Tournaments : : Story
Sunday, October 13, 2013

World Underclass Day 3 notes

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

Contributing: Todd Gold, Frankie Piliere, Justin Hlubek

I followed a somewhat different pattern on Saturday, bouncing between Terry Park, the Twins Complex and City of Palms Park looking for prospects, with a determination to focus more on position players than I had on Thursday and Friday.

The first player that caught my eye in the 8:30 a.m. slot may turned out to be one of the better new prospects at the WWBA Underclass World Championship this week. 2016 shortstop Hudson Sanchez of DBAT-Bonesio has a very loose and projectable 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame and outstanding present bat speed. I asked Frankie Piliere to go see him in his second game later Saturday and he has more on the young Texan in his notes below.

The St. Louis Pirates/Doubleday Rockies game, also in the 8:30 a.m. time slot at Terry Park, had my attention for a long time, with the Pirates winning 8-6 in a game that eventually determined the pool champion. The Pirates were led by a pair of Wisconsin natives, shortstop Alex Henwood and catcher Rudy Rott. Henwood is a lefthanded hitter with a nice swing who has a verbal commitment to Nebraska. He also made some nice plays at shortstop, especially charging the ball. Rott is a very strong 5-foot-11, 190-pound lefthanded hitter with plenty of pull power and bat speed. It’s always nice seeing premium position players who are left handed hitters. Outfielder Cody Siebenberger also put some good swings on balls and had a couple of base hits.

Doubleday center fielder Vincent Perry is ranked No. 224 in the PG 2015 class rankings but he’s a player we really haven’t seen play much to this point. That should change, as the young righthanded hitter has a very nice combination of running speed, bat speed and power potential. I thought the Tennessee native had himself a home run in one at-bat, as he pulled his hands in very well on an inside fastball, but his long, high fly ball was caught on the warning track. 2016 catcher Drake Frix is also a player to follow on the Rockies team. He has a projectable 6-foot-1, 170-pound build, a very sound approach at the plate and athleticism behind it. He batted cleanup in the talented Doubleday lineup, but led off one inning with a perfect bunt single, an interesting thing for a young catcher to do.

I’d heard about a 2016 lefthanded pitcher from New Jersey named Zachary Attianese from a coach who was thinking of taking him to Jupiter in two weeks and asked me to take a look at him. I’m very glad I did. Attianese struck out 15 hitters in six innings in Gallagher Baseball Team Mizuno’s 4-1 win over Elite Prospects. He has a young looking 6-foot-1, 175-pound build that is going to get stronger, and a fast paced delivery with a smooth arm and high three-quarters arm slot. Attianese worked in the 84-86 mph range with his fastball and threw a big – and I mean really, really big – curveball at 68-71 that he commanded very well.

One bit of advice I’d have to give the young man is to slow down on the mound. He works extremely quickly, taking virtually no time at all between pitches, to the point of distraction. An older or more polished team is going to continually step out, call time, walk down to the third base coach's box, etc, and distract him. I think he threw 19 pitches in six minutes in the first inning.

I didn’t see it but Gallagher third baseman Dennis Brady came in to get the save in the seventh inning and struck out the side, throwing 87-89 mph in the process.

Watching shortstop John Aiello is always a pleasure, as the 13
th ranked member of the 2015 class is very gifted physically and plays the game with an ease and grace beyond his years. He went 3-for-3 at the plate in the Tri-State Arsenal Underclass' 4-0 win over Team Elite Black, with all his hits coming from the left side of the plate for the switch-hitter. He also has easy, fluid actions at shortstop despite his large 6-foot-2, 195-pound build and a cannon of an arm.

Aiello’s teammate Joseph Baran impressed me as well. Baran is listed as a primary lefthanded pitcher with a verbal commitment to Boston College, but he looked like a nice outfield prospect to me. He ran a 4.15-second home-to-first time on a ground ball from the left side, and a 4.4-second turn on a triple he laced into the right field corner. Outfielder Bryan Scheker and second baseman A.J. Wright also showed very good prospect tools for Tri-State.

A college coach at the field told me the Diamond Devils righthanded pitcher Harrison Smith has been up to 92 mph late in the summer. Smith picked up the save in the Diamond Devils 5-1 win over Coastal Prospects and the South Carolina commit threw in the mid-80s with his fastball, but it was his 73 mph hammer curveball that was him most impressive pitch.

Smith’s teammate at Wando High School in South Carolina, Diamond Devils cleanup hitter and catcher Noah Locascio, had a very good day at the plate squaring the ball up every time and going 3-for-4.

The matchup between FTB Mizuno righthander Jordan Gubelman and Knights Baseball righthander Will Neely attracted one of the largest crowds of college coaches and scouts I’ve seen yet this week and the game didn’t disappoint anyone but the players and coaches, as both pitchers shined in a 1-1 tie.

Neely was especially impressive in his five innings of work, sitting at 88-90 mph in the first couple of innings before settling in at 86-88 mph with bat breaking life on his fastball. He threw about a half dozen 78-80 mph sliders that had very hard spin and bite but didn’t feature this pitch as much as I thought he could have. His changeup had the same type of hard sinking life as his fastball did.

I saw Gubelman throw a complete game with 10 strikeouts last weekend at the Florida Qualifier and his overall stuff was very similar in his three innings of work Saturday. He topped out at 90 mph with big running life on his fastball, although he was up in the zone more often this time out. He showed significant improvement in his curveball, however, and relied on the pitch a couple of times to get outs with runners on base. His changeup continued to be potential plus pitch.

I had the chance to talk to PG’s Justin Hlubek, who has been running the Twins Complex the past two weekends, and he filled me in on some of the top players who came through his complex Saturday.

Georgia Roadrunners righthander Weston Bizzle, a 2017 grad, was up to 87 mph with a hard spinning 72 mph curveball. That’s big velocity from a freshman.

Banditos of Austin right hander Ryland Cox is a 6-foot-4, 165-pound projection prospect with a loose arm and a fastball up to 85 mph to go with a nice changeup.

I had seen the Flood City Elite play briefly on Friday and made note that 2016 third baseman Isaiah Kearns had a nice arm. Hlubek reported that Kearns was 84-88 mph with a very smooth delivery and arm action on the mound.

I had also seen Florida Hardballers catcher Isaiah Cullum at the Florida Qualifier last weekend and made note of his strong build and bat speed, as well as his rawness behind the plate. Cullum played third base on Saturday and blasted a pair of doubles off the wall while showing very good bat speed.

Florida Legends righthander Michael Rodriguez has a clean, quick arm action and an 86-88 mph fastball to go with a nice 78 mph slider.

Midwest Pelicans righthander Christopher Machamer, the 29
th ranked player in the PG 2016 class rankings, had himself a game, topping out at 91 mph and maintaining upper-80s velocity into the seventh inning while striking out 12 hitters. He also throws a hard curveball up to 77 mph with good spin.

- David Rawnsley

By the end of pool play in the WWBA World Championship a trend has emerged: impressive performances from the 2016 class. In most years the junior class tends to outshine the younger classes, but throughout the weekend there have been 2016 graduates who have really announced their presence, and in several cases they are doing so for the first time on the national stage.

The next impressive 2016 representative I came across this weekend grabbed a share of the spotlight in a matchup against national powerhouse Marucci Elite. Catcher and righthanded pitcher
Sam Ferri and righthander Drake Fellows stood out immediately, which is impressive considering that the first batter of the game was the second ranked prospect in the class of 2015 (outfielder and middle infielder Jahmai Jones).

Fellows has high level projection and sat 87-89 with a whole lot to like. Fellows is still gaining coordination to his lanky 6-foot-4 185-pound frame, and his command is a bit inconsistent, but all of the markings of a future high level pitching prospect are present. He uses his frame well to create a sharp downhill plane to his delivery, releasing the baseball out front with good extension, and his long loose whippy arm action works very well. He showed a very promising 77-79 mph slider with good shape and tight spin, and as a reassuring bonus he swung the bat well too. He has a chance to develop into one of the top prospects in the 2016 class over the next few years.

While catching a high level pitcher like Fellows, and playing in a game where the opposing catcher is a well established national prospect (more on that shortly), it would have been easy for Sam Ferri to get lost in the shuffle. But thanks to Marucci Elite’s aggressive base-running, Ferri got to show off his catch-and-throw ability repeatedly. Thanks to his quick feet and agility behind the plate, Ferri was able to at least slow down Marucci’s ability to wreak havoc on the basepaths with a lineup that features multiple plus runners. Ferri posted in-game pop times of 1.96 and 1.97 in the early going (1.90 between innings) and showed advanced receiving ability, blocking very well and showing advanced pitch framing skills for his age. At the plate he has a long, whippy swing that generates good bat speed with good extension through contact. Later in the game he took the mound in relief working 83-85 with a projectable arm action, showing the makings of a quality slider in the mid-70s and a 70 mph 12-to-6 curveball with good extension and downhill plane to his delivery.

In just about any other matchup, Ferri’s defensive ability behind the plate would have out-shined his counterpart by a significant margin. However, Marucci Elite’s 2015 catcher Wyatt Cross was outstanding defensively, as per usual. The topic of debate surrounding Cross' defensive prowess is not whether he's the best defensive catcher in the 2015 class (that is a resounding yes), but whether there is a better defensive catcher in the high school ranks. His catch-and-throw ability is well documented, having posted a 1.79 pop time in the catcher workout at the PG Underclass All-American Games in August (where he also posted in-game pop times of 1.85 and 1.91 in the same inning).

But Cross brings more to the table than just a strong arm – he's a very good receiver for such a tall catcher, with the quickness to move his long levers in time to block difficult pitches. The umpire (who works at the professional level during the season) that had plate duties in this matchups has been stingy about giving strike calls on pitches where the catcher attempts to frame borderline pitches, but Cross even got his seal of approval with several strike calls on quality frame jobs.

In the past few years we've seen standout defensive catchers come off the board in the top two rounds – in 2011 the light hitting Austin Hedges was a supplemental first-round pick, and in 2013 Reese McGuire was selected 14th overall. Cross still has a ways to go to match those two in terms of defensive ability, but he's on a good trajectory.

The aforementioned Jahmai Jones was obviously a significant draw for scouts in that Marucci-Elite Baseball Training Chicago matchup. A primary infielder at present, a lot of scouts project Jones as an outfielder long-term, and he got the start in center field for Marucci on Saturday. He's new to the position and it showed, but he certainly has the speed to develop into a quality defender there, posting home-to-first times of 4.30 and 4.32, along with a stolen base time of 3.35.

Sticking with the theme of speed on the basepaths, 2015 outfielder
Reggie Pruitt absolutely stole the show (and four bases) with a 3-for-4 day out of the leadoff spot for the East Cobb Astros. One of his hits came on an infield single where he got down the line in 4.04 seconds (on the lower end of his usual range). With his game-changing speed firmly established, the most promising development of the day was the offensive improvements he showed in his ability to drive fastballs. He's still working on adjusting to quality breaking balls and pulling the ball with authority, but he's beginning to show that he can translate his hand speed into hard contact. He performed very well defensively in center field as well, if the bat continues to develop he could go from being an impact baserunner to an impact player, and we will certainly be keeping a close eye on his development.

Pruitt's Astros teammate 2016 first baseman
Will Benson is the type of player who stands out from the moment he steps off the bus. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 185-pounds and hitting in the middle of the order, Benson was pitched carefully. When he got pitches to hit he did what you'd hope to see from a young hitting prospect. He has a complicated swing with a deep hand load, but showed the ability to time up pitching at this level well despite the moving parts, squaring it up hard a couple of times, including a ball he tomahawked back up the middle that registered at 97 mph off the bat. Another East Cobb Astro who I was impressed with in my first viewing of was 2015 outfielder Brandon Hill who runs as well as his strong athletic build would suggest, with prospect level bat sped to match.

Had it not been for the outstanding duo of catchers in the Marucci-Elite Baseball Chicago matchup, 2015 catcher
Gian Martellini would have been the top catcher of the day. His blocking and receiving skills stood out and were very impressive, handling balls in the dirt especially well. He also swung the bat well and will be a highly sought after prospect amongst Division I college programs throughout the northeast. 2015 first baseman Seamus Curran showed big raw power from the left side of the plate, creating good leverage with his long levers and utilizing his strong lower half well.

The loaded Orlando Scorpions '15 Prime lineup took batting practice in their 8:30 matchup, cruising to a 12-0 run rule victory in four innings. The usual suspects stood out, including 2015 middle infielders
Brendan Rodgers and Jonah Garrison, while 2015 outfielder Cameron Montgomery capped off a 3-for-3 day with a line drive over the center fielder's head for a triple. But the Scorpions player who showed the biggest improvement since the summer was 2015 catcher Nick Fortes who got under a ball, popping up to left field, but thanks to his plus strength the ball kept carrying (despite the humid conditions at 9:00 a.m.) all the way to the warning track for a ground-rule double.

As things were winding down in the final time slot 2016 catcher
Ryan Jeffers made an impression with the bat for the Dirtbags Gold, showing a very good swing path and taking his hands directly to the baseball with good extension through it. He popped up in his final at-bat, with a high fly ball that hung in the air for 5.95 seconds, and if he is also a quality defensive catcher (served as the DH in this game) then he may be one of the top 2016 prospects.

- Todd Gold

In the interest of keeping things chronological, I’ll begin with talking about a player that caught my eye on Friday morning. Righthander Charles King did not have his best day on the mound for the East Coast Grays - Conret squad on Friday morning, as he battled with command issues throughout his outing. However, it was hard to ignore his raw stuff and projectable frame. King reached 87 mph with his fastball, pitching mostly around 85-86 with good life through the zone. And, at 6-foot-4, 170 pounds, it’s difficult not to notice just how projectable the Coppell, Texas native is. Despite his problems on this particular day, this is a very young arm in the 2016 class that we’re going to hear a lot more from before it’s all said and done.

Although it’s not the best habit to make quick judgements about players in the field of scouting, some players just force your hand. Hudson Sanchez (as detailed above) is one of those players. A 2016 graduate out of Southlake Carroll High School in Texas, Sanchez has a skill-set that’s hard not to recognize. His actions at shortstop are not typical for a player his age, and he has easy carry on his throws across the diamond. I came away more impressed with him at the plate, however. His advanced bat speed is immediately evident, and he squares the ball up as frequently as any player I’ve scouted this week. He makes a clear effort to keep his hands inside the ball and has an approach designed to hit up the middle and to right-center field. But, he also has the quickness to spin on the ball, as evidenced by a hard line drive he hit through the hole on Saturday off a fastball inside. As his athletic build adds strength, he has the tools to evolve into an outstanding offensive prospect.

Will Pillsbury
is a 2016 graduate who certainly doesn’t command his pitches like one. Using a one-two punch of a fastball and curveball, Pillsbury showed stretches of very good command and flashed an ability to repeat his delivery. He worked mostly between 83-85 mph with his fastball, but dipped to the lower-80s later in his outing as he began to open up early and throw across his body. We’ve seen him touch as high as 87 mph in the past. There’s some very late running action on his fastball that netted him some bad reactions from hitters as well. The Orange Park, Fla. native also flashed good depth on a 66-69 mph curveball that he, at times, seemed to have on a string. He’ll need to tighten it up, but his feel for this pitch an ability to put it on the corners stood out in this outing. More than anything with else with Pillsbury though, what really jumps out is how clean and easy his arm works.

Speaking of lefthanders, Team Elite Prime’s Evan Steele caught my eye on the front field of the 5-Plex, just one time slot after seeing Pillsbury. Steele worked at 83-86 mph early in the game, reaching 87 mph from an easy, repeatable three-quarters arm action. He hides the ball very well, and his 6-foot-4, broad 195-pound frame screams projection. Steele worked under his 70 mph curveball at times, but showed flashes of better depth and action. We’re likely going to see more velocity from this 2015 graduate, as his present velocity looks to come very easily to him right now.

The last time I saw Grant Bodison I was seeing him by coincidence while watching a high school tournament in March that featured, at that time, highly touted draft prospects Nick Ciuffo and Corey Thompson. This time around, I was watching Bodison on purpose and came away just as impressed as I was back in March. Bodison’s athletic, projectable frame passes the eye test, but, it’s his bat that intrigues me the most. He has a compact, quick bat and he covers the whole plate exceptionally well. You wouldn’t suspect a 170-pound 2016 graduate to typically have a lot of juice in his bat, but Bodison certainly does. He also looks like he has a chance to be an above average runner. We’ll need to see more from Bodison defensively, but the South Carolina commit out of Mauldin High School clearly has an elite level offensive profile in the making.

Max Wotell
has seen an increase in velocity since I saw him last, and even from what he showed just a few weeks ago in Arizona. He touched 91 mph on Saturday afternoon, a new high for him at a Perfect Game event (he had previously topped out at 89 mph). He also showed the same good depth on his curveball that I’ve seen from him in the past.

Cornelius Randolph
had some of the most impressive swings of the weekend in an Upstate Mavericks’ lineup that has intriguing players from top to bottom, including the aforementioned Grant Bodison. Randolph, a 2015 graduate out of Griffin High School in Georgia, produced a 91 mph line drive on Saturday afternoon, as well a 6.31 second hang time on a long fly ball. He shows a compact swing path and good lift in that swing. Right now, second base may be his home defensively, but we’ll need to see more of him on that side of the ball.

One of the loudest and most impactful swings of the day had to belong to
Donovan Petrey. A Florida State commit, Petrey launched a monster home run well over the right field fence at the 5-Plex on Saturday, showing good use of his lower half and easy carry off his bat. He made hard contact throughout the day, and also shows off good outfield arm strength. Given the consistency of his swing path and game ready power, the lefty swinging outfielder is going to continue to open eyes with his offensive potential.

- Frankie Piliere

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