Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, September 14, 2013

PG EvoShield Underclass Day 1

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

Over the next three days David Rawnsley and Jheremy Brown will be providing their observations from the first three (of four) days at the 2013 PG EvoShield Underclass National Championship. The event is being held at two prominent baseball complexes/spring training sites, Camelback Ranch (Dodgers and White Sox spring training) and Goodyear Ballpark (Reds and Indians).

It is impossible to stress enough the importance of doing everything possible to submit and maintain accurate rosters for Perfect Game tournaments. This is doubly important for Underclass events such as this one, as college coaches scout these games very thoroughly. This was highlighted in a game Friday morning. I was down on a field and saw a player who did some interesting things but his name wasn’t in the program roster. I went to the scorers/scouts behind the plate to look up his name on the lineup card, which was only moderately more helpful, as only the player’s last name was listed. Fortunately, that was enough information to find that he was in the PG database as he had played at an earlier tournament.

A college coach came up to the tower a couple of minutes later asking who the player was and we had the information for him. But all that extra legwork wouldn’t have been necessary if the player’s name, year, school, etc. had been entered in properly to begin with. And as the day progressed, I found this lack of accurate rosters reoccurring in virtually every game to the point of distraction.

It is also beneficial for everybody involved that the players' physical measurables (height and weight) are correct. One pitcher that threw was listed in the program at 6-foot-6 or 6-foor-7, but actually is about 6-foor-4. Make sure to keep these updated, especially as kids this age are hitting growth spurts and will grow a few inches seemingly overnight.

Camelback Ranch
– David Rawnsley

You never know when Baseball will find you. When I was leaving the rental car center in Phoenix Thursday night, the young lady at the booth asked me “What is Perfect Game?” After I gave her the standard answer, she said “My husband is a pitcher in AA with the Indians – he’s going to be a free agent finally this winter after seven years in the minor leagues.” I asked who her husband was but didn’t recognize the name. Turns out he is from the Dominican Republic and started in the Dominican Summer League at age 17. I will now start rooting for lefthander Francisco Jimenez.

Gravel Baseball from Illinois has a very interesting team based on a short one game look and PG’s Jeff Dahn has written an outstanding profile on the team, which won the inaugural PG 15u World Series in 2012 with many of the same players on their roster.

Just looking at the team’s lineup for their 6-1 win over the North County Padres Friday morning was interesting. The first thing that stood out was that 6-foot-4, 210-pound infielder Brenden Spillane was starting at shortstop and hitting seventh. Spillane was outstanding at the PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego last month and if he was batting seventh it was going to be a good lineup. It’s a tribute to Spillane’s athletic ability that at his size he’s able to play shortstop at a high level.

The second interesting thing about the Gravel lineup is that the cleanup hitter is 5-foot-8, 150-pound second baseman Ako Thomas. When a good team’s clean up hitter is a 5-foot-8 second baseman, you know he’s good. Thomas played up it this game, going 2-for-2 with a walk, a triple and four RBI and showing very good bat speed and quickness on his triple and easy speed going around the bases.

Outfielder Chris Botsoe, first baseman Malik Carpenter and outfielder Jack Yalowitz also did some interesting things with the bat and athletically on defense. Righthander Stephen Bonnain was solid on the mound for Gravel, pounding the strike zone for six innings, allowing only three hits and an unearned run while topping out at 84 mph.

Scouting pitchers in this setting (Underclassmen, September, 100-plus degree heat index) is different than, say, scouting high school games in the spring or even WWBA Tournament games in July. You aren’t going to see velocity very often, so you are looking for bodies and arm actions that project.

There was one pitcher at Camelback Ranch today who threw over 86 mph, for instance, and if you start your prospect walk on the mid-80s, it’s going to be a short walk and you’ll miss the sights. One case in point is ASD Bulldogs 2016 righthander Bradley Spooner from El Toro High School in Southern California. Spooner is 6-foot-2, 160-pounds and looks years away from shaving, with a high waist and solid bone structure. A little research shows he went 4-2, 1.88 with three saves in 41 innings (only 21 hits allowed) for the El Toro HS freshman team last spring. Spooner topped out at 77 mph when I was watching him, but everything moved hard with either cut or run. His 66-68 mph curveball was thrown hard with proper mechanics and tight spin. He worked quickly and threw strikes with a nice, loose arm action and solid overall mechanics. He also threw a 109 pitch complete game in a 4-2 win over Showtime baseball, showing his competitiveness and durability as well. When he’s ready to start his senior year at El Toro it is very easy to see him 6-foot-4, 195-pounds and throwing in the mid- to upper-80s with big life and a mid-70s curveball. It’s worth mentioning that there was a coach from one of the top West Coast schools sitting right behind the back stop the entire time I was there.

The Colton Nighthawks 2015s come into the event with a strong reputation for having quality players and won their first game 7-1 over the Arizona Pilots 2016s Friday. They came back later in the day and no-hit the Minnesota Starz in a six inning run rule game, 8-0. They certainly could hold their own if a football game broke out.

Six-foot-4, 225-pound righthander Gabe Armstrong went the first five innings for the Nighthawks in the first game, allowing only one hit and striking out seven while topping out at 85 mph. Armstrong also threw a nice, sharp curveball and had pretty consistent cutting action on his fastball. 6-foot-5, 190-pound outfielder and righthanded pitcher Matthew Hardy had four doubles on the day, showing a very short swing for a tall player and power to all fields. 6-foot, 190-pound outfielder Austin Henig, showed very nice bat speed at the plate, although he has a very busy load that would leave him late if he didn’t have such quick hands. He had a double and a triple in the second game. Shortstop Brandon Becker has solid defensive actions on defense and a short quick swing at the plate.

Team Oklahoma is another team with a strong reputation that made its EvoShield debut today at Camelback Ranch, and warmed up with a 9-0 no-hit win over the younger Warriors Baseball Academy 2017 team. Righthander Kyle Tyler threw two innings of “tune-up” baseball, as I would be anticipating him throwing in the playoffs on Sunday. He threw 34 pitches, mostly fastballs, in striking out five of the six Warrior hitters. Tyler pitched at the Junior National Showcase in June and at the Underclass All-American Games in San Diego in August and his stuff just keeps getting better each time we see him. He topped out at 89 mph with lots of life on his fastball.

Outfielder Blake Brewster, another talented player who participated in those same two events, went 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBI in the game. I’d like to see Brewster get more extension and less rotation in his lefthanded swing, but he’s strong and fast and athletic with the bat and the results speak for themselves.

Another player I noted on the Team Oklahoma roster was 2017 catcher, third baseman and righthanded pitcher Jake Taylor. He’s the only freshman or sophomore on a talented team of juniors, which says something right there. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound righthanded hitter has a loose, fluid swing with some bat speed and also topped out at 80 mph on the mound – not bad velocity for his age. He’ll be a name to keep an eye on as he gets older.

Second baseman Karl Kani of the Play Hard Angels is a quick-twitch athlete with a solid build, good bat speed from the right side and sound defensive actions. I’d like to see him run more, as I got him at 4.5 on a turn that wasn’t all out; he might be a plus runner. His teammate, outfielder John Bicos, put a nice swing on triple up the left-centerfield gap and I wouldn’t mind seeing him swing it a bit more. The Angels had a nice overall athleticism on their team that showed especially in their defense.

New Mexico Elite catcher Reyes Kahn has a lively 6-foot, 165-pound build with some present strength to with his quickness. He showed his power potential in a couple of at-bats and finished his first game with three RBI.

Rawlings Prospects shortstop Nicholas Grossman is a 5-foot-10, 145-pound sophomore but has very good athleticism and a quick bat from the left side. He’s just going to keep getting better as he gets stronger.

I was bouncing around fields and only happened to see Trosky Baseball catcher Eric Sanchez swing the bat once. He slammed a triple to left-centerfield and looked nice and athletic running the bases. He’s a 2016 with a strong athletic build and I’ll have to try to get more looks at him the rest of the week.

Goodyear Ballpark
– Jheremy Brown

2015 outfielder Luke Eigsti has had himself a busy summer, having traveled around competing in both the Jr. National Showcase in Minneapolis and the PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego. Playing for Team Dinger this weekend, Eigsti showed some nice leverage in his swing in final at bat, driving the ball to the left field fence on a hop. He also turned an infield error into a triple quickly, stealing both second and third within the course of a couple pitches.

I saw a player walk into the complex with very broad shoulders and long limbs, and due to those two attributes and I thought to myself that has to be Tyler Williams, remembering his profile from the Jr. National. I looked on all the rosters though and he wasn't listed, but I was 99.9-percent sure it was him, so I went to the coach for confirmation and indeed it was him, along with one of his younger brothers, Justin, who the Watsonville Aggies picked up for the weekend. Tyler showed well in his first at bat, lining an outside pitch to the opposite field, registering 89 mph off the bat. His overall game might be a little bit raw now, but he drives the ball with regular contact and keeps you coming back for more.

Defensively for the Aggies there were two players that caught my eye in the few innings that I watched. The first was their switch hitting, leadoff hitter and shortstop Sahid Valenzuela. He showed bat speed from the left side, and in the field displayed soft hands with fluid actions and moves well laterally. Catcher Francisco Cota may only be 5-foot-8, but his game plays bigger behind the plate. Quick feet and reflexes allow him to square up his shoulders to balls in the dirt and eat them up off the chest protector. His arm strength also plays well, and he is aggressive with it, not afraid to make a snap throw.

The West Coast Mariners have a couple Division-I commits on their roster already, with a few more that will be once they decide on the school of their future. Two of those players are Parker Kelly and Ian Oxnevad. Both have taken different "paths" so to speak, with Kelly performing in numerous PG tournaments and showcases, while this is the first for Oxnevad. The small gathering of college recruiters didn't go away disappointed as Oxnevad came out and sat 85-86 mph in his first inning of work with a sharp slider at 76 mph. He exhibited a quick, loose arm and is able to generate good downhill plane on his pitches. Oxnevad also has a very nice, deceptive pick off move and uses it well, picking off the first player to get on first base.

Parker Kelly came out swinging Friday night, launching two doubles in his first two trips to the plate. The first was a deep fly ball that beat the left fielder and one-hopped the wall, showing good leverage and extension on swing. In his next at-bat Kelly again showed the ability to drive the ball, this time to the right-centerfield gap.

A pleasant surprise from the West Coast Mariners was 2016 righthander Kenyon Yovan, who is a high school teammate of Kelly's at Westview High School. The 6-foot-2 Yovan dialed his fastball up to 88 mph from a three-quarters arm slot and displayed good feel for a 12-to-6 curveball that was up to 74 mph.

The talk of the tournament has been the SACSN National team, which is comprised of top 2015 prospects from all over the country. While their uniform tops match, their hats do not, and this is because each player represents their own high school and community by wearing their high school hat. With seven players on the roster committed to a Division-I school and plenty more to follow, you would think their first game would be easy. This wasn't the case early on against the Play Hard Angels, as SACSN found themselves down 3-1 at one point.

Two of the three runs scored for the Angels came off the bat of Karl Kani (listed above), a 2015 middle infielder from Sherman Oaks, Calif. What David wrote above is essentially word-for-word what I wrote in my program. With a quick bat and hands, Kani turned on an 88 mph fastball on the inner half and lined it down the left field line for a triple. Teammate John Bicos, who is also mentioned above, showed very good arm strength from right field, nearly gunning down a runner attempt to tag up. While the throw was a little off the bag, the arm strength and carry on the throw stood out.

Taking the bump for SACSN was Jiovanni Orozco, a righthanded pitcher from Tucson, Ariz., and is one of several Team USA participants on this team. This was my first time seeing Orozco and I came away impressed as he showed a feel for three pitches and made slight adjustments throughout his appearance. With broad shoulders and a strong lower half, Orozco throws from a high three-quarters slot and pretty much sat 87-88 mph with his fastball. He did run into trouble commanding his fastball from the windup, as he wasn't getting on top of the pitch and was missing high. From the stretch however he was able to generate better downhill plane, getting on top of the ball and filling up the strike zone consistently. He also showed a nice changeup with late fade, thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball, along with a sharp 11-to-5 curveball which showed slight run to the arm-side.

Tim Salvadore
came in to relieve Orozco, throwing from a lower three-quarters arm slot with lots of deception and a loose, whippy arm. He bumped his fastball up to 85 mph, with very good arm-side run and hard movement. Salvadore's slider was thrown at 79 mph, and just like when I saw him earlier this summer at the Sunshine Northeast Showcase, nothing he throws is straight and is very hard to square up.

To say Triston McKenzie is long, lean, and projectable may be an understatement. At 6-foot-4, 160-pound, McKenzie uses his length well, getting good downhill and using his quick arm to top out at 86 mph with his fastball. He has an easy arm and feel for two off-speed pitches, the first of which is a slider that peaked at 74 mph and the second is a changeup that had very good fade at 78 mph.

The SACSN team is very sound defensively up the middle with the duo of Danny Casals and Nick Madrigal. Madrigal is on the right side at second base and shows soft hands with a quick transfer and can run very well, as evidenced by him getting down the line to first in 4.19 seconds. On the bases he gets very good jumps and reads the pitcher well, stealing both second and third uncontested. At shortstop Casals made a very nice play ranging far to his left in the hole, gathering himself, spinning and making an online throw, just missing the out at first as the runner beat the throw by a step. He has plus athleticism and works through the ball well on routine plays.

Daz Cameron
, the No. 1 ranked player in the high school class of 2015, had a productive day at the plate, collecting three hits and recording two RBI. This was my first time getting to watch a full game of Cameron's, and the thing that jumps immediately is how easy and loose his swing is, not to mention the incredible bat speed. He also has more strength than you would guess by looking at his frame as evidenced on his first base hit of the game, a ground ball up the middle that came off the bat at 99 mph. In his next two at-bats he turned on the ball each time; the first a hard line drive past third base, and the second a long double to left field, one-hopping the wall. The ball jumps off his bat and he easily proved why he is at the top of his class.

While watching the SACSN game I got a phone call from another Perfect Game scout who told me I had to stop by to see Shane Martinez, a 2016 shortstop and recent commit to the University of Arizona, play. And by recent I mean within the last 24-36 hours. His defense at shortstop is the most impressive aspect of his game, and while no balls were hit to him while I was watching, I did take notice of his hands in between innings. They are so soft and fluid it is easy to see how he warranted a phone call, and is certainly a player I will make a point to see again during this tournament. It's worth noting that he is also their cleanup hitter with good bat speed and more strength to come.

Mickey Moniak
is one of the few top 2016 players that I have not seen prior to last night. Although it was only one at-bat, I came away impressed with his approach from the left side. Moniak came out swing on the first two pitches, swinging over the top and pulling out the front side a little bit on low-70s fastball. On the 0-2 pitch the opposing pitcher tried to come back with another fastball, but Moniak adjusted, sat back a moment longer and lined the pitch into left field for a single. He has good bat speed and will be one to watch over the next three years.

Saving the best for last, Chase Sandman – a great name for a pitcher – threw a no-hitter late in the day in dominant fashion. A lefthander for the Arizona Pilots 2016 team, Sandman put the opposing team to sleep striking out 19 batters (out of 21 outs) in his seven inning complete game effort. Predominately using a 79-81 mph fastball, which peaked at 82, he was able to elevate the pitch to the hitters letters and used it all game to induce empty swings. You just never know what you're going to see when you watch a baseball game, as this performance undoubtedly was one of the most impressive in Perfect Game history.

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