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Tournaments | Story | 7/15/2016

16u WWBA Day 7 Scout Notes

Jheremy Brown      Matt Czechanski     
Photo: Perfect Game

Day 1 Notes
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The performance that 2018 lefthander Brandon Neeck (Chappaqua, N.Y.) turned in Thursday morning is of little surprise, even against a potent offense like the one the Houston Banditos threw his way. After all, he’s the second ranked lefthander and No. 21 ranked player overall in the nation. In a tournament full of ultra-projectable and highly talented arms, Neeck finds himself close to the top of both categories as he stands at a very young 6-foot-1, 165-pound frame with narrow shoulders and a long, projectable build.

But don’t let the frame fool you as the University of Virginia commit came out in full attack mode against the Banditos offense, regularly challenging with a fastball that sat at 88-90 mph, bumping 91, early on. The combination of physical build and arm action are things you can point to and immediately say “he’s going to throw a lot harder.” Working exclusively out of the stretch, Neeck’s arm action is incredibly fast and clean with which he does a nice job to create solid angle on the heater while showing the ability to work either side of the plate with intent. Of the many swings and misses with his fastball, several looked of the uncomfortable variety despite Neeck working steadily off of his heater. Though he didn’t show it often the young lefthander’s slider, a mid- to upper-70s pitch, proved to be a second quality offering with short and tight life, but what was even more impressive was his comfort to work the pitch in during a matchup against a lefthanded hitter.

Sticking with the theme of hard throwing, ultra-projectable arms, Vanderbilt commit and righthanded pitcher Luke Murphy (Springfield, Tenn.) also threw Thursday morning and came out pumping the best heat Perfect Game has seen from him thus far. With a previous high of 88 mph marked in his profile, the 159th ranked player nationally in the 2018 class came out working rather comfortably at 90-91 mph in the first frame before settling into the upper-80s for the next couple of innings. The frame is ideal with a long and lean 6-foot-4, 170-pound build and it offers plenty of projection as the arm is extremely fast with an overall sense of quick-twitch athleticism. Though he cuts off pretty early with his strike foot, which forces him to work against his front side some, it also helps create solid life to his fastball which could eventually turn into big time heavy sink. The ball comes out of his hand cleanly and it’s easy to envision another jump or two in terms of velocity to go along with both a curveball and slider, the latter of which worked upwards of 81 mph with tight rotation.

Yet another talented Mississippi State commit, 2018 righthander Chance Denson (Collinsville, Miss.), got the ball for the East Coast Sox and did his part to ultimately help his team advance to the Final Four. Powerfully built at 6-foot-3, 210-pounds, Denson consistently sat in the upper-80s with his fastball and proved capable of reaching back for an extra tick or two went needed, peaking as high as 90 mph in this start, up from his previous best of 85 mph at a Perfect Game event. The arm action is very full but fluid coming through the back side as he works to a higher release point, but Denson consistently worked on top of the ball generating solid plane to the lower quadrants of the zone with solid extension out front. Currently ranked 298th in the class, Denson was able to create the velocity rather easily without exerting much effort and shows short sinking life down in the zone. The best pitch however was his slider, an upper-70s pitch that should rather easily develop into an out pitch at the next level with very tight rotation and short two-plane tilt. He also flashed a few changeups in the upper-70s, mimicking the arm action of his fastball while generating subtle fading life to his arm side.

An uncommitted rising senior, infielder Spencer Harbert (Middletown, Del.) impressed with his righthanded swing early in the day and helped pad the Tri State lead over the Banditos with a deep drive that cleared the center fielder’s head. Showing no trouble in handling velocity, Harbert drove an elevated 90 mph fastball deep to the fence for what ended up being a bases-clearing double with very loud contact coming off the barrel.

Though he didn’t quite show the velocity that he did earlier in the tournament, Texas A&M commit and lefthander Joseph Menefee (Richmond, Texas) still impressed and looks to have the makings of yet another big-time arm in the 2018 class. The future Aggie looks much taller and stronger than his listed 6-foot, 200-pound frame, and Menefee doesn’t appear to be done growing which means his stuff is only going to continue to tick up with could prove trouble for the opposition.

The first thing I took notice of with Menefee, aside from the strength, was the balance and rhythm he showed throughout his delivery, repeating very well which in turn allowed for quality strikes as the outing wore on. Opening up in the 86-88 mph range, which held throughout for the most part, Menefee begins his delivery with a full over-the-head hand path before breaking into a clean arm action with a high three-quarters release point, helping to create angle on the heater. With each passing inning Menefee’s overall command continued to sharpen all the while showing the same easy arm action, pounding the fastball to his arm side repeatedly, though he was also able to bust hitters in when needed. Almost as impressive was his overall feel for the breaking ball, a sharp low- to mid-70s pitch that offered plenty of depth and he continually back-doored the pitch to righthanded hitters, doing so with relative ease.

Menefee’s a no doubt two-way player at the next level as well showing a big stick from the left side and solid overall athleticism. With a balanced weight shift and plenty of intent in his swing, Menefee displayed some of that strength with a loud and long double to the opposite field, and on top of it all, he also made a diving catch out in right field on a sinking life drive.

Tyler Callihan (Neptune Beach, Fla.) is one of several young, talented players on the Central Florida Gators and despite just coming off of his freshman year of high school Callihan has a set of tools that college coaches have taken note of. Of them all, though, it’s his lefthanded bat that’ll end up being his calling card as his hands are plenty quick from the left side and he’s shown no problem catching up to velocity this week including on a sinking 88 mph fastball that he put back up the box with little hesitation.

Lefthander Matthew Liberatore (Peoria, Ariz.) checks nearly every box college recruiters look for in a young pitching prospect and he’s currently one of the top uncommitted arms in all of the 2018 class. Standing at 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, Liberatore obviously has the size and strength to project as a starting arm at the next level, though he’ll undoubtedly get stronger which in turn will lead to bigger velocity down the road.

As it stands now Liberatore is regularly runs his fastball up to 90 mph, and though he sat more 85-88 in his most recent start he still impressed the slew of recruiting coordinators looking on. For an pitcher who’s 6-foot-3, Liberatore shows solid balance to his delivery along with a long and loose arm action that helps produce the aforementioned velocity with relative ease. Showing angle to his fastball, the Arizona native proved capable of working to either side of the plate with occasional running life and did an especially nice job of pounding his glove side with a lefthanded hitter in the box. Liberatore’s true weapon pitch however is his tight spinning, low-70s curveball, which continued to develop with each inning and began to throw for strikes almost at will. The depth to pitch is quality, as is the feel for back door it on righthanded hitters, just as he did for a called third strike in the second inning. To round out the arsenal Liberatore also flashed a changeup at 79-80 mph, and while he’ll continue to refine a consistent release point on the pitch, when he stayed on top and online he was able to show nice fading life to it.

– Jheremy Brown

As playoff day at LakePoint took off, a big upset was dealt as MSI Bubba 16u toppled the EvoShield Canes in part of the effort put forth by uncommitted righthander Anthony Sasso (2018, N.J.). Sasso has a smaller frame with good strength and long limbs. He landed closed and threw from a three-quarters arm slot with a long arm action and stab at the end of his arm circle. At times he lost his release point, but was effectively wild on the mound and generated a lot of weak contact and layed off the Canes’ barrels. He utilized a drop-and-drive element to his delivery with some long lever action. Sasso’s fastball worked 85-87 mph and hit 88 with very slight wiggle. When he worked downhill he showed better angle to the ball and saw the ball work in tough to righthanded hitters. Sasso’s curveball showed above average spin up to 77 mph with some downward bite. The pitch flashed depth, also breaking up out of his hands at times. He showed a third pitch as well on the mound with a straight changeup that got up to 80 mph.

University of Florida commit, righthander pitcher and outfielder Mason Denaburg (2018, Fla.) has continued to show why he is one of the highest rated members of the 2018 class. In their opening game against the Jacksonville Warriors, Denaburg took the ball for the Gators and fired five strong innings on the mound allowing only one run. He showed the same longer arm action with slight spine tilt at delivery with good downhill drive. His fastball worked up to 92 mph and sat in the upper-80s, not dipping below 87 mph. The pitch shows heavy arm-side sink when it’s at its best and pounding in the lower third. He also continues to show feel for an upper-70s slider with late bite. Denaburg also thoroughly impressed at the plate on Thursday collecting a pair of loud base hits. He uses his size and strength well in his swing and makes very consistent, hard contact off his barrel.

On an adjacent quad, Georgia Jackets National 15u starter Nathan Camp (2018, Ga.) took the mound in their round two playoff matchup against the East Cobb Astros. The crafty righthander has a young, slender build with room to continue to fill out. His arm action was short, compact, and repeatable. The quick arm worked well from a three-quarters arm slot and mixed a pair of quality pitches on the mound. He landed online and flashed ability to get downhill. He worked six strong innings with a fastball that worked up to 87 mph and showed late wiggle. He struggled repeating his release point, but flashed a quality slider as well with big depth up to 77 mph with good spin.

A standout through three of the games played on Thursday was Knights Platinum shortstop Jake Rucker (2018, Tenn.). Rucker was exceptionally solid up the middle for the Knights with sure hands and impressive range. He made a very impressive diving stop in their second game and showed a strong arm across the infield. At the plate, he showed a simple swing that was compact through the zone. He showed the ability to impact the ball off the barrel consistently and get it to all fields.

Vanderbilt commit Ryan Weathers (2018, Tenn.) took the mound for the Dulin Dodgers in their second playoff game. The big, physical lefthander looks taller than his listed 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame would suggest with room to add strength. He threw from an extended three-quarters arm slot with intent and across his front side. Weathers used a quick, compact arm action with some wrist wrap through his arm circle. The ball came out clean with moderate effort and some recoil at delivery. He worked around the zone effectively throwing over 75 percent of his pitches for strikes and a fastball that comfortably sat between 87-90 mph and hit 91. The pitch had good riding life and was used the most effectively when thrown up in the zone with two strikes. There was not a lot of lower half drive in his delivery with little weight shift to his backside before coming towards the plate with good arm strength on the mound as well. He relied heavily on his curveball that worked around the zone with 1-to-7 break and hit 77 mph with good depth. The curveball showed average spin, but the ability to get it over for strikes and from the same arm slot allowed it to play up.

For Tri State Arsenal, Clemson commit and shortstop Charles Mack (2018, N.Y.) continued to stand out at the plate. Collecting an additional pair of base hits in Tri State’s second playoff game, Mack found the barrel with a line drive swing plane and strength in his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame. He uses a simple shift with a slight hitch in his swing, but gets on plane and times up fastballs with intent. He drove a loud double down the line that left the bat at 89 mph with a compact hand path to the ball. Later in the game he found the barrel again, this time on an 84 mph fastball, turning it around at 93 mph off the bat and into left field.

Helping lead FTB55 Elite to their quarterfinal game was USF commit, outfielder and lefthanded pitcher Brady Allen (2018, Fla.). Allen uncorked a home run to deep left-center field to break their tie game in the fifth inning, leaving the bat at 99 mph and going an estimated 350 feet from home plate. Allen has a simple swing through the zone with a slightly stiff hand load and good bat speed. He creates leverage through his lower half and gets extended well out front to drive the ball off the barrel. In their actual quarterfinal game, Allen again connected for a loud base hit, this time a double that left the bat at 99.6 mph. His hands work quickly through the zone and showed the ability to crush balls when on time. Allen, also highly touted as a pitcher, showed off a strong arm from right field recording the rare 9-3 put out at first base in their second game.

Starting the quarterfinal game for the Central Florida Gators was uncommitted righthander Carter Stewart (2018, Fla.). The righthander will likely not remain uncommitted for long with a very projectable frame that far exceeds his listed 5-foot-9, 190-pound measurements. Likely standing closer to 6-foot-3, Stewart showed a very long, loose arm action with tremendous projection remaining. He stayed tall through his backside with minimal drive from his lower half and showed the ability to create angle with his fastball. He threw easy with good arm strength up to 89 mph, consistently holding in the upper-80s. The pitch occasionally showed flat up in the zone, but had slight wiggle to his arm side. He occasionally showed natural cut when working glove side, but effectively got to both sides of the plate with the pitch. What was far more impressive than his fastball was his curveball that hit up to 77 mph that showed tremendous depth and very tight spin. The spin rate on his curveball topped 2900 RPM, per TrackMan Baseball. That quality of spin and his build and arm strength make him a very high ceiling pitching prospect. In his outing, he tossed five shutout innings and struck out four batters, walking none.

Few players show as much natural ability on a baseball field like uncommitted shortstop Nander De Sedas (2018, Fla.). Playing for FTB55 Elite, De Sedas continued that promise with a spectacular defensive play up the middle. He dove to his left with a very quick first step to the ball, snagged it and flipped it to his second basemen to start a double play. The baseball instincts and defensive feel to stay up the middle with supreme athleticism and arm strength from the left side. At the plate is a slightly more unpolished product, but it flashes. His bat speed allows him to compensate with a quick barrel and line drive plane. At the moment he’s susceptible to spin outside and low, but through refinement and pitch recognition he should learn to lay off on those. When he makes contact the ball jumps off his barrel and shows the ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways.

– Matt Czechanski

There’s little doubt at this point that Nolan Gorman (2018, Ariz.) is one of the very top hitting prospects in the entire nation, given what he’s done offensively against some of the best competition the country has to offer, both this week at 16u WWBA National Championship and last week at 17u. He homered twice on Thursday, once on a high arching shot to left-center field (opposite gap), and again on a missile rising line drive to the pull field. His hand speed is nearly unbelievable considering he’s only 16 years old, and the leverage he creates at contact is outstanding. He’s also a pretty underrated athlete, clocking consistently between 4.1-4.3 seconds down the line, solid speed for a lefthanded hitter, while playing shortstop at a quality level for the Central Florida Gators. He projects to be a third baseman at the next level – be that collegiately at Arizona or professionally – but should absolutely be a solid one. The bat, however, is the carrying tool here, and it’s among the very best in the country in the absolutely loaded class of 2018.

Carter Raffield (2018, Ga.), a physical rising junior at 6-foot-4, 215-pounds, absolutely looks the part of a future hard-throwing starting pitcher, and he took strides towards that projection on Thursday. Topping out at 91 mph a few times early in the game, he settled in at 87-90, showing solid arm-side life on the pitch and being pretty tough to square up when commanded down in the strike zone thanks to a combination of raw velocity, movement, plane and extension. He is inconsistent in repeating his delivery at the moment, struggling to get over his front side at times and missing up and to the arm side as a result, but when balanced in the delivery his raw stuff is powerful. He showed quality feel to spin his slider as well, showing tight two-plane break at times, getting a handful of swings and misses as a result.

Opposing Raffield to start off the game for the Coast Titans was Gabriel Shepard (2018, Ala.), a 6-foot, 180-pound uncommitted righthanded pitcher. From an athletic build with projection remaining, Shepard showed impressive arm speed and worked 87-89 mph with his fastball, and despite a good amount of effort at release he showed a quality feel for the strike zone with three pitches. He elevated the fastball at will to get swinging strikes, and the pitch was highlighted by excellent riding life up in the zone. He also flashed a slider with shorter break but good spin and depth, and he also showed a quality fading changeup with arm speed deception and big movement at the plate.

Shortstop Jeremiah Jackson (2018, Ala.) is committed to Mississippi State and has some of the most intriguing upside in of the event. Highly athletic and supremely projectable at 6-foot, 165-pounds, Jackson shows upside with all five tools, especially with the bat. With a swing geared for all-fields contact with the right amount of loft to project for power, Jackson is capable of driving the ball deep to all fields, and the home run power will undoubtedly come with increased strength. He powered a ball deep into right field that was eventually caught, and followed that up by driving one into the right-center field gap for extra bases, gliding around the base paths with advanced speed. He’s quality at shortstop too, with clean hands and smooth actions overall and the necessary athleticism and twitch to project up the middle, highlighted by excellent arm strength, not only for the shortstop position but on the mound as well, where he touched 90 mph.

The East Coast Sox Diamond have made an outstanding run in the 16u WWBA National Championship, reaching the Final Four heading into Friday’s semifinal action, and they’ve done so with a combination of timely hitting, excellent pitching, and defense. Center fielder Josh Hall (2018, Ala.) has arguably the best raw speed in the entire country, and it shows both with the bat and in the field. His offensive game is of the slap-and-run variety, highlighted by lots of bunt base hits, but everyone else in the country would be bunting more too if they could get down the line in 3.6 seconds or less, like Hall can. On several occasions Thursday, Hall had evaluators and coaches staring at their stopwatches, mouths agape, looking at numbers like 3.54 and 3.57. It’s game-changing speed, the type you have to gameplan for.

J.T. Ginn (2018, Miss.) has been mentioned in these recaps before, but bears repeating just due to the arm speed and arm strength he possesses on the mound, as someone who projects to throw extremely hard at maturity. Blessed with outstanding arm speed, Ginn has touched as high as 94 mph at this event already, but worked 89-91 mph late Thursday night to close out a quarterfinal victory for the Sox. The fastball is not only firm but has excellent late life, and is close to unhittable when commanded in the zone. He also shows a slider with late tilt and quality fading changeup, giving him big-time upside on the mound, though the Mississippi State commitment is listed as a primary shortstop.

The winning pitcher in last week’s 17u WWBA championship game, lefthander Jonathan Gates (2018, Fla.) took the mound in playoff action for FTB on Thursday evening and won again. With a clean arm stroke and delivery that, though not without effort is very repeatable, Gates shows an advanced arsenal of pitches, all with advanced command for being only a rising junior. His fastball worked 85-88 mph with good life to the arm side, and he showed the ability to get it to both sides of the plate. He mixes in his off-speed stuff early and often, keeping hitters off balance and never seeming to give the same look to a hitter twice. The curveball is sharp with 1-to-7 shape and power depth, often buried down in the zone and swung over the top of. His changeup feel is very advanced for his age, replicating his arm speed well and showing excellent fading action at the plate, a weapon vs. both handedness of hitter. He’s committed to Miami, and should he make it there, looks to be a future rotation weapon for the Canes.

– Brian Sakowski

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