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Juco  | Story  | 10/3/2023

Jayhawk Scouting Notebook: West

Brian Sakowski      Blaine Peterson     
Jayhawk Scouting Notebook: East

Scott Rienguette, RHP, Cloud County Community College
Dazzled at the Jayhawk Sophomore Showcase all-star game this year. An elite spin metric profile with each offering. Fastball sat 90-92 with burst and deceptive carry. Spinning above 2700 RPM the pitch played especially well as a swing and miss offering up in the zone. Showed two distinct breaking balls both with average spin over 3000 RPM, with the slider spinning at times above 3300 RPM. Sharp and efficient snapping break to both that have the traits to miss bats regularly. This is one of the more unique arm talents not just in the Jayhawk conference but in all of junior college baseball this season.

Brian Luna Alvarez, LHP, Seward County Community College
A KJCCC West 1st-Team All-Conference and 2nd-Team Region 6 selection a season ago as a freshman. Impressed at the Jayhawk Sophomore Showcase with command of a 3-pitch mix out of a smooth and well connected delivery on the mound. A 5-10/175 frame with big arm speed, fastball sat in the low 90’s topping out at 93. Breaking ball was a slider vertical tilt and depth that was especially effective when thrown to left-handed hitters. Change up showed late fading action with maintained arm speed and was an effective offering to right-handed hitters. Combination of stuff, pitchability and experience to be the premier left-handed arm in the conference this season. 

Matthew Mackenzie, RHP, Colby Community College
An athletic 6-foot-2 pitching frame on the mound with a three pitch mix and real chance to have the stuff tick up even more this spring. Showed a fastball that topped at 91, an upper 70’s slider with late horizontal bite and a straight change up. Especially effective when getting downhill with the stuff out of a three-quarter slot on the mound. Definitely an intriguing arm talent and one of the better upside arms in the conference this season.

Kevin Mannell, RHP, Cloud County Community College
An athletic 6-foot-4 frame on the mound and arguably the best pitching prospect in the Jayhawk Conference this season. Fastball sat 90-94 with notable arm side run coming out of a low three-quarter arm slot. Breaking ball is a firm mid 80’s slider with very late sharp horizontal break. Pitch showed consistent efficient spin, with spin rates routinely above 2700 RPM and plays very well off of the fastball. Change up was a very effective third pitch thrown primarily to left-handed hitters with late arm side fade. Tons of traits to like here and notable ability to throw all three pitches effectively. Real chance to be one of the better arms in all of junior college baseball this season. 

Reece Hemmerling, RHP, Barton County Community College
A real high level pitchability right-hander that showed a 4-pitch mix with a high level ability to spin the breaking ball. Had a top 2 average breaking ball spin rate at the Jayhawk Sophomore Showcase and showed the ability to locate effectively. Fastball sat in the mid to upper 80’s topping out at 88 and was consistently located to the edges or ran up and in to right-handed hitters. Curve was thrown effectively to both right-handed and left-handed hitters, the slider showed real swing and miss traits. And the ability to mix the stuff, changing speeds and eye levels is very effective. 

Jarod Fugate, RHP, Hesston College
A strike throwing right-hander with command of the fastball and notable ability to spin a sweeping breaking ball. Showed the ability to change speeds and throw a high percentage of breaking balls for strikes that kept hitters off balance. Utilized a mid 80’s fastball that was effective on the edges of the zone and consistently thrown competitively. Has 32+ innings of college experience on the mound heading into his sophomore season and looks like one of Hesston’s top arms for the upcoming season. 

Michael Debattista, RHP, Dodge City Community College
Was dominant at the Jayhawk Sophomore Showcase with a three-pitch mix that features some intriguing present and upside stuff. Up to 91 with the fastball and consistently getting downhill with the pitch. Slider is a swing and miss offering with late break in the upper 70’s at over 2500 RPM. Change up is the third pitch with fading action that was thrown to left-handed hitters. Competitiveness really showed on the mound and the deception in the delivery helps hide the baseball for a long time. Has made a big step forward and looks poised to be one of the more effective arms in the Jayhawk West this season.

Nick Noble, RHP, Pratt Community College
A low slot right-hander with a fastball and slider that look to be an effective pitch combo in a relief type role. Fastball in the low to mid 80’s with arm side sink that was effective on the edges and low in the zone. Slider comes from the same slot and on the same plate as the fastball with sweeping action. Two pitches that both move in separate directions coming from a tough slot to pick up for hitters. Traits to be one of the more unique, effective bullpen options in the conference this season. 

Andrew Bowman, RHP, Garden City Community College
A 6-3/190 pitching frame with a fastball that was up to 91 at the Jayhawk Sophomore Showcase. Some deception on the mound with a short, compact arm action that helps the fastball play up some. Showed two distinct breaking balls with an 11-5 shape curve and firm biting slider that played well off the fastball. Has the frame, developing quality stuff and opportunity to develop into an effective arm in the conference this season. 

Caden Kickhaefer, RHP, Butler Community College
A 2nd-team Jayahwk West all-conference selection a season ago and NJCAA Gold Glove winner a season ago as a freshman. Physical 6-5/225 presence on the mound with the athleticism and pitchability to be effective. Showed a 3-pitch mix with a fastball, curve and change up and the ability to locate and change speeds effectively. Pitched to a 2.95 ERA over 82+ innings in 2023. Ability to limit baserunners and limit quality contact makes him one of the more effective and experienced returners to the conference this upcoming spring. 

-Blaine Peterson

Day 2 of the annual PG Jayhawk JUCO Showcase saw us take a look through the teams from the West division within the Jayhawk Conference, and once again, lots of talent was on display. Colin Cymbalista (Hutchinson) looked to me like potentially the best all-around catching prospect in attendance, given the well-roundedness of his present game. Cymbalista, who hit .272 with 10 homers a year ago as a freshman in part-time play, had a great day both through his showcase testing and into game play, where he picked up a couple knocks including a double. He’s a strongly-built catcher who takes a full stride into his swing from the right side of the plate, coiling well in his back hip before exploding out and creating good torque and rotational strength in his core. The barrel follows with above-average bat speed and he maintains a pretty good path to and through the zone as well, showing the ability to beat velocity to the spot out front and do damage. He’s a good receiver behind the plate, capable of moving laterally to block balls with good efficiency and quickness, and has quality arm strength as well. He popped as low as 1.90 seconds during workouts and was clocked up to 78 mph on his throws down to 2nd base during those same workouts. This looks to be a well-rounded player who can impact the game in several ways, and he seems poised for a huge season in 2024. 

Another Hutchinson catcher who stood out was Cody Gunderson, who, like Cymbalista, is a native Canadian starting his collegiate career at a Kansas JUCO. Gunderson is big and physical at 6-3/215, and he saw quite a bit of playing time for the Blue Dragons a year ago, where he slashed .367/.478/.660 with 14 doubles and 10 bombs, and he looks poised to have a truly monster year in 2024. The offensive tools stand out, as Gunderson has plus raw power from the right side of the plate and shows enough traits to be able to get to that power in game play. He gets the barrel in a good launch position as he loads, getting it on plane early and accelerating it on the proper path through contact, with quality bat speed and obvious physical strength at the point of contact. He can use the whole field for power and has the ability to really work gap-to-gap with the aforementioned power, and I don’t think it would come as a surprise to anyone if he hits 20 bombs this spring. Behind the plate, the arm strength stands out as the best tool right now, reaching 82 mph during workouts when throwing down to 2nd base and popping as low as 1.97 seconds. 

Robby Bolin (Barton) stood out in several facets over the course of the West day of this event, coming off of a freshman season where he slashed .348/.481/.522 with 23 extra base hits and 20 stolen bases. Bolin, an athletically-built lefthanded-hitting center fielder, checks lots of boxes in terms of how he moves and the athletic profile overall, looking like a true center fielder with real offensive tools. He has really loose hands at the plate and uses them to help create real whip to the barrel, getting it out front consistently against velocity and showing the ability to impact it to different parts of the ballpark. The swing is built for a more whole-field, gap-to-gap type of contact, but he has bat speed and strength in his frame so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him run more balls out this spring anyways. The athleticism stands out as well, as Bolin is able to get up to top speed quickly and looks like he should be an offensive asset on the base paths thanks to his speed. He picked up a couple hits in the game, walked once and stole a couple bases as well. The performance and tools both stand out here, and Bolin is someone I'd keep a close eye on heading into the spring. 

Seward County’s Trenton Rowan is another guy who stacked a good Jayhawk Showcase performance on top of a strong freshman season last spring, where he slashed .382/.437/.647 with 23 doubles and 10 bombs. A lefthanded-hitting corner infielder, Rowan seems like he can handle either third or first base defensively to go along with obvious offensive firepower. He’s strong in his lower half and core and does a good job to maximize that strength in his swing, getting into his lower half well and showing very good brakes on his front side to maximize leverage at the point of contact. He had multiple hits in-game, including a backside barrel for a single that really showed his plate coverage skills (on pitches away from him, at least). There’s a good combo of bat speed and strength at play here, and given the offensive performance to date as well as the expected performance this spring to go along with some defensive versatility, Rowan is a name to keep an eye on in Western Kansas this spring. 

Brett Barber (Garden City) had absolutely no issues jumping right into the everyday lineup a year ago for GCCC, slashing .379/.485/.596 with more walks (23) than strikeouts (21) as well as 29 stolen bases. Barber, an infielder who looks like a fit up the middle either at short or second base, has twitch to everything he does from his swing, to how quickly he gets out of the box to how he defends. It’s a super simple swing from the right side of the plate, with very little wasted movement and excellent hand-eye coordination that shows up in the barrel skills. He’s very adept at manipulating the barrel and knowing where it is at all times, directing it to make solid contact on pitches all over the zone with the approach and ability to use the entire field. His speed makes him a threat for extra bases and he should hit plenty of doubles in 2024 after 18 last spring, though there isn’t a ton of over-the-fence power here yet. Overall, Barber looks like a top-of-the-lineup fit with barrel and approach skills, good speed, and solid defensive tools on the dirt. 

Grant Nottlemann (Barton), a lefthanded-hitting catcher, is another of these sophomores coming off big performances in the league as freshmen. Nottlemann slashed .386/.489/.509 in over 100 PA’s a year ago with more walks than strikeouts, and it’s easy to see the allure of a lefty-hitting catcher with a performance track record. Nottlemann has an athletic build with solid strength to it, and there’s a good bit of twitch and overall quickness to how he moves and operates behind the plate. There’s some lateral agility here and he gets out of his crouch to throw in a timely fashion, popping as low as 1.96 seconds in workouts–a number which comes from his athleticism and the quickness of his release as much as it does from his raw arm strength, which is a fine tool in it of itself. He knows the zone at the plate and does a good job of simply not swinging at balls, leading to better mid-AB opportunities as well as obviously getting on base more via walk. The lefthanded swing has solid bat speed and stays on a linear plane, good for driving liners to all fields. With another big year in terms of performance this spring while playing solid defense behind the plate, Nottlemann looks like a strong prospect. 

Following a 16-homer freshman campaign last spring, Justin Hudson (Butler) is back for more and looks to be one of the premier righthanded power threats in the western portion of Kansas JUCO this year. Hudson is big and physical at 6-4/225, with strength throughout his frame and showing up in a big way when he takes BP. The swing is nicely lofted and is geared to drive the baseball into the air with frequency, which he does a good job of while showing huge raw power to the pull-side as well as the ability to drive balls out of the ballpark both to center and right. He’s a 1B-only type of defender but the selling point here is the offensive abilities and upside regardless of defensive home, and Hudson has 20+ home run power heading into the 2024 season. 

Another Garden City infielder who impressed was Dawson Stutz, a righthanded-hitting shortstop who had a solid season in 2023 as a freshman. Stutz impressed in several facets in Wichita, showing quick feet in the middle infield with good tempo to his actions and a quick release, showing he could throw accurately from multiple arm slots including off-platform ones. He went 2-3 with a double in the game portion of the event, hammering a double pull-side and muscling a single the opposite way. It’s a quick and efficient loading mechanism for Stutz, with a quick coil into his back hip and no restrictive barring of the hands, getting the barrel moving quickly on plane with quality raw bat speed. There were some swing-and-miss issues last spring during his freshman season, so that number will need to come down in 2024, but he certainly possesses solid hitting traits and should be in line for a big season. The defensive tools on the dirt as well as what he looks like he can do offensively make this a well-rounded profile to follow closely. 

Cloud County infielder Gavin Roy didn’t record any hits in game during this event, but he’s still a player who stands out given all he can do on a baseball field. Roy slashed .337/.468/.521 last season as a freshman with 25 steals and 17 extra base hits while doing a good job of controlling his strikeouts and walking at a solid clip. He’s a bit undersized, but moves well athletically and shows innate balance and internal clock when at shortstop, showing good hand actions and a quick, accurate release across the diamond. The righthanded swing is quick and compact and built well for his high-contact approach, with the barrel skills necessary to cover the plate well and use the whole field. 

-Brian Sakowski