JUPITER, FLA.—The largest scouting event of the year, the 15th annual WWBA World Championship hosted by Perfect Game, began Thursday. Hundreds of scouts and college coaches flocked to the Roger Dean Sports Complex to see 85 of the best travel teams in the country play at the 13-field complex. Roger Dean Stadium is the spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins, as well as home to two Florida State League affiliates.
Thursday began with two consolation games in the first two time slots of the day (10:30 AM and 12:30 PM). Scouts went scrambling in the third game of the day when a late addition to the Syracuse Sports Zone roster who was not on the printed rosters entered the game throwing 87-91 mph, touching 92 on some guns.
Hazelton (Pa.) High righthander Sal Biasi, who sat 89-91 in his first inning, struck out five over three innings against one walk and one hit while allowing one run in a 4-1 victory over the D’Backs Team British Columbia.
Attending the event was a last-minute opportunity for the 18-year-old righthander.
“The guy who put our team together saw me pitch last weekend, came to my dad and said that I needed to be on the team,” Biasi said. “We just booked our flight two days ago.”
Listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Biasi, exclusively a middle infielder growing up, didn't begin pitching until this summer.
“We were messing around over the summer and my coach brought me in to close for two innings, then I started to get more innings,” Biasi said.
Biasi committed to play baseball at Penn State this summer.
“I never knew I was going to play baseball in college to begin with until this summer because I didn't play a lot of travel ball,” Biasi said. “I was talking to a lot of Division I basketball schools and didn't focus on baseball until the summer, which is when things came together for me for college.”
The athletic Biasi has a quick arm and throws from a three-quarters slot. Biasi has both a two- and four-seam fastball but primarily used his two-seamer. He often worked away from righthanded hitters.
“I like to throw the two-seamer on the outside corner to run it back on the plate,” he said.
His mid-70s breaking ball showed some shape but was understandably inconsistent considering his inexperience on the mound.
“My breaking ball has gotten a lot better,” Biasi said. “My coach Mike Zwanch is a pitching coach at Scranton University where I live and we have been working on adding a power curve.”
A point guard, Biasi will play basketball in the months ahead and his strong showing on the first day of the event likely placed him on scouts’ follow lists for the spring.
Biasi relieved another interesting Syracuse Sports Zone righthander, Jake Nelson from Hopkinton (N.H.) High who sat 87-90 and touched 91 over two innings. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound long-limbed Nelson’s fastball played up because of his downhill plane from his arm slot above three-quarters, movement (sink and armside run) down in the zone and ability to consistently throw strikes, although his delivery had effort and his arm action had some length and stiffness.
Nelson, who will be 17 on draft day, had a 74-78 mph slider that showed tight rotation and break toward the higher end of that velocity range. He also showed a low-80s changeup but largely pitched off his fastball.
• Despite his youth, one of the top arms of the day was a member of the 2016 class, 16-year-old sophomore righthander Austin Bergner (West Orange High, Windermere, Fla.), who retired all six hitters he faced, striking out two.
The long, loose and rangy 6-foot-3, 170-pound Bergner has an ideal pitcher’s frame with a lean lower half and substantial physical projection remaining. He sat 88-91 mph with his fastball from a compact, whip-like arm action and arm slot a tick below three-quarters.
“My arm action is something we have worked on,” Bergner said. “I don't want to have long, loopy arm action. As tall as I am most people think I would but playing shortstop helps with having a quick, shorter arm action.”
The ball jumps out of his hand as he creates behind head deception and hides the ball well with a high glove extension. Using a full windup from the far third-base side of the rubber, Bergner pounded the strike zone and got ahead of hitters. He showed good feel for a low-70s breaking ball with good shape and occasionally tight rotation, but was inconsistent.
“My curveball didn't feel as on point as it usually is,” Bergner said. “I kept on burying it. I felt like I was rushing it and trying to hide it from the hitter instead of just trying to throw it like I normally do.”
But the offering has tantalizing potential. Bergner mixed in an occasional changeup in the 80-81 mph range.
After his outing, Bergner, a diligent worker, performed a series of postgame workouts and abdominal exercises, which is a rare scene on the showcase circuit when pitchers sometimes leave their game completely after their innings are complete.
Bergner shows potential as a shortstop with aptitude for the bat.
“If I am lucky enough to go pro I would prefer to go pitching,” Bergner said. “Right now I want to go to college as a two-way player. But I know that pitching is my strongest part of my game but I want to keep on hitting until the bat is taken out of my hand.”
Bergner is currently uncommitted and has yet to go on any visits to schools.
• St. Louis Pirates/Mets Scout Team righthander Anthony Herron Jr. (Affton High, St. Louis, Mo.) sat 88-89 mph with a deep repertoire over his two and two thirds innings, during which he struck out three against one hit. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound Herron has a solid build with a physical lower half, athleticism and strength through throughout his upper body. The ball comes out of his hand easy and he gets downhill plane. Herron showed a 74-77 mph curveball, 78-81 slider with three-quarter tilt and a 78-79 mph splitter, a seldom seen offering in a high school pitcher, with a hard bottom that generated numerous swings and misses that was an intriguing offering.
• Less than a week after a strong showing at the Florida Diamond Club, when he touched 95 mph, righthander Cre Finfrock (Martin County High Jensen Beach, Fla.) touched 96 and sat 91-94 during his two innings. The athletic 5-foot-10, 166-pound Finfrock has athleticism, a quick arm and hides the ball well with a compact arm action. A Central Florida commit, Finfrock can have above-average fastball movement at its best as the ball jumps out of his hand with deception and he has a high-70s breaking ball that flashes average or better.