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Tournaments | Story | 7/19/2019

17u Elite: Day 1 Scout Notes

Brian Sakowski         David Rawnsley         Colton Olinger        
Photo: Jovan Gill (Perfect Game)

Team Elite 17u Scout Team got off to a quick 2-0 start in pool play, winning both of their Thursday games handily. Logan Wood (2020, Macomb, Mich.) got the start in game one and, following Team Elite jumping out to a 7-0 lead, only threw 40 pitches before being lifted, perhaps in the hope of bringing him back on Saturday or Sunday. He was solid, working in the mid-80s and touching 87 mph, showing his usual propensity for spinning the baseball both in curveball (71-75 mph) and slider (76-78 mph) form, along with quality present feel for his changeup. The command was a bit erratic but he had no trouble missing bats and barrels. Wood is committed to Michigan, and has a big month of August ahead with both the East Coast Pro and the Area Code Games on the docket.

Wood and William Pearson (2020, Watkinsville, Ga.) combined for a no-hitter, as Pearson went the final 2 2/3, striking out five and allowing nary a baserunner. Pearson is definitely funky, often throwing from a sidearm slot and running his fastball up to 86 mph with excellent running life, pounding the zone with that fastball as well as a frisbee slider in the mid-60s with two-plane break and good depth, working really well out of that low slot and giving him a very nice secondary pitch to pair with that heater.

One of the more interesting uncommitted arms in attendance this week is Shep Hancock (2020, Sharpsburg, Ga.), who got the start for Team Georgia 17u National in their opening-round win over Team Ohio Pro Select. He’s a physical righthander with good strength throughout who can run his fastball up to 90 mph and sits in the 84-88 mph range, powering the ball downhill at times in the zone and generating a fair amount of plane. The curveball has some power to it, with good bite on an 11-to-5 shape, doing a fair job of missing bats with the pitch down in the zone. He walked a few but was around the zone for the most part, and should have a good amount of suiters for his services at the next level.

Team Ohio Pro Select has several intriguing hitters throughout their lineup, perhaps none more so than Mackenzie Wainwright (2020, Aurora, Ohio), a center fielder and talented football player who is committed to Ohio State. Wainwright has excellent physicality to go along with plus athleticism, though perhaps the main draw to his profile is his righthanded raw power, which is substantial. He has plenty of bat speed to go along with more advanced hit-ability than the profile indicates, showing the ability to move the barrel around the zone with loose hands and a barrel that stays in the zone for a long time, with the ability to square the ball up to all fields.

Camden Hill (2020, Madison, Ala.) hits in the middle of the Team Georgia lineup and did quite a bit of damage in their game vs. Team Ohio Pro Select, picking up a pair of doubles along with an RBI. Hill has a good bit of raw power at present in his lefthanded stroke and he shows the propensity for driving the ball to all fields, extending well through contact and driving the ball up both gaps with ease. A two-way player with some upside on the mound as well, Hill’s offensive presence and feel to hit combined with both his present and projection power should allow him to potentially see the field early at Auburn, where he’s committed.

Blake Money (2020, Spring Hill, Tenn.) got the start and the win for the East Cobb Astros in their Thursday afternoon win, allowing just a single unearned run on three hits and a walk over seven innings, striking out six in the process. Money is an imposing physical presence, standing 6-foot-7 inches and weighing in at a sturdy, physical 250 pounds. He looks the part of an SEC innings-eater, and is committed to LSU. He ran his fastball up to 93 mph early on and settled into the 88-92 mph range throughout, leveraging the ball down in the zone consistently and effectively, doing a very nice job of continually getting weak contact. The changeup feel was advanced as usual, thrown in the low-80s with excellent arm speed and fading action. His curveball has noticeably sharpened up as well, thrown in the mid-70s now with some bite and showing as a solid-average pitch at times. There’s obviously not much projection here given his present physicality, but with three pitches flirting with solid-average and a lot of strikes, Money, while closer to a finished product than most his age, still has pretty intriguing upside.

Will Sanders (2020, Atlanta, Ga.) was recently selected to the Perfect Game All-American Classic and was excellent in his outing for East Cobb on Thursday night, allowing just an unearned run over four innings, a complete game due to a run rule. Sanders is ideally projectable with long limbs and tons of room to fill out his frame, and checks nearly every box as far as a projectable high-end young arm goes. The operation is clean, with a balanced delivery that checks the efficiency box, plus arm speed that works well, and quality present stuff. He touched 90 mph with his fastball, working in the 86-89 mph range, powering the ball downhill with good plane and extension and dominating with the pitch. The slider has come along well, thrown in the upper-70s with excellent tunnel out of the hand and sharp, late bite, mostly in the solid average range right now but with the projection to be a plus pitch long-term. Given the ingredients of his profile, Sanders has the look and feel of a high-end draft arm once he starts coming into more strength and adding velocity, and it remains to be seen whether that will be next spring or after a few years working with pitching coach Skylar Meade at South Carolina, where he’s committed.

The Giants Scout Team-FTB moved to 2-0 late Thursday night in the Hoover Met Stadium, taking down the East Coast Lumberjacks 6-4. I’ve been continually impressed by Nate Clow (2020, Federal Way, Wash.) over the course of the summer – at the PG National, the 17u WWBA and now this event – and he looks the part of a high-end hitter and athlete. A shortstop by trade, he has excellent balance and twitch to his profile, with lots of range to both sides, easy hands out front and a solid enough arm right now. Offensively, a lefthanded hitter, Clow’s hands and subsequent barrel control are both high-end, getting the barrel on plane early and letting it stay there for a long period of time, giving him the ability to maximize his margin for error and square the ball up to all fields. He controls the strike zone well and doesn’t expand it, perfectly content to take his walks if he doesn’t get a pitch to drive, and showing the ability to get the barrel out and pull the ball with authority at times, doubling sharply down the right field line in one of his ABs Thursday night. He’s a fascinating follow in the Pacific Northwest for the 2020 MLB Draft and is committed to Southern Cal.

– Brian Sakowski

VBA 17u righthander Turner Stepp (2020, Decatur, Ala.) had never pitched at a PG event until the 17u WWBA National Championship earlier this month in Georgia. The uncommitted Alabama native has definitely put himself on the map since then. He threw five innings of one-hit ball over two appearances at the WWBA 17u and opened up the 17u Elite Championship with 3 2/3 shutout innings with six strikeouts and no walks. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Stepp sat consistently at 89 mph while steadily picking up velocity the deeper he got into his pitch count and eventually topped out at 93 mph. He threw almost exclusively fastballs while mixing in a rare 77 mph curveball and had plenty of life on his fastball, especially when he was able to work downhill to the bottom of the zone. Stepp’s mechanics are pretty fast paced with an over-the-top arm slot and while his arm was occasionally late, hitters couldn’t lay off his heat up in the zone.

VBA threw two other uncommitted 2020s in their 3-0 opening game victory, both of whom showed the ability to pitch at the next level. 6-foot-4, 185-pound lefthander Lawson Russell (2020, Decatur, Ala.) is Stepp’s teammate at Decatur High School. Russell has a very deceptive delivery with a compact arm action that hides the ball very well. He worked 81-84 mph this game with lots of southpaw running life but his best pitch was a big-breaking curveball that he landed very effectively against righthanded hitters. Russell struck out 49 hitters in 27 innings in high school last spring and is the type of pitcher that is going to be hard to hit despite his below average velocity.

Righthander Ty Hutto (2020, Moulton, Ala.) got a quick one inning save to finish the game, working in the 85-87 mph range with a nice 74 mph curveball and a loose, whippy three-quarters arm stroke. Hutto is listed as a primary middle infielder but his 6-foot-3, 165-build and easy stuff and potential plus command definitely paint him as a future pitcher.

Rawlings Arkansas Prospects has had a nice July at Perfect Game events thus far, reaching the quarterfinals at the 17u WWBA before losing to the eventual champion Canes National team and starting off this 17u WWBA Elite Championship with a 2-0 record. Their strength in both events has been their pitching, as the team now has a cumulative 1.06 team ERA in 2019.

After coasting to an 8-0 win in their first game Thursday, Rawlings Arkansas eeked out a 1-0 win in their second game behind a complete game shutout by righthander Jack Dougherty (2020, Collierville, Tenn.). The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Mississippi commit wasn’t overpowering, working in the mid-80s this game and liberally mixing in a big upper 60s curveball, but he did pound the strike zone and ended up with 11 strikeouts. Dougherty works downhill very well with his fastball and gets lots of late life to his pitches and tunnels his pitches as well. In three starts at the two high-level PG events, Dougherty is a combined 3-0, 0.37 with 22 strikeouts in 19 innings.

Catcher Joe Reid (2020, Ozark, Mo.) has been the Rawlings Arkansas offensive leader out of the cleanup hole all summer and was so again on Thursday, driving in three runs in the first win while going 2-for-3, giving him 13 RBI in 12 games this summer while hitting .355. The Oklahoma State commit also put in a strong performance at the PG National Showcase in June.

Team Georgia 17u National righthander Brayden Rowe (2020, Warrior, Ala.) was outstanding against Rawlings Arkansas while picking up a no decision, throwing four shutout innings with five strikeouts. Rowe, an Alabama commit who also appeared at the PG National Showcase, worked in the 87-89 mph range and featured an outstanding changeup that he used frequently and effectively in the upper-70s. Like Dougherty above, Rowe has had an outstanding summer, earning All-Tournament honors at both the 18u and 17u WWBA championships while posting double-figure strikeout games at both events.

The aforementioned Canes National team opened up their quest to add the 17u Elite Championship to their trophy shelf with a hard fought 3-1 win over Team Georgia 17u Gold, making the best of four hits. The hero of the game for the Canes was righthander Coby Ingle (2020, Reidsville, N.C.), a North Carolina State commit. Ingle came into a one out, bases loaded jam in the top of the fifth inning with the Canes holding a 2-1 lead and little momentum. Ingle struck out the next two hitters and finished with five punchouts in 2 2/3 shutout innings to pick up the save. The loose 6-foot-2, 175-pound athlete topped out at 90 mph with a 75 mph curveball.

Outfielder Dominic Johnson (2020, Edmond, Okla.) was the offensive standout for the Canes, scoring two runs of their three runs after reaching base on a double and a walk. Johnson, the 87th-ranked player in the PG class of 2020 rankings and an Oklahoma State commit, is one of the fastest players in the country, having run a 6.22 60-yard dash at the PG National Showcase.

Another uncommitted and unranked righthander who has really come on this summer and has next level tools is East Coast Sox 17u Select’s Jacob Payne (2020, Madison, Miss.). The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Payne worked 4 2/3 solid innings on Thursday in what was eventually a 4-3 East Coast Sox victory. Payne topped out at 89 mph from a high three-quarters slot that generates big angle to the plate and worked in a solid mid-70s breaking ball. He is coming off a five-inning performance at the 17u WWBA where he struck out eight in five one-hit innings while topping out at 91 mph. Payne was throwing 82-85 mph last summer, so he’s taken a big jump in one year with his raw stuff.

East Coast Sox outfielder Robby Ashford (2020, Hoover, Ala.) is undoubtedly one of the best high school athletes in the country and certainly one of the most athletic baseball players. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound dual-sport athlete is a four-star quarterback recruit who is committed to play both sports at Mississippi. Ranked 120th in the PG class rankings, Ashford was unable to attend the PG National Showcase due to football but showed off his outstanding speed while beating out two routine ground balls on Thursday, running 3.95 and 4.00 from the right side. Ashford’s swing needs plenty of work based on this look, but he’s so athletic that he should have the physical aptitude to make the needed adjustments. Whether he will have the time and repetitions with his football ability is another question.

– David Rawnsley

Jake Fitzgibbons (2020, Mount Juliet, Tenn.) a Tennessee commit displayed a quick arm with a fastball that sat 86-88 mph and topped out at 90 mph a handful of times. His high three-quarters arm slot helps produce good downward plane as his command got better as the outing went on. His strong drive off his back-side working online down the mound allowed him to maintain his velocity throughout his 3 1/3 innings of work as his last fastball registered at 88 mph. He paired his fastball with a curveball that sat 70-72 mph with good depth when he was able to get extension and stay on top of the ball showing 1-to-7 break to it. Being on the younger side of the 2020 class, Fitzgibbons still has room to grow into his lean frame as he continues to fill out and mature.

Jovan Gill (2020, Fort Myers, Fla.) displayed a good feel on the mound as he got the start in game one for the Giants Scout Team-FTB at the WWBA 17u Elite Championship. The Stetson commit was in control from start to finish as he went seven complete innings allowing one unearned run on only three hits. His ability to command all four of his pitches for strikes allowed him to stay efficient as he walked only one batter while throwing 96 pitches in the 2-1 Giants Scout Team-FTB win. Gill’s fastball sat 86-88 mph and topped out at 92 mph. His ability to change the speeds on the fastball allowed him to reach back and get a little more when he needed it in a big situation. His primary secondary pitch, a changeup, showed great depth while maintaining arm speed and sitting 72-75 mph. his command and confidence in the changeup allowed him to use it in any count. He offset the fastball and changeup with a curveball that showed good bite with late break, and a knuckleball that kept hitters off balance. Displaying his athleticism, he changed his timing and delivery to throw off hitters while repeating his clean arm action and high three-quarters arm slot.

Apposing Gill on the mound for 643 DP Cougars 17u Pralgo was University of Georgia commit Liam Sullivan (2020, Sandy Springs, Ga.). Sullivan is a physical, big-time lefthanded arm with his 6-foot-6 220 pound frame. The long lefty ran his fastball up to 89 mph while sitting 85-87 mph throughout his three innings of work as he struck out four. His high three-quarters arm slot comes from a simple, quiet delivery with a quick clean arm motion creating good plane when his release point is right. He showed two different breaking balls, a slider in the mid-70s with a short sweeping break and a curveball at 69-71 mph with some depth. His go-to off-speed was his changeup. He showed confidence in it as he threw it ahead and behind in counts for strikes with some fading action to it. His large build is projectable as he continues to mature with the ability to continue adding strength.

Collin Caldwell (2020, Powder, Springs, Ga.), also a University of Georgia commit, came on to throw the last two inning in relief for 643 DP Cougars 17u Pralgo as he allowed no runs on no hits while striking out four to keep it a one run game. His fastball sat 87-89 mph with some arm-side run from his quick clean arm action and high three-quarters arm slot. His curveball ball showed some depth with tight spin and 1-to-7 shape to it. With his 78-80 mph changeup he did a good job of maintaining arm speed creating deception out of the hand with late fading action when his release point was out front. There is some upside to like with Caldwell as he as room to fill out on his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame which should only help add velocity to his live arm.

Jackson Cothren (2020, Fayetteville, Tenn.) did a nice job of keeping the bats of a dangerous East Coast Sox 17u Select club at bay for most of the night. The University of Memphis commit did a nice job of staying on the corners with his upper-80s fastball that toped out at 91 mph a handle full of times. His good use of his lower half helped to allow him to maintain his velocity throughout his 5 2/3 innings of work. His three-quarters arm slot comes from a long smooth arm action giving the fastball some arm-side life. Like many of the other starters on day one of the tournament, Cothren used his changeup as his primary off-speed offering showing lots of confidence in the pitch while maintaining his arm speed throughout his delivery. The changeup sat 80-81 mph with some heavy sink allowing him to create swings and misses by starting it in the zone and letting it drop out helping add to his 11 total strikeouts. He also mixed in a curveball at 77-79 mph with some bite and depth to it with 11-to-5 shape. His 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame already shows some present strength with the ability to add more as he fills out and develops.

Carson Knight (2020, Muscle Shoals, Ala.), a UAB commit, came in to shut the door for East Coast Sox 17u Select in their second game of day one pool play. Knight came in and allowed no runs on no hits while striking five over two innings of work with a fastball that sat 87-88 mph. His clean, quick arm action produced a repeatable high three-quarters arm slot with good direction to the plate throughout his delivery. His secondary offering, a curveball, showed good depth with 12-to-6 shape as he was able to command it well landing it for strikes as well as producing swings-and-misses. He did a nice job of driving down the mound and getting good extension out front on both of his offerings, creating tight spin on the breaking ball and good plane on his fastball. With a lean 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame, he still has some projectability with room to continue to fill out and add strength and subsequent velocity to his already fast arm.

Will Safford (2020, Baton Rouge, La.) displayed his great athleticism making tough plays going to his left and right look easy. Going deep in the whole he showed off his arm strength throwing a strike across the diamond, and his quick release as he went up the middle to make a play while throwing on the run. The Louisiana State commit displayed a quick, compact stroke with the ability to get the bat head out front with some pull-side pop. He starts with balanced stance and high hands as he does a good job of allowing his quick hands to work to the inside part of the ball creating a true ball flight on his line drive approach. His lean frame leaves him with room continue to add strength as he grows moving forward while maintaining his fast-twitch athleticism.

– Colt Olinger

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