Tournaments : : Story
Saturday, October 12, 2013

World Underclass Day 2 notes

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

Contributing: Todd Gold

First, a college rule change that I, and many others, evidently, weren’t aware of, before we get to the players.

At the very first game I went to Thursday in the 4:30 p.m. time slot I saw a very prominent college head coach I hadn’t seen on the road for a couple of years. When I asked him what he was doing away from home this time of year, he said that there had been an NCAA rule change effective August 1 that enabled schools to have three coaches out on the road at the same time. The previous rule limited schools to only two coaches on the road. Other coaches and the simple existence of three coaches from a number of schools at the WWBA Underclass World Championship confirmed this.

I asked the coach if he liked the new rule and he said “Yes, I like it and I think everyone else does, too. Except for my wife, that is. She’s not used to me being on the road at this time of the year and told me Monday is definitely a no-work day at home.”

The theme at the games I bounced around too at the JetBlue Complex, the former Red Sox 5-Plex and Terry Park was definitely the pitching, with lots of young 2015 and 2016 arms throwing in the mid- to upper-80s with good command and some solid secondary offerings. I saw a couple of 0-0 games and some other games that were that way until the bullpens and a sense of urgency got involved in the late innings. So today’s notes will lean heavily towards the mound.

Maybe the best performance I’ve seen was by Gatorball Baseball Academy lefthander Austin Langworthy, a 2016 from Wiliston, Florida. Langworthy threw six shutout innings against a loaded Marucci Elite team, allowing only two hits and walking no one. His fastball was up to 86 mph with life, his curveball was big and hard and well placed, and he even mixed in some nice changeups, with the Marucci hitters getting very few good swings at any of his offerings. Langworthy is also a legit two-way prospect going 2-for-2 at the plate.

Marucci threw five different pitchers in the 0-0 tie and all showed prospect level stuff. Righthander Jack Weisenburger from Michigan was probably the most impressive for me, with a 6-foot-3, 190-pound projectable frame and a quick, compact arm action that produced an 88 mph fastball and five strikeouts in two innings of work. Third baseman and righthanded pitcher Parker Kelly topped out at 90 mph in his two quick innings of work, the first time I believe he has touched that mark in PG play, while righthander Bryce Denton topped out at 89 mph. Another righthander, Andy Pagnozzi, and lefthander Hunter Whitman also worked scoreless frames.

I’ve seen the equally stacked FTB Mizuno team in parts of a two games the first two days and they’ve also had trouble generating runs, plating only five in those two games. Shortstop Ryan Mountcastle, one of the top hitters in the 2015 class, has done his part, going 3-for-5 in two games with a pair of hard doubles. I dropped a “young Wil Myers look” comp on the 6-foot-3, 180-pound shaggy haired Florida native to a few scouts and it was well received.

Another FTB position prospect I enjoyed watching at last week’s Florida Qualifier and again this week is centerfielder Kennie Taylor. Taylor is a 5-foot-10 speed player who has a 6.5 60-yard dash time to his credit per the FTB coaches, but I’ve seen him blast two triples over the opposing centerfielders' head in the last ten days to show his surprising power.

FTB lefthander Juan Hillman, who is ranked No. 187 in the PG 2015 Class Rankings, showed he could be ready for a rankings jump by striking out eight hitters in three innings Thursday night. Hillman worked in the 87-90 mph range with plus tailing life on his fastball and simply overmatched most hitters. His 73-75 mph curveball was a solid second offering.

A pair of 2016 players on the EvoShield Canes Underclass team were getting plenty of attention from the college coaches when I found them Friday afternoon at JetBlue. Righthander Bryant Packard had a very easy and smooth arm action that produced an 83-86 mph fastball to go with an outstanding changeup while throwing five innings. He’s a very mature pitcher for a sophomore. Catcher Brad Debo doesn’t look much like a sophomore with a very strong 6-foot-2, 190-pound build that gets immediate attention. He went 3-for-3 at the plate, including a ringing double down the right field line, and shows lots of strength and bat speed from the left side of the plate.

The Dirtbags allowed three runs in the top of the seventh inning to drop a surprising 3-2 decision to a scrappy FBA Blue team Friday afternoon, but a couple of their players really stood out. Righthander John Creel, a Mississippi commit, cruised through four innings in only 41 pitches, using an 87-89 mph heavy sinking fastball and a hard 78 mph breaking ball that sat right on the edge between a slider and a curveball. He’s very projectable and will move up significantly from his present No. 370 ranking in the 2015 class. Eric Jenkins is a 6-foot-1, 165-pound centerfielder with plus running speed and some pop in his bat. It might have been a different ballgame if his early inning drive to centerfield hadn’t been flagged down on a nice play.

A tip of the cap has to go out to FBA Blue 2016 righthander Dustin Baber, who threw a complete game three-hitter against the talented Dirtbags line up. The 5-foot-10, 135-pound sophomore topped out at 81 mph with a nice curveball and showed that the ability to mix and spot his pitches, to go along with a solid defense behind you, is a good formula against any team.

One player I’m going to need to get more looks at, and undoubtedly will over the next couple of years, is 2016 first baseman Will Benson of the East Cobb Astros. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound lefthanded hitting Benson really stands out on the field for his size and athleticism. I only saw one at bat, a routine ground ball to second base, but Benson put a good swing on it and ran well. He’s presently ranked No. 7 in the Perfect Game Class of 2016 rankings.

East Coast Baseball righthander Sam Finnerty had a healthy group of college coaches behind the screen watching him pitch against the Evoshild Canes Friday morning. The Alabama native threw three innings in the 84-87 mph range with a deep true 12-to-6 breaking ball that is going to get lots of hitters out at the next level. His 2015 teammate, righthander Colin Coates, also threw well, with an 86 mph fastball, a good low-70s breaker and nice pitchability.

Giants Scout Team righthander Nolan Watson threw five shutout innings, striking out seven hitters Friday morning. He has a solid build at 6-foot-2, 185-pounds and throws from a tall delivery that really gets downhill well. He topped out at 88 mph early, but his best pitch was a 72-74 mph curveball that had hard bite and depth to it.

Thomas Szapucki, the No. 24 ranked pitcher in the 2015 class, threw two innings for Panther Baseball Club Friday afternoon and flashed his elite level arm strength, topping out at 93 mph early before settling into the 87-90 mph range for most of his outing. A Florida commit, Szapucki didn’t throw many curveballs, which is a potential plus pitch for him in the upper-70s, but did show nice live on some changeups.

Southern Select/Easton righthander Jarod Bayless threw an outstanding game Friday, going all seven innings in a 4-1 win over a talented East Cobb Baseball team. Bayless struggled early with his command and curveball, and essentially scrapped everything but his fastball after the first inning. Fortunately, his fastball was 85-89 mph with heavy sinking life as Bayless pounded the bottom of the zone and the outside corner while walking no one and striking out nine hitters. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Texarkana, Texas native is currently ranked No. 263 in the 2015 class rankings.

To finish up today, a story that many parents out there can relate to. I was talking to a scout friend who I’ve known for 20-plus years before a game Friday morning. As is the norm, old friends like that always ask about each other’s kids, especially if one of them is a player. My friend told me that his senior son was going to sign a scholarship next month with a very nice (and expensive) private D-I school that will pay for all of his school costs. He added, “When my son found out how much the school cost without the scholarship, he asked, 'So Dad, what are you going to do with the $40K that you are saving by my getting that scholarship?' I told him 'Son, that money never even existed, it’s not saved and you don’t get any of it!'”

- David Rawnsley

In a loaded tournament like this one, it takes a lot for a prospect to stand head and shoulders above his peers. But after five games played at Field 1 at the Boston Red Sox JetBlue complex (featuring replica dimensions of Fenway Park), there is one player who did just that: 2016 righthander
Tyler Mondile.

It became clear half an hour before game time that something exciting was going to happen, as loaded teams like FTB Chandler and the Dirtbags wamred up on adjacent fields, college coaches from major Division I programs jockeyed for position behind the plate. Having not pitched at a PG event since the 2012 edition of the WWBA Underclass World Championship, Mondile wasn’t among the initial top 100 2016 prospects in the initial class rankings, but that is likely to change significantly when the list is updated. The first five fastballs he threw registered at 91 mph on the radar gun, before trading 90 and 91 the rest of the first inning. He uses a short arm action, and while he was frequently up in the strike zone, he worked ahead (while working quickly) and was around the target the majority of the time. He would settle into the upper-80s with an occasional 90 the final two innings he threw, while showing a pair of quality breaking balls. His slider sat 80-83 with tight spin and typically featured a short tight break, while his curveball showed good depth and hard 11-to-5 break with an ability to throw it for strikes consistently.

While the majority of the scouts assembled for the start of the game had left by the time South Charlotte Panthers 2015 lefthander
Garrett Davila was summoned from the bullpen to pull the Panthers out of a jam, the ones that remained were treated to a pleasant surprise, as the uncommitted projection lefty was also impressive. Davila sat 84-87 with a clean arm action, good shape to his breaking ball and feel for a changeup with good life. His long, high-waisted frame projects well and he struck out three of the five hitters he faced to prevent a potential big inning and give his team a chance to win.

In a game that featured a pair of high quality pitching prospects, several position players managed to stand out as well. 2016 corner infielder
Jake Holtzapple put a great swing on an 89 mph fastball on the outside corner from Mondile, scorching it through the hole between the first and second basemen to drive in the first run of the game. Holtzapple has a strong lean build that stands out from the moment he steps onto the field and he drives the ball with authority, even when he doesn’t get all of it. He handled first base quite well defensively today. 2015 outfielder Nick Browne stood out for his bat speed at the Junior National Showcase in June and that certainly continued to be the case today. While Browne didn’t do anything that showed up in the box score, he crushed several very hard foul balls that were a few feet from changing the outcome of the game. 2016 Luke Robinson also stood out for an imposing physique and big time bat speed while serving as the DH today for the Panthers.

2015 righthander
Cal Jarrett showed a quick arm, topping out at 88 mph with a fast paced delivery that creates deception. His curveball was slow and deep and coming from his frenetic (yet well controlled) delivery it routinely caught hitters off guard and was very effective. His Elite Baseball Training Chicago teammate 2015 catcher and outfielder Nick Dalesandro also stood out today, showing promising bat speed and looks likely to develop power as he gets stronger physically.

2016 lefthander
Spencer Van Scoyoc not only showed a projectable arm, but he found some adversity while getting the start in Iowa Select Navy’s opening game, and handled it very well. Van Scoyoc only topped out at 82 mph, but has more coming with a quick arm and tall, athletic frame that projects for significant added strength. A couple of his teammates also stood out, including 2015 outfielder Luke Farely, who did so for his hit tool and athletic frame, while 2016 corner infielder Joey Polak showed big raw power.

While he’s no stranger to the national stage and his abilities are well documented, I would be remiss if I were to fail to mention the defensive ability of 2015 catcher
Dominic DiCaprio, who did an excellent job of handling 2015 righthander Andrew Cabezas. Cabezas sat 85-88, but had plus sinking life on his fastball that made it even more difficult to drive with any authority, especially given how his slow paced delivery lulls hitters to sleep. Cabezas backed his sinking fastball with a tight slider at 77-80 with late tilting action and a solid mid-70s changeup.

The morning time slot at Field 1 at JetBlue featured a pair of intriguing 2015 outfield prospects hailing from non-traditional areas in
Seth Learned and Kyle Parks. Learned is listed as a third baseman in the program, but handled center field well in his limited defensive chances, showing solid speed and a large athletic build to go with solid present power, burning the opposing centerfielder for a double as part of a multi-hit day. Parks is a big physical outfielder with big time tools, though he is still refining them – if he puts it all together he could really turn some heads.

2015 righthander
Thaddeus Ward was impressive in his start in SWFL 17u’s opening game, sitting 84-87 with hard run on his fastball and showing the ability to run it inside on righthanded hitters. He hides the ball well after an deep stab in back, releasing from a compact high three-quarters slot. His breaking ball showed some bite at 76-77 with the ability to throw it for strikes from a deceptive delivery that featured some funk to it. Ward's teammate, 2015 outfielder Donovan Petrey, showed off impressive speed for such a big physical player, covering good ground in center field and utilizing it well on the bases. Petrey’s size and speed combination suggests he would have also made a good football prospect had he chosen to pursue it, he’s quite promising as a baseball prospect. Zuriel Collins from the 2015 class stood out for his quickness at shortstop, moving very well defensively, and while he has a ways to go in terms of strength development to make an impact with the bat, at the very least he can provide strong defensive play up the middle at the college level.

I got a chance to catch the end of the Taconic Rangers’ opening game at JetBlue Park after the conclusion of the previous time slot, and while I didn’t get a strong feel for many of their players, the one who stood out to me in a brief look was 2015 first baseman
Griffin Dey. In the one at-bat I saw he drove a ball very hard to the opposite field and he certainly stands out for his chiseled 6-foot-1, 210-pound build. He’s a player I hope to be able to bare down on later this weekend.

- Todd Gold

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