High School : : General
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Regional HS Preview: Southeast

Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Perfect Game

2014 Perfect Game High School Baseball Preview Index

Southeast Region: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee

Big Tools on Display in the Southeast

Similar to the 2013 high school class, this years crop of high school talent shows high end tools all over the field. With eight players from the region participating in the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic for the East Team, and a couple candidates for this coming year's Classic, the talent level comes as no surprise.

In both the 2012 and 2013 MLB Drafts the state of Georgia produced two premium picks; Byron Buxton to the Twins (No. 2 overall) and Clint Frazier to the Indians (No. 5). Gainesville outfielder Michael Gettys is hoping to keep the streak going for the Peach State in 2014. With some of the loudest tools in the 2014 class, Gettys shows an arm in the outfield that produces 100 mph throws, runs a 6.4 60-yard dash and projects for big power.

Looking ahead a year, both Daz Cameron, currently the top ranked player in the 2015 class, and fifth ranked Jahmai Jones, look to continue this trend.

Gettys isn’t the only player from Georgia that will make noise this spring, as the state also boasts Michael Chavis, Kel Johnson and Montrell Marshall. For arms the state has righthanded pitchers Dylan Cease, Spencer Adams, and lefthanders Mac Marshall, Tucker Baca and Ryan Avidano, the MV-Pitcher in Jupiter last October at the WWBA World Championship.

Jump to Louisiana and the best place to start is St. Thomas More High School, the top ranked team in the state according to Perfect Game's preseason Top 50 team rankings. Leading the way is Chase Vallot, another PG All-American who won the Rawlings Home Run Challenge at the National Showcase last June, and also showed a very strong arm behind the plate. The St. Thomas More pitching staff is led by senior Wyatt Marks and 2015s O’Neal Lochridge and Brennan Breaux, both of whom are LSU commits, while sophomore Mason Templet is poised to power the offense. On February 22 Barbe High School, another power in-state powerhouse, travels to St. Thomas More and should prove to be one of the biggest matchups this spring.

Mississippi has athleticism throughout the state, starting with PG All-American middle infielder Ti’Quan Forbes, who is committed to Ole Miss. DeSoto Central is the top team in the state and will provide scouts a look at both the present and future. Senior outfielder Clay Casey transferred in and helps make the middle of their order devastating as DeSoto also has 2015 Austin Riley, a strong two-way player who shows big power and also pumps his fastball into the low-90s.

Both Casey and Riley look to lead DeSoto Central this spring, who will be participating in the 2014 Perfect Game High School Showdown in early April.

Two players who brought home the gold medal last summer with Team USA, lefthanded pitcher Justus Sheffield and outfielder Lane Thomas, lead the crop of talent in state of Tennessee. Thomas came on strong at the end of the summer, showing a powerful arm from both the outfield and on the mound – topping 91 – as well as posting a 6.63 60-yard dash time. A University of Tennessee commit, Thomas is a primary outfielder but could see time on the mound should he make it onto campus.

Southeast High School Dream Team

Based on present tools and position played for high school team

C - Chase Vallot, Sr. St. Thomas More (La.)
Vallot showed big tools across the board at the National Showcase — his first with Perfect Game — and continued to use them throughout the summer. The loudest tool is his bat with the ball exploding off the barrel hard to his pull-side, courtesy of his quick hands and strong build. Behind the plate, Vallot shows top of the line arm strength – 89 mph – with easy carry on his throws to second base. He simultaneously shows athletic actions and quickness on his feet.

1B – Isiah Gilliam, Jr. Parkview (Ga.)

Gilliam is an imposing force standing at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds which impacts his all around game. By playing with the East Cobb program in the summer, the Perfect Game staff has been able to watch the growth in Gilliam, both physically and in game action. A switch hitter, Gilliam shows strongly from both sides of the plate with a tad more polish from the right side at present. He is able to drive the ball from either side, but from the right side is where the ball jumps the hardest and finds a second gear once in flight. Gilliam shows quick hands from the left side with equal amounts of power, and is the type of hitter and overall athlete that even when he doesn’t get good wood on the ball he manages to muscle it out of the infield. At first base he shows easy footwork around the bag with soft hands and the ability to pick throws in the dirt.

It must be noted that if Kel Johnson played high school baseball in the spring for a NFHS sanctioned school he would have been the clear choice. Known widely for his power, Johnson shifted his approach at the plate during the course of the summer. Rather than being focused primarily on his pull-side power, he transitioned into a complete hitter and began to use the whole field. Johnson also demonstrated his ability to shorten up with two strikes and improved his pitch recognition in the box.

MIF - Gregory Deichmann, Sr. Brother Martin (La.)
A repeat selection for middle infield, Deichmann solidified his spot this summer as one of the best power hitting middle infielders in the country. Smooth with his glove and quick on his feet, the PG All-American and LSU commit shows plenty of arm strength across the infield to finish plays. Deichmann is a lefthanded hitter who is able to generate very nice leverage in his swing, driving the ball with loud contact and the highest level of bat speed. He showed easy power at the National Showcase last June, and when the ball is squared up, the opposing defense better be alert.

MIF - Ti’Quan Forbes, Sr. Columbia (Miss.)
Forbes is a special kind of athlete. Typically, when a shortstop is 6-foot-4 at 17 years of age, the consensus is that a move to third base is in his near future. This doesn’t necessarily apply to the Mississippi commit. Forbes is full of quick-twitch muscle and moves very well on his feet, showing lateral range to each side. He displays soft hands and shows good arm strength across that will only get stronger. Despite his lean frame, Forbes is able to drive the ball deep, thanks in part to his lightning quick hands and bat speed they generate. It’s worth noting that Forbes is one of the youngest players in the 2014 class, though you could hardly tell when watching him play.

3B - Michael Chavis, Sr. Sprayberry (Ga.)
Just like Michael Gettys, Chavis loves to play the game of baseball and always gives 100 percent between the white lines. Chavis shows versatility in the infield, having played all four positions throughout the summer, and he looked like a natural fit at each one. However, third base is where he has spent the most time. He shows enough arm strength across and power in his bat to stay at the hot corner long-term. The power has been on display at numerous Perfect Game events, with the loudest of his home runs coming in Jupiter. There, he drove a fastball over the left-center field fence, coming down through a windshield of a parked car. Chavis generates his power from a very simple, yet powerful approach with a fast bat and explosive hands.

OF - Daz Cameron, Jr. Eagle’s Landing Christian (Ga.)
The first of three juniors to make the team, Cameron reminds everybody why he is the top ranked prospect in the 2015 class each time he steps on the field. A five-tool player, the 6-foot-1, 186-pound Cameron shows easy, athletic actions in the outfield and tools that will keep him in center field at the next level. With 6.6 60 speed, Cameron covers a vast a mound of ground and shows plus carry on his throws. However, it's at the plate where Cameron truly shines. He shows explosive hands with an easy, quick bat that puts a charge into the ball with regular contact. His power tool has developed nicely and there is no reason for it not to continue to develop as he continues to fill out his frame.

OF – Jahmai Jones, Jr. Wesleyan (Ga.)
After playing shortstop for most of his career, Jones is making the switch to center field, a transition that started this fall and will continue into the spring. A gifted athlete who shows advanced tools in most facets of the game, Jones will inevitably go through some growing pains in the outfield. However, he displays more than enough athleticism and speed (a 6.6 runner) to make him look like a natural roaming center. Jones consistently gets the barrel to the ball, creating hard line drive contact with the ability to loft the ball over the left field fence, thanks to a pair of the quickest hands in the 2015 class.

OF – Michael Gettys, Sr. Gainesville (Ga.)
Michael Gettys has showed that he can do everything on a baseball field and does it with a very high level of energy. An outfield prospect with true five-tool potential, Gettys set a National Showcase record with an outfield throw of 100 mph that followed his 6.43 60-yard dash time. The bat is as loud as any tool in his arsenal, displaying lightning fast hands and creates consistent, hard contact to all fields. The easy, and most common, comparison for Gettys is fellow Peach State outfielder and 2013 first round pick, Clint Frazier.

UT – Austin Riley, Jr. Desoto Central (Miss.)
At 6-foot-3, 210-pounds, Riley looks like he should be getting ready for his junior season at Mississippi State, where he is committed, and not his junior year of high school. A true two-way player presently, Riley uses his strong frame and lower half to throw a fastball that frequently peaks at 91 mph at events, showing heavy life and in turn inducing weakly hit ground balls. In the box Riley uses his strength well and shows a loose, quick swing with leverage, displaying the ability to drive the ball with authority.

P - Dylan Cease, Sr. Milton (Ga.)
With one of the loosest and easiest arm actions in this year’s class, watching Cease throw on the mound is like watching him play a simple game of catch – that is, until one looks at the radar gun. With a fastball that tops out at 97 mph and sits in the mid-90s, Cease uses his lower half well and is able to generate nice downhill plane. Not only can the Vanderbilt commit overpower hitters with his fastball at his level, but the 6-foot-2 Cease also shows a strong feel for two-off speed pitches. When his curveball is at its best, the pitch is knee buckling for the opposition with hard, late 11-to-5 break and is thrown in the mid-70s. His changeup is a solid third offering, maintaining his arm speed and action, which gets hitters weight onto their front side early.

P - Mac Marshall, Sr. Parkview (Ga.)
A projectable 6-foot-2, 185 pound lefthander, Marshall has made noticeable strides in his delivery and velocity over his high school career. Having topped out at 94 mph at the National Showcase last summer, Marshall generally works in the 89-91 range peaking at 92 mph with the ability to spot his fastball within the zone. He is able to change the hitter’s eye level by getting downhill with his pitches and shows a strong feel for both a curveball and a changeup. The curveball is the stronger pitch of the two, showing hard 11-to-5 break and big depth with the potential to be a power curveball. Likewise, his changeup shows very nice fading action to his arm side.

P - Justus Sheffield, Sr. Tullahoma (Tenn.)
Sheffield finds himself with his name on this list for the second year in a row, having joined his brother and 2013 graduate Jordan. Like the elder Sheffield, Justus has committed to in-state Vanderbilt University. Since bursting onto the scene in 2011, Justus has thrown in five different PG events, transforming from a hard throwing lefty into a hard throwing lefty with three secondary pitches that he throws for strikes. His fastball progressed last summer, topping out at 94 mph, and he throws with a fast and loose arm action. Not only can he throw all four pitches – a 1-to-7 curveball with tight spin, a hard slider up to 83, and a deceptive changeup – for strikes, but he also knows how to use them and builds his next pitch off of the last one.

P - Spencer Adams, Sr. White County (Ga.)
Of the talented pitchers in the 2014 class, Adams may be the most projectable, both stuff-wise and physically. At 6-foot-5, 180-pounds, Adams has plenty of room to add strength to his young frame, leading to a sure spike in velocity in the coming years. Adams’ fastball already touches 92 mph and plays up in game action thanks to the deception in his delivery and the extension he gets with his long levers, seemingly handing the ball to the catcher. With a fast, live arm his fastball shows excellent late movement and pounds the zone with his full array of pitches. His slider may turn out to be a plus pitch, which he throws in the mid-80s with very sharp, late life. To round out the repertoire, the University of Georgia commit shows a feel for a changeup, flashing fading life down in the zone.

P - Tucker Baca, Sr. North Gwinnett (Ga.)
Baca continued to develop throughout the summer with his best outing on the mound coming on the biggest stage in Jupiter at the 2013 WWBA World Championship. The 6-foot-3 lefthanded Arizona State commit throws from a deceptive low three-quarters arm slotl and as expected, generates very good arm side run and sink. He worked his fastball in the 89-92 range in Jupiter and filled up the strike zone with a three-pitch mix with his best off-speed pitch being his mid-70s changeup, showing similar arm action to his fastball. Baca’s velocity steadily increased throughout the summer, topping out at 88 mph in June before bumping 92 mph in late October, and there should still be another tick or two to add as he starts to fill out his 6-foot-4 frame.

Southeast Region Best Tools

Best Hitter For Average: Daz Cameron, Jr. Eagle’s Landing Christian (Ga.)
In a region full of top senior bats, it’s hard to imagine an underclass player finding himself atop a best hitter category, but Daz Cameron isn’t your average underclassman. Ever since his Perfect Game debut in 2011 as a young 14 year old, Cameron has shown advanced tools with the bat, which have developed into one of the quickest and loosest swings in the country. His hands are explosive to the ball, generating extremely loud contact from an easy swing. As his physical strength continues, so will his power to all fields.

Best Hitter For Power: Michael Chavis, Sr. Sprayberry (Ga.)
This was one of the hardest categories to select as Kel Johnson’s power has long been on display nationally and Chase Vallot won the Rawlings Home Run Challenge at the National Showcase last June. What sets Chavis apart is the regularity in which his power appears in a game setting. With the combination of his physical strength, fast bat, and raw power, there is no reason that Chavis won’t continue to hit the long ball at the next level.

Best Baserunner: Michael Gettys, Sr. Gainesville (Ga.)
Gettys shows all five tools, and it’s his sixth tool, his baseball IQ, which allows his speed to shine in games. He is very aggressive on the base-paths and frequently beats out infield ground balls, getting down the line between 4.03-4.05 seconds, well above the MLB average of 4.30 for a righthanded hitter. He terrorizes pitchers once he gets on base and isn’t afraid to turn a single into a double as he showed at the PG All-American Classic this past August.

Best Defensive Catcher: Matt Morgan, Sr. Thorsby (Ala.)
An Alabama commit, Morgan displays very strong catch-and-throw abilities behind the plate. Morgan moves well on his feet and blocks the ball nicely side-to-side while showing sound throwing mechanics. He has a strong, accurate arm with very good carry that plays in games, regularly popping sub two-second throws.

Best Defensive Infielder: Michael Chavis, Sr. Sprayberry (Ga.)
Throughout the course of this past summer, Chavis played all four infield position for the East Cobb program and does it with such ease and athleticism that he never looks out of place. Quick footwork gives him the ability to move well laterally and he also shows a strong arm allowing him to complete plays. He is known as a primary third baseman, and made the team above at the position, but don’t be surprised if there is a move to the middle of the infield at the next level, whether it be at Clemson or in professional baseball.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Daz Cameron, Jr. Eagle’s Landing Christian (Ga.)
A strong runner at present, Cameron takes long and easy strides to the ball, covering plenty of ground in center field. With the well-known bloodline – his father is former big-league All-Star and three time Gold Glove winner Mike Cameron – and high baseball IQ, Cameron reads the ball well off the bat on fly balls and his throws show an extra gear when the ball is in flight. His defensive tools are already well above average and will only get stronger as his frame continues to mature.

Best Infield Arm: Chase Vallot, Sr. St Thomas More (La.)
It’s not commonplace to see a catcher leading the top infield arm in our regional previews, but Vallot's arm strength simply doesn’t come around often in high school catchers. Vallot showed that plus arm strength at last year's National Showcase, with his top velocity down to second base registering at 89 mph with plus, plus carry.

Best Outfield Arm: Michael Gettys, Sr. Gainesville (Ga.)
This category was one of the easier ones to decide as Gettys broke the outfield velocity record at the National with his top throw clocking 100 mph, surpassing fellow Georgian Clint Frazier’s mark of 98 mph the year prior. Gettys is able to generate such velocity due to his high energy and momentum gained with his lower half on throws. His plus arm strength also plays on the mound, topping at 94 mph with his fastball.

Best Fastball: Dylan Cease, Sr. Milton (Ga.)
It’s not only his velocity that helps Cease capture this category, as the Milton High School righthander has one of the easiest and most fluid deliveries in the 2014 draft class, regardless of high school or college. Cease’s velocities from last summer consistently were recorded in the same range, topping out at 96 in four different events, while peaking at 97 and 95 at two other events. He maintains the velocity well throughout his outings and projects for a little more once his lean, athletic frame begins to fill out.

Best Off-speed Stuff: Mac Marshall, Sr. Parkview (Ga.)
A category that can always go in multiple directions, Mac Marshall leads the way with his breaking ball, a potential power curveball. He consistently throws the pitch in the mid- to upper-70s with big depth and late break. He has a strong feel for the pitch and shows the ability to spot it throughout the zone, making the pitch that much more effective. Spencer Adams and his mid-80s slider and Dylan Cease’s curveball both received consideration.

Best Command: Andy Pagnozzi, Jr. Fayetteville East (Ark.)
The son of Tom Pagnozzi, a veteran of 12 seasons in the MLB and handler of countless pitchers, Andy has received some of the best knowledge any high school pitcher could ask for. A Mississippi commit, Pagnozzi shows smooth, repeatable mechanics which allows him to throw his three-pitch mix with pinpoint control. His release points remain consistent on all three pitches, creates nice angle, and is able to load up on both sides of the plate with purpose.

Best Pitchability: Justus Sheffield, Sr. Tullahoma (Tenn.)
As stated above, Sheffield has transitioned from a power lefthander to a complete pitcher with four pitches. Everything he throws is hard and shows life in the zone, whether it’s his fastball with downhill plane or his hard 1-to-7 curveball with downward life. Sheffield mixes all four pitches well with command and isn’t afraid to double up with a particular pitch.



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