Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sophomore World Day 1 Notes

Jheremy Brown         Brian Sakowski        
Photo: Perfect Game

2017 WWBA Sophomore World Championship: Event Page | Daily Leaders | Stats

A.J. Vukovich (2020, Mukwonago, Wis.) is already a highly-regarded prospect on the national scene as he’s currently ranked No. 67 in the class of 2020 and Friday morning he did some things with the bat that make you say “ah, there it is.” At a long 6-foot-4, 190-pounds, Vukovich has a longer, leveraged swing path through the zone with present bat speed and in two of his three at-bats he showed comfort in working the opposite field. Picking up his lone hit in his first at-bat with a single over the second baseman’s head, the young Louisville commit’s best piece of contact came in his third at-bat with a loud, hard, and barreled line out to deep right field, showing the previously mentioned leverage and strength off the barrel. With a frame like his, Vukovich offers plenty of physical projection which will only continue to help him impact the baseball.

Lefthander Tommy Lamb (2020, Grafton, Wis.) was handed the ball for Hitters Baseball at the start of game one and didn’t disappoint, going three innings in which he scattered three hits and an unearned run while striking out four. Sitting comfortably in the 80-83 mph range with his heater, Lamb should continue to see his velocity climb with added physical strength, especially given the ease in which he’s generating his velocity right now. From an extended three-quarters release point Lamb worked on top of the baseball and showed steady cutting life while staying simple with his delivery. He also mixed in a curveball up to 70 mph, showing a feel for the pitch with 1-to-7 shape and depth when on top of the ball.

5 Star Gold brought out the bats in game one and put up eight runs, including two long balls, the first off the bat of Jordan Miller and the second from Corey Dowdell, who enjoyed a nice three-hit day at the plate. Jake Killingsworth (Headland, Ala.) and Jonathan Ponder (2020, Lawrenceville, Ga.) showed tools to like from the heart of their order as well. Killingsworth, ranked No. 175 in the class, is the more physical of the two but utilizes a simple and clean swing, staying compact to the ball with quickness to his hands and balance through his swing. Ponder is a longer 5-foot-11, 140-pound outfielder and showed a linear path through the zone, working the pull side from the right side while collecting two hits on the day.

It was a quick look at Carson Pillsbury (2020, Inverness, Fla.) which means the righthander will likely make another appearance in the tournament as he closed out 5 Star’s win, picking up three strike outs in his lone inning of work. Though he was scattered some with his command and walked two, he managed to navigate the base runners while working primarily off his fastball. Up to 87 mph in this look, Pillsbury worked mostly in the 83-85 mph while showing looseness to his arm action and extension out front with short running life down in the zone. He flashed a curveball at 73 mph but it was his heater that helped him miss bats throughout.

Grant Umberger (2020, Chester Springs, Pa.) will immediately catch your attention at 6-foot-4, 210-pounds and he proved to be more than just a physical presence on the mound. In fact, the uncommitted lefthander was nearly perfect in his six-inning, complete game no-hitter which ended early by way of run rule. Up to 86 mph earlier this summer according to his Perfect Game profile, Umberger didn’t need that type of velocity today as he worked mostly 80-83 mph with his fastball early on but more importantly filled the strike zone and lived at the knees. With that command and the steady, late running life to his fastball Umberger managed to stay off barrels and miss bats entirely, striking out eight on the day. There’s certainly more velocity coming for Umberger, especially as he incorporates additional lower half into his drive, who also flashed a curveball in the upper-60s and a changeup around 72 mph.

Like with other arms detailed in this recap, righthander Adam Boucher (2020, Metuchen, N.J.) didn’t have his best velocity like he’s shown in the past (up to 89 mph), but there are still plenty of things to like about him as a prospect on the mound. After a first inning in which the Canes were able to put the ball in play and a couple errors behind him which ultimately led to three runs, Boucher settled for his next two-plus innings and continued to work in the 82-84 mph range, touching as high as 86 mph early in the game.

He shows a quick arm action and is able to generate the velocity pretty easily, an area of his game that’ll only continue to improve as he physically matures and grows into his 6-foot-4 frame and refines his front side mechanics as he tends to open early right now. With short life to his fastball down in the zone, Boucher also flashed a short 11-to-5 curveball and turned over the changeup well in the mid- to upper-70s.

While there isn’t much in baseball that’s guaranteed, it is safe to assume that this won’t be the last time that outfielder Ryan Clifford (2022, Raleigh, N.C.) will be mentioned in a recap such as this throughout his Perfect Game career. Much more advanced than your typical eighth grader, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Clifford has already made his name a well circulated one with a strong summer performance and it’s something that’s translated into the fall as he’s playing up with the top Canes team. Despite his grad year Clifford finds himself hitting out of the two-hole and he didn’t seem out of place at all, lining a hard double to center field in his first at-bat. He’s developed a new load with his hands since the summer but he’s more than strong enough to be on time consistently with the barrel, creating bat speed and simultaneously showing contact skills you simply don’t see from a player his age.

One of Vanderbilt’s more recent commits, righthander Gage Bradley (2020, Clarksville, Tenn.) decided to stay close to home for his collegiate career with the nearby Commodores and it’s easy to see why the coaching staff wanted his commitment. Bradley didn’t necessarily have his best stuff today but it speaks to his abilities and potential on the mound as you still come away impressed with what the 6-foot-2 righty was able to show as it’s easy to envision what he can become.

Bradley’s frame with worth mentioning with square shoulders and plenty of physical projectability remaining, part of the equation that goes into his long-term potential. Factor in his short and quick arm action through the back and there’s even more to like with Bradley as he worked in the 84-86 mph range with his heater, bumping 87 mph early on though there’s undoubtedly more in the tank. There were points in his 1 2/3 innings of work that he’d get mistimed with his delivery though for the most part he was on top of the ball and generating short sinking life down in the zone. The ball comes out of Bradley’s hand easily and cleanly while staying on line with his lower half mechanics towards the plate.

Jake Harwood (2020, Whiteville, N.C.) and Nic Britt (2020, Chesapeake, Va.) showed well as a duo up the middle for the Canes and coincidentally enough, both are already committed to ACC programs. Harwood, a Clemson commit, enjoyed a nice day on both sides of the ball as he showed his bat speed and strength at the plate with a backside double to the opposite field gap, as well as quickness on his feet with range up the middle at second base and balance to his actions charging in. Speaking of charging in, Britt made a very nice play of his own on a slow roller in which he broke in immediately, picked the ball and threw across his body as his momentum was taking him away from first base but still managed to get enough behind the plate. He made the difficult play look rather routine and also picked up a base knock on the day.

At a long and lean, highly projectable 6-foot-3, 170-pounds, uncommitted righthander Ben Vespi (2020, Boynton Beach, Fla.) took the mound in relief for Elite Squad and impressed for his three innings, both with his present arsenal and what’s to come. The frame immediately catches ones attention with what he offers moving forward but also how he remains coordinated on the mound, repeating his delivery while filling the zone.

Up to 88 mph this summer per his Perfect Game profile, Vespi worked more in the 83-85 mph range in this look, bumping an 86 mph early in his first inning of work. Though he tends to open his front shoulder in his release, it didn’t inhibit his ability to locate his heater to his glove side and actually helped generate consistent running life to his arm side while working down in the zone. Given Vespi’s arm speed and physical projection, there’s plenty of reason to believe the velocity will continue to climb and college recruiters have already taken notice.

What helps Vespi also stand out in a tournament setting is his overall pitchability and feel for three pitches. His changeup is the more advanced of his two offerings right now as he does a nice job of maintaining his arm speed while generating short fading life from the same release point out front. Vespi shows 11-to-5 shape to his low-70s, a pitch that while continue to develop with similar arm speed at release like on his other pitches though he landed it for strikes throughout.

Listed as a primary shortstop, Nicholas Feretic (East Windsor, N.J.) took the hill for the East Coast Lumberjacks and went the first three, scattering five hits while picking up a couple of strike outs. With a short and quick arm action through the backside, Feretic showed his best velocity in the opening frame as he sat down the opposing hitters 1-2-3 while sitting in the 83-85 mph range, touching 86 and 88 mph a time a piece. He lands slightly closed with his strike foot but manages to work over his front side well, generating short running life to his fastball down in the zone while mixing in a curveball at 67-68 mph with 11-to-5 shape. He also picked up two hits in the game with a single and a double.

– Jheremy Brown

The first day of the inaugural WWBA Sophomore World Championship kicked off sunny and warm in Southwest Florida, though such weather was not to last. FTB Tucci-Berryhill, a consistently strong club, won their first game by a score of 8-0 and immediately put themselves in the driver’s seat of their pool.

Bryce McBride (2020, Port St. Lucie, Fla.) went the complete game (five innings) for the win, allowing only a single hit with no walks while striking out 10 in the process. McBride is a slender, lean righthander with good length to his body and lots of projection remaining, with solid arm speed that, in conjunction with his physical projection, makes it easy to project velocity moving forward. The arm stroke is long and tends to get offline through the back, but he’s consistently on time coming through and gets online with his hips working downhill. He gets on top from a very near over-the-top arm slot, consistently generating good extension and plane to the plate, both allowing his fastball to play up in effectiveness from the raw velocity.

He peaked at 85 mph, settling in at 80-83, and it’s easy to envision him throwing harder in the future. McBride also has advanced feel for his breaking ball, a true 12-to-6 curveball that is thrown in the low- to mid-70s. He gets over the top of it well and generates good depth with tunneling action out of the hand, showing the ability to land it to both sides of the plate. He’s without a doubt an intriguing 2020 follow moving forward.

On the offensive side, the FTB attack was paced by Anthony Shaver (2020, Clermont, Fla.) and McGwire Holbrook (2020, Orlando, Fla.), both recording multiple hits in the contest.

Shaver is currently ranked as the No. 41 player in the class of 2020, and he put at least a few of his tools on display in this contest. He’s well-developed physically with a good combination of strength and athleticism, showing a good first step in the outfield, though McBride’s dominance on the mound kept him from being challenged. There’s good barrel feel to the swing as well, with compact bat speed keeping the barrel in the zone and using the whole field to his advantage.

Holbrook delivered the power stroke of the day, launching a triple into the left-center field gap to score two runs and essentially put the game out of reach at that point in time, though FTB would continue scoring. He’s a strong righthanded hitter who is also an adept receiver behind the plate, but at this early juncture it looks like the bat will be his calling card moving forward. He generates good bat speed onto a positive launch angle with the barrel, getting the head out and driving the ball into the air. There’s legitimate extra-base power there right now, and it wouldn’t be a surprise in any way to see him have big-time home run power as he continues to develop as a hitter.

Following a short rain delay, BigStix Gamers 16u and the Banditos Scout Team locked into an excellent pitching duel that ended in a 0-0 tie, with only six hits total between the two teams.

Perfect Game Select Festival participant Patrick Holloman (2020, McDonough, Ga.) got the start for BigStix and absolutely put on a pitching clinic, showing why he’s considered one of the top pitchability prospects in the entire class. His delivery works quite well and he possesses the necessary athleticism and balance to consistently repeat it and retain command as a result. The arm stroke will get a bit offline and can vary in slot, but the timing is pretty solid for a 2020 prospect and he has no issues throwing strikes for the most part. He worked in the low-80s with his fastball, peaking at 84 mph and having no trouble commanding the pitch to both sides of the plate with angle and life on it.

He has advanced feel for his breaking ball, a sharp-diving pitch with good depth to it, consistently able to bury it down in the zone and get swings and misses off of it. He went the full seven innings, allowing three hits and three walks to go along with his nine strikeouts.

On the other side of the diamond, the Banditos Scout Team used a pair of pitchers to complete their side of the shutout. They started with Darian Fumero (2020, Hialeah, Fla.) who went the first five, striking out seven while allowing only three baserunners via a base hit and two walks. Fumero worked up to 84 mph with his fastball, consistently generating short running life that worked well to help him miss barrels, then mixed in a big-breaking curveball that he showed the ability to throw for strikes.

Albert Hernandez (2020, Davie, Fla.) came on in relief for the Banditos and was his usual self over two innings to preserve the shutout, striking out four and allowing a pair of base hits. We’ve seen the well-built Hernandez quite a bit over the past year, and he always impresses with his advanced arm strength and strike throwing. He worked up to 90 mph and pounded the zone, occasionally leaving the ball up a bit but showing the pitch to be dominant when commanded down, both as a swing-and-miss pitch and as a heavy pitch that can elicit weak contact.

– Brian Sakowski

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