Tournaments : : Story
Friday, October 29, 2010

Impact Players from the WWBA World Championship

David Rawnsley        

Approximately 2,000 players competed for 85 teams in Jupiter, Fla.,  last weekend and every one of those players was scouted and seen by professional scouts, college coaches and the Perfect Game scouting staff.  With about 900 people from those three groups wandering the grounds at the Roger Dean Complex, it would be virtually impossible not to be seen and evaluated.  The 2010 WWBA World Championships were simply the most heavily scouted baseball event in history.


I saw and read every single one of the 200-plus game scouting sheets compiled by the Perfect Game scouts, and below is a list of 30 players who left a strong impression on the PG scouts and undoubtedly everyone else who saw them play.  Some of these players are Aflac All-Americans and potential first rounders this June, others are previously unrecognized players.  Some will become Major League stars, others are more likely just to have solid college careers and hope to get a shot at a pro career.


So this is definitely not a “Top Prospect” list.  It’s a list of those players whose performances in Jupiter likely made a strong impact on the scouts.


(listed in alphabetical order)


OF Josh Bell (Dallas Patriots):  The 6-3, 195-pound switch-hitter missed most of the summer with a leg injury, but did he ever make up for that in a hurry.  He dominated in pool play, including one game with a double, home run and five RBIs, then hit RHP Jose Fernandez (see below) hard in the playoffs with hundreds of scouts watching.  Bell went from a question mark to a potential first rounder in four days.


RHP Nick Burdi (Rangers Midwest Scout Team): Burdi certainly got everyone’s attention, throwing up to 97 mph (with a slider up to 91 as well) from what can be called an unconventional delivery and release point with maximum effort.  But despite the overpowering stuff, Burdi allowed seven hits in three innings along with a couple of walks.  It was a performance not dissimilar to Stetson Allie before Allie saw the light and became a “pitcher” his senior year.  Can Burdi make that same adjustment?


2B Leon Byrd (2012/Texas Scout Team Yankees):  The diminutive Byrd (5-7, 160 pounds) had never been to a PG/WWBA event before, but his attendance to change after his performance as the Texas leadoff hitter.  No player at the event was on base more than the Houston native, who wrecked havoc on the bases as well with his speed.


LHP/OF Jake Cave (Canes Baseball):  One of Cave’s peers in the 2011 class told me that he’d never seen a better athlete on the baseball field than Cave.  The left-hander excelled on the mound with two wins and in center field, batting second for the third-place Canes.   It’s worth noting that Cave rose to the occasion in a big way on the other biggest stage at this level of baseball, the Aflac All-American Game. He’s a big-time performer.


RHP Taylore Cherry (2012/Midland Redskins): The 6-9, 255-pound Cherry threw up to 92 mph and spotted his fastball, and looked so easy doing it that one scout remarked “If he’d just grunt a bit he’d be throwing 95 mph to corners easy.”  The same scout thought that 100 mph in a few years wasn’t out of the question, either. Size + Velocity + Command is a good equation.


RHP Kevin Elder (2012/Reds Midwest Scout Team): Elder had either the advantage or disadvantage of pitching in the first game of the tournament against what was generally considered the most powerful offense in the event, FTB Mizuno/Cardinals Scout Team (Lindor, Baez, Vogelbach, Bichette, Marlette, Jose, etc).  The Illinois native made it his advantage, throwing a seven-inning shutout in the 0-0 game, touching 90 mph with his fastball and assuredly opening up huge potential opportunities for himself in the process.


RHP Jose Fernandez (FTB Mizuno):Fernandez’s two appearances (2-0, 0.00, four hits, 0 BB, 12 K’s), especially his shutout of the Dallas Patriots in the playoffs, were so impressive that they can be mentioned in the same sentence with similar past Jupiter efforts by pitchers such as Scott Kazmir and Rick Porcello.  A 93-97 mph fastball, low 80’s slider with ++ depth, pinpoint control.  There were plenty of comments to the effect of “Fernandez could have easily pitched in the big leagues tonight with that same stuff and command.”


OF Derek Fisher (Royals Baseball Club):  Fisher was a standout at the East Coast Pro Showcase in August but was pretty much unknown before that, so Jupiter was his chance to solidify the first impressions he had made.  The Pennsylvania native more than did that with his bat, including blasting a 400+ home run into the teeth of the perpetually strong Jupiter winds.  He still needs to mature other aspects of his game, but there is no question any longer that Fisher is one of the better hitters in the 2011 class.


RHP Kyle Funkhouser (2012/Bo Jackson Midwest):  The 6-3, 190-pound Funkhouser threw well at the WWBA 16U National Championships this summer but took it to another level this weekend, throwing 90-92 mph from an effortless delivery with a hard 78 mph downer curveball.  There are literally 100+ pitchers during the event that touched or surpassed 90 mph, but very few created the buzz in the tower that Funkhouser did.


OF/LHP Stephen Gonsalves (2013/Ohio Warhawks):  Not many sophomores play in Jupiter, let alone excel, but California native Gonsalves is one of them.  The 6-4, 180-pound athlete had an easy couple of innings on the mound, sitting at 88 mph and was impressive at bat and in the outfield as well. He will rank right near the top of the 2013 class.


RHP Tyler Gonzalez (2012/FTB Mizuno): It’s quickly becoming evident that Gonzalez’s low 80’s slider is among the best  pitches in the 2012 class.  Very good hitters, as Gonzalez faced Jupiter in two outings and in other events over the past 4-5 months, have no chance against it.  Throw in the fact that Gonzalez pitched at 91 mph and is an athletic and projectable 6-2, 175 pounds and you have a nice package to follow.


C Chris Harvey (2012/Baseball U.):  There seems to be an unusual amount of talented prospects coming from eastern Pennsylvania recently and Harvey has added his name to the list.  He’s 6-4, 215 pounds, which can create length problems defensively with a catcher, but the PG scouts said that Harvey is so quick and athletic that it doesn’t seem to be an issue right now.  What is certain is that Harvey can swing the bat and hit with power.  He is a worthy successor in the region to 2010 Aflac All-American Cam Gallagher.


SS Mikal Hill (Dirtbags):Hill turned in an MVP-type performance for the co-champion Dirtbags.  Scouts have already figured out that Hill has outstanding range and excellent playmaking abilities in the middle infield but they couldn’t have helped been impressed with his bat, as the switch-hitter went 11-23 for the tournament.


OF Williams Jerez (Syracuse Sports Zone Chiefs):   I admit I’d never heard of the 6-4, 190 pound left- handed hitting Jerez before; I thought that his name was entered in the program backwards.  An East Coast scout I talked to certainly knew who he was, though, and scouts all around the country know about him now.  The Brooklyn native is a plus athlete with a sweet swing and tons of projection.


SS Francisco Lindor (FTB Mizuno): Lindor solidified his position as the best position prospect in the 2011 class with an 8-for-19 performance that included three doubles and two home runs, despite almost missing the first few games due to illness.  The level of shortstop play at the event was noteworthy and Lindor stands clearly above even that talented group.


RHP Jorge Lopez (Team Mizuno Puerto Rico):  Word started trickling back from the Red Quad to the tower about the string bean (6-4, 165 pound) Puerto Rican even before the game sheet with the scout notes made it back.  Lopez has solid present stuff (89-91 mph FB, good CB, solid command) but is very, very loose and projectable as well.  When was the last time that the first player drafted off the Island was a pitcher?


RHP Chris McCue (South Charlotte Panthers):  This is fun stuff to follow.  In 2007 McCue threw in the 14U WWBA National Championships and topped out at 74 mph.  In 2008 it was the 15U’s and he topped at 81 mph.  In 2009 it was the 16U’s and McCue was up to 89.  Now he’s 91-94 mph, with plenty at the upper end of that margin. McCue definitely has the potential to get stronger, as he’s 6-0 and slender, but what an arm.  And what a nice history and progression to track him by.


RHP Benton Moss (Dirtbags):  Moss entered last summer with a top-level reputation as a pitching prospect but, simply speaking, just didn’t have a very good summer.  That is now a matter of the past.  Moss was outstanding in two clutch appearances, pitching up to 92 mph with a sharp breaking ball and showing an improved delivery and much improved command than what he had during the summer.  There is no question that the scouts took notice.


LHP Chase Mullins (2012/Midland Redskins):  6-8, 235 left handers who touch 90 mph and look good doing it are going to stand out.  Mullins just turned 16 years old.  This is a pretty easy one to figure out.


RHP Taylor Nunez (Marucci Elite): Marucci had a staff deep in better-known tall, loose RHP’s who threw upper 80’s/low 90’s (Aaron Nola, Matt Wisler, Austin Robichaux, Rookie Davis), but none quite left the impression that the 6-4, 175-pound Nunez (Slidell, La.) did.  One of Perfect Game’s top scouts, and one who is not prone to hyperbole, had Nunez’s game and one of his comments was “One of the better curveballs I’ve seen in a long time.” 


SS Avery Romero (2012/Florida Bombers):   Romero was the shortstop for Marucci Elite that won the WWBA Underclass World Championship and was the standout player on a surprising Florida Bombers team that made the quarterfinals in Jupiter.  That’s no coincidence.  Romero, who has verbally committed to Florida, is an outstanding young prospect both offensively and defensively.


SS Reed Seeley (Houston Heat):  It’s been mentioned elsewhere about the very high level of shortstop play at this event and Seeley is part of that.  The 6-1, 175 athlete has not been on the national stage much before, but he obviously belongs and was the Heat’s best player all weekend.  Seeley hits with authority and is an agile, strong-armed shortstop who was also in the upper 80’s off the mound in a dominating pitching performance.


OF Dakota Smith (Midland Redskins):  You can look at all the big league rosters you want, but one of the least common demographics in Major League Baseball is the 5-11 right handed hitting outfielder.  That being said, Smith has a chance to be one of the exceptions.  He has the tools, 6.55 runner, low 90’s off the mound, etc. But what Smith does in top event after top event is perform, especially with his surprising over-the-fence power. Hopefully scouts have taken notice of the tools/performance quotient and not the 5-11, 175 lb right handed hitter demographic.


RHP/3B Kyle Smith (Palm Beach PAL):  Smith absolutely dominated the two-time WWBA world champion East Cobb Astros on Thursday (6 innings, 3 hits, 89-93 mph FB, one of the best CB’s at the event), then batted cleanup and hit with power the rest of the weekend for playoff bound Palm Beach.  Scouts tend to overlook 6-0, 175 lb right handers but Smith is a different breed; he will pitch high very quickly.


RHP Matt Spalding (Kentucky Baseball Club):  We’d heard rumblings that the 6-0, 190 lb Spalding had been as high as 96 mph this fall.  He didn’t disappoint, throwing 91-94 mph from a loose over-the-top release point that makes him appear much taller to hitters than his listed height.


RHP Teddy Stankiewicz (2012/Houston Heat): Stankiewicz is no relation to the former ML infielder, whose own son is an outstanding 2011 second baseman.  This Stankiewicz is a 6-4, 195 right hander with silky smooth delivery and arm action and 91 mph fastball and sharp upper 70’s curveball.  Although he played with the Houston Heat, Stankiewicz is from Keller, Texas, north of Fort Worth. 


SS Trevor Story (Dallas Patriots): We keep waiting for the strong-armed Story to take the mound and show his stuff, where there are first-hand accounts of his throwing in the 94-96 mph range.  That just isn’t going to happen, it seems.  But it’s becoming evident that it doesn’t need to. Story swung the bat very well the entire event while playing his usual high-level defense.  With all the scouts following teammate Josh Bell around the complex, most are sure to have an equally positive impression of Story.


LHP Andrew Suarez (Texas Scout Team Yankees):  Suarez, like Josh Bell above, missed the entire summer with an arm injury, so this was his chance to show his stuff to the scouting community.  Suarez’s statement wasn’t quite as loud as Bell’s, but he did throw four solid innings, touching 90 mph and spinning the ball well.  One scout commented that Suarez looked very smooth and loose but probably hadn’t quite built his arm strength all the way back.  Don’t be surprised to hear more in the early spring.


RHP Luke Weaver (Chet Lemon’s Juice):  Weaver shut out one of the event’s best hitting teams, Baseball U., in a must-win pool play game, then came back to throw 3 1/3 more shutout innings in the championship game.  Not only was Weaver’s stuff impressive (88-91 FB, outstanding upper 70’s slider, plus command), his mound demeanor and ability to make his pitch when he needed was off the charts.


RHP Cole Wiper (Ohio Warhawks):Wiper’s outing was marred by three errors by his teammates that created four unearned runs, but his coach was so impressed by Wiper’s stuff that he took the Washington native up to the tower after the game to make sure we knew how good he had really thrown. We knew.  Wiper sat at 91-92 mph with a nasty, nasty 80 mph curveball and a true 86 mph slider.  He has to learn how to throw the ball where he wants, but when that happens Wiper won’t be experiencing too many more multi-run innings.



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