NEW YORK—Day two of the Metropolitan Baseball Classic in Citi Field began with a matchup between the Northeast Mets scout team and Marucci Elite. The affair was the best-pitched game of the tournament, as the three Northeast Mets pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter, but the best individual pitching performance belonged to Marucci Elite righthander Alex Lange, who struck out 11 in his five innings, including five of the first six hitters he faced.
One week after striking out two in his inning of work at the Under Armour All-America Game in Wrigley Field, Lange continued to his strong performance at the end of the summer. The righthander sat 89-91 mph with his fastball that had some armside run and touched 92, sustaining that velocity throughout his five innings. Lange hides the ball well and gets downhill plane from a three-quarters arm slot. He came out throwing strikes with his deep repertoire.
“I felt like I had my best stuff after the first inning,” Lange said. “I was hitting my spots and realized that I could throw all 5 pitches in the count whenever I wanted.”
His primary secondary offering was a low-80s slider that was as high as 84 mph with depth, tilt and abrupt break that flashed above-average at its best. This pitch has developed substantially over the summer and Lange has relied on the pitch more as it has progressed.
“Earlier in the summer, I was throwing a normal decent curveball and I still had the slider, but I didn't throw it as much,” Lange said. “I have been working on increasing the velocity on it and trying to get later tighter break and late movement on it.”
At Perfect Game National, the first showcase of the summer, the pitch topped out at 81 mph without the power and late break it showed in Citi Field. He previously relied more on a mid-70s curveball that has also tightened up by moving to a spike curveball grip, showing 12-to-6 break and depth at its best. Lange showed feel for an 82-84 mph changeup thrown with good arm speed that had some armside fade and could project as an average offering.
This summer, Lange has worked with pitching coach David Evans, who has coached numerous big leaguers including CC Sabathia and Homer Bailey. Evans’ tutelage has spurred the improvement to his breaking balls and altering Lange’s delivery. The Louisiana State commit has a high leg kick and after landing with his stride leg, Lange’s front leg would bend towards the third-base dugout as his upper body got over his front leg.
“He has completely changed my delivery and gotten it to be more athletic,” Lange said. “My front leg would wobble. Now I have greater stability by moving down the mound and staying on top of the rubber and creating momentum down the mound, which gets me over my front leg and creating that strong front side. I have been working on my hip flexibility and hip strength. I am trying to keep that hip in as long as possible so it fires at the last second, so there is more explosion on the mound.”
His front leg still occasionally wobbled against the Northeast Mets, but the severity was reduced. Lange issued three walks in the outing.
Lange allowed two runs, both of which were unearned, but he did not give up hard contact when the Mets scored their first run, which was of the tough-luck variety. The Mets got on the board in the fourth inning after a walk, an error, an infield single (a tapper that trickled just inches to the left of the first-base line and stopped before a fielder could get the ball in time) and sacrifice fly to drive home the run.
In the fifth, a leadoff error came around to score after Lange allowed the hardest hit ball of the day, a double to the right-center field gap by infielder Will Toffey off an elevated changeup, and single by infielder Liam Sabino.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Lange has a large frame and strong, sturdy and athletic build with broad shoulders and strength through his chest and back. He has a strong core and physical, well-developed lower half built to handle innings.
Lange attends Lee’s Summit West (Mo.), which opened in 2004. The school has had two players drafted since it opened but has three potentially draftable players in the 2014 class alone. Outfielder Monte Harrison is a premium athlete with a well-rounded skillset. Reece Eddins, a lean, projectable 6-foot-5, 190-pound righthander, pitched later in the day for the St. Louis Mets. The Nebraska commit was up to 88 at PG National and sat in the mid-80s with from a high arm slot. Eddins’ large frame and lean build drew comparisons to East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman, who has positioned himself as a top half of the first round pick, when he was in high school.
• Righthander Joshua Pennington from Lower Cape May (N.J.) Regional High started for the Northeast Mets and struck out seven consecutive hitters, bookended by two groundouts, against one walk in three innings. The uncommitted Pennington has a small frame listed at 6-foot-1, 180-pounds and athletic build with lean strength throughout. Working from the far third base side of the rubber, Pennington has a quick arm with whip-like arm action from an arm slot a tick above three-quarters. His fastball had good plane with life when down in the zone, but Pennington often elevated his 88-92 mph fastball that touched 93. Pennington generated 15 swings and misses with his fastball, which was nearly a 40 percent whiff rate, and showed feel for multiple offspeed offerings. At 72-75 mph, Pennington’s primary offspeed pitch was a curveball showed 12-to-6 vertical tilt and depth, flashing average at its best. He mixed in a low-80s changeup with some tumble. Pennington is a good athlete with quick feet and has shown the ability to field his position well.
Pennington was relieved by Anthony Romanelli, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound lefthander with a lean build from Beacon (N.Y.) High who is committed to Wake Forest. Romanelli has a funky, deceptive delivery and got downhill plane from a high three-quarter arm slot. He complimented his fastball with gloveside run with a low-70s curveball and got two strikeouts and three groundouts in two innings.
Righthander Brandon Bielak finished off the no-hitter with two strikeouts in his two innings. The athletic 6-foot-2, 180-pound Bielak has room to fill in his upper body and long, lean legs. Bielak has a quick arm and breaks his hands high, getting some sink from a high three-quarter slot. The Notre Dame commit’s fastball touched 92, sitting 89-91 mph. He complimented it with 78-81 mph breaking ball with some shape and a low-80s changeup.
• Evoshield Canes outfielder Danny Blair, who attends Gilman High in Bel Air, Md., went 3-for-6 over two games. The lefthanded-hitting Blair showed the ability to use the whole field and his loudest contact came on a double to the right-center field gap. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound South Carolina commit has turned in above-average 60-yard-dash times and has good stride turnover.
• The defensive play of day two was made by Northeast Mets scout team center fielder Zachary Sullivan, a shortstop for his high school team (Corning Painted Post, East, N.Y). With an athletic, lean and projectable build at 6-foot-2, 170-pounds, the Stony Brook commit is an above-average runner and used those wheels to steal an extra-base hit from catcher/first baseman Colby Fitch when he made an over-the-shoulder catch in deep right-center field.
• Evoshield Canes infielder/outfielder D.J. Burt played well in all phases of the game. In the field, the shortstop showed fast hands, lateral quickness and arm strength. He made a web gem to snare a liner to his left off the bat of Grayson Byrd. He has a quick first step and produced plus run times to first base from the right side. Burt was a catalyst on the basepaths, drawing many pickoff throws and stealing bases. The Fuquay-Varina (N.C.) High product has an aggressive approach at the plate and showed feel for the barrel, making hard contact to left field and going 2-for-3. Once committed to South Carolina, Durt is now committed to Chipola (Fla.) JC.
• Outfielder Troy Stokes went 2-for-3 in the Evoshield Canes’ first game, lining to singles to left field, and swiped a bag. Stokes has a low-maintenance swing with an even weight distribution, a short stride and quiet load. He has a simple, direct line-drive bat path and has strong wrists. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Maryland commit has a solid, compact build with sloped shoulders and strength through his upper body. A product of Calvert Hall College Prep in Baltimore, Stokes has above-average straight line speed in the 60-yard dash but doesn't get out of the box quickly, regularly producing home to first times in the 4.4 second range.
• Another Evoshield Cane had a strong offensive day, as catcher/third baseman Hunter Taylor went 2-for-4 with two walks during two games. The South Carolina commit has a well-built physique at 6-foot-1, 210-pounds with a strong upper body and physical lower half. Using a spread, open stance and toe tap, the righthanded hitting Taylor has an aggressive pull-oriented approach and bat conducive for loft. The Nandua High (Onley, Va.) product had two doubles, the second of which one-hopped the left-center field wall.