Tournaments : : Story
Sunday, October 06, 2013

Florida Qualifier Day 2 notes

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

Contributing: Frankie Piliere, Jheremy Brown

I spent my Saturday watching the action over at Jet Blue and got more of it than I’d bargained for. That’s because the Red Sox and the Twins were playing a pair of 10:00 a.m. instructional league games right alongside the PG/WWBA tournament games.

So I got to see players like 2012 PG All-American lefthander Steven Gonzalves, the Twins 2013 fourth-round pick, Red Sox first baseman Nick Longhi, top Dominican signee and 2013 World Showcase participant third baseman Rafael Devers and a host of other familiar players on the field in a professional setting. Gonzalves was solid as the Twins starter, pitching in the 89-91 area and showing a much better curveball than he had in high school.

IMG Academy played the exact same script in their Saturday morning win over the Palm Beach Shockers as they did Friday night – a top prospect left starter dominates, the bullpen finished the no-hitter, while the lineup can’t score against the opposing starter but hammers the bullpen.

The top prospect starter in this case was 2014 lefthander Willie Rios and this was the best I’ve ever seen him throw. After suffering some bouts of wildness late this summer, Rios needed only 73 pitches to strike out 10 hitters in six hitless innings. He was steady at 89-92 in the early going and threw some very nice 86 mph two-seamers with big late life. Rios worked primarily with his fastball, only throwing a handful of curveballs, but they were big and sharp and hard at 75 mph.

If IMG gets deep into the playoffs there is no reason that Rios and last night’s starter, Logan Allen, shouldn’t be available for some work on Monday.

Shockers 2015 righthander
Phillip Sieli was just as effective as Rios for the first four innings, not allowing a hit or a walk while striking out six hitters. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Sieli has a nice delivery and had pinpoint control of an 84-87 mph fastball and a 70 mph curveball. He’s a very solid young prospect.

Team Prospects International is a team made up of players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and teams like that are always fun to watch, not only because they have some talented players, but because they play a loud, raucous brand of baseball and have fun. The two most interesting prospects I saw in a couple of looks at them were righthander Francisco Rodriguez, a slender 6-foot-2, 165-pound Dominican who threw five innings in the 84-88 mph range with a nice clean, fast arm action, and 6-foot-2, 180-pound outfielder Michael Rosario, who showed lots of raw bat speed and a very projectable build.

2016 righthander Bryce Van Horn of the Florida Express is a very interesting young pitching prospect. The 6-foot-4, 175-pound sophomore threw four shutout innings in the Express’ 10-0 win over TBW Select, throwing only 56 pitches while walking no one and striking out seven. Van Horn has an outstanding delivery that enables him to spot his pitches with very advanced precision for a pitcher his age. He was up to 84 mph with a low-70s curveball and is just going to keep getting better as he gets stronger.

The Express also boast one of the top middle infields at the tournament in shortstop Joseph Morales and second baseman Nick Agosto.

The formula that Chet Lemon’s Juice uses for its continued success still works if their first two games are any indication. The key ingredient in that recipe is to have a seemingly limitless supply of mid- to upper-80s pitchers who pound the strike zone. They won a pair of games today 5-0 and 11-1, getting complete game wins with a combined one walk in 12 innings by a pair of right handers, 2015 Brady Singer and 2014 Blake Waldren.

The 6-foot-4, 170-pound Singer needed only 87 pitches in seven innings, striking out 10 hitters without issuing a walk. He was up to 88 mph early in the game before settling into the mid-80s and beginning to use his curveball more often.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Waldren threw only 64 pitches in five innings, striking out four hitters. He topped out at 87 mph and threw a big breaking 69 mph curveball and a nice 73 mph changeup.

The Juice’s roster lists 13 primary pitchers, so you can be sure more of the same is coming up on Sunday for their opponents.

2014 catcher Caleb Leach is the Juice’s cleanup hitter and drove in three runs in the game I stopped in on; he’s a talented young player. His backup is a 2016, catcher Jake Sullivan, who served as the DH in this game and showed a good swing from the right side. Any time a sophomore is starting for the Juice one can deduce that he’s a pretty good player that needs to be focused on. I also enjoyed watching 5-foot-7, 155-pound 2014 second baseman John Sprowls play. He’s a high-energy player who swings the bat with surprising bat speed and gap power.

Sarasota Baseball Club’s 2015 righthander Jordan Gubelman has already pitched in an eye opening 21 Perfect Game events, but I’d venture a guess that his outing Saturday afternoon against Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy was the best thus far. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound righty threw a complete game three-hit shutout, striking out 10 Beltran hitters in a 8-0 win. Gubelman was in the upper-80s the entire outing, topping out at 89 mph, but the most impressive thing he did was show the ability to get big glove side running action on his fastball similar to Greg Maddux. Very few young pitchers can do this with intent, and Gubelman picked up a number of strikeouts against lefthanded hitters by starting his fastball off at the hitters elbow and having it dive into the strike zone over the inside corner. Gubelman’s changeup was a potential plus pitch he could have thrown more, while his curveball was on and off due to lowering his elbow and slot often on the pitch.

2014 catcher Brandon Chapman did an outstanding job catching and framing Gubelman’s movement and ability to throw the ball to spots.
Jovani Moran kept his team in the game for five innings, allowing only three hits and two runs while striking out six hitters. Moran has a young and loose 6-foot-1, 165-pound build, and a fast left arm that was consistently in the mid-80s, topping at 86 mph. Sarasota hitters didn’t see his fastball well, either, taking some weak late swings at pitches that looked hittable from behind the backstop.

- David Rawnsley

Righthander Brady Singer started off Saturday’s action, taking the ball for Chet Lemon’s Juice at City of Palms Park. He worked at 85-87 mph with his fastball, topping out at 88 while displaying a repeatable delivery and arm action in the process. His 6-foot-4 frame is highly projectable and he’s already showing a solid feel for his breaking ball. He’ll need to be monitored very closely heading into next spring.

Oliver Tejada
was one of the most athletic looking players I’ve seen so far this weekend and it doesn’t take him long to make an impression in the game. He looks like he hunts fastballs early in counts and gets the barrel out very well even against high level velocity. Tejada, who plays left field for FTB Rawlings 2016, drove a double into the left-centerfield gap on Saturday afternoon off an 87 mph fastball on the inner part of the plate. It’s a fluid stroke and he gets excellent extension out in front. As a result of that extension, the ball behaves a little differently off his bat. He has easy, natural backspin and produced a 6.20 second hang time on a long foul fall during Saturday’s action as well.

That’s an impressive number for a 2015 graduate, and shows the type of lift he is capable of generating. His medium, athletic build is one that should continue to add strength and allow him to develop some more power. Tejada’s approach is heavily geared toward pulling the ball right now, but he has quick enough hands to learn to let the ball track deeper in the zone. He’s a player I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of.

It’s been an excellent first two days in Fort Myers for South Florida Raiders’ infielder, Joe Dunand. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Miami native has swung the bat exceptionally well, showing easy pull-side carry, a fluid swing path and smooth actions at shortstop. Dunand did some things I really liked in Minneapolis at the National Showcase back in June, and there’s good reason that he’s ranked 124nd in our rankings of the class of 2014, but I also believe he’s an improved player since then, or at least a more comfortable one.

He still needs to work on covering the outside part of the plate and hitting the ball to right field, but when pitchers have thrown something he can pull in these first two days of action, he has not missed his pitches. Most notably he raked a double that hit off the base of the deep left field wall at City of Palms park, a ball he was able to easily spin on on the inside part of the plate. In a later at-bat, he was given some trouble by the soft stuff down and away from him, but I have far fewer questions now about his ability to hit the good fastball. His swing path was efficient enough so far this weekend to answer any questions I had about that. He’s a strong, athletic player that I think could be just coming into his own physically.

I don’t see a lot of 2016 graduates that truly pique my interest at the plate very often. I’ll often note swing mechanics, projectable frames and flashes of intriguing tools in players that young, but when you see standout bat speed from a player in just his sophomore year in high school, it’s highly notable. A primary left-handed pitcher and secondary outfielder for Gatorball, Austin Langworthy showed that type of bat speed on Saturday afternoon.

If he continues to swing the bat the way he did on this day, his arm is going to have to work hard to keep up. Langworthy takes an aggressive load from the left side of the plate and has a significant amount of head movement, but when he gets his hands going it’s a highly efficient and fast bat path. He takes an aggressive hack and looks to pull the ball. It looks like a swing that would be a little out of control at times, but the reality is that he did a good job of staying in the strike zone and he’s compact to the ball. Langworthy produced two hard line drives to right field in Saturday’s action, including a deep drive to right center. With his high level bat speed, athleticism, compact swing path, and the fact that we’ve seen him up to 85 mph in the past, he certainly has a lot going for him. He’s a 2016 bat to keep a close eye on.

Christian Demby
pitched on day one of the Florida Qualifier for the Florida Storm Chiefs, but since writing time ran short on Friday, we’ll squeeze his performance into today’s notebook because of just how noteworthy it was. We last saw Demby in July as a projectable righthander that worked at 82-84 mph. Flash forward to Friday evening and Demby was working at 87-89 mph early on in his outing, reaching as high as 90 mph. He flashed good late life through the zone and at times would have produce pure two-seam action away from lefthanded batters. He lost his command velocity at times when he failed to finish his pitches – this was particularly a problem for him out of the stretch position. His go to off-speed pitch early in his outing was his changeup, which is somewhat surprising considering how difficult the pitch can be to master and that Demby is a primary infielder. The changeup checked in around 78-80 mph and his feel for it was surprisingly consistent. He mixed in his breaking ball more and more as his outing moved along, coming in mostly around 73-75 mph with solid 11-to-5 shape.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound righty saw his velocity dip at times to 83-87 mph late in his outing, but he did bring it back up, consistently hitting 89 throughout the game. Also worth noting is Demby’s offensive upside. He nearly drove a ball out of the yard to his pull side, and the athleticism that also makes him intriguing on the mound make him nearly as interesting at the plate.

- Frankie Piliere

Starting the second game of the day for the Florida Hardballers was Garrett Cave, a 2014 righthander from Sumterville, Fla. Cave projects well as he has a very lean frame and high waist, along with a quick arm action. Yesterday he was able to bump his fastball to 89 mph, while sitting 85-87/88. He gets good extension down the mound with his lower half, allowing him to get downhill plane. He showed a nice feel for an 11/5 curveball, which topped 70 mph and was able to maintain the same arm speed as his fastball. Cave also flashed a changeup, which he kept low in the zone at 80 mph.

2016 outfielder Anthony Churlin and the SWFL 17U Carrera team faced off against Cave, and despite being the only 2016 on the roster, Churlin turned in a strong performance. He shows a quick bat and present strength in his righthanded swing and should progress as he matures and fill outs his frame. Cave tried to get an 88 mph by Churlin on the outer half, but he just went with the pitch and drove it over the center fielder’s head for a double. He gets down the line very well and his speed picks up once he gets going.

2017 catcher Zach Jackson is an interesting prospect to watch over the next few years, despite the fact that hasn't played a high school game yet. In the box he shows lift and strength to his pull side (right field) with some bat speed. He's sound behind the plate and has no problem handling velocity. Jackson also has a strong, accurate arm down to second and popped a 2.03 and 2.06 in between innings.

Gabriel Rodriguez
came in for the final inning of FTB Louisville Slugger's game and had a nice 1-2-3 outing, striking out the side. His fastball sat 87-89 mph, despite his 5-foot-9 frame, due to his quick, loose arm. He also flashed two hard, late biting sliders for strikes at 76 and 77 mph which was his out pitch on two of the strike outs.

Both Evan Harold and Brendan Rodgers had a strong day at the plate for the Orlando Scorpions '15 Prime, each going 3-for-3 in the game. Harold hit the ball hard in all three of his at-bats, with his last hit being a hard line drive, registering 96 mph off the bat. He shows quick hands and good bat speed with the ability to stay inside the baseball.

Rodgers picked up a couple doubles, with one in his first at-bat and another in his third. He has the ability to hit the ball hard to all fields and did just that, as he drove a ball to the left-centerfield gap and then hit a line drive to the right-centerfield gap, each resulting in two bases. Rodgers also impressed defensively, putting his glove work and range son display, going far to his right at shortstop to make a back handed play and get the lead runner out at third base to help thwart a big inning.

Team Impact was in Fort Myers not too long ago for the Labor Day Classic tournament, making a run deep into the playoffs, and hope to do even better this time around. Their roster looks a bit different as they added some bats, but also lost some arms in the process. Two of the bats the picked up are Tyler Dietrich, who recently competed in the PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego, and Marc Coffers, a 2016 who looks good on both sides of the ball. Both are students at Barron Collier High School in Naples, Fla., and each splits time behind the plate while hitting at the top of the lineup.

Coffers has a strong, well-proportioned frame with broad shoulders and will continue to get stronger. At the plate he barreled up everything, using a quick bat and strength. One at-bat stood out in particular, as he turned on a pitch for a deep double to left field, one-hopping the fence. Coffers also plays sound but aggressive defense behind the plate, as he knows he has a strong arm and isn’t afraid to back-pick runners at first base

Dietrich also had a nice showing at the plate, lining a pitch back up the middle for a single. He has a smooth swing with good bat speed and should see his power continue to develop over the next few years.

David Castillo
is a lean, long limbed 2014 lefthanded pitcher who twirled a six inning no-hitter last night as his team won by the score of 8-0. Throwing from a three-quarters arm slot, Castillo ran his fastball up to 84 mph and showed a nice feel for his curveball which had 1-to-7 break and depth to it

- Jheremy Brown

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