Tournaments | Story | 9/2/2019

Southeast Labor Day Scout Notes

Greg Gerard         Drew Wesolowski         Matthew Arietta        
Photo: Marquis Grissom Jr (Perfect Game)

Ben Johnson (2020, Tucker, Ga.) was the pitcher of the weekend in the Upperclass tournament as he pitched eXposure Upperclass Fall Scout Team to a dominant victory on Friday night. Johnson finished off a seven-inning no-hitter totaling 17 strikeouts and just one walk. His command was outstanding as he used his fastball, curveball and changeup to carve hitters in, out, up or down in the strike zone. The Georgia Southern commit was offering up nasty stuff especially early as his fastball topped out at 90 mph and his curveball flashed above average on a professional grading scale. The changeup is still a developing pitch as he does slow his arm down on it but was also effective in keeping hitters off balance.

Johnson is an ultra-projectable righthanded pitcher with a skinny 6-foot-4 frame, clean arm action and arm speed that really projects well with continued arm strength. Johnson stays online to the plate and although the fastball is mostly straight he still produced an outstanding number of swings-and-misses with the offering. The two off-speed pitches were an added bonus to what Johnson had in his repertoire. His special performance in game one of the tournament resulted in an eventual MV-Pitcher award handed to him at the end of the event.

Kentucky commit Reuben Church (2020, Maryville, Tenn.) hit a no-doubter on Friday night that went into the trees on Field 1 at East Cobb. Trackman recorded the home run going 410 feet to the opposite field gap and leaving his barrel at 104 mph. Church has a huge frame with outstanding strength throughout. The ball comes off of his bat differently when on time and squared. The strength he has at impact is special as he provides leverage and big raw bat speed to his swing path. The bat whips through the hitting zone as he has a knack for hitting the ball on the barrel. The Maryville, Tennessee native has put together a strong performance at the plate in 2019 PG events where he has now connected on three home runs and nine extra-base hits.

Joshua Baez (2021, Boston, Mass.) really made a statement this weekend during his time in Georgia. The righthanded hitting outfielder has really come into his own in a huge way displaying power to his swing and loud contact throughout the weekend. A pair of balls he connected on in this weekend’s action went for deep home runs to his pull side showcasing his raw bat speed, leverage, extension and pure juice. Baez stays in an athletic stance to start his swing with most of his weight staying on his back leg. He strides into contact shifting that weight and looking to hit the ball out in front while extending through the baseball and doing damage to it at impact. His plate discipline is special as well with a great eye that resulted in not being overly aggressive and taking pitches when needed and drawing walks at a high rate. On top of that he showed really good arm strength running his fastball up to 89 mph on the mound as well. Baez had a huge weekend for Beast Mode Prime 2021 that resulted in four extra-base hits, two of them being home runs in nine at-bats. Baez was also named the tournament Most Valuable Player for his efforts.

PG National invitee from Decatur High Schooll in Georgia Jaylen Paden (2020, Lilburn, Ga.) was the starter for Beast Mode Prime in their first game of the day on Sunday. Paden sat 87-91 mph in his first inning before settling into an 85-88 mph range in the later part of his outing. He uses a longer arm stroke while having the ability to repeat his release point and fire strikes to the plate at a high rate. He tallied up 11 strikeouts in a five-inning start pitching team to a 6-0 victory. The Georgia Southern commit offered a three-pitch mix to hitters highlighted by his changeup that shows average on a professional grading scale and projects really well. The pitch has sinking action to it as he gets under the hands of hitters with it. He is comfortable throwing the pitch in any count and to hitters of either handedness. The slider he has is a sweeping pitch with some projection to it as well.

Jeremy Lee (2020, Valleygrande, Ala.) got the start on Sunday morning for TPL Pro Elite Blue and showed a clean arm and easy delivery to produce a fastball in the upper-80s. Early in the outing, Lee sat consistently 87-89 mph getting down the mound and creating a firm downhill plane to the plate when in the lower third of the strike zone. The verbal commitment to South Alabama displayed a really promising breaking ball with sharp, late biting action to it. The pitch shows solid average right now, but projects with continued development on the bump. He does have a tendency to become out of sync with his lower half and release point, but when on time, Lee does a great job of throwing strikes with his two-pitch combination. Lee was on a 45 pitch limit where he tossed a pair of innings punching out five and walking just one batter.

The No. 1 player in the 2022 class, Dylan Lesko (2022, Buford, Ga.), put together another strong performance on the mound sitting 88-91 mph that included a three-pitch mix. Lesko has an easy delivery with a clean arm and jump with the fastball out of his hand. The stat line may not be overly impressive from him in this stint but the start on the mound showed lots of potential for the high school sophomore. His fastball has life to it, curveball is sharp and projects as a real swing-and-miss offering, and his changeup has similar life to his arm side that his fastball does. It was a quick look at the uncommitted righthander but the ranking next to Lesko’s name is hard to argue.

Former 14u PG Select Festival participant Hank Bearden (2020, Rocky Face, Ga.) pitched really well for eXposure Upperclass Fall Scout Team going five innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks. The righthander committed to Georgia ran his fastball up to 89 mph with a long and loose arm complementing the fastball with a sweeping slider for swings-and-misses. He pounded the strike zone at an impressive rate throwing over 70 percent strike per Diamondkast. The fastball is mostly straight and will run in on righthanded hitters jamming them up and establishing the arm side of the plate. He does land closed off to the plate but showed the ability to work over his front side and get to both sides of the plate with both pitches. In doing so his angle that he creates to the plate causes additional deception to opposing hitters. Bearden dominated from start to finish during his outing and has really shown signs of improving command along this calendar year.

Jared Jones (2022, Marietta, Ga.) had a day to remember for a long time on Sunday as he hit a pair of back-side bombs as well as an opposite field ground-rule double. The righthanded hitting catcher is a physical beast at the plate with top-of-the-class strength to his swing and power to all parts of the field as shown in the game. The bat speed is real as well for Jones who has some of the best power in the entire 2022 class due to the bat speed and strength that he produces from his swing. He starts slightly closed off at the plate and looks to drive the ball to the right-center field gap. The uncommitted 6-foot-4, 230-pound catcher has big-time tools at the plate, but the projection behind the dish is certainly intriguing as well. His agility and flexibility is impressive for his size although the catch-and-throw skills are still in the works. With time and proper refinement, Jones is going to continue to become a star on both sides of the ball.

Marquis Grissom Jr (2020, Atlanta, Ga.) is a name to follow by MLB scouts out of the state of Georgia.  The son of a former big leaguer of the same name, Grissom is a righthanded pitcher who projects so well on the mound and already produces intriguing velocity. His fastball sat 88-91 mph on Monday during playoff action and touched 92 mph once as well. His feel for his secondaries is impressive as well as he offers a changeup that projects well to be an above average pitch and a slider that projects well also. The arm works through the back and he stays online to the plate as he delivers the ball. Committed to play for the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech, Grissom tossed a pair of innings in the contest striking out a batter per inning. The command did get away from him in the outing as he did walk five batters but the overall stuff along with the projection of his 6-foot-2 frame and MLB bloodlines will certainly intrigue scouts that follow him into his senior spring.

– Greg Gerard

Nolan Sliver (2022 McDonough, Ga.) has a lanky frame with a very projectable build as the righthanded pitcher went on to fill up the zone. He worked with a downhill delivery utilizing the lower half and showing more in the tank for further development down the road. Sliver mixed up his pitches well showing advanced feel for his changeup while getting swings-and-misses with it. He worked off of his fastball as it sat in the low-80s, topping out at 84. With his three-pitch mix he went on to strike out four batters during his 5 1/3-inning outing. With his build he projects well in the future.

Devin Portee (2022 Decatur, Ga.) proved to be one of the best middle infielders in the event this weekend as he made every play with ease. His range was unmatched as he flashed the leather with very fluid actions. His defensive play was not the only thing that stood out as he would go on to swing the bat with purpose as well. He showed very quick hands getting the bat head out front making loud contact all weekend. When he gets extended, he shows power potential as he knocked one off the left field wall in the playoffs. This fast-twitch ballplayer will be one who could make a leap soon and end up popping up in a big way on recruiting radars.

Austin May (2022 Gray, Ga.) made a name for himself this weekend as one of the top hitting catchers. He has a large frame and at the dish he showed advanced bat speed while creating leverage, pounding the baseball around the park. He went on to record multiple extra-base hits during the action while he legged out a few extra bases as well. His hustle stood out as he didn’t take a pitch off and constantly looked for an opportunity. He took that same grit behind the plate as he blocked up all sorts of wild pitches. He went on to throw a few runners out as well showing he is well rounded in all facets of the game.

Jayce Blalock (2022 Grantville, Ga.) travelled home after tearing up the 14u National Showcase event and continued to prove why he is one of the biggest bats in his class. He flashed an extra-large frame with broad shoulders as he looks the part of a grown man. Pitchers tended to stay away from him as he proved he could drive the baseball out of the park with ease. He smashed a couple doubles in the gaps that came off the bat with head-turning noise. With his skill-set and body type he will be fun to watch as he progresses as a hitter.

Jordan Carter (2023 Columbia, Tenn.) utilized a big, athletic frame this weekend as he proved to have the skills to go with it as well. The righthanded hitter squared up the baseball as he proved to have patience in the box as well showing a good eye. He showcased a simple swing as he took his hands to the baseball showing that he could put that strength to good use. He flashed a middle- to pull-side approach and punished baseballs while doing so. He also showed to be a very solid third baseman as he made some very nice plays coming in on the baseball and he made a great leaping play on a line drive that was smoked down the line, overall showing good feel for the position. With his skill-set and build he will be an interesting follow going forward.

Chris Smith (2023 Bartlett, Tenn.) came on the scene late in the action as he took the bump for Wow Factor Baseball in their semifinal contest. With a long, lanky frame, he went on to pound the lower half of the strike zone with a fastball that showed some sink and arm-side run in the mid-80s, topping out at 87 several times. He has a long arm action with a fluid delivery showing plenty more in the tank if needed. His slider proved to be his swing-and-miss pitch as it showed sharp bite with depth as well. He also proved he was comfortable throwing it in any count or scenario. With his mound presence in full display, he went on to dominate the opposition as he struck out seven in 3 2/3 innings.

– Drew Weslowski

We witnessed some mid-summer caliber performances this weekend at East Cobb during the WWBA Southeast Upperclass Labor Day Classic as there were a number of players who really stood out. Here are a few that turned in magnificent performances for their clubs.

Another pair of arms that were impressive at the East Cobb complex this weekend were Jaylen Paden (covered above) and his classmate Edwin Galatas (2020, Decatur, Ga.). Pitching for Beast Mode Prime 2021, the two piggy-backed their way to a one-hit performance, a 6-0 shutout. Galatas took over for Paden in the sixth and continued the dominance, fanning five batters in the process. Similar to Paden, Galatas showcased an advanced two-pitch mix of a fastball clocked in the high-80s and a curveball with good shape and depth in the low-70s. Galatas pitches with confidence and fills up the strike zone displaying good control of his repertoire.

Andreaus Lewis II (2021, Winder, Ga.) is a 5-foot-10, 200-pound catcher who is committed to attend Eastern Kentucky despite having half his high school career to go at Winder-Barrow High School. Lewis, started for his club Upstate Mavericks ST, and along with teammate Matthew Mitchell (2020, Greer, S.C.), delivered a two-hit shutout Friday night at East Cobb. Lewis was impressive in a pitch count-controlled outing going two innings while striking out four and threw almost 60 percent of his 35 pitches for strikes. He pounded the zone with fastballs recording a high at 86, yet he might not be far from 90 with further development and growth. Displaying good mechanics and pitchability, Lewis is a  high-upside talent who filled the zone and pitched with confidence.

Mitchell, relieved Lewis’ start going five strong innings on the bump where he scattered two hits and fanned five on the way to an early win for their club. Mitchell used a two-pitch mix of a fastball – that touched 76 – and a curveball with proper shape and feel for the pitch, registering in the upper-60s to low-70s. Mitchell used his repertoire in all counts and filled up the strike zone at an impressive, 75-percent clip. Mitchell did everything a coach could ask for from a pitcher in relief as he secured the early victory this weekend for his club. It is important to state that Mitchell has excelled in the relief roll this summer as he has a 0.60 ERA in 12 1/3 innings of work. Over that time, he has an 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate.

Both Mitchell and Lewis had plenty of bats to thank in their lineup but one that has stood out all weekend was John Marant (2020, Tyrone, Ga.). Marant is a 6-foot-5, strong and athletically built outfielder from Sandy Creek High School. Recently starting his senior year, Marant was on a tear at the plate this weekend, heading into the semifinals on Sunday with a .625 average. Mitchell was 5-for-8 through Saturday with two singles, a double and two triples. He also walked twice, scored three runs, drove in six and stole a base to cap off a productive pool play and quarterfinal performance. The Georgia Tech commit swings from the left side and has a large step trigger as he continually shows advanced hand-eye coordination and feel for his barrel that generates consistent hard-hit contact to the gaps. He is very patient in the box and has minimal pre-pitch movement. He does a nice job keeping his hands back well and staying balanced and then shoots his hands and wrists through the hitting zone with quickness. He generates plenty of leverage and displays good rhythm and timing in the box. He has a good frame to add strength and his consistent hard contact leads one to believe that more raw power will come. A good athlete, Marant makes all the plays hit to him in the outfield and has a good arm to profile in right field. He continually gets good reads and displays sound first-step quickness in the outfield displaying good range as well.

Other notable top performers who turned in some excellent performances and showed us glimpses of high-level tools were East Cobb Astros 16u X teammates Jake Hembree (2023, Hiram, Ga.) and leadoff hitter Benjamin Hamacher (2021, Marietta, Ga.). Hembree, who isn’t even 15, was hitting .667 heading into Sunday  with four walks, four runs scored, two RBI and two swipes. Hamacher was impressive in the leadoff spot for East Cobb Astros 16u X, hitting .583 (7-for-12) with a double, two walks, four runs scored as well as one RBI and a stolen base. He plays with aggression and displays good baseball acumen in all phases of the game as he continually sets the tone for this club.

– Matt Arietta

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