JUPITER, Fla. — From Roy Halladay, Jon Adkins and Drew Storen to Tyler Skaggs, Kevin Gausman and Noah Syndergaard, the Ohio Warhawks have an impressive list of pitching alumni.
This year’s group features two of the pitchers generating the most buzz at Perfect Game’s World Wood Bat Championship: righthanders Carlos Salazar from Kerman (Calif.) High and Jordan Sheffield from Tullahoma (Tenn.) High.
Every year, there’s a handful of players—mostly pitchers—that skip out on the World Wood Bat Championship because they’re shut down for the offseason, nursing injuries or catching up on school work. That typically opens the door for other players to catch scouts’ eyes. Salazar hasn’t been a secret—his name has circulated for a little while now—but he hasn’t been to many events this summer, so a small army migrated to the Ohio Warhawks’ first game on Saturday to see Salazar start. Even his own team lined up along the fence to watch his pregame bullpen session.
A short, stocky righthander, Salazar is about 6 feet tall and around 200 pounds. There was some buzz leading up to his start that he touched 98 mph a couple weeks ago in the Fresno area.
“Today was a little different,” Salazar said. “I’m a kid from a small city and seeing that many scouts behind the plate was a little frightening, but after the first inning I got over it and back in the zone. I went out there with my same routine and didn’t change anything.”
Salazar sat 93-95 mph in the first, but had trouble finding the strike zone. He was around the zone, but not in it as much as he would’ve hoped.
“I feel like I could have done a lot better job throwing strikes and pounding the zone, but I didn’t do terrible,” he said.
In his second inning he settled in at 90-92 and touched 94-95. His changeup is a solid pitch and was in the low 80s while his curveball has a ways to go as a below-average pitch right now. His delivery is relatively easy and the ball jumps out of his hand.
Salazar threw more than 70 innings during his high school season and didn’t see a lot of time on the showcase circuit, but he says it was likely a blessing in disguise.
“I did some events in California, but prior to the summer I had a torn ligament in my (right) foot,” he said. “I guess it was a good thing because I threw a lot during the season, but I rested and came back in the fall with the Marlins Scout Team and kind of surprised myself.
“I kind of rushed it back and so I took another month off and I started playing catch again and that’s when I knew that something changed because my arm was more electric.”
He’s now working to polish his mechanics, staying back and through the ball while finishing out front better. He said he caught himself jumping some today, much like Angels righthander Jordan Walden does in his delivery. Salazar liked to emulate Walden when the jump was part of his delivery, but now he’s gone away from that and as a Giants fan, likes to look at righthander Ryan Vogelsong for inspiration.
“I really like (him),” Salazar said. “How he works his fastball, it’s not 98-99, but it looks so electric because he puts it pinpoint—in, out, down, up.”
Later in the evening, Sheffield had the complex buzzing with excitement after he worked a quick, 1-2-3 inning without throwing a fastball below 95 mph. His electric fastball sat between 95-97 mph and he also mixed in a hellacious 80-81 mph curveball.
The Vanderbilt recruit has a lean athletic build at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. He has a loose arm and the ball explodes out of his hand with excellent life. Sheffield was up to 95 in the Team USA 16-and-under trials last summer, but pitched in the 89-91 mph range on the showcase circuit this summer.
• Even more Ohio Warhawks pitchers threw well during the team’s two games today. Jordan’s younger brother, Justus Sheffield, is one of the top lefthanded prospects for the 2014 class and took the mound before his older brother. He has a similar build and sat in the 91-93 mph range with a 72-73 mph curveball . . . Righthander Akeem Bostick from West Florence High in Florence, S.C., has a lively 6-foot-4, 180 pound frame with broad shoulders and long arms. His fastball sat in the 90-92 mph range and touched 93-94. He’s intriguing with his size and athletic ability, but will need to improve his loopy 73 mph curveball . . . Righthander Trevor Clifton from Heritage High in Maryville, Tenn., sat 90-91 with a good downhill plane at times. He showed a quick arm, but has some effort in his delivery. Clifton mixed in a mid-70s curveball . . . Earlier in the day, righthander Taylor Widener from South Aiken (S.C.) High sat in the 90-92 mph range during his first inning and topped out at 93. He has a whippy arm action and gets good extension toward the plate, but his breaking ball can be slurvy and inconsistent.
• Mayky Perez, a righthander from the Dominican Republic and one of the top names for the 2013 international free agent class, started an 8 a.m. game and threw two innings. He gave up two runs on no hits and three walks while striking out one. He has a big frame at about 6-foot-5, 210 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms. He sat consistently around 88 and flashed a sharp breaking ball.
• Lefthander Sean Brady (Baker HS, Cape Coral, Fla.) started for the Cardinals Scout Team Saturday evening and has shown improved velocity since sitting in the low to mid 80s last summer. He sat around 88 today, touching 90 and better a couple times while spinning a tight curveball in the high 70s.
• Pitching opposite of Brady was Layne Brunner (Montesano, Wash., HS), a skinny lefty at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds. He sat in the mid 80s with a loose delivery and showed a very good curveball with tight break in the mid 70s. Brunner, a Washington State commit, also showed good athleticism on the mound, making a couple spry plays on ground balls.
• Righthander Brett Hanewich (IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.) also pitched for the Cardinals and featured an 89-93 mph fastball with excellent life. His curveball was 73-75 with good shape, but remains inconsistent.
CONTRIBUTING: Conor Glassey