Intriguing Prospects Abound Over The Weekend In The Carolinas

COLUMBIA, S.C.—This weekend's weather in the Carolinas was less than ideal for baseball, but the rain stopped in time to allow Duke to play an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. In Columbia, S.C., the rain was equally taxing on Saturday, but the Diamond Prospects Pro Day and a South Carolina intrasquad both were both played without interruption on Sunday.

DUKE

• Sophomore righthander Bailey Clark showed plus arm speed in a two-inning stint opposite of projected top-five 2015 draft pick Michael Matuella. Clark was effective when he stayed closed, but he struggled to repeat his motion and showed more flash than present ability. His fastball worked 90-93 mph and occasionally featured run to the armside. Clark has tremendous arm strength and the frame of a power pitcher, but he did not show an effective secondary pitch on Saturday. His slider, thrown at 84-85, broke late, but had below average depth and found barrels. This was, however, a preseason practice game, very early in the process for most pitchers.

• In the outfield, redshirt sophomore Jalen Phillips showed intriguing tools, with above-average arm strength in right field, average run times down the line, and a smooth lefthanded stroke. Phillips showed no evident plus tool, but also showed upside in every aspect of the game. The conditions of the game made it difficult to evaluate Phillips offensively; not only was it early in the process to be seeing live pitching this spring, but Mother Nature was not kind on Saturday, with overcast skies and 40-degree temperatures for most of the afternoon. Phillips has the raw materials to move on to pro baseball after this season, but he will have to prove himself. Given Matuella's presence, Phillips will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself in front of high-level scouting officials.

The Blue Devils open their season at Cal on Feb. 13.

DIAMOND PROSPECTS PRO DAY

• Outfielder Kep Brown (Wando HS, Mount Pleasant, S.C.) entered the day as a known commodity in the scouting community after showing plus power potential throughout the summer showcase circuit. Brown's pull power is exciting, but he also has a very efficient swing, with outstanding balance and a short, gradually downhill path to the ball. Brown starts with his arms out away from his body, which leads to early extension and makes it difficult for Brown to use the opposite field. If and when Brown adjusts to push the ball the other way, he should have plenty of power there. In batting practice this weekend, Brown lined out a home run to the left-center power alley and drilled one over a high, towering wall in straightaway center field. He also showed an average arm and average speed.

• 2016 catcher Josh Hernandez (A.C. Flora HS, Columbia, S.C.) showed loud tools, with athleticism behind the plate and a plus arm. Hernandez has very fast feet, and gets himself in throwing position quickly before firing strikes to second base. At the plate, Hernandez showed above-average bat speed, with plus potential. His swing was mechanically inconsistent, and he struggled to keep his balance, leading to a good deal of topspin, but the raw materials are there for Hernandez to develop at the next level.

• Infielder Grant Bodison (Mauldin (S.C) HS) showed intriguing tools, with a projectable body, quick feet, and advanced body control for a high school junior. In batting practice, Bodison showed potential for average or slightly better bat speed. His swing was long, with a hitch load forcing him to extend early, but, similar to Hernandez, the raw materials are there.

• South Carolina-committed outfielder T.J. Hopkins (Summerville (S.C.) HS) also showed an impressive set of tools. He is likely headed to campus, but he showed above-average bat speed, average speed, and a 40 arm, all of which will play at the college level. With a strong trunk and an inside-out swing, Hopkins barreled the ball to all fields on Sunday.

Sawyer Bridges, a teammate of Hopkins' at Summerville, was the most impressive pitcher at the event. A 2016 graduate and South Carolina commit, Bridges showed a live arm and a fastball at 91-92 with armside run. His breaking ball was inconsistent, showing early humping shape at first, but when he was on top of the pitch, it featured late 10-to-4 break. Bridges throws from a standard three-quarters arm slot with an abbreviated arm circle. His arm comes up on occasion, showing the ball over his head slightly and reducing the deception from Bridges' more closed delivery. He has above-average arm speed, and projects to add some muscle to his frame.

In Carolina Baseball Stadium, the Gamecocks played a 10-inning intrasquad game on Sunday afternoon. Their projected weekend starters had already thrown on Saturday, but they used multiple, talented college pitchers in their second game of the weekend.

• Senior Kyle Martin is back in Columbia after opting not to sign with the Angels, who selected him in the 20th round last June. Martin is a first base-only prospect defensively, but has serious offensive upside. A lefthanded hitter with above-average bat speed, Martin has a quick load and trigger, extending through the ball very well. Martin did nothing but hit the ball hard on Sunday, driving one ball deep down the right field line, pulling a home run approximately 375 feet out to right field, and barreling a belt-high fastball to the warning track in center field. Martin showed the ability to track an advanced breaking ball into his bat and was impossible to pitch to inside.

Canaan Cropper showed impressive stuff over a two-inning stint. The righthander throws from a very low arm slot, nearing sidearm. His fastball sat consistently at 91 in his first inning, before working 88-90 in his second. The fastball featured above-average movement, and, if Cropper can control the pitch, it should give righthanded hitters trouble. The redshirt sophomore also showed potential for an above-average changeup, thrown in the upper 70s with a very similar arm action and also featuring tumble and run. Cropper's deceptive delivery should allow him to succeed in college, but he will need to refine his command going forward. Cropper projects to add size and strength, and has reliever potential at the next level.

Connor Bright stung the ball to all fields, showing the ability to time a changeup and also the ability to crush mistakes. Bright tattooed a fastball left up and in for a home run to left field, and also punched an outside fastball to right. Bright's power should play more gap-to-gap than over the fence.

The Gamecocks open their season at home against the College of Charleston on Feb. 13.

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