Tournaments : : Story
Sunday, September 22, 2013

PG EvoShield Upperclass Day 2

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

Over the next three days David Rawnsley, Frankie Piliere and Jheremy Brown 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

I spent three game slots waiting for the theme of the day to develop at the Indians quad and was finally rewarded during the fourth slot, along with a cadre of college coaches who had hung out at the same location since the morning.

The reality of college recruiting is that most of the top 2014 players are verbally committed well before late September. The signing deadline is the second week of November, little more than six weeks away. But there are always players who have slipped through the cracks or have just improved. The coaches are looking for those players, often for specific needs in their programs.

Two uncommitted seniors started games during the final 6 pm time slot and could have significantly changed their college options.

The first was San Diego Show third baseman and right handed pitcher David Hensley. Hensley has attended the past two Sunshine West showcases but has not pitched at either, although he did pick up a 8.5 PG grade at the 2013 Sunshine West as a third baseman. However, at 6-foot-5, 175-pounds, Hensley has the look of a righthanded pitcher all the way. He threw a complete game five-hitter in a five inning run-rule shortened 10-0 victory over the Colorado Travelers, allowing only two hits, walking none and striking out 12 hitters. Hensley pitched in the 85-88 mph range from a low effort delivery with a loose, fluid arm action. He frequently mixed in a 77-80 mph slider that had close to curveball depth at times to give him a second pitch that can get upper level hitters out right now. It was an impressive overall performance.

I asked the Show coach afterwards what might account for Hensley not having a college commitment yet and he said it very well could be his splitting time between third base and pitching, with more of an emphasis on playing the position and hitting.

Whatever the case, he’s clearly a solid Division I pitching prospect for me.

The other senior mound standout was ABD Bulldogs righthander Grant Wilhelm, who threw four innings in a must-win game for the playoffs against a very talented Arizona Athletics 18U team that featured many D-I college commits in their lineup. Wilhelm went the first four innings, allowing two hits and an unearned run while striking out four and putting ABD in position to advance to the playoffs with a hard fought 3-1 win in one of the best pool play games I saw this weekend.

Wilhelm has what one coach called “Zack Greinke mechanics,” with a high arm circle in back and a cross body high three-quarters release that creates severe angle to the plate. Wilhelm pitched steadily in the 86-88 mph range and the ball seemed to get on hitters, especially righthanded hitters, very quickly. His best secondary pitch was a nice changeup with ideal arm speed and he also mixed in a couple of promising sliders.

This was the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Wilhelm’s first ever outing at a Perfect Game/WWBA tournament, although he did pitch at the 2012 California Underclass Showcase, receiving an 8.5 PG grade.

I had the opportunity to talk to Mike Wilhelm, Grant’s father, after the game and asked the same question I had of the San Diego Show coach about Hensley. He answered that it was probably due to Grant not really being very exposed yet; he attends a small high school (Laguna Beach High School) and until recently hadn’t been playing for a scout team or for a travel ball organization, but that things were starting to pick up.

I would suspect things would start picking up very quickly in the near future.

2014 catcher Ryan Oberg of the AZ Athletics and Sunnyside High School in Phoenix is another uncommitted senior who looks to be a definite college level player. He has a strong 6-foot, 200-pound build and was especially talented behind the plate, with a solid line drive stroke from the right side.

Righthanded pitcher Alex Hernandez was also outstanding for the Bulldogs in the 3-1 win over the AZ Athletics, needing only 39 pitches to complete the final three innings in shutout fashion. He pitched in the 83-86 mph range with a big breaking curveball. He is also an uncommitted senior.

2015 first baseman Shane Potter, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound lefthanded hitter who is both presently strong and still very projectable physically, blasted an absolute monster of a home run (the only one hit in pool play at the Indians quad) that left Field 6 in a hurry and hit over half way up the big screen in right field that protects the parking lot.

Iowa Select Red is nominally the second of the two Iowa Select programs but they are in the playoffs and Iowa Select Black is not after the Red’s 6-0 win over the San Gabriel Valley Arsenal, one of the top travel ball organizations from Southern California. I watched much of this game and have to say that I have rarely seen a team execute more consistently throughout a must-win game at this level than Iowa Select Red did through seven complete innings. Of course, it was made easier because of a masterful performance by lefthanded pitcher Ben Nelson, who threw a three-hit shutout, using only 98 pitches to strike out 12 hitters without issuing a walk. Nelson pitched in the 78-81 mph range but liberally used both a cutter and a changeup to get the ball moving in different directions, along with an occasional big breaking curveball. He was in complete command the entire time.

The West Coast Clippers went 3-0 in pool play and look like a candidate to bring home the hardware on Monday if they have enough pitching. Their starting lineup is very solid. San Diego State commit Matt Wezniak has a strong lefthanded swing and impressed on the mound, topping out at 84 mph from the left side as well. Cal State Northridge commit and centerfielder Justin Toerner looks on the slender side at a listed 5-foot-11, 170-pounds, but blasted a pair of doubles and a triple yesterday and could have had a couple of home runs if the games weren’t being played on Major League fields. Catcher Chandler Wagoner is an Oklahoma commit who squares up everything at the plate and does a very good job receiving and blocking.

The most interesting pitcher I saw on the Clippers was slender 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior righthander Ty Connor. Connor threw five shutout innings against a scrappy Team Avenue Aces squad in a 4-0 win, allowing only one hit, no walks while punching out seven hitters. He threw his fastball almost exclusively, topping out at 84 mph, except that his fastball was actually a cutter that bordered on slider depth at times. Given his very young build and the fact that he’s pounding the strike zone with 84 mph breaking balls, it’s very easy to see his spot on a college pitching staff.

I had a long look at Watsonville Aggies shortstop
Kobie Foppe, an Arizona State commit, and came away very impressed. He’s a very high energy player with plus speed on the bases – 4.17 best home to first from the right side, frequently steals bases at will – and some strength in his righthanded swing. He has some work to so to stay at shortstop defensively but is athletic and fast and the motor stands out. First baseman Alex Ellison and 2015 outfielder Tyler Williams had very good days for the Aggies as well, with Williams showing a very sound hitting approach that resulted in many hard hit balls to the middle and opposite fields.

Goodyear Ballpark
– Jheremy Brown

One of the more impressive swings of the day belongs to Kekai Rios, a 2015 catcher from Kaneohe, Hawaii. In his first at-bat of the game, Rios, who swings a quick, fluid bat with strength in his swing, hit a ball over the wall in left-centerfield for one of the first home runs at the Reds complex.The exit speed of the ball on the home run was 95 mph, followed up by a hard line drive double down the left field line in his next at-bat, coming off at 92 mph. His third at-bat may have been his best one, finding himself down in a two-strike count with the tying run was on second base with two outs. The pitcher tried to sneak a curveball by him on the outer half, trying to get Rios to swing over the top of it or roll it over. Rather, he sat back on it nicely and put it through the right side hole for a single, bringing in the tying run.

Occasionally in California good players are somewhat overlooked due to the depth of talent. 2014 righthander Connor Stotz is one of those players, who last night showed that colleges need to take a look at him this spring. With a 6-foot-2, 180-pound athletic frame, Stotz threw a complete game three-hitter, striking out nine batters. Throwing from a high three-quarters arm slot, Stotz pumped his fastball up to 88 in the early going and maintained his velocity well throughout the game, still sitting 85-86 in the last couple innings. With a quick arm with good arm-side run on fastball, he also showed a feel for a sharp curveball at 76 mph, along with a change and slider.

Makoa Rosario
continued to hit the ball well, smoking a hard double down the left field line in his first at-bat. He's quick on his feet and is a good runner along with a strong arm, Rosario may eventually move to left field to let his athleticism play.

Another glove change occurred yesterday for Chay Toson, who started the game as a lefthanded center fielder before moving back to second base, righthanded of course.

Having seen CBA Marucci play a handful of times this summer I’ve been able to get a feel for the players on the team, including Chris Betts, who played first base in the first game, giving him a short break from behind the plate. In his first at-bat Betts showed his strength, lining a hard single through the right side, coming off the bat at 94 mph. He then came in to close out the game, throwing the final inning, something I haven’t seen from Betts before. Whether from stretch or windup, Betts sat 88-89 mph with his fastball, topping at 90, and he also broke two bats in the process. He throws relatively easy, with a long arm action – something you might not expect from a catcher – and gets downhill action.

Nick Allen
put his strong defensive tools back on display, rounding a chopper up the middle, gathering well, and making a strong throw across the infield. He runs well for his size, getting down the line at 4.44 seconds. He also had a nice day at the plate, with two hard hit balls, one of which was a double to the right-centerfield gap.

My apologies go out to Ian Manzo of the Colorado Travelers, a 2014 righthander from Manitou Springs, Colo., who threw in the first day of the tournament. I had notes on him, but for some reason I didn’t put them in the Day 1 report. With a short arm action and three-quarters slot, Manzo throws easy and is able to generate downhill plane on his fastball, which topped 87 mph and sat at 84-86 mph. His slider is a very good high-spinning, tight breaking ball with 10-to-4 shape, and his changeup showed good fade at 76 mph. With square-shouldered, lean frame, Manzo offers plenty of projectability and should see his velocity jump as he continues to add strength and gain experience.

Iowa Select Black split the two games they played yesterday at the Reds complex. Starting the second game was University of North Carolina commit Mitch Keller, a righthanded pitcher who is a veteran of nine Perfect Game showcases, throwing well each time. His fastball topped out at 90 mph, sitting at 85-88 mph with an 11-to-5 curveball that was clocked as high as 70 mph. He has a loose arm and throws from a high three-quarters slot with the ability to repeat his delivery while pounding the strike zone. Overall, Keller threw a complete game three-hitter, striking out four.

Mad Dogs Baseball, a California based team, sent projectable 6-foot-2 righthander Jeremiah Wylie to the mound in their first game. Using a slow, steady tempo delivery, Wylie throws from a whippy, low three-quarters arm slot and topped at 86 mph with his fastball, which has good run. His slider shows late break, although from his arm slot, he tends to get around the pitch and pull it across.

Hayden Schilling
is Mad Dogs' starting shortstop and plays the position well, with fluid defensive actions and a very strong arm across the infield with minimal effort.

Jack Little
, a 2016 righthander who plays for Bishop Gorman High School in the spring, started the game for On Deck Baseball Academy. With a strong, young frame that has projection for more, Little touched 88 mph in the first and sat 84-87. He has both a changeup at 70-71 mph and a true splitter at 74 mph, which falls off the table with late break. He slows up his arm a little on his 12-to-6 curveball, but for a 2016 to have a feel for four pitches, of which he throws for strikes, it is certainly worth taking note of.

When Taylor Fajardo is on deck, you can hear him. Not because he’s loud or anything like that, but because of his swings. He is able to generate excellent bat speed and you can hear the barrel through the zone. Given his bat speed to go along and his strong, 6-foot-3 frame, Fajardo has the ability to hit the ball a long way when squared up.

Blake Perkins
is the leadoff hitter for the PB Outlaws and he runs well. That speed plays well in center field, as does his arm strength. With a man on second base, and a fly ball to center, the runner attempted to tag up, but Perkins delivered a strike to third base, online and in the air, to record the assist.

So Cal Bombers brought in Gabriel Llanes, listed as a primary shortstop who I noted for having a strong arm at third when he played there, showed the same arm strength on the mound. With long limbs and a high waist, the Fresno State commit pretty much sat 88 mph with his fastball, occasionally “dropping” to 87 mph, and flashed arm-side run at times. He has a quick arm and throws from a three-quarters slot, and with his frame – which is about 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-2, not 5-foot-10 as listed on his team's roster – he gets downhill well. His slider sits in the upper-70s with good break, and he has a feel for a 75 mph changeup.

Alan Trejo
, who Frankie mentioned in yesterday’s Day 1 recap, continued to show well with the bat. A San Diego State commit, Trejo has the ability to consistently barrel up the ball with a quick bat and some leverage.

Ryan Lillie
did an excellent job in relief during the Bombers first game, coming in with the bases loaded and two outs and his team already chasing a couple runs. Lillie threw four fastballs, 82-85-85-84 mph, striking out the batter and escaping the jam. Lillie ended up going 6 1/3 innings, as he came into the game in the top of the first, and topped at 87 mph, striking out eight.

The defending champions of the tournament, the Trombly Nighthawks have a loaded roster and are looking to repeat heading into the playoffs today. With numerous bats that can do damage, including PG All-American D.J. Peters and UCLA commit Josh Morgan, the Nighthawks got a strong pitching performance from Joey Deceglie, an uncommitted 2014 lefthander from Los Osos High School. He pounded the strike zone and repeated his delivery well. With a quick arm from a three-quarters slot, Deceglie worked his fastball at 84-85 mph while keeping it low in the zone. His changeup might be his best off-speed pitch, with good arm-side fade at 76 mph. His curveball shows short break and he has nice feel for a cutter at 79 mph. He might not have big velocity, but he is a lefty with a feel for four pitches, throws strikes, and spots up well.

Shane Mardirosian
has smooth, athletic actions at second base, despite being listed as a primary outfielder. Using an aggressive approach, Mardirosian keeps his hands in on his swing and has the ability to drive the ball opposite way.

Ryan Mota
has a strong frame and a quick bat, lining a pitch back up the middle for a single that registered 95 mph off the bat. He is committed to San Diego State.

Two teams based out of Tucson, one the Tucson Cowboys and the other the Tucson Bobcats, each sent a strong armed righthanded pitcher to the mound on Saturday.

The Bobcats sent uncommitted 2014 Luis Gamez to the mound and he showed well during his time on the mound. His fastball topped out at 91 mph in the early going, showing very good, hard cutting action. With broad shoulders, long limbs, and room to fill out, Gamez has a quick arm and gets good extension on his pitches. Working exclusively from the stretch, as Gamez tired his fastball began to straighten out, but was still touching 88 mph. He throws from an over-the-top slot and is able to get 12-to-6 break on his curveball, which he needs to work on maintaining his arm speed.

2015 righthander
Javier Medina started the game for the Tucson Cowboys, throwing from an easy, three-quarters arm slot. When he is throwing in a game, it looks effortless, like he is just warming up, which reminds me off how easily Luis Ortiz throws in games. Medina threw six innings, striking out two with a fastball that topped out at 86 mph. His curveball shows good break at 74 mph, and his changeup, which topped at 73, has good arm-side fade showing a very strong feel for the pitch. With how easy he throws, it’s easy to believe the reports of even higher velocity from Medina.

Peoria Sports Complex

– Frankie Piliere

In what was somewhat quiet early morning of arms, it was 2015 righthander Nathan Madden with the So Cal Birds that stood out. The Huntington Beach native got the start for the Birds and showed high quality stuff and projectability. Although he did encounter some command issues, Madden displayed a very fast arm and a lively 82-84 mph fastball, reaching as high as 85. His velocity plays up a little bit, looking a few ticks better than that present velocity. He also has confidence in two breaking balls, a slider and curveball. His slider shows late, tight rotation and he did a good job of locating it for the most part. If he can command his fastball more consistently, he can be highly effective, and figures to add more velocity to his fastball.

If you were looking for another projectable righthander with some time to develop, you could also find Craig Colen, a 2015 graduate from San Francisco on Field 3 on the Padres’ side of the Peoria complex. Colen’s body type stands out immediately, a tall and lean build that is going to get stronger in the next couple years. The Lamorinda Monarchs hurler was a strike throwing machine on Saturday, attacking with an 82-85 mph fastball that he was able to keep down in the strike zone. He also mixed in and spotted a sharp 11-to-5 curveball mostly around 71-72 mph. His arm works very clean and is another arm that should continue to improve with added strength.

Just as things seemed to quiet down at the end of the first round of games in Peoria on Saturday, Garrett Hutson took the mound for the Midwest Warducks. The righthander, a 2015 grad, came in pumping an 89-91 mph fastball, reaching as high as 92. He threw only 14 pitches, but each one of them was impressive. Hutson threw just one curveball but it was sharp with 11-to-5 action at 75 mph. He tried mixing in a changeup, and it has the potential to be a solid pitch for him.

Scouts and bystanders of all kinds gathered around Field 6 on the Mariners to see another two-way star, Alex Verdugo, for Prospects National Team, as they took on Foothills Dawgs Baseball. I’ll of course get to Verdugo in a moment, but it was Alberta, Canada native Matt Lloyd that ended up opening some eyes for the Dawgs. He stood out not just on the mound, as he made the start for the Dawgs, but also at the plate. He drove the ball well to left field in his first at-bat and showed good carry. On the mound, he worked at 86-88 mph and had a highly effective changeup. His fastball dipped just a little later in the game, ending up at 84-87 mph, but overall he maintained his stuff very well. He’s an athletic two-way player that really further established himself with a strong showing on both sides of the ball on Saturday.

Opposing Lloyd for Prospects National was righty Tyler Giovanoni, a two-way talent from Schertz, Texas. The 2014 grade is an imposing figure on the mound, with his durable 6-foot-4 frame. And, he has the firm fastball to match. He worked at 85-87 mph early in his outing, mixing in a short, late-breaking curveball every now and then. He also shows potential at the plate, and he lists himself as a primary third baseman.

Brandon Alamo
, brother of PG National alum and Cubs’ prospect Tyler Alamo, established himself on Saturday as one of the more impressive overall bats I’ve seen this weekend in Peoria. He looks the part at the plate, standing at a very legitimate, 6-foot-2, 210-pounds. In other words, he’s a very physically mature, strong player for a 2015 graduate. He has an outstanding up the middle, opposite field approach and can hit in that direction with easy power. And, despite his size and power, he still keeps his swing compact and balanced. He uses his lower half well and it makes everything he does look very effortless at the plate.

One of the more projectable hitters that caught my eye on Saturday was Garrett Brockel. In the Placentia Mustangs afternoon contest, Brockel took an outside pitch and drove it with a significant amount of carry, which was fairly surprising considering his tall but young frame. He has a balanced, controlled swing with good extension. He got around the bases very well also. His at-bats overall on Saturday were some of the best I’ve seen this weekend, as Brockel is a 2015 that I’ll be interested to see more of in the future. It should be noted that he and Alamo attend the same high school in California (Cypress).

The Placentia Mustangs had a number of plays that stood out on Saturday, and Tyler Radcliffe was yet another one. He worked at 84-86 mph with his fastball from a high arm slot, and he kept his delivery balanced and controlled, attacking the zone consistently with his fastball. He also flashed a sharp 68-71 mph curveball with 11-to-5 bite that he didn’t use a lot, but was effective with it when he did.

There’s a good reason that Gerard Hernandez is ranked No. 122 in the 2014 high school class, and he showed that on Saturday afternoon. He showed some of the best bat speed of the weekend during Saturday’s action, bat speed that in his first at-bat produced a 95 mph line drive right at the shortstop. The lefty swinging Phoenix, Ariz. native has a good opposite field approach and stays very short to the ball. His offensive game appears to have taken a step forward from June when he attended the PG National Showcase. And, although he ended up running into an out, I liked his aggression on bases on Saturday as he tried to take an extra base on a ground ball through the hole on the right side.

Hernandez kept on rolling in his second game of the day, lining what appeared to be hanging breaking ball into right field for a single. He does a superb job of keeping his hands back. And, those hands have a lot of strength in them.

Hernandez’ teammate, heralded two-way prospect Alex Verdugo, got into the act offensively in their team’s second game of the day, smacking a long opposite field double into the gap. I had noticed Verdugo’s willingness to go the other way in his first game, but in this game he began to square the ball up better.

Bradley Lewis
showed off a dynamic skill-set in ABD Nevada’s two Saturday games, collecting three triples over two games. He hit the ball hard all day, but his difference-making speed going from first to third made those triples possible. He’ll be an interesting bat to follow the rest of this weekend.

We’ve seen better velocity from Prospects National lefty Justin Farrar in the past (up to 88 mph at the PG National) but his pitchability still stood out. He was able to locate his fastball effectively at 82-84 mph. Pitching aggressively with his fastball, he used his curveball sparingly, but when he did it flashed depth at 68-72 mph.

Kyle Dohy
was a guy that when I first spotted from the tower had some traits that make you want to take a closer look. He has an extra easy arm action, and delivery overall, and the ball comes out of his hand nice and easy. He reached 87 mph early in his outing, but worked mostly at 81-86 mph, and there’s a lot more velocity in the tank. He also showed a nice feel for his 11-to-5 curveball at 71 mph. His extension out front was impressive, and his body is projectable enough to believe he’ll continue to add ticks to his fastball.

Reid Budrovich
was another in the line of solid lefties in the late afternoon games in Peoria. The 2014 grad worked mostly at 83-85 mph with his fastball for the CBA Warriors, mixing in a good fading changing going away from righthanded batters.

We’ve seen Clay Pittman before, most notably over the winter at the Pitcher/Catcher Indoor event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And, as it has before, Pittman’s bat stood out. Playing So Cal NTT, Pittman collected four hits in as many plate appearances against AZ Pro 2014 on Saturday afternoon. He shows above average bat speed and good power potential.

Isaiah Carranza
took the mound in one of the final games of the day on the Padres’ side of the Peoria Sports Complex, and he showed improvement from his Sunshine West Showcase appearance a few months back. Carranza worked at 82-86 mph with his fastball, showing late life through the zone. He varied the speed of his breaking ball, but mostly snapped it off between 71-74 mph. He’s a 2015 arm that at 6-foot-3, 165-pounds, is highly projectable and needs to be followed closely.
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