Tournaments | Story | 10/21/2017

Freshman World Day 1 Notes

Jheremy Brown         Greg Gerard         Perfect Game Tournament Staff        
Photo: Perfect Game

2017 WWBA Freshman World Championship: Daily Leaders | Stats

A rather recent commit to Clemson, catcher Joe Mack (2021, Williamsville, N.Y.) continued to show off his skills on both sides of the plate and though he was held hitless in Tri-State’s opening game the talent is still noteworthy. Physically built at 6-foot, 182-pounds, Mack got under a couple of balls Friday afternoon but utilizes a simple shift into contact which yields some of the better bat speed in the 2021 class at this current juncture. Behind the plate Mack did a nice job of squaring up balls in the dirt with his chest, keeping the ball in front while showing quick recovery skills. His arm strength is a true weapon behind the plate and as he continues to refine his lower half mechanics he’s only going to thwart opponent’s running game that much more.

Brayden Luikart (2021, St. Joseph, Mo.) is listed as a primary lefthanded pitcher though scouts have already taken notice of his abilities both out in center field and in the lefthanded batter’s box. Hitting leadoff for the Canes Black 2021, Luikart opened his tournament with a nice at-bat, fighting off a couple of pitches to stay alive which showed his handle on the barrel before finally turning on a pitch for a line drive single into right-center field. He utilizes a contact approach at the plate and doesn’t try to do too much, though there’s certainly quickness and strength in his hands. Luikart also showed well in center field with steady reads off the bat and athletic actions moving towards the ball, despite the swirling winds above.

Alex Ulloa (2021, Cutler Bay, Fla.), who’s playing for the Tennessee-based eXposure club, showed off his athleticism and defensive attributes all in one play, one that goes down as one of the top plays from opening day. Going across the bag from shortstop to start a double play, the lead throw went behind Ulloa who not only lunged back to snag the bag and get the force out but made the throw across his body from a knee to complete the double plate. The arm strength is a playable tool for Ulloa, who also shows sound bat speed in the box and will be followed throughout the tournament.

One of the more physically built players in the tournament thus far, righthander Elijah Galyon (2021, Seymour, Tenn.) looks both stronger and taller than his listed 5-foot-11, 195-pound, broad shouldered build. Over his 4 1/3 innings of work Galyon scattered just two base hits while punching out seven with one of the top fastballs on day one of the event.

Utilizing a simple set of mechanics and a clean, quick right arm stroke, Galyon ran his fastball up to 84 mph multiple times early on and sat 80-82 mph until the last pitch of his outing with relative ease. With a higher release point Galyon worked on top of the ball more often than not with his misses coming down in the zone with solid plane to the pitch. The fastball featured both cut and run at times and there’s undoubtedly additional velocity coming as he continues to implement additional lower half into his drive down the mound. And while he threw more than 95 percent fastballs in his outing, a testament to his command ability to maintain his velocity, Galyon flashed a hard curveball up to 75 mph with sharp and hard 11-to-5 life and appears to be a true secondary that he can continue to throw more.

Clicking on Manuel Beltre’s (2022, Miami, Fla.) Perfect Game profile reveals he’s more than likely one of the youngest players in the tournament at just 13 years and four months old. Knowing that makes his abilities on the diamond all the more impressive since he’s only in eighth grade and already showing some of the better actions on day one. Well built at 5-foot-10, 145-pounds, though he appears stronger, the defensive acumen for Beltre is quite impressive, whether it’s in between innings or in live action. His hands are plenty soft picking the ball whether on the charge or moving up the middle, or even on a throw down on an attempted theft where the caught the ball and spun 180-degrees to lay the tag down on the runner. He was held hitless in his three trips to the plate, picking up a walk, but showed an easy and loose righthanded swing with rhythm and obvious projection.

The son of former big leaguer Miguel Tejada, Miguel Tejada, Jr. (2021, Distrito Nacional, Dominican Republic) seems to have inherited the family trait of quick hands and big bat speed at the plate, making him a name to follow for the 2018 July 2 signing period. After taking batting practice in Jupiter the other day to show off his bat Tejada, Jr. continued to swing an impressive bat and showed his strength with the bat as he went with an outer half pitch for a hard double into the right-center field gap in his final at-bat of the day. His swing is plenty fluid, especially given his age, and he’s a bat that we will certainly continue to monitor throughout the rest of the tournament.

Shortstop Armando Cruz (2023, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) is a player we at Perfect Game were able to see already at the 14U National Showcase and he continued to impress with his hands and defensive actions up the middle. A teammate of Tejada on the FTB Tucci 15U Club, Crus won’t turn 14 four a couple more months meaning he isn’t eligible to sign until July 2 of 2020 which is hard to imagine given his instincts and hands already. With a lean 5-foot-11, highly projectable frame Cruz shows tools at the plate with an easy swing but it’s how he goes about his business on defense that really makes one say “wow.” There’s balance, athleticism, and fluidity to every ground ball Cruz fields on top of sound arm strength, making him one of the more interesting players on day one when you consider his age on top of it all.

Already ranked No. 84 in the expanded version of the 2021 rankings, lefthanded hitting catcher Baylor Cobb (2021, Winnsboro, La.) put together a nice day in his first Perfect Game event of the fall going 2-for-3 while showing his skills behind the plate. At 6-foot-2, 185-pounds Cobb immediately checks the physicality box while still projecting for more strength, something that’ll have big implications with his swing given the looseness, aggressiveness, and leverage he shows on every swing he takes. We’ll make sure to monitor Cobb’s bat not only throughout the tournament but moving forward as well. Behind the plate Cobb was just as impressive, especially with his receiving skills and ability to move around behind the plate quietly despite his longer frame. He does a nice job of sticking the ball out front and framing it on either side of the plate while showing flexibility to his hips.

The younger brother of former PG All-American Jacob Pearson, outfielder Josh Pearson (2022, West Monroe, La.) is already making a name for himself and has an impressive skillset of his own that warrants a detailed following throughout the next couple of days. Physically built like his brother was as an underclassman at 5-foot-9, 175-pounds, Pearson is already an above average runner down the line and generates quality bat speed from the left side of the plate. Though he was ultimately held hitless, Pearson finished the day with three RBI and swiped a bag, making an impact offensively without registering a base knock.

Geremy Mattis (2021, Weston, Fla.) got the start for the Scorpions South 2021 at second base and showed well on both sides of the ball while hitting from the leadoff position. Full of quick-twitch muscle, Mattis is already an above average runner down the line as he posted a 4.21 down the line in his second at-bat after he appeared to glide going first to third in his first trip to the plate on a triple to the gap. He showed an approach at the plate on top of bat speed through the zone and quickness to his hands to go with sound actions up the middle defensively and nice arm strength which he showed on a turn to complete the double play.

Righthander Radek Birkholz (2021, Highlands Ranch, Colo.) was handed the ball to go against the Tri-State Arsenal and he certainly delivered over his 5 2/3 innings of work as he scattered just three hits and managed to punch out seven. Just his past summer Birkholz topped out at 77 mph according to his Perfect Game profile, a velocity he didn’t show at all on Friday and he lived comfortably in the low-80s and bumped as high as 84 mph throughout his time on the bump. Staying short and quick with his arm action Birkholz managed to fill the strike zone while moving the ball to either side of the plate with intent, showing short running life down to help induce weak ground ball contact. His delivery is a rather simple one and he did a nice job of repeating it pitch-to-pitch, though he can continue to lengthen his stride and get more from his lower half and back leg drive moving forward.

Birkholz proved to be more than just a fastball pitcher as his feel and command for his curveball was the best I saw on day one, consistently landing the 12-to-6 shaped pitch to help set up opposing hitters. Up to 80 mph with the pitch, Birkholz also flashed a changeup at 70 mph to give him the makings of a three-pitch mix.

– Jheremy Brown

Joshua J.T. Carter (2021, Falls Church, Va.) started the day off displaying catching tools that were hard to miss, and with a stocky build at 5-foot-11, 192-pounds, he is very advanced for his age behind the plate. Carter blocked every ball in the dirt in Friday afternoon’s contest, as each ball he blocked did not sneak far away as he kept everything close. Carter is a solid framer as well with developing receiving skills that will only get better as he matures. He will only get quicker as well although the current overall lateral agility the Virginia native displays is very good. His catch-and-throw ability will play as well with some arm strength in the tank. Carter has present strength in the lower half that he takes with him to the plate, as that lower half helps generate the bat speed that is present in his swing and led to him hitting a middle-of-the-field single on the day.

Daniel Corona (2021, Brooklyn, N.Y.) is a fundamentally sound infielder with all-around impressive tools. Corona takes the bat straight to the ball, smoking a lineout that nearly cleared the head of the center fielder. The bat speed is developing and shows signs of potential with future maturity. Still only a freshman, Corona has time to mature and get stronger and the bat speed will come as well. Corona’s approach is patient and confident looking to square the ball up to the middle of the field.

Nelson Daniel Schotborgh Mercado (2021, Brampton, Ontario) displayed a raw hit tool as he smoked a double off of the base of the wall for DBacks Langley Blaze. The young first baseman from Canada has an athletic build that correlates to an athletic swing. Mercado shows potential power in his swing with the ability to lift the ball into contact to pull side. As he continues to grow, he will be interesting to follow moving forward as he swings a powerful bat.

Mercado’s teammate Lauden Brooks (2021, Cincinnati, Ohio) also showed signs of projectable tools on Friday. Brooks is a middle infielder with impressively quick transfer skills that he displayed at the shortstop position. His hands are very advanced for his age showing softness and an easy glove-to-hand exchange. In Friday’s game, Brooks ranged to his left to field a groundball that hit that lip of the grass. He fielded it nice and cleanly for a smooth play that was rather difficult given the late change of direction the ball had made. The aforementioned exchange was shown on this play as well as he immediately fired a strike to first online and on target while angling to his left. 

With multiple big-time schools in attendance,
Jordan Irizarry (2021, Virginia Beach, Va.) showed good pitchability and projection for more velocity in the future. He stands at an athletic 5-foot-11, 155-pounds and that athleticism is translated to his delivery showing lots of balance and repetition. He did not allow a hit in his four innings of work sitting in the 78-81 mph range with occasional sink from the lefthanded side. His arm works and the arm action is clean and full. Izzary lived down in the zone for most of the outing missing barrels consistently with a nice three-pitch mix that included a curveball and changeup in the upper-60s. The changeup showed the same type of sink as the fastball and the curveball showed 1-to-7 break with solid depth. Izzary showed very good command in his start and advanced feel for three pitches.

Jacob Kmatz (2021, Albuquerque, N.M.) is a sinker baller with 78-81 mph velocity that projects for a lot more. His combination of feel for spotting up the fastball and his curveball were very advanced and he works from a fluid delivery and a three-quarters arm slot. He lands closed which slightly throws righthanded hitters off when thrown to the arm side. When he located the fastball to the lower arm side third, he was untouchable and he did that consistently through the seven innings he pitched. The New Mexico native went the distance allowing just four hits and punching out seven on 96 pitches.

What is most projectable about Kmatz is his frame, listed at a believable 6-foot-2, 160-pounds, there is a lot of room to fill with strength throughout his body. The freshman has broad shoulders, long legs and a high waist with a lean and athletic build that correlates to the clean delivery. The arm speed in his windup is still developing, but the arm strength, arm action and lack of effort he throws with gives indications that Kmatz is going to throw hard in the not-so-distant future.

– Gregory Gerard

It was a rainy start to the WWBA Freshman World Championship, a day that was tough to stay consistent on the mound where there were a lot of unearned runs for both sides. The one consistent for the Iowa Select Black 2021 team was 6-foot-1, 190-pound catcher Logan Runde (Peosta, Iowa). Runde is a switch-hitter that batted from the left side on Friday. He has a good line drive swing and looks to pull the ball with some pop to his bat. He reached base three out of four times in the game, hitting an RBI double down the right field line and a short fly into right-center field for his two hits while also collecting a walk. Runde has a solid build that will serve him well behind the dish. He also has above average strength, and with improved development of his approach at the plate he could be a real power threat.

The Elite Squad, one of the favorites of the tournament, started their weekend strong with a 9-1 win in their first game and the bat of 6-foot, 180-pound left fielder Bryan Loriga (Hialeah, Fla.) stood out. Loriga is a primary third baseman with a very strong build, going 2-for-2 at the plate with a walk, and he drove in a couple of runs. He has an elevated line drive bat path through the baseball and he can square up almost pitch in the zone. He hit a line drive single right back up the middle in his first at-bat, and a long line drive double deep into the left-center field gap.

On the mound for Elite Squad was Blake Tipmore (Wellington, Fla.). He went just three innings, but he threw extremely well in his short outing. He throws from an over-the-top arm slot which generates a 12-to-6 curveball with depth. His fastball is mostly straight but with his arm slot he is able to get downhill plane to it and keeps it low in the zone. He commands both of his pitches well and can throw both at any count. Tipmore is comfortable working backwards, starting hitters with his breaking ball, confident that he will still get on top of the hitter early. Tipmore’s fastball topped at 80 and stayed in the upper-70s throughout his outing while his hammer hovered around 67-68 mph.

Casey Gibbs (Olney, Md.) helped lift his team, the Diamond Skills Dodgers, to their 8-0 win in their first game of the tournament. A couple of hits and RBI capped Gibbs’ good day at the plate. He has some good speed and showed it off on an inside-the-park home run into the gap in right -enter field. It was a ball that most wouldn’t have been able to come all the way around on, but Gibbs’ speed and efficient baserunning allowed him to score on a bang-bang play at the plate. Gibbs also singled and drove in a second run on a ground out.

Gatorball 15u got a big win to open their tournament and it was heavily attended due to the excellent start by 6-foot, 140-pound lefty, Ryan Brown (High Springs, Fla.). Brown throws from a lower three-quarters arm slot which helps his fastball generate some good run with occasional sink. He commands it well to all corners of the plate, running it away to righties, and to lefties he can start it off over the plate and run it in for a strike on the outside corner. He also has a 1-to-7 curveball with tight spin and both lateral movement and some late depth to it. Again, he showed good command of his breaking ball, able to get a lot of strikeouts with it. He threw all seven innings and took a perfect game into the fifth where he finally gave up his first of three hits. He collected 11 strikeouts and no walks in his 4-0 victory.

– Taylor Weber

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