watched virtually the entire playoff game between the Marucci Elite
and Team Elite Prime at the 11:00 a.m. slot at the Stadium Field at
Terry Park, a rarity for me at a tournament. It was the kind of game
that you’ll stay riveted to until the end, with outstanding
players, pitch-by-pitch pressure from early in the game and extra
innings tension. The Red Sox vs. Tigers game Sunday night was the
second best game I saw all day.
pulled it out 3-2 in eight innings after tying the game in the
starting pitchers were both outstanding. Andy Pagnozzi, son
of three-time Gold Glove catcher Tom Pagnozzi, threw seven innings
for Marucci, striking out ten hitters and allowing only four hits and
a single run. The righthander worked in the mid-80s with pinpoint
command, topping out at 88 mph, and needed only 87 pitches. His
low-70s curveball kept the Team Elite hitters off balance and was a
weapon late in counts.
Elite starter Nick Neidert matched him into the seventh
inning, striking out 11 hitters before tiring. The Georgia
righthander topped out at 91 mph and was consistently in the
upper-80s the entire game. His breaking ball went between a slower
curveball that hung occasionally and a harder slider that was tight
I told the Marucci coaching staff, including Tom Pagnozzi, after the
game that Neidert was a primary shortstop, their reaction was “The
kid must be a heck of a shortstop because he is an absolute beast on
successor on the mound for Team Elite was almost as impressive.
6-foot-5, 220-pound righthander Brooks Crawford looks even
bigger than his listed size and his pitching style is to rear back
and fire the ball has hard as he can, which in this case was 89-91
mph. He’ll have to develop a workable breaking ball, but the
junior’s size and arm strength stood out.
were lots of little plays in the game that made a big difference and
resonated with the huge crowd of college coaches in the stands.
Daino Deas from Team Elite as well as Desmond Lindsay
and Bryce Denton from Marucci each did things that don’t
show up in the box score but had coaches around me turning to each
other in admiration.
from the 8:30 a.m. playoff games:
won their first playoff game 9-1 over the Next Level Titans. First
baseman and outfielder Greg Pickett was the star of the game
with a booming bases loaded double up the left-center field gap that
cleared the bases. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound lefthanded hitter from
Colorado had a fly ball earlier with a 6.55-second hang time, which
is elite level. Third baseman O’Neal Lochridge had a strong
game at the plate, as did outfielder and lefthanded pitcher Kyle
East Cobb New England Expos scored four runs in the bottom of the
seventh inning to shock Chain Baseball Black 4-3 at Clemente Field.
Catcher Gian Martellini is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior from
Rhode Island who looks very strong both with the bat and with his
throwing ability. Todd Gold mentioned him yesterday in his scout
notes as well. 6-foot-5, 220-pound first baseman Seamus Curran
also stands out for the Expos with his size and power.
are days at events like this one that you spend hopping from field to
field to find the highest quality of players. Then, there are others
days like Sunday where a number of potentially elite players keep you
busy for an extended period of time. I continued to be occupied by
watching the offensive talents of the Upstate Mavericks’ squad on
Sunday, and the more I watch their talented young shortstop, Grant
Bodison, play the more impressed I am.
late Sunday, though, my focus had shifted to the Tri-State Arsenal
Underclass team, who seemed to be able to roll out an endless supply
of quality hitters in their lineup.
those hitters, none are more notable than John Aiello, who
entered the tournament as Perfect Game’s No. 13 ranked prospect in
the 2015 high school class. And, quite frankly, all Aiello did this
weekend was potentially improve upon that status. His play at
shortstop was superb, showing outstanding lateral movement and
footwork on plays up the middle. And, he also has the arm to back up
some of these very difficult plays. The common opinion is that his
large, projectable frame will eventually grow out of the shortstop
position, but as of this moment his skills there are a major asset.
He has the soft hands, the range, and the plus arm that we’ve seen
from him for some time now.
far as offense, I came away no less impressed with Aiello than I was
on the defensive side. I like his present power more from the left
side at the moment, where I thought his overall swing mechanics
looked more comfortable. But, he also did some very good things from
the right side. He’s very balanced, keeps his head very still and
really trusts his hands. He’s a difficult hitter to beat with a
fastball, mainly because he’s willing to use the opposite field.
And, as he fills out his lean, young build, he’s going to evolve
into a significant power threat from both sides of the plate. In
other words, Aiello continues to be the elite 2015 prospect we
thought he was, and then some.
Shinn had one of the most single most impressive swings of the
day on Sunday, launching a fastball out over the plate deep to
left-center field in the Arsenal’s playoff contest against the
Scorpions. The ball hit off the base of the wall in a ballpark that
isn’t exactly forgiving for righthanded batters. His bat speed and
loud contact had stood out previously, but this was a swing that
really put an exclamation point on his weekend.
the many two-way talents on display this week in Fort Myers, Joseph
Baran was among the most intriguing. The Boston College commit
stood out on the mound and perhaps even more at the plate on Sunday.
Baran’s day began on the mound, where he touched 89 mph in the
early part of his outing, before settling in the 83-86 mph range. He
also displayed a sharp, downer curveball at 69-70 mph with good shape
and depth. But, Baran may also be his team’s (Tri-State Arsenal)
best outfielder as well. He has impressive range, and his speed is
quite obvious going down the first base line – we’ve timed him
consistently around 4.1 seconds to first base. At the plate, he shows
off impressive bat speed and gap power to right-center field. He
keeps his lefthanded stroke very direct and the ball came off his bat
with a lot of life on Sunday afternoon.
final stat line may not have been what Andrew Noviello was
looking for on Sunday, as he took the loss for the Tri-State Arsenal
Underclass squad, but what he did show was a significant amount of
progress as a pitching prospect. The Massachusetts native reached 90
mph with his fastball, sitting mostly between 86-89, something that
we’ve seen from him before. What improved, however, was his choice
of off-speed pitches. He mixed the sharp 73 mph curveball he’s
shown in the past, but also used a highly effectively slider quite
frequently as well. He threw that slider mostly at 77-79 mph, and it
showed very legitimate tilt and late breaking action. Command of his
pitches is still something Noviello needs to work on but there is no
doubt he has next level type stuff on the mound.
Tri-State Arsenal Underclass squad had a lot of young hitters to
like, and some like John Aiello are hard to miss. Others, like A.J.
Wright, you need to see more of to appreciate. The owner of one
of the more compact, direct swings you’ll find, Wright was a line
drive machine on Sunday. He rarely missed his pitch when he get it
and also rarely expanded the strike zone. The righty swinging
infielder out of Cherry Hill, N.J. does an outstanding job of keeping
his hands back, letting the ball track and trusting his above average
Scheker is a player you notice very quickly when he steps on the
field. You’d be hard pressed to find a more athletic looking
player, and he has the strength to match. David Rawnsley and I, while
taking in a Scheker at-bat down the first base line, both noted some
improvements in Scheker’s swing since we last saw him at the Junior
National Showcase. He’s doing a better job of getting his weight
transferred and using that extra strong lower half. And, those
improvements were yielding some outstanding results. Scheker hit some
of the hardest line drives I had seen all weekend, including a 97 mph
line drive into the left-center field gap. He’s a righthanded power
bat in the making if he can continue to improve his lower half use.
Not to mention, his play in center field was very strong all day as
Zimmerman of FTB Chander Mizuno continued my string of seeing
projectable lefthanders with a feel for this secondary pitches with
his Sunday morning outing at the City of Palms Park Auxiliary field.
He worked mostly between 82-84 mph with his fastball, touching 85 and
86 mph very consistently. There is clearly more velocity in the tank
and room to add strength on his 6-foot-3, lean frame. He works from a
deliberate, repeatable delivery and does an outstanding job of
locating his secondary pitches. The Naples, Fla. native spotted his
sharp, downer curveball at 68-69 mph and was able to miss bats with
it consistently. His upper-70s changeup also proved to be a solid
weapon for him. This is a lefthander mixing pitches and attacking
hitters with a very advanced approach.
Denkinger, an Iowa resident, is no stranger to Perfect Game
events, and his stuff on the mound on Sunday remained very consistent
with what he has shown in the past. Working mostly between 84-86 mph
with his fastball, Denkinger consistently topped out at 87 and missed
some bats along the way. His best weapon is still his curveball,
which he does an excellent job of locating down in the zone around 70
mph. It’s straight downward action will allow it to continue to be
a swing-and-miss pitch at the collegiate level.
of the single sweetest swings on Sunday belonged to Anders
Green, a lefthanded swinging Oregon
State commit. Sometimes single swing moments can be telling, and in
this case that couldn’t be more true. Green took a fastball out
away from him during the Upstate Mavericks’ mid-day game and took
what appeared to be a very fluid, effortless swing. What resulted was
a rocket with outstanding carry into the left-center field gap.
Green’s 165-pound frame is highly projectable, and if he can drive
the ball that way to the opposite field, he’ll need to be watched
old adage “good pitching beats good hitting” held true in the
first round of playoff games at the 5-Plex, as each team threw their
top arm available. Some pitchers were fresh, some just flew into Fort
Myers, and others are throwing on two days rest.
Samuel Bordner walks by you notice him and odds are if you
want to speak with him you’ll find yourself craning your neck
upward. At 6-foot-6, Bordner took the mound for the Ohio Elite
Baseball-Lee squad in their playoff game against the Florida Burn,
who always seem to make a run. With an ensemble of college recruiters
looking on, Bordner did his thing on the mound, repeating his
delivery very well for a big kid, and sat 88-89 mph in his five
innings of work, often touching 90 mph. Athleticism is evident in the
way he repeats and is able to get downhill each time. His fastball
showed good arm-side run with which he attacked hitters and flashed
both a softer curveball up to 71 mph, a slider at 76-78 mph and a
straight change which he used effectively to disrupt hitters' timing.
His arm speed slows on the curveball, but he maintained both the arm
speed and three-quarters slot on the two other off-speed pitches he
Scherff is one of the youngest pitchers in attendance, being a
2017 graduate pitching for the Houston Banditos Tx team. Standing
6-foot-4 200-pounds, Scherff doesn’t look like a freshman and his
stuff doesn’t come out of his hand like a freshman. With a fastball
that sat 83-85 mph early on (I’ve seen up to 87 mph this summer),
and a short-breaking slider at 77, Scherff was able to go unscathed
through five innings. There are some mechanical adjustments that will
need to be made, but with four years of high school baseball ahead of
him, he certainly has time to figure it out.
Slaughter was the starting catcher for Houston Banditos Tx and
showed good strength and bat speed at the plate, turning on a ball
and getting an exit velocity of 94 mph on a line drive to the
Elite 16s have two pitchers in the 2016 class that are extremely
projectable and have thrown well every time they have take the mound.
Easton McGee (6-foot-5, 180-pounds) and Tyler Thompson
(6-foot-4, 170-pound) are both righthanded pitchers that sat in the
mid-80s. McGee sat at 84 mph in his five inning no-hitter with late,
hard arm-side run and a curveball that was up to 73 mph which he
showed a nice feel for. Thompson pitched in three different games, an
inning apiece in the first two before starting the first playoff game
for Marucci. With a lean, lanky build and a high waist and long
limbs, Thompson topped out at 86 mph in each of his three
appearances. Throwing from a three-quarters arm slot, Thompson was
able to throw his slider for strikes, with 10-to-4 break at 78 mph.
As both pitchers continue to mature and fill out, they should see a
jump in their stuff and will be fun to watch.
Smith started at shortstop and has very quick, soft hands and
stayed in control of his body while making a throw charging in on a
I was only able to catch the second inning of Reid Schaller’s
two-inning outing – a consolation game that the coach wanted all
his pitchers to get work – he was impressive. Showing some of his
best velocity, touching 91 mph, Schaller worked 88-89 mph with a
short arm action in back quickly gets his arm through, throwing from
a three-quarters slot. He would miss on the arm-side at times as his
front side would open early, but he made adjustments to throw two
from a low three-quarters arm slot with good arm-side run on his
fastball, Brady Singer was effective in his inning of relief.
Throwing with an easy, loose arm action and topping at 88 mph, Singer
was able to get a lot of swings and misses with the
fastball/curveball combination that he used. At times he will pull
his curveball across his body giving it sweeping break, but when he
stays with it his curve shows a late 11-to-5 break.
the game behind the plate for Chet Lemon's Juice Black was 2016 Jake Sullivan
from Durant High School. Sullivan moves well behind the plate and has
a very quick transfer, turning in a 2.00-second pop time in between
innings. A righthanded hitter, Sullivan shows good leverage in his
swing with both quick hands and a quick bat.
it was from a day earlier, Eric Jenkins had a nice game for
the Dirtbags showing off all of his tools. Leading off the game,
Jenkins turned on a pitch and drove it down the right field line for
a home run. Not knowing if the ball went over the fence, Jenkins held
up at third and had to be told by the umpire that the ball did indeed
go over the fence. On a ground ball Jenkins showed off his speed,
getting down the line in 4.18 seconds. In his next at-bat, he laid
down a push bunt and got to first in 3.62 seconds. His speed plays
well on both sides of the ball, as he was able to track down a deep
fly ball in center field, a ball that looked like it would be over
his head off the bat.
Hunter Bowling started the first of three games on the day for Palm Beach
PAL and impressed with his outing. Standing 6-foot-7, Bowling, a
lefthander, topped at 87 mph with his fastball, showing both a
changeup at 78 mph and a late-breaking slider up to 75 mph. He keeps
his big, strong frame balanced throughout his delivery with a clean
arm and got arm-side run on his fastball.
from Hubertus, Wis., 2015 righthander Bryant
Jordan made the most of his two
innings on the mound for the St. Louis Pirates. Reports of him being
up to 90 mph seem very possible, as he sat 85-87 mph with a loose,
quick arm with the ball coming out of his hand cleanly. He attacks
hitters with his fastball and is able to spot it up where he wants,
whether it be in or out, up or down. He uses his lower half well and
is able to get good downhill plane on his fastball, which shows good
running life. Jordan also mixed in a sharp 11-to-5 curveball, with
late break and depth and maintained his arm speed on the pitch.
4 in Fort Myers was arguably the best day of the event, as nearly
every team played, with consolation games taking place in addition to
the playoffs. While the intensity of pool play games in a high level
national tournament creates a good environment to evaluate players,
playoff games are played at a level that simply cannot be simulated.
highlight of the day for me was finally getting to lay eyes on 2016
righthander Anthony Molina,
a highly touted prospect whose name I have heard from multiple people
over the past year. The immediate reaction when I saw the 6-foot-4,
180-pound teenager walking calmly towards the mound to start a second
round playoff game was “alright, I think I might have heard right.”
His calm, measured demeanor was as promising as his lanky projectable
frame, and it served him well.