High School : : General
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Regional HS Preview: Mid-Atlantic

Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Perfect Game

2014 Perfect Game High School Baseball Preview Index

Mid-Atlantic Region: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia

The Carolina’s at the forefront

Looking at the preliminary Perfect Game Top 50 High School Rankings, the Mid-Atlantic region is led by two teams in North Carolina (Fuquay-Varina and Roberson) and two teams from South Carolina (Flora and Conway).

Flora is led by three returning seniors – Madison Stokes, Banks Cromer and Everett Eynon – who are all University of South Carolina commits and look to lead Flora to another 3-A state championship. In 2013 the Falcons went 26-6 and swept Airport in two games by the scores of 11-3 and 10-9 to capture the state championship. Stokes in particular hopes to continue his winning ways, having won with Flora while also being part of the 2013 WWBA World Champion EvoShield Canes in Jupiter, Fla. last October.

One of the biggest matchups for Flora in the regular season will occur on March 29 against Lexington High School, a team that finished last season ranked No. 6 overall and took home the 4A state championship. They have however lost their leader from last season, PG All-American catcher Nick Ciuffo who was drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Leading the aforementioned EvoShield Canes team on the mound was Grant Holmes, who looks to lead 36
th ranked Conway High School deep into the playoffs this year. Although he is known for everything he does on the mound as detailed below, Holmes also handles the bat well and shows good bat speed with big-time raw power from the lefthanded batter’s box.

South Carolina’s neighbor to the north also boasts two teams in the top 50, led by Fuquay-Varina, finishing last season 30-6 and falling one win shy of capturing the state championship for the 4A classification. They also have a pair of players that helped lead the EvoShield Canes to victory in outfielder D.J. Burt (Chipola College commit) and hard throwing Brett Daniels (North Carolina) who closed out the win over the Florida Burn. Joining Daniels on the Fuquay-Varina pitching staff is Jordan Bissette (North Carolina State) who has started to see his velocity climb steadily into the upper-80s.

TC Roberson has a nice history of producing high draft picks and Braxton Davidson is poised to join the likes of Cameron Maybin and Justin Jackson as a first-rounder this June. Dominick Cammarata (Tennessee) will handle the pitching staff from behind the plate and helps create a formidable duo in the middle of the lineup. The Rams’ pitching staff took a hit this December when senior righthander Katon Harwood graduated a semester early to enroll at Appalachian State.

Talent is abundant in the state of Virginia, evidenced by the number of players making up the “Dream Team” below. With such a vast array of talent around the state and in all classes, there should be quality match-ups any given week.

Mid-Atlantic High School Dream Team
Based on present tools and position played for high school team

C - Devon Fisher, Sr. Western Branch (Va.)
With a strong 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, Fisher has one of the top arms from behind the plate in the 2014 class, showing plus arm strength and carry on throws to second base. He receives with soft hands and shows quickness in his lower half, allowing him to shift side-to-side and block balls in the dirt. In the batter’s box Fisher shows interesting power potential with solid bat speed and a sound approach, translating to hard contact in game action.

1B - Braxton Davidson, Sr. TC Roberson (N.C.)
Davidson, perhaps the best pure hitter in the 2014 class, is a repeat selection for the Mid-Atlantic Dream Team. The North Carolina commit did nothing but solidify his reputation with the bat last summer and fall, showing both his hit and power tool at all the major circuit events. A lefthanded hitter, Davidson possesses strong pitch recognition with very good bat speed and leverage in his swing. He is a strong athlete with above average arm strength and shows balanced actions on his feet around the first base bag. The sky's the limit for Davidson who just turned 17 years old and is only going to get stronger.

MIF - Jack Gerstenmaier, Sr. Freeman (Va.)
Gerstenmaier is a middle infield prospect who shows sound tools across the board. He ran a 6.64 60-yard dash at the National Showcase last June, and that speed and quickness translates well in the infield. His tools play nicely in the middle of the diamond, showing lateral range to both sides, smooth and quick hands and plenty of arm across the diamond. A gamer and University of Virginia commit, Gerstenmaier's hit tool may be his best attribute, and it plays extremely well in game action. With a fluid righthanded stroke, he shows a strong feel for the barrel of the bat, consistently squaring up live pitching resulting in hard line drive contact. Gerstenmaier also shows a sound approach with a knack for recognizing off-speed pitches and making changes during an at-bat.

MIF - Logan (LT) Tolbert, Jr. Wren (S.C.)
One of two juniors to make the team, Tolbert has consistently shown off his tools on the national level, competing with the EvoShield Canes throughout the summer. With a smooth lefthanded swing, Tolbert shows more power than one would think by eye balling his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame. With a quick swing and solid leverage, the South Carolina commit is able to see his power translate well into game action. Tolbert shows polished, athletic actions up the middle with quick feet and soft hands with above average arm strength. Look for his skills to improve even more as he begins to add strength to his frame.

3B - Charlie Cody, Sr. Great Bridge (Va.)
Like Braxton Davidson, Cody makes his second consecutive appearance on the Mid-Atlantic Dream Team and also shows an advanced feel for the bat. Cody ran a 6.61 60-yard dash at the National Showcase last June, and his overall skill-set is similar to that of Jack Gerstenmaier. Cody shifts his weight through his lower half well and shows fast hands with looseness in his swing. He is able to create consistent, hard line drive contact with the ability to hit to all fields. His defensive tools are just as equivalent to the hit tool, as Cody has no problem making a difficult play at third base look routine thanks to balanced, athletic actions and a strong arm.

OF - Brodie Leftridge, Sr. Saint Johns Catholic Prep (Md.)
Leftridge is a quick-twitch athlete who projects to stay in center field at the next level thanks to his plus arm strength (92 mph during outfield drills at the 2013 National Showcase) and game-changing speed (6.5 second 60-yard dash). His speed allows him to cover ample amounts of ground in the outfield and he also gets good reads on the ball coming off the bat. The tool that projects the most with Leftridge though is the bat, which steadily progressed throughout last summer and exhibits potential for more power. With a lean, projectable 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame, Leftridge shows quick hands with the ability to get the barrel to the ball and turn on high velocity.

OF - Kevin Bryant Jr., Sr. Wade Hampton (S.C.)
Bryant shows top-notch athleticism with outstanding strength and projection, and it’s evident in every facet of his game. A sound runner with plus arm strength (94 mph from the outfield at the National), Bryant has the defensive tools to play right field at the next level, whether it’s at Clemson or in professional baseball. He also shows his strength in the batter’s box with a swing that has begun to create consistent and hard contact. With explosive hands and sound bat speed, Bryant has begun to incorporate his lower half into his swing and can drive the ball to all parts of the field.

OF - Kep Brown, Jr. Wando (S.C.)
It’s hard not to notice Brown on the field as he stands head and shoulders above everybody else, literally, with his 6-foot-5, 207-pound frame. The most surprising aspect of Brown’s game is his foot speed – 6.72 second 60 yard dash – and coordination, a rare combination of traits in taller, young players. A righthanded hitter, Brown gets the most out of his height and long limbs, getting fully extended while generating very nice leverage in his swing. At the point of contact with the barrel, the ball explodes off, creating a sound that’s different than most and carries very well to all parts of the park. The power comes easy as Brown stays behind the ball and remains balanced throughout his swing.

UT - Ryder Ryan, Sr. North Mecklenburg (N.C.)
Ryan defines exactly what a utility player is – a player who can play more than one position at a high level. Ryan is able to excel all over the baseball diamond, showing big arm strength with tools and skill to play anywhere. His tools play well at third base in game action, showing quick reflexes, a strong arm, and a smooth transfer. His athleticism shines both behind the plate and in the outfield with easy actions and a strong arm. On the mound he has been up to 92 mph with a balanced delivery and the ability to generate downhill plane. With the bat Ryan is able to drive the ball to all fields from a balanced righthanded swing, generating easy bat speed with lift while consistently squaring up quality offerings.

P - Grant Holmes, Sr. Conway (S.C.)
Holmes solidified his position among the top righthanded pitchers in the loaded 2014 class last summer. He frequently peaks in the upper-90s with his fastball, and thanks to his strong frame and stamina, he’s able to maintain the mid-90s during the course of a game. Holmes is able to overpower hitters thanks to an effortless arm action that produces a fastball with plus life and the ability to spot throughout the zone. A topic of discussion amongst scouts whenever Holmes is pitching is whether he throws a slider or a curveball, as points could be made for either pitch. The velocity of the pitch suggests slider, but it’s really a power curveball and a present plus pitch thrown in the mid-80s.

P - Alex Destino, Sr. North Buncombe (N.C.)
Also a candidate for the utility position, Destino shows big-time strength in his lefthanded swing, but his equally powerful left arm trumps his prowess at the plate. On the mound the South Carolina commit typically sits 89-91 mph and touches 92 from a loose, easy arm action. The ball jumps out of his hand cleanly, filling up the strike zone with the ability to spot to both sides of the plate. While his changeup is a work in progress, his slider is a very good breaking ball presently, with late break and two-plane depth. He has a strong feel and a polished approach on the mound with advanced pitchability.

P - Derek Casey, Sr. Hanover (Va.)
With a loose, lean, and projectable 6-foot-1 frame, Derek Casey has a strong feel on the mound with smooth, repeatable mechanics. Last October in Jupiter Casey showed his best fastball velocity, topping out at 94 mph while sitting in the low-90s throughout his four-plus innings of work. While his fastball stays true, he is able to elevate the pitch with intent and generate consistent downhill plane. Casey keeps hitters guessing by mixing in a sharp breaking 12-to-6 curveball with hard spin, a slider up to 81 mph, and he also flashes a changeup with which he maintains similar arm speed as his other pitches. A University of Virginia commit, Casey does a nice job of using his lower half in his delivery, which in turn helps to maintain velocity throughout an outing.

P - Blake Bivens, Sr. George Washington (Va.)
After topping out at 91 mph in August at the Atlantic Coast Top Prospect Showcase, Bivens took his game to another level in Jupiter two months later. There Bivens peaked at 93 mph with his fastball, getting good extension on the pitch with pinpoint control to the lower half of the strike zone. He shows the same control of a deep curveball with late 12-to-6 break in the upper-70s – peaking at 81 – and is developing a feel for an upper-70s changeup. By filling up the strike zone and staying low with his pitches, Bivens is able to induce ground ball contact, rarely getting squared up by the opposing hitters.

P - Jacob Bukauskas, Sr. Stone Bridge (Va.)
Originally a member of the 2015 class, Bukauskas reclassified and signed his National Letter of Intent this past fall, allowing him to enroll at the University of North Carolina a year early. With his overall package on the mound, Bukauskas looks every bit the part of a member of the 2014 class and will only improve as he continues to gain strength. Throwing from a quick, compact arm action, Bukauskas generally sits 88-90/91 topping 93 mph, while demonstrating the ability to bring it in on the hands of right-handed batters. He attacks hitters with a three-pitch mix, filling up the zone with three potential plus pitches. The strongest of his off speed is the changeup, a pitch with which he maintains arm speed and shows plus fading action with command. Bukauskas shows the ability to spot his slider throughout the zone with tight spin and late bite.

Mid-Atlantic Region Best Tools

Best Hitter for Average: Braxton Davidson, Sr. TC Roberson (N.C.)
It’s not often you see a young power hitter lead a region in both the average and power categories, but Davidson isn’t your typical amateur hitter. While he is known for his power, it doesn’t come at the expense of him making contact, as there aren’t frequent swings and misses like with other power bats. He has explosive hands and owns the inside part of the plate while demonstrating a strong ability to hit to all fields with strength.

Best Hitter for Power: Braxton Davidson, Sr. TC Roberson (N.C.)
After beating out several worthy seniors last spring, Davidson becomes a repeat selection for the best power in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Using his strong 6-foot-3 200-pound frame, Davidson creates easy loft and pull-side power thanks to his present plus bat speed. He showed his power throughout the summer, putting on an impressive display at the Rawlings Home Run Challenge as part of the 2013 National Showcase in the Metrodome, hitting multiple shots into the upper deck of right field. He also took flame thrower Tyler Kolek deep at the Tournament of Stars, a blast that reached the highway overlooking right field, an estimated 500 plus feet away.

Best Baserunner: Troy Stokes Jr., Sr. Calvert Hall College (Md.)
Stokes is a quick-twitch athlete and prototypical table-setter that most teams would love to have at the top of their order. A strong runner – 6.47 second 60-yard dash at the National – Stokes has the baseball IQ that allows his speed to translate well into game action, knowing when to swipe a bag and stretching extra base hits.

Best Defensive Catcher: Devon Fisher, Sr. Western Ranch (Va.)
The University of Virginia commit shows a strong feel behind the plate with smooth defensive actions. He shows the ability to block balls well in the dirt, shifting his weight nicely and getting his shoulders squared to the ball. But where Fisher excels – and opposing team notice quickly – is with his arm strength. He is outstanding at controlling the running game, delivering missiles to second base with plus carry and accuracy.

Best Defensive Infielder: Henry Davis, Sr. Mayo High Tech (S.C.)
Davis is a quick-twitch athlete who moves extremely well on his feet, showing lateral range to both sides. He exhibits balance throughout his defensive actions with soft hands and arm strength across, tools that will allow him to stay at shortstop at the next level of baseball.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Brodie Leftridge, Sr. St. John’s College Prep (Md.)
Leftridge has all the defensive tools to stay in center field at the next level. With quick feet and the ability to read the ball well off the bat, Leftridge covers vast amounts of ground with solid range and athletic actions. His arm strength also thwarts runners from taking extra bases as he delivers strikes in game action with strong carry and accuracy.

Best Infield Arm: Logan (LT) Tolbert, Jr. Wren (S.C.)
Tolbert shows a loose, quick and strong arm across the diamond, with his top throw registering at 89 mph. As he continues to fill out his frame, the arm strength will only continue to develop as the ball leaves his hand cleanly.

Best Outfield Arm: Kevin Bryant Jr., Sr. Wade Hampton (S.C.)
Although his release may need to be shortened, there is no questioning the arm strength of Bryant in the outfield. With his top throw from the National Showcase clocking at 94 mph, Bryant shows big carry with accuracy and should see his strength continue to improve.

Best Fastball: Grant Holmes, Sr. Conway (S.C.)
As noted above, Holmes has a fastball that has topped at 98 mph and consistently works in the mid-90s. The radar gun readings are eye popping, but his delivery and the life his fastball generates are just as appealing. He attacks batters, pounding the strike zone with a plus fastball, a pitch he is able to throw with surprising low effort.

Best Off-Speed Stuff: Grant Holmes, Sr. Conway (S.C.)
This is the pitch that helps to separate Holmes from the other power arms in the 2014 class. His power curveball is a present plus pitch with big depth, and he overmatches pretty much every batter at the high school level with it. Holmes throws his curveball with confidence with the ability to locate it throughout the zone, getting hitters to swing over the top of it.

Best Command: Jacob Bukauskas, Sr. Stone Bridge (Va.)
Along with having a strong feel for a three-pitch mix, what will help make the transition easier for Bukauskas – who jumped from the 2015 to 2014 – is his ability to throw to spots and set up hitters. He works all three pitches low in the zone with late life and knows how to use them, spotting well to both sides.

Best Pitchability: Alex Destino, Sr. North Buncombe (N.C.)
Using simple, repeatable mechanics, Destino stays poised and shows a polished approach on the mound. With a fastball in the low-90s and a feel for both a changeup and breaking ball, Destino is able to make each pitch play up in game action, building each off one another while executing his pitches on the outer and inner black to opposing hitters. He is consistent with his mechanics and shows very strong command throughout any given outing.

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