Lefthander Hunter Virant has been one of the best arms so far through the first three days of PG National. Virant has a lean, projectable 6-foot-3, 172-pound frame and threw four pitches for strikes.
Virant's fastball sat in the 90-91 mph range, but he touched 93 and threw the pitch for strikes to both sides of the plate.
"I felt great," Virant said after his outing. "My arm was a little tight in the beginning, but I loosened up quick. The heat helps out a lot. It's way different than what I'm used to. It's nice and humid—different than the nice, cool climate of California.
His arm can get a little sweepy in the back, but he oozes projection and commanded his fastball to both sides of the plate. The UCLA commit mixed in a 77-79 mph slider, a 78-79 mph changeup and a 71-73 mph curveball.
"Usually I stick with the fastball, that's my main pitch," Virant said. "After that, I go to my slider. Then I use the changeup to get hitters off balance and get them thinking. And if I need to, I can go to the curveball and use that big hook."
Pitchers at these events generally throw two pitches, their fastball and one breaking ball. Some mix in a changeup, but seeing a player show four pitches is a rarity. The best part? Virant has only been pitching for a year. He just started taking the mound last summer. Before that, he mostly played outfield and baseball is his only sport.
"It's kind of difficult if you haven't thrown for a while, but I guess my arm is kind of fresh since I haven't thrown for a couple years," Virant said. "So I came out throwing mid 80s and slowly worked up as I continued to develop and build the arm strength up."
Virant, who will be at USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars next week, said he's learned most of what he knows about pitching simply by observing.
"I just watch T.V. and see what those guys are throwing," Virant said. "I try to resemble myself to Cliff Lee a lot. He's one of my idols."
• Virant wasn't the only Southern California lefthander that stood out today. Max Fried from Montclair Prep High in Van Nuys also has a projectable body at 6-foot-4 and 165 pounds. He showed a clean delivery and filled up the strike zone with his 88-91 mph fastball (topping out at 92) and a nice curveball between 71-75 mph. Fried flashed an 81 mph changeup, showed good arm-side run on his fastball and showed good athleticism, which shouldn't be surprising because he also plays guard for the basketball team,
• Albuquerque Academy catcher/infielder Alex Bregman didn't win the event's home run derby, but he did steal the show by launching 14 out in the preliminary round. Although the games are played with wood bats, the home run derby participants are allowed to use aluminum. But, the hitters this year did use the new BBCOR bats and Bregman's shots were towering no-doubters. Bregman, who led USA Baseball's 16U gold medal team last summer by hitting .564/.596/.846 has a compact, muscular build at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. The righthanded hitter has a nice, compact swing and a lot of strength in his hands.
• In real games, two more home runs were hit during yesterday's action. Outfielder Skye Bolt from Holy Innocents High in Atlanta hit a majestic home run off an 85 mph fastball and Massachusetts outfielder Rhett Wiseman also blasted a ball to right field off an 88 mph fastball.
• Several other pitchers showed quality stuff on day three: Righthander Lucas Sims from Brookwood High in Snellville, Ga. sat 90-91 mph with his fastball, topping out at 93. The Clemson recruit also showed one of the best curveballs at the event, a tight 12-6 breaker in the 75-77 mph range. . . Righthander Carson Fulmer from All Saints' Academy in Winter Haven, Fla. was 92-94 mph with an aggressive delivery and a 78-79 mph slider. . . Righthander Walker Weickel continued to show impressive stuff, including a 91-92 mph fastball that touched 93 and a hard, 80 mph slider. Weickel, a Miami recruit, uses his 6-foot-6 height well, getting great downward angle to the plate. He also flashed an 81 mph changeup and a soft, 69-73 mph curveball to keep hitters guessing. . . Righthander Ryan McNeil from Nipomo (Calif.) High had a 90-92 mph fastball, topping out at 93 with a 76-78 mph slider that showed flashes of being a quality pitch and a 77-79 mph changeup. McNeil has a nice frame at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. He uses a full windup and shows a balanced delivery, but lands a little closed and can be a little too deliberate.
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