Tournaments | Story | 9/30/2017

Kernels Day 2 Scout Notes

Patrick Ebert         Kevin Schuver         Perfect Game Tournament Staff        
Photo: Perfect Game

2017 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship: Daily Leaders
 | Day 1 Notes

Day 2 of the Kernels Foundation started off with a couple of top pitching prospects throwing for the reigning champs, the Minnesota Blizzard Blue. Their 6-foot-1, 200-pound starter, PG All-American Seth Halvorsen (2018, Plymouth, Minn.), was nearly untouchable, and the Missouri commit showed everyone why he’s ranked 27th in the nation. He stays balanced throughout making his delivery easily repeatable, and gets good downhill plane on his fastball that topped out at 94. He gets ahead early in counts and toys with hitters, making them guess between a fire fastball and an 11-to-5 curveball that has nasty late movement. He is able to command both pitches easily, and bounces his curveball in the dirt when he’s up on hitters getting them to chase. Halvorsen finished his day with five innings pitched and surrendered just two hits and an unearned run.

Coming on in relief for the Blizzard was another top-ranked hurler, Aidan Maldonado (2018, Rosemount, Minn.). Maldonado, a 6-foot 170-pound righthander, was just as good in relief. He finished the final two innings and surrendered just three hits and allowed one run. He uses a three-pitch arsenal that he’s able to command well. He pounded the zone with his upper-80s fastball that topped out at 91 mph early in counts and later he used a tight-spinning slider that has good lateral movement to it. He also mixed in a sinking changeup to keep hitters guessing.

In a tight game for the Iowa Select Black 2019 team they collected just five total hits in their 3-2 victory. Two of them came from 6-foot, 175-pound shortstop Sam Link (2019, Dubuque, Iowa). Link, who has an athletic build and has smooth movements in the field, is also a solid two-hole hitter. He works counts well and waits to get his pitch, and when he does he’s able to barrel it up more often than not. He has a slight pull-side approach, driving one ball to left field and the left-center gap for a single and a double. Link should be a valuable top-of-the-order, middle infield presence down the road.

The starter for the Iowa Select team was another top performer on the mound during the second day of the tourney. The 6-foot, 170-pound Richard Atkins (2019, Marion, Iowa) is the top-ranked lefty in Iowa in his class. He went four solid innings and didn’t allow a single hit. Two walks in the game would be his only flaw as one would come around to score on an infield error. Atkins is able to command his fastball well to both sides of the plate. With some arm-side run Atkins can run it away to righties or bring it in on the hands to lefties. When paired with his sweeping curveball he had an effective 1-2 punch working for him, collecting five strikeouts, two of which were looking, in his four innings.

The Nebraska Prospects-Kenny showed up at their pool play game ready to play. Wyatt Andersen (2019, Minden, Iowa) was the offensive standout, helping to lead his team to a 5-2 victory. Andersen isn’t the biggest guy on the field but he will generate good power at the plate, especially when he’s able to get around the ball and pull it. He collected two hard, line drive doubles, both down the left field line, plating a run. Andersen has a smooth line drive bat path and is able to elevate the ball with good power that he generates from his strong lower half.

The 5-foot-9, 150-pound righty Zach Firmature (2018, Omaha, Neb.) was another pitcher that shined on Day 2. Firmature was a huge reason the Nebraska Prospects were able to grab a victory, as he delivered five shutout innings and allowed just four baserunners. He won’t blow hitters away but he is able to do is deceive them. Firmature has pretty long arms for his size and he creates a big arm circle in back allowing him to hide the ball for a long time. That, along with his ability to keep his fastball around the zone, helps him get a lot of weak contact. His 11-to-5 curveball with good depth is a pitch that is coming along and is a promising secondary pitch.

On a day that the Hitters Baseball team had a powerhouse offense, none stood out more than A.J. Vukovich (2020, Mukwonago, Wis.). He started his game off on the wrong foot, having a rough plate appearance that ended in a strikeout. After that, however, Vukovich did what he does more often than not: hit the ball hard. He was able to show a good ability to hit the ball the other way with really good power, as he hit one of the loudest balls of the day deep into the right-center field gap for a long double. He also showed off another promising tool, his speed, as he was able to beat out a bunt for a single. Vukovich is one of the younger players in the tournament so his ability to hit the ball with such ease is amplified even more by the fact that he’s doing it off guys that are two years older than he is. That’s a great sign that the young infielder and Louisville commit has a bright future ahead of him.

– Taylor Weber

2020 lefthander Ryan Stefiuk (Green Bay, Wis.) entered the fifth inning in a game in which his team, the GRB Rays, trailed Longshots Baseball Teal 1-0. It should be pointed out that Stefiuk is a high school sophomore, and one that hasn’t even played yet during his spring season, and has already verbally committed to Vanderbilt. It’s easy to see why physically, with an already strong 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame that projects for more strength. While he got touched up for five runs, four of which were earned, he did a nice job settling down in his second inning of work as he commanded his 83-84 mph fastball much better, which allowed him to get his 66-68 mph curveball over for strikes. He peaked at 86 just two weeks ago at the WWBA Midwest Underclass Qualifier, so the present-day stuff matches his stature and overall profile.

Stefiuk relieved fellow lefty Reagan Klawiter (2019, Verona, Wis.) who didn’t allow a base hit and only one unearned run in four innings, striking out seven while showing good command of a low-80s fastball and a breaking ball that hovered right around 70 mph. Klawiter started opposite of righthander Ryan Jemar (2018, Bourbonnais, Ill.) of the Longshots team, who allowed just two base hits in six scoreless frames keeping the GRB hitters guessing while mixing between his upper-70s to low-80s fastball and hard-spinning mid-60s curveball. Jemar did a very nice job commanding both pitches, challenging hitters to swing the bat early in the count while letting his defense behind him do their work.

Hits were also hard to come by for the Wisconsin Panthers, at least through the first four innings as they opposed Reds Scout Team righthander Caleb Larson (2018, Wheaton, Ill.) at Iowa’s Duane Banks Field in Iowa City. Larson was sharp during that time, as he hadn’t allowed a base hit or a walk up to that point, doing a nice job keeping the Panthers hitters off-balance by commanding his 86-87 mph fastball well, which set up his sharp 72-73 mph curveball. With a loose and athletic 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame, it’s easy to project him adding a tick or two to his fastball as he physically matures at the University of Illinois.

A walk, the first base hit he allowed and some shaky defense proved to be the undoing for Larson and the Reds Scout Team in the fifth as the Panthers put a three-spot on the board and tied the game up, ending Larson’s day on the mound after five still solid innings of work. The game ended 3-3, although both teams won their other pool play games on Saturday with one more to play on Sunday.

The physicality of the Reds position players is obvious, as it looks as though they could just as easily strap on pads and take to the gridiron. Michigan State commit Zaid Walker (2018, Homewood, Ill.) especially jumped out early in the Reds’ first game game by smoking a double down the left field line, driving in a run. He added a hard line drive out to left field later in the game as the ball jumped off his bat in his first two at-bats. At 6-foot-2, 215-pounds he is quite the physical specimen, with a good amount of visible strength and athleticism throughout his frame with the ability to turn on good fastballs for extra-base hits. He added another hard-hit RBI hit to left field in the Reds second game of the day with a dead-red approach at the plate. How he adjusts to, and eventually handles, breaking balls will be a big determining factor moving forward.

After the Reds fell behind 1-0 in the top of the third inning of the second game their bats came alive, getting a pair of runs on the board in the bottom of the frame thanks to three big hits.

Luke Mann (2018, St. Louis, Mo.) kicked things off by crushing the hardest hit ball at Duane Banks Field on the day, a ball that was hit halfway up the outfield wall in right-center field, not far from the 396-foot marker in straightaway center. Mann did an excellent job getting his hands in and using his strength and leverage to impact the ball as hard as he did. Mann is committed to play for Mizzou.

Following Mann in the order was catcher Nathan Stevens (2018, Waunakee, Wis.), who, as a lefthanded hitter, hit a high flare to no man’s land in left field that dropped for a base hit. Stevens was hustling out of the box all the way and ended up at third base with a run-scoring triple. An Arkansas commit, Stevens is ranked 179th in the high school class of 2019 rankings and stands out for having a knack for barreling the ball up consistently hard to go along for a rocket of a right arm.

The third hit came off the bat of lefthanded hitting infielder Langston Ginder (2018, Huntertown, Ind.), who hit a soft single to left field that drove home the go-ahead, and eventual deciding, run. Ginder is currently uncommitted.

Those runs allowed their starter, lefthander Trae Robertson (2018, Columbia, Mo.), to loosen up a little and do his thing rather than trying to pitch so fine. He was still impressive over the first several innings, striking out the side in the first inning, but really began to shine once he established his upper-70s curveball, finishing his day with 11 strikeouts in four innings of work. He established his fastball early, a pitch thrown at 88-89 mph while touching 90 a handful of times early. He did throw more in the 85-88 range in his final two innings of work, and really did a nice job commanding the pitch.

The breaking ball has a chance to be a special pitch. Thrown with the same arm angle and speed as his fastball, Robertson is able to vary the shape on the pitch some, and he commands it very well. He is able to throw it for strikes while also using it to neutralize righthanded hitters by throwing it to their back foot, down and in. When the pitch is on, it’s nearly unhittable.

With a lean and projectable 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame it’s easy to envision Robertson throwing even harder in the not-so-distant future, and should he find more velo as early next spring it could elevate his draft stock as he’s currently ranked 363rd in the high school class of 2018. He uses his size well to create difficult angles on his pitches for opposing hitters to pick up. Not surprisingly, the Columbia, Missouri native has committed to play for his hometown Tigers where he could enjoy immediate success pitching in the SEC.

Heading into the bottom of the fifth inning with a 1-0 lead in their second game of the day, Paddy Hincks (2018, Western Springs, Ill.), Gregory Ziegler (2019, Joliet, Ill.) and Jared Cushing (2019, Naperville, Ill.) broke the game open for Team DeMarini Elite as each hit a loud, run-scoring extra-base hit. Hincks opened the scoring by driving a ball to the opposite field gap in right-center, turning on the jets for a two-run triple. Ziegler, who is committed to Missouri State, followed with a double belted down the left field line, which scored Hincks, and Cushing drove home Ziegler with the most impressive base hit of the three, a booming drive to left-center field that Cushing legged out for a hustle triple.

That hit was Cushing’s second base hit – he also pulled his hands in and yanked a double inside the third base bag earlier in the game for a double – and his third hard hit ball of the game. Both Ziegler and Cushing are high school juniors with similar slender, athletic and still-projectable frames, and it’s easy to see the 6-foot-3 Cushing in particular growing into more power with good leverage in his swing and long, wiry strong arms. He also showed very well at shortstop with quick rangy actions and a strong arm.

Starter Ryan Louck (2018, Plainfield, Ill.) continued to cruise for Team DeMarini after their four-run fifth, confounding the opposing hitters with a lower arm slot from the left side to go along with a soft breaking ball that he consistently got swings over the top of. Louck isn’t very imposing (6-foot, 160-pounds), nor does he throw hard (his fastball peaked in the mid-70s), but what he can do is pitch, generating good natural movement on his fastball and sequencing well between his fastball/curveball combo to get a lot of swings and misses, as well as weak contact. He went the distance in his team’s 5-0 win, allowing just two base hits and walk while fanning nine in seven innings and has committed to play at Maryville.

– Patrick Ebert

Getting the start Saturday morning at Perfect Game Field for the Minnesota Starters 18u squad was talented righthanded pitcher David Roderick (2018, Excelsior, Minn.). He showed very good arm speed through extension with a fastball that had heavy running action in the mid- to upper-80s, topping out at 88 mph. The uncommitted prospect consistently pounded the strike zone early in counts with his fastball, inducing weak ground ball contact. After establishing the fastball early, Roderick showed a 10-to-5 breaking ball that flashed some tilt with late depth to his glove side. The Minnesota native has a highly projectable 6-foot-5 frame that should continue to add strength and subsequent velocity.

Ty Rybarczyk (2018, Spring Valley, Ill.) started opposite of Roderick for the Cangelosi Sparks 2018 Black. The 5-foot-9 righthanded pitcher showed a very mature presence on the mound with the ability to locate each pitch to the edges of the zone. Rybarczyk established a low- to mid-80s fastball early in his outing consistently getting ahead in the count. After getting ahead, the Illinois native mixed in an 11-to-5 curveball that had good spin with late depth. The uncommitted prospect showed the present feel to mix his breaking ball in both positive and negative counts that kept opposing hitters off balance. Rybarczyk also showed a very competitive attitude while on the mound; he was struck by a sharp line drive in the right hip before getting a swinging strikeout with his breaking ball to end the inning on the very next batter. Rybarczyk struck out the side in the top of the seventh needing only 86 pitches to finish with a complete game shutout.

Cangelosi Sparks third baseman Cam McDonald (2018, Ladd, Ill.) collected two hits and batted in all three runs employing a very mature, balanced approach at the plate. The University of Illinois commit utilized a smooth, fluid swing path that generated natural lift through extension. McDonald has the present bat speed and strength to drive the ball to the gaps, as he did in his second at-bat of the day driving in the first two runs of the game with line a line drive double to deep left-center field.

Matthew Dinkel (2019, Bolingbrook, Ill.) received the win over STiKS Academy 2018 working five strong innings, allowing zero runs on only one hit while striking out seven batters for Chicago Scouts Assocation. Dinkel utilized drop-and-drive lower half actions while working to the plate pairs with a compact three-quarters arm slot. The uncommitted righthander hid the baseball well that gave his fastball a little extra jump in the low-80s. The Illinois native consistently pounded the strike zone with his fastball and changed speeds with a 11-to-5 breaking ball that flashed occasional hard depth. Dinkel has a projectable frame that should continue to add strength and velocity as he matures.

Also a members of Chicago Scouts Association, Matt McCormick (2019, Orland Park, Ill.) showed big strength in his swing with the ability to control the bat head throughout the hitting zone. The West Virginia commit exercised a very patient approach at the plate showing very good knowledge of the strike zone. McCormick reached in all four of his at-bats, collecting two loud base hits and two bases on balls.

Benjamin Brokemond (2019, Chicago, Ill.) broke the game open for Chicago Scouts Association with a bases-clearing extra-base hit in the top of the sixth inning. The third-ranked shortstop in the 2019 class in Illinois employed a very simple, direct path to contact that produced good bat speed through extension. Brokemond also creates a lot of trouble for defenses once on base due to his speed and instincts. The 6-foot, 175-pound uncommitted infielder shows the tools to be a difference maker at the top of a lineup at the next level.

Nicholas Juaire (2018, Farmington, Minn.) utilized a very balanced stance with a line drive approach, creating lift through the zone with good bat speed and present strength at contact. Juaire turns the barrel with aggression to contact and produced very loud, hard contact when squared. The TCU commit started the scoring for Minnesota Blizzard Blue 2018 in their 4-4 tie with Iowa Select Royal 2018 with a two-run home run to deep right field in the top of the first.

Charlie Fischer (2018, Edina, Minn.) also got into the deep ball fun with a solo home run of his own to deep right-center field. The Southern Miss commit has a fluid bat path to contact with a knack for finding the barrel. Fischer flashed the ability to drop his bat head to pitches located down creating loud, line drive contact with carry. Fischer currently has a lean frame but projects for additional strength while maintaining athleticism as he matures.

Nebraska Prospects-Hohl sent lefthanded pitcher Kyle Perry (2018, Omaha, Neb.) to the mound to face off against the St. Louis Pirates (RSB) at Washington High School. Perry primarily utilized a simple side-step delivery but would constantly alter his pace, creating a lot of deception to the opposing hitters. The Nebraska commit aggressively attacked the strike zone with a fastball that flashed late run to his arm side in the mid-80s. The Omaha native’s breaking ball showed 2-to-8 shape with very tight spin and late, hard sweep to the glove side. Quite possibly the most impressive attributes Perry possesses were his poise, composure and knowledge of pitching. Perry finished the game working four innings while striking out nine batters.

Garrett Olson (2018, Lincoln, Neb.) generated very hard, loud contact during each of his trips to the plate. Olson utilizes his present strength very well producing solid bat speed on a line drive swing plane through extension. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound shortstop creates plus barrel whip through the zone with the bat head control to work to all fields. He led off the game with a sharp double to deep right field and later hammered a pitch located middle-in down the left field line for another double in his second at-bat.

St. Louis Pirates shortstop Nolan Wosman (2018, Palmyra, Mo.), who was highlighted in the Day 1 Kernels scout notes, continued to swing a hot bat on Day 2. Wosman was the only Pirates hitter to put a dent in previously mentioned Kyle Perry’s pitching performance by launching a tape measure two-run home run to deep left field in the top of the fourth. The Arkansas commit’s game-changing raw power and naturally leveraged swing are sure to fit well in the middle of the Razorback’s offense in the future.

Drew Gilin (2018, Omaha, Neb.) Utilized an athletic, balanced stance with a smooth, fluid swing plane through extension. He shows the present feel for the barrel to work to all fields but possesses the current bat speed to drive the ball to the gaps with authority. The University of Nebraska commit hammered a home run to deep right-center field in his last at-bat of the day.

– Kevin Schuver

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