2017 Perfect Game All-American Classic: East Pitchers Breakdown

Kumar Rocker (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

SEE ALSO: Nolan Gorman Powers West To Win

SAN DIEGO–Despite a 6-1 final score, the story of the 2017 Perfect Game All-American Classic was pitching, as the strength of the 2018 class continues to be shown with quality arm after quality arm trotting out to the mound.

Eighteen different arms went to the rubber at Petco Park, and every pitcher threw at least 91 mph at some point with their fastballs.

Georgia righthander and East Team starter Kumar Rocker’s fastball got to the highest velocity on the night, hitting 97 several times, while a number of other pitchers were up to 95-96. While velocity is exciting, there were a number of impressive pitching performances in this game.

We’ll break down every pitcher who appeared in the game, with the East Team broken down below, in order of appearance:

Kumar Rocker | RHP | North Oconee High, Bogart, Ga.

Rocker, who was named the 2017 Jackie Robinson Award winner the night before Sunday’s game (which goes to Perfect Game’s national high school player of the year) started for the East Team, coming out of the gate with a 96 mph fastball to Santiago High (Corona, Calif.) shortstop Brice Turang.

He followed up with a 97 mph fastball and had a bit of a battle with the talented Southern California hitter, who worked a 10-pitch at-bat and fouled off four mid-90s fastballs and an 88-mph change before Rocker forced him to fly out to center.

Rocker then struck out Nolan Gorman with an 85 mph slider on the outside corner and just missed doing the same to Jarred Kelenic—who reached on an error.

Rocker missed a bit to his glove side against Jordan Groshans, but against his final batter—Bryce Bush—the Vanderbilt commit spotted two 96 mph fastballs on the outside corner before later getting Bush to swing through a sharp, 84-mph slider in the bottom of the zone.

Against six batters, Rocker’s fastball was 95-97, with an 83-86 mph slider. He threw one firm, 90 mph changeup to Gorman, and while the pitch missed to his armside it did show some fading action despite the high velocity.

Ethan Hankins | RHP | Forsyth Central High, Cumming Ga.

The 2017 Baseball America Pitcher of the Year, Hankins had a relatively easy second inning on the mound for the East Team, striking out a pair of batters before walking home run derby winner Preston Hartsell, and then forcing Joe Gray Jr. into a groundout to end the inning.

Hankins was predominantly at 94-96 with his fastball in the outing, although he threw two pitches at 93, and flashed a sharp breaking ball to fellow Vandy commit Nick Northcut. He went with 77 mph curve on his first pitch against Northcut, catching him off-guard, and then went back to the pitch to get Northcut swinging and finish a his second strikeout.

His first came on a 95 mph fastball low-and-away that Noah Naylor swung through one at-bat before. Hankins worked rapidly between pitches, often delivering a pitch before scouts could finish writing notes on the previous offering—showing how Hankins can be a challenge to batters and spectators alike.

His curveball wasn’t completely solid the entire time, as he didn’t get fully on top of the third and final breaking ball he threw, but it continued to show promise as a developing weapon to complement his elite fastball.

Mason Denaburg | RHP | Merritt Island (Fla.) High

Denaburg pitched much better than his box score line would have you think, having given up a two-run home run to Nolan Gorman on a 95 mph fastball that he left over the plate. While Denaburg would usually get away with the pitch thanks to velocity alone, Gorman made him pay on this occasion, although that was one of the only pitches that Denaburg left over the plate.

Additionally, Denaburg should have gotten out of the inning facing the minimum (and avoiding Gorman, the fourth batter, entirely) if it weren’t for a fly ball to left field that Nicholas Schnell dropped amid some confusion with infielders.

Denaburg threw a 95-96 mph fastball Sunday night, mostly spotting the corners of the plate to his arm and glove side, forcing Osiris Johnson into a fly out after going inside with a 95 mph pitch and then back-to-back 96 mph fastballs on the outside corner.

He got two swings and misses on the pitch—one against Johnson and one against Turang, who grounded out to first.

Denaburg also threw two mid-80s changeups, one that generated a groundout and a second that missed armside to Jarred Kelenic but showed some fade.

Luke Bartnicki | LHP | Walton High, Marietta, Ga.

Bartnicki tossed a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fourth inning, using a low arm slot from the left side and a 92-93 mph fastball with lots of running action and a low-80s slider that kept hitters off-balance.

He struck out Bryce Bush with a 92 mph fastball that was in the middle of the zone but had lots of life, and then finished his frame with a strikeout of Noah Naylor, on an 81 mph slider that crept back onto the inner half of the plate.

Bartnicki controlled the pitch well, although he kept it to his armside, backdooring righthanders and going in on lefties.

Carter Stewart Jr. | RHP | Eau Gaillie High, Melbourne, Fla.

The winner of the Trackman Award thanks to a ridiculously high spin-rate fastball, Stewart made multiple hitters take silly swings against the pitch, that frequently ends up in the dirt and remains effective.

The pitch has immense depth, and coming from Stewart’s long, 6-foot-6 frame comes at batter’s at an extremely difficult angle that makes damaging it a real challenge. It’s not just the analytics that love Stewart’s curve, as many scouts have called it the best curve in the class.

Stewart also threw a 90-92 mph fastball and touched 93. He got one looking strikeout against Preston Hartsell on a 78-mph curve that started at Hartsell’s eyes and then broke into the bottom of the zone, and a pair of groundouts.

Brandon Neeck | LHP | Greeley High, Chappaqua, N.Y.

Neeck walked two batters in the top of the sixth, but also struck out a pair, throwing a 90-92 mph fastball with occasional run and a tight, 78-79 mph curve that didn’t have a ton of depth, but did have late break.

Against Seth Halvorsen, Neeck threw a 91-mph fastball that ran back over the outside corner for a looking strike three, and he used a 79 mph curve down and away from lefthanded hitting Jarred Kelenic to get him to swing and miss—something the Wisconsin outfielder is rarely caught doing.

Neeck’s release point was a bit inconsistent to Chicago outfielder Alek Thomas, the first hitter he faced, who walked on five pitches.

Lenny Torres Jr. | RHP | Beacon (N.Y.) High

Torres Jr. gave up the second homer of the game against his first batter, Jordan Groshans, who sent a 95 mph fastball screaming over the fence on a line drive down the line in left.

After that, Torres settled down a bit, getting Hunter Watson to swing through three pitches—including a 95 mph fastball on the outside corner and a 94 mph fastball down in the zone.

Torres Jr. has a sharp slider in his back pocket, but threw the pitch just once in this outing, an 83 mph breaker that missed low and away to C.J. Willis. He chose to go primarily to a lively, mid-90s fastball that generated five swings and misses, including a strikeout of Preston Hartsell with a 95 mph pitch spotted low and away.

Jonathan Gates | LHP | Nature Coast Technical, Brooksville, Fla.

Gates pitched from the third base side of the rubber and out of a high leg kick delivery with some effort. He struggled with his fastball control Sunday night, walking three batters (including his first two back-to-back) and gave up singles to lefthanded hitters Nolan Gorman and Jarred Kelenic.

Gates threw 31 pitches in the inning to eight batters.

While his fastball control wasn’t quite there, Gates seemed to locate both of his offspeed offerings more consistently. The first was a 75-79 mph curve that was in the zone three times out of five, and drew a check swing on one of the two that missed low. Gates also threw one 81 mph changeup to Brandon Dieter which he located down and in for a strike, with fade.

Cole Wilcox | RHP | Heritage High, Ringgold, Ga.

Wilcox pitched off of a 95-95 mph fastball from a low arm slot that allowed him to get five swings and misses on the pitch, including two strikeouts against C.J. Willis and Brandon Dieter.

Wilcox also threw an 82-84 mph slider and a changeup and a mid-80s changeup.

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