Tournaments | Story | 6/30/2019

14u WWBA Day 2 Scout Notes

Jheremy Brown         Taylor Weber         Colton Olinger        
Photo: Walter Ford (Perfect Game)

14u WWBA National Championship: Day 1 Scout Notes

Day two of the 14u WWBA Championships was similar to that of day one in that big-time arms continued to establish themselves, and as teams try to look beyond bracket play all the aces are taking the hill early in the tournament, meaning plenty of big radar gun readings early in the tournament.

The beauty of the 14u WWBA Championship is that while you can make out a schedule and highlight players to see, additional players are always going to jump onto the scene and demand your attention. That’s just what happened during the 8 a.m. slot at the Hoover Met quad as athletic righthander
 Noah Bentley  (2023, Celina, Texas) started the game for the Dallas Tigers and quickly attracted a small crowd behind home plate.

In what turned out to be his Perfect Game debut, the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Bentley was excellent over his 5 1/3 innings of work, a span in which he struck out five, issued just one walk and scattered two base hits. His delivery itself is a simple yet efficient one as he gathers tall on his back-side with a slight pause at the top prior to coming down and showing a quick and very low effort arm stroke, producing a fastball that lived comfortably in the 80-85 mph range over the course of his start. Along with the easy release Bentley was able to generate short sinking life down in the zone and exhibited a sense of comfort working to either side of the plate while maintaining his velocity out of the stretch.

He stuck mostly to an “attack with the fastball” mentality as it was a game-plan that proved to work though he did mix in a slider up to 76 mph that shows big potential moving forward and is already one of the better off-speed pitches seen thus far. The uncommitted Bentley maintains his arm speed on the pitch and finishes with conviction, creating sharp life through the zone with some later bite which he used to record a couple of his punch outs.

Michigan continues to produce young, high level talent as a couple of bats for the Motor City Hit Dogs were detailed in day one’s recap and on Saturday afternoon it was righthander Kyle Crow’s  (2023, Fenton, Mich.) turn to show his talents. A long and broad shouldered, highly projectable 6-foot-3, 170-pound righthander, Crow gave a quick glimpse of what he’s capable of on the mound as he went 2 2/3 innings of work, meaning we’ll see him again later this tournament.

Beginning his delivery with a deeper gather on his back-side, Crow shows the requisite arm speed to catch up and remain on time at release, as well as the arm strength, as he touched both 85 and 86 mph one time apiece in the opening frame. And while he will get mistimed occasionally with his release, as pitchers with his age/size combo will do, Crow displayed his athleticism in varying his tempo on the bump and came out attacking the zone in his first inning of work.

With rhythm to his delivery and a quick right arm Crow sat comfortably in the 80-84 mph range and missed bats with his fastball, showing consistent running life while maintaining it to either side of the plate as well. The heater leaves his hand well and there’s certainly more in the tank as he continues to refine and grow into his both, though he also flashed a changeup at 74 mph and spun a short breaker in the upper-60s as part of a three-pitch mix.

One thing I’ve said in the past and will likely say again in the future in regard to covering the 14u action is that it provides us the opportunity to follow these young players and watch as they develop outing to outing and year to year. Righthander  Hiro Wyatt  (2023, Westport, Conn.) is a nice example of that as we first saw him at the 14u Northeast Showcase earlier this spring where he worked in the 82-84/85 mph range with his fastball, a mark he has since surpassed while generating some buzz on a national level.

A lean and wiry 6-foot-1, 160-pound prospect out of Connecticut, Wyatt looks the part of a ranging middle infielder and the athleticism to brings to the mound quickly matched what the eyes are telling you as his delivery with loose and he does a nice job of repeating on the mound. Wyatt was handed the ball for Team Elite 14u National and went three innings on the mound, running his fastball up to 87 mph a handful of times while maintaining 83-86 mph throughout. The velocity itself stands out for the 14u level but when you consider his lower three-quarters slot, his ability to fill the zone, and the short sinking life he creates on the pitch, it’s easy to see why he gather a small collection of college recruiters in his opening inning of work.

It won’t be a surprise if his next time out the radar gun reads higher and the projection down the road is near limitless as he hardly utilizes his lower half at present and is still generating one of the better fastballs of the tournament. He showed a short curveball in the upper-60s and could develop a swing-and-miss type slider down the road given his slot with maintained arm speed, though he was able to land his current breaking ball for strikes. Wyatt also mixed in a changeup in the low-70s with a tunneled release that replicated that of his fastball, giving him three pitches and plenty of upside moving forward.

In yet another day dominated by talented arms, the defensive actions of Banditos’ shortstop Tracer Lopez (2023, Rosebud, Texas) stood out as some of the best thus far in the tournament. While he may not be the biggest of players in the Bandito lineup, Lopez shows the instincts and quickness to his first step to show solid range to either side while covering plenty of ground. Those instincts were on display Friday night as he accurately read a chopped ground ball to play it on the bounce rather than the short hop and showed off his range Saturday afternoon to scoop the ball behind the second base bag, show a fast transfer and throw from a lower slot to complete the play. He hasn’t filled up the box score offensively just yet this tournament though he has remained aggressive on pitches within the zone while providing lock down defense up the middle.

Ethan Robinson (2023, Antioch, Tenn.) has already made plenty of noise this spring, running his fastball up to 91 mph, news that has quickly spread throughout the baseball world as a handful of recruiting coordinators and plenty of spectators looked on. With a loose and projectable 6-foot-3, 177-pound frame Robinson certainly looks the part of a high-end pitching prospect and though he was “only” up to 88 mph in this look, the stuff he produced from his right hand left people talking behind the backstop.

Far from a 14u pitcher with a big arm who just lets it fly on the mound, Robinson showed some of the more refined mechanics I’ve seen to this point in the 2023 class with a deliberate tempo and balance throughout which he pairs with a fast and low effort arm stroke. Though he’ll land closed with his strike foot it doesn’t inhibit him in any way thanks to the extension he generates out front which in turn allowed for lots of strikes.

Over the course of his six innings of work Robinson averaged 86 mph on his heater, a true testament of his arm talent as he lived within that 85-88 mph range throughout his 62 mph and undoubtedly has more velocity in the tank. One takeaway from the outing was the lone strikeout over six innings as Robinson elected to pitch to contact, which he was able to induce early in the count, as the Banditos came out aggressive and swung early and often on the heater. With the life he generates on the fastball along with the ability to pump the strike zone Robinson had his fair share of weak contact off the bat scattered around the yard which helped keep a low pitch count deep into the game.

Along with the fastball Robinson mixed in both a curveball and changeup and it was the breaking ball he went to more often of the secondaries. A pitch that worked mostly in the upper-60s, his curveball shows proper rotation with some shape to it and a similar release point and will continue to take the next step forward as he maintains his arm speed through the back and at release. There’s no doubting the talent possessed by the young arm out of Antioch, Tennessee and he’ll be certain to draw a crowd every time he takes the hill.

Listed as a primary shortstop, Walter Ford  (2023, Pace, Fla.) took to the mound for East Coast Sox and brought with him that athleticism that will only continue to develop on the mound as he already possesses one of the faster arms in the 2023 class. And that’s not to say Ford is raw on the mound by any means as he has already shown his abilities in prior Perfect Game events and may have delivered his best performance yet on Saturday afternoon.

At 6-foot-1, 165-pounds there’s plenty of physical projection to dream on with Ford who went four scoreless innings and punched out six in the process without walking any. He shows some rhythm to his delivery complete with a hip turn at the top and a fast arm stroke through the back, generating a fastball that sat in the 87-89 mph range in the opening frame with subtle life, a component to his fastball that actually increased notably out of the stretch. The velocity comes pretty easy for Ford and as he continues to transition to a primary arm there will certainly be another jump or two though the ball already jumps out of his hand.

Perhaps as impressive as the fastball velocity is, Ford’s feel for spinning a tight slider (one of the better, if not the best breaker seen yet in this tournament) is noteworthy as he was able to land the 74 mph offering for strikes consistently while missing bats with it. He tunnels his release and maintains his arm speed well, a trait that is also true on his changeup, a straight and firm offering in the upper-70s which worked around the plate to give him three pitches for strikes.

He’ll be a fun young arm to follow moving forward though he also showed components with the bat, generating solid bat speed through the zone with loose hands and separation out front at the point of contact.

RJ Hamilton  (2023, Hoover, Ala.) is your quintessential leadoff hitter, and while he may not be as physical as some of the other players listed in the recap at 5-foot-9, 160-pounds, the righthanded hitting outfielder may his impact just the same. Full of fast-twitch muscle Hamilton quickly made his presence felt with a leadoff walk which quickly yielded him standing on second base after swiping the bag almost immediately. From second, he tagged up on a shallow pop up that the left fielder made an excellent diving catch on, forcing an errant throw and ultimately came around to score on the same play. In his second at-bat Hamilton scored in a more conventional way as he got his arms extended out front and loudly barreled a triple to the right-center field gap, showing the strength to his hands and once again scored on a wild throw coming back in. The speed is a big component to Hamilton’s game and it’s a tool he put on full display in making an impact on the East Coast Sox 10-1 victory.

Brodey Walker  (2023, Brandon, Miss.) is one of the few, rare cases here at the 14u WWBA Championship in that he already has his college commitment made despite not yet reaching high school as he gave his verbal to in-state Mississippi State earlier this year. Strongly built at 5-foot-11, 170-pounds, Walker is listed as a primary lefthanded pitcher and while that may be where he future is, he swung the bat well Saturday night for Team Louisiana, picking up both a double and a triple in the win. Walker, a lefthanded bat, pulled his hands inside the ball late in the game and sliced a deeper fly ball away from the left field that snuck just inside the left field line, showing both bat speed and strength to his hands on a ball that resulted in a stand-up triple, his second extra-base knock of the day.

– Jheremy Brown

The Louisiana Knights 14u Black recorded their second win in as many days at the 14u WWBA National Championship on Saturday. On the bump tossing 5 2/3 shutout innings was big and lengthy lefthander Kade Anderson (2023, Madisonville, La.). Anderson is one of the top lefties in the 2023 class and he proved it in his first outing of the event. He stands around 6-foot with a slender frame and plenty of projection moving forward. He creates sharp angle on the fastball from a medium arm circle and into a three-quarters slot sitting 80-83 mph for most of the outing but touching 85 at times. He also mixed in a sharp breaking ball with 1-to-7 shape and plenty of depth creating a good amount of swing-and-miss.

Anderson started off his outing allowing a couple of free passes but after getting out of the first he was able to settle in and shut down the opposition. In the game he did a marvelous job of commanding the outer half of the plate early with the fastball and putting hitters away late by going to the breaking ball. He ended the day with just two hits allowed as well as two walks and collecting a whopping 10 strikeouts.

One of Anderson’s teammates also stood out in their 2-0 victory, Jon Cassidy Vanek (2023, Lake Charles, La.), a primary lefty on the mound, but he also showcased some ability the bat in his hands. He’s a slender 6-foot-1, 150-pounds with room to add on throughout his frame. He displays a simple approach at the plate with a quick barrel through the zone on an inside path. He creates some separation in the swing and is able to generate some lift through contact. Vanek can drive the ball well working to all fields and collected an opposite field hit in the game. Though he is more well-known as a primary pitcher he certainly showed that he has the chance to be a solid two way player moving forward.

Though he ended up taking the loss for Team Georgia 14u Gold, Cooper Milford (2023, Cumming, Ga.) threw a solid game and showed some things to like on the mound. The 6-foot, 150-pound righty employs and athletic delivery that repeats well almost consistently. He threw a high amount of strikes early in the game, running his fastball with occasional sink up to 80 mph and sat consistently in the upper-70s. He shows a good amount of feel in his breaking ball able to throw it to any hitter in any count and get results. Milford was a standout player this past May at the Sunshine Southeast showcase and has been known to work up to 82 mph on the mound.

The 2-0 5 Star National 14u team added their third win of the tournament with a back-and-forth game at Spain Park High School. On the mound to start the game for 5 Star was righthanded pitcher Connor Crisp (2023, Locust Grove, Ga.). After a rougher first inning the 5-foot-10 pitcher settled in a showed why he is among the top righties in the nation. Though he’s not the biggest of pitchers, he has high-end arm speed into his release and is very fluid throughout his delivery. He consistently sat in the low- to mid-80s, topping out at 84 mph with the fastball. Crisp, who will be attending the 14u National Showcase in August, certainly has the stuff to put together strong performances moving farther into the tournament.

Coming in to relieve Crisp was fellow righthander TJ Dunsford (2023, Grand Bay, Ala.). Dunsford, who is a primary third baseman, showing off his arm strength at both positions. The former MVP of the 14u East Memorial Day Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. creates heavy life through the zone topping out at 82 mph with his fastball. He worked three innings allowing just three hits, no runs and striking out three batters. At 5-foot-10, 185-pounds, Dunford has a strong presence on the bump with a thick lower half that he utilizes well working down the mound and creating some drive off the back-side to the plate.

Doing some damage at the plate for 5 Star was three-hole hitter Brady Neal (2023, Tallahassee, Fla.). Neal is mix of strength and athleticism at the plate. He can drive the ball to the gaps with some authority while being able to manipulate the bat and consistently find the barrel. He has strong hands at contact with a fluid stroke and short path to the ball. His short swing allows him to sit on the ball which helps him work the count well and get a pitch he can do damage with. He ended the game with two hits in three trips including a double and a triple. He drove in one of the seven runs and scored a pair himself.

Angel Colon (2022, Hawthorn, N.J.) did all he could to keep his Grit Black team in the game against 5 Star. Colon has one of the more fluid swings you would want to see at his age. He creates lift through contact on a naturally leveraged plane. He has present strength in his build and can use his strong lower half and hips to turn on the ball and work contact well to the pull side. He was able to capitalize and put his team on top with a two-run triple deep into the gap to give his team an early 4-1 lead in the first inning.

In the final game of Day two at Vestavia Hills High School, the EC Sox Jackson 14u Prime were able to grab their second win in pool play. This was led by three no-hit innings from starter Jacob Gazzo (2023, Summit, Miss.). Gazzo is an intimidating 6-foot-7 righthander with plenty of length to him. He works from an extended low three-quarters slot creating sharp angle to the plate on the fastball touching 81 mph. He throws a high amount of strikes and can both work to contact as well as create some swing-and-miss depending on the situation.

Gazzo has a body scouts dream of when looking for young players to recruit. He has plenty of room to fill out and he should continue to add velocity as he matures. He can land the breaking ball for a strike but at times it can get a bit loopy and the occasional sharpness he has on the pitch can get loss and flatten the shape of the pitch. This wasn’t much of a problem for him, however, as he didn’t surrender a hit during his outing.

– Taylor Weber

Caleb Hampton (2023, Oolthewah, Tenn.)  displayed his great hit-ability throwing out multiple hits on day two of the 14u WWBA National Championship. His 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame leaves projectability moving forward. At the plate he starts with a very fluid, open stance with high hands. His leg kick trigger gets him into a good hitting position getting his weight transferred to his back-side. His ability to get his hips and hands through the zone produces pull-side power through his level bat path. Once on the bases his athleticism takes over allowing him to steal bases with easy. While playing right field Hampton displayed a strong arm and good range cutting off balls in the gap and holding baserunners station-to-station around the bases.

Blake Grimmer (2023, Spring Lake, Mich.) showed a great plate presence with the ability to work the count, spoiling good pitches before getting a pitch to hit and showing his great barrel-to-ball skills. His loud contact throughout his at-bats displayed serious pull-side power with his ability to drive a ball through a lefthanded shift. He starts with a slightly open, upright stance and high hands. His low leg kick and soft hand load create good separation before his smooth bat path takes over. His ability to stay connected with the upper body and lower body well getting extension through contact on a level plane produces line drives that jump off the bat. His long lean frame leaves for plenty of room to fill out and projects well for even more power at the plate.

Landon Franklin (2023, Cleveland, Tenn.) is a long, lean, middle infielder to keep an eye on with an easily projectable frame and already smooth mechanics both in the field and at the plate. At the plate he starts with a slightly open upright stance. His ability to stay chest over the ball through the swing allows him to take the ball the other way with authority. His swing path stays level through the ball allowing him to maximize his barrel time in the zone while playing to his line dive approach. Defensively he showcased good lateral movement ranging left to make plays on balls hit up the middle. His longer frame and good arm project well moving forward at either spot on the left side of the infield.

Turner Junkins (2023, Oolthewah, Tenn.) is a versatile player for his eXposure 14u Prime club. He started off his day playing third base in game one and transitioned behind the plate to catch in game two all while holding down the second spot in the order. At third his good first step allows him to get his feet in position while the glove works out front carrying him into his throw where his arm proved to be plenty strong enough to handle the long throw. Behind the plate his quiet hands allow him to work around the baseball while centering it up on his body. His good athleticism allows him to move well laterally while blocking and keep balls in the dirt close. His strong arm showed up again behind the plate with a consistent 2.15 in-game pop time. His lower half works well keeping him on line and allowing him to be accurate with his throws. At the plate his quick compact swing stays level through the zone leading to gap-to-gap line drive production. As the swing mechanics mature the power will continue to grow as he already does a good job of getting his backside through the swing.

– Colton Olinger

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