JUPITER, Fla.—Day One of the Perfect Game/World Wood Bat Association World Championships featured several of the top 2014 high school arms, and because of a smaller slate of games on Thursday (22 vs. more than 50), many of them were seen by many eyes.
• During the day’s final time slot, four games played at adjacent fields featured several of the class’ premier arms. On one field, Touki Toussaint (Coral Springs Christian Academy, Coral Springs, Fla.) took the hill for the Atlanta Blue Jays, facing off with Brian Gonzalez (Archbishop McCarthy HS, Miramar, Fla.) and the South Florida Elite Squad. Toussaint featured similar stuff to what he’s delivered since creating headlines in Jupiter a year ago when he showed off a fastball up to 97 and devastating curveball.
This year, the athletic righthander showed off a 91-94 mph fastball, peaking at 95, while predominantly mixing in his plus curveball at 74-77. At its best, Toussaint’s wrinkle earned audible praise from the typically tight-lipped scouting community.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder also threw an 85-86 changeup with deceptive arm speed, as well as an 84 mph slider. Compared to other national showcase events, Toussaint threw more strikes, though he was not always fine. His body and arm seemed to be working in better sync, allowing him to repeat his delivery. After getting squeezed on some close pitches, however, he had some wildness and ran up his pitch count, forcing his exit after two innings.
• On the opposite side of the rubber, Gonzalez threw three innings from a high three-quarter arm slot, creating good downhill angle on his 87-91 mph heater. He kept lefthanders off balance with a 74-76 curveball, as well as righthanders with his 79-80 changeup. Gonzalez’s changeup featured fastball arm speed and was a swing-and-miss offering when buried down in the zone.
• In relief of Toussaint was righthander Kevin Steen (Oak Ridge, Tenn., HS) who threw three sterling innings, primarily with his fastball. At 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds, Steen has a long, loose, projectable body and whippy arm, allowing his fastball to sit 90-91 mph in his first inning. Though his fastball eventually settled in the 87-89 range, his late life allowed him to carve through the Elite’s lineup, racking up six swing-and-misses and two strikeouts in his final inning. Steen commanded the zone, thanks to his athletic, repeatable delivery and fluid arm action, and also showed a 74-77 curveball with 10-5 shape.
• The tournament’s first pool play time slot also put power arms on display with Grant Holmes (Conway, S.C. HS) and Alex Verdugo (Sahuaro HS, Tucson) throwing on opposite sides of the Marlins complex. Holmes, a strong-bodied righthander playing with the Evoshield Canes, worked between 91-93, peaking at 96 with two strikes on a hitter once, with excellent late life. He created lots of weak contact off the hands of righthanded hitters, and showed he could spot to both corners of the plate. He also spun a hard, late-breaking 80-81 curveball from his three-quarter slot.
Meanwhile Verdugo, a lefthander with the Texas Scout Team Yankees who recently threw at the Arizona Fall Classic, worked between 89-92 with heavy run. He showed four pitches, and after a number of defensive misplays, struggled with his control.
The Arizona State-commit, who also batted fourth for the Yankees, had two face-offs with Braxton Davidson (Arden, N.C.), one of the top prep power bats. In their first meeting, Verdugo started the lefthanded slugger with a knee-buckling 76 mph curveball to get ahead 0-1. He then threw a low-and-in changeup at 82 that Davidson took for strike two before narrowly missing the outside corner with a 92 mph fastball. Verdugo threw his next three pitches out of the zone—a 78 mph slider, 92 fastball, and 74 curveball—to walk him.
In round two, Verdugo struck out Davidson on a combination of fastballs and curveballs, finishing him swinging on a pretty 74 mph breaker.
• Among the day’s other standouts were a pair of Syracuse Sports Zoners, shortstop Isan Diaz (Springfield, Mass.) and righthander Jake Nelson (Hopkinton, N.H.). Diaz, a known commodity after the showcase circuit, showed plus bat speed from the left side, the ability to shoot offspeed pitches the other way, instinctive baserunning jumps and steady actions in the middle infield.
Nelson was a lesser-known commodity heading into Jupiter but was the first arm of the day to garner attention. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder sat at 90 mph with very clean mechanics through his two innings. He worked in a 77 mph slider and threw strikes.
• Righthander Spencer Adams (Cleveland, Ga.), pitching for Team Elite, worked two innings in his start, showing the same feel for four pitches that made him an interest of scouts all summer. The 6-foot-5, 190-pounder sat between 89-91, peaking at 93 once, while also using a cutter-like slider at 85-87, curveball at 76-77 with two-plane action, and lesser-used changeup at 84.
• Among Team Elite’s hitters, third baseman Montrell Marshall (Snellville, Ga.) showed well on Day One, hitting several balls with authority on a line, including a line drive triple just short of the center-field warning track. Marshall has a projectable 6-foot-5, 200-pound build and looks the part at third, where he moves well and has plenty of arm strength.