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Tournaments  | Story  | 3/8/2019

PG HS Showdown Day 1 Notes

Vincent Cervino      Greg Gerard     
Photo: Robby Ashford (Perfect Game)

2019 Perfect Game High School Showdown: Event Page | Daily Leaders

The PG HS Showdown got started with a back-and-forth game between Winder-Barrow and North Broward Prep while featuring 6-foot-8 righthanded pitcher Cain Tatum (2019, Auburn, Ga.). A Georgia signee, Tatum was very good over five innings as he punched out six batters while only allowing two hits on the day.

Tatum is a huge prospect with his aforementioned size and the length of his limbs, his arms look like they could almost touch his ankles, and has obvious projection left on the frame. He keeps the delivery very simple for a big man and lands slightly cross-fired, albeit with pretty good extension due to the length of his legs. The simplicity of his delivery combined with his athleticism and balance allows him to fire strikes at a pretty good rate as he walked only two batters.

Tatum peaked at 91 mph early on in the game and worked mostly 86-89 mph with the fastball, the pitch comes out from an extended slot and he can work it well to both sides of the plate. The release is fairly easy but the issues with the release point when working in his secondary pitches: a big curveball in the mid-70s and a changeup with some tumbling action. He lowers his slot and tends to get under both pitches and they become hittable if he’s too under them. Tatum might be a candidate to develop a slider from that extended arm slot at some point but in game one of the showdown he had very few issues dispatching of North Broward and worked his way out of jams if he allowed runners on.

A teammate of Tatum’s, and one of the top 2021 prospects in the country, is shortstop Brady House (2021, Winder, Ga.) and he certainly showed why even in a single game look. House looks the part out at shortstop at a listed 6-foot-3, 210-pounds and as one scout echoed, “he looks like a college freshman out there.”

Defensively, House checks all the boxes you want out of a prep prospect given his athleticism, footwork, hands, and impressive arm strength across; he’s also a secondary pitcher who can run his fastball up into the low-90s. There’s some concern about an eventual move to third base given how he will fill out his frame, but as only a sophomore in high school that seems to be looking too far down the line as House certainly has the chops to be a standout defensive shortstop now.

The Tennessee commit swings the bat hard with extreme whip in his hands and though there is a dual-hitch in terms of his hands and front foot in the box his hand-eye and bat speed more than compensate. He creates really good torque from his lower half and explodes onto the ball to impact the ball at a tremendous rate. He finished with three well-struck barrels including a double and showed really impressive pull side raw power during batting practice too.

One of the surprises, and stars, of the day was Robby Ashford (2020, Hoover, Ala.) the center fielder for the Hoover Bucs who also serves as the football team’s starting quarterback. We haven’t had eyes on Ashford on a baseball diamond since 2017 but the 6-foot-3, 200-pound prospect oozes tools and physicality as he represents a player with a near limitless upside as he continues to develop.

The physicality is notable, with extremely broad shoulders and obvious strength, but this doesn’t negate his athleticism at all as he patrols centerfield well with good speed as he is one of the most sought after dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. His arm was observed as average on the Major League scale during a throw in game and there’s reason to believe it could end up better than that. The real draw of the profile was the combination of the physical, offensive tools along with the performance.

Ashford hit .625 over two games and almost everything was squared up, especially in game one. He gets out onto his front side well and has a very simple swing with plenty of raw bat speed and juice when squared. He can create that hard hit contact to all fields, later on in the day he tripled to the opposite field, but perhaps his most impressive at-bat of the day came when he sent a first pitch screaming right to the center fielder. Ashford barreled almost everything on the day and will need to be monitored closely as he has the tools, frame, and projection to be a draft prospect next year should he want to play baseball long-term.

Thanks to Ashford and his teammates, Hoover finished 2-0 on the day as the hosts of the tournament also were aided by arguably their top player in senior backstop Peyton Wilson (2019, Hoover, Ala.). The switch-hitting Alabama signee isn’t very physically imposing but he’s super athletic and a ball of quick twitch all over the baseball field. Wilson collected four stolen bases in game one and is extremely agile behind the dish too.

Wilson hits from both sides of the plate but it looks a bit more natural for him from the left side, where he can get out in front and drive the ball from a more consistent plane. There’s some barrel control there too but the right side isn’t bad by any stretch and he really operates well working gap-to-gap with the bat.

Wilson posits an interesting profile as there are clear hitting tools with the ability to use the whole field and his athleticism and speed are rare to see from a backstop. The instincts on the base paths also aid the speed but should he get to Alabama he could be an immediate impact type of player for the Tide.

Blaze Jordan (2021, Southaven, Miss.) came into the Showdown leading his No. 9-ranked DeSoto Central squad and though the Jaguars fell to 0-2 after two games yesterday, Jordan still showed what makes him the top overall prospect in the 2021 class. At this point it’s fair to count on death, taxes, and Jordan hitting some absolute lasers and he certainly didn’t disappoint in that last regard through his two games on Thursday night.

The sophomore is currently on his third year on the varsity squad and at this point there’s going to be very little to faze him at the plate. Jordan’s offensive tools are fairly well-known to this point: he creates plus bat speed, has massive raw power that plays to all fields, and the combination of his low effort stroke and plate discipline, he won’t get cheated at the plate very often. Jordan had a could of hard hit balls in their opening game but his most impressive came in his second at-bat of the night cap.

Facing a potential draft prospect, Jordan took a 90 mph fastball and nearly one-hopped the wall in the right centerfield gap. This was also in the stadium at the Hoover Met, so where plenty of Major Leaguers have hit balls to as they were coming up in the league. The Mississippi State commit’s hitting tools are very loud and his development will be monitored closely throughout the next few years as his progress and game continues to grow.

The nightcap that Blaze Jordan played in featured a ranked matchup between No. 9 DeSoto Central and No. 38 Buford High School and a stout pitching matchup in Buford’s Ramsey David (2019, Dacula, Ga.) against DeSoto’s Cade Smith (2020, Southaven, Miss.). Both pitchers looked very sharp early on before eventually fading later on but David got the better of Smith as Buford held on to upset DeSoto by a score of 4-3.

David, an Auburn signee, ran his fastball up to 91 mph and loved mostly 88-90 mph during the early portion of the game. The build is ripe for physical projection and the arm speed indicates that he will continue to gain velocity as he develops. The arm stroke is hooked slightly in the back and what tended to get him in trouble was his inconsistent release point on the fastball. It would drift from over the top to lower at times but would flatten out his fastball and leave it hittable over the plate.

The breaking ball came and went but it flashed sharp downer break in the 77-81 mph range. The consistency of the pitch going forward will be key for David’s success and he also flashed a couple of changeups, the first of the night that got a whiff, and worked in the low-80s. David has the look of an upside prep prospect and he should be followed as the spring continues to go on in Georgia.

Smith, a Mississippi State commit, started off very hot before losing his command as the outing went on. He got on the board quickly, touching 92 mph and living 90-91 mph in the first inning, with a quick paced delivery and a longer arm stroke through the back. Smith worked mostly 87-90 throughout the start and the command was there early though he finished his outing with four walks on the night.

The fastball comes out of the hand with pretty good life and though there’s effort at release, he can still work the strike zone effectively. The breaking ball got caught in between slider and curveball shape but he uncorked some very sharp sliders in the low-80s with hard biting action to the pitch. The fastball-breaking ball combination has served Smith well in PG events in the past and though this wasn’t his sharpest outing he will be a must-follow for scouts as this summer and the 2020 draft class begins to take center stage.

The nightcap over at the quad in Hoover featured a pretty high-level matchup between North Broward Prep and Anthony Tomczak (2019, Boca Raton, Fla.) against the No. 5 team in the country in Blessed Trinity. Tomczak was dealt the hard-luck loss as he was generally very sharp during the evening, finishing the outing with a complete game while allowing one unearned run and striking out eleven batters.

Tomczak has good size, listed at 6-foot-2 and 192-pounds, with physical projection to be had along with a very good delivery. The Stetson commit really works through his delivery well with a very easy operation, fluid movements, and enough balance to repeat and change the delivery in order to mess with timing. The delivery, combined with the low effort release and easy arm action, allows for excellent command to both sides of the plate and with all three pitches.

The fastball worked up to 90 mph but was consistently in the 86-89 mph range all night long. There is late riding life and the overall quality of the fastball was excellent as he got up to well-above double-digit swings-and-misses with the pitch and included six in the first inning. Blessed Trinity is no slouch of an offensive team and Tomczak really had them swinging through fastballs, the best ones coming when they rode in past the hands of righhanded hitters.

The righthanded pitcher showed two different breaking balls, a curveball and slider, with the slider being the sharper pitch in the low-80s. The feel for the breakers came and went but the slider showed some good break and life while the curveball was a bit softer and he slowed up on it. The velocity had reportedly been better early this spring and with projection for potential above average to plus command, Tomczak seems like a candidate who could really take off should he get to campus.

It’s hard to keep coming up with new things to say about CJ Abrams (2019, Alpharetta, Ga.), the star shortstop for Blessed Trinity, and Abrams continued to show why he could potentially be the top prep player selected in the draft in three months. Abrams did it all for the Titans as he recorded both hits and scored the lone run in the game that ended up being the difference maker.

Abrams’ feel to hit and natural hitting tools are very loud as is his feel for barrel control and driving the ball both to each gap and out of the park are extremely impressive. In Abrams’ first at-bat of the night he fought off seven pitches before getting an elevated outer half fastball that he deposited to the opposite field for a line drive single. After that the plus-plus speed took over as he stole second base, forced a balk to third base, and then eventually scored on a wild pitch.

Abrams’ second at-bat saw him drive a first pitch, 87 mph fastball to the opposite gap for a triple where he clocked a 4.2 second turn around the bag. Abrams at this point is firmly in top five discussing with regards to the draft and he was the star on an otherwise quiet night for the offense and he showed that he can not only impress scouts in the crowd but he can carry his team to victory along with the starting pitcher of course.

That starting pitcher was southpaw Eric Moore (2019, Acworth, Ga.) and he absolutely carved opposing hitters. Moore is a physical lefty who’s committed to Emmanuel College and though he won’t overpower in terms of stuff, he pitches the hell out of the ball by attacking hitters with offspeed pitches. In the first inning alone, Moore racked up three strikeouts and didn’t even throw his fastball, instead opting to throw bugs bunny changeups, or maybe knuckle balls perhaps, that danced off the plate in the 68-70 mph range. Moore could run his fastball up to 80-81 mph whenever he wanted but he was having too much success with the changeup. Moore and Abrams were the MVPs for Blessed Trinity on Thursday night and Moore finished with a line of six innings of shutout ball with seven strikeouts.

– Vinnie Cervino

The fifth-ranked player nationally in Brennan Malone (2019, Matthews, N.C.) took the hill on Thursday evening at the PG High School Showdown and did not disappoint. Lots of heat was in attendance to see the righthander from North Carolina who ran his fastball up to 96 mph and sat in the 92-96 mph range during his five inning start. Malone overpowered opposing hitters with his hitters and did not have to go to a breaking ball often, but when he did the pitch did flash plus biting action to it. The curveball and slider each had similar type action in this viewing with the slider peaking at 83 mph and the curveball at 76 mph. But, again, the fastball was the main weapon of choice and when located in or on the edges of the zone, the pitch was untouchable.

Malone’s delivery is very clean when he repeats it and releases the baseball out in front in a consistent high three-quarters arm slot. The arm action is online and it really works well. Malone has an ideal build of a big-time pitcher on the mound standing at 6-foot-5, 220-pounds. The lower half is used properly with a strong back leg that drives downhill creating easy mid-90s velocity. Malone has been a projected early round draft selection and Thursday showed no reason to believe that he will not be taken highly in the draft. Everything looks the part and his feel for the strike zone seems to continue to improve each time out on the mound.

Kyle Westfall (2019, Mason, Ohio) made an impact to game one for IMG on Thursday night immediately as he got on base by a bunt single. He beat out the throw and there was really never a doubt as his quickness getting down the line is noteworthy. Westfall then stole second and third before scoring on a wild pitch that he made an excellent dirt-ball-read on. Westfall then followed that early performance with another single. The Texas Tech commit is a 6-foot outfielder with a present run tool. The way he utilizes his, likely, plus speed makes him an impact at the top of the IMG order and could see him rise up draft boards with his swing presenting raw bat speed.

Power-hitting catcher Jake Holland (2019, Clermont, Fla.) did not do too much as far as production with his bat on Thursday in this viewing but the catching tools looked to be improved. Holland’s swing and stature are apparent as to how much raw power he truly has in his physical 6-foot-3 frame. Behind the plate was really where he excelled on Thursday night. Holland popped anywhere between a 1.94 to a 2.06 pop time in between innings showing off a really strong arm and flashing an explosive transfer with intent to get the baseball out quickly. He did not get the chance to throw out a runner in game, but Holland features the arm behind the plate to certainly punchout plenty of base runners who try to run on him. His approach is somewhat aggressive looking to hit the ball out in front for power. The Georgia Tech signee has a mostly upright stance with a presence in the righthanded batter’s box. He has a direct and downhill path to contact with plenty of strength at impact. Holland is going to hit plenty of gap doubles and home runs this spring and his future, but Thursday indicated the catching tools were superior in terms of production and showcase ability.

Clemson signee Jonathan French (2019, Lilburn, Ga.) helped lead the National Top 50 Parkview Panthers to a victory Thursday driving in a run on a single to the opposite field gap. French is a catcher with tools across the board that are going to intrigue professional scouts as well. French has a balanced stroke with present barrel whip through the hitting zone. His athleticism behind the plate is just as impressive as he sits in his squat with his extremely strong tree trunk-like legs giving him the capability to move with flexibility and lateral agility. French’s swing is simple and on the stroke he put on his single, the ball jumps off of his bat even with the low effort swing. French’s ultimate ceiling is relatively high given his ability to both hit and catch at a high level. Look for the righthanded hitting catcher to continue improving his draft stock throughout this spring in the hot bed of the state of Georgia.

Making the start for the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes in the nightcap was Auburn signee Mason Barnett (2019, White, Ga.). Barnett is a righthander whose size seems to have strengthened up this offseason showing more physicality on the bump. Barnett has noticeable strength to his lower half that he utilizes well combining with his loose arm action. Early in the contest his fastball ranged from 90-92 mph while reaching 93 mph once. After the first inning, however, the fastball settled more into the upper-80s range with a curveball that flashed sharp above average bite. The feel to spin was there at times for the righty especially when releasing out in front and throwing the breaking ball with the same intent and arm speed as his fastball. Barnett worked a nice start for the Purple Hurricanes going five innings, striking out six and earning the win.

Opposing Barnett on the mound was fellow Auburn commit albeit in the 2020 class, Camden Hill (2020, Madison, Ala.). Hill is a two-way talent who excelled in both areas of his skillset in this game. Hill made his presence felt early in this contest on offense as he turned around a 92 mph fastball back up the middle. Although the swing did not result in a hit, the stroke was very impressive getting the barrel to the ball with outstanding bat speed and torquing of his hips. Hill, on the mound in this contest was consistently in the mid-80s from the left side peaking at 88 mph. The arm stroke is mostly compact and the strike zone feel is solid, Hill projects well on the mound while the ultimate ceiling may lean towards the batter’s box. His swing is very strong and his barrel ability has been impressive at many PG events in the past year.

Ultra-intriguing righthander Will Sanders (2020, Atlanta, Ga.) took the hill for Woodward Academy in what turned into a marathon of a contest. Sanders pitched nine innings while keeping his pitch count low and finishing with 105 pitches. Sanders is 6-foot-6 righty committed to South Carolina with projectability to dream on. There is tons of room to continue to fill out in his frame and his fastball already sits in the upper-80s. His fastball peaked at 89 mph on this day while recently being up to 90 mph at the National Underclass Main Event Showcase in December. Sanders’ delivery is clean with low effort and the arm really works. His arm action stays online and his ability to locate any of his three pitches in any count he pleases showcases his advanced pitchability for a high school junior.

The USC commit has a changeup that will be his out pitch against lefthanded hitters for years to come. The pitch fades away from lefty barrels and he has a really impressive ability to pull the string on the pitch with deception from his identical fastball arm speed. Sanders also has a curveball with tight spin and he is able to locate it to finish off righthanded hitters. The lineup he was facing was heavily filled with lefthanded hitters, so the changeup was shown in abundance. The pitch is going to be a weapon throughout the rest on this spring and on into the rest of his career. The tall righthander from Atlanta pitched a phenomenal game with six strikeouts, one walk, no runs allowed and an unfortunate no decision.

In the last time slot of the day an excellent pitching matchup took place as Kennesaw State commit Colby Williams (2019, Lagrange, Ga.) of Troup County faced off against Arkansas commit Heston Tole (2020, Wichita Falls, Texas). Each were extremely efficient filling up the strike zone and missing bats at a high rate.

Williams is a 5-foot-11 righthander with a fastball that reached 91 mph living mostly in the upper-80s. His arm is quick, and he did a nice job of keeping a loaded IMG Academy lineup at bay. He mixed speeds well with his breaking ball that varied life depending on the conviction of the release. The future Owl eventually ended the day with eight strikeouts in four innings of work.

Heston Tole is an extra large framed righthander with projectable velocity moving into his senior season and on into his time in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Tole stands at a listed and believable 6-foot-5, 210-pounds and has a fastball that topped out at 88 mph on Thursday night. He throws from a compact arm action and mixes three pitches. The changeup is effective to lefthanded hitters and the his slider showed short sideways-type break. Tole threw a complete game for IMG earning the win and punching out eight.

Gregory Gerard