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Tournaments  | Story  | 3/11/2019

Showdown-Academies Scout Notes

David Rawnsley     
Photo: Daniel Espino (Perfect Game)

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

Georgia Premier Academy righthander Daniel Espino's (2019, Statesboro, Ga.) much anticipated start was spectacular, both in the results for his team, 9-1 winners on Friday night and for the shoulder-to-shoulder, five row deep audience of scouts behind the backstop. The Panamanian native went four innings and 56 pitches, striking out 11 hitters and throwing 69 percent strikes. Espino was at his high-end best for the first two innings, striking out the first six hitters on a total of 20 pitches.

Espino worked up to 98 mph on his fastball and averaged 96 while showing an advanced ability to spot his fastball on the low outside corner to righthanded hitters. He was able to get consistent weak swings on 82-85 mph sliders away that mimicked his fastball well until breaking out of the zone at the last moment. It was a picture of an 18-year old pitcher in complete command of his delivery and pitches and throwing confidently at his peak level. Espino certainly belongs on the very short list of top pitching prospects for the 2019 draft.

Georgia Premier featured another hard-throwing righthander in senior Andrew Washington (2019, Sharpsburg, Ga.), a South Florida signee. Washington has been up to 94 mph at past PG events and was 88-92 mph in two relief appearances at this event. He has a very fast arm from a high three-quarters to over-the-top arm slot that creates big angle to the plate but will have learn to be more consistent in his delivery direction to take advantage of his arm strength.

Citadels had a number of high-level athletes who got to show their tools, as every Citadels game seemed to be a closely fought affair. Righthanded pitcher Marquis Grissom Jr(2020, Atlanta, Ga.), the 67th-ranked player in the junior class, missed the Friday games due to school but made his presence felt quickly when he arrived Saturday morning, picking up a couple of key run producing hits and throwing two relief innings to pick up a win. Grissom Jr. used only 20 pitches to get six outs, working strictly with fastballs up to 90 mph. When in mid-summer form, Grissom Jr. has a polished and mature ability to mix three quality pitches and work ahead in counts.

Citadels center fielder Elijah Hilton (2019, Atlanta, Ga.) is an impressive athlete who stood out on offense with his righthanded bat speed, with his 6.5 running speed and on defense, where he showed very good jumps and range in all directions. Hilton, who is home schooled, currently doesn't have a college commitment.

Two Citadels sophomores, shortstop Kareh Valentin (2021, Douglasville, Ga.) and lefthanded pitcher Camron Hill (2021, Fayetteville, Ga.) stood out as players to watch for the future. Valentin is listed at 5-foot-9, 150-pounds but already has some gap pop as a switch-hitter, especially from the right side. He's a quick-twitch athlete whose speed is impactful on both sides of the ball. Hill isn't close to physically mature at 6-foot-4, 175-pounds but has a smooth and repeatable delivery and arm action. He needed only 47 pitches to throw four clean innings, relying heavily on an 80-82 fastball he spotted consistently and that is sure to keep adding velocity.

Next Level Academy also had a pair of sophomores worth following closely. Outfielder Breon Horne (2021, College Park, Ga.) is a loose and projectable 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete with 6.7 speed in the 60-yard dash and a whippy righthanded bat with very good hand speed. He blasted a home run and a double during the event to highlight his future power potential. Lefthanded pitcher Damien Whitfield (2021, Atlanta, Ga.) is a solidly build 6-foot-1, 190-pound southpaw with a pretty sound delivery and good present arm strength. He worked up to 86 mph with his fastball to go with a low-70s curveball but his best pitch was an 82-83 mph cutter he threw to lefthanded hitters. The pitch almost has slider depth to hit and it is a weapon that he could use against righthanded hitters as well as lefties.

Knights Baseball sophomore righthander Caleb Warta (2021, Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) was very impressive at the PG National Indoor Showcase in St. Louis in late February, topping out at 90 mph and shooting up to 103rd in the sophomore class rankings. The athletic 6-foot, 170-pound Warta threw five shutout innings on Saturday, working consistently in 84-88 mph range with his fastball from a high three-quarters arm slot that created plenty of downhill plane. He picked up many outs with a mid-70s slurve-type breaking ball that he was able to throw for strikes on any count. There's lots of projection here as Warta gets stronger due to his overall athleticism and loose, fast arm.

Dominion Christian sophomore Treyton Rank (2021, Acworth, Ga.) is the type of athlete who can literally play all over the field and did so this weekend, just as he did in late December when he starred at the PG National Underclass Showcase - Main Event. Fairly mature at 6-foot-2, 190-pounds, Rank showed plenty of pop in his righthanded bat, driving both a double and a triple among his four hits over four games. He also picked up a win on the mound, going six and a third innings and allowing only four hits and a pair of unearned runs. Rank worked in the 83-86 mph range with a sharp breaking 68-72 mph curveball. His best future position may be behind the plate given his build and physical tools.

Dominion Christian shortstop Zayd Brannigan (2020, Kennesaw, Ga.) is an uncommitted junior who had a nice event and looks like a next level player. Brannigan squared up balls consistently with a short right handed swing and was an athletic quick defender in the middle of the field.

Sophomore Lucas Torres (2021, Cayay, Puerto Rico) is another young player, like Treyton Rank, who can and has literally played all over the field. Torres is listed as a primary outfielder but it's anyone's guess as to where he'll end up. He is listed at 5-foot-10, 157-pounds but has some significant strength in his broad chest especially. Torres is very young for the 2021 class and participated in the 2018 14u PG Select Baseball Festival last September. His most impressive moments this weekend came on the mound, where he worked five plus innings of one-hit baseball, striking out 10 and walking six, although he was consistently around the strike zone and didn't project future command issues. Torres has a long and fast arm action that isn't dissimilar to Daniel Espino's and gets plenty of velocity out of his strong lower half, much like Espino as well. Torres worked in the 87-90 mph range for most of the outing to go with a curveball and changeup.

P27 Academy has three seniors with scholarships in hand that all look like they are going to be solid players at the next level. Shortstop Benjamin Lang-Spittler (2019, Blythewood, S.C.) has a nice 6-foot-1, 170-pound build and a smooth lefthanded swing that showed some bat speed and power to the left-center field gap. Righthander Reece Fields (2019, West Columbia, S.C.) has a big, durable body and a clean arm action that worked in the 84-87 mph range with both a curveball and a slider/cutter. Center fielder Simms Owens (2019, West Columbia, S.C.) is the prototypical lefthanded hitting center field/leadoff type with plenty of speed and an aggressive style of play. The trio are signed with USC-Lancaster, North Greenville and Charleston Southern, respectively.

PRO5 Baseball Academy righthander Tyler Driver (2019, Wake Forest, N.C.) turned in a clutch performance in the semifinals, holding the high scoring Central Point Christian Academy team to two hits and one run over five innings while striking out seven. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Driver worked consistently in the 86-88 mph range with his fastball and picked up a number of weak swing outs with a 77 mph slider that he commanded well and had feel for locating. Driver gets lots of downhill angle on his pitches from a high three-quarters to over-the-top arm slot that he repeated well through the 78 pitch outing.

Driver's teammate Greyson Bailey (2019, Durham, N.C.) picked up the loss in that semifinal game but is a very interesting prospect in the context of not having signed with a college yet. Bailey has a big and strong 6-foot-3, 225-pound build but moves very athletically and looks to be a solid average runner underway. He's a righthanded hitter with strength in his swing and worked 87-89 mph off the mound with a 73 mph curveball.

PRO5 Baseball Academy third baseman Ronald Evans II (2019, Raleigh, N.C.) had a very strong tournament with the bat. The big and strong UNC-Wilmington signee showed advanced barrel skills from the right side and the ability to change his swing depending on the type and location of the pitch. He went 8-for-11 with a double and triple during the event, moving the ball around the field but still showing the ability to turn on the ball and generate some real bat speed. Evans will need work on his lower half quickness to stay at third at UNC-Wilmington but he looks like he's going to be a big offensive force at the next level.

The key to the Academies champion Central Pointe Christian Academy's team, aside from a pitching staff full of strike throwers, was the middle of the line up core of second baseman Jan Luis Noa (2020, Kissimmee, Fla.), shortstop Adonis Javier (2019, Kissimmee, Fla.) and right fielder Justin Tejeda (2019, Kissimmee, Fla.), the team's third, fourth and fifth hitters, respectively. Interestingly, all three are either signed with (Tejada, Javier) or committed to (Noa) Hillsborough Community College.

Tournament MVP Tejeda is the best known of the three, with potentially explosive power to go with plus speed and plus arm strength from right field. But Tejeda is fairly mature physically and scouts will focus pretty strictly on how projectable his righthanded bat is for future development and consistency. Noa, who has a long and slender build to go with his easy athleticism, is the youngest and has the most growing to do. Javier, however, might have the best combination of present tools, position profile and future projectability.

Javier especially showed his potential with his bat speed this weekend. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound righthanded hitter consistently drove the ball with authority and power, including a home run in the main Hoover Met Stadium. He's run 6.7 and thrown 92 mph in infield drills at a PG showcase, so the raw run/throw tools are there for future development.

When East Cobb second baseman Rob Gordon (2021, Smyrna, Ga.) went to the 2017 PG National Underclass East Showcase, he was listed at 5-foot-7, 125-pounds. As a sophomore, Gordon is now 6-foot, 175-pounds and brimming with athleticism and projection. The righthanded hitter, who handled the second hole in the East Cobb batting order, has strength and some present bat speed in his swing but impressed just as much with his defensive potential and athleticism. He made a charging up-the-middle play and strong cross-body throw on a high hopper by the speedy Adonis Javier in the championship game that any big league second baseman would have been very happy owning. In the big picture, Gordon's athletic progression is very impressive and an instructive lesson for all young players.

Gordon formed an impressive and high performing middle infield tandem with junior shortstop Cooper Torres (2020, Woodstock, Ga.). Torres, who is a East Tennessee commit, is a quick-twitch athlete who showed lots of middle infield range, especially up the middle, and quick hands in his righthanded swing that produced some extra-base power. He hit in the leadoff spot for East Cobb and had two games with three walks, excelling in his role to get on base.

Another great example of developing as a player is East Cobb righthanded pitcher Sean Johnson (2019, Lilburn, Ga.). While Johnson is hardly a big athlete now at 5-foot-10, 150-pounds, when he first played in a Perfect Game event as a freshman he was listed at 5-foot-4, 105-pounds and threw 70 mph. On Sunday, Johnson started and went six innings, handing a 5-3 lead over to his bullpen after throwing 104 pitches. Johnson worked in the 84-87 mph range the entire outing and complimented his mid-80s fastball with a sharp breaking curveball up to 75 mph. He's an uncommitted senior at present.