Pitching Frenzy

Arms dominate World Wood Bat tournament

JUPITER, Fla.—Monday marked the culmination of the World Wood Bat Championship and a winner was crowned, but not before drama unfolded in a day of epic playoff matchups.

The first round was underway bright and early with the winners of each pool taking each other on. Due to a rain delay on Sunday, the entire playoff portion was shifted to Monday. So all games were shortened to five innings, except for the finals.

In the first game, the Dallas Tigers sent lefthander Colton Cain to the mound to try and help them advance. He allowed three runs on three hits and two walks while striking out eight, but his offense couldn't muster much support and the Tigers were eliminated by the All-Star Baseball Academy. Aside from the Tigers, the teams that were expected to advance did so.

That included one of the pre-tournament favorites, the California-based ABD Bulldogs, and they went on to win the event, for the first time. Coached by international veteran coach and Braves part-time scout Mike Spiers, the Bulldogs have featured such recent alumni as Nick Noonan (Giants), Chris Parmelee (Twins), Josh Vitters (Cubs) and Matt Clark (Padres, 2008 Division I home run leader at LSU). This year's team took down Diamond Vision Elite and the South Florida Bandits to advance to the semifinals, where it beat All-Star Baseball 3-0, and ABD finished it off with a 7-3 victory over Cangelosi Baseball the finals.

The matchup of the day came in the second round, when the Braves Scout Team and Texas Scout Team Yankees faced off. Both pitchers showed scouts good stuff, but  in two innings of work, Braves starter Shelby Miller gave up three hits and three runs, in large part due to poor defense. With Miller on the mound, the Braves misplayed a ball in the outfield, had another ball drop for a hit when an outfielder lost the ball in the sun (while his sunglasses rested on his hat), and failed to properly play three different bunts as the Yankees ran away with the win 4-0. Texas starter Garrett Gould overpowered the Braves, pitching all five innings, allowing one hit and striking out 11.

Jiovanni Mier
Gould didn't come out among the top 10 prospects in this tournament, but his performance was easily worthy of consideration. A member of the 2009 draft class from Maize High in Wichita, Kan. Gould stands at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. With his 88-91 mph fastball he mixed a fading 78-80 changeup that kept the Braves off balance, and he also froze several with an 81 spike slider. Gould's pitchability was his most impressive asset. His fastball is probably a fringe-average pitch while the changeup is average, but his slider has potential to be above-average. He commanded and mixed the pitches well, using both sides of the plate and confusing opposing hitters with his selections.

Cangelosi Baseball matched up with the Yankees in the semifinals. Righthander Keifer Nuncio took the mound for the Yankees and shut down Cangelosi. It seemed fine that he had only one run of support thanks to a home run by outfielder Randall Grichuk. But Cangelosi tied it in the fifth, forcing a tie breaker. For this tournament, the tiebreaker was an extra inning in which the hitting team started with one out and the bases loaded. There was no choosing who was on base, as opposed to this year's Olympic rules. The previous three hitters from the inning before were put on base in order and the scheduled batter came to the plate. Cangelosi couldn't push a run across in its half of the sixth, but were able to stop the Yankees as well. Cangelosi then scored two runs in the seventh and denied the Yankees in the bottom half, winning 3-1 and sending it to the finals against the Bulldogs.

In the championship game, Cangelosi's momentum continued rolling before it hit a brick wall in ABD. The Bulldogs battled back from a 3-1 deficit to win 7-3 and earn their first ever WWBA crown and make up for their loss to the Diamond Devils in the East Cobb championships. However, 5-foot-8, 160-pound outfielder Mark Payton of Cangelosi—yes, it's ex-big leaguer John Cangelosi, 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, who runs the team—earned the championship's MVP award after dazzling those still around with his defense and his presence in the middle of the order. Payton saved a couple of runs with an amazing diving catch in center field while also throwing out a runner at the plate. Gould was named the tournament's most outstanding pitcher after allowing only one hit in eight innings while striking out 18.

Tyler Matzek, lhp Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, Calif.
Shelby Miller, rhp Brownwood (Texas) HS
Tyler Skaggs, lhp Santa Monica HS, Los Angeles
Mychal Givens, rhp Plant HS, Tampa
Scott Griggs, rhp San Ramon Valley HS, Alamo, Calif.
Madison Younginer, rhp Mauldin HS, Simpsonville, S.C.
Matt Hobgood, rhp Norco (Calif.) HS
Chad Thompson, rhp El Toro HS, Trabuco Canyon, Calif.
Mike Dedrick, rhp Canyon View HS, Cedar City, Utah
As with any event like this, we've ranked the top 10 hitters and pitchers based on their pro prospect potential after this showcase and what has been seen over the summer. Lefthander Tyler Matzek and Miller topped the list after teaming up on the Braves to dominate hitters.

In his first outing, Matzek made a start with the largest contingency of scouts at the tournament. The gathering was a spectacle and Matzek pleased everyone by going three innings, allowing one hit and striking out six. His fastball sat in the 90-94 mph range, hitting 93 more than 10 times and with a good downhill plane. Matzek showed his ability to make adjustments when, on occasion, he would leave a pitch unfinished, up and out of the zone. The next pitch would be slam dunked at the bottom of the zone, rendering hitters harmless.

Miller relieved Matzek in that outing and was also 92-94 and struck out five in two innings. They then swapped in the playoffs with Miller starting and Matzek relieving. Both were impressive again, despite the team being knocked out of contention. Miller's heavy fastball is arguably the best in the class. It explodes toward the plate and he is able to keep it down in the zone, making it difficult for hitters to elevate. In their second outing, Matzek hit 94 with four straight pitches, while Miller touched 94 again and sat comfortably at 92-93.

Lefthander Tyler Skaggs vaulted into the top 10 after an impressive outing in pool play. Already on the radar, Skaggs solidified himself as one of the top prep arms after pitching three innings, allowing one hit and recording eight of nine outs via the strikeout. His fastball was 88-90, but he peaked at 91-92 and painted the corners. He also dropped a 69 curveball with good bite. He flashed a 75-77 slider during his warmups but did not use it in the game. Skaggs has a tall, slender frame, evoking Phillies ace Cole Hamels or the Marlins' Andrew Miller.

Righthander Mychal Givens topped our new Stalker Pro II radar gun with a fastball that hit 96. He settled in the low 90s, but gave up four runs on three hits, taking a loss in pool play.

This event was dominated by pitching and there were no position players who played their way into the first round, but the players that have appeared on lists throughout the summer flashed their potential again in Jupiter.

Luke Bailey, c Troup HS, LaGrange, Ga.
Bobby Borchering, 1b/3b Bisop Verot HS, Alva, Fla.
Jiovanni Mier, ss Bonita HS, Pomona, Calif.
Wil Myers, c/3b Wesleyan Christian HS, Thomasville, N.C.
Matt Davidson 1b/3b, Yucaipa (Calif.) HS
Austin Maddox, c Eagle's View Academy, Jacksonville, Fla.
Jake Marisnick, of Riverside (Calif.) Poly HS
Stephen Perez, ss Gulliver Prep, Miami
Richie Shaffer, 3b Providence HS, Charlotte
Deven Marrero, ss American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
Catcher Luke Bailey showed off his power by hitting a home run in his first game and collected multiple hits while playing solid defense. He snapped off pop times in games below 2.0 seconds, registering above-average.

Bobby Borchering, a third/first baseman, is one of the 2009 class' most projectable hitters as he has a good frame and approach at the plate. He goes to the plate with an idea while also displaying above-average raw power.

From event to event, Jiovanni Mier has continued to improve and has vaulted himself to being the top shortstop in this year's class. He has great actions at the position with major league tools. The game comes easy to him. He led his team to the finals of the tournament, made solid contact often and even closed out the championship game, hitting 91 on the gun.

Wil Myers, a catcher/third baseman, also continues to gain momentum with a very projectable body and athleticism. He's very strong and has a chance to play a premium position at catcher. He could also have a serious impact bat in the future.

Matt Davidson, who splits his time between first and third base, displayed his pro-ready body and quick bat speed, giving him possibly the best raw power of anyone in his class.

Rounding out the list is the smooth-fielding shortstop Deven Marrero. A member of the 2008 national champions American Heritage Academy, he undoubtedly has major league defensive ability but he really struggled at the plate during this event. Despite his struggles, scouts still have confidence in Marrero's bat as well.