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20 Standouts From The WWBA Underclass World Championship

Fabio Peralta (Photo By Stacy Jo Grant)
Fabio Peralta (Photo by Stacy Jo Grant)

One of the top fall events for high school underclassmen each year is Perfect Game’s WWBA Underclass World Championship.

This year because of Hurricane Ian, the event shifted across the state from Fort Myers, Fla. to Jupiter, with a scaled down collection of teams. Even with those circumstances, there were several players at the tournament who have a chance to be early-round picks in the coming years, along with several other players who stood out as intriguing sleepers to follow.

These were 20 standout players from the event, all from the 2024 class unless otherwise noted. 

Fabio Peralta, OF, Florida

Peralta is the No. 9 player in the 2024 class, the highest ranked player in the event. He’s a quick-twitch athlete with a lean, high-waist build at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds with plus speed and long, gliding strides in center field, where he has the tools and instincts to develop into a plus defender. He made an impressive play on the final day of the tournament with no outs and a runner on third base, getting a quick jump off the bat with a good route to run down a fly ball coming in to his right. He caught the ball and quickly fired a strike in the air to the catcher to get the double play. Later in that game, he made another great play, charging back on a ball to deep center field to make a running, over-the-shoulder catch. That all came one day after he came charging in to make a diving catch in shallow right-center field. At the plate, Peralta showed a higher swing-and-miss rate, but the Miami commit did drive a fastball for a single up the middle, singled again on a slider and had a hard-luck out on a fastball he drove deep into the right-center field gap.

Ethan Puig, 3B, Florida

A Miami commit ranked No. 30 in the 2024 class, Puig is a polished hitter for his age. In nine plate appearances, he was on base six times, going 2-for-4 with two walks and two hit by pitches. He has a simple lower half load, tracks the ball well and takes a short, efficient swing from the right side. That leads to hard line drives all over the field, with a high contact rate whether he’s facing fastballs or offspeed stuff. Puig doesn’t have the standout speed or power that some of the other top players in the class have, but his pure hitting ability stacks up among the best for 2024.

Manny Marin, SS, Florida

A teammate with Puig on the Elite Squad and the No. 19 player for 2024, Marin also reached base six times, going 2-for-4 with four walks. His two hits came on line drives to the middle of the field from a loose, rhythmic righthanded swing. Marin shines especially in the field, moving around gracefully at shortstop with nimble footwork, soft hands and a nose for the ball. He showed that defensive skill by ranging behind second base to make a play on a grounder and his alertness on a ground ball to him at shortstop with one out to get the runner trying to advance from second to third base. Marin is a Tennessee commit.

Talan Bell, LHP/OF, Florida

A two-way player, Bell had a superlative day on the mound, striking out 10 of the 14 batters he faced over four shutout innings with no walks and only one hit allowed en route to being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Pitcher. At 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Bell is an athletic lefty who touched 90 mph and sat 87-89 mph, getting an incredible 17 swinging strikes on his fastball. The pitch has good arm-side run and plays above the radar gun readings, getting on hitters faster than they anticipate to help him miss bats. Bell showed some feel to spin a curveball as well in the low-to-mid 70s, but it was his fastball and ability to pound the zone with it that allowed him to dominate. A Florida State commit, Bell chipped in at the plate as well, going 2-for-6 with three walks and a triple on a 2-2 changeup that he pulled to deep right field.

Matt Brown, RHP, Canada

Brown threw a pair of scoreless, two-inning outings with a combined four strikeouts, one walk and one hit allowed. There were a lot of intriguing traits for the uncommitted righthander, starting with a lanky 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame with considerable projection to add to a fastball that was already up to 91 mph here. It’s a strong fastball projection for a 16-year-old, but his best pitch here was his upper-70s curveball that had tight rotation and sharp bite, with feel to land it in the zone and the action on it to be a swing-and-miss pitch.

Owen Hancock, RHP, Georgia

A Mississippi commit, Hancock threw five scoreless, no-hit innings with 10 strikeouts and one walk. He did it with impressive stuff, too, pitching at 88-92 mph with the physical projection in his 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame for more velocity to come. It’s an aggressive, up-tempo delivery with some effort that has led to erratic control at times, but he filled the zone in this start with 73% strikes. He also went frequently to his curveball, which he throws with power in the upper 70s up to 81 mph at times, resulting in seven swings and misses of the 18 breaking balls he threw.

Ryan McPherson, RHP, Florida

A Mississippi State commit, McPherson took another step forward from where he was earlier in the year. After touching 91 mph this summer, McPherson here pitched at 88-93 mph, with more room to grow that fastball as he fills out his 6-foot-2, 180-pound build. McPherson has a sound delivery and threw a near 50/50 mix of fastballs and offspeed stuff between his low-80s slider and changeup. The most promising of the two was his changeup, which had good fade and separation off his fastball in the low 80s.

Blaine Rowland, RHP, Florida

Rowland made two appearances in the WWBA Underclass World Championship, throwing 2.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts, two walks and two hits allowed in his first start. On one day’s rest, he came back in the quarterfinal game and pitched another 6.2 scoreless innings to lead his team to the win with eight strikeouts, three walks and four hits allowed. A Florida commit at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Rowland touched 90 mph and sat in the upper 80s. He has a short arm stroke, hides the ball well and at times showed feel for a solid slider into the upper 70s.

Noah Thigpen, RHP, Georgia

Thigpen is an intriguing uncommitted righthander for 2024 because of his ability to spin the ball. He filled the zone in his start, throwing five scoreless innings with one walk, two hits and five strikeouts. Thigpen pitched mostly at 86-89 mph early on, with his velocity dipping after that point, though there’s more room to fill out his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame and pitch in the low 90s down the road. The separator pitch for Thigpen, though, was his curveball. Of the 28 curveballs Thigpen threw, hitters swung at 12 of them and whiffed 10 times. He throws it with power at 76-80 mph and did a good job of keeping it down, with sharp, late break and good depth to dive underneath barrels.

Matt Conte, C, Massachusetts

Conte projects to stick behind the plate and showed why here. He blocked and threw well at the event, doing both on one play with a backhanded pick on a pitch in the dirt and got up and threw out the runner trying to steal second base. In another instance where a hitter drew a two-out walk, Conte saw the runner on second base take too large of a secondary lead, threw behind him at second and his team was able to get him out when he tried to advance to third to end the inning. At the plate, Conte hit into several well-struck, hard contact outs, but he has a well-sequenced swing with good rhythm at the plate and drives the ball well to the middle of the field, something he showed on a double to the right-center field gap. He’s committed to Wake Forest.

Anthony Tralongo, 3B, Florida

Tralongo has some of the better bat-to-ball skills in the 2024 class. At 6 feet, 195 pounds, the Auburn commit has a minimal load and extremely short path to the ball from the right side. He also took advantage of pitches up in the zone to hit for pull-side power during the tournament, going 3-for-9 with a home run, two doubles and a walk. His showing here added another impressive performance to his strong offensive track record.

Mateo Gray, SS, Florida

Gray is a physical 6-foot-3, 205-pound infielder ranked No. 44 in the 2024 class who showed off his ability to drive the ball with impact in games during the tournament. While he did show some swing and miss on fastballs, Gray hammered a pair of offspeed pitches, tripling on a curveball to the warning track in center field and hitting a double on a changeup that he pulled to deep left field. A South Florida commit, Gray played shortstop here, though he likely slides over to third base at the next level.

Thorpe Musci, RHP, Georgia

A Georgia Tech commit, Musci showed power stuff in his start, working off a fastball/slider attack to allow one run over five innings with two hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. At 6 feet, 180 pounds, Musci used an aggressive, high-energy delivery to produce a fastball that sat 89-92 mph and touched 94. He paired it with a low-80s slider that was inconsistent but at its best looked like a fastball before diving late at the plate and away from righthanded hitters.

Michael Torres, OF/LHP, Florida

Torres entered the event as a 2025 committed to Miami, then not long after reclassified for the 2024 class. Torres has two-way talent as a 2025 outfielder and lefthander who has touched 90 mph, though he didn’t pitch in this tournament. He did stand out at the plate, going 3-for-7 with two walks and one strikeout. Torres has a good setup at the plate, taking a compact lefty swing geared to shoot line drives to all fields with gap power.

Dylan Jordan, RHP, Florida

An uncommitted righthander, Jordan has good size (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) to project on a fastball that was up to 91 mph this summer at the Area Code Underclass Games and sat 86-89 mph in this look, touching 90 mph. Jordan pitches with a long arm swing and his fastball has good carry up in the zone, generating 12 empty swings on that pitch alone as he struck out nine in 3.2 scoreless innings with two walks and five hits allowed. He had trouble landing his curveball in the zone, but when he did he showed some feel to spin that pitch.

Alex Hernandez, RHP, Georgia

Hernandez struck out seven in 3.1 scoreless, no-hit innings with two walks allowed. A Georgia Tech commit at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Hernandez pitches off a fastball that’s not overpowering at 85-89 mph, with the ability to reach 90 mph that he has shown in previous events. What makes him intriguing is his ability to spin a curveball. That mid-70s curveball induced six empty swings with tight rotation and good depth.

Gian De Castro, 3B/1B, Florida

De Castro added to a strong track record of offensive performance this year with his showing at the WWBA Underclass World Championship, going 3-for-6 with a double, two walks and no strikeouts. De Castro is a tall, physical third baseman at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, with a chance he ends up flipping across to first base or a corner outfield spot. What he does at the plate is his calling card, with a smooth, compact swing from the left side and good strike-zone judgment. He doesn’t swing and miss much (he only did so once in this tournament), showing his pitch recognition and hand-eye coordination on a tough changeup running away from him that he stayed on to slice the opposite way for a single. De Castro can put on a power display in batting practice, too, and that should be a bigger part of his game over time, with flashes of it here as he pulled a fastball from McPherson (a Mississippi State commit) for a double into the right-center field gap.

Riley Luft, OF, Florida

Luft had a strong showing at the WWBA Underclass, going 6-for-13 with a walk and a tournament-leading four doubles. At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Luft is an uncommitted outfielder with a strong, compact frame who fits best in a corner outfield spot. He loads at the plate with a hand pump trigger to get started, then unleashes a quick righthanded swing with loft to both gaps.

Chase Fralick, C, Georgia

A lefthanded-hitting catcher committed to Auburn, Fralick went 3-for-9 with a home run, a double, a walk and a strikeout. Fralick, who is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, swung and missed only once during the tournament, showing an accurate barrel with the ability to drive the ball for pull-side damage when he got a pitch up in the zone, including a home run in a left-on-left matchup.

Kaiden Lopez, OF, Florida

In terms of pure performance, Lopez separated himself from the pack as the tournament MVP, going 8-for-14 (.571) with two home runs, three walks and one strikeout, then committed to Stetson after the event. There’s no one loud carrying tool that stands out for Lopez, but he’s 6 feet, 180 pounds with a simple righthanded swing and a track record that merits a closer follow in the coming years.

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