Welcome to the Friday Five, where we take a look some of the top performances and videos of high school players around the country.
Last week, we saw back-to-back-to-back home runs, but the first video we’ve got this time around is a top pitching prospect homering in the same inning.
Earlier this week, we touched on things from a team perspective, spotlighting five teams to watch, including a look at No. 2 Shawnee (Okla.) High’s quest for three straight Oklahoma 5A state championships. In this segment, we go to an individual perspective. As always, we’ll take a look most impressive videos of the week, regardless of prospect status, and then hit on a few of the top 2017 MLB Draft prospects who are either moving up draft boards, or putting up big performances.
Let’s get right into it:
MacKenzie Gore | LHP | Whiteville (N.C.)
Sure, MacKenzie Gore is going to be drafted early in the first round as a pitcher--he’s a strike throwing lefthander with great athleticism and an impressive four-pitch arsenal--but that doesn’t mean he can’t swing it.
In this game last Thursday against Fairmont (N.C.) Gore drove two balls over the fence in the same inning. The game is coming extremely easy to Gore at this point in his life, and it’s going to pay off for him in the 2017 MLB Draft, which is set for June 12-14. Gore also took the mound against Fairmont, striking out 12 batters over five innings of work, allowing just one hit and walking none.
Not to be missed in the video above, is the excellent home run call by one of the Whiteville fans: “Bye-bye Charlie Brown!” It’s worth pointing out that Gore--the No. 4 prospect on our Top 200 draft list--could be a tremendous two-way player at the collegiate level if he wanted, but his arm on the mound is simply too good to pass up.
Raymond Gil | 3B/1B/OF | Gulliver Prep (Miami)
This is one of those videos where the more you watch, the more you appreciate what’s going on.
First, and most obviously, Gil hits an absolute no-doubt homer to left-center against Monsignor Pace (Miami) in a Florida 5A first round playoff game. If you missed that, then I’m not really sure what we’re doing here.
Second is the bat flip. Experienced baseball video scouts will likely have noticed this on the first watch, but if you didn’t go ahead and watch it back and admire how Gil--a Miami commit--is able to transition so seamlessly from his necessary follow-through, to his slightly-less-necessary flick of the wrist. It can be hard to see the rotation and landing of the bat from this video, but Monsignor Pace’s catcher certainly had a good view.
Third is the absolute determination of the home plate umpire tracking the ball immediately after contact and getting the best possible view to signal the home run. Relax, buddy, we all knew it was gone on contact.
Fourth, and maybe the least noticeable aspect of the entire video, is how one of the fans, presumably cheering for Gil, is using a Gator clap to support him at the 21 second mark. Reminder: Gil is committed to Miami. That’s not OK.
On the season, Gil is hitting .446/.532/.785 with six home runs and four doubles. He is leading Gulliver in all three triple-slash categories, homers, RBI and runs.
Jacob Pearson | OF | West Monroe (La.)
Pearson, the No. 65 player on our Top 200 draft list, helped push West Monroe into the semifinals of the Louisiana 5A state baseball tournament with his performance last Friday against Sulpher (La.). West Monroe--the No. 4 team in our Top 25--topped Sulpher 9-1 and will play Zachary (La.) in the semifinal round Friday night.
In addition to the home run and the double in the video above, Pearson added a single, a walk, two runs and an RBI in a 3-for-3 night at the plate against Sulpher.
Baseball America caught up with Pearson to talk about his season, the playoff run, the draft and more:
BA: What has the playoff run for you guys been like?
Jacob Pearson: Going into the year we knew we had a good team, and once the year unfolded we realized how good of a team we had. Once we've gotten to playoffs, we've been playing really well. We've got two good starting pitchers, we have our opening guy (righthander Austin Booth) and our guy who comes in the second game (righthander Taylor Young). And they've been pitching really well. Both of them, I think have had two complete games in these playoffs. So that's been helping us out on the pitching side.
On the swinging side, I think our team's batting like .380 as a team right now. That's always a plus. So whenever you can play defense, pitch and hit, that really helps your team out in the long run.
BA: You’re hitting extremely well this season, have you felt locked in all year?
JP: I set pretty high goals this year, not thinking that I would actually reach them. But I set my home run goal at 10 and right now I have 13. We passed that up. I think as a team we have 28 home runs, but I wasn't expecting to see as much pitching as I have. People have thrown to me and it's been nice to swing the bat.
BA: How did you go about setting those goals?
JP: I based it off last year. Last year I think I finished the season hitting .500. So I wanted to step it up a little bit, so I just set it at .515, just because hitting anything above that is kind of ridiculous. So I set it at .515. And in my high school career before this year I've only had 10 home runs, so I thought why not just add all the years up and set that as my home run goal? I can't really keep up with the RBIs and stuff just because our GameChanger stats are blocked. So I just set batting average, home runs and stolen bases. I set myself up at 20 stolen bags and I think I'm at 20 right now.
I work all offseason just so I can try and accomplish these goals that are outrageous. And this year I came into them and I've accomplished all three of them, so it was exciting.
BA: What was your biggest emphasis on this offseason?
JP: Back in the summer I realized that I was taking away from my swing that I had by trying to run out of the box really quick, so I wouldn't finish my swing and I would get that good home-to-first time. So this offseason I really tried to emphasize finishing my swing and still getting a good home-to-first. So I worked on quickness out of the box, while still finishing my swing and I think finishing my swing has helped me elevate the ball a little bit better and drive it deeper into gaps and get it over the wall.
So I think that's going to be a big step going into the summer and then further in my career.
BA: How specifically did you try to work on that?
JP: To work on my explosiveness we have a hack squat (machine) in the gym I work on. That's just straight explosiveness. And whenever we take BP on the field I really work on finishing my swing and then we'll take the hard 90 (feet) on our last cut and that hard 90 (feet) I really work on getting out of the box. The whole 90 feet to the base, I just really work on getting out of the box. I try to get better each time, and it's really helped me this year.
BA: How have you dealt with all of the draft attention?
JP: It's been really exciting. Before the games, scouts will come watch you take BP and you say hey to everybody. All the guys on the team love the attention, because we have some good guys on our team, and they're also getting looked at by these scouts, so they like the attention. I think it helps our team play better, to have eyes on them.
So earlier in the year I told the guys, I was like, 'Hey, a few scouts may come, let's not let it get in front of us. Let's zone it out and let's play the game.' And we've done a good job of that this year. So whenever I step foot on that field I really try to zone out everything outside the lines and I really focus on the game and it's really helped our team out a lot this year.
BA: Do you talk with fellow top Louisiana prospect and Louisiana State commit Blayne Enlow?
JP: Yeah, we mess around a little bit. I was like, 'Blayne, you better turn down that first round money, you're coming to LSU.' I just joke with him, like you better be coming to LSU with me. Stuff like that.
BA: Are you set on LSU or professional ball?
JP: I'm just going to let it play out. I'm going to go with the best opportunity they give, and if professional ball is the better opportunity then I'm going to do that. But LSU has a really good opportunity right now. If I get down there and hopefully start freshman year and have a good career down there, you never know. But if the draft works out, then that would be the route I'll take.
BA: Moving forward what are you focused on?
JP: As a team, we need to limit the strikeouts that we have. I think we had 11 last playoff game, which is a lot for our team. So if we can limit the strikeouts, just put the ball in play, these are high school guys. High school guys make errors, everybody makes errors, so let's put the ball in play.
From a personal standpoint I think defensively, that's something I'm going to look into. I'm going to workout more. I need to get that (defense) a grade up, looking forward into the future. So I think whenever I have these next few weeks, in between the state championship and pre-draft workouts and summer league and whatever, I'm going to really try to work on that. And I guess transitioning to the wood bat.
• Luis Campusano has been one of the few catchers in the draft class who’s trending up instead of down, and is the No. 46 prospect in our Top 200. The Cross Creek High (Augusta, Ga.) backstop’s season ended on April 28 after losing in the first round of the Georgia 4A state tournament, but this spring he took steps forward offensively, thanks in part to work that he’s done to add muscle. Campusano finished with a .622/.698/.1.011 line this season, with six home runs and a 25:7 BB/K ratio. Behind the plate, he’s improved his lateral mobility and is one of the better catch-and-throw backstops in the class, with just one base runner managing to steal against him this year and an 83.3 CS% . With the improvements he’s made this season, he could wind up going as high as the back end of the first round and is the top player in a demographic (high school catching) that has been historically bad.
• The top prospect out of Alabama, McGill-Toolen Catholic High (Mobile, Ala.) outfielder Bubba Thompson is another prep hitter on the rise. Thompson moved from No. 33 to No. 23 on our latest draft rankings and has recently been talked about in the same vein as top prep outfielders Jo Adell (8) and Austin Beck (9). Like Campusano, Thompson’s season recently ended after a playoff loss in the Alabama 7A state tournament, but teams will be drawn to his plus speed and the fact that he’s shortened up his swing this season. A two-sport athlete who played quarterback in high school--and received collegiate interest on the gridiron as well--Thompson should be able to take significant steps forward in his approach at the plate and his reads in center field now that he’s focusing exclusively on baseball.
If you have clips of home runs, strikeouts, web gems or other high school baseball highlights, send a direct message to @CarlosACollazo on Twitter. While we can't guarantee a spot in this particular post, we'd be more than happy to promote and share on social media.