Tournaments | Story | 5/26/2019

South Championship Days 1-2 Notes

Jheremy Brown         Andrew Jenkins        
Photo: Steven Milam (Perfect Game)

It only took one at-bat and a couple of ground balls in between innings for shortstop Tracer Lopez (2023, Rosebud, Texas), the starting shortstop of the Banditos Scout Team, to make his presence known and identify himself as a player to follow throughout this summer. Though not the most physical of the Banditos group at a listed 5-foot-7, 125-pounds (appears bigger than his listing) Lopez has the skill on both sides of the ball to be an impact type player.

As mentioned above it only took a couple of ground balls from the first baseman in between innings to notice Lopez’s fluidity with the glove, showing some of the softer hands in the tournament with ample quickness on the exchange. And while actions in between innings don’t necessarily translate into game actions for all players, Lopez made the defensive play of the opening day on a ground ball to the hole. He put both his first step quickness and lateral range on display, going to his backhand, dropping to a knee to pick the ball and made the throw across from a knee to still get the runner.

Lopez hits from atop the Banditos lineup from the left side, setting the table while showing a compact and direct stroke. It’s a pretty natural feel for the barrel as he found it a couple times in the opening game, lining out hard to center field before picking up a single to the pull side in his second trip to the plate. And despite his frame he’s able to impact the ball some at present, a trait to his offensive profile that will only continue to improve as he develops physically.

Conner Bennett (2023, Spring, Texas) has already established himself as a consistent bat on the national level for the Banditos and he made certain to open the tournament with a bang. Showing some adjustments to his set up in the box from when we last saw him at the 14u South Showcase in March, the young righthanded bat still exhibits the same loose and whippy hands to his swing. His lone hit of the contest during his two at-bats was a loud one as he came to the plate with the bases loaded and quickly emptied them with a no-doubt shot that sailed well past the scoreboard in left field. He also did the pitch calling in the opening game, showing flexibility and athleticism to his actions as well as an accurate arm on this throws down to second base.

He may not be in high school yet for another year, but shortstop Steven Milam (2023, Las Cruces, N.M.) has already established his name among his peers in the 2023 class as one of the purer hitters to be identified thus far. And similar to Tracer Lopez above, don’t let his stature fool you as he may not be the biggest, but he can put a charge into the ball as hard as any of his more physical teammates on USA Prime.

Listed as a switch-hitter, Milam took all three of his reps from the left side today as the matchup dictated. It was clear he was going to the plate with a plan, looking to hunt the fastball early in the count as he nearly saw as many pitches as he had at-bats (four pitches in three at-bats), swinging early in the count and with plenty of intent. The hand quickness and ability to whip the barrel through the zone are evident with Milam as he managed to clear the center fielder’s head in his first at-bat for a double before getting his arms extended on an outer half fastball to poke it into shallow left field. He nearly duplicated the result of his opening at-bat in his final trip to the plate with another hard barrel that was ultimately caught, finishing a 2-for-3 day.

He wasn’t challenged much in the field in this look, though I’ve seen both his actions and arm strength in previous looks. On the one ball he was challenged with, a slow roller to end the game, Milam handled the play with athleticism and confidence, charging in with balance and dropping his slot to complete the play and seal the victory.

Tasked with squaring off against a talented USA Prime team, righthander Ryan Rusk (2023, Kingwood, Texas) was handed the ball for Dynasty 14u-Lewis and showed intriguing potential on the mound. Not only does he look bigger, stronger and broader than his listed 6-foot, 175-pound frame, his previous fastball high from March of 78 was a mark he never touched over his 5.1 innings of work, living almost exclusively in the 80-84 mph range for the entirety of his outing.

His delivery is a rather simple one without many moving parts though he did struggle with his command some, walking six while punching out four, as he gathers on his backside and tends to pull his front side coming down the mound. His arm action is both short and quick and there’s obvious arm strength as the fastball velocity suggest, working on top of the ball consistently while showing subtle running life to his arm side. Rusk mixed a curveball between 72 and 74 mph with short depth and 12-6 shape though he did get on the side of one at 75 mph and generated hard tilting life away from the righthander hitter.

As his graduation year suggests, young righthander Jack Frankel (2024, Plane, Texas) could very well be playing in the 13u tournament this weekend where if he had his pitchability and overall feel on the mound would stand out even more. That said, he’s playing up an age group and more than held his own for his two innings of work and needing just 27 pitches to record his six outs means we’ll likely see him later in the tournament.

Frankel is already listed at a strong 6-foot-1, 165-pounds, a frame that will only continue to add strength and develop physically moving forward. There’s some drop and drive to his lower half mechanics coming down the mound but he did a nice job of working on top of the ball from a higher three-quarters slot, generating plane on his fastball that topped out at 82 mph and worked comfortably within the 79-81 mph range.

That velocity is certainly impressive for a player his age but it was his feel for the secondary offerings and ability to mix with confidence that truly stood out. His breaking ball morphed a bit in shape, showing a curveball with 11-to-5 shape but at times shortened in break and acted more like a slider with short tilt and tight rotation at 74 mph as opposed to the curveball in the low-70s. He showed no hesitation going to the breaking ball early in a count and even turned over a nice changeup at 74 mph with proper rotation and fading life.

Brennan Greer (2023, San Antonio, Texas) came out of the bullpen shortly after Frankel and impressed with arm strength of his own, popping 83 mph with his best fastball from a near over-the-top release point. Strongly built at 6-foot, 175-pounds Greer maintained low-80s on the heater over his two innings of work and missed plenty of bats in the process as five of his six recorded outs came via the strikeout. The velocity will continue to climb for the young righthander as he continues to refine his lower half directionality towards the plate though he did a nice job of filling the zone in this look and mixed a nice slider with short angle at 74 mph to end the outing.

Seve Martinez (2023, San Antonio, Texas) is a switch-hitter per his profile though he took his reps exclusively from the right side throughout his team’s double header and impressed in both looks with one of the more natural feels for the barrel here in Texas. He has wiry strength to his listed 5-foot-11, 145-pound frame which will undoubtedly grow stronger throughout his high school career.

Hitting out of the three-hole for the SA Kings, Martinez’s swing is rather short and compact from the moment he lets his hands go and despite not being the most physical he’s able to generate some of the better bat speed I’ve seen to this point in the tournament. In his second at-bat of the game one Martinez got an elevated fastball he could handle and promptly barreled the ball hard into left field, one hopping the wall for a double. His ability to generate bat speed in evident though the consistency of his timing at the box with his left lift was nearly as impressive, allowing for the steady and hard contact which resulted in four base knocks in two games.

Limited by a pitch count of 20 to come back quickly in the tournament, Martinez showed off his two-way potential with a quick and loose arm stroke from the left side, topping out at 81 mph with angle to the pitch. The ball comes out of his hand very cleanly and like his tools on offense, the velocity is only going to climb as he adds strength and develops physically.

Michael Cook (2023, Mansfield, Texas) “only” went 1-for-3 three at the dish in USA Prime’s opening game victory, but it was an impressive swing from the 6-foot-3, 191-pound backstop out of Texas. Serving as the designated hitter in this look, Cook sets up with a relaxed stance in the box and shows quickness to his hands along with present strength coming off the barrel. Facing off again Rusk (detailed above), Cook put an impressive swing on a low-80s fastball located down and away in which he simply extended his arms to get the barrel out front and drove it to the opposite field gap for a two-base hit.

No stranger to having success at Perfect Game tournaments, Elliott Foreman (2023, Diana, Texas) proved Saturday was no different as he left an impression at the start of the game as well as the conclusion in two very different ways. Though listed as a primary catcher Foreman got the start on the mound and his athleticism was on full display as he utilizes a rhythmic delivery and quick, compact arm action to fill up the strike zone and repeat his mechanics. It was a quick look, and by quick I mean just 17 pitches but he lived comfortably within the 80-82 mph range and showed the ability to work to either side of the plate.

Hitting out of the five-hole Foreman left his mark, literally, on Premier as he got a fastball out over the middle of the plate and delivery a no-doubt shot off the scoreboard. They’ve only played one game thus far in the tournament but Performance Baseball Texas 14u has plenty of athletes to monitor closely as they look to advance out of pool play.

Cade Arrambide (2024, Spring, Texas) doesn’t look like your typical seventh grader standing in the batter’s box at a stronger 6-foot, 160-pounds nor does he play like one with his present tools. The MVP of the 13u Spring Texas Kickoff, Arrambide is certainly a young talent to follow as he showed well on both sides of the ball.

Hitting out of the three hole his timing was off early in the game, getting to his front side a bit early though that wasn’t the case later in the game. The bat speed itself stands out amongst his peers and when he was able to get extended with his hands he proved capable of driving the ball as he cleared the center fielder’s head for a standup double. His bat speed/strength combo aren’t his only tools that jump out as his arm strength is another weapon, delivering strong, accurate throws down to second base. He still has more than a year until he makes it to high school but he’s already showing nice tools to monitor.

Hitting ahead of Arrambide from the two-hole, Theronos Michalis (2024, Missouri City, Texas) is listed as a primary pitcher but swung the bat well in their opening game. He was a perfect three-for-three at the dish, barreling up all two of the three balls to his pull side while adding a flair single to the opposite field. He sparked the offense in the first inning for what was ultimately a run rule victory with a hard triple down the first base side, lining the ball with some jump coming off and quickness to his barrel.

Like other arms on this list Cale Comeaux (2023, Breaux Bridge, La.) was limited to a pitch count though he was certain to make the most of his time on the mound. He certainly looks the part at 6-foot-2, 175-pounds, complete with a high waist and long limbs, and though there’s ample physical projection the young two-way is already able to make onlookers take notice.

According to his profile Comeaux is a listed as a primary third baseman and while he was able to loft a double to his pull side in his team’s first win of the day, the upside on the mound in game two proved to be even more intriguing. Despite the combination of his size and age Comeaux did a nice job of repeating his delivery, a simple one, with fluidity and rhythm while generating big extension out front with solid directionality. He needed just 38 pitches to cruise through three innings of work as he pounded the strike zone and was able to induce some weak contact off the barrel.

The fastball lived comfortably in the 79-82 mph range for Comeaux, who with that extension out front was able to generate some downhill angle along with short sinking life to the pitch. Throw the physical projection into play and just how cleanly the ball comes out of his hand and it’s no stretch of the imagination to see the velocity climbing pretty quick. He worked mostly off of the heater and had some trouble consistently working on top of his curveball though he did show good spin to the 70 mph pitch and maintained arm speed at release.

Aiden Bennett (2023, Austin, Texas) showed off some defensive versatility for the YETI Baseball Club Crawdads in both of my quick look, first suiting up behind the plate where he showed looseness to his actions and clean mechanics on this throws down to second base. Listed as a primary catcher, Bennett got the start at shortstop in his team’s second game and was even more impressive with his lateral range, moving well up the middle to work behind a ground ball and in one fluid motioned picked it, transferred it, and delivered an accurate throw across. The young Texas native also enjoyed a three-hit performance in game one showing present bat speed through the zone with a long, quick swing path and the ability to work to all fields.

– Jheremy Brown

CE Gaitz (2023, Cypress, Texas) impressed with the bat, making consistent and hard contact. Listed as a switch-hitter, Gaitz showed gap to gap power from the left side where he took majority of his reps. He hit three doubles in his first two games showing good bat speed with a smooth and balanced swing. The young outfielder has a good first step which allowed him to track down balls in the outfield with ease.

Alexavier Martinez (2023, Waco, Texas) is a righthanded pitcher/third baseman who has an aggressive approach in the box, showing solid power and barrel awareness. The young righthanded hitter has a slightly open stance with a low hand load that generates lift in his swing. Martinez started off his day with a grand slam to right field, followed by a hard single up the middle in his third plate appearance.

As a pitcher, this young talent has smooth and easy mechanics with a quick arm action. He sat 75-78 mph while throwing a 61mph curveball. He worked mainly off the fastball that showed sink, producing plenty of swings and misses. His control at a young age should develop even more as he gets older and stronger.

Tyler Townsend (2023, McKinney, Texas) is a projectable 6-foot-1 lefthander who sat 72-76 mph while mixing in a breaking ball that sat around 65 mph. He has free and easy motion, a three-quarters arm slot with good downhill action. Townsend worked both sides of the plate with the fastball during his 5.1 innings of work, striking out 11 and only allowing one earned run.

Angel Davila (2024, New Caney, Texas) is a young projectable shortstop who has a lot of baseball IQ. Davila showed soft hands and smooth actions along with good footwork at shortstop. He made great plays all game including a diving stop and a barehanded grab on a slow roller. His lateral quickness allowed him to make it look easy going up the middle and to his glove side. Davila displayed arm strength that will only get better as he gets older and stronger and he also showed well at the plate, collecting four hits with four RBIs.

Conner Bennett (2023, Spring, Texas) was mentioned above for his bat from day one and also performed as a young righthander with a solid arm, producing a fastball that sat between 75-79 mph during his outing. He also flashed a curveball that sat 63-64 mph and mixed in a changeup at 68 mph. Bennett worked his fastball for strikes and kept hitters off balance with his curveball during his six innings on the mound while striking out six on the day.

Dyson Fields (2023, Ruston, La.) is an athletic righthander with an easy and controlled delivery. Fields was poised on the mound, getting downhill with good separation and extension out front. His fastball sat 75-78 mph, touching 80 mph and mixed a curveball that was 62-64 mph with some bite, creating off balance swings from the opposing hitters. He will continue to add strength and athleticism, helping build his already talented arsenal.

Young-framed shortstop Jayden Martinez (2024, Edinburg, Texas) showed solid range and softness to his hands up-the-middle. His arm is playable with above average arm strength, carry and accuracy across the diamond on to first base while showing the ability to make the throw on the run, deep in the hole, or when off balance. At the plate, he had knack for making solid contact, displaying good bat speed and the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field.

Justin Bryant (2023, Spring, Texas) has a fastball that topped out at 81 mph in this look and sat around 77-79 throughout his outing. This projectable young pitcher has a repeatable delivery with a short arm action and did a nice job of creating good hip and shoulder separation. Bryant has a tendency to induce ground balls due to the sink in his fastball and his command will improve as he matures over the years, maximizing his pitchability.

Jordan Luna (2024, Washington, La.) is a young projectable shortstop with soft hands and good arm strength across the diamond. He has a feel the premium position making all the routine plays look easy and shows offensive components too with good bat speed, pull side power and advanced pitch recognition. The young Louisiana native also made a quick appearance on the mound sitting 73-75 mph with his fastball.

The young well-rounded Payton Young (2024, Texas City, Texas) presented a low handed, slightly open stance with sound bat speed and an aggressive approach in the box. He stayed inside the ball well and displayed the ability to drive the ball deep into gaps. He’s a good runner and very athletic on both sides of the ball and also showcased a powerful arm at the hot corner that will only improve as he matures.

– Andrew Jenkins

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