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Tournaments : : Story
18u WWBA scouting notes
Jheremy Brown        
Published: Friday, July 04, 2014

Editor's note: Perfect Game recognizes that there were dozens of standout performers at this year's 18u WWBA National Championship. The thoughts provided below are first-hand observations from Scouting Coordinator Jheremy Brown during the event's first seven days.

After showing velocity and making an immediate impression in his first Perfect Game event at the National Showcase, DeMarcus Evans (2015, Petal, Miss.) had a strong showing in his next outing as well. Standing at 6-foot-4, 245-pounds, Evans is athletic for his size which helps him repeat his mechanics on the mound. His arm action is very loose and easy and shows the ability to work downhill on a consistent basis. There are some things mechanically to fix, but once they are, coupled with the ease of which he throws, it’s easy to envision the 89-92 mph, topping 93 velocity that he showed this week climbing into the mid-90s next June.

He filled up the strike zone and carried his fastball velocity better this outing and showed a developing feel for his off-speed. He worked his curveball in the 76-79 mph range with 11-to-5 shape, and as the game progressed, as did his feel for the pitch and the quality of it. His changeup was 83-84 mph and shows a feel for the pitch and will continue to develop the more he throws it.

 

As much as the summer circuit is about following up on known players nationally, it’s equally important for discovering new talent, and that’s just the category that J’Mar Smith (2015, Meridian, Miss.) fits into.

The reason that Smith has been relatively unknown outside of the Southeast is because of his abilities on the gridiron, which has been the majority of his focus athletically. Football is the family tradition as J’Mar’s father, Kenny Smith, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a defensive lineman. A sought after quarterback who is gaining interest from SEC football schools, Smith has given us a glimpse of his athleticism and capabilities on the diamond this week, both with the bat and on the mound.

A strongly built 6-foot-2, 205-pound third baseman, Smith shows plus power in his swing when he is able to get him arms extended and drive a pitch. The hardest hit of the tournament at the East Cobb Complex came off Smith’s bat, as he was able to extend on and square up an upper-80s fastball, sending it back up the middle at 104 mph. The game prior, Smith again showed off the bat speed/power combo, driving an 87 mph fastball on the outer half from a lefthanded pitcher about 390 feet over the left-center field fence.

Although the bat is the biggest tool, Smith showed his arm strength on the mound, working a quick 1-2-3 inning to close a game sitting in the 88-90 mph range. The mechanics are a bit raw at this point, but there is no doubting the arm strength and easiness of which the ball comes out of his hand.

 


C.J. Newsome (2015, Columbia, Miss.) is a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed, getting down the line in 4.19 seconds to beat out a chopper to shortstop.

The speed of Alonzo Jones (2015, Columbus, Ga.) has been well documented throughout the years, with his most recent 60-yard dash resulting in a 6.17 second speed at the PG National two weeks ago. While still showing his wheels this week (4.23 with a turn on a triple down the right field line), Jones has also been able to put the hit tool on display.

A switch-hitter, the Vanderbilt commit has been putting solid swings on the ball lefthanded, understandably so as he faces more righthanded pitchers than lefties on a daily basis, despite being a natural righthanded hitter. From the left side Jones shows fluidity in his swing, along with power and barrel skills that correlate well into game action. The physicality of his frame has no impact on his game, as he remains quick-twitch and loose. During Day 5 action, Jones pulled a pitch down the right field line for a stand-up triple, turning around first in 4.21 seconds. In his next at-bat, Jones conserved some of his energy and launched the second pitch he saw over the right field wall, registering 101 mph off the bat per TrackMan.

 

There is no denying the athleticism in Daz Cameron (2015, McDonough, Ga.), nor can you overlook his ability in the batter’s box and the ease with which he is able to generate bat speed. But the reason for this blurb is to speak of Cameron’s instincts and baseball IQ when he is patrolling center field. On a hard hit ball over his head, Cameron tracked the ball well off the bat, and rather than attempt to catch it, which was nearly impossible, he did the next best thing. Cameron played the ball off the wall on a hop, turned, and fired a strike into second base, holding the runner up with a long single on a hit which looked like sure extra-bases off the bat. Not only does this play speak to his athletic capabilities, it’s also a testament to his increasing arm strength and the ability for it to play in game action.

The PG National was a bit of a coming out party for Jalen Miller (2015, Atlanta, Ga.) as he had some of the better in-game swings and he hasn’t let up since getting back on his home turf in Georgia. An uncommitted shortstop, Miller shows the actions at short that should play well there at the next level, with smooth, quick hands, plus athletic actions, and playable arm strength across. Like his hands, his righthanded bat is also quick with a feel for the barrel, and he exhibited his strength as well, driving a pitch off the scoreboard in left field at Field 2 of the East Cobb Complex. Down the line, Miller has been in the 4.3 range.

 

Speaking of showing a feel for the barrel, Thomas Johns (2016, Pinson, Ala.) seems to get a base hit every time he steps up to the plate. With a strong 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame, Johns is able to create excellent bat speed from the left side with a natural ability for hitting. At first glance of his swing you may think Johns is all about pull-side power, but he consistently proves that idea to be wrong as he can drive the ball to the opposite field, and did just that during Day 5 action, hammering an outside pitch on a line to the 360 foot foot mark in the left-center field gap. He starts a bit wrapped in his swing but the hands are so quick and strong that he can whip the barrel through the zone to square up any pitch. Only a rising junior, Johns will be a bat to follow through the summer and over the next couple of years.

Behind the plate, Chase Smartt (2015, Troy, Ala.) does a lot of things well that you like to see in a catching prospect. He receives very well with strong catch-and-throw skills, and he stays compact and low throughout. The Troy commit’s arm is equally as impressive with strength and accuracy, consistently popping 2.00 in between innings, with actions that carry over to his in-game throws with similar pop times.

If you have seen Will Benson (2016, Atlanta, Ga.) either in person or on video last summer and this summer, the first thing you will notice is the change in his stance. He has become more upright in his approach, allowing him to utilize his long arms to create leverage and drive the ball. The 6-foot-6 Benson shows present power to the middle and pull-side parts of the field, and once he demonstrates the ability to hit to left field, he will be dangerous in each at-bat, especially given his approach and knowledge of the strike zone.

Benson showed off his power in consecutive at-bats, first driving a pitch to the right-center field gap that one-hopped the wall, taking long strides around the bases for a stand up triple. In his next at-bat, Benson showed fouled off a handful of pitches before finding one he liked, squaring it up for a hard line drive off the right field fence.

 

Braxton Garrett (2016, Foley, Ala.) has the type of arm scouts can dream on and he also shows all the intangibles they look for in a young arm. Here's the check-list:

Easy arm action: Yes
Downhill with life: Yes
Can he spin it: Yes
Projectable: Yes
Does he show command: Yes
Left-handed: Bonus

Standing at 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, Garrett projects very well with added strength, but already shows plenty with his current frame. When his front shoulder stays closed, the recent Vanderbilt commit is able to create nice angle on his fastball, which sat at 87-89 mph and topped at 90 while generating downhill plane with life. His curveball is a present plus-pitch with tight spin, depth, and velocity – 74-77 mph – to go along with the ability to spot it to both sides of the plate. To round out his three-pitch mix, Garrett shows a nice feel for a 80-82 mph changeup with fade to his arm side.

Garrett stays balanced on his backside and repeats him mechanics and arm slot very well on all three pitches. With a short arm action in the back, Garrett is able to fill up the strike zone, especially in the lower quadrants.

 

As documented by his 91 mph velocity from a showcase earlier this year, Brenton Burgess (2015, Lithonia, Ga.) has more than enough arm strength to play at third base and continued to show it off this past week. He has also showed similar power with the bat, driving a low and outside 89 mph fastball to the right-center field gap before driving another pitch over the wall in left field for a grand slam.

Playing in his first Perfect Game event, Ben Ellis (2015, Cordova, Tenn.) made his presence felt, going 4-for-4 with a single, double, and two triples. Needing only a home run for the cycle, Ellis sent a pitch high off the wall in left field for what would become his second triple of the night, missing the round-tripper by about 10-15 feet.

Von Watson
(2015, Potts Camps, Miss.) reaffirmed his strength with a single swing in the final time slot at East Cobb, turning on an inside fastball that traveled an estimated 417 feet per TrackMan, coming off the bat 99 mph, a no-doubt shot off the bat.

The last time I saw Justin Smith (2014, St. John’s, Fla.) was in Jupiter last October and he was starting with an extremely wide base in the batter's box which was taking away from the leverage and strength he generates in his swing. Jump forward to this tournament and Smith has shortened his stance and is able to use his low half more, proving so by effortlessly driving a pitch over the left-center field fence.

Greyson Jenista
(2015, Eudora, Kan.) showed a strong feel for the barrel, and even though his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame would suggest he uses a power approach from the left side, the Wichita State commit demonstrated the ability to go to the opposite field with solid contact.

A two-way player at the next level, Zack Shannon (2014, Cincinnati, Ohio) took the mound for the Midland Redskins and begun the transformation from a hard thrower into a pitcher who can throw hard. With broad shoulders and a strong, physical frame, Shannon worked in the 88-91 mph range, topping out at 92. Throwing from a lower arm slot, the Chipola College commit was able to generate hard arm side run working low in the zone. He threw two sliders in his outing at 75 and 77 mph both of which showed depth and sharp 10-4 break to them.

The game plays faster when D.J. Wilson (2015, Canton, Ohio) steps into the batter’s box as his plus speed forces teams to align differently and be ready at all times. Even routine ground balls become havoc when it comes off Wilson’s bat, as the defense has to rush their throws across. This exact play occurred when Wilson, a left-handed hitter, reached safely on a ground ball hit to the second baseman in which he forced an errant throws thanks to his 4.02 second speed down the line. Later in the tournament Wilson turned on an inside fastball and drove it over the right field fence for a solo home run.

To find a safe and easy comparison for Wilson you won’t have to look far, and in fact you won’t even have to look on a different team as 2014 outfielder Jeren Kendall (Holmen, Wis.) played alongside Wilson and exhibited a similar high energy, top-of-the-order skill-set. Both can impact the game on both sides of the ball with their plus speed.

There may not be a player swinging a hotter bat than Chipola College commit Jay Estes (2014, Crawfordville, Fla.) from Next Level Upperclass. A quick-twitch middle infielder, Estes shows an extraordinary feel for the barrel head, lining doubles and triples to all parts of the field, including a couple of home runs over the course of the tournament. He moves well in the infield and down the first base line with a home-to-first time of 4.31 seconds.

Even though Andrew Toelken (2014, Green Cove Springs, Fla.) was working in the 89-91 mph range, topping at 92 with his fastball, there’s good reason to believe there is a lot more velocity left in his right arm. The arm action is clean and easy, and with the incorporation of his lower half, and getting over his front side, Toelken should be able to make that next jump. In the early going Toelken lived low in the zone. and with his lower three-quarters arm slot, the St. John’s River commit was able to generate very late sink and run on the pitch. The feel for his slider is still developing, and the rotation is loose, but he does throw it with the proper velocity at 79-82 mph. He flashed a changeup or two at 81 mph with fading action to his arm side.

A Mississippi State commit, Jared Padgett (2015, Graceville, Fla.) is a lefthanded pitcher from the Panhandle of Florida who began making some noise throughout the spring and has now pitched in two different Perfect Game events this summer.

Although he didn’t show the reported low-90s velocity, it’s easy to see that velocity being true given what Padgett showed in this particular outing. A projectable lefthander with a lean, 6-foot-4 athletic frame with long limbs, Padgett works from a high three-quarters arm slot and gets on top of the ball well, creating nice downhill plane to his fastball.

His fastball worked in the 86-88 mph range with occasional arm-side run from a shorter arm action in the back. As the outing progressed he settled into the mid-80s as he began to use more arm in his delivery. The difference maker for Padgett is his 12-to-6 curveball with shows sharp life and depth to it at 73 mph. He maintains his arm speed and action on his changeup, which he threw between 76-78 mph.

Each time Sixto Torres (2015, Jacksonville, Fla.) takes the mound at Perfect Game events he seems to add velocity to his fastball, and that was once again the case at the 18u WWBA National Championship. After working in the 87-89 mph range the day prior in an inning of work, Torres came back the following day even stronger, working 89-91 mph and topping at 92. He was clearing his front side better than his previous outing and getting on top, working low in the zone with a quick arm. Along with his fastball, Torres showed a feel for a sharp slider at 79 mph with 2-to-8 shape and a nice changeup with late, fading action at 79 mph.

Per his Perfect Game profile, David Hensley (2014, San Diego, Calif.) is still uncommitted, and whichever team picks him up is getting a very nice all-around player. Despite his 6-foot-5 frame, Hensley moves very well at third base and made a barehanded, off balance play charging in and delivered a strike to first base.

Known for popping 1.9’s from behind the plate due to his arm strength and athleticism, Tim Susnara (2014, Redwood City, Calif.) took the mound and brought his big arm with him. Working the last inning to close out a game for the San Diego Show, Susnara worked in the 90-92 mph range with his fastball showing very hard arm-side run. With a short arm action, Susnara was also showing a feel for a 12-to-6 curveball with late break and depth at 76 mph.

A 2016 graduate, Keenan Bell (2016, Jacksonville, Fla.) has a strong, physical build from the left side and shows very nice bat speed with strength that projects well in the future.

Ryley Gilliam
(2015, Kennesaw, Ga.) has continued to take strides on the mound in terms of velocity throughout the spring, with his best coming out early this summer. In his first outing of the 18u WWBA, Gilliam worked in the low-90s, occasionally dipping into the upper-80s, while topping out at 93 mph.

Jump to last night and Gilliam is throwing an inning of relief for Nelson Baseball School and worked a quick 1-2-3 inning. Working from a high tempo delivery, Gilliam maintains that energy in his arm action, showing a fast arm and the ability to get on top of the baseball. The uncommitted junior worked in the 88-91 mph range low in the zone with two-seam life and has the ability to run it back over the outside corner to a righthanded hitter. His curveball is equally impressive, showing sharp 12-to-6 shape with depth at 78 mph and the ability to throw it for strikes consistently.

 

Like Gilliam above, Nick Neidert (2015, Lawrenceville, Ga.) is a quick-twitch athlete with a fast arm with an effortless release. A righthanded pitcher, Neidert made a strong impression at the PG National showing big velocity over his two innings at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

In the opening round of the playoffs for Team Elite Prime, Neidert took the mound and again showed big velocity in the 90-92 mph range, topping 93. He maintained that velocity of the course of his six innings of work, showing that it translates well into game action.

Neidert is the type of pitcher that has the chance to be in the mid-90s next spring and possibly touching higher. The arm action is loose and easy, he repeats it well, and the ball comes out of his hand cleanly without any effort. He spots his fastball well low in the zone with consistent arm-side run, and when the heater is put in play, it usually generates ground ball contact due to the late life.

His slider is a nice pitch at 77-78 mph with depth, and although it’s a bit inconsistent in shape, he is able to throw the pitch for strikes either early or late in the count. The University of South Carolina recruit also showed a quality changeup at 82 mph, coming out of his hand looking like a fastball with fading action to his arm side.

Standing at 6-foot-4, Nick Lee (2015, Longville, La.) stands tall on the mound, and with his long limbs it can appear as though he is handing the ball to the catcher. He shows a long arm action in the back but more than enough arm speed to get on top of the baseball and work down in the zone from a three-quarters slot. As he starts to incorporate his lower half more and lengthen his stride, it should be easy for Lee to add velocity.

Early on Lee topped out at 92 mph, working 89-91 with life before settling into the 87-90 range for the remainder of the game, occasionally touching a 91. He showed a strong feel for his slider and threw it frequently in the mid- to upper-70s, topping at 80 mph with the pitch.

 

Cornelius Randolph
(2015, Griffin, Ga.) may just end up possessing one of the best overall hit tools in the 2015 class. A lefthanded hitter, Randolph shows a smooth swing with an advanced feel for the barrel and the ability to hit to all fields. The Clemson commit is able to recognize the spin of off-speed and make an adjustment. In one game Randolph collected a line drive single through the left side before driving a fastball to the right-center field gap for a standup double, which jumped off the bat. 

 

Starting for the Orlando Scorpions Prime on the mound, Cole Sands (2015, Tallahassee, Fla.) showed a three-pitch mix throughout his outing. Standing at 6-foot-3, 200-pounds, Sands is able to generate nice downhill plane on his fastball, staying tall on his backside and getting good extension with his lower half down the mound. His arm action is longer in the back, but with a fast arm Sands is able to get on top of the ball and work well to both sides of the plate with his fastball.

The Florida State commit maintained 89-91 mph, topping 92, velocity on his fastball well, coming out of his hand clean with late arm-side run low in the zone. His changeup is the more advanced off-speed pitch at present, showing late fade while maintaining his arm speed at 80-81 mph. His curveball is a pitch that has continued to develop and should continue to do so. Throwing it in the 77-79 mph range, the pitch shows 11-to-5 shape with occasional life when he stays on top of it. He gets around the curveball at times, causing it to lose it’s shape and become more slurvy. Overall, Sands repeats his mechanics well and is able to maintain his velocity from the stretch.

 

 



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