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Tournaments | Story | 9/16/2018

Fall Championship Notes: Day 2

David Rawnsley         Brian Sakowski        
Photo: Tyler Whitaker (Perfect Game)

2018 PG Fall Championships Protected by G-Form Daily Leaders: Freshman | Upperclass | Day 1 Notes

Tyler Whitaker (2021, Las Vegas, Nev.) got the start for LVR in their second game of the day on Saturday, and while the PG Select Festival alum was saddled with the loss, he still showed, as he usually does, some of the more enticing upside in the 2021 class. Whitaker is a highly-projectable righthander with a very quick arm, and he worked in the 84-87 mph range for the most part in this outing, hiding the ball well through the back and creating angle to the plate, especially when working glove side. There are some inconsistencies in his lower half, specifically with his landing spot and how it pertains to getting over his front side, which in turn led to some command issues in this outing, but Whitaker is easily an athletic enough prospect to make that adjustment over time. The breaking ball blended between a curveball and slider at times, mostly operating in the 73-75 mph range, thrown with intent and conviction. His best ones had 11-to-5 shape with two-plane break and sharpness, and it's a non-issue to project the pitch as being a bat-misser at the college level. He also brought out a changeup that, especially against righthanded hitters, was pretty solid. He replicates his fastball arm speed on the pitch and generates solid fading life, thrown in the 78-81 mph range for the most part. 

Whitaker is also a pretty legitimate two-way prospect as an accomplished hitter, and he showed that on Saturday afternoon specifically, driving a liner double over the left fielder's head to put LVR ahead at that time in the game. There's plenty of bat speed there and Whitaker has done an excellent job over the course of his admittedly short to date prep career of adding lean muscle to his build while also retaining flexibility and athleticism. He's been one to watch for well over a year now, and that moniker certainly hasn't changed at this juncture. He'll be especially exciting to watch develop over the next several years. 

I came away impressed with Benjamin Holzem (2020, Las Vegas, Nev.), who caught Whitaker's start and has been doing so for several years. He's a lithely-built junior who definitely fits more into the athletic catcher mold rather than the traditional hulking type of backstop, but the athleticism and overall twitch stand out. He moves well to both sides and blocks well, and had no trouble leading Whitaker from a receiving standpoint, doing a good job of presenting the ball with a soft glove hand and firm wrist. There's pretty solid arm strength there at present as well, and in conjunction with how well his body projects, it's well within reason to believe that Holzem could potentially have a plus arm in time. His athleticism also stands out offensively, as he moves around the bases and down the line better than the vast majority of catching prospects, even clocking a 4.35 dig time to first base, which is just shy of major league average, something nearly unheard of for catching prospects. He's certainly one to look out for from a Division I recruiting perspective, especially as he continues to gain strength on his frame. 

Zach Hare (2019, Las Vegas, Nev.), a UNLV commit, stood out with the bat in the game I saw on Saturday. He drove a missile of a double off the base of the wall in left field in his first AB and finished the day 2-for-3 with that double and an RBI. His hands are very quick through the zone and he postures well through his swing as well, with plenty of bat speed and a good combination of strength and projection, giving him pretty quality hitting tools at present to go along with very projectable raw power. 

The West Coast Clippers ended up winning that game and got a lot of help from righthander James Benham (2019, Poway, Calif.), who shut the door in his two-inning save. Benham worked in the 83-87 mph range with his fastball and came right after the LVR hitters for the most part, unafraid to attack the zone and mixing in a solid 11-to-5 shaped curveball as well.

The So Cal Birds moved to 3-0 in pool play on Saturday afternoon behind the strong start of Shawn Hepler (2019, Corona, Calif.), who went four shutout innings to pick up the win to go along with five strikeouts. Hepler is a projectable, lean righthander committed to Xavier who worked in the 82-85 mph range for the most part in this one, throwing a lot of strikes with his fastball and attacking hitters with it to both sides of the plate. The pitch is a bit flatter than one would expect given Hepler's height, but he does generate a pretty significant amount of life on the pitch, making it tough to square up even when up in the zone. He worked in a slider with 10-to-4 shape and two-plane break, running it away from righthanded hitters and showing the ability to land it for strikes as well. 

The CBA Marucci National team continued their run of dominance by moving to 3-0 in pool play on Saturday, picking up a pair of wins in the afternoon down in Goodyear. Javi Espinoza (2019, Lynwood, Calif.) continued his assault on opposing pitching, picking up several more hits on this day, including a loud triple in their second game that was a missile off the barrel. He's been as impressive of a hitter as we've seen in the vacuum of this weekend's event, continuously finding the barrel in an authoritative manner and doing so seemingly in every at bat. 

GBG NW Marucci picked up a win on Saturday evening to run their pool play record to 2-1, and got a lot of help from Evan Overmars (2019, Tacoma, Wash.) in the process. Playing third base, Overmars made a very athletic, sprawling play diving to his left at the foul line, snaring a two-hopper, then getting to his feet quickly and delivering an accurate throw to first base for the out. He also added a lofted, loud double at the plate and picked up a walk as well, giving him a very nice all-around performance in this game. He's still working himself back from an ankle injury but there are tools and ability to his profile, and he's a senior to watch heading into the spring as he gets to 100 percent health and adds some strength to his frame. 

– Brian Sakowski

Lefthander Iain Isdale (2019, Parker, Colo.) worked five innings for Slammers Ackerfields Saturday morning, striking out nine hitters and helping the Slammers to a come from behind in a 6-5 win. Isdale catches the eye with a 6-foot-5, 175-pound build that is very young and projectable. He has a deceptive delivery with a very short arm action that isn't as projectable as his body but which works well for him. Perhaps the most impressive part of Isdale's performance was that he saved his best stuff for key situations and executed in those situations. His last pitch of the game, No. 102, was an 85 mph fastball, his top velocity of the game, for an inning-ending strikeout. Isdale, who committed to Northern Colorado last month, showed good feel for adding and subtracting from his breaking ball but picked up a few key strikeouts on his hardest breaking balls that showed hard biting action.

CBA Nevada righthander Brandon Smith (2019, Las Vegas, Nev.) doesn't pass the eye test like Isdale does, with a strong 5-foot-9, 190-pound build, but was even more effective, throwing a complete game with exactly 100 pitches in CBA's 4-1 win. Smith scattered nine hits while striking out 10 and walking only one hitter, working up to 87 mph with his fastball with a low-70s curveball and consistently challenging hitters in the strike zone. Like Isdale, he was able to tap into his best stuff at the end of his outing, retiring the side on seven pitches in the seventh inning and sitting at 85 mph. Smith also went 2-for-3 at the plate to help his team's offense.

Updates on two players who were highlighted in the Day 1 notes: CBA Nevada outfielder Chase Rodriguez (2020, Las Vegas, Nev.) continued to produce at a high rate Saturday and finished pool play hitting .455 with eight RBI in three games. Twin Cities Baseball Academy outfield Thomas Bean (2019, Minneapolis, Minn.) was mentioned in part due to his plus speed on the bases. In consecutive at-bats on Saturday, Bean ran 3.91 and 4.02 from home to first base from the left side after full swings, which is better defined as exceptional plus-plus speed.

Another player who might fall into the plus-plus speed category is outfielder Tommy Castillo (2020, West Covina, Calif.), the leadoff hitter for Jack 9 Baseball. Castillo needs to add some muscle to his 5-foot-11, 145-pound frame but he can absolutely fly on the bases and in center field, although this scout did not get a run time on him in three at-bats (two walks and a fly ball). Castillo has scored a team-high six runs in three games from his leadoff spot, as Jack 9 has scored an eye-opening 38 runs in those games. Castillo also showed his arm strength, throwing out a runner trying to score from second on a single with a perfect online strike to the catcher after charging the ball aggressively.

Castillo's Jack 9 teammate Noah Mattera (2019, Moorpark, Calif.) threw a five-inning complete game in a run rule victory Saturday and showed impressive arm strength in doing so. Mattera has a physically mature 6-foot, 200-pound build and worked in the 84-87 mph range the entire outing. He works over a very stiff and straight front leg out front that gives him occasional command inconsistency but when he gets out front on time he creates big downhill angle to his pitches. His best secondary pitch was a 74 mph slider and he also threw a softer curveball. Mattera does not have a college commitment at present.

CBA Nevada shortstop Isaiah Salas (2019, Las Vegas, Nev.) was one of the more polished players offensively and defensively this scout saw during pool play. The 6-foot, 190-pound righthanded hitter has good present strength and physical maturity and an economy of movement on both sides of the ball. He's smooth defensively and makes routine plays cleanly and is a very adaptable hitter. He scored seven runs in three games in pool play, in part due to always being in scoring position due to three doubles, three walks and a stolen base. Salas doesn't have a college commitment but would be a solid addition to any number of college programs.

Righthander Ethan O'Neal (2020, Henderson, Nev.) threw 5 2/3 innings for Trombly Tribe late Saturday, showing a lively and projectable arm. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound athlete worked in the 83-86 mph range the entire time while mixing in a low-70s curveball. O'Neal has a very short stride out front that gives him lots of angle from a high three-quarters arm slot and a longer stride would help improve his extension to the plate with his long right arm and help him get over his front side more consistently to keep the ball down in the zone.

As far as performance goes, it would be hard to top what Trombly Tribe catcher/first baseman Logan Gallina (2019, Laguna Niguel, Calif.) did during his first two pool play games. The stocky and strong lefthanded hitter went 7-for-7 at the plate, including a 4-for-4 game that included three very hard hit doubles. Gallina settled down later, going 1-for-3 in his third game.

OC Premier righthander William St. Marseille (2019, Orange, Calif.) threw four one-run innings Saturday, filling up the strike zone with 69 percent strikes and topping out at 89 mph on his fastball while working consistently in the 84-86 mph range. The 6-foot, 190-pound St. Marseille also threw an occasional big breaking 69-71 mph curveball that showed promise but was mostly content to pound the zone with hard fastballs and pitch to content. He is committed to California Baptist.

Iowa Select infielder Michael Weiss (2019, Marion, Iowa) has a projectable 6-foot-2, 175-pound build that has some present strength. The righthanded hitter showed nice present bat speed while hitting .500 in pool play, consistently driving the ball hard to the middle and opposite fields while showing the ability to fight off tough pitches. Weiss has some barrel lag in his swing but is strong enough to create whip in the barrel and his ability to drive the ball hard to right centerfield promises more future power. He profiles as an offensive second baseman at the next level.

– David Rawnsley

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