The Recruiting Game - 2016

 

Heels add two 2018s >>
  

6/15/2016 8:19:08 PM

It didn’t take long for the North Carolina Tar Heels to see an immediate impact from their presence at the Perfect Game Junior National as they’ve been able to bring a new recruit aboard in each of the last two days. While nothing in recruiting is guaranteed except the uncertain, I can guarantee that this is just the beginning in terms of young talent committing post-Junior National as several players impressed with their performance over the last four days.

Kicking things off for North Carolina was Aaron Sabato out of New York, the younger brother of 2016 recruit Teddy Sabato, who gave his verbal to Coach Mike Fox Tuesday evening. The Heels survived the 2016 MLB Draft arguably better than any school in the country and could come away with the top ranked class while turning their attention to the future as well.

Sabato, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, is a strongly built third baseman who showed both the looseness and strength to his arm to play there at the next level and do so rather easily. Perhaps the bigger tools that’s often associated with the hot corner is the bat and Sabato can certainly swing it with the best of them. After taking one of the louder rounds of batting practice at the Junior National and a potent team that featured several high ranking positional players, Sabato showed the same short and powerful stroke in game lining a double hard to the gap on a line.

Less than 24 hours later the Heels were at it again, this time with two-way Austin Elliott of Delaware. Truly there doesn’t appear to be much that Elliott can’t do on the diamond as he ran a 7.13, threw 93 mph from the outfield, and also swung a loud stick from the right side with whip to the barrel and strength to the pull side.

The tools undoubtedly play at the next level though his highest upside might just be on the mound. Showing the same type of athleticism that he had in the outfield, Elliott came out pounding upper-80s fastballs to the lower third of the strike zone with hard plane and command to either side. The ability to miss bats with the fastball was evident though he also showed a strong feel for a vicious curveball with tight rotation and hard downer life in the mid-70s and a firm, low-80s changeup with solid arm speed.

Overall Sabato and Elliott are the third and fourth commits to North Carolina’s 2018 recruiting class, joining righthander Michael Bacica and middle infielder Nick Biddison. If the classes that the Heels’ coaching staff have put together are any indication of things to come, expect a few more big names to be wearing Carolina Blue in a couple of seasons. 

Auburn adds two; '17 & '19 >>
  

6/1/2016 12:54:27 PM

It’s been a bit since the last update as draft mode is in full swing, but with the season ending for teams throughout the country it’s only a matter of time before the trail heats back up. We’ll begin with Auburn as they’ve made the most recent splash and jumped on board with a 2019 commit, the first in the class, with a lefthanded hitting catcher out of Georgia in Ryan Dyal. A member of the Homeplate program during the summer, Dyal is full of athleticism and recently ran a 6.91 60-yard at the Perfect Game Sunshine East showcase where he also popped a 1.96 and threw 76 mph from behind the dish. Coach Butch Thompson and Recruiting Coordinator Brad Bohannon have hit recruiting hard since coming together and Dyal could very well be the catcher of the future, especially when you factor in the smooth stroke from the left side and the physical projection remaining on his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame.

 

Last week the Tigers proved willing to leave the Southeast in search of talent and they came away with a young and projectable righthander out of Wisconsin in Ryan Hoerter. Listed at 6-foot-6, 185-pounds Hoerter is certainly a projectable arm and one the coaching staff has high hopes for. Hoerter serves as the ninth piece in the 2017 class for Auburn and might be end up being as good as any of them as we’ve seen his velocity jump from the low- to mid-80s last fall to touching 90s this spring with plenty of reason to believe there’s more in the tank. On a side note, Wisconsin is becoming a “hot bed” of sorts and though it’ll never be at the level of Florida or California, this isn’t your typical Midwest state as young players are being popped left and right. 

'18 Hoglund & '17 Jordan lead big week >>
  

4/16/2016 9:43:24 AM

It was another busy week out on the trail as several of the top schools throughout the country brought high level commits aboard, locking down solid pieces for their respective classes prior to the summer circuit getting under way.

Mississippi made arguably the biggest splash of the week with the commitment of righthanded pitcher Gunnar Hoglund, a 6-foot-4 2018 graduate out of Hudson, Florida. Ranked No. 31 in the country according to Perfect Game’s national rankings, Hoglund possesses one of the easiest arm action in the class and it’s one that can produce a 90 mph fastball while looking as though he’s playing catch. Along with the hard running life to his fastball, the fifth commit in the Rebels 2018 class shows both a curveball and changeup for strikes and is the summer teammate of fellow commit Hunter Townsend, an outfielder out of Texas.

Another “big” prospect to make his commitment was 6-foot-9 righthander Ben Jordan who elected to stay in-state and commit to the University of Kentucky. A well known prospect since the beginning of his high school career, the class of 2017 graduate now works into the low-90s with his fastball and there’s plenty of reason to believe there’s more, especially as he continues fill out with additional strength. The 67th ranked prospect in the class, Jordan is the second commitment within the 2017 top 100 joining Bryson Hutchinson as two of the seven total commitments in the Wildcats’ class.

One of those other five 2017 Kentucky commits is righthander Trip Lockhart who also gave his verbal to Coach Gary Henderson and the rest of the coaching staff. A long and projectable 6-foot-2, Lockhart features a fastball that works into the upper-80s and touches 90 while showing an advanced slider and a strong overall feel for the strike zone.

The new coaching staff at the Auburn have done a nice job of hitting the trial rather frequently and have come away with their latest piece in ultra-athletic 2017 outfielder, Bubba Thompson. An Alabama native, Thompson is a plus-runner with reports of him clocking in around 6.4 in the 60-yard which obviously puts his athleticism on display. A righthanded hitter, the 6-foot-2 Thompson shows a feel from the barrel from the right side and is the eighth commit in the Tigers 2017 class.

Kody Milton is another talented sophomore, class of 2018, who gave his commitment over the last week. Staying in-state by committing to Coach John Szefc and the rest of the University of Maryland coaching staff, Milton, who is the son of former MLB pitcher Eric Milton who’s also a Maryland alum, brings another potential power bat to the Terps' class. Listed at 6-foot-2, 180-pounds Milton left a big impression after the WWBA World Championships where he earned All-Tournament honors after showing highly projectable bat speed and a willingness to use all fields, both of which helped him finish with a .400 average for the tournament. In terms of the Maryland class, Milton is the fifth commit to an already highly impressive 2018 class.

Ranked No. 222 in the class of 2017, righthander Jack Leftwich’s commitment was the ninth for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and he’s also their top ranked recruit in the 2017 according to Perfect Game’s national rankings. By no means a stranger to PG events as he’s thrown in several while competing for the Orlando Scorpions organization, Leftwich is a strong bodied arm who’s capable of running his fastball up to 90 mph and he’s one you can project upon rather easily for additional velocity. The arm action is loose and throughout an outing Leftwich is capable of showing three different pitches for strikes.

One of the top ranked players who remained uncommitted, talented righthander Anthony Molina recently gave his commitment to the coaching staff at Northwest Florida State College. Ranked No. 136 in the class of 2016, Molina has been a highly touted arm ever since his Perfect Game debut back in 2012. An extremely loose and projectable 6-foot-4, 185-pounds, Molina regularly works into the low-90s with his fastball, bumping 94 without hardly any effort at release and could gain additional velocity with continued physical strength. 

Westminster takes on Pope >>
  

4/16/2016 8:17:13 AM

A matchup of a pair of likely first round picks garnered the attention of several dozen scouts over to the Westminster School outside of Atlanta. Westminster, with talented seniors Will Benson and Rankin Woley, took on Pope with star third basemen and right handed pitcher, Josh Lowe.

Lowe made the start for Pope on the mound, firing two innings before moving back over to third base to play the remainder of the game. He worked from a high three-quarter arm slot with plus arm speed and generated good extension downhill. Lowe throws super easily and maintains and upper velocity band with minimal effort at release. The ball explodes out of his and with tons of angle and jumps on hitters with subtle arm-side life. He worked his fastball between 91-93 mph throughout both of his innings and hit 94 mph in the first with really heavy action.

His velocity on the mound was not a concern as he’d shown the plus arm strength in the past and at third base. What hurt him in his two innings Friday night was his command. Lowe saw several pitches get way past the catcher and reach the backstop. He had trouble throwing strikes to both sides of the plate and when he found the middle he was barreled, hard.

Lowe had good lower-half involvement with strong drive and a long, mostly fluid arm action to the plate. He showed a curveball offering at 82 mph with good 11-5 shape that flashed sharpness. He also showed an interesting changeup at 85 mph with good arm-side fade and replicated his arm speed well. He used both his breaking and off-speed offerings sparingly.

The highly athletic Lowe stands at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds with plus athleticism on both the mound and at the plate. He’s got long limbs with broad shoulders and tons of room to continue to fill out in his frame.

At the plate, he showed the same plus bat speed with a line drive plane at times. He was not super consistent at the plate and at times looked to be pressing. When Lowe looked his best was during his second at-bat where he dropped the bat head and effortlessly flicked a double to left-center. He has very strong, loose wrists and gets extended to the outer third well. 

He stays balanced through his swing with a simple weight transfer from his leg lift timing mechanism and hand load. There is some lift in his swing that will allow his strength and bat speed to translate to home run power at the next level. He's already shown the ability this spring to drive the ball with authority over the fence and around the field. Lowe does very well to use the whole field in his approach with good feel for barrel timing. 

As noted, Lowe has supreme levels of athleticism. On the aforementioned double, Lowe turned in a turn around first base at times clocked between 4.06-4.12 across various scout stopwatches. He also turned in a straight away time of 4.05 early on in the game on a groundout. That's easy plus speed from a player who can also hit for power. 

For as athletic and projectable as Lowe is, 6-foot-6, 220 pound Westminster centerfielder, Will Benson dwarfs him comparatively. Benson physically reminds me of Jason Heyward with super long arms, broad shoulders and is riddled with athleticism. Benson also has tons of strength already in his frame and will continue to develop once he signs a professional contract.

Benson in warmups casually was playing catch from the right-center field fence to the left field foul pole before the game, getting about a dozen or so throws in on-line and in the air. He's got a very strong arm that he did show off in the field, holding a runner to third after a ground ball single up the middle. There was not an opportunity to see his range tested, as the only ball not grounded his way were a pair of balls smoked to the gaps fielded by the corner outfielders. His first step quickness was noticed though with good routes to the ball.

The Duke commit starts at the plate with a wide base and a high hand set. He uses a leg kick timing mechanism with a deeper hand load into his swing.  He showed easy plus bat speed and altered his swing so he's not limited to pitches on the inside part of the plate. In the much awaited matchup against Lowe in the first inning, Benson earned an anticlimactic walk after a good battle between the two. He fouled off several of Lowe's fastballs, but did hold his own against plus velocity.

Benson did get beat a little inside with fastballs from other pitchers later on in the game. He was jammed on a fly ball that his strength took all the way to the warning track in right field and weakly reached on an infield hit later in the game. He did swing with intent to drive the ball, he was just beaten inside. 

His most impressive at-bat came in the bottom of the seventh with the game tied at 11-11. Benson took the first two pitches then blasted a deep shot that landed not a foot short of the top of the wall. He got really well extended and showed explosive hands through the zone with an optimal launch angle. Unfortunately, however, Benson thought he had delivered a walk-off home run and only ended up at first when it landed. To make up for it, he promptly stole second and took third on a wild pitch before coming around to score the winning run. 

The steal was his second of the game as he showed an aggressive approach on the bases and good ability to read balls in the dirt. On his infield hit earlier on in the game he was clocked at 4.21 down the line from the left side, but it plays above average with his base running. 

Recap of a busy week >>
  

4/5/2016 5:05:00 PM

With the college season well under way and high school also in the thick of things throughout most places in the country, coaches have been able to start getting out and hitting the trail. And as a result commitments have continued to pour in from all parts of the country with teams locking down pieces and filling up spots in their recruiting classes.

  • Georgia Tech was the last team to make a bigger move that we detailed in “The Recruiting Game” with lefthander Brant Hurter. Since Hurter made his decision roughly a week ago Coach Danny Hall and crew have brought two additional 2017s on board, bumping the class to 12 commits, all of whom are from Georgia. Catcher Jamie Taylor of Marist High School offers plenty of athleticism and a strong righthanded bat to a position the Jackets needed to help round out the class.  Along with Taylor, Tech’s most recently brought aboard 6-foot-3 first baseman/lefthanded pitcher Joseph Mannelly who offers intriguing potential as a two-way prospect after running his fastball up to 89 mph this summer. Ranked No. 473 in the country, Mannelly is the seventh Georgia Tech commit ranked within Perfect Game’s top 500.
  • The coaching staff at the University of Miami continues to show no fear in leaving the Sunshine State in pursuit of talent and their latest commit brought them across the country and into California. A well put-together 5-foot-11, 175-pound lefthanded hitting catcher, Jared Thomas of Lakewood, Calif., represents the fifth commit in 2019 for the Canes, joining the likes of Tristan Casas, Matthew Allan, Jake Holland, and Mykanthony Valdez, all of whom of Florida residents.
  • Ranked No. 365 in the 2018 class, righthander Jahred Butler gave his verbal commitment to the coaching staff at Cal State Fullerton recently, joining catcher Kameron Ojeda as the two future Titans according to the Perfect Game database. A strongly built righthander who’s listed at 6-foot-2, 205-pounds, Butler has been up to 85 mph in past Perfect Game events and there’s reports that he has since touched higher. Showing an easy and loose arm action Butler complements his fastball with a tight spinning slider and a nice changeup, both in the mid-70s.
  • For the second time in their 2017 recruiting class the Duke Blue Devils dipped their toes into Ohio, coming away with lefthander Matt Dockman. Listed at a long and projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pounds Dockman has seen an uptick in velocity this spring, working into the upper-80s as opposed to the lower-80s he showed this summer with the Ohio Elite. Though he’s already seen on jump in velocity, there’s reason to believe there more in the tank and his commitment adds a nice lefthanded option to the class that’s now eight commits deep and hadn’t previously had a lefthanded pitcher.
  • Herbert Iser, a Perfect Game All-American this past summer, is currently ranked No. 65 in the class of 2016 and he recently gave his verbal commitment to San Jacinto (TX), a perennial powerhouse in the junior college ranks. A highly sought prospect ever since he entered the prospect scene a couple of years ago, Iser shows outstanding tools across the board with arm strength from behind the dish that would rival any in the 2016 class. Despite the top of the charts arm strength it’s Iser’s lefthanded power that has had people stop and stare, as he’s capable of hitting them as far as anybody and does so with relative ease.
  • The University of Arkansas closed out the weekend and came away with a couple of young pieces for their 2018 and 2019 classes. Caden Monke, a very projectable 6-foot-1, 148-pound lefthanded pitcher, recently impressed at the Perfect Game Indoor Showcase where he showed a loose and clean arm action that produced a top fastball of 84 mph. Already capable of spinning a slider in the low-70s that features tilting life, Monke will undoubtedly add velocity with continued physical strength and is an easy one to project on. While Monke was the third Razorback commit in the 2018 class, catcher Nathan Stevens is the first commit in the 2019 class and one the coaching staff is happy to have on board. Yet another young talent out of the ever blossoming Midwest, Stevens offers a very short and quick stroke from the left side with plenty of bat speed and a frame that’s only going to continue to add strength and power to the profile. 
GT stays hot, Rebels make 2019 splash >>
  

3/28/2016 3:54:18 PM

After capturing the weekend series at Boshamer Stadium against a top-ten ranked club in the University of North Carolina, the good news continued to roll in for Coach Danny Hall and staff as they picked up a big in-state commit. Big is a fitting adjective to describe 2017 lefthander Brant Hurter as he’s listed at 6-foot-6 and possesses the type of strength on his frame to endure a starting role at the next level.

Still projectable moving forward, Hurter’s fastball already bumps into the upper-80s with a long and loose arm action but with the deception and ability to hide the ball in the back, it gets on top of hitters quickly. A member of the 6-4-3 organization, Hurter is extremely athletic and coordinated for his size and with that he’s able to pound the strike zone with a full array of offerings. A quick look at his Perfect Game profile reveals what type of summer Hurter put together as he was named to seven All-Tournament teams out of the eight that he participated in. Like the fastball, he shows strong command of both his breaking ball and changeup, manipulating the strike zone while working ahead in counts.

Hurter’s commit is the tenth for the Yellow Jackets in their 2017 class and as they have in the past, it has a very Georgia-centric feel as all ten hail from the Peach State.

Making noise since the 2016 collegiate season opened up, the Ole Miss Rebels made their latest noise by committing their first 2019, infielder Zack Smith out of Winder-Barrow High School in Winder, Georgia. Joining the likes of juniors Beau Hanna (Kennesaw State) and Patrick DeMarco (Vanderbilt) in the Winder Barrow lineup, Smith is their latest high level commit and would that could be quite good for Ole Miss.

Listed at 6-foot, 175-pounds, Smith already sports advanced physicality that plays well into his lefthanded swing yet he still projects very well given his age. A corner infielder with actions that play there for the next level, Smith’s bat is a tool that intrigues as he can already hit for both average a power. Playing for Team Elite again this summer, the pipeline continues to run from Georgia to Swayze Stadium in Oxford as 2016 RHP Will Ethridge as well as 2017 bats Tyler Keenan and Golston Gillipsie have all committed to the Rebels. 

Zeferjahn in Mid-Season Form >>
  

3/26/2016 6:10:00 AM

Perfect Game All-Amercian right hander Ryan Zeferjahn just finished up his basketball season two weeks ago and averaged almost 16 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists per game en route to being named second team All-State in one of the biggest school classifications in the state.  The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior had a game high of 41 points for the 15-7 Seaman High School Vikings.

From the look of his performance yesterday during Seaman's first baseball game of the year, Zeferjahn is already in mid-season baseball form.

A commit to nearby University of Kansas, about a 30-minute run east down I-70, Zeferjahn threw a complete game two-hit shutout, not walking a hitter and striking out 11.  Lest one worry about high pitch counts in the first game of the season, Zeferjahn, who was on an 85-pitch limit, exceeded that by only one pitch in using 86.

Zeferjahn's raw stuff was consistent with what he showed at multiple events last summer.  He topped out at 94 mph early and probably averaged 91 mph over the course of the outing.  He was hitting 92's and 93's as late as the fifth inning and had the scouts talking about how well he was maintaining his velocity.  Zeferjahn could have probably powered his fastball downhill to the bottom of the zone more often but he got big running action frequently even when he was in the middle of the plate.

He worked primarily with his fastball in the early innings but started to work his slider in more frequently, especially in strike out counts, as the game progressed.  When Zeferjahn stays on top of the pitch its a quality offering in the 80-83 mph range with tight spin and occasional big two-plane depth.  He has a tendency to drop his arm slot on the pitch and get under it at 76-78 mph at times.  I was told that he does this intentionally to give the hitters a different look but he will need to get rid of this at the next level.

Zeferjahn tried a few changeups in the fifth inning and this is still a pitch in its infancy that will need to be worked on further.

There were times last summer, especially early in outings when he was still over excited, where Zeferjahn would rush his mechanics and get out of sync.  There was no evidence of that at all this outing and he was in complete control and maintaining his pace and mechanics from the first pitch.

All in all it was an outstanding outing and very promising for Zeferjahn's spring and 2016 draft potential.  He is currently 33rd in the Perfect Game 2016 class rankings and likely seen by the scouting community as a solid second round selection.  With a whole spring ahead of him, that could certainly keep moving up as he gets further off the basketball court.

Note:  Scouts evaluating Zeferjahn this spring will appreciate that he has a very interesting catcher in 2018 Jackson Cobb.  Cobb is a very athletic 6-foot-3, 195-pound left handed hitter who also stars with Zeferjahn on the basketball court.  He handled Zeferjahn's low 90's heat easily and did a very good job of blocking low sliders, even when there was no runners on base.  Cobb also hits third in the Seaman line up and showed a nice swing with some present bat speed.

A Tale of Two Days >>
  

3/25/2016 8:45:42 AM

Wednesday was a wonderful day for baseball in Kansas, with mild temperatures and an outstanding showing by Riley Pint.  Thursday was......not such a good day for baseball, at least if you were a scout looking to evaluate left hander Lucas Krull of Mill Valley (KS) High School.

The weather was awful, starting with going outside to mid-30's and light sleet in the morning and then moving on to the overcast and windy mid-40's late afternoon conditions.  The field at Bonner Springs High School was soggy and the 30 or so scouts at the game all had on their heaviest jackets.

Metaphorically, the weather basically was the same as Krull's short day on the mound.

Krull, an Arkansas signee, is listed at 6-foot-7, 225-pounds, although I would eyeball him as a bit shorter than that.  He has a highly athletic build and physically resembles a young Madison Bumgarner.  Both Krull's parents were athletes at Kansas State, playing football and basketball.  He is also a very young senior and won't turn 18-years old until July.

Krull hasn't circulated much nationally and has only appeared at the 2015 WWBA 17U National Championships and the 2015 Area Code Games, where I saw him pitch with a sound delivery and a very projectable 88-92 mph fastball.  He is ranked 263rd in the Perfect Game 2016 class rankings and going into the day I thought that ranking was on the conservative side, basically due to the comparatively short resume more than the physical tools and projection.

The performance summary of the game is pretty simple.   Krull faced nine hitters, walked seven of them and struck out two.  He managed to pick off a couple of runners and had his catcher picked off another but he could never make the adjustments he needed to make to throw strikes. 

Krull's delivery is fairly sound for his age and his arm action is compact and repeatable.  There is no easy and obvious reason mechanically to account for his inability to throw strikes this day.  From conversations with area scouts, there is also no history of it as well.

The raw stuff was consistent with what I'd seen before.  Krull's fastball was 88-91, with one 92 early, and had lots of late running life.  That running life cost him a number of strikes, as he consistently missed arm side with fastballs that were just off the outside corner.  Notably, when Krull was having obvious problems throwing strikes with his fastball he didn't attempt to mix in any breaking balls, throwing only two in warmups and only one in the game.  The pitch has tight spin at 73 mph and can be developed into a solid pitch for him in the future if he would use it more.

A good lesson for young pitchers who are struggling to throw strikes with their fastballs is to mix in some curveballs, especially if your fastball is consistently missing arm side.  The action and process of coming around and over the ball on the curveball release, taking the ball to the glove side if possible, can help the fastball release and location.  And in a more simplistic sense, if one pitch isn't working, try something else.

I sense the real reason behind Krull's unfortunate performance was more mental than physical.  It was the first game of the season.  The conditions were rough.  There were a bunch of scouts pointing radar guns at him.  It looked like he was almost hyper-ventilating during the first inning and he was rushing between pitches like there was a time limit on throwing the ball.  When he got a bit squeezed on some early pitches, as happens, he didn't have the ability to step back, take a deep breath and refocus himself.

That's something the young man can learn from now and apply another day.  That talent is definitely there.

Riley Pint Shines in Spring Debut >>
  

3/24/2016 8:09:50 AM

It falls under the category of Completely Miscellaneous Historical Speculation but Riley Pint probably did something that no high school player, and indeed, likely no baseball player period, has ever done before.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in suburban Kansas City hit a grand slam home run and touched 99 mph on the radar gun.  In the first inning of his game of the year. Think about the chances of that happening!

The game was played under seasonally comfortable conditions with temperatures in the low 70's with a stiff breeze blowing out to left field and just hours before a cold front hammered Kansas City.  The hype around Pint in the area was such that the game was being televised by a local sports cable station.  The hype surrounding Pint in the scouting community was such that there were an estimated 65-75 scouts in attendance, including the scouting directors for the Reds (second overall pick) and Braves (third).  The Phillies, who have the first overall pick, had cross checkers at the field.

Pint's grand slam in the top of the first inning was an absolute bomb, traveling an estimated 410-420 feet to left centerfield, helped a bit by the aforementioned breeze.  The irony is that Pint came up again in the same inning and again with the bases loaded.  After one mighty Ruthian cut (and a sheepish grin when he missed) that left no doubt as to his intentions, Pint drew a walk for another RBI.  St. Thomas Aquinas led 9-0 before they took the field, leaving the scouting assembly to provide Pint's motivation instead of the scoreboard.

Pint's three innings on the mound were nothing short of spectacular.  He pitched at 95-99 mph in the first inning and settled in at 93-96 for the next two frames.  Pint struggled at times last summer to throw strikes with his fastball but he seemed to be throwing with less effort and more compact mechanics this time out.  He did miss high a couple of times but was generally pounding his fastball downhill to the lower quadrants of the zone well.  His arm action in particular seemed to be a bit more compact than when I've previously seen him and it worked very well for him.

The biggest revelation of the outing, however, was Pint's changeup, which he threw 8-10 times almost all at 88 mph.  Throwing an 88 mph changeup to high school hitters seems at the surface to be doing them a big favor but the movement and location on the pitch made it no favor.  Pint manipulated the grip to where he alternately got both standard changeup fade and run but other times created cutter/slider type action on the pitch.  I was seated a bit off to the side and had to ask a friend directly behind the plate if it was indeed a slider.  He said definitely not, that it was a changeup. 

Pint's curveball, which he threw maybe 6 times and primarily in strikeout counts, was a third pitch that showed plus at times.  It was mostly 83 mph from a consistent release point and arm speed as his fastball and had big hard biting action about half the time.

The wildness that plagued Pint at times during the summer wasn't there.  He had some issues finding his curveball release point warming up in the bullpen but threw some extras and found it by the time he went to the mound.  He didn't walk a hitter in the game while striking out seven.

Overall, it was as impressive a pitching performance as I ever recall seeing for a high school pitcher, especially considering the time of year and location.  It brought to mind Josh Beckett in high school, when Beckett would regularly throw 94-96 with an unhittable curveball.  Except Beckett would always throw two or three changeups between innings to show scouts that the pitch was there.   Pint went out and showed that changeup in the game with outstanding effect.

Jason Groome will reportedly make his first start of the season on April 1.  Pint has already laid down his benchmark as a potential number one overall pick (and notably, perhaps the first high school right hander ever selected first overall).  It will be interesting to see how Groome answers.

There's Baseball in the Upper Midwest >>
  

3/22/2016 5:33:32 AM

Since at least mid-February, the temperatures in the Upper Midwest have been unseasonably mild, much like they have been in the rest of the country.  That's given players at all level the chance to get outside very early and get their work in, often on grass that is uncommonly green for this time of year.

But high school and college baseball schedules don't kick off in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas until mid to late March, dates that in some years seem optimistic at best for baseball.  But baseball has indeed started up and with a talent base and schedule that has drawn dozens of scouts, including a healthy percentage of cross-checkers, to the three games I've seen thus far.

Friday, March 18, led off the season for Nebraska high school baseball with a match up between two of the top teams in Nebraska, Westside and Millard West.  PG All-American SS Cole Stobbe of Millard West was the main attraction.  Unfortunately, both coaches seemed to recognize that their teams would play each other many times this spring and again in the Legion summer season (all important in Nebraska) and held back their top pitchers.

Westside didn't throw two-way prospect 1B/LHP Mitchell Hagan, a Tulane signee who has reportedly been touching the low 90's in winter workouts.  Nor did Millard West throw 6-5 sophomore Colby Gomes, a Nebraska commit who admittedly is just coming out of basketball, where he was a starter for the Millard West team this winter.

While it was a successful day for Millard West, which won 8-0, it wasn't a win for Stobbe and the scouts, many of whom left early for a Creighton game 10 miles away.  The right handed slugger struck out his first at-bat while expanding the zone and was seen to mutter "That is way too slow to hit" to the next hitter as he walked back to the dugout.  Stobbe walked his next two times up without swinging the bat, once intentionally with Millard West already holding a four-run lead.

One fears that such a day will repeat itself often this spring for Stobbe, who fortunately has one of the longest and best developed resumes against top level competition in the 2016 class nationally due to summer ball.

Sunday featured the Perfect Game Iowa Spring League's annual swing through Council Bluffs across the river from Omaha.  The main scouting attraction was left hander Spencer Van Scoyoc, the 58th ranked player in the 2016 class and an Arizona State signee.  Despite some of the coldest conditions in the last month, with temperatures in the upper 30's, Van Scoyoc threw well, working mostly 87-89 mph with his fastball and showing the usual power and bite to his mid-70's curveball.  His mechanics were in early season form, as he tended to drift out early in his delivery and leave his arm behind and late, causing his fastball to miss arm side consistently.  This is something that Van Scoyoc has fought against in the past at times but the two-way standout is too athletic not to eventually make the adjustment.

Van Scoyoc's younger brother, Connor, a 2018 right hander, was also very solid in the same game, showing the same type of loose and easy arm his brother has.  He worked at 84-87 mph with excellent life at times on his fastball to go with a low-70's curveball that had big depth when he got out front with it.

6-foot-4, 205 pound Iowa Western CC signee Keaton Winn also showed off his arm strength, topping out at 90 mph and working consistently in the upper 80's.  Iowa signee shortstop Kyle Crowl's right handed bat looked to be in mid-season form and he impacted the ball hard while also playing well in the middle of the field.

Monday, March 21, marked the start of high school baseball season in Kansas.  As has been noted before in other stories on the PG site, the state of Kansas has perhaps its best collection of premium high school talent ever and most of it is centered in about a 25-mile area in south and west Kansas City suburbs.

The first game of what looks to be an outstanding scouting week featured PG All-American shortstop Nonie Williams of Turner High School.  Williams is actually home schooled but lives a couple of long throws from Turner and is allowed to play at the school due to high school regulations in Kansas.

Williams, an LSU signee, looks even stronger than he did last summer and may be faster as well.  According to sources, a Major League team held a workout for 20-25 elite prospects in early February in Chicago and conducted some NFL combine-type workouts as part of it.  Williams swept all the different aspects of the workout, including a 10-foot, 6-inch standing broad jump, then went out and ran a 6.46 sixty the next day.

A switch-hitter, Williams alternated right and left handed rounds during batting practice.  He was outstanding from the right side, showing big bat speed and easily hitting 10-12 home runs on the very small Turner field.  His left handed swing didn't have the same bat speed or lift with more of a sweeping action to it.  Interestingly, when the PG All-Americans were measured for bat speed by Zepp at the All-American Classic last August, Williams posted the two top swing velocities, one right handed and one left handed.

The most impressive part of Williams' performance on the day was his big improvement on defense.  While he took In and Out both in centerfield and at shortstop, his arm action is much better suited at present for the infield.  What stood out was how much better Williams footwork and approach through the ball was on grounders in all directions.  His actions last summer were often tentative, like someone learning a new position, but they were natural, confident and aggressive on every ball both before and during the game.  Virtually every one of his throws were mid-chest strikes as well.

I asked Williams about his improvement defensively and he answered "What really stands out for me was all the time I spent with Gavin Lux and Tyler Fitzgerald at the All-American Classic last August.  I watched them and talked to them about playing shortstop and really learned a lot that I've tried to work into my game."

Williams opportunities on offense in the game somewhat mirrored Stobbe's.  He has decided, at least for the time being, to alternate hitting right handed and left handed in games regardless of which side the pitcher is throwing from, something this scout doesn't remember seeing but does give him far more at-bats from his right, or stronger, side.  It also creates the amusing sight of a large group of scouts moving back and forth from side to side to follow each of his at-bats.

Hitting left handed his first time up, Williams hit a very sharp one-hop ground ball to second base and ran hard the entire way despite being out by 15-20 feet, posting a nice 4.09 home to first time.  His second time up resulted in a high wind blown pop up single, then he was walked and hit by a pitch in his final two trips to the plate.  He did end up scoring three runs in a 8-6 come from behind Turner win.

The rest of the week in Kansas city looks just as promising.  The schedule maps out as:  Tuesday:  LHP/1B Joey Wentz, Wednesday:  RHP Riley Pint, Thursday:  LHP Lucas Krull, Friday: RHP Ryan Zeferjahn.

Check back on this blog for updates!

Gators & Dores make splashes >>
  

3/20/2016 6:12:42 PM

There doesn’t appear to be anything that can stand in the way of the Vanderbilt Commodores landing their intended targets and last week the coaching staff added two more impressive arms. The last time the Commodores committed and brought a junior college (JUCO) player to Nashville you’d have to go back to 2012 when righthander Drew Verhagen stepped foot on campus. Coach Tim Corbin and staff are hoping that righthander Justin Wilson of Volunteer State (Tenn.) follows the same path as Verhagen as the future appears bright for the fresh armed, two-way Wilson.

A member of the 2016 recruiting class that’s currently ranked No. 1 in the nation by Perfect Game, Wilson recently took the mound at the PG Spring Swing and it was there that we got our most recent look at the power armed righthander. A primary catcher out of high school who did get up to 93 mph at the 18U WWBA Memorial Day Classic, Wilson is still relatively new to the mound and with his fresh arm and clean arm action there’s reason to believe there’s more velocity and high upside potential with continued repetitions.

Listed at a lean and projectable 6-foot-2, Wilson has done a good bit of catching for the Pioneers this spring and in each of his two outing at Lake Point he worked out of the bullpen for an inning after catching the previous eight. He consistently worked in the low-90s with his heater, touching as high as 94 mph, with a fast arm through the back working to an over the top slot with quality downhill plane and angle to the plate. Whether he makes it to campus remains to be seen as he could continue to entice scouts the more he takes the mound with his type of velocity, relative freshness, and the limited innings he has under his belt.

For almost two years now there was a feeling that the 2018 class coming out of Georgia could be a special one as it was full of high end projection guys, all of whom have continued to make strides moving forward. Take quick peak at the Perfect Game 2018 rankings now and you’ll notice 13 of the top 100 prospects come from the state of Georgia. And of those 13, nine already committed, four of whom are committed to the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The latest Peach State product to call Nashville his future home is righthander Makenzie Stills of Fayetteville, Georgia, the No. 23 ranked prospect nationally, and he joins Ethan Hankins (No. 4), Will Banfield (No. 14), and Jared Hart (No. 25) to for quite the quartet of young prospects.

Though he’s not the biggest of arms in terms of stature, listed at 5-foot-11, 175-pounds, Stills shows some of the biggest stuff in his graduating class as he was recently up to 94 mph and routinely works in the low-90s. Despite his height Stills does an excellent job of creating plane to the plate to go with the late running life, all of which is made possible in part to his lightening quick right arm. His slider has a chance to be a swing-and-miss offering as does his changeup, a pitch he maintains and repeats his arm action on very well to round out a full three pitch arsenal.

We might still be two years away from the 2018 class rankings being finalized but as of now it’s looking like a near impossible feat to knock Vanderbilt from the top as 13 of their 16 commits are within the top 100, good for 204 total points on the recruiting scale.

Ranked just behind Vanderbilt in the No. 4 slot for 2017 class rankings is Coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s Florida Gators, whose most recent commit gives them their 13th commit overall and sixth ranked within the top 100. The class gained another quality piece a couple of weeks back, though it wasn't a new commit as outfielder Christian Robinson jumped from the 2018 class to 2017, expediting his time to get to Gainesville. 

The most recent piece to the puzzle is lefthanded hitting catcher Zach Jackson, ranked No. 75 amongst the 2017 class, who attends Haines City Senior High School (Fla.). In a class that already features high end athletic type players who can handle the barrel, Jackson offers a middle of an order type bat and with the added physicality to his 6-foot-3 frame he’s seen the gap-type power translate into over-the-fence strength.

The first time I personally saw Jackson was back in October of 2013 at the Perfect Game Florida Qualifier as a rising freshman who had yet to log a varsity inning. Nonetheless he showed abilities on both sides of the ball and had no troubles handling arms who were three years older and working in the upper-80s with quality breaking stuff. Jackson has done a nice job of refining his skills behind the plate ever since and shows impressive arm strength with plenty of carry on his consistent sub-2 pops.

Jackson is yet another quality get for O’Sullivan whose scouting prowess continues to shine as the spring progresses down in Gainesville with arguably the top two freshman arms in the country and two everyday regulars locked in at the plate. 

 

Brown Anchors Down >>
  

3/17/2016 2:46:23 PM

Vanderbilt hasn’t shied away from locking down the top talent available and during Tuesday afternoon they picked up their latest with righthander Tyler Brown out of Ohio. What the Commodores and Coach Tim Corbin are getting in Brown is a physical, power armed righty who stands 6-foot-2, 230-pounds and possesses both the frame and stuff to project as a starter down the line. The fastball has been clocked in the low-90s in the past with a full and quick arm action and a hard, late breaking ball which he throws for strikes.

Set to begin his junior season at Olentangy Orange in Ohio, this isn’t Vanderbilt’s first time dipping their toes into the Buckeye State as their 2016 class alone has two signees with righthander Christopher Machamer and catcher Tyler Duvall. Like Duvall, Brown is a member of the Midland program based out of Ohio and it continues a nice pipeline between the two programs.  

The latest commit to Perfect Game’s top recruiting class for 2017, Brown is the 7th righthander to commit and his Ohio residence represents the 10th different state, plus Cooper Davis who is an Ontario native. With the collegiate season well underway and high school starting up through the country, we can expect to see an uptick in commitments on a national level. 

Farmer, Bergner impress in Florida >>
  

3/15/2016 10:39:11 AM

Justin Farmer, OF, 2017, Riverview HS (Riverview, FL) | Florida commit

Farmer is currently 14th in the national outfielder rankings for the class of 2017, so there was a mix of disappointment and excitement when I got to the field and found out he was scheduled to pitch. Pitching isn’t something Farmer does. It is almost foreign to him, but his pure and natural athleticism translated well to the mound to the point where you would never think this isn’t a secondary position for him.

On the mound his arm was long and strong while firing from a high three-quarters slot. The ball comes out of his hand clean and his arm the strength was evident. The delivery is pretty simple as you would expect without a lot of moving parts. Farmer’s fastball was sitting 84-87 through the first inning and a half and then was more 83-85 the rest of his outing. While the fastball was quick and showing a heavy feel, the University of Florida commit started spinning a decent 12-to-6 curveball in the second inning. The breaking ball wasn’t sharp every time, but he spun a few that really had some teeth in the 67-69 mph range. The athletic righthander wasn’t showing a lightning quick arm, so to see him easily pumping mid to upper-80s really speaks to just how strong his arm is.

Farmer has a solid 6-foot, 190-pound frame that oozes speed and quick-twitch athleticism. He has a high waist and solid strength from top to bottom. At the plate, Farmer stands closed and balanced with his hands high and near his head. They drift a bit while loading, but he gets them set and ready to fire on time without any timing issues. He gets the barrel into the zone quickly and keeps it on a level plane throughout the zone. With the present bat speed and swing plane, Farmer has a swing that will produce a lot of loud and hard line drive contact. Still only a junior, Farmer showed a very good idea of the strike zone and would not help the pitcher out by expanding. He spit on a few very solid pitchers pitches without hesitation. This type of strike zone discipline paired with his swing and bat speed has the makings of a big time draft prospect come June 2017.

Austin Bergner, RHP, 2016, Windermere Prep HS (Windermere, FL) | North Carolina commit

There wasn’t an empty seat in the scout section for Bergner’s latest start with many heavy hitters from major league clubs in attendance. The top ranked righthanded pitcher in Florida wasn’t as sharp as I’ve seen him in the past, but he battled his way through five innings and even hit a home run over the left-center wall.

The tall and lanky righty was mostly 88-91 on the day and hit a few 92’s along the way. The arm was still pretty quick, but it wasn’t as loose and he was cutting it off short on the backswing causing him to have trouble finding the right release point. The fastball was much more lively up in the zone where the late arm-side run really started to show. When he was thigh high or lower, the pitch got flat and found it’s way to the barrels of opposing bats. Without possessing his best fastball, Bergner started to turn to his big looping 12-to-6 curveball to setup the fastball and he had some success doing it. By pitching backwards, the UNC commit was able to disrupt the timing and get the opposition on their heels a bit instead of them digging in and sitting dead red on the fastball. Bergner got on the side of a few breaking balls, but for the most part, coming in anywhere from 68-73 mph, it was his best pitch of the day.

Another Top '18 OF to '17 >>
  

3/4/2016 4:14:06 PM

Already full of high end athletic outfielders according to Perfect Game, the 2017 class has added another top of the charts prospect as Johnathan Rodriguez (Toa Boja, P.R.), formerly of the 2018 class, has reclassified. Prior to his reclassification Rodriguez was the No. 8 prospect in the class of 2018 but the fact that he’ll now only be roughly 17.7 years old on draft day further adding to the allure. And when you take into account the type of tools he already possesses then you’re looking at a potential monster come June of 2017.

Already physically impressive with a 6-foot-3, 170-pound broad shouldered yet very loose, athletic frame, Rodriguez has the type of tools that make you sit there for a second and ponder what you just saw. My first and only impression to this point came at the Perfect Game Caribbean Underclass Showcase this past November where Rodriguez, who had turned 16 just two weeks prior, ran a sub-7 60 before showing one of the easiest arm actions from the outfield where he showed plus-arm strength and carry with a top throw of 96 mph, leaving his hand clean and effortlessly.

Rodriguez’s bat is just as impressive as his other tools, showing both a high end hit and power tool from either side of the plate. A switch-hitter, the uncommitted Rodriguez shows a bit more comfort from the right side where his swing is long and plenty loose and he’s already more than capable of driving the ball hard and loud to the opposite field courtesy of the big extension he creates out front. And don’t get me wrong the lefthanded swing still shows plenty of fluidity with easy strength and extension which helps create leverage and carry to the pull side. He shows comfort hitting from both sides of the plate and he’s certain to have scouts keeping close tabs with the combination of youth, tools, projection, and overall upside throughout the 2016 summer circuit.

The reclassification of Rodriguez comes roughly a week after fellow top 2018 and University of Florida commit Christian Robinson (then No. 13 nationally) expedited his process as well, jumping to the 2017 class where he, like Rodriguez, will be amongst the top in the class. Robinson and Rodriguez are both born in November of 1999 which means neither will turn 18 for another five full months after the draft concludes which only adds to their overall intrigue and value. 

LSU & Texas Make Splashes >>
  

3/1/2016 5:56:04 PM

Another weekend of college baseball and another Monday that followed with a couple of high end recruits making their verbal commitments to some high end programs. While players are coming off the board at a rather moderate pace now, one that has been picking up since the start of the season, keep an eye on the overall pace of things come March 15th when coaches are allowed back on the road and high school baseball is well underway in most parts of the country.

The University of Texas is coming off a four-game split with Stanford this past weekend but on Monday they found out that their 2019 class grew by one of Sanson Faltine III become the second member of the Horns' class, joining outfielder Austin Wallace. Faltine, a Texas native and freshman at William B. Travis High School, is listed as a primary shortstop according to his Perfect Game profile but shows as much, if not more, upside on the mound, at least in my initial look this past October at the WWBA Freshman World Championships. Already a long and loose 6-foot-2, 170-pounds, Faltine is very well coordinated for a player his age and size and that’s something that helps him repeat his delivery rather well and fill up the strike zone.

His arm action is similar to his frame in that it’s long and loose and he worked comfortably in the 80-82 mph range with his fastball showing nice whip at release with downhill plane. Reports have Faltine’s velocity working more in the mid-to-upper-80s now and given how projectable and young he was last fall it’s easy to believe. What stood out as much as the velocity, if not more, was the comfort and feel Faltine showed in throwing both his low-70s changeup and late breaking curveball that proved to be a swing-and-miss type offering. The athleticism is evident as Faltine is also a switch-hitting shortstop with a smooth swing and looseness in his hands from the right side.

Texas wasn’t the only team around the Gulf to make a splash on the trail Monday afternoon as Louisiana State and Recruiting Coordinator Andy Cannizaro brought the latest Tiger on board with 2017 righthander, Ma’Khail Hilliard. Listed at 6-foot, 145-pounds in his Perfect Game profile, the in-state Hilliard may actually be taller and stronger than his listed measurables but either way is full of quick-twitch muscle and is highly projectable.  

A righthanded pitcher out of Central High School in Baton Rouge, Hilliard’s fastball regularly works into the upper-80s with a fast and very live arm action coming through the back. When he gets on top of the pitch and works to the bottom of the zone the No. 498 ranked prospect in 2017 is able to generate hard cutting life to his glove side. As good as the fastball velocity and life are his hard upper-70s breaking ball may be his best offering. It’s a swing-and-miss type pitch at present and with the type of hand speed he’s able to generate to produce both the velocity and bite, there should be additional fastball velocity on its way with physical growth.

Overall the Bayou Bengals have 14 commits in the 2017 class, all of which are ranked within Perfect Game’s top-500. The coaching staff has shown a willingness as a whole to pluck from all over the country (top ranked commit Nicholas Storz is from New York) but they’ve also done a nice job of cleaning up in their own backyard with five in-state commits.

Hart latest Vandy commit >>
  

2/27/2016 5:17:30 PM

On Thursday night the Vanderbilt Commodores made their latest splash on the trail as Recruiting Coordinator Travis Jewett went back into Georgia and pulled out yet another highly touted 2018 in center fielder Jared Hart (ranked No. 25 nationally), a 6-foot-3 righthanded hitting center fielder who exudes athleticism and projection. The brother of former Perfect Game All-American Josh Hart, who was also a supplemental first round pick of the Baltimore Orioles, the younger Hart is the third Georgia prep product in the Dores ’18 class joining both righthander Ethan Hankins (No. 4) and catcher Will Banfield (No. 14).

As mentioned earlier Hart is the epitome of projection as he stands at 6-foot-3, 170-pounds with a high waist, long limbs, and plenty of room to fill out with additional strength. Full of fast-twitch muscle, the Lassiter High School sophomore is already an above-average runner and projects to stay in center where he has the chance to develop into a plus defender with natural instincts and solid closing speed to either gap. And while he excels defensively with his speed, Hart already shows present abilities with the bat from the right side. With a short swing and a quick set of hands Hart already shows the ability to work all fields while showing a feel for the barrel some present strength to his pull side, a tool that’s only going to continue to develop with additional strength and physicality

One of the top pure athletes in the 2018 class, Jared Hart is the latest commit in what’s a highly regarded Vanderbilt class that’s currently ranked as the best in the nation. A class that’s already 15 players deep, 12 of those commits are ranked within Perfect Game’s top 100, six of whom are ranked in the top 25.

LaNeve is latest Vandy grab >>
  

2/25/2016 1:15:10 PM

Troy LaNeve, OF                                                                                                                                                                                                                     6-foot, 175-pounds                                                                                                                                                                                                             L/R, Pine Richland High School                                                                                                                                                                                 Gibsonia, Pennsylvania                                                                                                                                                                                                         Travel Team: US Elite

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Vanderbilt Commodores are once again making noise on the recruiting trail as they lock up another piece for their 2019 class in Troy LaNeve of Pennsylvania. While the coaching staff has taken a more national route with their most recent commits, the Northeast has always been a “honey-hole” for the Commodores and there’s no reason to assume it’ll slow down any time moving forward as both Head Coach Tim Corbin and pitching coach Scott Brown are both Northeast natives. Producing plenty of high end talent that made it to school such as two-time first round pick Tyler Beede and most recently outfielder Rhett Wiseman, there’s a nice blend of Northeast talent in the 2016 recruiting class, led by top ranked prospect Jason Groome.

LaNeve is the latest commit for the Dores to what’s an already impressive, albeit still early, 2019 class and his No. 7 national ranking is the highest amongst those committed. Physically impressive at 6-foot, 175-pounds, LaNeve looks like anything but a player who’s set to begin his freshman year and he’s always been physically advanced, even when I first saw him well over a year ago at the beginning of his eighth grade year. Swinging the stick from the left side LaNeve has already made a strong impression on the national scene with a short and quick stroke while showing an innate feel for the barrel head and the ability to handle high end velocity. There are contact skills to the profile as well as a power potential as he shows natural lift to swing path and present jump off the barrel.

Defensively LaNeve profiles as a right field type as he already shows above average arm strength for a player his age as well as solid footwork and sound overall fundamental moving towards the ball. In the end the Commodores have the potential for right field who hits for power from the left side and the middle of the order.

LaNeve is commit No. 7 for Vanderbilt and he’s the third outfielder, fourth positional player overall, in the class. As previously stated his No. 7 ranking is the highest amongst the seven commits, joining righthanders Wesley Scott (No. 14) and Chris McElvain (No. 15), as prospects ranked within the top 20 nationally. 

Top Uncommitted 2018s >>
  

2/24/2016 6:44:39 PM

The top prospects within the 2018 class are flying off the shelves as No. 2 ranked Brandon Birdsell is the most recent, giving his verbal commitment to Coach Rob Childress the other night. With Birdsell's commitment, seven of Perfect Game's top ten prospects in the class are now committed, as are 39 of the top 50. Below you'll find the 11 remaining uncommitted prospects who assuredly have offers on the table and are at the forefront of all recrutiing coordinators wish list's. 

Kumar Rocker (No. 1, rhp, Watkinsville, Ga.)

The first time I saw Rocker came this past summer and though just a rising sophomore, the young righthander looked the part in every way in the 16u tournament. Not listed in the program and thus not having a name or graduation year, the hopes were that the strongly built 6-foot-4 righty with an extremely loose arm action and a fastball already bumping 90 mph was a 2017 grad. Instead it was discovered that Rocker was a 2018 and immediately vaulted up the class rankings to his current top spot as his arm action is incredibly easy and should just be scratching the surface of what he’s capable of.

Elijah Cabell (No. 6, of, Winter Park, Fla.)

If you took Cabell and put him in the starting nine of a collegiate team, even one that’s nationally ranked and full of high end talent, you might not pick out physically impressive Floridian aside from the young look in his face. That’s essentially the lineup Cabell was placed in this past Jupiter, hitting in the heart of the Orlando Scorpions/Mets Scout Team lineup that featured several prominent prospects for the 2016 MLB draft. Listed at 6-foot-2, 180-pounds with room to still add strength, Cabell’s bat speed is exceptional for a player his age and is his righthanded power that plays to all parts of the field.

Johnathan Rodriguez (No. 8, of, Toa Baja, P.R.)

I touched upon Rodriguez earlier in the blog when the most recent rendition of the rankings were released but the athletically gifted, switching-hitting Rodriguez is more than worth mentioning again. Using his 6-foot-3 frame to his advantaged to create standout bat speed and leverage in his swing, Rodriguez is capable of driving the ball at present and projects for even more strength as he continues to progress physically. The tools don’t end there though as Rodriguez shows sub-7 speed and perhaps the biggest arm strength from the outfield the class will see, even this far out as he’s already up to 96 mph with plus-carry and accuracy.

Alek Thomas (No. 18, of, Chicago, Ill.)

Speaking of talented outfielders, Alek Thomas is about as athletic as they come and he comes from a strong pedigree as his father is the strength and conditioning coach for the Chicago White Sox. A gifted athlete who also excels in football, Thomas was the lone starter on a loaded Mt. Carmel (Ill.) team and has already received several offers from some of the top programs in the country. A lefthanded stick who participated in last summer’s Area Codes, Thomas already shows plenty of bat speed and strength as well as an above average run tool giving him a well rounded package that any college coach would be happy to land.

Makenzie Stills (No. 23, rhp, Fayetteville, Ga.)

Don’t let Stills’ 5-foot-11 frame fool you and just because he isn’t one of the bigger arms in the class doesn’t mean much as his right arm is as electric as any and he’s capable of producing big time velocity with absolute ease. Up to 92 mph with his fastball and consistently within the 87-91 mph range, Stills shows excellent fluidity in his arm action and is able to generate late running life on his heater. He shows an advanced feel for his 80-81 mph changeup that features late diving action to the bottom of the zone and an upper-70s slider with late tilting life. 

Jared Hart (No. 25, of, Marietta, Ga.)

The bloodlines are strong with Hart as his brother Josh wasn’t a Perfect Game All-American all too long ago prior to his first-round selection by the Baltimore Orioles. A bit of a different player from his brother, Jared shows the potential to be a plus-type defender in center field with speed that also projects to be close to plus with excellent reads off the bat and range to either gap. Listed at 6-foot-3, 170-pounds Hart already shows a smooth swing with barrel control and a middle of the field approach and it’s a swing that’ll continue to develop over the fence power with additional physicality.

Gunnar Hoglund (No. 32, rhp, Hudson, Fla.)

The first time I saw Hoglund it looked as though he was simply playing a game of catch on the mound, only except for the fact he was sitting in the upper-80s and bumped 90 with his heater. At 6-foot-4, 225-pounds Hoglund uses his long levers to his advantage as he generates steady downhill plane with late running life, eliciting weak ground ball contact and empty swings. His changeup shows above-average in the upper-70s with late diving life to go along with his mid-70s breaking ball.

Kevin Dowdell (No. 33, of, Montevallo, Ala.)

Another outfielder to grace the top 50, Dowdell showed off his two-way potential throughout the summer circuit and is a prospect who’s already cemented on all the coach’s radar. Already full of physical strength and projecting for more, Dowdell is a center field prospect who has the type of speed to cover ground to either gap as well as big arm strength, which also translates to a fastball that’s been up to 87 mph. The looseness and fluidity translates into his swing as well as he shifts his weight well through his lower half and shows big jump off the barrel from the left side.

Jacob Pfennigs (No. 39, rhp, Post Falls, Idaho)

It’s not often that you find a prospect from the state of Idaho and when you do it’s usually later on in the process. Pfennigs however isn’t your typical prospect as he’s already 6-foot-6, 180-pounds and possesses a fastball that works in the upper-80s with quality life and the highest level of projection The velocity comes easy as does the cutting life courtesy of his fast right arm and he already shows a feel for a full three-pitch mix, throwing both a changeup in the mid-70s and a slider in the upper-70s.

Jake Sweeney (No. 40, lhp, Hobart, In.)

Lefthanders are always a hot commodity for coaches to lock up and Sweeney is the top uncommitted lefthander in the 2018 class. To go along with the fact that he’s lefthanded, Sweeney also possesses the size you want in a young prospect as he’s already 6-foot-6, 208-pounds. I’ve seen Sweeney work his fastball into the upper-80s and there’s reports of his fastball showing better, all of which comes from an extended, low three-quarters arm slot and makes for an uncomfortable at-bat. He features a full away of offerings on the mound, the best of which may be his late tumbling changeup in the mid-70s.

Lyon Richardson (No. 47, rhp, Jensen Beach, Fla.)

Richardson has been on the national scene for some time as he’s always been a hard thrower, clocking in as high as 88 mph as a rising freshman. Now steadily working in the upper-80s with reports in the low-90s which are more than believable, Richardson has continued to refine his overall command and sat in the 87-89 mph range down in Jupiter. His arm action is short and quick and he’s capable of filling up the lower quadrants of the strike zone while showing occasional cutting life and a feel for an 11-5 shape curveball in the low-70s. Standing at a lean 6-foot-2, 175-pounds Richardson has the type of frame that you can envision adding about 15 pounds without losing any fluidity to his arm action and gaining velocity to his fastball. 

Birdsell to Aggies, Add to Strong '18 Class >>
  

2/23/2016 7:26:46 PM

The second ranked player in the class of 2018 made his decision late Monday night as Brandon Birdsell announce his commitment to Coach Rob Childress and the Texas A&M Aggies via Twitter. Listed at a very strong 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, Birdsell’s athleticism is evident as he shows both talent and big arm strength all over the diamond but it’s on the mound where the young Texas native truly shines.

Though early in the process the Aggies have already put together a top-10 type class and Birdsell’s commitment only solidifies their ranking as he’s the sixth commit over and of the group, four are within Perfect Game’s top 30. What Coach Childress and crew are getting with Birdsell is what you often associate with pitchers from Texas, big velocity. Already up to 92 mph with a loose and easy arm action, the type you can see one warm up pitch from and project upon easily, Birdsell needs minimal effort to generate the above average velocity and does so while creating big running life to his arm side. His slider is as much of a put away at present as his fastball and has the potential to develop into a plus offering down the road. Already a low-80s offering, Birdsell’s slider shows late, two-plane tilt and with it he’s able to induce uncomfortable, defensive swings.

One of the top arms in the nation, Birdsell is now the Aggies’ top recruit and adds to an already excellent crop of talent. Joining Birdsell within in the top ten ranked prospects is fellow Aggie commit Grayson Rodriguez (No. 9), who like Birdsell is a big and strong righthander with big fastball velocity. Hunter Watson (No. 19) and Brett Brown (No. 129) form a highly athletic duo up the middle while Mason Englert (No. 28) and Jonathan Childress (No. 265), high school teammates at Forney, provide two additional high end arms to Coach Childress’s 2018 class.  

SEC commits Kiel, Lee duel in JUCO ranks >>
  

2/22/2016 2:06:33 PM

Plenty of scouts and crosscheckers were already in Gainesville to see the University of Florida and big-time 2016 draft prospects A.J. Puk, Buddy Reed, and Logan Shore open up their season this weekend, but many of them made the most of their time on the road and “doubled-up” on Saturday afternoon, first seeing a pair of intriguing junior college arms face off.

Both Hunter Kiel and David Lee figure to be impact type of arms for Louisiana State and Florida, respectively – if they make it to campus.

Kiel of Pensacola State (FL) College has been detailed in a previous blog post by Jheremy Brown, as he just recently committed to LSU. The sophomore had been clocked as high as 96-97 mph in the past few weeks, and scouts settled in with great anticipation on Saturday.

While the sophomore didn’t show quite the same velocity this weekend, there are certainly things to like about the big, physical righthander. Listed at 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, Kiel appears to be a bit bigger in person, with a large frame and strong lower half. There is some effort to his delivery, but he has the frame and build to with stand it, and he did a solid job of maintaining his stuff throughout his start. Releasing from a high-three quarter’s arm slot, Kiel generates solid downhill plane and his 91-94 mph fastball was most successful when he was able to keep the offering down in the strike zone. His fastball command came and went (and will need to be tightened up at the next level) throughout the afternoon on Saturday, but Kiel battled well and did flash the ability to change eye levels with the offering.

Kiel’s feel for his secondary offerings – a slider and changeup – also came and went, but both flashed some potential. The slider in particular showed well as the 84-86 mph offering flashed hard gloveside slice and some short, late depth that should make it a quality pitch in either Baton Rouge or pro ball if he’s able to stay on top of the ball consistently. The changeup is still a work in progress, but Kiel did maintain solid armspeed on the mid-80s offering and flashed a more, comfortable fluid release with the pitch during warmups.

Santa Fe (FL) College’s David Lee was named as the seventh best JUCO prospect in Perfect Game’s most recent iteration of the rankings by Chris King. The sophomore is a known entity in scouting communities as he owns a super projectable 6-foot-3, 185 pound frame and pitched well in high school before attending Florida International University last season.

The Gainesville native and Gator commit has a simple, athletic delivery with an extended, loose arm-action and the ball comes out of his hand well. He worked predominately in the 88-91 mph range with his fastball, which featured some armside wiggle and late life down in the zone when he stayed on top of the ball at release. He’s been clocked higher in the past, and with the arm-action and frame, it easy to see him gaining a few more ticks with additional strength, physical maturity.

Lee also displayed a quality slider, with the 81-85 mph offering showing cutter-like qualities at time. The pitch has short, subtle tilt and late two-plane break and depth, and he used it adeptly throughout his start, using it in both plus and minus counts. Lee’s changeup wasn’t quite as consistent on Saturday, but he did flash some quality offerings and he does a solid job of replicating fastball armspeed and arm-action when throwing it. At times Lee got on the side of the ball and missed to his arm-side, but he generally did a very solid job of throwing all three pitches for strikes and his overall athleticism and feel for delivery portend quality command at the next level.

Although they’re different kinds of pitchers and prospects, both Kiel and Lee have the ability to step into the SEC and contribute immediately, assuming of course that pro teams don’t snag them up this June if they are in the market for a power-arm relief type or a loose, lean projectable starting pitcher.

Arizona State gets 1st 2019 >>
  

2/22/2016 9:30:54 AM

After a rather quiet stretch these last couple of weeks, something that’s to be expected every year at this time as coaching staffs were prepping their clubs for the 2016 season, the recruiting trail should be picking back up at a torrid base. With the season ramping up and opening weekend behind us, teams undoubtedly had potential commits come on campus to take in the weekend atmosphere while gaining an overall feel for the amenities and what the school has to offer.

Not only did Coach Tracy Smith’s Arizona State Sun Devils sweep their four game set against Xavier, they also landed one of the more talented players in the 2019 class, lefthander Cooper Benson who’s ranked No. 21 in the class. It’s of no surprise that Smith and company’s first commit in the class comes from out of state (Benson is from San Luis Obispo, Calif.) as they’ve shown a willingness to leave their home turf in order to collect the best talent available. Just take a look at their 2016 class which is a top three ranked class nationally and it’s made up of players who represent 11 different states.

Benson is the latest Californian prep in the 2019 class to commit to a major Division-1 program following Spencer Jones and Wesley Scott who both recently committed to Vanderbilt and righthander Cole Dale who’s heading to Coach John Savage at UCLA. What the Sun Devil’s are getting with Benson is a strongly built 5-foot-11 lefthander whose loose and quick arm action is capable of producing a fastball that runs into the upper-80s, consistently missing bats. At the conclusion of the 2015 summer circuit Benson was tabbed as the 14u Pitcher of the Year per Perfect Game and finished the tournament season with a 13.30 strikeouts per seven (38 punch outs in 20 innings) and a minuscule 0.35 ERA while surrendering a mere eight hits.

LSU Goes JUCO Route >>
  

2/14/2016 8:42:16 PM

The LSU Tigers made a splash once again on the JUCO scene as they add another arm in the righthanded Hunter Kiel (No. 97 in Perfect Game’s top 150 Junior College rankings) out of Pensacola State. Having already locked down Perfect Game’s top ranked Junior College prospect with Kyle Weatherly of Grayson Community College (TX), it’s plausible that the Tigers have committed two of the top JUCO arms in the entire country. When you factor in Kiel, Weatherly, and hard hitting Nick Coomes of LSU-Eunice, the LSU coaching staff has assembled one of the top recruiting classes in the county and one that’s already ranked No. 5 when looking at just high school commits.

What the Tigers are getting in Kiel, a Florence, Alabama native, is a fresh, electric arm who has low mileage in terms of innings but big time stuff. Listed at 6-foot-3, 214-pounds Kiel made his Perfect Game debut this past summer after throwing just 5.2 innings as a freshman at Pensacola State. The type of stuff he showed at the 18u WWBA World Championship was noteworthy in and of itself as Kiel worked 91-94 mph with his fastball and showed a hard slider in the mid-80s. With continued repetitions and additional time on the mound Kiel has seen his production increase as well as pure stuff as I was told he worked 92-96 mph with his fastball in his most recent outing (has been up to 97 mph) with the same overpowering type slider up to 87 mph.  

Naturally with his frame and a fastball that climbs into the upper-90s Kiel’s going to attract the attention of pro scouts and will certainly be an arm to keep an eye on as the June draft approaches.

On a side note, Kiel is a graduate of Florence High School in Alabama and is the first of what could be a few impact type arms to come out of there over the next couple of years. Set to begin their senior and sophomore seasons respectfully is Perfect Game All-American lefthander Braxton Garrett (No. 32 nationally and Vanderbilt signee) and 6-foot-4 righthander Cole Henry (No. 30 nationally and LSU commit) forming a trio of arms any coaching staff would be happy to have. 

Youth Movement in Cali >>
  

2/12/2016 8:23:01 PM

It comes as no surprise that the state of California has yielded several of the early commits in the 2019 class (nine to be exact) and there’s zero reason to believe more verbals aren’t on the horizon. A third of those commitments have come within the last couple of days, two who heading east to Vanderbilt in Nashville while the third and most recent, Cole Dale of Notre Dame High School, will be staying local to play for Coach John Savage and the UCLA Bruins.

The two players heading to Coach Tim Corbin mark commitment No. 5 and No. 6 for the Commodores and came within hours of each other as both righthander Wesley Scott (Woodcrest Christian) and big 6-foot-6 outfielder Spencer Jones (La Costa Canyon) announced their intentions on Wednesday evening. Scott, the No. 14 ranked prospect in the country, is listed at 6-foot-1, 185-pounds and is capable of producing a fastball that I’ve been told already works into the low-90s with an extremely fast and loose arm action. And for a player who’s already standing 6-foot-6, the lefthanded hitting Jones is very advanced in terms of athleticism and coordination, both of which play in his smooth and quick stroke. Ranked No. 39 in the class, Jones was tabbed the MVP of the 14u World Series after hitting .600 on the tournament and with additional physicality it’s easy to envision over the fence type power developing.

While he’s not from California, Vanderbilt picked up another 2019 commit the night before they added Scott and Jones with righthander Chris McElvain out of Tennessee. Checking in just behind Scott in the national rankings at No. 15 nationally, McElvain is capable of showing similar velocity as Scott which he complements with a hard, late breaking slider. McElvain has already racked up quite the baseball resume even if he is just beginning his freshman season: play in the Little World Series-Check; win a gold medal with Team USA 15u-Check; commit to one of the top programs in the country-Check.

Cole Dale is the first commit the Bruins have locked up in 2019 and since we’re still very early in the process he’s obviously not the last. With a clean and projectable arm action Dale already shows a fastball that works in the mid-to-upper-80s and like the pitchers currently on the Bruin’s staff, the young righthander is more than capable of spinning a breaking ball. Notre Dame High School isn’t uncharted territory for Coach Savage and staff by any means either as current Bruin freshmen Jordan Myrow and Jake Hirabayashi are both alum, and top 2017 recruit and two-way talent Hunter Greene has just begun his junior season. 

SEC Staying Active >>
  

2/9/2016 5:26:04 PM

With the 2016 just on the horizon and teams throughout the country are making some final adjustments in anticipation of opening weekends, recruiting coordinators are staying busy and looking to fill voids in future opening day lineups. Monday night was a rather busy one in terms of commitments, particularly from the SEC as Tennessee, Auburn, and Vanderbilt all added a quality piece.

 

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We’ll begin with Auburn as the Tigers made the longest trek for their latest in Ontario-native and ultra-projectable righthander Jordan Balazovic. Coincidentally, should he make it to campus he’ll be the first of the three Monday night commits to suit up in college as he’s a late 2016 commit, but undoubtedly a quality sign. Young players from Canada don’t typically commit as early as their counterparts from the States as we see with Balazovic, though there have been a couple of 2017s from Canada who’ve been committed for almost a year ago now.

The first time I personally saw the 6-foot-4 Balazovic take the bump was at the Perfect Game Sunshine East Showcase from which he earned an invite to the National Showcase a couple weeks later in front of hundreds of scouts. Balazovic, ranked No. 401 nationally in the 2016 class, came out and touched 90 mph in both events, quite the uptick from what we had seen the prior October in Jupiter where the then 6-foot-2, 160-pound righthander sat 81-84 mph with his heater. His slider is another pitch that’s progressed nicely with tight rotation and late tilting life when he stays on top of the ball. He’ll show batters a third pitch with his changeup, a 79-81 mph offering with which he shows similar arm speed and slot with late fading life and deception out of the hand.

With added physicality to his frame there’s reason to believe more velocity is in store for the newest Tiger, especially given his 7 mph jump in exactly a calendar year. Overall, Balazovic is the 12th commit in Auburn’s 2016 class and the fifth righthanded pitcher, a position led by No. 15 overall Alex Speas.

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The 2017 class is still relatively small for Coach Dave Serrano’s club as their most recent, righthander Sean Hunley, is the fifth of the class and the second righty arm. The third Tennessee commit to come from the Volunteer State in the class, Hunley is a broad and strongly built 6-foot-4, 225-pound who works comfortably in the upper-80s and is capable of bumping 90 mph though there’s reason to believe there’s still more in the tank. On top of showing the velocity, Hunley shows comfort and feel for spinning the ball in the mid-to-upper-70s, a factor that is usually a determinant of more velocity en route.

What else is impressive of Hunley’s commitment is that he marks the third underclass arm from Mount Joliet (TN) to commit to an SEC school this offseason. Joining Hunley from the 2017 class is hard throwing righthander Aaron Brown who gave his verbal to Mississippi State while 2018 righty Ethan Smith will stay in-state and bring his advanced pitchability to Vanderbilt. Quite the three-man staff for a high school program, huh?

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Speaking of Vanderbilt, they were active again last night and continued with the trend that’s occurring in their 2018 class of grabbing quality, high end arms. The latest Commodore recruit hails from Ohio in strongly built 6-foot, 210-pound righthander Nicholas Northcut. The arm strength has always been prevalent for Northcut as I first saw him in 2014 as a rising freshman where he his 85 mph and since that viewing everything has taken multiple steps forward.

Up to 91 mph this past summer, Northcut comes at hitters in full attack mode working out of the bullpen this summer for the Houston Banditos though my most recent viewing occurred in October where he was in a starting role with the Midland Redskins. While he didn’t show the 91 he had in the past, he did steadily live in the 86-89 mph range from a short and quick arm action producing downhill plane to the bottom of the zone. Aside from the velocity increase from when I first saw the Ohio native, his slider has taken a gigantic step forward as well jumping from a low-70s offering to a low-80s offering with short and tight tilting life that can be used to induce swings-and-misses.

The statistics for the top ranked 2018 class continue to grow as 11 of the 14 future Commodores are currently ranked within the top 100 prospects nationally.

Staying Hot in Miami >>
  

2/6/2016 3:06:10 PM

Over the last week or two Miami has hit the recruiting trail hard and have come away with several key pieces to nearly every class. A quick look at the 2016 Canes roster reveals a heavy throng of talent from Florida, particularly from Miami, with just five players listed from outside the Sunshine State. While they’ve stayed true to their roots and still commit some of the top talent from Florida, the coaching staff has shown a willingness to go outside the state and broaden their reach. Since January 18th the Hurricanes have received eight commits; righthander Kieran Casey is the lone 2016 and is an arm who’s come on strong recently, showing a fastball up to 91 mph with solid feel for a sharp slider at the World Showcase in early January. The other seven are as follows:

2017: SS Tyler Paige (FL), LHP Jeremy Cook (FL), RHP Christopher McMahon (PA)

McMahon is the newest of three and is one of the previously eluded to out of state commits as he was pulled out of Pennsylvania where fellow 2017 commit LHP Brendan Cellucci hails from. Listed at a long and loose 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, McMahon has seen his velocity climb in each of his last four Perfect Game events; August 2014-81 mph| early July 2015-86 mph| late July 2015-89 mph | October 2015-90 mph. There’s reason to believe McMahon has more in the tank in terms of velocity though during the WWBA Underclass World Championships he was able to simply overpower the opposition with solid angle.

The 2017 class is a large and well rounded one featuring a little bit of everything, including the top ranked player in the country with first baseman Alejandro Toral. Head Coach Jim Morris and staff have been able to assemble this class piece by piece from early on in the recruiting process and it’s culminated in the current No. 2 ranked class in the country, trailing only Vanderbilt.

2018: RHP Jacob Steinberg (MD), LHP/OF Jonathan Gates (FL)

Jacob Steinberg came on board after he announced his commitment to the Canes on January 18th via Twitter. The Maryland native has been a strong two-way talent throughout the early portion of his prep career with strength in his swing and a fastball that sits steadily in the upper-80s, something similar to the newest Cane, Jonathan Gates. Gates is a talented lefthanded arm who we are Perfect Game first saw in October of 2013 where he was up to 81 mph despite just beginning his eighth grade year. Jump to present day and Gates now works in the upper-80s with fastball and shows some of the better fastball command and overall pitchability of the entire class. Amongst his full array of offerings is a 1-7 shaped curveball in the mid-70s and a tighter, late breaking slider in the upper-70s, both of which are thrown from the same arm slot and with as much command as he shows with his heater.

Similar to the 2017 class, the sophomore recruiting class already has depth and plenty of talent despite being two years away from making it to campus. A group that recently came in at No. 4 in the Perfect Game class rankings, Miami is nine commits deep (four righthanders, two lefthanders, two shortstops, and a catcher) and of those nine, six are ranked within the top 100 national prospects while the entire class is in the top 200.

2019: C Jake Holland (FL), OF Mykanthony Valdez (FL)

Catcher Jake Holland turned in a standout performance at the Perfect Game Main Event at the beginning of the year and shortly thereafter committed to the Hurricanes. Upon his commitment the 2019 class rankings were updated and Holland shot to No. 4 overall in the class joining top ranked Triston Casas and No. 3 ranked righthander Matthew Allan, quite the haul for a class still in its early stages of recruitment. Miami pulled in their fourth commit yesterday afternoon with outfielder Mykanthony Valdez, a physically built 6-foot-1, 200-pounds third baseman from Mater Academy Charter, the alma mater of former Canes commit and now Cubs top prospect Albert Almora. During a three tournament stretch this past summer with the Miami-base Elite Squad organization Valdez was named to the All-Tournament team each time and has shown plenty of present strength and bat speed from the right side. 

It's still very early in the process of committing 2019s but the Canes are off to a hot start grabbing three of the top four nationally ranked prospects and a fourth in Valdez who's a quality commit from their own backyard. 

Recruiting Recap from Busy Week >>
  

2/4/2016 5:20:24 PM

February 3rd was National Signing Day for college football and was a day in which recruiting classes were completed and fans of their respective school were hanging on as each commit came across ESPN U. The early signing period for college baseball was held in November and it’s a time in which most players sign eliminating another hurdle he coaches need to jump over to land their players on campus.

While February 3rd wasn’t a signing day for underclassmen in baseball, it was a big day for college coaches as a few young and talented players made their verbal commitment to cap off what has been a rather busy handful of days in the recruiting world.

 

February 3rd:

 

Tyler McKenzie, ss, 2019-Vanderbilt University

3rd commit in class, 1st infielder

For Commodore fans McKenzie may ring a bell as his older brother and former Perfect Game All-American Triston was a Vanderbilt though he never made it to campus following a first round selection by the Cleveland Indians. Tyler is different from his brother though due to the fact he’s a shortstop where he shows both the skills and IQ to stick there moving forward. His frame resembles Triston’s in that he’s long and lean and exudes projection without inhibiting his present ability. The No. 23 ranked player in the latest rendition of the 2019 class rankings, McKenzie already shows an approach at the plate and knowledge of the strike zone beyond his years.

For the class: The class of 2019 is still in its early stages but McKenzie, a Florida native, is the first infielder locked down by the Commodores joining LHP Tony Jacob out of California and OF Ryan Keenan also of Florida.

 

Rhett Fetner, rhp, 2017-Auburn University

 7th commit in class, 3rd righthander

The new Auburn coaching staff has hit the recruiting trail since coming together in late October and haven’t looked back. One of the top uncommitted arms in the home state of Alabama, Auburn’s class gains a very projectable and strongly built arm in the 6-foot-3 Fetner. A member of the Georgia based Team Elite program in the summer, Fetner has shown a fastball up to 88 mph at Perfect Game events though I’ve been told he has touch higher more recently. Young for the grade as he was able to compete in the 15u WWBA this past summer, Fetner’s arm action is loose and he’s able to produce his velocity with relative ease while generating nice running life down in the zone. The breaking ball give him a solid second offering with a late breaking bender in the mid-70s with an arm action that mimics his fastball.

For the class: Fetner is a quality piece for the Tigers as he’s both talented and an in-state talent, something that’s always good to grab. Fetner is the third righthander in their recruiting class joining Cody Greenhill and Carter Bowman, also both from Alabama.

 

Henry Davis, c, 2018-University of Louisville

9th commit in class, 1st catcher

The ninth commit in the Cardinals class, Davis is the first catcher locked down and the sixth different state representative proving the coaching staff’s willingness to expand their search for top flight talent. Davis is an excellent athlete with looseness and flexibility that both play in his defensive actions behind the plate. The arm strength is evident as he’s thrown 91 mph from the outfield and 81 from behind the dish, something that bodes well with his advanced catch and throw skills delivering accurate strike after accurate strike to the bag with big carry out of the hand.

For the class: The overall 2018 recruiting class rankings were released last night and the Cardinals come in with the third ranked class in a still young process. Of the nine commits, all of whom are ranked within the top 310 prospects per Perfect Game, Davis is one of six ranked within the top 150 will do the pitch calling for the three arms already locked up.

 

February: 1st

 

Isaac Esqueda, lhp, 2017- University of Southern California

11th commit in class, 3rd lefthander

Brady Disher, 1b/lhp, 2017-University of Arkansas

11th commit in class, 3rd infielder

 

January 31st:

 

Jayce Easley, mif, 2018-Oregon State University

1st commit in class, 1st infielder

Dylan Simmons, rhp, 2019-Florida State University

2nd commit in class, 2nd righthander

Davis Sharpe, rhp, 2018-Clemson University

5th commit in class, 1st righthander

 

2018 Sharpe to Clemson >>
  

1/31/2016 4:44:19 PM

The Clemson Tigers have added another premium piece to a class that’s shaping up to be a strong one with four quality positional prospects already locked up. The Tiger’s fifth commit in a class that’s still young in the recruiting process is also their first primary arm with righthander Davis Sharpe out of Dacula, Georgia. Strongly built at a very believable 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, Sharpe’s fastball peaked at 89 mph this fall and there’s reason to believe Mill Creek High School product isn’t done adding to his fastball.

Consider this, at the end of December in 2014 Sharpe’s fastball peaked at 78 mph as a rising sophomore and saw his velocity climb in subsequent tournaments throughout the summer, adding a tick or two almost every outing. By the time September of 2015 rolled around Sharpe touched 89 mph, an 11 mph climb in roughly a nine-month period. Now armed with a fastball that steadily sits in the mid-to-upper-80s Sharpe shows the ability to repeat his delivery which in turn also for consistent sinking life to the bottom of the strike zone. His upper-70s slider features short and late tilting life and given the hand speed necessary to generate that type of breaking ball velocity, it’s another indicator of extra ticks to his fastball in the future. He rounds out the arsenal with firm changeup in the mid-70s that offers nice differential and sound fading life.

Sharpe is the second highest ranked player in the Tigers 2018 class at No. 93 nationally joining No. 76 ranked Charles Mack, a strongly built lefthanded bat out of New York. All five of the sophomore commits have come after Coach Monte Lee’s hiring and the class as a whole will undoubtedly continue to grow with impressive young prospects as we head into the spring and summer seasons. 

2019 Walker to Florida State >>
  

1/30/2016 2:11:39 PM

There's never a sure thing when it comes to recruiting but the connection between North Florida Christian (FL) and Florida State has proven time and time again to be a strong pipeline. Though neither made it to campus, Coach Mike Martin and his staff grabbed NFC products outfielder Matthew Raley and lefty Carson Sands as members of their 2015 class. They were however able to land current freshman Cole Sands who should pay immediate dividends and have Perfect Game All-American Cole Ragans on board as a signee in their 2016 recruiting class. 

The most recent Seminole commit to come through North Florida Christian is current freshman righthander Brandon Walker whose athleticism could allow him to serve as a two-way though his future on the mound is extremely bright. Listed at 6-foot, 170-pounds Walker uses a full and loose arm action to produce a steady upper-80s fastball with downhill plane and sharp angle. The angle Walker creates is from landing slightly closed with his front foot but it doesn't inhibit his ability to command the zone as he lives comfortably in the lower quadrants. 

You can't deny the quickness to Walker's right arm nor the velocity he's capable of producing but the feel for his off speed stuff is just as remarkable. With his higher arm slot the young righthander is able to get on top of his big 12-6 breaking all consistently and serves as a swing and miss, put away offering in the low-to-mid-70s. He has also shown the makings of a nice mid-70s changeup that comes out from the same slot and shows comfort in throwing it. 

Overall, Walker is a fantastic first piece to the 2019 puzzle for the Florida State coaching staff as more velocity is undoubtedly on its way and they're able to lock down a talented local product in the process.

2019 Class Rankings Update 1-29-16 >>
  

1/30/2016 1:30:45 PM

The 2019 class rankings were updated for the third time yesterday since early September and was once again expanded, this time to 65 players. While the players are getting ready for the high school season, 23 players amongst the top 65 already have their college commitments locked down thanks to their present skill set and overall projection. Miami has three commits and all can be found within the top four ranked players nationally, quite the start to a promising class for the Canes. The present commitments span from coast to coast and north to south and the database will only continue to grow as the calendar flips month to month.

The top three states that are most represented are the three you’d typically expected as Florida has 18 players ranked, California second with 14, and Texas third with six of their own. Of course not all talent comes from the traditional hot beds and as a quick example Pennsylvania is tied with Georgia for players within the top 65 with five apiece. New names will continue to emerge almost weekly and rankings will continue to shift, especially with the spring season right around the corner and the summer circuit not too far off in the distance.

Below are quick breakdowns of the current top ten prospects in the 2019:

 1. Triston Casas

Casas has been on the prospect radar for over a year now courtesy of his big lefthanded bat that’s capable of driving the ball hard to all fields while showing strength and bat speed that would fit right in with prospects in the 2016 class. He’s not just about the power though as he can cover all parts of the plate and shows no problem going with the outer half pitch to left field. Extremely athletic and very well coordinated for a young player who’s already 6-foot-4, Casas has also run his fastball up to 91 mph and was the first of three 2019’s to commit to Miami.

2. Matthew Thompson

Thompson is an arm I was able to see twice in the span of about a full month and even in that short time tweaks to his mechanics were evident. A highly athletic righthander listed at 6-foot-2, 173-pounds with long limbs, Thompson exudes looseness even as he walks to the mound and ramped his fastball up to 88 mph this October with steady downhill and late sink. Thompson’s breaking ball is a hard, upper-70s offering that’s capable of missing bats with late tilt action and has put himself squarely on recruiting coordinator’s radar. 

3. Matthew Allan

The second future Miami Hurricane within the top three, Allan made his Perfect Game debut as a rising eighth grader at the National Underclass East showcase where he showed advanced velocity for his age as well as feel and command. The command and overall feel have remained a constant while the now 6-foot-2, 185-pound Allan has added strength which in turn has added velocity, jumping five mph within six month span, topping out at 89 mph with relatively low effort.

4. Jake Holland

Rounding out the trio of Miami commits in the 2019 class, Holland was a recent standout at the Main Event Showcase this past December.  Yet another powerfully built Florida prep product, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Holland still has room to fill throughout his frame which is scary to think about given his present ability to impact the ball. A member of Archbishop McCarthy in Miami where top ranked 2017 Alejandro Toral attends, Holland shows just as much of a hit tool as he does power utilizing a short and simple swing and projects for even more moving forward.

5. Justin Campbell

The first player in the top ten to hail from California, Justin Campbell was the youngest player at USA Trials this summer and mightily impressed. Standing at 6-foot-5, 185-pounds the uncommitted Campbell is the ideal example of projection though his current arsenal plays at a high level now. With a fastball that already works into the upper-80s with a smooth and deliberate tempo to his delivery, Campbell also shows a feel for his 12-6 curveball and a mid-70s changeup with late diving life.

6. Josiah Miller

Like others above, Miller has been in the top ten since the initial rendition of the 2019 rankings and has continued to climb up to his current position. A native of Tallahassee, Florida, Miller is a switch-hitting middle infielder who recently ran a 6.89 60-yard dash at the Main Event. What helps set Miller apart from other young switch-hitters is his uncanny ability from either side of the plate, showing quick hands and line drive contact from the left while showing bigger extension from the right side with present bat speed and ability to drive the ball deep to his pull side.

7. Troy LaNeve

LaNeve comes from the state of Pennsylvania and first made his impression on the national scene as an eighth grader participating in the 2014 WWBA Freshman World Championships. Since then LaNeve has grown stronger and is now listed at 6-foot, 175-pounds and with that additional strength he still continues to impact the baseball. A lefthanded hitter, LaNeve shows no problem handling high end velocity staying short and direct to the ball with solid bat speed and lift at contact.

8. Austin Kelly

Within the top 65 prospects ranked in the 2019 class, 23 of them are currently committed and its Austin Kelly who was the first prospect to come off the board. An early Mississippi State commit and their first in a class that now has two commitments, Kelly shows athleticism in his actions behind the plate though it’s his lefthanded power that’s his biggest present tool. Despite playing against competition two years older in the 16u WWBA this summer Kelly proved his stick plays as he hit .412 with a home run, six RBI, and slugged an impressive .647.

9. Maurice Hampton Jr.

Hampton, an Arlington, Tennessee native, is as exciting of an athlete as you’ll find and he’s full of fast-twitch muscle and physical strength throughout his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame. A two-sport star, Hampton has already has drawn interest from SEC schools in football and will undoubtedly attract the same type of interest on the diamond. The MVP of the 13u World Series, Hampton’s athleticism is well beyond his age and he already shows over the fence type power (two home runs in the World Series) as well as an above average run tool and solid present arm strength.

10. Gabe Briones

Briones is the second ranked backstop just behind Kelly and like Kelly is an early commit to an elite program; Southern California. A future Trojan, Briones has already drawn rave reviews for his defensive abilities and highly touted catch and throw skills. His baseball IQ is another asset that’s ahead of his age as his ability to control his righthanded stroke, all tools that will play well against the caliber of competition his Orange Lutheran high school team will play this spring and well into the future of his playing career. 

2018 Class Rankings Update 1-28-16 >>
  

1/29/2016 11:04:11 AM

With the recent update of the Perfect Game 2018 class rankings and the way things shake out, 75 of the current top 100 prospect are committed and amongst those 75 players, 30 different schools are represented. Of course we’re still nearly two and a half years away from the June draft of 2018 so a lot will undoubtedly change between now and then but nonetheless the talent is evident and colleges across the country are snatching up the young talent. 

Schools with the most commits within the top 100 are as follows:

Vanderbilt-10 

Florida-8

LSU-6

Miami & Florida State-4

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Staying within the top 100, here's a breakdown of the 75 players committed by conference:

SEC: 36 (Vanderbilt-10, Florida-8, Louisiana State-6, Texas A&M-3, Auburn-2, Mississippi-2, Mississippi State-2, Georgia-1, Kentucky-1, South Carolina-1)

ACC: 21 (Florida State-4, Miami-4, Louisville-3, Wake Forest-3, Virginia-2, Clemson-1, Duke-1, Georgia Tech-1, North Carolina-1, Virginia Tech-1)

Pac 12: 11 (Southern California-3, Stanford-3,  Arizona-2, UCLA-2, California-1)

Big 12: 4 (TCU-2, Texas-1, Texas Tech-1)

Big 10: 2 (Maryland-2)

Missouri Valley: 1 (Dallas Baptist)

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The player who saw the biggest jump in the rankings was 6-foot-3, 170-pound switch-hitting outfielder Johnathan Rodriguez from Toa Boja, Puerto Rico. The uncommitted Rodriguez did nothing but shine in his first Perfect Game showcase, the 2015 Caribbean Underclass, as he ran a 6.98 60-yard dash, show incredibly easy plus arm strength from the outfield with a top throw of 96 mph, and showed both a hit tool and power from both sides of the plate. He checks in at No. 8 in the most recent rendition of the class rankings and is certainly a player who will be followed closely throughout the upcoming summer circuit.

The other new face in the 2018 rankings is recent Georgia Tech commit Kendall Simmons, an extremely athletic and physically built infielder who showed advanced tools across the board in his most recent showing. With a very strong yet loose 6-foot-2, 185-pound build, Simmons possesses the type of arm strength (93 mph across) that’ll keep him on the left side of the infield for a good while and also shows footwork and range moving to either side. The bat is just as loud of a tool as he frequently found the barrel and was able to drive the ball to his pull side courtesy of his advanced bat speed and his quick, loose set of hands. 

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