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Friday, March 17, 2017

Spring League Week 1 Preview

Steve James        

Saturday marks the opening day of the 22nd annual Iowa Spring League.  Year in and year out the top players in Iowa compete in the Iowa Spring League to face top competition and to get exposure.  Iowa runs their high school season in the summer, so the Iowa Spring League provides the venue for players to be seen before the draft in June.  Here is a preview of what's to come this weekend and the rest of the spring.

Probst and Swanda making jumps

Nebraska commits Ben Probst (2017 - Dowling Catholic) and John Swanda (2017 - Roosevelt) have put in the work and have made good jumps in velocity this winter.  Probst was at the PG Pitcher/Catcher Indoor Showcase in February and was impressive at 89-91 MPH with a quick easy arm action.  That was in his 3rd bullpen of the year so it made his performance even more impressive.  It stands to reason the velocity will continue to climb throughout the spring with the clean arm action and more time on the mound.  His off-speed stuff and command have improved so time will tell where he ends up at the end of the spring.

Swanda was recruited as a two-way player at Nebraska as a shortstop and as a pitcher.  The past couple seasons he's been relied upon more as a shortstop with his ability to make all the plays defensively and top of the order bat.  He made 5 starts on the mound for his high school team last summer, and was used primarily as a closer for the Iowa Select Black team in the fall.  He showed signs of being more of a pro prospect on the mound last fall and with good reason.  From late August of 2015 until now he's made steady jumps in velocity.  From the Midwest Top Prospect Showcase in 2015 until now he's jumped from 81 MPH to 90 MPH.  We've heard reports he's been more than that in bullpens this off-season.  The body and delivery project well with athleticism and looseness and a work ethic to boot.

Ono-Fullard's bat

Izaya Ono-Fullard (2017 - Iowa City West) is fresh off a state championship run in basketball where he was a key player to that team.  On the baseball side of things he's the best hitter in the state of Iowa in my opinion.  Ono-Fullard has been the 3 or 4 hitter on the Iowa Select Black and Navy teams the past 2 seasons and has consistently hit high level pitching.  It'll be interesting to see how that hit tool has improved now that basketball season is over.  Ono-Fullard also plays a sound 3B with soft hands and arm strength up to 86 MPH.  He's uncommitted yet and someone will be getting a steal with his ability to handle the bat.

Improvement of the 2018 arms

The 2018 class has shown to be an extremely talented and deep class on the mound.  There are already 4 Division One committed pitchers with potentially as many as 15 guys who end up committing out of high school.  I haven't seen a class with this many high level arms in the 12 years I've been at Perfect Game.

Iowa commit Clayton Nettleton (2018 - Davenport West) was pitching pretty steady at 88 MPH indoors last weekend.  He's been up to 90 mph last fall and projects for even more.

Iowa commit Luke Patzner (2018 - Urbandale) has been up to 91 MPH last year and projects for more.  I'm interested to see how his off-speed stuff has developed this off-season.

Arizona State commit Connor Van Scoyoc (2018 - Cedar Rapids Jefferson) was up to 91 mph in the 2016 Spring League.  He had a bad sprained ankle last summer which effected his delivery which led to a few bad habits.  He's been working really hard this off-season at the PG facility on regaining the consistent delivery he had last spring.  The bullpen I saw him throw last week was very impressive with velocity and command of a heavy sinking fastball.  If he continues to pitch like he has been in bullpens - watch out!

Nic McCay (2018 - Carlisle) has made steady improvements over the past couple seasons and has been up to 88 MPH this winter.  He's shown a sharp curveball with depth that should get plenty of swings and misses this spring.

Jacob Bockenstedt (2018 - Cedar Rapids Washington) is another arm that has made steady improvements.  He's made an adjustment with his curveball this winter that has given it tighter spin and more shape to it.  The velocity was up to 88 MPH in his last bullpen last fall, and he's made improvements to his consistency.

Tony Comellas (2018 - Iowa City West) has made velocity jumps to go with some strength gains this winter.  The velocity will continue to rise as there's plenty more room for strength in his frame.  He's also a quality hitter who should be a two-way guy at the next level.

Jarrett Blunt (2018 - Ottumwa) was up to 86 MPH at the end of last fall and with his quick arm there's more velocity to come.  He looked good indoors on Sunday and should continue to improve throughout the spring.

Trever Brown (2018 - Don Bosco) pitched well last fall for the Iowa Select Navy topping out at 85 mph.  There's more in there and the body projects well too.

Austin Krob (2018 - Lisbon) looked good Sunday indoors pitching steady at 84 MPH touching an 85.  He throws it easy and projects for more with a few adjustments.

Will Nigut (2018 - Roosevelt) pitched at 81-84 mph last fall for the Iowa Select Navy team and the body projects well. Reports of him pitching at 83-85 mph this winter aren't a surprise and my guess is he keeps on climbing the ladder this spring.

Look for the Spring League weekend recap this Monday to see who had a good opening weekend!  Also follow @SteveJamesPG on Twitter for highlights as they happen.  It's going to be interesting to see which players start to make a name for themselves this spring and which players who improve their draft stock for the June draft.  Stay tuned.

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