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High School | General | 3/1/2019

High School Notebook: March 1

Vincent Cervino         Greg Gerard        
Photo: CJ Abrams (Perfect Game)

The high school notebook is designed to share notes and video on players that stand out during the high school season and new features will be released regularly. This will include in-game looks, reports, analysis and video from Perfect Game's scouting staff. If you have news on a player in your area that is performing at a high level that we should have eyes on please reach out to Vinnie Cervino at Also feel free to share your video highlights on Twitter @vcervinopg.

CJ Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity High School (Ga.)
Lots of heat was in attendance to see the first game for infielder CJ Abrams (2019, Alpharetta, Ga.) in the spring of his senior season. The shortstop has carried plenty of buzz around his name for quite some time now as the top position player in the hot bed of talent that is the state of Georgia. Abrams started out the season hot going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. The first pitch Abrams saw on this night was a smoked line drive to center field for his first double of the day. His quick hands and direct swing allowed him to get the barrel of the bat to the baseball quickly and drive the baseball with a high exit velocity. He sprinted down the line with a slight hesitation and still managed to turn the bag at first base for a 4.19-second home-to-first with the aforementioned turn. His next at-bat he did the exact same thing. This time he saw three pitches before jumping on a fastball over the middle of the plate and driving it off the center field wall for another double.

Abrams not only can swing the bat he can also field the baseball so cleanly with sure hands and a strong arm. His game speed is the difference maker, however. The way he moves to the ball at shortstop, the way he gets down the line and the way he moves on the basepaths to be disruptive and steal bases is what sets the Alabama commit apart. He showed that speed in this game in his third at-bat legging out an infield single, burning down the first base line posting a 4.05-second home-to-first time. He also showed it after his second at-bat that resulted in his second double of the game peppering the center field wall. A few pitches later he took off to third base and stole the bag without a throw. Abrams started off the spring of his draft year with a bang on Wednesday night and will be a fun player to track throughout the rest of this spring heading into June.

Pierce Gallo, SS, Walton High School (Ga.)
2018 PG National participant Pierce Gallo (2019, Marietta, Ga.) was also participating in this game as the opposing shortstop to Abrams. Gallo is a Clemson commit with big juice at the plate and strength in his compact swing. He utilizes a big stride into contact with a deep hand load before generating his hands quickly to the baseball. Gallo’s first at-bat of the 2019 spring campaign resulted in a home run after a pair of forgettable swings earlier in the at-bat. His lofted swing path allowed for him to elevate the pitch and drive it when squaring it up. The ball was a no-doubter to center field at Walton High School that has surely seen lots of home runs. Gallo’s bat is his carrying tool presently, but he did showcase an outstanding play up the middle making a diving stop and getting up quickly to fire to first base. The runner happened to be Abrams who beat out the bang-bang play, but any other runner would have been out on the athletic stop.

Jake Smith, IF, Blessed Trinity High School (Ga.)
Jake Smith (2019, Roswell, Ga.) was in the lineup in the high-level Georgia high school matchup between Blessed Trinity and Walton. Smith started the game at second base for the Titans of Blessed Trinity and had a huge game mustering a total of seven RBIs at the plate. Smith connected on two home runs, each to his power gap in left-center field. Smith was a participant of the PG Jr. National Showcase in 2017 and was the MVP of the PG High School Showdown last season. Smith has an easy swing at the plate with lots of strength at impact as displayed by his two homers in this contest. He is the middle infielder across second baseman from shortstop CJ Abrams on a loaded Blessed Trinity team and is one of the top uncommitted players in the state of Georgia.

Jared Jones, C, Walton High School (Ga.)
Jared Jones (2022, Marietta, Ga.) is a special young player and a 2018 PG 14u Select Festival participant. The primary catcher only saw one at-bat in his first high school game, but that lone at-bat was an impressive one. Jones saw a fastball over the middle of the plate on a 2-0 count and lined it right back up the middle for a single. The baseball was one of the hardest hit balls of the night with a high exit velocity resulting from his advanced raw bat speed. For a freshman, the bat speed Jones produces is really quite remarkable. His strength at impact is obvious as he already stands at 6-foot-4, 225-pounds. The swing is really controlled for the amount of bat speed produced and the youthfulness of his age, but Jones has shown that he can put the barrel of the bat to the baseball at a high rate. Combining his bat speed and strength at his young age, the projection is really limitless when thinking about what Jones may develop into one day.

– Greg Gerard

Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy (Fla.)
Malone came into the spring as one of the premier MLB draft prospects of the high school class and the PG All-American has done nothing to dispel that myth throughout the early portion of the high school baseball season. The North Carolina signee showed flashes of brilliance during his start and the promise of why teams might be willing to select the flame throwing righthander in the first round of next June's draft. 

Malone is an uber-athletic prospect and though he is a bit raw on the mound in terms of command and control at times, the arm speed is very enticing as is the sound delivery. He generates good momentum toward the plate with fluidity to his motion and the ball comes out very clean. Malone was about 50/50 in terms of strikes during this look with the fastball peaking at 96 mph early and sitting mostly 91-95 mph for the rest of the start. The fastball is mostly straight but he is not afraid to elevate and expand the strike zone with two strikes which allows him to generate some swings-and-misses with the pitch.
The most positive development from last summer to this spring has undoubtedly been the development of the slider, Malone has both a curveball and slider, and the slider flashed plus early on in the game. He used it to get a strikeout in the first inning and it worked mostly in the mid-80s peaking at 85 mph. He still has his traditional over the top curveball with good 12/6 shape in the mid- to upper 70s and can land the pitch very effectively. The slider was a bit inconsistent however, despite it flashing plus early, and his the continued refinement and consistency of the pitch should continue to improve as the season goes on. 

All-in-all it was another ho-hum start for Malone as all the physical tools and stuff are there for him to be a top draft pick in June. In the meantime he serves as the defacto staff ace for No. 2 IMG Academy, along with Kendall Williams, and should have no shortage of high level scouts heading into Bradenton to see him perform. 

Joseph Charles, RHP, TNXL Academy (Fla.)
Transferring in to TNXL Academy, Charles is another PG All-American who certainly showed the stuff of a high level draft prospect with a very strong fastball-breaking ball combination. During this early season look, Charles labored through strike zone issues as what will ultimately dictate his draft stock will be his ability to not only work the strike zone but command his pitches within it as well. 

Charles is signed on with North Carolina once he graduates and has a pretty electric combination of fastball and breaking ball. The fastball peaked at 95 mph and sat comfortably between 91-94 mph, dipping below the 91 mph mark maybe once throughout his four innings on the mound. The fastball command was suspect and seemed to hinge greatly on his feel for his offspeed pitches. It almost felt like whenever he would mix pitches that he needed one or two of the initial pitch just to get the strike zone feel back. 

The breaking ball feel, much like Malone, came and went but the pitch flashed plus early in the outing. The pitch is more of a tweener slurve but he still had some troubles consistently landing the pitch though it looked like he had a bit more feel throwing the pitch for strikes as compared to the fastball. Charles also showed a firm changeup in the mid-80s that worked well against lefthanded hitters and racked up a few swings-and-misses. 

Rece Hinds, 3B, IMG Academy (Fla.)
Hinds has been dogged with hit tool questions throughout the last year but the PG All-American has the best raw power out of the prep class and he's been off to a good start this spring in terms of barreling up the opposition. Hinds is signed with Louisiana State and on a stacked IMG Academy team should have no issues getting looks from high level scouts throughout the season. 

Hinds is an immense physical presence, standing at 6-foot-4 and 210-pounds with lots of well-proportioned strength and a lean upper body indicative of further strength gains. This is a very big size for shortstop, where he will be playing defensively this spring for IMG, and most scouts agree that his professional future is over at third base where his plus-plus arm strength will have no issue playing. 

The swing gets inside at times but Hinds bat speed and hand quickness are so fast that he has no real issue getting his hands extended to drive the ball with tremendous carry. He has plus-plus raw power too and he got a chance to show off his impact with a smoked single through the left side and an opposite field triple later on. Hinds is making more consistent hard-hit contact so far this spring and that bodes well for his draft status moving forward. 

– Vincent Cervino

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