Pitching has been the headline of the World Wood Bat Championships. While several position prospects have made an impression, the arms have simply overmatched hitters and taken advantage of the strong winds that have been blowing in on some of the fields.
Thursday was the first day of the tournament, but there wasn't much to speak of with some of the teams still arriving. However, there were a couple of intriguing arms, including two lefthanders, that got scouts riled up and another arm reached 93 mph on our new Stalker Pro II. Here's a quick overview of some of the pitchers.
Miguel Pena is a lefty from La Joya (Texas) High and combined with two other pitchers to throw a no-hitter and strikeout 16 batters. Pena pitched one inning and used an 87-88 mph fastball and 75-76 downer slider to strike out the side. The slider was easily his out pitch as he set it up by getting strikes with the fastball and then dropping the slider with sharp bite under his opponents' bats. The first slider was received with a resounding "Ohh!" from the scouts behind the backstop. When Pena struck out his third and final batter, one scout turned around and exclaimed, "Sign him up!" Pena is a 2009 and stands at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds.
Meanwhile, on an adjacent field, a Canadian lefthander was also giving off some good vibes. Evan Grills is a 6-foot-5, 190-pound, 2010 graduate from Sincalir S.S. in Whitby, Ont. While he had eight runs of support, just one would have sufficed. Grills pitched six innings, allowing just three hits while striking out 14. He offered a fastball that was just 84-85 and peaked at 86, but it had a lot of run that made it hard for hitters to make contact. After setting them up with the fastballs, Grills sent his opponents packing with a 75-77 slider with sharp break.
Righthander A.J. Cole (2010, Oviedo HS, Winter Springs, Fla.) of the Orlando Scorpions also put in an impressive performance. Cole showed off his clean and easy delivery while consistently hitting 91-92 and touching 93. He also mixed in a 78-79 slider and worked four innings, allowing two hits, a run, one walk and striking out seven.
Friday was much bigger as games started promptly at 8 a.m., forcing scouts to head to the fields with the sun barely above the horizon. The Dallas Tigers took on the Kentucky Baseball Club in one of the best of the 8 a.m. games. The Tigers featured several Texas prospects, including a few guys from Coppell (Texas) High, a strong candidate for the preseason No. 1 spot of our national high school rankings. Pitching was once again the story of the game as 2010 righthander Shane Henderson (Flower Mound, Texas HS) took the hill for Dallas and turned in a solid performance. He showed an 85-87 mph fastball that touched 89 and paired with a 74-75 slider that had good bite and prompted a lot of swing and misses. And with a 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame, Henderson has plenty of projection as well. For a tall pitcher, he has a short stride and uses his upper body more to throw, but it's appears correctable and with his projection and a little more drive in his legs, his fastball could add a tick or two.
Kentucky's pitchers fared well, despite a 2-0 loss, with their last pitcher of the day, J.T. Riddle, making an impression. A 2010 from Western Hills High in Frankfort, Ky., Riddle is a righthander that stands at 6-foot-2, 165 pounds. His fastball was consistently hitting 88 and he peaked at 90 while throwing a sweeping, 69-71 mph curve that induced several swings and misses. He has a year to grow and scouts want to see a little more velocity behind the breaking pitch, but they were sure to take notes they could return to later.
While the heralded Braves Scout Team did show off a couple of very good arms, the Ohio Warhawks may have stolen the day's highlight when lefthander Tyler Skaggs got on the bump. Skaggs is a 2009 graduate from Santa Monica (Calif.) High and committed to Cal State Fullerton. A large crowd of scouts was on hand to see him and he did not disappoint. He was consistently 88-90 with his fastball, painting the corners and also touching 91-92. He had good downhill plane to his heater and his curve was 69-70 with good depth. In three innings of work, Skaggs allowed one hit and struck out eight. He has a tall, skinny frame that was compared by scouts to Cole Hamels or a shorter Andrew Miller.
Friday evening was limited to one set of fields, packing all attendants into a small section of the complex, but the competition made it worthwhile. The Royals Baseball Club is made up of all underclassmen, including Brandon Sedell, a catcher that DHed for the national champion American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) Patriots while backing up fifth-round pick Adrian Nieto. Sedell is a 2011 graduate and showed his strength by muscling a pitch up and in to left field for a majestic home run.
On Saturday, there were more pitchers to watch. Righthander Chris Jenkins (Westfield, N.J. HS) showed a strong, tall frame at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds. His fastball sat comfortably in the low 90s with it consistently peaking at 92-93. He also mixed in an 80-81 slider, but struggled with his command. In 2 2/3 innings of work, he allowed three runs on three hits and two walks, but struck out three. He was given the loss as the Royals Baseball Club shortened the game after a 10-0 rout, inducing the mercy rule. Sedell had another two hits while 2010 outfielder Mason Williams (West Orange HS, Winter Garden, Fla.) showed off his speed by laying down to drag bunts and reaching first base from the left side in 3.75 seconds.