MESA, Ariz.–To the surprise of no one, shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. will be making his second consecutive Under Armour All-America Game appearance this summer.
During the opening ceremony for the Under Armour All-America preseason tournament at Mesa’s Sloan Park, three players were announced as selections for the Wrigley Field game, including Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High’s Witt, Logan Britt, who plays for Fort Worth Texas’ All Saints Episcopal and Niceville Fla. High’s Rece Hinds. Hinds will also be making his second Under Armour All-America Game appearance.
Witt was certainly the big name at this year's Pre-Season Tournament. Considered the top high school player in the 2019 class, Witt is no stranger to Under Armour/Baseball Factory events.
Steve Bernhardt, Baseball Factory's executive vice-president of baseball operations, believes it's a two-way street in regards to the benefits of Witt being involved in the Under Armour and Baseball Factory events.
"A lot of people look up to him and certainly recognize the name with what he's done," Bernhardt said about Witt. "He's a recognizable player already who handles himself very well. For us it's really nice to have him involved in our program, and certainly at this event getting another chance to see him perform."
Witt did not disappoint during his two days on the field at the preseason tournament, primarily playing his natural shortstop position for the North Texas squad. He's a potential five-tool player, with at least his speed, arm and raw power grading as plus tools. His 6.6 timing in the 60-yard dash was one of the top times from the first day of the event. Witt showed off his ability to use his quick, strong wrists to flick balls over outfielder's heads during several of his at-bats.
Witt is comfortable in using scouting vernacular by saying that he wants to get each tool as close to an 80 grade as possible. But just having five tools isn't enough for Witt. When asked what part of his game needs improvement, he replied that he is working on getting all facets of his game better, including the mental side which he referred to as the "sixth tool." That's also part of what he gleans from his father--a former first-round pick who pitched 16 seasons in the big leagues. The elder Witt often shares what his talented son needs to do to get to the highest levels of the game.
"It's really incredible to not only have him as a dad but as a coach," Witt said about his father's role in his career. "He's always hard on me, which I like, and he pushes me to get better so I can eventually make it to where he was."
It's also the intangibles that stand out for Bernhardt when he observes Witt in action.
"There are some guys that are that true old-school baseball player that can't get enough of it," Bernhardt said. "Whether that's from growing up around (the game) and it's been instilled by his father, or whether that's just the way he's wired, in my time around him he just loves to play the game. He likes to compete, he likes to put the uniform on and go out and be challenged by good competition, and in most cases succeed and show that he's either the best or one of the very best on the field that day."
More than 400 players, split geographically into 26 teams, played games and received professional coaching on Saturday and Sunday. This event is different from other showcases in that instruction takes precedence over actual competition, with daily sessions dedicated to hitting and fielding work for each team. Games are structured so that sides change after five batters regardless of the number of outs and all batters start with a 1-1 count to keep the action moving quickly.
MEDEROS STANDS OUT: Victor Mederos was a late addition to the roster for the star-studded Florida team, but it didn't take long for the Miami area righthanded pitcher to draw the attention of scouts and fans. Taking the mound for the early Sunday morning game at the Chicago Cubs training complex, Mederos drew comments from observers that he resembled a young Jose Fernandez. That comparison to the late Miami Marlins all-star pitcher, who died in a boating accident just before the end of the 2016 MLB season, suits the prep sophomore quite fine.
"I've always looked up to Jose Fernandez," Mederos said, "and I've always tried to do everything that he tried to do .... I usually go to YouTube and I look at his videos in slow motion, and just look at his mechanics."
Mederos cruised through his two-plus inning stint, using a fastball ranging from 90 to 94 mph from a loose arm and solid build. In addition to working in a cutter, Mederos commented that in 3-and-2 counts he throws a curveball that he has good feel for. He said that he's working to better control his fastball to both sides of the plate and getting on top of hitters faster.
While he's already considered one of top high school players in the 2020 class, Mederos stays grounded and continues to work hard on his craft. It helps that he attends Monsignor Pace High in the Miami area, one of the elite baseball programs on the east coast.
"The Pace program is something out of this world," Mederos said. "It's next level stuff. We have 6 A.M. workouts, we'll run, we just had a two-mile test in 60 minutes, we go to the sand pit, and we lift .... It's not just baseball. The academics are great ... It turns you humble because you have a lot of great players that play on this team."