy tendencies and flashed sharper. The pitch worked for strikes and did elicit swings and misses from hitters as he notched seven strikeouts over his 4 1/3 innings. He landed on a stiff front leg, fighting it at times with some recoil and a heel turn finish.

In the same time slot, the Georgia Jackets sent out an Alabama recruit, lefthander Jacob Heatherly (2017, Ala.). Heatherly has a very physical, strong frame listed at 6-foot-3, 200-pounds and looks the part on the mound. He has a very controlled and measured delivery with good arm strength and a long, slightly rigid arm action. Heatherly worked with a shorter stride given his build and length of lower half with a closed landing, relying more on the arm strength than anything for fastball velocity. His fastball worked well with good angle towards the plate at 88-91 mph and hit 92 mph a handful of times. It generated good arm-side life and garnered swings and misses early in the game.

Heatherly also relied on a changeup with good replicated arm speed at 80 mph with good depth and late fade. That pitch, coupled with his slider that hit 77 mph, flashed tilt and the ability to be a potential swing-and-miss offering. Heatherly has the build, and with slight mechanical adjustments could see a pair of above average secondary offerings to go with a fastball that will tick up in the future. He did well to get all three pitches over for strikes at points and generated a lot of weak contact when the ball was put in play over his five innings on the mound. He struck out seven batters with 11 total swings and misses.

In an action-packed and star-studded 9:30/9:45 p.m. slate, a pair of high quality arms took the stage on the north quad of LakePoint.

On one field righthander Makenzie Stills (2018, Ga.) had about the most dominant stint of his career in the first inning. The Vanderbilt commit threw ultra easy with plus arm speed with a longer arm action from a three-quarters arm slot with crossfire action. The ball explodes out of his hand and has good angle towards the plate from a long, loose arm action. In the first, his fastball worked 91-93 mph with ease, running it around the strike zone and hard in on the hands of righthanded hitters. He was also toying with batters at the plate with a slider that showed above average. He worked it in the upper-70s with big-time tilt from the same arm slot and the same impressive arm speed. The slider showed 10-to-4 shape when it was on, either when thrown for strikes or diving out of the zone, generating a swing and miss.

The second inning was a different story for Stills who struggled with his release point more and fought his front side a little harder. The outing showed exactly what Stills could be with his stuff playing as loud as it did.

Stills’ teammates and offensive forces, shortstop Devonte Brown (2017, Ga.) and first baseman/outfielder Terry Fuller (2017, Ga.), each turned in multi-hit games at the dish.

Brown is a very quick-twitch athlete at the plate with a quick, somewhat linear swing at the dish with very quick hands. He drives the ball well to the opposite fields with simple separation and extension. He’s very rhythmic at the plate with a simple approach. He also plays a strong shortstop with good footwork and a strong arm across the diamond.

Fuller, a much, much different player, relies on pure and intimidating strength at the plate. Fuller launched a 98.6 mph triple off the bat in his first trip to the plate that one-hopped the left-center field fence. He followed that up with another hard, laced triple down the right field line. The power in his swing is obvious, but getting to the opposite field was something I had yet to see him do with purpose. Adding that to his raw ability to pull the ball and wait back on spin, it gives more hope to the hit tool standing up behind the power.

On the field right next to Stills and Brown was righthander Jeremiah Estrada (2017, Calif.) who toed the rubber for CBA Marucci National. Estrada had one of the more electric outings of the tournament with five perfect innings on the mound and recording seven strikeouts. Estrada worked from a higher three-quarters slot with plus arm speed and very sharp downhill action. Estrada threw with a longer, clean arm action with a medium stride to the plate and a very, very upbeat delivery. Estrada filled the zone all night with a 69-percent strike percentage relying primarily on his 91-94 mph fastball that had good riding life up in the zone. He generated swings and misses from both his fastball and his breaking ball in the form of a slider.

His slider was very sharp up to 77 mph with late snap out of the zone and 11-to-5 shape. With a very tight spin rate he was able to rely on it with two strikes on a hitter and was confident enough in it to throw it in any count. Not to stop there, the UCLA commit was also working in a deceptive changeup up to 81 mph with good depth and late sinking action. Estrada replicated his arm speed well and maintained the higher slot for the pitch. All told, he shoved and threw three above average to plus pitches for strikes.

– Matt Czechanski

In what will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, CBA Marucci National shortstop Nick Allen (2017, Calif.) was an impact defender at a premium position on Sunday night. When evaluating defenders, scouts look for several things, including hands, range, footwork, arm strength, ease of actions, athleticism, etc. Allen may have the best hands and footwork in the country, and he uses his feet and athleticism to cover (at least) plus ground at the shortstop position. Twice on Sunday night he made what scouts call "6 range" plays, referring to the pro 2-8 scouting scale, ranging far up the middle – nearly to the second base side of second base – to snare ground balls before gathering his balance and transferring quickly to get off a lightning-quick release across the diamond, nabbing both runners. There has never really been any doubt that Allen can be a plus defender at shortstop, but this week has been outstanding for him regardless.

Righthanded pitcher Caleb Sloan (2017, Colo.) had a very good showing at the PG National a few weeks ago, and less than a month ago committed to play baseball at TCU, already making his summer pretty special. He took the mound in pool play on Sunday afternoon for the Colorado Slammers, and had a pretty easy day, tossing only 44 pitches through two-plus innings, as his team held a commanding lead after two. Sloan has some lightning in his arm, showing off very good arm speed with a clean stroke for the most part, and the delivery is very clean and efficient as well. He projects to throw extremely hard at physical maturity, even harder than his already impressive velocity of 89-93 mph, peaking at 94. When he commands his fastball down in the zone, with the plane he can create, it's a nearly unhittable pitch, as it has good natural heaviness and is very tough to square up. He threw strikes but was a bit loose with his command within the zone, giving up a few hard-hit balls but really never being in much trouble. He found his slider at times, showing good feel to spin the ball and generate sharp break with tilt when he truly got on top of it, and it has the makings of a bat-missing pitch at the next level.

Another pitcher who performed well at the PG National a few weeks ago took the mound later on Sunday evening in lefthander Jake Eder (2017, Fla.). Blessed with one of the prettier, easier deliveries in the class of 2017, literally everything about Eder's game on the mound projects extremely well. It's an easy delivery, well-balanced and well-paced throughout, striding long and getting downhill with lots of angle to the plate, and the arm stroke is mostly clean throughout as well. He's been up as high as 91-92 mph before, and touched 89-90 early in this start before settling in comfortably around 84-87 for the majority of his outing. He threw strikes with his fastball consistently but was a bit loose with his command within the zone, missing up at times, but when he's down in the zone and commanding the fastball to both sides, he's very tough to hit.

The effective velocity of his fastball plays up several ticks thanks to the extension and deception he creates in his delivery, and projects to throw harder down the road. The breaking ball he's shown across his last three national performances (PG National, Tournament of Stars, 17u WWBA National Championship) has varied and been spotty, but he does have feel to spin the ball and flashes a quality curveball when right, and his delivery/athleticism/ease of arm action all project towards a quality changeup eventually as well.

Long lauded for his defensive prowess behind the plate, catcher M.J. Melendez (2017, Ala.) hit one of the furthest bombs of the tournament thus far, driving a ball high and deep over the center field wall at Kennesaw Mountain High School, a type of power we'd never really seen from him before. He's always possessed advanced feel to hit from the left side of the plate, and combined with his standout defensive skills behind the plate, has been a top-ranked player in the class of 2017 for good reason. If the type of power he showed on Sunday night becomes more and more prevalent in games, he vaults himself even further up prospect rankings lists and draft preference lists as well.

Late Sunday night, the AZ T-Rex baseball club took the field with a long list of highly-touted prospects, including third baseman Jacob Gonzalez (2017, Ariz.). Gonzalez has always been a big, strong, powerful hitting prospect, with big-time raw power and bat speed from the right side of the plate. On Sunday night, Gonzalez, the son of former big league outfielder Luis Gonzalez, showed a better feel for recognizing off-speed stuff and overall spin, along with the ability to not try to do too much. Twice, he managed to keep his weight and hands back long enough on curveballs and hit them through the left side of the infield for singles, maintaining balance through his swing despite both swings coming against breaking balls. As he starts to mesh the loud tools of his raw power, bat speed, and strength with more and more feel to hit and pitch recognition skills, he becomes a truly impactful offensive player.

The most dominant pitching performance of the event so far belongs to Boyd Vander Kooi (2017, Ariz.), a righthander committed to the University of Oregon. Throwing roughly 95-percent fastballs over his complete game (7 innings), Vander Kooi was absolutely lights-out, not giving up a well-struck ball until the seventh inning, when an opposite-field double ended his no-hit bid. He absolutely pounded the strike zone with his fastball, starting out at 88-90 mph and peaking at 91 before settling in comfortably at 85-87, reaching back for 88-89 mph at times if he needed it. He generates steep plane and big extension, which would be enough for his fastball to play up by itself, but add to that the tremendous sink and heaviness (1800-1900 spin rate, per TrackMan) he creates, and his fastball becomes an absolute weapon pitch down in the zone. When he wasn't missing bats, he was getting opposing hitters to beat the ball weakly into the ground, just cruising through the game with no problem. As mentioned above, he threw 95-percent fastballs, but did flash a solid curveball. It's a shorter breaking pitch, but has good spin and sharpness, and he can throw it for strikes relatively consistently. With how dominant his fastball can be, the curveball doesn't even have to be more than a speed-changing pitch right now, which is operates as well.

Shortstop Andrew Swift (2017, Ariz.) has opened some eyes this week with his quick-twitch athleticism and defensive prowess at a premium position, where he's quick to both sides with the hands and feet necessary to play on the left side long-term, where he's committed to Tracy Smith at Arizona State. He absolutely fits the mold of an on-base leadoff hitter who plays shortstop at a high level, and has stood out this week in several games.

– Brian Sakowski

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