High School : : General
Monday, March 03, 2014

Regional HS Preview: Northeast

Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Perfect Game

2014 Perfect Game High School Baseball Preview Index

Northeast Region: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont

Big arms scattered throughout Northeast define region

In the warmer states like Florida, California, Texas and others, it’s common to find a few top prospects on one team or even a matchup between two prolific arms, which seem to be especially commonplace in Florida. However, this upcoming spring in the Northeast scouts will be taking long drives to see some of the area’s best talent.

All of the top arms that need to be seen show tremendous promise, but also need to prove more consistent this spring, and unfortunately the harsh winter weather could mean less time to address some of those questions.

In New Jersey Gloucester Catholic, Bishop Eustace, and St. Augustine Prep are three programs that always field strong squads, and 2014 is no different. All three schools are located within 45 minutes of each other and are led by a Division I commit on the mound, two of which were PG All-Americans last summer. Gloucester Catholic is led by 2015 righthander John Murphy (Maryland), Bishop Eustace has Devin Smeltzer (Florida Gulf Coast) while St. Augustine Prep has Joe Gatto (North Carolina). Each team also has a solid No. 2 starter and great depth in the field with Division I commits scattered throughout their rosters.

Senior righthanders Josh Pennington (Lower Cape May High School) and Bryan Dobzanski (Delsea High School) are both from South Jersey and really came on strong towards the end of last summer.

From New Jersey, if you head north on I-476 and I-87 for about five hours you’ll find yourself in Baldwinsville, N.Y., home of the top arm in the region, Scott Blewett. Blewett will force scouts out to the center of the Empire State, especially after the progress he showed from the beginning of last summer to his final start of the fall at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.

Another pitcher that would have had scouts heading to a non-traditional baseball hot spot had he not reclassified is Jake Nelson, a righthanded pitcher from Hopkinton, N.H. Originally a member of the 2014 class, Nelson came on very late in the fall, making his debut on the mound during the WWBA World Championship. A primary catcher up to that point, there was no questioning the strength in his arm. It translated well to the mound, topping at 93 mph with more velocity on its way with experience and refinement.

Salisbury Prep (Conn.) is a school that has depth throughout its lineup and the entire starting rotation is committed to a Division I school. The pitching staff is headlined by the recent additions of Austin DeCarr and Paul Campbell, both Clemson commits. They also received a nice offensive boost from Ryan January, a 2016 catcher who transferred from Malden Catholic in Eastern Massachusetts. He will help fill the middle of the order along with Vanderbilt commit Will Toffey and 2015 third baseman George Hewitt.

On the other side of Connecticut is East Hampton High School and Saint Bernard School, each of which boasts one of the top arms in the state. Marvin Gorgas has had tremendous success throughout his high school career and looks to cap it off with a strong senior season to help lead East Hampton deep in the playoffs. Willie Rios came back to Saint Bernard after spending the fall at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and also looks to solidify himself as one of the top lefthanders in the 2014 class.

Northeast Region Dream Team
Based on present tools and position played for high school team

C - Drew Lugbauer, Sr. Arlington (N.Y.)
Looking at his 6-foot-4 frame one would think Lugbauer would eventually have to move from behind the plate. The opposite is true however as the Michigan commit moves extremely well on his feet with loose, athletic actions. Lugbauer’s arm may be his biggest defensive asset, consistently delivering on-line strikes to second base. Lugbauer and his quick bat capped off a strong summer and fall at the WWBA World Championship, making the All-Tournament team by batting .364, drawing five walks, and hitting a deep, memorable blast to right field.

1B - Justin Bellinger, Sr. St. Sebastian’s (Mass.)
Bellinger has been on the national scene since his freshman year of high school and is a repeat selection for first base, though J.J. Matijevic out of Pennsylvania received strong consideration as well. Bellinger’s 6-foot-6 frame is an easy target to throw to and he shows soft hands with the ability to scoop throws in the dirt. A lefthanded hitter, the Duke commit has made noticeable adjustments to his swing, which allows for better extension of his long levers. There is no denying the tremendous power Bellinger owns as detailed further below.

MIF - Isan Diaz, Sr. Central (Mass.)
Relatively unknown on the national scene heading into the summer, Diaz made his presence felt once given his opportunity. He shows strong tools up the middle with athletic, balanced actions and a strong feel for his backhand. Moving lightly on his feet and with soft hands, Diaz is able to complete difficult plays with a strong arm. The Vanderbilt commit has recently added more muscle mass to his wiry strong frame, which was noticeable at the World Showcase in early January. He routinely displays his explosive hands and solid bat speed, as Diaz is able to see and time live pitching well with loud contact off the barrel.

MIF - John Aiello, Jr. Germantown Academy (Pa.)
Aiello, a Wake Forest recruit, shows excellent ability on both sides of the ball and is continually improving. A true switch-hitter, it’s hard to tell which side comes more naturally after a few at-bats, but he began swinging the bat from the right side. From that side, Aiello shows better strength and power, but the hit tool is equally impressive from the left side. He shows plus bat speed from both sides and makes consistent loud contact. Due to his current 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame as a high school junior, many believe he will outgrow the shortstop position. However, with how fluid and graceful he moves that switch won't occur anytime soon, if at all.

Liam Sabino, a Vanderbilt c
ommit, fits right in with Aiello and Diaz in the middle infield. His defensive actions are smooth and pure and he shows easy arm strength across the infield.

3B – Max Ponzurick, Sr. Greensburg-Salem (Pa.)
Ponzurick has a strong, well-built 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame and moves very well for his size. He shows solid defensive actions at the hot corner with a strong feel for the backhand. There is no denying his arm strength across the infield – 92 mph at the National Showcase last June – showing accuracy and plus carry on his throws. Ponzurick shows a fast bat and incoroporates his lower half in his swing, creating nice strength with projectable power.

OF - Zachary Sullivan, Sr. Corning (N.Y.)
Sullivan has shown all five tools in game action and will only continue to develop as his 6-foot-3 frame fills out. He is a sound runner with 6.7 60-yard dash speed and runs the bases well, accelerating well from first to third. He uses that same speed in the outfield that allows for a quick first step and ability to cover an ample amount of ground in center field. The bat is his most projectable tool as Sullivan shows a loose, quick swing with advanced implementation of his lower half. He flashes power to all fields with the ability to create leverage in his swing.

OF - Aidan McDermott, Sr. South Plainfield (N.J.)
At 6-foot-3, McDermott is built extremely well, which is evident in the way he swings the bat, his loudest tool. With strong hands and loose wrists, McDermott generates very good bat speed and drives the ball to all fields with authority. The St. John’s recruit starts from a very spread stance but shifts into contact well, transferring weight from his back leg with nice rhythm in his swing.

OF - Tristan Rojas, Sr. James Monroe (N.Y.)
Rojas is a 5-foot-11 outfielder with plenty of bulk yet he is able to retain looseness and fluidity in everything he does on the field. He shows quick hands and plus bat speed as a righthanded hitter, generating surprisingly big power to his pull side. Rojas is a solid runner who moves well on his feet in the outfield and shows solid arm strength with accurate throws.

UT - Marvin Gorgas, Sr. East Hampton (Conn.)
Gorgas had himself a busy summer which started with a gold medal win with the 18u USA National Team. When he's not on the mound the UConn commit finds himself in the middle of East Hampton’s batting order and also plays a smooth shortstop. His future at the next level however is on the mound where he made tremendous improvements from the beginning of last spring through the end of the fall. His fastball was firmer with better velocity – up from 89/90 to 93/94 – and showed better directionality with his lower half, which has allowed him to stay on top of his late breaking slider. Gorgas also flashes a changeup that has plus potential once he begins to throw it more regularly.

Although a 2015,
Zack Kesterson shows big-time ability both on the mound and in the middle of the infield. He throws from a very tough low three-quarters arm angle and produces easy low-90s heat.

P - Scott Blewett, Sr. Charles W Baker (N.Y.)
To say Blewett used the WWBA World Championship last October as his coming out party on the national stage wouldn’t be fair as he threw very well throughout the entire summer. However, what he did do in Jupiter was slot himself into the top tier of high school arms in the entire 2014 class. Standing at 6-foot-6 with long and loose limbs, Blewett's fastball sat at 91-93 mph and topped out at 95 mph with reason to believe a few more ticks will be added as he continues to fill out. His arm action is clean and effortless and he also shows a strong feel for an 11-to-5 upper-70s curveball with depth and tight spin.

P - Joe Gatto, Sr. St. Augustine Prep (N.J.)
Gatto has followed in the footsteps of former St. Augustine teammate Chris Oakley, participating in the PG All-American Classic and signing his letter of intent with the University of North Carolina. Gatto has a strong, durable 6-foot-5 frame that helps him maintain the velocity his low-90s fastball throughout an outing. The pitch, which peaks at 94, shows solid sinking life low in the zone with sharp downhill plane. The continued development of his off-speed pitches and how he mixes them into his pitch sequencing is the key to Gatto's success, as his curveball has plus potential and he also shows a strong feel for his slider.

P - Devin Smeltzer, Sr. Bishop Eustace Prep (N.J.)
Smeltzer is a very interesting lefthanded pitcher who seems to get stronger each time he takes the mound. He has a lean 6-foot-3 frame with long limbs that he controls well in his very deceptive delivery. He is able to maintain his balance and repeat his extended three-quarters arm slot, helping to generate good movement on his pitches. His arm action is very loose, and with some added strength, the Florida Gulf Coast commit should see a bump in his current peak velocity of 91 mph. He commands everything well in the zone, including a sharp slider and a changeup, which are mixed in with precision.

P – Willie Rios, Sr. Saint Bernard (Conn.)
The scouts in the Northeast received a bonus when Rios transferred back to Saint Bernard after spending the fall at IMG Academy in Florida. When everything is working and in sync, Rios is very difficult to square up, let alone hit. Despite his 6-foot frame and low three-quarters arm slot, Rios is able to work downhill and spots his low-90s fastball very well to both sides of the plate, particularly to his glove side. His mid-80s two-seam fastball shows darting life to his arm side, and he mixes in two variations of a breaking ball as well as a quality mid-70s changeup.

P – Bryan Dobzanski, Sr. Delsea (N.J.)
Bryan Dobzanski's athleticism is evident as soon as he takes the mound. He shows big strength in his 6-foot-4 frame and generates strong downhill plane from a long, loose arm action. Dobzanski works in the low-90s with his heater, topping out at 94 mph, and it's scary to think what the future holds for the New Jersey native, who is also a state champion wrestler. His continues to develop his secondary offerings and is certain to draw large crowds of scouts behind the backstop this spring.

It was hard to leave off Josh Pennington and Brendan Spagnuolo, both of whom have bright futures on the mound.

Northeast Region Top Tools

Best Hitter for Average: John Aiello, Jr. Germantown Academy (Pa.)
Aiello is a special player out of Pennsylvania and is ranked in the top five for the 2015 class thanks in large part to his work ethic. Always in the cages, Aiello taught himself to hit lefthanded and has transformed himself into a legitimate switch-hitting middle infielder. Although he shows more consistent power from the right side, Aiello creates consistent and loud line drive contact from both sides of the plate.

Best Hitter for Power: Justin Bellinger, Sr. St. Sebastian’s (Mass.)
Bellinger took a loud round of batting practice at the National Showcase last summer which made everybody stop what they were doing to watch. He deposited four pitches into the upper deck of the Metrodome, and with the adjustments he has made with his swing, the Duke commit is looking to create more leverage with his 6-foot-6 frame.

Best Baserunner: Zachary Sullivan, Sr. Corning (N.Y.)
Sullivan shows strong ability all over the field, including on his feet. He is a 6.6 runner, which will improve as he gets stronger, and shows advanced instincts to go along with his quickness on the basepaths. He quickly accelerates and glides around the bases once he kicks it into second gear.

Best Defensive Catcher: Gian Martellini, Jr. Bishop Hendricken (R.I.)
A recent Vanderbilt commit, Martellini shows very strong defensive tools behind the plate. He keeps his shoulders square and chest big on balls in the dirt and shifts his weight well to both sides. Martellini is a sound receiver as well and shows solid arm strength on throws down to second. Only a junior, Martellini is sure to be on the radar of scouts this upcoming summer circuit.

Best Defensive Infielder: Isan Diaz, Sr. Central (Mass.)
Diaz plays with flare in the infield and shows very smooth, athletic actions on ground balls. There's quickness in his feet, arm strength and very quick hands to start double plays. Diaz also shows considerable range to both sides, particularly into the hole, whether he's playing shortstop or second base.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Zachary Sullivan, Sr. Corning (N.Y.)
Sullivan showed very well in the outfield all summer at all the major events and would have taken the category based on those performances. For good measure, Sullivan made arguably the best play in Jupiter last October, diving to snare a fly ball off the bat of Daz Cameron, robbing him of extra bases while showing tremendous range and athleticism. And if that wasn’t enough, Sullivan alertly jumped to his feet and delivered a strike to double up a runner at third base.

Best Infield Arm: John Aiello, Jr. Germantown Academy (Pa.)
There is no mistaking the arm strength Aiello possesses, showing a low-90s arm across, topping out at 93 mph in San Diego at the PG Underclass All-American Games last August. The arm action is easy and loose and allows Aiello to take an extra second to gather himself before delivering a strike. His defensive actions are as good as any with quick feet, allowing him to complete the play deep in the 5/6 hole.

Best Outfield Arm: Zachary Sullivan, Sr. Corning (N.Y.)
Taking his third category, Sullivan shows solid arm strength from center field with strong carry and accuracy on his throws. It is a tool that helps set him apart from other center fielders and plays well in game action.

Best Fastball: Scott Blewett, Sr. Charles W. Baker (N.Y.)
The improvement in velocity may be a sign of bigger and better things to come for the cold weather pitcher out of western New York. He controls his long limbs very well showing a loose, easy arm action that generates a fastball that has topped out at 95 mph. As he begins to fill out his lean 6-foot-6 frame it’s easy to envision him sitting in the mid-90s, peaking a few ticks higher, to go along with his hammer curveball.

Best Off-Speed Stuff: Joe Gatto, Sr. St. Augustine Prep (N.J.)
In a region full of pitchers, Gatto take the off-speed category thanks to his tight-spinning upper-70s curveball. The pitch shows deep, late break when he stays on top of it, and he spots the pitch well down in the zone, helping to induce ground ball contact.

Best Command: Josh Pennington, Sr. Lower Cape May (N.J.)
Despite pitching at both the National and East Coast Professional Showcases, Pennington left scouts wanting to see more. He pitched the usual 2-3 innings at each event, but was so efficient he hardly broke a sweat. Pennington commands four pitches very well in the zone, led by his fastball currently thrown in the low-90s. His breaking ball and changeup show nice life and he maintains his arm speed nicely on all of his offerings.

Best Pitchability: Devin Smeltzer, Sr. Bishop Eustace (N.J.)
Smeltzer has continued to improve in all areas of his game but the one thing that has remained constant is his ability to pitch. With his highly deceptive delivery, Smeltzer spots his upper-80s to low-90s fastball well to both sides of the plate with good angle. He mixes in a late sweeping slider up to 81 mph with impressive depth, and flashes an upper-70s changeup. Nothing he throws is straight but he maintains the ability to throw to his spots and mix his pitches efficiently.

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