Tournaments | Story | 7/24/2016

17u PGWS Day 3 Scout Notes

David Rawnsley         Gabe Ortiz        
Photo: Perfect Game

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Saturday morning dawned with plenty of breeze to at least temporarily whisk away some of the stifling desert heat and three outstanding matchups in the first time slot in T-Rex vs. GBG Marucci, the Orlando Scorpions vs. CBA Marucci and the EvoShield Canes vs BPA Rawlings.  In addition, two Perfect Game All-Americans, righthander Jeremiah Estrada (2017, Indio, Calif.) of CBA and lefthander MacKenzie Gore (2017, Whiteville, N.C.) of EvoShield were starting on the mound.

Estrada was outstanding for five shutout innings, striking out 11 Scorpion hitters while allowing only two hits before tiring at the start of the sixth inning.  Estrada pitched in the 91-94 mph range with his fastball and spotted it well to both sides of the plate while mixing in a pretty solid curveball.  The young Californian has established a pattern this summer of throwing with more effort and less command in showcase environments but toning down the effort in tournament settings such as this event and the 17u WWBA National Championship and really throwing well with equally good raw stuff.  It's a good lesson for young pitchers everywhere and of every talent level; sometimes less is more.

CBA pulled away late for a 6-0 victory.

Gore was just as effective for EvoShield, throwing a complete game two-hitter in the Canes 3-1 win, with the run being unearned.  Gore worked mostly between 88-91 mph from a very athletic and flexible delivery that features a big lower half turn to second base with a high leg kick and a very fast and loose arm coming through to the plate.  He also threw some quality sliders and struck out one hitter on a changeup but primarily relied on his fastball to get outs.  He'll likely have to cut down the rotation in his delivery at the next level, as he had trouble repeating his direction to the plate and had trouble getting the ball to his glove side as a result, but the arm is very, very projectable.

For as effective as the pair of All-Americans were on the mound, they were matched by a much less heralded prospect in T-Rex righthander Joseph Montenegro (2017, Farmer's Branch, Texas), who threw a two-hit shutout to lead T-Rex to a 5-0 win over GBG.  Montenegro was mentioned in these notes the first day after impressing in a brief inning of relief, where it was also noted that the 5-foot-11 righty did not have a college commitment according to the PG records.  Montenegro had the same stuff and the same command in a starting role, working consistently in the upper-80s and mixing in a slider and a changeup at times.  He was very aggressive challenging hitters early in counts and keeping his pitch count down.

Righthander Michael Weisberg (2017, Agoura Hills, Calif.) threw five shutout innings for GBG before his team's bullpen faltered late.  He is currently ranked 308th in the PG class rankings but does not have a college commitment.  Weisberg has more of a reliever's profile delivery with lots of moving parts and energy to release but his stuff is solid, with a fastball that bumped 90 mph and a hard curveball that hitters didn't appear to see at all.

All three games were still very much in question through the middle innings but little plays that were well executed made the difference, as they often do.  For EvoShield and CBA it was having the right player up in the right situation.

Canes’ second baseman Jeremy Arocho (2017, Glen Burne, Md.) and CBA outfielder Matthew Rudick (2017, San Diego, Calif.) are fundamentally the same player, the kind that has a very high baseball IQ and the ability to execute.  Rudick's opportunity came in a tie game when he stepped to the plate with a runner on third, one out and the Scorpions choosing to bring the infield in.  I turned to the person next to me and said, "If there is one player in this tournament you can't bring the infield in for, it's this guy.  He's going to hit the first strike softly up the middle for an RBI single."  And sure enough, that's exactly what happened.  Arocho's situation was just about the same.  He came up in a tie game with one out and the bases loaded and promptly lifted the first pitch into left field for a run scoring sacrifice fly.  There simply wasn't any way either of those two ball players weren't going to execute in those situations.

Both players are committed to local schools; Arocho to Maryland and Rudick to San Diego State.

This scout has been trying to figure out Academy Select Sun Devils third baseman Brett Cain (2017, China Spring, Texas) since he hit leadoff in the first Sun Devils game.  The first thing that drew attention was that there was a 6-foot-5, 195-pound leadoff hitter who appeared to run very well.  The second thing is that Cain had a very unusual hitting stance, especially for a tall hitter, with a severe knee bend and a 90 degree hinge in his waist that essentially took away all the leverage that came with his 6-foot-5 frame.  But Cain has hit the ball hard and often in four games, going 6-for-13 with six runs scored and no strikeouts, with one of those hits being a towering triple to deepest center field.  He has very quick hands to hit with his long levers in that approach and one has to wonder what he would hit like with a taller approach.  A little research shows that Cain is a three-sport standout (football, basketball) who is an excellent student but who doesn't have a college commitment.  He'd be a very interesting development project for the right program.

Two catchers who have stood out overall are Seth Caddell (2017, Carthage, N.C.) of the EvoShield Canes and Troy Claunch (2017, Vacaville, Calif.) of NorCal.  Caddell has swung the bat especially well, going 5-for-13 with a triple and coming up with a number of key base hits for the 4-0 Canes.  Claunch has been especially impressive on defense, where his quickness and very strong arm are on display, especially in registering a couple of sub 2.0-second pop times to throw out runners.  Caddell is an East Carolina commit, while Claunch is set to attend Oregon State.

We mentioned righthander John Dearth (2017, West Covina, Calif.) on the first day after a strong outing on the mound but the strong righthanded hitter deserves mention for his  prowess at the plate.  Dearth went 3-for-4 with a pair of triples and six RBI, leading his San Gabriel Valley Arsenal team to a high scoring 10-8 win over the Diamondbacks Scout Team.  A coach at San Diego State, where Dearth is committed, had mentioned to me earlier that Dearth was named player of the year in his high school league this spring more because of his bat than his work on the mound and he proved prophetic at this event.

PG All-Americans, shortstop Jayson Gonzalez (2017, Covina, Calif.) and third and first baseman Jacob Gonzalez (2017, Scottsdale, Ariz.), are both here, playing for BPA Rawlings and T-Rex Baseball, respectively. 

Jayson Gonzalez has been in somewhat of a slump at major events thus far this summer, after absolutely dominating many events last summer, but may have broken out of it today by blasting a mammoth three-run home run that exited field four about 30 feet to the left of the batter's eye in center field.

Jacob Gonzalez, on the other hand, has been en fuego, going 8-for-13 and scoring six runs for the 4-0 T-Rex team, including a 4-for-4 effort in Saturday afternoon's game against the Dallas Patriots that included both a double and a triple.  The key to Gonzalez' success has been an increasing willingness to use his plus strength to drive the ball hard to the middle of the field instead of looking to pull everything.

Speaking of hot hitters, no one is hotter than CBA Marucci's shortstop Tyler Freeman (2017, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.).  Freeman went 3-for-6 with two doubles and three RBI in CBA's two victories Saturday, making him 7-for-11 with five extra base hits, seven RBI and three walks in four games.

– David Rawnsley

Dallas Patriots lefthander Tyler Thomas (2017, Keller, Texas) was terrific in his outing on Saturday, throwing five innings of shutout ball while whiffing eight.  The medium-sized lefty  showed a smooth, repeatable delivery, with  a short, fluid  and efficient arm action from a high three-quarters slot.   Thomas was at 86-87 with the FB, even touching 88 mph in the first inning before settling in 82-85 range for duration of his outing. The Baylor commit was able to change hitters’ eye levels with his fastball while working the upper and lower quadrants of the zone effectively.  Thomas' curveball and his ability to command the pitch baffled Mountain West hitters all day.  His curveball had 11-to-5 tilt that was tight with late breaking action that really complimented his fastball well.

T-Rex lefthander Russell Smith (2017, Midlothian, Texas) is every bit of his listed 6-foot-9, 220-pound frame and oozes projection.  Despite his size, Smith is a pretty solid athlete and his delivery has nice tempo and direction to the plate.  Smith had some command issues early in the game due to a hard front side but made the adjustment after a long first inning and threw six innings.  The TCU commit relied mostly on his fastball, sitting in the upper-80s and touching 91 mph in the first inning.

North East Baseball has solid hitter in first baseman Blake Diggle (2017, Mountain View, Calif.).  Diggle has a strong, burly frame with the look of a prototypical middle-of-the-order run producer.  The uncommitted lefthanded hitter showed very good plate discipline in not expanding zone and his upper half has nice rhythm to help his timing, enabling him to have good flow and be on time on virtually every pitch.  Diggle has some lift in his swing and swings hard with good bat speed.  He had two hard contacts today, including a ringing double to right-center field.

Mountain West catcher Copper Hansen (2017, Riverton, Utah) showed some very good catch-and-throw skills by popping a 1.86 in the game.   He has a sturdy frame and at 6-foot, 180-pounds moves well laterally on balls in the dirt and sets a wide and low target behind the plate.  Hansen's quick in all his actions will serve him well at the next level.  He is uncommitted at this point.

– Gabe Ortiz

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