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High School  | General  | 2/7/2024

Deep South Dream Team & Top Tools

David Rawnsley     

The development of the talent base and organization of high school/travel baseball in the Deep South outside of Georgia has been a big story over the last decade, with Alabama and Mississippi being at the forefront.  The Deep South Region, which also includes Louisiana and Tennessee, reflects this with six Perfect Game All-Americans on this All-Region list.

Interestingly, two of the players on the Deep South All-Region team have moved into the region in part for baseball reasons, 1B/LHP Tomas Valincius (Illinois) and RHP Cade O'Leary (Pennsylvania).

This talent development is also reflected in the pre-season Perfect Game Top 50 team rankings, which features six Deep South schools in the Top 22 and eight overall in the Top 50.  Lewisburg (MS) High School, led by slugging 3B Samuel Richardson, is the highest ranked team in the Region, checking in at fifth overall, followed up closely by number six Farragut (TN) High School.

C – Tanner Waldrop (Sr., Auburn HS, Ala.)

Waldrop is very athletic for a catcher, with 6.81 speed and a 90 mph arm off the mound, and could play all over the field defensively.  The Auburn signee has the added advantage of being a left-handed hitting catcher with some juice in his bat.  Waldrop hit .321-1-20 in 30 PG tournament games in 2023.

1B – Tomas Valincius (Sr., Baylor School, Tenn.)

Valincius is a primary left-handed pitcher who was outstanding at both the 2023 PG National Showcase and at the 2023 WWBA World Championships, topping out at 93 mph with good command of three pitches.  But he’s also a slugging first baseman when not on the mound, having hit .486-10-41 with 14 doubles for Baylor School last spring, and could be a two-way talent at Virginia. 

MIF – Carter Johnson (Sr., Oxford HS, Ala.)

Johnson is an athletic middle infielder whose best tool is his left-handed bat.  He led Oxford High School to the 2023 Alabama state championship while hitting .407-5-37, then came back to hit .397-3-13 in 21 PG Tournament games the rest of the year.  An Alabama signee, Johnson is ranked 23rd overall in the 2024 class rankings and number one in Alabama.

MIF – Brodie Johnston (Sr., Boyd Buchanan HS, Tenn.)

Johnston rode an MVP performance at the 2023 WWBA 17U National Championship to a spot in the Perfect Game All-American Classic, hitting .481-3-18 with 11 walks for Power Baseball over 11 games.  He’s the 53rd overall prospect in the 2024 class in the PG rankings and the top prospect in Tennessee.

3B – Samuel Richardson (Sr., Lewisburg HS, Miss.)

Richardson has electric hands from the right side and some of the best bat speed and raw power in the country.  He’s also a 6.53 runner with 90 mph arm strength across the diamond.  The Texas commit, who is ranked 11th overall in the PG 2024 class rankings, hit .301-6-23 with 22 of his 31 hits going for extra bases for Lewisburg High School in 2023.

OF – Konnor Griffin (Sr., Jackson Prep, Miss.)

Griffin is the most tooled up player in high school baseball right now, with a long 6-foot-4, 210-build, 6.36 speed in the sixty, a 94 mph arm off the mound and tremendous raw power.  He’s ranked second overall in the 2024 class nationally and projects as a potential top half of the first round pick.  Last year, Griffin dominated on both sides of the ball for Jackson Prep, hitting .537-8-30 while going 7-1, 1.38 on the mound with 81 strikeouts in 50 innings.

OF – Jaxon Walker (Sr., Loudon HS, Tenn.)

Walker was a Perfect Game 14U Select Festival participant in 2020 and has continued to develop since then.  He’s now a 6.40 runner who took a big jump in his ability to drive the ball and hit for power in 2023.  The left-handed hitter posted .355-4-22 numbers with 22 stolen bases in the spring or Loudon High School, then hit .352-4-29 with 22 more steals in 37 PG tournament games, topped off by a huge showing at the WWBA World Championships.  Walker is signed with Tennessee.

OF – Jacob Parker (Jr., Purvis HS, Miss.)

Parker started playing varsity baseball as seventh grader under Mississippi rules and has already played 104 varsity games as he enters his junior year. The left-handed hitter already stands out physically at 6-foot-4, 210-pounds and hit .434-14-42 as a sophomore for Purvis High School and .462 in limited PG action in 2023.  Parker’s physical tools, which include 6.78 sixty speed and a 93 mph outfield throwing arm, push him up to 16th in the PG 2025 class rankings nationally.

RHP Connor Gatwood (Sr., Baker HS, Ala.)

Gatwood is a pure power pitcher, with a fastball that has topped out at 97 mph at Perfect Game events to go with an upper 80’s slider and change up.  At 6-foot-5, 195-pounds, Gatwood is still plenty projectable physically and already gained almost 10 mph from 2022 to 2023.  An Auburn signee, Gatwood went 6-2, 2.75 as a junior at Baker High School with 73 strikeouts in 48 innings.

RHP Christian Chatterton (Sr., Brooks HS, Ala.)

Chatterton dominated hitters throughout both the high school and PG travel circuit on his way to being named a PG All-American.  He went 6-1, 1.27 with 83 strikeouts versus only 13 walks in 49 innings for Brooks High School, then improved on those numbers in PG tournaments, striking out 36 hitters in 18 innings and only issuing a single walk while throwing over 70% strikes. 

RHP Cade O'Leary (Sr., Farragut HS, Tenn.)

O’Leary moved from Pennsylvania to Tennessee this past year and has established himself as one of the most projectable young pitchers in the Deep South Region and the country.  The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Mississippi State commit has been up to 94 mph to go with a power curveball with sharp downer break.

RHP William Schmidt (Sr., Catholic HS, La.)

Schmidt is the highest ranked pitcher in the Deep South Region and the 18th overall prospect in the 2024 class nationally.  The LSU signee works up to 95 mph on his fastball and has one of the best curveballs in all of high school baseball, an upper 70’s hammer that will often exceed 3,000 rpms.  Schmidt went 5-1, 0.94 with 62 strikeouts in 54 innings for Catholic High School as a junior.

LHP Jackson Sanders (Sr., Valley HS, Ala.)

Sanders was a 2020 PG Select Festival participant and has remained one of the top pitchers in the Deep South Region ever since.  The 6-foot-3, 190-pound southpaw originally committed Auburn as a 14-year old in 2020 and officially signed with the Tigers last November.  An outstanding athlete who has run a 6.6 sixty and has a strong bat, Sanders works in the 90-93 mph with his fastball with a big sweeping breaking ball that is his strikeout pitch.  He struck out 51 hitters in 34 innings for Valley High School in 2023 with a 2.24 ERA while also hitting .387 at the plate.

UT – Ethan Surowiec (Sr., Gulfport HS, Miss.)

Surowiec is a big and strong 6-foot-2, 215-pound primary third baseman who is ranked 73rd overall national in the PG 2024 class rankings.  A right-handed hitter who is a Ole Miss signee, Surowiec hit .345-2-25/1.031 OPS in 21 PG tournament games in 2023, including .500-1-12 at the WWBA 17U National Championships.  He doubles as a right-handed pitcher who has run his fastball up to 93 mph with a 77 mph curveball.

Deep South Region Top Tools

Best Hitter for Average: Carter Johnson (Sr., Oxford HS, Ala.)

Johnson’s smooth and loose left-handed swing is pure already and he’s just going to keep improving his bat speed as he adds strength to his 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame.

Best Hitter for Power: Konnor Griffin (Sr., Jackson Prep, Miss.)

Griffin is fun to watch in batting practice with his combination of superior bat speed and loose extension through contact.  Samuel Richardson isn’t far behind Griffin in this category.

Best Runner: Jaxon Walker (Sr., Loudon HS, Tenn.)

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Walker’s game is built around his 6.40 speed and his quick first step and will be a benefit to him both in his top of the order offensive profile and for his defense in centerfield.

Best Defensive Catcher: Korbin Reynolds (Jr., Clarksville HS, Tenn.)

Reynolds is a wall behind the plate, with very quick lower half actions coming out of his crouch, and has a very strong arm as well.  The Vanderbilt commit also has a very high contact approach at the plate that should make him an offensive asset, as he hit .481 in 15 PG tournament games and .476 at Clarksville High School.  Fellow junior Presley Courville (Jr., Barbe HS, La.) is almost a match for Reynolds defensively and gives the Deep South Region two of the top receivers in the 2025 class nationally.

Best Defensive Infielder: Michael Ryan (Sr., Archbishop Rummel HS, La.)

Ryan is a standout defensively with his agility and hands being his best defensive skill areas.  The LSU signee doesn’t lag behind with the bat, either, as he hit .411 with 7 home runs and 18 stolen bases for Bishop Rummel High School as a junior.  Ryan is ranked 98th overall in the PG 2024 class rankings.  Junior Ryan Mitchell (Jr., Houston HS, Tenn.) is one of the best defensive middle infielders in the 2025 class and ranked 18th overall nationally in the PG 2025 class rankings.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Konnor Griffin (Sr., Jackson Prep, Miss.)

Griffin’s 96 mph outfield arm seems somewhat understated after watching him throw lines during the games.  His 6.36 speed should allow him to start his career at the next level in centerfield.

Best Defensive Arm: Konnor Griffin (Sr., Jackson Prep, Miss.)

When Griffin was younger it was possible that his future on the mound, as he started touching the low 90’s before any of his classmates (Griffin was originally a 2025 before re-classifying).  That arm definitely plays in the outfield.

Best Fastball: RHP Connor Gatwood (Sr., Baker HS, Ala.)

Looking at Gatwood’s build, easy delivery and arm speed it isn’t hard to imagine his reaching triple digits, if not this spring, then certainly as he gets stronger over the next few years.

Best Off-Speed Stuff: RHP William Schmidt (Sr., Catholic HS, La.)

Schmidt’s upper 70’s curveball is a knee buckler and considered by many to be the best breaking ball in the 2024 class nationally.  His change up is a solid pitch as well.

Best Pitchability: RHP Christian Chatterton (Sr., Brooks HS, Ala.)

The Perfect Game All-American has pitched at such a high level while showing advanced command of multiple pitches that the Auburn signee takes home this category. 

Best Multi-Sport Athlete: Kevin Roberts Jr (So., Jackson Prep, Miss.)

Roberts is a three-time Select Festival participant, including twice in 2021 and 2022 for the 13U Select Festival due to his young age for the 2026 class.  He’s currently ranked 10th in the class with a fastball in the low 90’s and a strong right-handed bat.  Roberts, who has grown to 6-foot-5, 210-pounds and is still growing, also has already received D1 offers in basketball and doubles up in the spring as a long and triple jumper in track and field.