LONG BEACH—The Texas-based Rangers team has eight underclassmen, the most of any team.
The class of 2015 in Texas has the chance to be very strong, especially on the mound. Lefthander Ryan Fant has a prototypical pitcher’s build at 6-foot-5, 205-pounds with large frame and long, lean legs. His fastball sat 86-87 mph during his first inning from a high arm slot and mixed in a 72-74 mph breaking ball. Righthander Cole McKay is another big, physical Texas hurler at 6-foot-5, 205-pounds. McKay was 87-88 mph and touched 89 with his fastball and showed feel for a mid-70s changeup. He also mixed in a 70-72 mph breaking ball. Righthander Stephen Kolek threw earlier in the event and was also up to 89. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Kolek has an athletic build and is the younger brother of Tyler Kolek, who is one of the top players in the 2014 class.
Six-foot-3, 220-pound righthander Chris Andritsos has a physical build and was up to 90 mph and sat in the high-80s. Andritsos is better known for his offensive exploits and power, as he was a third-team All-American as a DH. Six-foot-1, 207-pound Ke’Bryan Hayes, the son of ex-big leaguer Charlie Hayes, is a first baseman with a compact stroke and physical strength. Hayes, a Tennessee commit, also has a good arm.
Lefthanded-hitting outfielder Ryan Johnson will be one of two rising juniors at the Under Armour All-American Game in Chicago later this month. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Johnson has a physical build, bat speed and raw power. Six-foot-1, 180-pound righthander Beau Burrows, a Texas A&M commit, was up to 94 on Tuesday and sat in the low-90s. He has been up to 96 earlier in the summer.
• Blake Wiggins, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound righthanded hitting third baseman and outfield from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark., hit the first home run of the Area Code Games. In the final game of the day on Wednesday, Wiggins, who showed good power during batting practice, turned on a 90 mph fastball from righthander Kevin Steel. The shot looked and sounded like a home run off the bat and sailed down the line and hit about 15 feet up the left-field foul pole, which stands 348 feet away from home plate. The strongly-built Wiggins is committed to Arkansas, where his father attended.
• A game prior to Wiggins’ home run run, Nick Valaika had one of the longest hit balls of the event that off the bat sounded like it had a chance to be the first home run. He hit a double down the left-field line that bounced off the wall. Valaika is part of a vaunted Brewers lineup, featuring the best players from Southern California, and showed home run power during batting practice. He and Josh Morgan have shared shortstop duties for the Brewers and both made spectacular defensive plays. Both have soft hands and arm strength, which the 6-foot, 175-pound Valaika showed on Monday to nail a runner from deep in the hole. Nick has three older brothers that have advanced to careers in pro ball; Chris, a second baseman with the Marlins; Pat, a ninth-round pick of the Rockies; and Matt, who played in the minors for the Reds. The youngest Valaika is committed to UCLA, where Pat was a vital cog of the national championship winning team.
• Although the Jeren Kendall’s strong throw from right center field was a strong contender, Nick Shumpert was the defensive player of the day, sponsored by Wilson Gloves. Playing second base for the Reds, Shumpert showed his range and lateral quickness to get to a field a chopper in front of second base. With his momentum going towards third base, Shumpert showed impressive body control to quickly throw across his body and nail the runner at first. The 6-foot, 175-pound Shumpert is the son of Terry, who played in the big leagues for 14 seasons. Shumpert is a rising junior and committed to Kentucky, where his father attended before becoming a second round pick in 1987.
• Big league bloodlines were the theme on Wednesday, when strong-bodied righthander Parker Joe Robinson from Junipero Serra High (Coto de Caza, Calif.) took the hill for an inning, when he sat 90-91 mph with his fastball. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Texas commit has a quick arm and showed a low-80s slider. His father Jeff, who is 6-foot-6, was a major league pitcher for nine seasons.
• With a large frame and lean build, 6-foot-6, 193-pound righthander Zach Schellenger has a projectable body that could handle more weight. Schellenger, who attends Devon Prep in Malvern, Pa., sat 89-91 mph and touched 92 with his fastball. He has a long arm stroke in the back that he turns over at release from his three-quarter slot. Schellenger gets tremendous plane and sink on his fastballs, as well as armside run. He complimented his sinking fastball with a high-80s slider.