Pitchers Impress At World Wood Bat

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.

At 3 p.m., the Braves Scout Team made their first appearance, with
the likes of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in attendance. Righthander
Dylan Floro (Buhach Colony High, Atwater, Calif.) got the start and was
91-93 with an 80-81 changeup and 78 slider before giving way to the
bullpen. Scott Griggs, also a righthander and from San Ramon Valley
High (Danville, Calif.) came on in relief and simply blew hitters away.
He was 91-93 consistently and even touched 94, the highest reading for
the day. He showed a changeup that registered 80 on the new Stalker
gun, but he choked the grip and spiked them in the dirt before
resorting back to the straight heat. The Braves were expected to run
away with this tournament, but are facing adversity as they snuck by
the Ontario Blue Jays 3-2, then lost to Orlando PG Purple on Saturday

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.