Tournaments | Story | 7/20/2019

17U Elite: Day 2 Scout Notes

David Rawnsley         Colton Olinger        
Photo: Ty Floyd (Perfect Game)
2019 WWBA 17U Elite Championship: Day 1 Scout Notes

A sportswriter once noticed that whenever Hall of Famer Greg Maddux threw bullpens between starts, he always threw almost exclusively from the stretch.  When asked why, Maddux responded, “All of my most important pitches come from the stretch so it only makes sense that that’s what I practice the most.”

That type of simple wisdom has an application with the mechanics of young pitchers, many of whom are prone to lose both raw stuff and command when forced to abandon their windups and work from the stretch. Two very talented examples of that Friday morning were right handers Brooks Rice (2020, Madison, Miss.) and Isaiah Jackson (2020, Savoy, Ill.) of the East Coast Sox 17U Select and the East Coast Sox 17U Elite, respectively, both of whom recently threw at the PG National Showcase.

Both of these pitchers have long, projectable bodies, with Rice, a Louisiana State commit, measuring 6-foot-3, 180 pounds and Jackson, formally a primary outfielder whose future is on the mound, even longer at 6-foot-5, 180 pounds.  Both were 88-90 mph from the windup in their starts, with Rice throwing four no-hit innings and Jackson, who touched a few 91s, throwing three shutout frames.  But from the stretch, both pitchers were immediately 83-86 mph with less command.

The reason for the drop off in both instances was that both hurlers lost their lower halves from the stretch, moving straight down the mound from an open stretch set and never getting their hips turned to any degree close to where they would have from the windup. The abbreviated lower half action forced their arms to rush to catch up, taking away velocity from their fastballs and power from their breaking balls.

This isn’t meant to advocate completely ignoring baserunners, which some very notable big league pitchers such as Nolan Ryan essentially did, but to point out that there is a successful median where a pitcher can still hold runners but still maintain his stuff.  What good is holding a runner a few feet closer to the bag when the hitter is more likely to hit a rocket up a gap, anyway?

Shortstop Sabin Ceballos (2020, Rio Grande, P.R.) has quietly put together a nice championship so far playing for North East Baseball. Ceballos was one of the defensive standouts of the PG National Showcase and is currently ranked No. 60 in the PG class rankings based largely on his glove work and top of the scale arm strength. While his defense in Hoover has been solid, he’s also 3-for-4 with two RBI at the plate and has drawn four walks in three games, as pitchers have continuously worked him with breaking balls out of the zone.  Ceballos also showed good aptitude when leading off a game against Jackson (above). After firing his hands noticeably late against Jackson’s first pitch, a 91 mph fastball, Ceballos laid down a beautiful bunt on the second pitch and beat it out for a single.

The 17U Elite Championships have been a haven for uncommitted 2020 pitchers, something that the large contingent of college recruiters has undoubtedly noticed.  Two of note made outstanding starts on Friday.

Righthander Daemon Woodruff (2020, Titusville, Fla.) has a nice and athletic 6-foot-3, 185-pound build and a loose and easy arm three-quarters arm stroke from an upper body heavy rotational delivery.  He worked five innings, allowing four hits and one run in FTB Tucci-Berryhill’s 3-1 win Friday morning, throwing in the 86-88 mph range with a pretty sharp 77 mph slider. Woodruff has been up to 91 mph at PG events this summer and may still have more velocity there in the future as he matures physically.

Righthander Seamus Barrett (2020, Arlington, Mass.) really stands out on the mound with his 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame and he showed the stuff Friday to back it up. Barrett threw 6 2/3 innings before reaching his pitch count limit in the New England Ruffnecks 2-2 tie, striking out 10 hitters and allowing three hits. Barrett topped out at 89 mph early on his fastball and was still a steady 85-86 when he topped 100 pitches. He gets downhill very well from a high three-quarters arm slot and showed good feel for a curveball that he successfully added and subtracted from to mess with hitter’s timing. Barrett’s ability to compete and challenge hitters in a tight and hard played game was also impressive.

Ruffnecks right fielder Kevin Skagerlind (2020, Holden, Mass.) is another uncommitted player who looks to have college level tools and skills. Skagerlind is also noticeably young and won’t turn 17 years old until next month.  He’s a live-bodied athlete who looks to have plus running speed and plays with the kind of energy that makes his speed play up.  A righthanded hitter, Skagerlind has a short and strong line drive swing and has gone 5-for-9 (.556) over three games while also stealing five bases and driving in four runs.

South Carolina commit righthander Cade Austin (2020, Chapin, S.C.) had an outstanding outing for the Upstate Mavericks, needing only 89 pitches in throwing a complete game shutout in a 4-0 Mavericks win. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Austin has a very deceptive delivery that hides the ball well and he works distractingly quickly while making hitters uncomfortable with both his stuff and his pace. Austin worked regularly in the upper-80s, touching 90 mph a number of times, with good sinking life that generated him a number of early count ground balls. He worked in a short 75 mph slider and a 77 mph changeup on occasion but the pitch that really opened this scout’s eyes was an 84 mph cutter that he threw for one of his seven strikeouts, as the pitch just disappeared at the plate to a righthanded hitter. Austin’s defense must love playing behind him, between his pace between pitches and his ability to throw strikes.

Part of the success of Austin’s ability to work so quickly is also due to the Maverick’s coaching staff letting catcher Jack Spyke (2020, Lawrenceville, Ga.) call his own game, which he did very comfortably and successfully. Spyke is uncommitted even though he is ranked No. 344 in the PG Class rankings and carries a 9.5 PG showcase grade.  He’s a strong righthanded hitter and his two-run RBI single was the key hit in the game.

Another uncommitted pitcher of note was Florida Aces lefthander Colton Mercer (2020, Sneads, Fla.). Mercer has a strong 6-foot-3, 195-pound build with very broad and square shoulders that can carry plenty more strength. He worked mostly in the 83-85 mph range for five innings but picked up most of his seven strikeouts on a tight and big breaking curveball that can definitely get hitters out at the next level. Mercer is from a small town of less than 2,000 people right on the Florida-Georgia border and it’s easy to understand how he may have been overlooked in the recruiting process.

-David Rawnsley

Moving day at the 17U Elite Championship proved to be action-packed, if relatively brief, with only three full time slots of action on Friday. 643 DP Cougars 17U moved to 2-1 on the week via an 8-0 win over the East Coast Lumberjacks, with Ty Floyd (2020, Rockmart, Ga.) on the bump. Floyd was sensational, throwing 3 2/3 no-hit innings before being pulled with a low (42) pitch count, presumably in the hopes of bringing him back on Sunday, should 643 advance that far. Floyd struck out four over those 14 hitters, completely in command the whole way.

He's a good-sized righthander with quality projection remaining, running his fastball up to 94 mph and holding 90-93 mph the whole way. He’s got some deception due to the compactness of the arm stroke as well as the late effort through release, and he does a nice job working the ball down in the strike zone consistently and pitching off the fastball, willing to work up in the zone with the pitch and challenging hitters early and often. The changeup is the better secondary pitch right now, thrown in the upper-70s with excellent deception and arm speed, highlighted by good fading life. The breaking ball comes and goes a bit in terms of effectiveness and consistency of action, though the best ones are thrown in the 74-75 mph range with some slurvy break. Floyd is committed to LSU, and will be a high-follow next spring in terms of the draft, given the potential of that fastball/changeup combination as well as the physical projection he carries.

Parks Harber (2020, Atlanta, Ga.) got the offense going for 643 in the second inning, showing off that prodigious bat speed and raw pop by driving a triple deep towards the middle of the field and coming around to score on Floyd’s single two hitters later, turning out to be the game-winning run in an 8-0 game. Harber, a Georgia commit, has excellent physicality to go along with very good strength and bat speed, combining to form one of the better power ceilings of any righthanded hitter in the 2020 class. He’s got solid-average athleticism with the ability to play the corners at the next level, though the profile is built on the righthanded raw pop, of which his is substantial.

The Giants Scout Team-FTB picked up a win in the first round of the playoffs on Friday afternoon, taking down Scorpions 2020 Select, 5-2. Grayson Moore (2020, Longwood, Fla.) got the start and the win, going the distance for FTB, allowing just two unearned runs over seven innings, picking up a pair of strikeouts in the process. Moore is a legitimate two-way talent who is primarily an outfielder/power bat, though the upside on the mound is quality as well. He gets way on top to a true over-the-top slot, powering the ball downhill with steep plane, adding serious quality to the fastball when commanded down. The pitch topped at 89 mph early on and settled into the mid- to upper-80s, generating a lot of weaker ground ball contact due to the steepness of the plane. The curveball works well out of that high slot though the consistency of the action on the pitch wasn’t fully there, he flashes a very solid 11/5-shaped breaker with depth and bite when he spins it properly out front. He also flashed a changeup with some fade, though it was left up.

Trevor Kilinski (2020, Zeeland, Mich.) has had a good summer, starting with earning a PG National invite at Sunshine Gulf Coast, showing well at PG National and other tournaments this summer, and now swinging the bat well in the FTB lineup at the 17U Elite Championship. He picked up two more hits on Friday evening, bringing his event-long OPS to 1.045. A third baseman by trade who looks to have the requisite athleticism and arm strength to stick there long term, Kilinski’s profile is built around the lefthanded stick he possesses, which shows both quality hitting traits along with very good strength at contact. He’s committed to Michigan, and potentially projects as a power-hitting third baseman long term, which, especially as a lefthanded hitter, is a very attractive profile.

-Brian Sakowski

There are hot starts to a tournament and then there is the start Michael Latulas (2020, New Iberia, La.) is off to at the WWBA 17U Elite Championship. The Southern Miss commit is ripping the cover off the ball, hitting .625 with an OPS of 1.602 through the first three games for his Louisiana Knights 17U Black team. Latulas does a good job of using his long frame to get extension through his swing with present loft in his swing path and pull side power. His ability to work his hands to the inside part of the ball allows him to drive the ball from the backside gap to the pull-side line. His quiet approach gives off a calm presence at the plate as he does a good job tracking the ball all the way through the zone. His long, athletic 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame shows some present strength with the ability to continue to add strength moving forward as he matures.

Davis Meche (2020, Lake Charles, La.) continued to be a vital part of the Louisiana Knights 17U Black dangerous lineup. Hitting out of the two-spot in the order the Mississippi State commit had two hits and two RBI in their game three pool play win. His quick hands allow him to get the barrel head through the zone and out front as he displayed some serious pull side pop. His line drive double to right field registered at 99 mph off the bat, as it all but pulled the first baseman’s glove off his hand before making its way to the outfield. Meche’s good instincts and quick-twitch speed make him a threat to take an extra base at any point in the game as he is always looking for opportunities to move up and help his team out. His lean athletic frame leaves him with room to continue to fill out moving forward adding strength while maintaining his quick-twitch athleticism.

Meeting up at 8:00 am with bracket play implications looming in the balance the Canes National 17 and Scorpions Select 2020 Golinski went toe-to-toe for the whole game with each team’s pitcher matching one another pitch-for-pitch keeping the game tied late into the sixth inning.

Starting on the mound for Canes National 17 was Caden Grice (2020, Greer, S.C.). The Clemson commit was outstanding, throwing seven innings allowing no runs on two hits while striking out nine. His fastball sat in the 84-86 mph range and topped out at 88 mph. He backed the fastball with a quality curveball that sat in the upper-70s with some tight spin while showing the ability to miss bats with its depth. There is some deception in the delivery as he does a good job of getting extension on both of his pitches after his long arm action gets to his high three-quarters arm slot. The extension helps create the tight spin on the curveball as well as good plane on the fastball that showed some heavy fade when down in the zone. His large build is ideal for a projectable lefthanded pitcher with his long physical frame produces some power with more to come as he continues to mature.

Opposing Grice on the bump for the Scorpions Select 2020 Golinski was Patrick Bott (2020, Orlando, Fla.). Bott came out dealing as he retired the first eight batters of the game in order. His ability to mix his three pitches over his five innings of work allowed him to give up no runs on no hits while striking out nine. His fastball sat 83-86 mph and topped out at 87 mph with good downward plane from his high three-quarters arm slot. His changeup, which seemed to be the go-to secondary pitch showed the makings of a quality offering as he maintained good arm speed and sat in the mid- to upper-70s with late fading action and the ability to produce lots of swings and misses. His curveball played well off of his fastball changeup mix as it sat 73-75 mph with 12-6 shape and good bite when his release was out front. The uncommitted 6-foot-4, 195-pound right hander will be interesting to watch moving forward as he continues to grow and mature, filling out his long athletic frame.

Following Bott on the mound for the Scorpions was the electric arm of Vince Bonanni (2020, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.). The uncommitted righthander who had previously been up to 94 mph at the 17U WWBA National Championship in Atlanta topped out at 93 mph while sitting 89-91 mph. His secondary pitch, a slider, showed some bite while sitting 78-80 mph with the ability to keep hitters off the fastball and produce swings and misses in the zone. His delivery stays in line, working downhill as his clean arm action works to a high three-quarters arm slot helping produce some arm side run on the fastball. His quick arm talent and projectable 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame make his a very interesting prospect moving forward as his frame as the potential to continue to fill out moving forward with added strength.

Calvin Hewett (2020, Greenland N.H.) continued to find the barrel on day two of the WWBA 17U Elite Championship as he brought his batting average up to .500 on the tournament and his average for the summer up to .474. The Vanderbilt commit went 3-for-7 on the day with an RBI and two stolen bases. His level bat path allows him to keep the barrel in the zone for an extended amount of time, producing hard-hit line drives at a high rate. As his hands work to the inside part of the ball, he does a nice job of driving balls from gap to gap. His 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame has room to fill out and add strength which will add power to his swing when combined to his smooth mechanics and quick hands.

Brandon Fields (2020, Orlando, Fla.) displayed his elite bat speed and pull-side power with two balls crushed to left field. In the Giants Scout Team-FTB’s first game of the day he pulled a ball for a long ground-rule double, and followed that up with a monster home run in game two that cleared the wall with ease. The South Carolina commit helped propel his team into the second round of the gold playoff bracket not only with his bat but his glove as well. He has the athletic ability to play all three outfield spots with his plus speed and the great jumps he gets off the bat which allows him to cover tones of ground running balls down in the gaps and down the lines. His physical 6-foot, 200-pound frame shows present strength which can be seen in his lofty bat path when he barrels up the ball.

-Colton Olinger
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