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Tournaments | Story | 7/9/2016

16u WWBA Day 1 Scout Notes

Jheremy Brown      Matt Czechanski     
Photo: Perfect Game

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It’s not like what 2018 righthander Slade Cecconi (Oviedo, Fla.) did in the Scorpion’s opening round game was much of a surprising considering his lofty ranking in the class (No. 11), nor was the velocity jump, though we didn’t think it would come this quick just yet. After sitting in the 88-90 mph range at the Perfect Game Jr. National Showcase last month, and showing an advanced feel for a wide array of secondaries, Cecconi immediately blew past that peak fastball in the top of the first.

With a young and projectable, yet already strong 6-foot-3, 186-pound frame, the Miami commit opened the game sitting in the 89-93 mph range, bumping a 94 on his last pitch of the first inning. In terms of physicality, delivery, and pure stuff Cecconi checks all the boxes as the delivery is extremely balanced and repeated and the extension out front is big, adding some late hop to his already overpowering fastball. Along with the sinking life he showed solid command of the zone with a full and clean arm action, working either side of the plate with pretty solid comfort. And though he didn’t repeat that type of velocity after the first inning, he did work in the 88-91 range for the next inning or two and showed similar velocity out of the stretch.

It took him a little bit fully develop his curveball as he worked up in the zone early on though it was the 75-78 mph slider that he went to more frequently with tight rotation and short tilting life. He also brought out a handful of mid-70s changeups against lefthanded hitters, a few of which featured solid fading life away from the barrels, leaving the hitters stuck out front.

Just as he’s done in the past, Texas A&M commit and 2018 righthander Mason Englert (Forney, Texas) impressed during his time on the mound, seeming to improve nearly every time he toes the rubber. Checking in at a very believable 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame that isn’t done growing just yet, Englert has packed on noticeable strength throughout his body since my last viewing, which came last fall, and with the strength gains has come an uptick in velocity.

Coming through the backside Englert features a short yet very fast right arm with which he was able to pump noteworthy velocity as he sat in the 89-92 mph range early on in the game and was still touching 92s in the third inning of work. There is some effort at the point of release, however it in no way inhibited the future Aggie’s ability to throw strikes, consistently showing cut action to his fastball while locating to his glove side well. And on top of the fastball velocity, which he was able to simply over power hitters with, Englert showed a feel for three distinct secondaries, all of which showed promise. Just as it did last week in the 17u WWBA National Championship, the slider was a quality pitch that worked up to 80 mph with late biting actions where as his curveball clocked in at 73-74 mph with bigger depth and more 11-to-5 type shape. He flashed a few changeups in the low-80s and showed a handle on the pitch as he maintained his arm speed well which helped generate short diving life to the arm side.

The overall tool package of 2018 outfielder Giovanni DiGiacomo (Naples, Fla.) is going to intrigue a lot of college recruiters as he offers both present ability and long-term projection. Listed at a long and lean 6-foot-1, 175-pounds, DiGiacomo already sports strength to his upper body while retaining looseness and allowing for plus speed as evidenced by his 6.45 60-yard dash at the Jr. National. A lefthanded hitter, DiGiacomo showed a nice handle for the barrel in his first at-bat as he did a nice job of staying back on a lefthanded curveball and pulled it through the right side for a single. And while his next at-bat resulted in a fielder’s choice it still allowed for a solid run time down the line, turning in a 4.20, though it’s easy to envision an even quicker time.

The first player to commit following the Jr. National Showcase, 2018 outfielder Aaron Sabato (Rye Brook, N.Y.) and recent North Carolina commit, continued to impress with the bat just as he had done down in Fort Myers. Physically intimidating in the box at 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, Sabato put that strength on display immediately over his first two at-bats of the tournament. With a rather simple swing and plenty of quickness and leverage to his path, Sabato went with an outer half pitch for a hard L9 that jumped off the barrel before driving a pitch deep over the left field fence for a no doubt home run.

Another big presence on the Chain National roster, uncommitted 2018 righthander Carter Raffield (Cochran, Ga.), opened the game sitting in the 87-90 mph range while sporting a rather long and fluid arm action through the back. With broad shoulders and a 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, Raffield consistently worked from a higher three-quarters arm slot and when on top of the fastball he was able to generate short running life down in the zone. The arm action is quick and as he continues to involve additional lower half into his drive there’s no reason to believe more velocity isn’t on its way. Raffield’s mid-70s curveball developed nicely throughout as well showing 11-to-5 shape with short depth and a feel for the pitch once he found the release point.

Uncommitted 2018 catcher Darius Diaz (Perth Amboy, N.J.) is a bat that will have to be followed closely throughout this tournament, especially when you take into account that he’s a lefthanded hitting catcher. His 6-foot, 190-pound frame packs in plenty of strength and he does a nice job of incorporating it into his stroke, showing a full and fluid stroke through the zone with solid jump off the barrel. After finding the barrel a few times in the opening game with strength to his pull-side gap, Diaz showed some over-the-fence type strength in his team’s second game, going deep over the right field fence which left recruiting coordinators jotting notes down in their programs.

A University of South Carolina commit, lefthander Josiah Sightler (Gaston, S.C.) offers plenty of upside as he stands 6-foot-4, 195-pounds with long limbs and plenty of room to fill out. With a very full and easy arm action coming through the back, Sightler ran his fastball up to 89 mph early in the contest with downhill plane from a near over-the-top arm slot and sat comfortably in the upper-80s without exerting much effort. Throughout his innings Sightler showed the ability to work down in the zone when on top of the ball, though his front side would tend to go early which in turn would throw off his release point.

While his fastball came out very clean and easy, Sightler also showed an ability to spin a tight curveball at 72-73 mph. The pitch offered 1-to-7 shape, and though the depth was subtle he showed comfort in throwing it for strike consistently, and like his fastball, projects nicely moving forward.

A recent commit to the University of Virginia, 2018 outfielder Christian Hlinka (Frenchtown, N.J.) certainly looks the part in terms of physicality with his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame and he definitely swings it at a high level from the left side. With a rather easy and loose set up in the box, Hlinka twice showed no issue turning on an inner half pitch, collecting a couple knocks early in the game. The hands are extremely quick and fluid, which when coupled with the physical strength it’s easy to envision solid power potential, though he twice shot hard ground balls through the pull side, the first of which went for a double down the right field line.

A teammate of Hlinka, 2019 righthander Nick Maldonado (Short Hills, N.J.) drew a slew of college recruiting coordinators pregame and after the first pitch it became clear as to why. Despite being listed as a primary shortstop it’s easy to envision Maldonado developing into a high level, arm though he has also shown skills up the middle defensively. Listed at 6-foot-1, 175-pounds, he obviously projects given his age, though he’s already showing a fastball that worked in the 85-87 mph range early in the game. His arm action is both full and quick coming cleanly through the backside while displaying a comfort in locating to his glove side with the fastball. On top of the impressive velocity the young righthander also showed comfort in spinning both slider and changeup for strikes in the upper-70s, the latter of which showed fading life to his arm side.

A recent Vanderbilt commit, 2018 lefthander Ryan Weathers (Loretto, Tenn.) has made a solid jump since my viewing last summer, in which he worked in the mid-80s, as he came out and sat in the 89-92 mph range in his first inning of work. Weathers, who comes from a strong baseball bloodline, offers a very simple and repeatable delivery and it’s one that projects as there’s still plenty of lower half that can be incorporated moving forward.

Strongly built at 6-foot-1, 190-pounds Weathers’ frame is plenty durable for a starting role and his arm action is very short and compact, hiding the ball very well throughout his delivery. The velocity impressed in the first inning, as did his feel for the strike zone as he regularly pounded fastballs throughout the zone and showed the ability to work to either side of the plate. He didn’t hold that low-90s velocity throughout the course of the game but he did regularly miss bats with his fastball and mixed in three different secondaries, each of which showed promise from a near identical slot. His slider in the upper-70s featured shorter bite than his mid-70s curveball, the breaking ball he showed early in the game with sweeping finish down to glove side. And it wasn’t until halfway through his outing that he brought out his changeup, an already solid pitch up to 80 mph with short fading life to his arm side with similar arm speed.

One of the youngest players in the 16u WWBA World Championship, righthander Alex Edmonson (Simpsonville, S.C.) hasn’t even entered high school yet (class of 2020) but he’s already made an impression on those looking on. Passing the quick eye test with a listed 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame (though he looks bigger), Edmonson came out working in the 80-84 mph range with his fastball, which came out of a long and loose arm action. Everything projects extremely well as one would imagine for a player his age and while the velocity will continue to undoubtedly climb he already shows a feel for both of his secondaries. His 74 mph changeup featured short sinking life down in the zone from a similar arm slot as his fastball while the breaking ball has some slurvy shape to it in the low-70s due to the lower three-quarters release point. It’s still extremely early in the process for this young prospect but he’s one that will definitely be on the radar for the upcoming years.

– Jheremy Brown

As the final day of the 17u WWBA wrapped up, 16u came out in full force with several strong showings by players. Righthanded pitcher and shortstop Simeon Woods-Richardson (2018, Texas) showed very impressive athleticism on the mound and is listed at 6-foot-2, 198-pounds and showed well at the plate and on the mound. He had a short stride towards the plate with good extension down the mound and a longer arm action. The Texas A&M commit had a very live arm with above average arm strength and a fastball that hit 90 mph and worked 85-89 mph with late arm-side life. It was a heavier fastball that he struggled with his release point for, leaving the ball up in the zone at times and finding some barrels. When kept low it had good angle and better life generating swings and misses. He mixed in a developing low-70s curveball that showed depth with 11-to-5 shape. It was more of a get-me-over offering at present with room to continue to improve.

Woods also stood out at the plate with very impressive strength in his swing and worked all fields. He notched a pair of extra-base hits with good bat speed and a line drive swing plane. He had some feel for barrel turn and the ability to generate loft and backspin. The rhythm in his swing stood out with a simple weight shift and toe tap into the firing of his lower half.

The D Las Vegas sent out an impressive athlete as well to the mound in shortstop and righthanded pitcher Jacob Erickson (2018, Mich.). Erickson, an uncommitted player, started the game and threw very well and turned in quality at-bats at the plate. On the mound he utilized a longer arm action with a slight stab while landing closed down the mound. He showed good arm speed with a quick arm through his delivery. He created some deception with a drop-and-drive delivery starting with a hip coil turn. His fastball had very tight cutting action in on lefthanded hitters and away from righties that worked 84-87 mph. He struggled with a put away pitch over his four no-hit innings, often getting into long battles with hitters. Erickson did elicit lots of weak contact, either via pop ups or ground balls to his infielders. His curveball worked up to 72 mph with 12-to-6 shape for strikes. It appeared to flash sharpness with depth, but it was seldom used in two strike counts.

At the plate, Erickson did not take long to make an impact there. He led off the game with a loud double pulled down the line with good bat speed and athleticism in the box. His swing worked quickly with a barrel tip to accelerate his bat speed through the zone. He has present strength in his listed 5-foot-11, 165-pound frame and looks slightly bigger than that and uses it well in his swing creating leverage as he went 2-for-3 on the day with a pair of RBI.

Chain National 16u Burress brought lots of power with them to LakePoint on Friday evening starting with righthander Levi Kelly (2018, Fla.). Kelly is completely filled out physically with good strength present in his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame. He works from a higher three-quarters arm slot with good arm strength and a longer arm action. The LSU commit uses a drop-and-drive element in his delivery with a shorter stride to the plate and plus extension down the mound that registered above seven feet. A concern is the effort and head violence in his delivery, but he still manages to throw strikes. Kelly’s fastball exploded out of his hand in the first sitting 90-92 with late arm-side wiggle. He used it up in the zone to generate a swing and a miss and did well to locate it to both sides. His go-to pitch with two strikes was his slider that worked 78-80 mph with good, late break and average spin. It was shorter in nature, but he threw it for strikes and also had righthanded hitters chasing it out of the zone. His velocity held well throughout his shutout start with his last pitch of the game reading 91 mph. The overall contact from the opposing hitters was weak, with several of them rolling over or weakly popping out.

Backing Kelly up offensively and at third base was the very powerful Brandon Howlett (2018, Fla.). Howlett had a coming out party at the Jr. National Showcase last month in Fort Myers, Fla., showing explosive bat speed with lightning quick hands and driving everything off the barrel. Nothing has changed to little surprise as he connected for a pair of loud, extra-base hits. In his first at-bat he absolutely mashed a deep home run that left the bat at 96.7 mph and landed just shy of 400 feet from the plate. His hands explode to the ball and he dropped his back shoulder and crushed it well beyond the left field wall with a powerful sound off the barrel. In his second at-bat he kept his hands close to his body, shortening up his path and pulling a double down the line and past the third basemen. Howlett has a chance to be one of the better pure bats in the 2018 class all said and done.

For Marucci Elite Black in the last time slot they sent out Oklahoma commit Jacob Burton (2018, Texas). The medium built righthander threw from a three-quarters arm slot with a long arm action and slight stab. With a shorter stride and closed landing, Burton does not incorporate much of his lower half in his delivery, relying purely on arm speed. With some controlled effort and a balanced landing, he attacked the hitters and worked quickly. His fastball worked 88-90 mph with good arm-side life despite occasionally leaving the ball up with a higher release. Like most pitchers, Burton worked his best when getting downhill and filling the lower third of the zone with the heavy action on his fastball. For Friday night’s competition, leaving his fastball was not a problem as hitters chased it up in the zone. His secondary offering was a short breaking curveball that worked in the low-70s. Its late snap froze hitters when complimented by his fastball, and he worked it in frequently with two strikes and it generated a good bit of swing and miss. Despite the late break, the pitch had an unusually low spin rate, but still worked very effectively. In his combined no-hitter he struck out three over two scoreless innings.

The leadoff hitter for the same team was LSU commit and shortstop Drew Bianco (2018, Miss.). Bianco has a very strong, filled out frame and moves well for his size. Bianco took the second pitch of the game and roped it down the left field line for an easy triple, rounding the bag with a time of 4.25. He has very quick hands with feel for the barrel and makes consistent loud contact. He uses a simple weight shift with power from his lower half and drives the ball very well pull side. His bat speed and raw strength play well through the ball with a bat that stays in the hitting zone a very long time.

– Matt Czechanski

Per usual, the EvoShield Canes are loaded in every class, and the 16u variety is of no exception. In their first game of the tournament, they sent out lefthanded pitcher Carter Lohman (2018, Ind.), a University of Louisville commit and the No. 27 overall player in the class of 2018. Lohman is a highly-projectable young lefthander with an intriguing combination of present stuff, polish, pitchability and projection, giving him a big-time upside to go along with a pretty high floor as well. In this outing he worked 84-87 mph with his fastball with more in the tank, showing command and life to both sides of the plate. He’s very comfortable turning over the changeup out front as well, replicating his arm speed and generating good fading action the pitch with the ability to miss bats on said offering. He’s comfortable pitching backwards and understands sequencing at an impressive level for his age, mixing and matching three very good pitches with great success.

Outfielder Jacob Allred (2018, Calif.) plays center field for the Canes, and is an impactful player in several facets. A good runner, that speed plays both defensively and offensively, giving Allred a well-rounded profile that projects extremely well to the next level. He’s a quick-twitch defender who gets tremendous breaks on the ball off the bat, showing a combination of first-step quickness, closing speed and route efficiency in the game on Friday morning, when he had to sprint directly back towards the wall in center field and make a fully-extended grab over his head to save a triple. Speed is a wonderful asset to have in the outfield but without reads and routes, speed can become meaningless pretty quickly out there; Allred has all three. He’s also a quality contact hitter at the plate with an advanced approach, not expanding the zone and willing to work the count for walks, while showing a line drive, compact swing that covers the plate well and is capable of making hard contact all over the zone to all fields.

Anthony Seigler (2018, Ga.) is one of the more versatile players in the class of 2018, primarily a catcher but showing the ability to play infield, outfield, pitch with both hands and hit from both sides of the plate. So, he can literally play any position on the field, including LEFT-handed pitcher. He’s a solid athlete with more speed than a traditional catcher, but the Auburn commitment is more known for his impact bat than anything. Hitting in the middle of the EvoShield lineup, Seigler provides matchup nightmares for any opposing team, showing power, hit ability, and a whole-field approach from both sides. In Friday’s action, he twice drove the ball the opposite way on pitches towards the outer half of the plate, showing an advanced feel for the barrel that will serve him well at any level. He was 4-for-4 on the day with a pair of doubles and five RBI, overall. He’ll be increasingly fun to watch over the next few years as he continues to progress in (literally) every facet of the game.

Righthanded pitcher Jack Perkins (2018, Ind.) may have the most pure velocity upside of any pitcher in the class, as one coach succinctly put it “He’s going to throw 100.” With an extremely loose and clean arm action with already plus arm speed, the rising junior touched 90 mph on Friday, and as mentioned above, the projection there is extreme. His command is still loose at the moment, struggling to consistently hammer the zone with his fastball, but the athleticism and arm speed give him drool-worthy upside on the mound.

– Brian Sakowski

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