Tournaments | Story | 10/23/2017

Freshman World Day 3 Notes

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

2017 WWBA Freshman World Championship: Daily Leaders | Stats | Day 1 Notes | Day 2 Notes

Austin Grause (2021, Tampa, Fla.) was handed the ball for Sunday’s start against the Scorpions and the young righthander certainly didn’t disappoint, showing one of the more impressive arms of the tournament while just scratching the surface in terms of what he could become.

Listed as a primary shortstop who has also played center field this tournament and swings it well from the right side, Grause showed big upside on the mound while displaying his athleticism and quick right arm. Already a top-100 ranked prospect in the 2021 class, Grause ran his fastball up to 87 mph early and sat in the 83-85 mph range, bumping some 86’s along the way.

With balance to his delivery and a rather clean arm stroke, Grause was able to generate the velocity easily, showing nice life to the pitch with consistent plane to the lower third. At times he would get inconsistent with his landing foot which would have a chain reaction with his release point, but for the most part Grause worked to either side of the plate with his heater and showed very nice running life to the pitch. He scattered five hits over five-plus innings of work and also punched out five, in part to the extra gear his fastball appears to have through the zone and his ability to ride the pitch up on the hands of righthanded hitters.

More than just a fastball-only pitcher, Grause showed two versions of his breaking ball, one with more depth and 12-to-6 shape at 71 mph and another that he flashed more frequently with slider shape and tilt up to 73 mph. It was an offering that Grause had comfort in throwing and could double up on, though his ability to still be hitting 85 mph in the fifth inning also helped the cause.

Cason Henry (2021, Florence, Ala.) is the younger brother of Cole Henry, a 2018 righthander who recently ran his fastball up to 94 mph at the WWBA World Championship, and though Cason didn’t quite match his brother there are a lot of similarities in their delivery and physical presence at the same age. Listed as a shortstop only on his Perfect Game profile, the 6-foot-2, 160-pound Henry oozes physical projection, though he’s already proven capable of producing one of the top fastballs in the tournament.

Staying both short and quick through the back with his arm stroke, Henry did a nice job of working on top of the baseball in the early juncture while producing consistent sinking life down in the zone. Facing off against a talented Elite Squad in the opening round of the playoffs the young righthander did a nice job of filling the zone early and often over his 5 1/3 innings of work, working almost exclusively off his heater while mixing in a changeup sporadically.

Baylor Cobb (2021, Winnsboro, La.) and Josh Pearson (2022, West Monroe, La.) have both been detailed in previous recaps through their performances once again merit a quick mention.

Cobb continued to show sound receiving skills and helped thwart the opponents running game with a strong throw down to second early in the game to get a quick runner with a strike. The bat was just as strong of a tool for Cobb as he connected for a loud double down the line to his pull side while showing the same fluidity to his stroke. There’s some business and moving parts to his load but with his present bat speed he’s able to get the barrel through the zone well and often.

Pearson continued to put his tools on display, a skill-set that’s very similar to his older brother, former PG All-American Jacob Pearson, as he manages to stay short to the ball and employ a consistent contact approach. His speed puts pressure on defenses and he once again showed an impressive time with a 4.11-second home-to-first time while picking up a couple of base knocks on the day and showing carry and strength off the barrel to all parts of the field.

Written for his abilities both on defense and his lefthanded swing, Daniel Corona (2021, Brooklyn, N.Y.) showed well on the mound Sunday and is a legitimate two-way prospect for the collegiate level. Already ranked 33rd in the class of 2021, Corona has continued to add strength to his 6-foot-1 frame since this summer which will only help his stuff play up on both sides of the ball.

With a long and fluid arm stroke through the back, the uncommitted Corona’s athleticism was on display as he was routinely in sync between his two halves, which allowed for plenty of strikes and comfort moving the ball around the zone. Corona, who’s young for the grade, ran his fastball up to 85 mph and sat comfortably in the low-80s, showing hard sinking life at times from his lower three-quarters release point. Given his slot and arm speed, along with the velocity, the life shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, and when coupled with his comfort of living down, he was able to induce steady ground ball contact.

Over his five innings of work Corona struck out seven and allowed just one base hit while mixing in both a slider and changeup, which he located for strikes. He didn’t show his changeup as much as he did his slider, though both are equally effective as his changeup shows some diving life from a similar release point and up to 74 mph. His slider is tight already and shows hard spin up to 74 mph, giving him a present three-pitch mix which can be thrown for strikes.

Two bats who impressed from the MLB Breakthrough Series team were Andreaus Lewis II (2021, Snellville, Ga.) and Eldridge Armstrong (2021, Pasadena, Calif.), and both hit near the heart of the order. Lewis II is a primary catcher who DH’d on Sunday but still swung it well from the left side of the plate with present bat speed through the zone and looseness in his hands, which allow him to lift the ball at the point of contact with some strength off the barrel. Armstrong, who’s a strong 6-foot, 170-pound third baseman, is able to generate standout bat speed already and does a nice job of staying short to the ball with present quickness to his hands and pop off the bat.

It wasn’t the longest of looks at righthander Logan Forsythe (2022, Woolmarket, Miss.) on the bump, as he worked the extra inning for Elite Squad and recorded just two outs, but you can’t help but come away impressed with what he’s able to produce. Already listed at 6-foot, 160-pounds at the start of his eighth-grade year, Forsythe sat comfortably at 85-86 mph with every fastball that left his hand and he did so with ease and virtually no effort. Along with the velocity the pitch also offered nice sinking life down in the zone, inducing ground ball contact off the barrel. With an arm like Forsythe’s, which has already been up to 88 mph, he’s most certainly a known prospect on the circuit and one who will only continue to improve moving forward.

Two of the more physical bats in the Elite Squad lineup, Bryan Loriga (2021, Hialeah, Fla.) and Marcus Franco (2021, Miramar, Fla.), continued to show well at the plate, which isn’t surprising given the fact that both are already top-100 ranked players in the 2021 class.

Loriga is a physically built third baseman who knows how to incorporate his 6-foot, 184-pound frame into impacting a baseball, and it’s something he’s done frequently throughout the summer season and into the fall. Facing off against a mid-80s hurler, the uncommitted Loriga remained simple in his approach while staying direct to the ball with strength in his hands and solid bat speed through the zone to line the ball hard off the barrel for a single, helping him to a .545 average on the tournament.

Manning the other infield corner was Franco, one of only a few players who stands stronger than Loriga with a still projectable 6-foot-3, 210-pound build. Already committed to Florida International, Franco may not have the results to show from Sunday in the stat column but he’s certainly a bat that needs to be followed. Franco’s swing has a long, fluid path through the zone with the requisite bat speed to catch up to solid velocity for this level, as he showed the ability to get his arms extended and lined a pitch hard into right field with solid jump off the barrel. As he continues to develop physically there’s little doubt that you’ll see Franco hitting for some big power. 

The last time we at Perfect Game saw righthander Sammie Sloan (2021, Bartow, Fla.) was back in 2016 at the East Memorial Day Classic when he was listed at 5-foot-10, 140-pounds and topped out at 77 mph. Jump to Sunday and the now 6-foot-1, 165-pound Sloan ran his fastball up to 85 mph and lived comfortably in the 82-84 range over his 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Though he did walk three he also struck out five and did so primarily off his fastball as he showed a full and easy arm action which he timed well while creating angle on the pitch. The ball came out cleanly and with short running life down in the zone while mixing in a curveball from time-to-time in the mid-60s.

He may be one of the younger players in the tournament, as he’s still in eighth grade, but lefthanded hitting shortstop Cole Young (2022, Wexford, Pa.) is already making an impact for the US Elite program as he starts up the middle and bats leadoff for a club that made it to the Elite Eight. Still highly projectable at 5-foot-9, 140-pounds (as most players in the tournament and especially Young’s age are), there’s little hesitation in his game, whether it’s digging in against an uncomfortable arm on the mound or taking charge in the infield. The stats alone can tell of Young’s ability as he hit .462 with five singles and a triple while driving in six.

With a true leadoff profile who battled at the plate and wasn’t afraid to take his walks, Young shows quickness to his hands with a present handle on his barrel. The attributes allow Young to stay direct to the ball while showing jump off the barrel when squared, just as he exhibited with his opposite field gap triple. He has instincts as well, both defensively, where he showed well throughout the weekend, as well as on the bases, as he managed to score from first base standing up on a play most wouldn’t normally come around on.

Drew Wyers (2022, Columbus, N.J.) is another current eighth grader who played a bigger role in US Elite’s weekend, hitting out of the middle of the order, a spot he didn’t disappoint from with a .600 batting average for the tournament. Throughout the weekend, and in previous looks, Wyers showed looseness to his hands from the right side (listed as a switch-hitter) while controlling the barrel well through the zone, showing he wasn’t afraid to go with the outer half pitch into right field. Early Sunday against Team Elite Nation Wyers showed intriguing jump off the barrel as he spun on a double to his pull side, creating solid jump off with some back spin.

Brady Garcia (2021, Spanish Fort, Ala.) is a young lefthander out of Alabama who will need to be followed closely as he continues to mature physically, especially given how clean and easy his arm stroke works coming through the back. At 6-foot-4, 151-pounds the physical projection is obvious, and after a single pitch the upside becomes clear too as the uncommitted lefthander worked comfortably in the 80-83 mph range with his heater from his first to final frame of work. There is some effort at release but it doesn’t inhibit Garcia’s ability to maintain the velocity, and though he did ultimately walk five, he worked on top of the baseball well to create plane and angle while spotting low to his arm side well. His breaking ball doesn’t have power to it yet as it came across in the low-60s, but he has a feel for the pitch with nice shape and depth through the zone.

Lauden Brooks (2021, Cincinnati, Ohio) and Max Johnson (2021, Mason, Ohio) are the middle infield duo for the DBacks Langley Blaze team and they had buzz around them all weekend thanks to their abilities both defensively and with the bat.

Both uncommitted, Johnson got the start at shortstop on Sunday and showed both instincts and range on defense while handling the barrel well from both sides of the plate. His swing plays from both sides of the plate and will only continue to improve as he continues to add strength, but his skills play presently as a switch-hitting middle infielder with quick-twitch muscle.

Brooks, like Johnson, showed a quick first step on defense at second base and could very easily slide over to shortstop where he’d continue to excel. A righthanded hitter, Brooks moves well down the line and shows sound footwork defensively while also showing a direct stroke from the right side of the plate. There’s present quickness to the barrel head and staying short to the ball allows him to put the ball in play consistently.

Patrolling center field for 5 Star throughout the weekend was uncommitted outfielder Jackson Mayo (2021, St. John’s, Fla.), a lefthanded hitter who has also hit in the middle of the order. Sunday afternoon against the DBacks Langley Blaze Mayo picked up two base hits, his first multi-hit game of the tournament, beating out an infield single while also working the opposite field for another knock. He projects as well as anybody physically at 6-foot, 155-pounds and already takes long and easy strides down the line which one would think will only get quicker as he continues to mature and fill out with strength.

It was more of the same for lefthander Josh Hartle (2021, King, N.C.) who worked a quick 1-2-3 inning earlier in the tournament before getting the start in the Dirtbags’ semifinal victory. A long and lean, highly projectable 6-foot-3, 160-pound athlete, Hartle turned in a similar performance Sunday morning, though it was as a starter and did it over the course of seven innings in a complete game effort.

Strike after strike, ground ball after ground ball, Hartle was able to collect outs and didn’t allow his first base hit until the seven inning, which ultimately plated the lone run of the game against him. The steady running life to his heater, which he’s able to generate from his lower release point, added to the difficulties of squaring him up on top of his velocity as he lived in the low-80s throughout and peaked at 84 mph. Finishing with 95 pitches for he complete game, Hartle managed to strike out 10 while living at the knees and mixed in a solid curveball up to 73 mph. There’s no doubting more velocity is en route for Hartle which is only going to make his arsenal that much more effective and difficult for opposing hitters.

– Jheremy Brown

Catcher Jacob Cozart (2021, High Point, N.C.) impressed all game long with his ability to block and receive the baseball. With a highly projectable 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame, Cozart moves exceptionally well laterally behind the plate and he blocks all balls well not letting the baseball move too far away from him. His receiving is extremely advanced for his age as the ability to both stick and frame pitches that are borderline strikes to make them strikes are exceptional. There is some catch-and-throw ability with a 2.12-second best warmup pop time, but the overall arm strength is still developing with plenty of time to do so.

Drake Varnado (2021, Port Neches, Texas) started for Team Elite Prime and helped his team earn a berth in the playoffs with a strong start. Varnado came out firing, sitting in the 81-84 mph range as well as bumping an 85 and an 86. The 6-foot-2 righthander’s arm works really well with lots of positive projection. His delivery is online with very good balance throughout and he does not throw with too much effort and the arm strength is obvious which shows signs of added velocity in the near future. He threw all fastballs, so an off-speed pitch should be developed for added effectiveness. Overall, the command needed work, but with added repetitions and maturity that should change. Varnado has lots of room to fill in his projectable frame especially in the lower half, and with his arm strength, the development of a secondary pitch and his highly projectable frame, the ceiling on Varnado is quite high.

Kaleem Jacobs (2021, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) is a developing young righthander with lots of projectability, specifically in his build. At 6-foot-3, 163-pounds, Jacobs has long limbs with a ton of room to fill out physically. The arm action needs some tuning up as it is long through the back with a wrap that is hard to repeat and be on time, as the command was developing as it can be with the arm wrap. The velocity and projection, however, show a high ceiling with a small tune up in mechanics. His fastball sat in the 78-82 mph range with an effortless delivery and arm action. He flashed a solid curveball that showed signs of good potential as well, as the pitch sat in the upper-60s with varying shape from 12-to-6 to 11-to-5. Jacobs is an interesting righthanded pitcher and some further positive development could be huge for the young arm.

Well known already through Perfect Game and the PG Select Festival for his catching, Joe Mack (2021, Williamsvile, N.Y.) started on the mound on Sunday and showed tremendously advanced arm strength. Mack only threw 11 pitches before being pulled, but lit up the radar gun while he was in. The primary catcher sat at 84-88 mph with a sharp breaking ball at 73 mph with outstanding arm strength and very good arm speed. The lower half is not used much in the delivery, but that can be expected from a primary catcher who seems to be destined to continue to play at the position at the next level for the Clemson Tigers. Mack also impressed with the bat on Sunday, as Mack, a lefthanded hitter, squared up a ball to the pull side 3-4 hole for a ground ball single. In his next at-bat Mack kept a ball fair down the right field line for a double. Mack has a strong ability to pull the baseball with leverage and raw bat speed.

Carson Kelly (2021, Sanford, N.C.) did a nice job of securing his Dirtbags’ team a spot in the quarterfinals with a quality start on the mound. Kelly is very effective throwing from multiple arm angles and two different deliveries, with a high three-quarters arm slot as well as dropping down to a submarine delivery. From the top slot, he sits in the 78-82 mph range that he maintained well over the course of his six innings. From the submarine slot, he sat at 73-76 with riding arm-side life. The pitchability of Kelly is very advanced as the uncommitted righthander throws lots of strikes with very good command and really knows how to pitch. He throws two different off-speed pitches as well, one from the high three-quarters slot and one from the submarine motion. His curveball over-the-top showed 11-to-5 shape with potential to be a very good pitch. Kelly displayed feel for the slider from the submarine slot that had short break. Kelly’s overall pitchability is what sets him apart and will only get better as he continues to mature and grow into his projectable frame.

James Wood (2021, Olney, Md.) put a strong swing on a fastball and split the pull-side gap for a triple to deep right-center field. Burning around the bases, Wood showed good speed turning a 4.51-second time around first base. He has a sound approach, looking to square up the ball and use his speed to put pressure on the defense, and with a projectable build at 6-foot 150-pounds, with added strength he could be a stellar athlete. The outfielder has lots of projection remaining on his profile with his frame, speed and potential power.

In the Dirtbags’ quarterfinal playoff contest they sent Carter Holton (2021, Guyton, Ga.) to the mound, and he pitched an outstanding game going five innings with 10 strikeouts. His velocity was impressive as well as the lefthander sat mostly in the 80-84 mph range and touched 85, showing solid command of both his fastball and his upper-60s 1-to-7 shaped curveball. There is lots of varying life on his fastball as well, showing signs of shape to the arm side and sinking action. His arm works well with a fuller action through the back and there is plenty of strength and arm speed in his left arm.

On top of showing lots of potential on the mound, Holton’s bat impressed all tournament long. His lefthanded swing is rotational with power potential, as he swings the bat with a line drive swing plane and had multiple extra-base hits to both outfield gaps. On his second double, he ran a 4.61-second home-to-first time with a turn and a quicker time is definitely in there.

An interesting catcher to follow in the 2022 class is Antonio Digrigoli (2022, Brooklyn, N.Y.). His catch-and-throw ability is very advanced for his young age, and on one throw in particular on a snap throw to third base he showed a really clean and quick exchange with advanced arm strength and accuracy. At 5-foot-11, 158-pounds, he has plenty of room to fill in his frame and that is expected considering he is an eighth grader. With plenty of time to mature, grow, and fill out with strength, Digrigoli could prove to be a top catcher early on in his class.

Already touching as high as 90 mph in a Perfect Game event, Nick Bitsko (2021, Doylestown, Pa.) is already well known for his pitching, but what he did with the bat on Sunday was impressive as well. Showing advanced raw bat speed and strong hands, he ripped a single through the 5-6 hole as the ball came off his bat with velocity unlike any other player at the WWBA Freshman World Championship. His swing is rotational with loud and hard contact when barreled. Looking at Bitsko he is a noticeably physical athlete standing at 6-foot-3, 200-pounds, and being a 2021 graduate, he is one of the more physically advanced players in his class. The University of Virginia commit has a high ceiling both on the mound and with the bat.

– Gregory Gerard

One of the more talented teams on the field for the consolation games was Team Beast 2021. They have a very good defense up the middle of the field, and at the shortstop position was 6-foot-1, 185-pound Christian Moore (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Moore is among the best in the 2021 class at all positions, and was written up in the Day 2 notes for his talents on the mound. He plays good defense in the middle infield and his bat is among the top in the nation, despite going hitless in the game. However, the hit tools were clearly visible as he put the ball in play every at-bat, has obvious strength and easily repeats an effortless swing. His ability to make hard contact almost every time he steps up to the plate is rare in a player as young as Moore. He also has the defensive skills to stay at the shortstop position as he has very quick feet. His transition is as smooth as they come and he has a strong arm across the infield.

Isaiah Montes (Kissimmee, Fla.), a 6-foot, 185-pound righty, took the mound for the CFL Outlaws in their consolation game. He offers a big, athletic presence on the mound and has a simple delivery. He relies heavily on his fastball, which has tons of run and will even dive at times. Montes topped out at 72 mph with the fastball but there’s more to come given his easy mechanics and likelihood of filling out his large yet plenty projectable frame. Montes went three hitless innings and got a strikeout as his heavy moving fastball helped him miss barrels and get weak contact.

The leadoff man for the Ostingers Baseball Academy 2021 in their game was Colby Shelton (Lithia, Fla.) and he fits the spot well as he has a quick bat and generates a lot of good contact. He has a lot of room to improve his strength and when he does he could quietly become a good power hitter. Shelton has an elevated line drive swing and is already able to drive the ball with some pop, and he seems to be able to handle the shortstop position as well. Similar to his offensive game, filling out with some strength will improve his defensive ability but his tools are already sound.

– Taylor Weber

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