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High School | General | 2/24/2021

Regional HS Preview: Great Plains

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Ian Moller (Perfect Game)
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2021 High School Baseball Preview

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The Great Plains Region features a strong core of senior talent, including three PG All-Americans in catchers Ian Moller and Carter Jensen and right-handed pitcher Drew Christo. The aberration of having two of the country’s top catchers from this northern tier region is a bit ironic. Still, the most interesting thing about this region may be in following some of the high-end talent as it develops over the next three or four years, as All-Region players such as Chase Mason, CJ Hood and Brody Brecht have all played multiple sports at a high level and have little or no national-level baseball experience.
 
While there are no schools in the region ranked in the Perfect Game Preseason Top 50, there are a pair of schools that feature two of the All-Region honorees. Wahlert High School (Iowa) claims Moller and 2022 outfielder Tommy Specht, while Blue Valley Southwest (Kan.) has balance on both sides of the ball in right-hander Ben Kudrna and slugging infielder Carson Hornung.
 
C – Ian Moller (Sr., Wahlert HS, Iowa)
Moller is one of the rare catching prospects who stands out not only for his defensive tools behind the plate but also for his offensive potential, as the right-handed hitter has consistently shown his power and barrel skills at high level events. A Louisiana State signee, Moller is ranked fifth overall in the 2021 class nationally.

1B – Carter Jensen (Sr., Park Hill HS, Mo.)
The Great Plains Region is blessed with two PG All-American catchers in Jensen and Ian Moller. As they are also the two highest-ranked position players in the region, both will make the team, with Jensen and his plus power left-handed bat shifting over to first base, although he is a lock to continue catching far into the future.

MIF – Brock Daniels (Sr., St. John Vianney HS, Mo.)
Daniels is a very polished left-handed hitting middle infielder with a combination of barrel skills and some real extra-base power. He brings the same type of polish defensively, where he projects as a second baseman in the future. An Oklahoma signee, Daniels is ranked 95th in the 2021 class nationally.

MIF – Carson Hornung (Sr., Blue Valley Southwest HS, Kan.)
Hornung has lept up the national rankings already this year with a very strong performance at the 2021 World Showcase along with hitting .556 at the PG East MLK Championships playing for US Nationals. A Missouri signee, Hornung is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound left-handed hitter with easy bat speed and lots of power potential. He plays shortstop now and runs a 6.95 sixty but will likely move to third base at the next level.
 
3B – Kendall Diggs (Sr., St. Thomas Aquinas HS, K.C.)
A strongly-built athlete with an easy left-handed swing, Diggs has always raked at PG tournaments and is a .381 career hitter in 64 games and has also notably drawn 48 walks in those games, giving him a .542 on-base percentage. The seventh-ranked third baseman in the senior class, Diggs is signed with Arkansas.

OF – Chase Jans (Sr., Blue Valley HS, Kan.)
Jans is a dynamic athlete with 6.42 speed in the sixty who has split his time between the baseball field, where he is signed with Kansas, and the football field, where he rushed for over 1,000 yards as a junior. A primary center fielder with a strong arm, Jans also has played some middle infield and could get a look there again at the next level.

OF – Chase Mason (Sr., Viborg-Hurley HS, S.D.)
Mason is a precocious 6-foot-4, 210-pound four-sport athlete from tiny Hurley, S.D. (pop. 354) and is relatively unknown nationally except to baseball scouts and football recruiters, where he is a three-star dual threat quarterback. He’s a left-handed hitter with huge raw bat speed and has a low-90s arm on the mound. Mason is signed with Nebraska for baseball.
 
OF – Tommy Specht (Jr., Wahlert HS, Iowa)
Specht is one of the best pure baseball athletes in the 2022 class, with a lean and projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pound body and a sweet left-handed swing that made him an all-tournament selection at both the WWBA World Championships and WWBA World Junior Championships this spring. He recently ran a 6.46 sixty and threw 96 mph from the outfield at the 2021 National Indoor Showcase. Specht is committed to Kentucky.

P – Brody Brecht (Sr., Ankeny HS, Iowa)
Brecht is signed with Iowa for football but plans on playing both sports in college. A 6-foot-4, 205-pound wide receiver with 4.45 speed in the sixty and a 3-star rating by the major recruiting services, Brecht has also been into the mid-90s on the mound with big spin on his breaking ball.

P – Drew Christo (Sr., Elkhorn HS, Neb.)
Christo is the only non-catcher from the region who was honored as a PG All-American and is the 48th-ranked player in the senior class. A big and physical 6-foot-4, 225-pound athlete who received plenty of D-I football interest as a linebacker, Christo works in the 91-95 mph range with his fastball and has a full arsenal of off-speed pitches that he commands well. He is signed with Nebraska.

P – CJ Hood (Sr., Norris HS, Neb.)
Hood is another Great Plains Region athlete who has received very little exposure nationally but who could explode this spring when scouts get in to see him throw. A long and projectable athlete at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Hood was up to 95 mph in his only PG tournament appearance in 2020 to go with a low-80s breaking ball that was a plus pitch at times. He is signed with Nebraska.

P – Ben Kudrna (Sr., Blue Valley Southwest HS, Kan.)
Kudrna is the 65th-ranked player in the senior class nationally and the 16th-ranked right-hander. He has a power pitcher’s arsenal with a fastball that works 91-94 mph to go with low- to mid-80s slider and a mid-80s changeup that is very advanced for a high school power arm. Kudrna is signed with Louisiana State.
 
P – Jackson Wentworth (Sr., Waukee HS, Iowa)
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Wentworth had an excellent fall, throwing a complete game four-hitter with nine strikeouts at the WWBA Kernels Foundation Championships and following that up with a nice four-inning outing at the WWBA World Championships. The Kansas State signee worked 92-94 mph at the latter event with an upper-70s curveball and mid-80s changeup.

UT – Caden Marcum (Jr., Paola HS, Kan.)
Marcum is a long and very lean 6-foot-5 athlete who has always been a primary outfielder but who has made significant improvement on the mound as he’s got stronger and likely projects a higher ceiling as a right-handed pitcher. He was up to 91 mph to go with a 80 mph slider at the 2020 WWBA World Championships and struck out six in 2 2/3 innings in an outing against the eventual champions, GBG, during pool play. Marcum is committed to Tennessee.

Great Plains Region Top Tools

Best Hitter for Average: Brock Daniels (Sr., St. John Vianney HS, Mo.)
Watching Daniels take batting practice and game swings is a pleasure as he has such a professional approach at the plate, with very quick hands and the ability to adjust his swing to different pitch locations and speeds.
 
Best Hitter for Power: Chase Mason (Sr., Viborg-Hurley HS, S.D.)
Tails of Mason’s 500-foot home runs up in South Dakota aren’t hard to find. Carter Jensen, Ian Moller and Carson Hornung are all worthy candidates for this distinction as well.

Best Baserunner: Chase Jans (Sr., Blue Valley HS, Kan.)
While Jans and Tommy Specht have matching 6.4 speed in the sixty, Specht is more of a long strider with top end speed.  Jans' quick burst speed will be a big plus for him on the bases. His 1.41 10-yard split at the 2020 World Showcase is one of the best times ever recorded at a PG showcase.
 
Best Defensive Catcher: Ian Moller (Sr., Wahlert HS, Iowa)
Many consider Moller to be the best defensive catcher in the country, although he still needs plenty of game repetitions, as many young catchers do, to polish off his receiving skills with high-level pitchers. He has easy athleticism shifting and blocking and an easy plus throwing arm.

Best Defensive Infielder: Brock Daniels (Sr., St. John Vianney HS, Mo.)
Daniels’ skill stands out on defense as well. He has nice footwork that really puts him in position to get rid of the ball quickly and makes very accurate throws as a result as well.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Tommy Specht (Jr., Wahlert HS, Iowa)
A combination of 6-foot-3 length, 6.46 speed and a 96 mph throwing arm seems like a blue print for an outstanding defensive outfielder.

Best Defensive Arm: Tommy Specht (Jr., Wahlert HS, Iowa)
There are plenty of strong arms in the region but Specht can already throw 96 mph from the outfield and is only a junior. Shortstop Adam Ebling (Sr., Westminster Christian Academy, Mo.) is a strong candidate here who warrants mention.

Best Fastball: Drew Christo (Sr., Elkhorn HS, Neb.)
While CJ Hood and maybe even Brody Brecht may end up with higher velocity heat, Christo’s fastball not only can register 95 mph but he has next-level command of the pitch already and can move it around the strike zone effectively, making the already impressive velocity play up.

Best Off-Speed Stuff: Ben Kudrna (Sr., Blue Valley Southwest HS, Kan.)
Kudrna’s changeup is an impressive pitch for a high school power pitcher and his mid-80s slider has serious power with good feel in the strike zone.

Best Pitchability: Drew Christo (Sr., Elkhorn HS, Neb.)
It would be surprising to see Christo have any issues throwing strikes at the next level. His delivery is simple and athletic and, if anything, he has better present command of his slider than fastball.

Best Multi-Sport Athlete: Chase Mason (Sr., Viborg-Hurley HS, S.D.)
It’s a function of high school sports in the Upper Midwest, where the best athletes, especially in smaller communities, usually play multiple sports. Mason may be the best pure athlete among many multi-sports standouts (he was also Third-Team All-State in basketball) but Brody Brecht, Drew Christo, CJ Hood and Chase Jans are also standouts.

 

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