Tournaments | Story | 9/30/2018

National Qualifier Scout Notes

Vincent Cervino         Greg Gerard        
Photo: Reggie Crawford (Perfect Game)

2018 WWBA National Qualifier Daily Leaders

Carter Holton (2021, Guyton, Ga.) took the baseball on Friday night for Team Elite Black and dominated from start to finish on the mound filling up the strike zone with both of his pitches. The lefthander is not going to blow one away with his size, but his pitchability and already upper-80s velocity is worth noting. Holton’s fastball sat in the 86-89 mph range early in his outing while continually living down in the strike zone. The Vanderbilt commit’s left arm stays online throughout the throwing motion and he is able to repeat his release point very well. The ball jumps out of his hand coming from a three-quarters arm slot and generating natural life to armside. His secondary pitch, his slurve-like curveball, flashed potential at times in this contest while keeping the pitch down in the zone as well. Holton finished off his four-inning start with seven punchouts.

In a blowout contest, Tennessee commit Brandon Smith (2019, Woodstock, Ga.) excelled on both sides of the baseball including a home run while batting from the right side of the plate and topping out at 94 mph with his fastball on the mound. Smith is a physical 6-foot-2, 197-pound righthander with plenty of strength present on the build and it is easy to see why he can hit for power. Smith jumped on an elevated fastball and drove the ball out to right field leveraging and getting the barrel to the baseball with impact force. The ball left his barrel at 96 mph and traveled 358 per TrackMan. On the mound, the Tennessee commit has a loose arm and sat 89-94 mph during his inning of work. He flashed a downward biting slider that showed good promise up to 81 mph. Smith is an interesting 2019 prospect to follow closely moving forward especially on the bump.

Reuben Church (2020, Maryville, Tenn.) hit the baseball well as he has done all year long at Perfect Game events. The Kentucky commit has a large and physical frame with lots of strength present throughout. He uses that strength well into his swing as he sets up with a closed off stance prior to the beginning of his stroke. The 6-foot-2 righthanded hitting corner infielder has a simple load with a direct hand path to contact that produces good jump when squared. On Friday night Church displayed his outstanding eye at the plate as well as his plate discipline grinding out an at-bat fouling off good pitches and laying off pitches just out of the zone before ripping a double down the left field line. On Sunday Church continued to swing a hot bat in the quarterfinals of the National Qualifier by connecting on a pair of singles up the middle.

Bradley Blalock (2019, Lawrenceville, Ga.) has a very loose arm and a frame that really projects moving forward. The arm strength is noticeable as he is able to run his fastball into the low-90s as well. The ball comes from an over the top arm slot and when down in the strike zone, the ball comes from a steep angle. Blalock tossed an inning of relief on Friday night to close out a 8-0 run rule and missed bats in doing so. Blalock struck out a pair in his inning with a fastball, curveball combination of pitches. The curveball is still developing at this, but will improve with more repetitions on the mound. The Kennesaw State commit’s fastball is heavy and opposing hitters struggle to get the barrel to the pitch. With the improvement of his offspeed stuff, Blalock and the low mileage currently on his arm is a must follow on into the spring high school season in Georgia.

Loud contact was the story of the weekend for Dominic Johnson (2020, Edmond, Okla.) of Blackhawk National. The leadoff hitter has elite speed for his age and a hit tool that is going to carry him well throughout the rest of his high school career as well as into his years at Oklahoma State. Johnson ran a 6.58 second 60 yard dash at PG Junior National in June and the game speed is noticeably impressive. During the National Qualifier, Johnson collected six hits in nine at-bats that included a triple. Friday night making his debut in the tournament, Johnson battled in his first at-bat seeing seven pitches before roping a line drive single to his pull side. It is a compact swing that Johnson brings to the plate with big-time bat speed and a high level approach for a leadoff type bat. Waiting for his pitch and seeing plenty of balls before using his outstanding hand quickness and barrel ability to produce the aforementioned loud contact, Johnson has a professional approach and a high ceiling all around.

Playing this weekend with Team Elite, Jordan Walker (2020, Stone Mountain, Ga.) has continued to make a huge impression with the bat this fall. Walker’s first at-bat of the tournament resulted in a deep triple to the opposite field. He brought an aggressive approach to the plate sitting on a first pitch curveball and he did not miss it. Sitting back on the pitch and lifting the ball to deep right field, the Duke University commit showed the type of power present in his swing and a glimpse of the power that is still going to come as he continues to add strength to his projectable 6-foot-4 frame. He later continued to swing a hot bat as he connected on a pitch over the middle of the plate and laced it down the left field line for a double. Walker did a nice job of working the baseball to all fields in this contest and really has high ceiling both in the righthanded batter’s box and at his primary hot corner position.

Walker’s teammate Josh Shuler (2020, Suwanee, Ga.) had a nice day at the plate as well squaring up a pair of hard hit singles to his pull side as well as up the middle. Shuler’s approach that he took to the plate on Saturday was similar to that of Walker in that he was aggressive looking for an early pitch over the middle of the plate to hit with intent to drive. His first single that went through the 3-4 hole was on a low and well-located pitch. Shuler went down to get the baseball connecting the barrel to it and hitting it hard for a base hit. His next at-bat on a 1-1 count, Shuler’s barrel skills were again on display as he roped a ball back where it came from and this time hitting the baseball even harder than before. The verbal commitment to South Carolina has tremendous hand quickness into his swing and outstanding potential with the bat when all the pieces come together.

2018 PG National invitee and Georgia Tech commit Andrew Jenkins (2019, Atlanta, Ga.) was able to stand out in a huge way on Saturday for 643. The righthanded hitting primary third baseman was the designated hitter to start the game manning the three hole in the lineup. In his first at-bat of the day, Jenkins did not miss a 3-1 fastball taking the ball over the left-center field fence for a home run. Jenkins has a unique stance setting up with a very open stance and low hand set. His hands are quick and loose showing that on this particular swing that resulted in a 100 mph exit velocity homer. Jenkins also came into close the game on the mound and topped out at 90 mph with his lively fastball striking out the side in doing so.

– Gregory Gerard

Proving to be one of the top MLB Draft prospects in attendance this weekend, Reggie Crawford (2019, Frackville, Pa.) made the trek down to Atlanta to play in the National Qualifier with perennial power Blackhawks National. Crawford is a talented two-way prospect and showed off his pitching chops during a strong outing in the Round of 32.

There are a lot of raw tools to like on the mound out of the 6-foot-4, 206-pound prospect, with present strength to the frame and athleticism to the overall delivery. Crawford’s delivery is pretty clean and fluid down the mound with a loose, fast arm stroke that he delivery to the plate from a low, three-quarters arm slot. This slot creates a lot of angle, especially when working to the glove side, though the pitch will also show some riding life when working to the arm side of the plate. Early on the fastball key pitch that the Connecticut commit was looking to establish, as through two innings he threw no offspeed pitches and only showed his breaking ball a handful of times.

The fastball touched 92-93 mph once each in the first inning, and settled in the 88-91 mph range for the most part early on. The velocity would eventually drop down to the mid- to upper-80s in his last frame, but the life and angle on the pitch made it very difficult to square up. The breaking ball showed potential in the upper-70s with good shape and projects well with solid movement as well. There is an element of rawness to the profile with some consistency concerns present, but after five innings with nine K’s the stuff and projection certainly bodes well for Crawford moving forward.

One of the top juniors in the country is Clemson commit Alex Edmondson (2020, Simpsonville, S.C.), checking in at No. 28 on the national class rankings, and Edmondson showed out to be his usual self through two quick innings before running into some trouble in the third frame. The delivery, frame, and ease of operation all project extremely well moving forward for the young for the grade arm, Edmondson just turned 16 over the summer, and he showed his typical 88-91 mph sinking fastballs early on. Edmondson’s breaking ball has been a very good pitch for him in the past in the mid-70s with slurvy shape, albeit high spin rates and late bite to the offering. The fastball was the pitch he used to establish early and frankly got a number of quick outs with the pitch so he didn’t get to show off the secondaries often. Edmondson also showed a changeup that flashed good promise as he struck out the first batter of the game on the pitch at 81 mph with late, tumbling off the table life to it. Edmondson still has a full year ahead of him before professional scouts really start to bear down, but all the indicators are ticking up in the positive direction for Edmondson as he continues his fall season.

Team Elite’s 18u team made it to the semifinal round and received contributions from some familiar faces along the way in the uber-toolsy Tyler Williams (2019, Stone Mountain, Ga.) and the consistency of Brennan Milone (2019, Woodstock, Ga.).

Williams’ toolset rivals almost any other prospect in the class, not to mention that he is one of the toolsiest seniors without a current home at the next level. He’s both a plus runner and thrower from the outfield, with top marks coming from PG National in the form of a 6.33 second 60-yard dash and a 98 mph howitzer, but also owns top of the charts athleticism and bat speed. The swing and ability to square the ball can be inconsistent at times for Williams, but there’s no denying the easy plus bat speed and raw power potential he possesses. He only racked up three hits on the weekend, but each hit was 95+ mph off the bat which included a double late on Saturday night and a smoked single in the semifinal round. Williams has all the makings, and ability, to play at the next level and gave those in attendance a glimpse at that potential over the weekend.

Milone has made a name for himself in this year’s class as being one of the more consistent hitters with advanced barrel skills on the circuit. There isn’t as much flash in terms of tools to the overall profile, Milone is an athletic infielder who possesses solid body control and enough arm strength to stick on the dirt at the next level, but he showed the hittability with a number of well-struck balls out of the leadoff spot. He showed that he can turn and square a ball to pull with authority, however he’ll also use the whole field on a line effectively. Toward the end of the quarterfinal round, Milone turned hard on a home run deep to left field that left the bat at 90 mph and traveled an estimated 350 feet. The South Carolina commit has had a good fall thus far and will be looking to make an impact come Jupiter.

Arms have the ability to impact playoff Sunday like no other and one of the early standouts in that regard was Kennesaw State commit Coleman Crow (2019, Concord, Ga.) as the righthander was untouchable during the morning’s quarterfinal en route to a victory for the righthander. Crow is listed at a modest 5-foot-11, 165-pound frame but that doesn’t really tell the whole story with the righthanded pitching prospect. Crow is going to come right after hitters with lots of deception, throwing from multiple arm slots and is around the zone from each, and isn’t afraid to unleash his breaking ball in any count. The breaking ball, working in the 73-76 mph range throughout with absurd spin rates around 2800 rpm, looked like it was covered in grease to opposing hitters with guess swings flailing through the pitch that broke out of the strike zone a half second earlier. He could also land the pitch for strikes, but knowing he had that in his back pocket made his fastball that much more difficult to square. The pitch worked up to 90 mph multiple times early on before living around the 85-88 mph range, though that would drop lower as his arm slot would as well. Crow has now put together back to back weekends of strong baseball as he has struck out fourteen batters in a little over eight innings.

Two future Georgia State Panthers stood out over the course of the weekend in Home Plate’s Kyle Riesselmann (2019, Tyrone, Ga.) and Team Elite’s Joseph (Will) Mize (2019, Snellville, Ga.).

Riesselmann has a well-built frame that shows a strong present combination of strength and athleticism. The swing path is pretty clean from a mechanical standpoint, with some righthanded bat speed and good drive from his lower half through contact. There is some power in that strong lower half as well and he can turn on a ball hard over the inside to show some of the impact strength that he possesses. Riesselmann’s athleticism will play well at the next level, and there’s some two-way potential on the mound too as he can work his fastball into the mid-80s from the left side with some angle.

Mize had a very strong weekend at the dish, hitting near the top of the order to the tune of a .467 batting average, with three of those coming in the wild semifinal match that went ten innings. Mize’s 6-foot-2, 170-pound listing may even be on the more conservative end as the frame is lengthy and that length allows him to naturally leverage to the ball to pull effectively. The trigger is fairly fluid and simple while the swing path is very loose and allows for high contact rates. There’s power in that frame too and as he begins to consistently leverage the ball to pull and fill out that lean frame the home runs should start coming in bunches for Mize.

Turning in an abbreviated, yet strong, start for Blackhawks National in front of a few professional scouts was Octavio Corona (2019, San Diego, Calif.). The St. Mary’s commit was throwing in his first core PG event and it was good to get an eye on a prospect who showed some serious draft potential on the mound.

Corona is listed at 6-foot, 165-pounds and though he may not have that 6-foot-5 look scouts look for, the frame is young, lean, and ripe for additional strength and physical projection. The delivery and arm stroke are mostly clean and low effort as Corona throws exclusively out of the stretch and does a good job at repeating that loose arm stroke when working to either side of the plate. The fastball touched 89 mph on only two pitches in his 31-pitch outing, with the rest of the pitches working 90-91 mph and one topping out at 92 mph. He gets on top of the pitch very well to create short sink to either side and really showed a feel for commanding the pitch to both sides, especially when leveraging low.

He would use the fastball to get ahead early, but he had much better feel for his breaking ball in terms of command, a pitch that showed hard bite and above-average potential on Sunday afternoon. The pitch was hard with requisite power in the 76-79 mph range showing spin rates mostly in the 24-2600rpm range. He got under one or two as he will lower the slot slightly on the pitch, but the late bite allowed him to rack up five swings-and-misses on the pitch in just two innings. Corona is one to monitor moving forward undoubtedly, especially when considering the present stuff, feel to spin, and the ongoing projection as he moves closer to the draft next June.

– Vincent Cervino

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