Tournaments | Story | 7/13/2016

16u WWBA Day 5 Scout Notes

Jheremy Brown         Matt Czechanski        
Photo: Perfect Game

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Highlighted in these recaps for his prowess with the bat and with the glove at the shortstop position, Spencer Schwellenbach (2018, Mich.) may have the most upside as a righthanded pitcher. Working 89-92 mph with his fastball for the first few innings before settling in at 87-91 for the duration of his six-plus innings, Schwellenbach’s fastball is extremely quick on the hitters due to the jump out of his hand, brought on by an extremely fast arm with minimal effort. His delivery, while raw yet, is not a high-maintenance one, without exaggerated movement or effort; and is rather simple in fact. He flashed a legitimate hammer of a curveball, thrown firmly in the mid-70s with power spin and depth. He started getting under the pitch as the game wore on, but it absolutely flashed as a big-time offering at the next level, both as a bat-misser and a knee-buckler. Additionally, he has advanced feel for his changeup, thrown with excellent arm speed replication and arm action, resulting in big velocity differential (10-13 mph) from his fastball and fading action down in the zone. Though the command wavered at times as he missed up a few times throughout, his control was on point, walking only a pair of hitters over his 96 pitch, 6 1/3 inning outing, to go along with 10 punchouts. He looks to be one of the higher-end two-way prospects in the nation.

For years now, Tri-State Arsenal has been known as one of the preeminent travel baseball programs in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic regions, and they have brought another loaded club to the 16u WWBA National Championship, moving to 6-0 on Tuesday with a victory over a talented Ohio Elite ball club.

Arsenal starter Chris Gerard (2018, N.J.) will not overpower hitters, but has a highly advanced mix of present stuff, command, and pitchability that works to keep opposing hitters off balance at all times. He worked 82-85 mph for the majority of his start, commanding the ball to both sides with success and generating solid arm-side life on the pitch. His arm action is full through the back with minimal effort or strain, hiding the ball well to a high three-quarters arm slot and generating good angle and plane to the plate. The arm action and frame—which stands 5-foot-10, 165-pounds—both project well to continue adding strength and velocity. His curveball flashed good sharpness with 1-to-7 shape and plenty of depth, and he was comfortable throwing the pitch in any count and to either side of the plate.

Native Michigander and Mississippi State Bulldog commit Bryce Bush (2018, Mich.) has been lauded for a while now for his prowess with the bat, showing consistent bat speed and strength, projecting for both average and legitimate power at the next level. Playing with the Tri State Arsenal, Bush plays corner infield and hits in the middle of the order, and he’s gotten noticeably bigger and stronger in the past year. That strength has translated well into his offensive game, and he’s maintained his athleticism defensively despite the additional size. He roped a double up the left-center field gap in his first at bat, 95 mph off of the bat, all from a swing that checks all the boxes of bat speed, hand path, leverage and strength. He looks to be a very high-level collegiate hitter in the future.

On the other side of the diamond, the Ohio Elite-Valentine club has a few legitimate prospects of their own, and have had a very successful run here in Georgia to the tune of a 4-2 record entering Wednesday’s action. They started righthander Nick Thwaits (2018, Ohio) against the Arsenal, and though he had a rough first inning, settled in and showed legitimate next-level potential on the mound. He worked 86-89 mph early, from an extremely quick arm and good body that project well in terms of strength and future velocity. His slider, a pitch thrown in the 73-77 mph range, flashed legitimate swing-and-miss potential when buried down and away from righthanded hitters, with sharp, tilting break. The pitch spins well, and while the shape is inconsistent, it showed well both as a strike and as a chase pitch.

A name we’d heard from a few coaches in recent weeks and months, Ohio Elite’s shortstop Zach Dezenzo (2018, Ohio), absolutely oozes projection from a 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame, reminiscent of how Troy Tulowitzki looked in his prep days from a physical standpoint. Despite the advanced size, Dezenzo plays shortstop with graceful, athletic movements and actions, projecting to stay at the 6 spot at the next level. The arm strength is more than suitable for the left side, as well. The swing path is clean with quality bat speed and loose wrists, highlighted by the ability to match his swing plane well with the plane of the incoming pitch. The body absolutely projects for significant power at the next level, and he shows the willingness and ability to use all fields as well, doubling down the right field line later in the game.

As one would come to expect at this point, the EvoShield Canes 16u club is loaded once again, from their everyday 1-9 lineup and their rotational players to their significantly deep pitching staff. Ethan Smith (2018, Tenn.) is one of those extremely talented, highly projectable arms on the Canes roster, and the Vanderbilt commit took the mound to start their game on Tuesday morning. With a deceptive delivery highlighted by a slight pause before explosion towards the plate, Smith works from a high three-quarters arm slot and fires downhill with authority, creating steep plane towards the plate and a tough angle for hitters to pick up. He worked comfortably in the 84-88 mph range with his fastball, topping at 89, with some arm-side life and big time velocity projection at the next level. He showed both a slider and a curveball, with the slider being the preferred secondary offering, highlighted by sharp tilting break when he’s on top of it, a true swing-and-miss pitch. The curveball is a bit softer with more traditional 1-to-7 shape and depth, a pitch he used to throw for strikes and get ahead in counts with.

Smith was relieved in this game by Nik Pry (2018, N.C.), a yet-uncommitted righthander who is primarily a positional guy, with projection both in the infield and the outfield at the next level. He showed well on the mound in this game as well, working 87-88 mph, touching 89, from a tough three-quarters arm slot that creates significant angle when thrown to the glove side, something he liked to do early and often to opposing hitters. He’s a bit unorthodox in his lower half, but creates excellent deception and is very tough to pick up. His primary off-speed offering is a slider, a pitch he struggled to command down in the zone a bit but flashed legitimate two-plane break and good sharpness in it’s late break at the plate.

A Clemson commitment, catcher Jared Kirven (2018, S.C.) looks to be an extremely talented defender behind the plate, with quick-twitch actions to both sides with advanced blocking and receiving abilities. He also handles the bat relatively well, with a line drive swing plane that is built well for sprayed contact, and is comfortable using the entire field in the box.

A N.C. State who plays literally everywhere, Phillip Cole (2018, N.C.) had one of the louder contacts of the entire day, smoking a triple to the wall in left-center field that never seemed to get more than 6-7 feet off the ground. The swing is quick with extreme leverage, resulting in very hard contact to all fields.

Yet another Vanderbilt commitment, Nicholas Northcut (2018, Ohio) is a primary pitcher who gets into the low-90s on the mound, but the physically built young prospect showed off his extreme strength from the offensive perspective on Tuesday, hammering a home run deep over the high wall in left field at Reinhardt University.

On the opposite side of the field from EvoShield, the Lids Indiana Bulls-White showcased a two-way prospect with intriguing upside of his own. Craig Yoho (2018, Ind.) started at shortstop and definitely looks bigger than his listed 6-foot-1, 165-pound frame, with a strong, highly projectable build complete with broad shoulders and a tapered build through his torso. Yoho started the game at shortstop and showed well with the bat, as well, doubling down the line with good bat speed and quick hands in the swing. He pitched in relief as well, showing a very quick arm with a slight hook through the back and moderate effort over the front side, but working 84-86 mph with good arm-side life.

– Brian Sakowski

He may not have shown the 92-94 mph fastball like he did in last week’s tournament, but it all fairness to Florida commit and righthanded pitcher Mason Denaburg (Merritt Island, Fla.) it was 8:00 a.m. And even without that big velocity Denaburg continues to impress this summer on the bump, though the bat has been just as loud which has helped him become a regular fixture in the daily recaps.

An extremely impressive athlete who could very well end up as both a high level bat and catcher at the next level (he’s also an establish place kicker and punter in football who could kick at the highest level), Denaburg has continued to make strides on the bump in what seems to be nearly every outing now. Listed at a long 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, Denaburg opened up the game showing an 89-91 mph fastball and the same quality slider that he has in the past. The arm action is clean and easy coming through the backside without much effort, traits that allow him to carry upper-80s velocity throughout the game. Along with the athleticism the future Gator uses his long levers well to generate solid downhill plane and angle to either side of the plate, proving multiple times he wasn’t afraid to challenge in.

He might be listed in the program as a primary shortstop but make no mistake about it, K.C. Hunt (Wyckoff, N.J.) has a bright future on the mound, though he can also swing it from the left side. A long and wiry 6-foot-2, 165-pound athlete, the uncommitted Hunt shows an easy approach to hitting with a long and loose swing and a nice feel in the box. On the mound however Hunt came out attacking hitters in the 8:00 a.m. slot with a fastball that lived comfortably in the 83-85 mph range, bumping 86s and 87s once loosened and underway.

A New Jersey native playing on the Louisiana Knights, Hunt works with a very up-tempo pace to his delivery while remaining balanced and coordinated to the plate, especially for a pitcher who just finished his freshman year of high school. The arm action is very short and quick coming through the back side, which allowed for steady strikes and also added some deception to his already deceptive lower three-quarter arm slot. Though mostly true in life Hunt’s fastball primarily worked down in the zone and did feature some subtle running life while mixing in a tight slider as shown in the video. If the physical projection wasn’t enough to believe more velocity is on its way then consider the fast that the uncommitted righthander spins a tight, short tilting slider in the 76-78 mph with the hand speed that’s usually indicative of more velocity en route.

We got out first extended look at the 2018 lefthanded hitting Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ontario) during last month’s Junior National and the reports were glowing, not only on the bat but also on the overall athleticism. Despite being listed as a primary catcher Naylor has the looseness and baseball senses to also play up the middle, though it’s behind the plate where he may end up long term. The younger brother of former Perfect Game All-American Josh Naylor, there are certainly some similarities to their swings as the hands are extremely fast and fluid, allowing for plenty of whip to the barrel coming through the zone. And while the younger Naylor may not have as much raw power at present as Josh, it would be difficult to find somebody who does at this stage, he’s a very knowledgeable hitter and just like at the Junior National he showed off a relax approach and a willingness to use all fields. Finding himself in a 2-2 count the uncommitted hitter simply shortened up his swing, got the barrel to the ball and shot a pitch back up the middle for a line drive single. And even though he got out to his front side a bit he was still able to create solid jump off the barrel while showing the same natural feel for hitting just as he has in prior looks.

Hayden Dunhurst (Carriere, Miss.) isn’t your typical rising sophomore as he’s already committed to the University of Mississippi, swings an incredibly loud bat from the left side and possesses some of the biggest arm strength from behind the plate that the class has to offer. Physically impressive at 5-foot-11, 198-pounds, Dunhurst could very well show off some big raw power with his lefthanded stroke, but over his team’s doubleheader on Tuesday the No. 21 ranked player in the 2019 class showed off a solid gap-to-gap line drive approach and it was one that he executed beautifully. He consistently did a nice job of staying short and simple with his swing and proved willing to use the opposite field just as he did in the first game with a line drive double to the opposite field gap. The overall power will continue to come as he continues to incorporate additional lower half into his swing but for now it’s an advanced hit tool and noteworthy barrel skills for a player who hasn’t yet started his sophomore year.

It’s very well possible that uncommitted 2018 catcher Christopher Willis (Ruston, La.) leaves the tournament as the breakout star of the event and a pocket full of high-end offers. A couple things to consider: he more than looks the part at 6-foot-3, 185-pounds, he shows athleticism at a premium position and he’s a lefthanded hitter. After a light buzz around the name over the first few days Willis truly broke out in his team’s doubleheader on Tuesday as he went deep in the first game (first swing in the video) and then followed that blast up with a 4-for-4 performance later in the day with more than a handful premier programs looking on and dreaming about what he’d look like in their school’s colors.

A quarterback prospect in high school as well, Willis’ future certainly appears to be on the diamond, especially after the swings he put on the ball and the ease in which you can project the body. For a player of his stature the swing is incredibly short, yet powerful, and he shows an extreme handle for the barrel as he showed in the second swing in which he pulled the head it and ripped a line drive through the four-hole. He also showed off the comfort in going with a pitch just as he did in the final swing clip, picking up his third hit of the day with a line shot through the six-hole. When he hits the ball out front there’s plenty of natural leverage and quickness to his hands to help drive the ball just as he did on the home run and as he continues to fill out and take additional reps the finish product could very well be a top of the class type.

During the team’s first game Willis manned first base while Dunhurst suited up behind the plate, but in the second game Willis put the gear on and played what’s listed as his primary position. Though still refining the overall skills Willis is more than believable behind the plate right now with soft hands receiving and solid arm strength down to second base. Again, he’s also a high school’s quarterback.

Now listed at 6-foot, 175-pounds, and looking even taller on the mound, lefthander Jackson Kimbrell (Birmingham, Ala.) has grown a couple inches since my last viewing at the WWBA Freshman World Championship and as excepted the overall stuff has taken a step forward too. Still extremely projectable with a young overall look to the frame, Kimbrell topped out at 87 mph early in the game and lived in the 83-86 range, generating solid downhill plane from a high three-quarters slot when on top of the ball. There were some inconsistencies and bouts of scattered command, but as we’ve seen in so many other young, talented arms these guys are still growing, which means the mechanics are ever-evolving to keep up with the new bodies. Coming through the back Kimbrell’s arm action is short and quick and once he settled in he began to work either side of the plate with his heater, showing occasional cut or running life to the pitch. The go-to secondary for the uncommitted Kimbrell was his breaking ball, a pitch in the low-70s that showed late sweeping finish with 1-to-7 shape and more than once put to the back foot of a righthanded hitter for a swinging third strike.

We touched upon uncommitted righthander/third baseman Chad Knight (Westport, Conn.) in a prior recap and it’s worth rehashing that he Connecticut native possesses as much potential with the bat as he does on the mound. Strongly built at 6-foot, 195-pounds, Knight is more than on time with his leg lift trigger and does a nice job of getting his hands to a good launch position, allowing for a loud double off the Nike banner in left field, narrowly missing a home run by about five feet. The swing is short yet powerful and he’s certain to be a young bat that’ll be on college coach’s radar for the upcoming years.

Speaking of young uncommitted bats, 2019 outfielder Trent Letney (Spring, Texas) impressed on Tuesday with his lefthanded stick, and like Knight, shows two-way potential with arm strength that had produced an upper-80s fastball earlier in the tournament. Listed at 5-foot-9, 170-pounds, Letney appears to be more physical in person, but either way his lefthanded swing is short and he packs a lot of life into the barrel. Early in the day Letney overpowered a ball deep to center field despite getting out on his front side early, proving just how much strength there is in his swing. And like Willis above, Letney also showed comfort in working the opposite field with a hard line drive piece later in the night.

– Jheremy Brown

Opening the games in loud fashion was Louisville commit and shortstop Andrew Benefield (2018, Tenn.). Benefield single handedly turned in three extra-base hits starting with a double and then delivered a pair of towering home runs. The double left the bat at 93 mph, same with his first home run to left-center field, then followed with another that was 95 mph. The Cardinals commit has very impressive bat speed at the plate and was beyond locked in, driving the ball with ease pull side. His hands explode through the zone and work well to the ball with a positive launch angle.

A pair of FTB shortstops stood out on Tuesday as well. For the FTB Rockets 16u, shortstop Tyler McKenzie (2018, Fla.) The brother of Cleveland Indians righthander and 2014 PG All-American Triston McKenzie, Tyler showed very impressive actions up the middle. He ranged to both sides with ease showing a quick first step and lightning quick release from deep in the hole. The range he showed cannot be understated, starting deep closer to the bag, he tracked down a ball nearly on to the grass between the 5-6 hole and got it to first base on a bounce. His arm strength is still developing as is his frame. He’s listed at 6-foot-1, 165-pounds with almost endless amounts of room to continue to fill out. As he reaches physical maturity he’ll see his physical strength increase and see it translate at the plate as well.

Later on in the day, shortstop Nander De Sedas (2018, Fla.) shined up the middle for FTB55 Elite in their evening game. De Sedas jumped up a lot of radars after a strong showing offensively and defensively at the Junior National Showcase. In the second inning he waited back with a simple weight shift and worked his bat effortlessly through the zone, driving a ball that one-hopped the wall underneath the scoreboard in right-center. The switch hitter was only able to take cuts from the left side, but showed a line drive swing plane with good strength and loud contact off the barrel. Up the middle he did not disappoint either. He made a smooth charge at a ball tapped past the pitcher, and even with a slight bobble on the transfer he showed off his very quick release and plus arm strength to still make the tough play.

After picking up an impressive win in the early time slot, the Coast Titans remained undefeated and improved to 5-0-1 as they swept their doubleheader. In their second game they rolled out uncommitted righthander Zach Harlan (2017, Ala.). Harlan has a strong, physical presence on the mound at 6-foot, 195 pounds with good strength. He did not overpower his opposition with velocity, but worked well to both sides consistently at 84-86 mph and hit 87 with good, late arm-side life. He layed off bats, striking out eight batters over five no-hit innings. Harlan used a long arm action and landed online with a crossfire element across his body. Mixed a pair of off-speed pitches including a 12-to-6 curveball and a changeup. Both pitches got over for strikes and he showed a feel for mixing them and generating swings and misses. With little to no drive from his lower half, Harlan could see his velocity tick up slightly with improved lower half mechanics.

Uncommitted righthander Ethan Reed (2018, Calif.) took the mound for BPA Rawlings 2018 in the early afternoon slate. The righthander has lots of room to fill out his frame past his 6-foot-1, 155-pound listed size. He looked a tad taller on the mound as well and threw with a medium arm action and hook in the back of his circle. Reed showed developing arm strength on the mound with a crossfire element in his delivery, working over his plant leg. When he threw low in the zone, he let the heavy action on his 84-88 mph fastball work. The pitch had much more arm-side life and worked in tough on righthanded hitters. When he left it up, the ball flattened out and became much more hittable. He struggled repeating his release point but flashed enough ability to keep the ball low. His primary secondary pitch was his curveball, which showed softer shape. Developing a go-to pitch with two strikes will be essential in his development.

Moving into the afternoon games, over at Allatoona High School a matchup between the undefeated Team Elite 16’s Prime and the one loss Houston Banditos Santos loomed large for pool implications.

The Banditos sent out highly touted rightander Matthew Thompson (2019, Texas) who comes in as the No. 2 ranked player in the 2019 class and is already committed to Texas A&M. The highly athletic and projectable Thompson did not disappoint on the mound with an upbeat delivery. He worked with a longer arm action with some hook in the back and intent. The ball exploded out of his hand with good angle towards the plate when he worked downhill. He landed on a stiff front leg and fought his front side some with a very slight crossfire element. He held his velocity exceptionally well on the mound working in his 88-91 mph range consistently over his start and topped at 92 mph in the first. It’s an ultra-quick arm that generates easy speed down the mound. Thompson relied heavily on a sharp 11-to-5 breaking curveball with good late snap and from the same arm slot. It generated several swings and misses and looked like a potential plus pitch at 79 mph. Later on in the game he appeared to yank a couple with more traditional slider shape at 10-to-4 with some sweep and similar velocity. He in total elicited 13 swings and misses over six innings with seven strikeouts.

Coming in to face the Banditos for Team Elite in relief was third baseman and righthanded pitcher Ryder Green. Moving off of shortstop on to the mound for a stint, Green utilized a longer arm action with slight hook and threw from a three-quarters arm slot. He showed good arm strength on the mound, the same he has been showing from the left side of the infield, and worked his fastball 88-90 mph in the first inning. He worked across his body with a crossfire element that helped aid his deception. He had trouble locating his fastball that showed some late life at times, often leaving it up in the zone. He mixed in a curveball and changeup on the mound as well. He showed more feel for the curveball in the outing on Tuesday, up to 76 and flashed tightness.

Backing him up and closing out the win for Team Elite was fellow a Vanderbilt commit, 6-foot-6, 195-pound righthander Ethan Hankins (2018, Ga.). Hankins threw with the same impressive arm speed and relative ease on the mound for the second time in the tournament. Hankins worked downhill with a long arm action and very clean release. His fastball worked 90-93 mph with big life to his arm side and hit 94 mph, tying his record best. His changeup has come a long way in the past year with replicated arm speed and impressive fade.

University of Florida commit and righthanded pitcher Nick Pogue (2018, Fla.) has lots of projection remaining on the mound, listed at 6-foot-4, 190-pounds with loads of room to continue to fill out and add strength. His arm action was very long and loose through the back, but his effort at landing was a concern. As he continues to reach physically maturity and learn how to use his height to his advantage he’ll clean up his mechanics and see his velocity increase. The ball came out clean from his high three-quarters arm slot with good arm strength. His fastball worked, and held, at 85-87 mph and hit 88 mph on several occasions in his first two innings. When he worked downhill he saw good plane to the pitch and significantly more run to his arm side. The future Gator showed some feel for spin with a curveball that showed 12-to-6 shape and good depth. He struggled keeping it low in the zone letting the depth of the pitch work to garner a swing and miss and found it getting turned around and barreled.

NC State commit and righthanded pitcher Justin Bullock (2018, N.C.), toed the rubber for the East Coast Clippers (NC) White in their game against the Georgia Jackets with big playoff implications. The strongly built righthander, listed at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, is close to physically mature with good strength in his lower half. He has a bit of a multi-part delivery on the mound with a late front foot kick out before strike. There is both a hard stab and hook at the end of his arm action but it comes through well from a high three-quarters slot. Bullock landed closed with a short stride to the plate, but repeated the landing. His fastball worked 87-90 mph and hit 92 mph in the first inning. The better of his two off-speed pitches was a changeup thrown around 80 mph and showed some fade out of the hand. He slowed his arm for the changeup and his curveball that showed inconsistent bend. The changeup and fastball combination worked well generating weak contact and missing barrels.

– Matt Czechanski

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