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Tournaments | Story | 9/21/2013

PG EvoShield Upperclass Day 1

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

Over the next three days David Rawnsley and Frankie Piliere (and Jheremy Brown when available) will be providing their observations from the first three (of four) days at the 2013 PG EvoShield Upperclass National Championship. The event is being held at two prominent baseball complexes/spring training sites, the Peoria Sports Complex (Mariners and Padres spring training) and Goodyear Ballpark (Reds and Indians).

Goodyear Ballpark

– David Rawnsley

No offense to all the fine players and teams on the fields but the highlight of my day came when 2012 Perfect Game All-American and 2013 Cleveland Indians first-round pick (sixth overall) Clint Frazier found me over in the Indians Quad and stood behind a backstop talking for a half hour. After first recovering from his iron grip handshake and asking to see his infamous mane of flaming red hair (somewhat hidden under a ball cap but still impressive for its length and unruliness, if not for its color), we got down to talking baseball.

Some of his observations from his first season of rookie ball (he’s back in Arizona for instructional league):

Frazier was told from the start that the biggest adjustment to pro ball was going to be playing every day and that certainly proved to be true. But the next biggest adjustment was food.

I went straight from signing to an apartment in Arizona,” Frazier said. “I had no car and my mom had always taken care of the food in our house and I had no food skills. I said the first thing that’s going to happen when that bonus check arrives is buy a car, and that’s what I did.”

For the automobile enthusiasts out there, he showed me a picture, a modest 2013 white Jeep Wrangler.

Although Frazier was pleased by his overall performance (.297-5-28, .868 OPS in 44 games), he wasn’t very happy with his 61 strikeouts. “I got all out of sorts with my lead leg in my stride and it threw my timing off,” Frazier added. “The Indians have a 90-day 'no touch' rule with draftees so there was only so much they could do with me. I’ve never been one to strike out much so it was frustrating. But I think I’ve already got it straightened out down here in Instructs.”

Frazier wanted to talk most about my impressions of 2014 fellow Georgians and PG All-Americans righthanded pitcher Dylan Cease and outfielder Michael Gettys. He and Gettys, who I have compared to Frazier athletically in writing, are good friends and plan on hitting together all winter.

First, he’s bigger than I am,” said Frazier of Gettys. “He has a better arm and is a better base runner than I am. I think I was a better hitter at this point than he is but he’ll surprise people, he can hit. But what you really have to realize that Gettys is an animal. He wants to play in the big leagues really, really badly.”

The scouting star of the day on my fields was Midwest Warducks 2015 righthanded pitcher and shortstop Garrett Hutson. Hutson played shortstop the first five innings and wasn’t scheduled to pitch, but with the Warducks clinging to a 6-4 lead and runners on base in the sixth inning, Hutson was summoned to the mound to get the save, which he did with two groundouts in the sixth and by striking out the side in the seventh. Hutson is ranked 37th in the 2015 class by Perfect Game and we’ve heard very credible reports of him being up to 94 mph this summer. He was 89-91 with pin-point command in this outing to go with a big breaking low-70s curveball and it’s easy to see him throwing harder after not playing in the field in 100-plus degree heat. The Warducks will continue to be a closely followed team as everyone awaits the first appearance of 2014 righthanded pitcher Garrett Fulenchek.

The Trombley Nighthawks are on the short list of pre-tournament favorites but struggled in their first game due to an absolutely masterful pitching performance by Blue Wave righthanded pitcher Shaun Vetrovec in a 0-0 tie. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Cal-State Irvine commit threw a 96-pitch complete game one-hitter, allowing only a soft ground ball single to right field off the bat of PG All-American outfielder D.J. Peters. Vetrovec relied on an 84-88 mph heavy fastball from a deceptive short arm delivery while mixing in a big low-70s curveball, just enough to keep the Nighthawks off balance

The player who stood out for the Nighthawks was shortstop Josh Morgan. Morgan didn’t have a strong summer, but PG’s Todd Gold reported that Morgan had been playing very well recently. That was certainly the case Friday night, as Morgan looked lighter and much faster, both with the bat and with his straight line running speed. He had a few long battles at the plate with Vetrovec that could have gone either way.

Foothill Dawgs Baseball shortstop Matt Lloyd was very impressive and the Alberta native certainly has to rank among the top 2014 Canadian prospects in the class. He’s a strong and lean 6-foot-2, 175-pound lefthanded hitter who was outstanding on defense, and single-handedly saved the Dawgs 3-3 tie with the Cal Stars a couple of times with his glove and arm. He charges the ball very well from shortstop but has the arm strength to make the long throw as well. Lloyd was also involved in a bizarre triple play that actually took a minute or two to figure out what went on. With the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning, the Dawgs brought their infield in. Lloyd made a diving stop of a hard line drive up the middle and the umpire responded with a somewhat quiet “out” call. The runner on third, thinking the ball had been trapped, raced home and Lloyd jumped to his feet and threw home for what he thought was a force-out. By then no one knew what was going on and had stopped, so the Dawgs just threw the ball around to every base, tagging players and bases until the umpires signaled three outs. Offensively, Lloyd has very good bat speed and crushed a line drive single up the middle one at bat, although he has a very busy and complicated load that will give him problems with off-speed pitches until he simplifies his swing approach.

Some quick hits on some other players that stood out:

ABD Nevada 2015 righthanded pitcher Samuel Pastrone was excellent against the San Diego Scorpions, throwing six innings of three-hit ball and striking out seven while throwing 84-87 with a big breaking curveball. Unfortunately, I wasn’t at the field when righthander Erich Uelmen, a Cal Poly commit, came into close, striking out the final Scorpion hitter with a 91 mph fastball.

The name Zane Gray is recognizable to most well-read people and Big Island Baseball righthanded pitcher of the same name isn’t the first player of that name I’ve come across. This Gray threw three shutout innings Friday afternoon, striking out seven hitters with a fastball that topped out at 86 mph, a hard spinning 73 mph curveball to go with a long, loose arm action that projects well.

CBA Marucci is another pre-tournament favorite, like the Trombley Nighthawks, who struggled to get their bats going in their opening game. They managed only two hits off of a pair of Mad Dog Baseball pitchers, but scored three unearned runs in a 3-0 win. Left handed hitter Stephen Young went the distance for CBA, scattering three hits and striking out nine in the shutout win. Young fits the crafty lefty bill, as he pitched between 77 and 83 mph while mixing in a curveball and changeup.

Highly ranked 2015 catcher Chris Betts went 0-for-3 at the plate but stands out as one of the top defensive players in his class nationally. His ability to frame pitches and the intimidation value of his plus arm strength stood out.

The Perfect Game staff was looking forward to following the fortunes of the Iowa Select Black team but they opened with a 3-2 loss to the East Bay Rep. East Bay righthanded pitcher Austin Canaday set the pace for his team, striking out seven hitters over four innings of shutout ball. Canaday wasn’t dominant stuff-wise, topping out at 84 mph, but he had big movement on his fastball and he threw a curveball, slider and changeup for strikes, always a difficult combination at any level of baseball. Righthanders Brock Neuhaus and Colan Borchers each threw well for Iowa, pitching in the mid-80s, with Neuhaus’ slider being an especially impressive pitch.

Mountain West third baseman Hunter Robson stood out in his team’s 11-1 win Friday afternoon. Robson is listed at 6-foot-2, 180-pounds but looks bigger and stronger. He hit a big double off the left-centerfield fence in his first at-bat, walked a couple of other times and made a number of very nice defensive plays that showed his athleticism. He’s a 2014 that is not verbally committed yet but is an outstanding student with top of the line grades. College coaches please take note.

I was always at the wrong fields when the So Cal Birds were playing, but I heard over and over about a young 2016 outfielder named Dailin Lee from Gardena, California. Lee is a 5-foot-8, 160-pound lefthanded hitter, and the comments all had the same theme – “He beat out a routine grounder to first base, he must have run 3.8/3.9; He’s one of the fastest players I’ve ever seen; That must be what 80 speed looks like!” We’re going to have to track down the young man and find out more about him.

Team Maryland had two players who immediately stood out. 2015 first baseman
James Monaghan is 6-foot-5, 190-pounds and has a smooth lefthanded swing and obvious projection. Centerfielder Terrance Pinkston, a 2014, has a strong, compact build and is a plus runner with some bat speed from the right side.

Goodyear Ballpark
– Jheremy Brown

Alejo Lopez
, who played last week with a Canadian based team, is back again this weekend, this time with the AZ Athletics 18u. Lopez is a quick-twitch middle infielder with smooth glove work in the field and a sound approach at the plate, hitting the ball hard up the middle on numerous occasions.

Big Island Baseball Blue has a player by the name of Chay Toson who left you scratching your head momentarily on one of those "only in baseball" moments. On the mound as a lefthanded pitcher Toson topped out at 78 mph and went three innings, striking out two and allowing two hits. It was after his work on the mound that had you curious as he ran to the dugout, got a righthanded glove and moved to second base. In the program he is listed as a lefthanded batter and a both-handed thrower.

Makoa Rosario
is a 2014 catcher who plays along side Toson and shows a strong swing with good bat speed. In one at-bat he showed the ability to sit back on a curveball and later on showed his strength, lining a double to the left-centerfield gap. He also caught an inning and threw out the one baserunner, using his arm strength in which he popped a 2.18 on the throw.

Zane Gray
(as detailed above by David) is a projectable right handed pitcher from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii who topped at 86 mph with his fastball and sat 82-84 with the pitch. He has a quick, long arm with good downhill on his pitches, including his fastball which showed occasional arm side run.

Drew Weston
is an uncommitted righthander from San Marcos, Calif., who may not be uncommitted for much longer. Repeating his low three-quarters arm slot well on all pitches, Weston topped at 88 mph with consistent, hard arm-side run, never getting above the hitter's mid-thigh. With a balanced delivery and a loose, easy arm action, he gets nice fade on his changeup, which was up to 78 mph, and also throws a tight spinning curveball. When the ball was put in play, it wasn't barreled up, inducing routine ground balls for his fielders. And if his pitching wasn't enough, Weston showed off at the plate also, hitting a double to each gap in his first two at-bats.

Kyle Smith
started the night game for GBG Marucci Navy and showed well. A 2014 lefthander, Smith topped at 85 mph, throwing from a three-quarters arm slot while creating arm-side run on his fastball. His curveball showed late, 11-to-5 break and he hit the outer corner with both pitches well.

Ryan Day, who recently committed to play at Duke, made an effortless play in the first inning, displaying very good range by going to his backhand in the hole, picking the ball before showing off his arm strength across the diamond to get the runner.

Troy Hughes
, who bats in the middle of the order for MVP Baseball Upperclass, is one of only two 2015 grads on their roster. At the plate, Hughes showed his strength by hitting a double in his first at-bat, and in his next trip to the plate he kept his hands in well on an 86 mph fastball to deposit the pitch through the opposite field for a single. In a later at-bat, Hughes made a loud out, with the ball registering 94 mph off the bat.

Both David and I wrote about Karl Kani last week and he is back for this tournament. He showed the same quick-twitch athleticism, both at the plate and at second base and got down the line in 4.34 seconds.

Alex Verdugo
came out swinging in his first at-bat, showing his strength and excellent bat speed by hitting a triple to the right-centerfield gap on his first swing of the tournament. A lefthanded hitter and pitcher, Verdugo squared up the ball his next two at-bats with deep fly outs outs to left field. On his last trip to the plate, in the bottom of the sixth, the left fielder was positioned nearly on the warning track, clearly aware of Verdugo's power and why he is ranked as the 20th best prospect in the 2014 class.

Garrett Gray
came in to catch the final two innings for the Prospects National Team and showed well defensively. He has a very strong, accurate arm with a nice transfer and popped a 1.94 and 2.00 in his two in-between inning throws. A switch hitter at the plate, Gray has power potential in his strong, quick bat from the right side.

Starting the game for the Prospects was Nick Brown, a 2014 righthanded pitcher who has commited to play for Missouri State. Brown sat 84-86 mph with his fastball, but when he wanted to bumped it up, particularly on a 0-2 or 1-2 count, he would touch 88-90 mph. With a big 6-foot-4 frame, the ball leaves his hand cleanly and gets downhill well, pounding the strike zone. Brown's curveball sat at 76 mph and flashed 12-to-6 break.

Henry Hausman
got things going in the bottom of the sixth, drilling a deep double to center field, one hopping the batters eye. Hausman shows good leverage and strength in his swing.

The best at bat of the night may go to Gerard Hernandez, a 2014 grad and lefthanded hitter. After battling in a 10-plus pitch at-bat and showing a good two-strike approach, Hernandez fouled off numerous pitches before putting a single back up the middle, driving in the tying run in the bottom of the sixth, with two outs.

Team Maryland is staying in the same hotel as myself and they had some interesting players in their lineup, with one standing out above the rest, literally. At 6-foot-5, 187-pounds, James Monaghan (detailed above) is a projectable lefthanded hitting first basemen, showing bat speed, along with power potential, with more to come once he starts to fill out his frame. He is one of only three 2015 grads listed in the program on a strong team from Maryland.

The West Coast Clippers have several Division I commits on their team, and one of them, 2015 Mitchell Hayes, who is committed to Nevada, started on the mound. A righthanded pitcher, Hayes throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a quick arm and strong lower half. His fastball topped out at 86 mph, and once he starts to use his lower half he should see his velocity jump. He also flashed an 11-to-5 curveball at 68 mph.

Matt Wezniak
is another one of the Clippers D-I commits, his to San Diego State. He is a strong, well-built player with an athletic frame. Wezniak has a smooth, fluid swing with some pop and he also runs well, especially for his size.

Peoria Sports Complex
– Frankie Piliere

Tristan Hildebrandt
brings a well-rounded skill-set to the table and he put it on display on Friday. He has the ability to drive the ball to right-center field, and showed legitimate power potential in that direction in the first game on Friday. His footwork at shortstop is also a standout part of his game. He gets the ball out of his glove exceptionally well, and he made the game look easy during Friday’s action. One of the first things you notice about Hildebrandt is his confidence and at ease nature wherever he is on the field. He lets the ball track deep at the plate, doing a good job of trusting his hands. The shortstop picked up a double in game one for Hard 9, but also drove the ball later in the game as well.

Alex Gironda
took the ball for the SoCal Marlins and immediately showed off a lively fastball. The righthander hit 86 mph with his fastball and lived consistently at 83-85. He has good life through the zone and threw a lot of strikes with his fastball. Gironda also mixed in a sharp 71-73 mph curveball with 11-to-5 break. This was a pitch he was clearly confident in and went to in almost any situation he needed a big pitch. He gets good extension out front, finishing his curveball consistently and throwing strikes with it. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound righty also projects to add strength and velocity.

We’ve seen Cole Acosta before, most notably at the PG Underclass All-American Games. And, his stuff on Friday was in line with what we’ve seen before, and perhaps even better. He showed the best velocity we’ve seen yet from him, as he worked between 84-87 mph with his fastball, touching 88 and then 89 mph. And, he also mixed a 68 mph curveball with good shape, and late-breaking action. The slider was also part of his repertoire, but on a limited basis. He threw two of them, flashing some bite at 77-80 mph. He has a frame that screams projection, and he looks the part on the mound. His ability to throw strikes with all three of these pitches was perhaps the most impressive part of his performance. He has a strong lower half, and a high waist. Look for him to add more velocity in the very near future. He’s a pitcher that needs to be watched very closely.

The Solana Beach Cardinals did a lot of good things offensively on Friday, and Will Law was one of their prime standouts despite the fact that his performance may not standout in the box score. Law showed a smooth, powerful lefthanded stroke in his first at-bat Friday, spinning on an inside fastball and hitting a rocket right at the first baseman. He also collected two walks on the game, showing a disciplined approach in the process.

Also standing out for Solana Beach was second baseman Andrew Wilson, who collected four hits over two games on Friday. He too showed a disciplined approach as a well as a clean, compact line drive stroke.

Dylan Lottinville
produced one of the day’s biggest swings, belting a long home run, and making consistent, hard contact throughout the day. He’s a stocky, strongly built third baseman, and he already has an advanced power approach at the plate. His knowledge of the strike zone stood out on Friday night, and he shows a calm, disciplined nature.

Greg French
had a good day at the plate for the SoCal Marlins, picking up a two hits over two games, including a well-struck double. But, he also showed very sound receiving skills and a quick transfer to his glove hand. He shows good carry on his throws as well.

Alan Trejo
stood out as a two-way star on Friday night for the So Cal Bombers Black squad, touching 88 mph on the mound and showing defensive actions at shortstop.

T.J. Graumann
tossed a complete game gem for Rawlings Prospects in the 5:00 pm time slot Friday night, and did so mainly on the strength of his command and ability to mix pitches. The 6-foot lefthander worked mostly at 80-82 mph with his fastball, reaching as high as 84. But, his ability to run that fastball to the outside corner against righties while dropping in his curveball really made the difference. He’s a classic strike thrower that works fast and knows how to keep a lineup off balance.

Aaron Pinto
took the ball for the SGV Arsenal on Friday night, and was aggressive from the get go. Attacking hitters with his fastball, the righthander worked at 84-86 mph, reaching 87 mph in the first inning. He also mixed in a curveball that flashed 11-to-5 depth at 71 mph. His delivery stays very compact and he does a good job of hiding the ball. It’s a delivery that he should be able to repeat time after time.

Darren McCaughan
opposed Pinto for Hard 9 and brought similarly quality stuff to the table. He worked at 83-85 mph, touching 86. The righty also did a good job of mixing in a slow, sweeping curveball, which he seemed willing to go to in most situations, even behind in counts.

Tyler Deason
showed off some the day’s best pure velocity, working at 85-87 mph early in his outing, and also flashed a sharp low-70s curveball.

Simon Kersse
took one of the more impressive swings of the day, launching a long double over the head of the left fielder. But, he didn’t merely hit a mistake pitch. He drove a good pitch on the inner third of the plate and did an excellent job of keeping his hands inside the ball.

Ryan Pruitt
had a simple approach on the mound on Friday night for All Star Baseball Academy, and that was to attack with his fastball. He’s not overpowering at the moment in terms of pure velocity, but you wouldn’t know it by the reaction of how many of the opposing hitters. Out of the 74 pitches he threw, 70 of them were fastballs. Living at 80-82 mph and topping out at 83 mph early in his outing, Pruitt attacked the inside part of the plate against righthanded batters. He was able to do that mainly on the strength of the big running action he was able to produce on his fastball. At 6-foot-3, 165-pounds, Pruitt is very projectable and should add more velocity in the coming years.

We’ve seen
Tyler Williams and his extra projectable, athletic frame before and he’s always entertaining to watch. While it amounted to an error in the scorebook, Williams hit a soaring, deep fly ball to left field in the fifth inning for Watsonville that was misplayed and allowed him to end up at third base. He showed impressive first-to-third speed, but more importantly the backspin and major lift he showed displayed a step in the development of his power stroke. Williams also displayed a compact, opposite field approach earlier in the game. He continues to improve each time we see him. He’s still growing into his frame, and needs to be watched closely.
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