The top two prep players in North Carolina matched up over the weekend, providing scouts with a chance to see lefthanded slugger Braxton Davidson (Roberson High, Asheville, N.C.) face same-side pitching with Alex Destino on the hill for North Buncombe (Weaverville, N.C.). But the matchup did not live up to expectations, as Destino struggled through his outing.
Destino entered the spring as a top 100 high school prospect but is off to a slow start. He was a staple on the showcase circuit, showing well at multiple events. The lefthander primarily sat 88-90 mph with his fastball, touching 92 with deception, arm-side run and sink from a three-quarters arm slot. Destino showed feel for pitching and strike-throwing ability, one of his strongest traits. A starting pitcher for USA Baseball’s 18-and-under National team, Destino displayed feel for a low-80s changeup that showed the makings of an average offering. His high-70s slider showed the potential to be a strong same-side option with occasionally sweepy tilt.
Destino, who weighed in at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds at East Coast Pro, has a strong, durable and athletic build with physical legs and a large frame. He looked more toned through his thighs, hips and core over the weekend.
He did not have his best stuff or control, sitting 88-89 and touching 90 mph in the first inning. But his velocity dropped steadily throughout his outing. In the third, Destino was 86-87 mph and fell a tick more in his final inning. He struggled to throw strikes, walking six and plunking four others against two strikeouts. Nearly half (10) of the hitters he faced (21) reached base via walk or hit by pitch. The South Carolina commit was getting under his fastball, causing the pitch to remain up and flatten out. Destino also spun on the heel of his strike foot, finishing toward third base. Often working behind in the count, Destino did not use as much offspeed stuff as has in the past. He was dropping his arm slot on his changeup and showed a low-70s curveball that he did not use in games on the showcase circuit.
This outing and previous reports of Destino showed diminished velocity this spring, increased the likelihood of him reaching campus as a two-way player; Destino was a part-time designated hitter for Team USA and shows some aptitude with the bat.
Davidson, one of the top power hitters in the class and a potential first-round pick, went 1-for-3. Evaluators did not get the looks at Davidson they had hoped because he swung just twice in three plate appearances against Destino. He was plunked on the first pitch of his first plate appearance. In his second plate appearance, Destino laid off two same-side breaking balls to start the count, then swung through an elevated fastball before connecting for a line-drive single to right field during which he showed a quick stroke. He drew a walk without taking the bat off his shoulder the last time he faced Destino before lining out to second and grounding out against relief pitching. Davidson swung and missed once on the day, a development that will be watched closely later this week.
The North Carolina commit is young for the class and won’t turn 18 until after the draft. Davidson, who was measured at 6-foot-1, 217 pounds at East Coast Pro, looked trimmer in his lower half.
Destino was the top in-state pitcher on Davidson’s schedule, but evaluators will get many more chances to see him against top competition this week, as Roberson will serve as the host school of the National High School Invitational, which begins Wednesday and will extend through Saturday.
Davidson jumped on the mound for the final three outs of the contest, showing 86-87 mph velocity.