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Tournaments | Story | 10/1/2018

Florida Qualifier Scout Notes

Photo: Dylan Crews (Perfect Game)

2018 WWBA Florida Qualifier Daily Leaders

The IMG Ascenders club got off to a great start in pool play. The deep and talented club, managed by former big league all-star Chris Sabo, is a fundamentally sound group that plays with great effort and attention to detail. Kyle Westfall (2019, Mason, Ohio) is the gritty leadoff hitter and ball-hawking center fielder for the Bradenton, Florida-based IMG team. The Texas Tech bound senior is an elite runner and his advanced speed is evident in all phases of his game. At the plate, Westfall is a classic leadoff man. He sees a lot of pitches and uses the entire field to spray line drives. He has a flatter bat path and a short, quick and compact swing. Once on base he is arguably the fastest player in the tournament. His speed is a big weapon and a major part of his game. Defensively, he covers a lot of ground which gives his corner outfield mates the ability to play closer to the foul lines. He is an instinctive defender with a plus arm that is highly accurate.

Hitting in the three-hole for IMG is Florida Atlantic commit Tucker Mitchell (2019, Oakton, Va.). The solidly built, 6-foot-2, 201-pound Tucker is one of IMG’s catchers. He brings a gamer’s mentality to the park as his leadership ability is palpable. The unquestioned vocal captain of this team, Tucker has advanced ability as a catch-and-throw receiver and a big bat in the all-important three spot in the order. Defensively, he has an easy set-up and low profile, which allows umpires to see pitches clearly. He has a smooth touch in receiving each pitch and keeps the IMG staff working with a pace that keeps all of the defenders active and alert. He has outstanding transition ability and quick feet. Mitchell also possesses a strong arm that is both strong and accurate. He really shines with a bat in his hands. He can drive the baseball to the big parts of the ballpark and always appears to get his barrel on plane and to the ball.

Also hitting in the middle of the IMG order is first baseman and designated hitter, Heston Tole (2020, Bowie, Texas). The University of Arkansas-bound, 6-foot-5, 205-pound junior is a solid player who is just starting to come into his own. He has a middle-of-the-field mentality at the plate and a short swing path. His barrel-to-ball ability is consistent and allows him to drive the ball to the big parts of the field. He is also a gifted defender around first base and can make all the plays.

West Virginia commit Jimmy Starnes (2019, Richmond, Va.) and Notre Dame-bound Brandon Llewellyn (2019, Colleyville, Texas) combined to pace the IMG club on the mound in early action. A 6-foot, 170-pound righty, Starnes pitches off his 87-89 mph fastball that has riding life up in the zone and sinking, running action to the arm side, when down in the zone. Starnes works fast and pounds the strike zone using a high three-quarters delivery and highly repeatable mechanics. He complements his fastball with a sharp, 12-to-6 breaking curveball that is a put-away, swing-and-miss pitch.

Llewellyn is a long and lean 6-foot-1, 145-pound righthander with a whippy arm action and a very solid three-pitch mix, highlighted by a wipeout 11-to-5, late-breaking 75-77 mph slider. His fastball (85-86 mph) is a heavy two-seamer that has boring action and is a very tough pitch to barrel up. His changeup, which he used rarely, has tumbling action at the plate and is thrown out of the same window as his fastball, a highly effective weapon against lefthanded hitters. Llewellyn has almost pinpoint command and control with the advanced ability to add and subtract velocity with all of his pitches.

Playing out of Lithia, Florida is the Ostingers 18u club and toeing the bump in early Saturday pool play for Ostingers was lefty Myles Caba (2019, Valrico, Fla.). The crafty southpaw is a command and control specialist who uses an advanced three-pitch mix to get his team back in the dugout in a hurry. He pitches to contact and is always around the zone. His fastball is a heavy sinking and running two-seamer (80-82 mph) that induces a lot of weakly hit ground balls. His curveball is a sharp and late 12-to-6 breaking tight spinner that misses bats. His changeup is also a very effective swing-and-miss pitch to righthanded hitters.

Leading the way offensively for Ostingers is their big three-hole hitting third baseman Brock Wilken (2020, Valrico, Fla.). The 6-foot-3, 202-pound Wilken is a presence at the plate, a classic power hitting righthanded swinger who never gets cheated and rarely misses mistakes. He has advanced pull-side power and barrel-to-ball ability that sees the ball jump off his bat. He is also very sound at the hot corner. He is nimble and quick to the ball, especially to his glove side, and has a powerful and accurate throwing arm.

Playing out of Winter Park, Florida is the Scorpions 2019 Founders Club. To say that the Scorps are loaded would probably be an understatement. Pitching and defense highlighted early action for the Scorpions as four hurlers and air-tight work with the leather saw the highly favorite Scorps survive an early 2-1 scare from a PRo Baseball club out of Puerto Rico.

Pacing the purple-clad Florida club on the bump to start was Stephen Loubier (2019, Winter Springs, Fla.). The long and lean, 6-foot-6, 190-pound righthander, who is bound for the Ivy League and Columbia University, is a command and control pitcher who works with pace and highly repeatable mechanics. His high three-quarters slot and sharp downhill plane adds a lot of deception to all of his pitches. His 85-87 mph fastball is especially effective to the glove side and shows consistent late life down in the zone. His breaking ball is a slurvy sweeper that has tight spin and is a tough pitch to track because he adds and subtracts velocity so well. His changeup is a swing-and-miss pitch to lefthanded hitters that is thrown out of the same window as his fastball.

Tulane-bound Richie Morales (2020, Bradenton, Fla.) followedLoubierto the hill and used a bulldog mentality to get through his brief outing. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Morales was a great complement to the tall and angular Loubier. Morales has a shorter and quicker arm stroke and the ball appears to jump out of his hand and get on the hitters in a hurry. His fastball/curveball mix and his ability to pitch backwards tied hitters up and saw a lot of weak swings and poor contact. 

Following Morales to the hill was their primary starting shortstop, Michael Brooks (2020, Wellington, Fla.). Brooks, who is bound for the University of Arkansas, is a dynamic shortstop and two-hole hitter. He was called on for a brief stint on the hill by the Scorps coaching staff as they navigated their way through Saturday pool play. His demeanor on the hill is not unlike that at shortstop. He is a no-nonsense hurler who works with pace and poise and pounds the strike zone. His raw arm strength at shortstop is very noticeable. On the hill, that arm strength is a weapon. He didn’t use too many pitches and worked almost exclusively with his well-commanded heater.

Lastly, University of Miami commit and the Scorpions talented first baseman and middle-of-the-order hitter C.J. Kayfus (2020, Wellington, Fla.) closed out the game on the bump and helped secure the victory as he faced one batter with the tying run on base. His work was short and effective and helped the highly favored Scorpions escape with a well-earned victory. Kayfus had already impacted the game before he took the hill with his play around the first base bag. His smooth and easy style, coupled with a sure glove and sound footwork, saved a few errant throws and kept the Scorps from having to battle from behind. He also swings an impressive stick with a classic lefthanded hitter’s swing path. He always appears to be on time, has noticeable pull-side pop and an advanced ability to consistently get his barrel to the ball.

PRo Baseball out of Cayey, Puerto Rico gave the Scorpions all they could handle and were paced by a dynamic pitcher/catcher duo that had the heavy hitting Scorpions scratching their collective heads. Crafty lefthander Shadai Colon (2019, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico) used a highly effective three-pitch mix and a veteran’s poise and pace to keep his ball club in the game. His fastball, which never topped 83 mph, was thrown consistently down in the zone and showed arm side run and heavy sink at the plate. He added and subtracted with the pitch forcing a lot of poorly contacted balls. His 12-to-6 sharp-breaking curveball was a highly effective pitch the he threw to both sides of the plate. His changeup was a tumbling pitch that looked like a fastball to hitters and saw a lot of swings and misses.

Ably handling the PRo pitching staff was Samuel Torres (2019, Yauco, Puerto Rico). The dynamo plays with great passion and advanced skill. His No. 1 tool is his throwing arm, which he is not afraid to use and helps limit the opponent’s running game. He is easy and smooth with his set-up and is a great framer of pitches. He has soft hands and calls a quality game. It is very obvious that the PRo staff has a great deal of confidence throwing the Torres.

Playing out of Atlanta, Georgia is Beast Mode Prime. This highly skilled club is paced by a number of outstanding players, and two of those shone quite well in mid-morning play Saturday at the Player Development Complex. Michael Machin (2019, Miami Lakes, Fla.), who was a standout at the PG Top Prospect Games at Texas A&M last weekend, hit a ball that was heard throughout the complex. The powerfully built, 5-foot-11, 185 pound catcher, hit a no-doubter out of Field 2 that one-hopped the first base dugout on Field 1, a shot estimated by many to be in excess of 400 feet. In addition to his obvious ability to drive the baseball, Machin is also an advanced catch-and-throw receiver who has soft hands and excellent footwork behind the plate.

Also making an early impression for Beast Mode Prime was one of the younger players in the tournament, Satchell Norman (2021, Sarasota, Fla.). The Florida State commit is the very capable second baseman for Beast Mode. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Norman is a twitchy athlete who can make all the plays on the right side of the infield and is a force at the top of the order. He is a contact-first hitter, who works counts and consistently gets his barrel on plane and to the ball. He has gap-to-gap pop and advanced speed that allows him to aggressively take the extra base.

Feeding off the cool and calm demeanor of their gritty starting righthanded pitcher, Adrian Palma (2019, Kissimmee, Fla.), the FTB Powerhouse club, the tournament’s 16th-seeded playoff team, pulled off the shocker of the tournament on Sunday, as they defeated the No. 1-seeded Ostingers 18u team, 4-1 in extra innings. All Palma did was toss a complete game and hold down one of the top offensive clubs in Fort Myers this weekend. The wiry Palma used highly deceptive mechanics and a quick low three-quarters arm action to completely lock up the opposing club. His best velocity never topped the low-80s, but, his ability to work fast and pound the zone helped set the pace and tone for what would be the final outcome.

His fastball was thrown to both sides of the plate and to all four quadrants. He deftly added and subtracted velocity and forced a lot of poor swings and weak contact. Palma also mixed in a solid 12-to-6, tight-spinning curveball and a changeup that he also added and subtracted velocity on. Some of his changeups barely had enough velo to reach the hitting zone, but those pitches were too tantalizing to pass on. The result was an eight inning, complete game victory for the game club out of St. Cloud, Fla.

There was not much offense in this early contest played at the Stadium at Terry Park until the extra frame. Getting the clutch knock for FTB Powerhouse was their steady two-hole hitter and right fielder, Nicholas Matos (2019, Kissimmee, Fla.). With the bases jammed and two outs, Matos, using an inside-out and flat swing path, served a knock into left plating two and giving his club the all-important cushion needed. On top of his offensive heroics, Matos was a defensive wizard in right field taking away numerous hits with running grabs. Matos has plus speed and is instinctive defender with plus arm strength.

The Coastal Prospects Upperclass club out of Jacksonville, Florida has a number of gifted players that play with an edge and a great deal of hustle and enthusiasm. It is quite apparent to all in attendance that the team really doesn’t care which individual gets the credit. They are led by Coastal Alabama CC commit Blake Vineyard (2019, Panama City, Fla.). The hard-nosed second baseman, who hits in the middle of the order for Coastal, is a twitchy athlete who can drive the ball with authority, bunt for a hit and steal a base. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior at A. Crawford Mosley HS has flashed consistent pull-side power and has squared up numerous pitches throughout the tournament. He has a very short and quick swing path and incorporates a solid lower half into every pass. He is also a steady hand in the middle infield and can make all the plays.

D’Emiliano Whiters (2019, Palm Coast, Fla.) is Vineyard’s middle infield mate who hits out of the two spot for Coastal and plays a flawless shortstop. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Whiters is a contact-first guy who likes to see a lot of pitches and uses a short, quick and compact path to spray line drives from foul line to foul line. He is slick fielder who moves well in either direction and uses a quick transition and a very strong and accurate arm to make a lot of tough plays look fairly routine.

Helping power the Florida Burn 2019 Premier Club into the semifinals has been Gunner Womer (2019, Parrish, Fla.) and Weston Wiles (2019, Ft. Myers, Fla.).

Womer is the very talented catcher for his club, who also hits in the three-hole for the Sarasota-based Burn. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior at Palmetto HS can power the ball to both gaps with authority. He has a solid lower half that he incorporates well into his powerful swing path that has a slugger’s lift at contact. Behind the dish he has advanced tools. He sets up easy and has a low profile at the ready giving umpires a great look at each pitch. He has soft hands and is a master at framing pitches. He also displays advanced footwork and transitions like a veteran. His quick trigger and highly accurate arm are very projectible. 

Wiles hits behind Womer in the very talented Burn lineup. He is not unlike Womer is stature, hitting style and ability. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound solidly built righthanded hitter is a senior at Fort Myers HS. He has a shorter and quicker swing path and a flatter plane than Womer, however, the results are very similar. He has strength through his core and can drive the ball with authority to both gaps.

Leading the Scorpions 2019 Founders Club into the semifinals has been Dylan Crews (2020, Longwood, Fla.). The 6-foot-1, 175-pound LSU commit is a gifted defender who can make all the plays in right field. He has a steady glove and is a very instinctive outfielder. He also possesses a very strong arm that is highly accurate. Crews hits in the middle of the deep Scorps lineup and uses strong hands and a swing path that stays on plane throughout each pass. He has displayed advanced barrel-to-ball ability in each at-bat.

Judson Fabian (2019, Ocala, Fla.) is the dynamic center fielder and standout three-hole hitter for the Scorpions. The athletic University of Florida commit can make all the plays in the middle outfield position. He is poised and moves with ease to field and throw the ball. He possesses a very strong and accurate arm that he is not afraid to use. Offensively, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior at Trinity Catholic HS is an aggressive swinger who gets his bat on plane early and quickly through the zone with a slight lift at contact. He has strong hands and a solid core that he uses to drive the ball to all parts of the field. He is an above average runner who can and will take the extra base.

Holding down the second base position for the Scorpions is the very talented Tyrell Brewer (2019, Ocala, Fla.). The Florida State commit is a slick fielder who has soft hands and a great first step. He also has a shortstop’s arm that is highly accurate. The senior at TNXL Academy has a veteran’s presence around the bag and can turn the double play at an advanced level. Offensively, Brewer utilizes a short, quick and compact swing and a flat path to spray balls to all parts of the field. On the bases, he has advanced speed and an instinctive and aggressive running style that constantly pressures the opposition defense.

Four teams emerged from a very competitive weekend to play for the WWBA Florida Qualifier Championship on Monday at Terry Park in Fort Myers. When the dust settled from three hard-fought and well-played games, the Coastal Prospects Upperclass club emerged with a well-earned championship.

Florida Gulf Coast commit Danny Rodriguez (2019, Sarasota, Fla.) turned in a yeoman’s performance in the semifinals for the Florida Burn Premier club. The long and lean righthander mixed and matched four quality pitches over six-plus innings, giving his club every opportunity to come out victorious. He left with the score tied at one, limiting the eventual champions, Coastal Prospects, to a few scratch hits and one unearned marker. Rodriguez pitches off his well-commanded secondary stuff but can always draw from a solid fastball that is sits in the 85-87 mph range and shows arm side run and sink at the plate. He uses his advanced changeup (73-74 mph) as his swing-and-miss out-pitch, to both righthanded and lefthanded hitters. The 6-foot, 135-pound, Venice Senior HS senior also showed an advanced 12-to-6 sharp breaking curveball (67-68 mph) and an 11-to-5 slider (72-74 mph). He showed highly repeatable mechanics and a consistent high three-quarters arm slot.

The Burn’s scrappy two-hole hitter and center fielder, Austin Brinling (2019, Bradenton, Fla.), was solid all weekend. On defense he covers a lot of ground and is very instinctive about positioning and getting jumps on the ball. He made more than one run saving grab throughout the tournament and was especially effective during the semi-final contest. Offensively, the 5-foot-8, 155-pound lefthanded hitting sparkplug is a contact guy who has great plate discipline and a short, compact swing path that he uses to consistently get his barrel to the ball. On the bases, he is a disrupter and will take advantage of any opening to take an extra base or steal a bag.

Flagler College commit Jaiden Warde (2019, Longwood, Fla.) played a very sound, and sometimes spectacular, third base for the Burn throughout the weekend. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior at Lake Mary HS shows great anticipatory ability and advanced lateral movement, especially to his glove side. He has plus arm strength and his throws are firm and true. Warde hit in the middle of the very talented Burn lineup and showed the ability to make consistent middle-of-the-field contact. He also flashed some raw power to the pull-side gap.

Shortstop Mason Kolbe (2019, Bradenton, Fla.) was a key factor in the Burn’s advancement to the semifinals. He was sound and steady in making all the routine plays, and when the tough play was needed, he always responded. The 5-foot-10, 145-pound Kolbe is a twitchy athlete who showed outstanding anticipation and advanced first-step quickness. He has plus ability to move in either direction and can make all the throws from various platforms.

The FTB Tucci 55 club played as well as any team in the tournament this weekend. The fundamentally sound, highly disciplined team from Kissimmee, Florida, used sound pitching, almost flawless defense and timely hitting to play their way into the tournament finals on Monday and were just a few outs, and a couple of hits, from winning the championship.

Emory-Riddle commit Robert Post (2019, Chuluota, Fla.) hit cleanup, played first base and caught for FTB during the tournament. On Monday, especially in the finals, he used all his skills on offense and defense to help his club’s push towards the tournament title. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound solidly built Post is a very consistent bat in the middle of the FTB order. The senior at Hagerty HS flashed gap-to-gap pop and consistently got his barrel to the ball. He is also a very steady hand at managing the FTB pitching staff. He is a sound receiver of the ball and an advanced framer of pitches. He has a quick trigger and a strong and accurate throwing arm.

FTB’s second baseman and two-hole hitter Andrew Fernandez (2019, Kissimmee, Fla.) exemplifies the fundamental ability and passion for the game that the Kissimmee-based club brings to the ballpark each day. The 5-foot-6, 158-pound dynamo was sterling throughout the weekend and played his best on Monday. Defensively his play on the right side of the infield was steady, and his ability to go get the ball saved his club more than once. He has outstanding first-step quickness, very sure hands and a shortstop’s arm strength. Offensively, he has a lot of thump in his bat from both sides of the plate. His short, quick and compact swing gets on plane quickly and his flat path helps the senior at Osceola HS hit line drives to all parts of the field. He is a plus runner who is both instinctive and aggressive.

Catcher Christian Pregent, (2019, Daytona Beach, Fla.), who is headed to Stetson to play his college ball, was outstanding during the FTB semifinal victory over a very talented Scorpions Founders Club. His catch-and-throw ability shut the aggressive Scorpions running game down. He shows very advanced skills behind the plate and is the unquestioned field general for FTB. He sits very comfortably behind the dish and shows a veteran’s ability in both calling a game and receiving pitches. He has very quick feet and a plus ability to gain ground and get the ball out of his glove and on target.

Righthanded starting pitcher Kevin Melendez (2019, Kissimmee, Fla.) couldn’t have pitched much better than he did in tossing his FTB club past the ever dangerous and highly talented Scorpions Founders team. All the 5-foot-11, 148-pound, Bethune-Cookman commit did was limit one of the higher scoring and deepest lineups in the tournament to one run over five plus innings. Using a low three-quarters to sometimes side-arm arm slot, he managed to keep the Scorps completely off balance throughout the contest. His short takeaway and quick arm stroke helped in and with his deception as it appeared tough for the opponent to track his pitches. His fastball, which was always moving, was thrown to both edges and to all quadrants. Although his velocity was never over-powering (80-82 mph) the deception in and with his delivery made him especially tough to barrel up. He mixed in a frisbee-like slider of a breaking ball (70-73 mph) that was a wipeout, swing-and-miss offering.

Following Melendez to the bump to help secure the victory was righty Anthony Martens (2019, Port Saint Lucie, Fla.). The West Florida commit used his classic delivery, high three-quarters arm slot and highly repeatable mechanics – coupled with a fastball that was clocked at 87-89 mph – to continue the FTB pitching dominance over the Scorpions. For good measure, the senior at Treasure Coast HS also mixed in a knee-buckling 73-75 mph slurve of a breaking ball that was especially tough on righthanded hitters.

Every player who took the field for Coastal Prospects during their run to the championship impacted the club positively in some way. The term “team” is especially applicable to the Jacksonville, Florida-based club.

Florida A&M commit, Ethan Jenkins (2019, Jacksonville, Fla.) is the table-setter for Coastal Prospects, hitting quite effectively out of the leadoff spot. The athletically gifted, 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior at Mandarin HS has a middle-of-the-field mentality and a short, quick and compact swing path. He is a contact-first guy who readily understands his role at the top of the very talented Prospects lineup. Defensively, he uses his great instincts and plus speed in covering a lot of ground in left field. He has playable arm strength and his throws were on the mark all weekend.

Cameron Terrian (2019, Navarre, Fla.) could not have been much better in pitching the Prospects past the Florida Burn in the semifinals. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound righty is a command and control specialist who used a very effective four-pitch mix and the ability to work the edges and pitch backwards to shut down the hard-hitting Burn lineup. The strike-thrower, who is a senior at Navarre HS, pitched with poise and a consistent pace, utilizing his 80-84 mph fastball, 72-73 mph slider, 67-69 mph, 12-to-6 breaking curveball and 70-72 mph changeup to keep the Burn offense in check for five-plus innings.

The Prospects’ unsung hero of the tournament, and especially championship Monday, was their catcher, Jacob Bennett (2019, St. John’s, Fla.). The 6-foot, 175-pound backstop caught all 18 innings on Monday as the Prospects persevered to win the WWBA Florida Qualifier championship. Defensively the senior at Bartram Trail HS was truly outstanding. He is a classic catch-and-throw receiver who calls a veteran’s game and handles the Prospects pitching staff like a player much his senior. He is an easy receiver of the ball and shows a great ability to control each opponent’s running game. Offensively, the righthanded hitter is a steady presence in the middle of the Prospects order. He is a line driver who has a middle-of-the-field mentality and a flat swing path. He showed plus ability to consistently get his barrel to the ball and was often either starting a rally or getting the clutch hit to advance or score runners.

A natural outfielder/first baseman and his club’s cleanup hitter, Kobe Branch (2019, Orange Park, Fla.) was the unquestioned leader for the Coastal Prospects throughout the tournament. Before the Championship contest even began however, he was forced to abandon his DH role and take to the pitcher’s mound. Calmly warming on the main mound after being advised he was going to start on the bump and not DH, Branch, a senior at Oakleaf HS, proceeded to pitch a complete game shutout as the Coastal Prospects completed their undefeated run to the championship. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound athletically gifted Branch threw strikes for seven highly effective and competitive innings. He worked quickly, throwing to both sides of the plate. He surprisingly showed a quality fastball, a sharp-breaking curveball and a sound changeup. He consistently stayed away from the barrels of the FTB club. He worked confidently and quickly, and his teammates fed off his calm presence and cool disposition. The moment never seemed too big for the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher.

– Jerry Miller



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