Tournaments : : Story
Monday, September 23, 2013

PG EvoShield Upperclass Day 3

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

The most anticipated event of the day at the Indians Quad was the appearance of Midwest Warducks righthanded pitcher Garrett Fulenchek on the mound in the first round of the playoffs against CBA Marucci.

Fulencheck is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior from Howe, Texas who has only recently popped up on the national scouting map, and this would be Perfect Game’s first look at him, although he was already ranked 180
th in the 2014 class coming into the game. He had shown his athleticism during the first two days of the championship for the Warducks, knocking out several key hits and running the bases with aggressiveness and speed.

Fulenchek’s raw stuff didn’t disappoint over the course of an 89-pitch outing. He was steady at 89-91 mph with his fastball, with a very fast and easy arm action that seemed perfectly capable of the 93-94 mph velocity readings that Texas area scouts have seen recently. His best pitch, however, was an 80-82 mph true slider that he was initially hesitant to use, perhaps because of a blister he has been nursing, but once he turned it loose it was nasty, a definite potential plus pitch. Fulenchek’s command and raw stuff was better from the stretch, an indicator that he has adjustments to make in his full windup.

In four innings, Fulencheck allowed four runs, only one earned, while striking out seven CBA Marucci hitters, and CBA Marucci moved on in the playoffs with a 7-1 win.

CBA Marucci's next game proved to be perhaps the best pitcher’s duel of the tournament, sending the No. 8 ranked prospect in the 2015 class, righthanded pitcher and outfielder Kyle Molnar, to face the ABD Bulldogs. Both Molnar and the ABD starter, righthander Josh Smith, were outstanding, each throwing a complete game, with Molnar allowing only one hit and Smith allowing two. Unfortunately for CBA and Molnar, they made five errors that led to a pair of unearned runs and ABD advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 victory.

Molnar threw only 75 pitches in six innings, the last fastball measuring in at 90 mph. He sat at 88-90, touching 91 a couple of times and had the best curveball I’ve yet seen from him, a hard spinning 73-75 mph offering that had big depth.

Smith, meanwhile, continued on Saturday’s theme of uncommitted 2014 pitchers who are definite Division I caliber prospects. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound righty threw only 86 pitches in seven innings, pitching between 84 and 88 mph with his fastball and showing a low-70s curveball with good depth.

CBA Marucci’s 2015 catcher Chris Betts hit the hardest ball I saw hit all week, and maybe all month, when he lined a Fulenchek fastball up the middle at 98 mph off the bat. Fulenchek ended up on his back probably thanking his good fortune the ball made it cleanly to centerfield.

Uncommitted 2014 righthander John Shurance of the So Cal Bombers Black threw a very efficient complete game win against the Yuma Beast in the first round of the playoffs, striking out 10 hitters in a 5-2 Bombers victory. Shurance pitched in the 83-86 mph area with a hard curveball that reached 75 mph.

2015 first baseman James Monaghan of Team Maryland continues to impress me. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound lefthanded hitter went 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBI in Maryland’s 9-7 win over the Foothill Dawgs in the Round of 16. The first hit was a two strike single with the bases load where he did a nice job shortening his swing up; the second hit a crushed triple into the right field corner that showed his power.

I got a quick look at one of the youngest players at the tournament, 2016 Trombly Nighthawks first baseman and righthanded pitcher Logan Pouelsen, as he came in to save the Nighthawks 4-2 win over Impact Baseball. Pouelsen topped out at 89 mph with a 73 mph curveball. The sophomore, who is already verbally committed to UCLA, is ranked 26
th in the Perfect Game 2016 class rankings.

Goodyear Ballpark
– Jheremy Brown

As already noted by David, there was a buzz in the air yesterday morning with Garrett Fulenchek taking the mound, and even more after Chris Betts smoked a ball off of him up the middle. In addition to his prowess at the plate, Betts showed really well behind the plate, moving side-to-side and sticking pitches, helping to get his pitcher some calls.

Catching Fulnechek was 2015 catcher Jonathan Davis, who has a strong arm and showed the same catch-and-throw skills he did last weekend with Team Oklahoma. While his arm strength is evident, he needs to get on top of the ball better so his throws don’t have wicked tail. He is a left handed batter who can get extension on his swing and drive the ball.

Every time I watch Nick Allen play he always gives me something to write about. Yesterday was no different as he made several nice plays in a variety of ways, including rounding the ball with a smooth transfer, running across the field, scooping the ball, and throwing on the run, or a play he made in the six-hole yesterday, back handing the ball and flicking the ball from his hip to second to try and get the lead runner. It will be interesting to watch Allen over the next few years as he matures, especially considering he has not played a high school game yet.

The Big Island Blue team may not have the pitcher that throws 90-plus, or an elite hitter that can hit a ball out at any given moment. But they compete and don’t give up, which helped them to a 3-0 pool play record and a playoff berth. Conrad Kauffman is a perfect example of the team's makeup, as he is a righthanded pitcher that topped at 74 mph, but threw a complete game two-hitter in the first round of the playoffs, knocking off East Bay Rep by a score of 2-1. Throwing from a three-quarters arm angle, Kauffman was able to get arm-side run on his fastball and used a deceptive delivery to help him pick up four strikeouts. In the end, Kauffman threw 114 pitches, 108 of which were fastballs.

Both the San Diego Show and GBG Marucci Blue needed their starter to go deep into the game for them to help preserve the bullpen and save pitching for the next round of playoffs, and both teams got exactly that.

The San Diego Show, who came to their first round playoff game with just 10 players, got six strong innings from 2014 lefthander Lane O’Dea. He sat 80-82 mph with his fastball, topping out at 84, and he maintained that velocity throughout the game. From a three-quarters arm slot, O’Dea showed good command of a 74-75 mph slider and also flashed a 78 mph changeup with slight fade. He filled up the strike zone, allowing only four hits while striking out eight.

Austin Bernard
came in for the final inning and showed off his arm strength, topping out at 89 mph. Throwing from a short arm action and three-quarters slot with a compact delivery, Bernard also showed a feel for two off-speed pitches.

After that win the Show advanced to play No. 1 seed GBG Marucci Navy, who got a strong start from primary shortstop Ryan Day, who recently committed to Duke. Day throws from an over-the-top arm slot with a short arm action in the back, and topped 90 mph with his fastball while sitting at 85-88 with the pitch. He has a feel for two off-speed pitches, a slider that shows short break and a straight 76 mph changeup that flashes occasional fade on. Day threw easy, and with the offense putting up nine runs, he only needed to throw five innings before the game was called due to the run rule.

In the next game for GBG, Head Coach Michael Garciaparra needed another strong start, this time from one of his youngest players, 2016 third baseman and righthander Spencer Steer. Steer understood what he had to do and needed to throw as many innings as he could, which means he couldn’t air out his fastball like he did last week when he touched 89 mph.

Instead he worked his fastball in the low- to mid-80s, topping at 85 while mixing in his 70 mph curveball nicely that had good 11-to-5 shape with depth. Throughout his six innings of work he was in cruise control, pounding the strike zone with both pitches while striking out eight batters.

Steer also showed well with the bat, exhibiting a sound approach and a balanced swing with the ability to drive the ball to the gaps, smoking a single that registered 90 mph off the bat in one of his plate appearances.

Peoria Sports Complex
– Frankie Piliere

One of the positives of using the tower as a vantage point at tournaments such as this is seeing the way a pitch gets on hitters and how those hitters are reacting. The early reactions from hitters to 2014 southpaw, Hudson Pearson were very telling in the morning contest between Prospects National Team and the CBA Warriors. The Warriors hurler had hitters consistently swinging late at his 83-85 mph fastball. He then reached 86 and 87 mph in the middle innings of his outing. It has good, late hop through the zone with some running action and he did a good job of spotting it to both sides of the plate. His changeup may also end up being his best secondary offering. He also has a strong 6-foot-2 frame with a good lower half. And, he repeated his delivery very well on Sunday.

Justin Farrar
took the mound for the second time in as many days for Prospects National, and his stuff looked a little more crisp this time around. The Texas lefthander reached 87 mph with his fastball, living between 83-86 mph. He also showed a good feel for an 11-to-5 curveball, and used his changeup very effectively.

Drew Weston
is another 2014 arm we’ve seen in the past. He attended the 2012 PG National Games in San Diego, and has seen his velocity steadily increase since then. He worked at 85-88 mph on Sunday, throwing from a three-quarter arm slot and producing good movement on his fastball. He threw two incredibly impressive frames, showing perhaps the best mix of pitches I’ve seen all weekend. The San Marcos, Calif. native mixes a highly effective changeup around 80 mph, that has good two-seam running action down and away from his arm side. And, he has a sharp 76 mph curveball with 10-to-4 bite. This is a fully formed three-pitch pitcher that will be able to pitch at a high level. His combination of stuff, arm action, and feel for his secondaries make him a very interesting prospect.

Dylan Hutcheson
, a 2015 grad from Wichita Falls, Texas, had one of the more impressive swings of Sunday’s morning games in Peoria, a game that was full of high quality pitching performances. Showing a quick, compact line drive stroke, Hutcheson slashed a hard shot to the opposite field off a ball sinking down and away from him. He also shows above average foot speed.

Brooks Stotler
, a 2015 graduate from Vista, Calif., showed off some of the day’s best bat speed, and one of his swings produced a 94 mph line drive off the bat. He did chase some pitches out of the zone in later at-bats, but his line drive stroke and above average bat speed cannot be ignored.

Steven Mendoza
is a position player that has shown some positive things at the plate this weekend – I like his bat speed and present strength – but, he took the mound on Sunday and showed some positive things there as well. He reached 86 mph with his fastball, showing good arm speed and movement. He worked mostly at 81-84 mph, flashing a usable curveball along the way.

Jacob Musial
is not a primary pitcher, but sure looked like one on Sunday afternoon. He came in for a very brief outing at the end of the So Cal Wahoo’s and didn’t waste any time with his fastball. Every fastball he threw was 90-91 mph, dipping to 89 only once. He’s clearly someone who now needs to be closely monitored on the mound and that I’m looking forward to seeing more of.

Hayden Schilling
, a 2014 grad from Santee, Calif., is a shortstop by trade, but that didn’t stop him from sitting at 87-89 mph with his fastball for Mad Dogs Baseball on Sunday. He has a short, fast arm action and he’s consistently around the plate.

Tyler Frost
is yet another non-primary pitcher that could have fooled me on Sunday afternoon. The Peoria, Ariz. native took the ball for the AZ Athletics and came out firing. He worked consistently between 86-89 mph, showing off one of the weekend’s fastest arms and late two-seam life. He’s a medium build guy with a very wiry, athletic frame and that athleticism is noticeable on the mound. He finishes his pitches well and is consistently on top. The 2014 grad also mixes in a sharp slider at 77-79, which will sometimes have more of slurve break. Either way, it’s a highly effective pitch for him at this level, and should continue to be as he moves up in competition. He did show a changeup as well. This is also the best velocity we’ve seen to date from Frost.

One of 2015 grads making a strong impression on Sunday was AZ Athletics’ shortstop, Alejo Lopez. Lopez, who goes to high school at Greenway in Arizona and is from Mexico, showed outstanding lateral movement up the middle, as well as a strong arm and good footwork. He also put a charge into a ball late in the game, sending the left fielder back to the fence. He’s a live athlete with a lot of defensive upside and some definite juice in his bat. He looks the part about as much as anyone that took the field this weekend and could play shortstop and hit at a very high level. Watch this young many very closely.

Jordan Abernathy
showed one of the most effective power strokes of the weekend for SGV Arsenal, launching a long home run to left field in his team’s victory. He’s a strongly built, physically mature righthanded hitter who made consistent, hard contact this weekend. He has a power swing that will translate well at the next level.

For the second day in a row, Tyler Williams, one of the best 2015 grads in attendance, impressed with his speed and his bat. In the latter part of Watsonville’s afternoon game in Peoria, Williams hit a booming triple, once again showing off his superb acceleration going first to third. His overall game just continues to improve before our eyes and he’s always fun to watch. Projection is the key word when it comes to Tyler Williams’ game.

Zach McLeod
, a 2015 lefthander, showed some intriguing velocity for All Star Baseball Academy on Sunday. He reached 88 and 89 mph early in his outing, pitching mostly at 83-87 mph. His velocity dipped later in the game, but he’s an arm that needs to be monitored closely as he matures. McLeod also sprinkled in a 74 mph breaking ball, but pitches mostly on the strength of his good fastball. This game represented a big jump in velocity for him from what we’ve seen in the past.
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