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High School  | General  | 12/31/2019

Finest in the Field: 2020 Class

David Rawnsley     
Photo: Drew Romo (Perfect Game)

2019 Perfect Game/Rawlings Finest in the Field, Class of 2020

Pitcher: Jared Jones (La Mirada HS, Whittier, Calif.)
Pitchers are hard to define at this level as defensive players as evaluators don’t get to see them perform defensively as much as players at other positions. But high-level athletes who also excel at another middle-of-the-field position are obvious candidates to carry that middle-of-the-field athleticism to the defensive aspect of pitching and both Jared Jones and Masyn Winn (Kingwood HS, Kingwood, Texas) definitely fit that description.

A trio of pitchers in righthander Max Carlson (Burnsville HS, Savage, Minn.) and southpaws Kyle Harrison (De La Salle HS, Danville, Calif.) and Tim Manning (Cardinal Gibbons HS, Pompano Beach, Fla.) seem to consistently do all the small and overlooked things on the mound that contribute to the overall defensive profile of a pitcher. It’s no coincidence that they are three of the most high-performing elite pitchers in the country.

Catcher: Drew Romo (The Woodlands HS, The Woodlands, Texas)
This is an exceptional class of catchers in all regards but there was no easier position to select the top defender for than catcher, as Texas product Romo has stood out for his defense since the beginning of his freshman year. Romo’s defensive game has no physical weakness and few skill areas that won’t firm up with more repetitions and next level coaching, which may make him a rare high school first round pick as a catcher come June.

Jack Bulger (DeMatha Catholic HS, Bowie, Mary.) and Jackson Miller (JW Mitchell HS, Trinity, Fla.) both have the present strong and durable bodies that catchers need and are also quick twitch-athletes who could easily stand out at other positions. Kimble Schuessler (Llano HS, Llano, Texas) may be the most projectable young catcher in the country, with outstanding athleticism and arm strength for the position, and will be a fast riser this spring if his bat has improved.

First Base: CJ Kayfus (Palm Beach Central HS, Wellington, Fla.)
The 6-foot, 175-pound Kayfus is on the short side for a first baseman but he’s the kind of athlete who would probably be playing shortstop if he was righthanded and he’s very capable of using his 6.68 speed to play center field as well. He’s fast and agile at first base with outstanding range and sure hands and his strong arm, which makes him a two-way player as an upper-80s southpaw off the mound, is an asset.

Two more conventional first baseman are worthy of mention as well. Michael Brown (Vacaville HS, Vacaville, Calif.) has the prototypical first baseman’s size at 6-foot-5, 230-pounds with extra long arms that give him outstanding reach on errant throws. Brown also has nice lateral foot quickness and very soft and quick hands picking low throws. Kellum Clark (Brandon HS, Brandon, Miss.) is the type of athlete who is an asset defensively at first base but can also play any of the other corner positions well while also throwing 90 mph off the mound.

Middle Infield: Ed Howard (Mt. Carmel HS, Lynwood, Ill.)
Howard, a PG All-American and the seventh-ranked player in the 2020 class, is an obvious choice for the PG/Rawlings Finest in the Field team even though he doesn’t have eye-grabbing showcase measurables. What the Chicago product has in abundance is athleticism, balance and actions, attributes that enable him to make every play in the middle of the field and make even difficult plays look routine.

Middle Infield: Steven Ondina (International Baseball Academy, Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
Howard’s PG All-American teammate Robert Moore (Shawnee Mission East HS, Leawood, Kan.) would have an equally easy pick for the team if he hadn’t just graduated early and enrolled at Arkansas for the spring semester. The often spectacular Ondina, with his outstanding quickness and rifle throwing arm, is a worthy successor to Moore. Picking Ondina, who is ranked 65th in the PG class rankings, over fellow Puerto Rican Sabin Ceballos (Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Rio Grande), who is ranked 68th, was a difficult choice.

It's no surprise that talent-rich California is home to three high-level middle infielders who stand out defensively in their own right in Milan Tolentino (Santa Margarita Catholic HS, Mission Viejo), Jordan Thompson (Helix HS, Chula Vista) and Tommy Troy (Los Gatos HS, Los Gatos).

Third Base: Cayden Wallace (Greenbrier HS, Greenbrier, Ark.)
There are eight primary third baseman listed among the Top 50 prospects in the Perfect Game 2020 class rankings and they are all there primarily because of their offensive potential. That’s not to say some of them aren’t solid defensive players as well. Wallace’s combination of pure arm strength, soft hands and lower body quickness make him the best defender of the group and a sure thing to stick at that position as he matures as a player.

Jordan Walker (Decatur HS, Stone Mountain, Ga.) is tall for a third baseman at 6-foot-5 but is so athletic with such easy arm strength and carry that he’s fun to watch play the position. Drew Bowser (Harvard-Westlake HS, Encino, Calif.) is a shortstop for much of the year and only moves over to third base at the highest-level events, such as when he was the Most Valuable Player of the PG All-American Classic.

Outfield:
Pete Crow-Armstrong (Harvard-Westlake HS, Sherman Oaks, Calif.)
Enrique Bradfield (American Heritage HS, Hialeah, Fla.)
Jace Bohrofen (Westmoore HS, Oklahoma City, Okla.)

The three most important components of outfield defense are speed, arm strength and the ability to get quick jumps and run direct routes, all of which Pete Crow-Armstrong has at a high level already. He plays center field with an easy confidence and watching him range around one of the biggest Major League outfields in Petco Park last August was impressive.

Bradford is one of the fastest players in the 2020 class and plays a very shallow center field, almost daring hitters to drive a ball over his head, which is a rare thing given his instincts and closing speed. Bohrofen is one of those rare players who has the speed to play center field but will be just as well suited to right field due to his strong arm.

There are no shortage of 2020 prospects who have that same type of speed and arm strength combination that could enable them to become defensive standouts in the outfield at the professional level. Among them are Jake Deleo (Old Avon Farms HS, Norwalk, Conn.), Brandon Fields (Dr. Phillips HS, Orlando, Fla.), Robert Hassell III (Independence HS, Franklin, Tenn.), Jake Vogel (Huntington Beach HS, Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Mario Zabala (International Baseball Academy, San Juan, Puerto Rico).

Utility: Tyler Soderstrom (Turlock HS, Turlock, Calif.)
Utility in this instance focuses on the ability to play a number of different positions well, not necessarily in a two-way (pitcher/player) standout. With the number of talented and athletic catchers in the 2020 class it shouldn’t be surprising that two such players, Tyler Soderstrom and Kevin Parada (Loyola HS, Pasadena, Calif.), both Perfect Game All-Americans and high-level hitters as well, get recognition for their multi-positional ability. Each has the ability to play all over the outfield and at third base in addition to catcher, with Soderstrom getting the overall nod.

Wisconsin’s A.J. Vukovich (East Troy HS, Mukwonago, Wis.) is an outstanding overall athlete who is also one of the top two-sport athletes in the class (basketball) and has played all the corner positions at different times (in addition to pitching), with where he plays at the next level still to be determined. Many scouts probably aren’t aware of this but PG All-American outfielder Dylan Crews (Lake Mary HS, Longwood, Fla.) has experience catching and actually caught at the 2016 14u PG Select Festival. Crews’ tool-set would also likely work out well at third base.