2018 Area Code Games: Day 2 Notebook
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Day two of the Area Code Games saw three more games and a second group of four teams go through batting practice, giving scouts more looks at some of the potential top prospects to go off the board in the MLB Draft next June.
If you missed reports on the standout players from day one, you can catch up here.
Below you can see the prospects who impressed with the bat, the glove and on the mound during Tuesday’s action.
Jack Leiter | RHP | Delbarton HS, Summit, N.J.
The clear standout performer on day two of the Area Code Games was Leiter, who struck five of the seven batters he faced in two dominating innings of work on Tuesday afternoon. A 6-foot, 180-pound righthander out of Summit, N.J., Leiter started the day’s first game and did most of his damage with a well-controlled, 91-94 mph fastball that touched 95 mph.
The son of former major league lefthander Al Leiter, Jack retired the first batter of the game on a pop-up to second base before giving up a single to right-center field to INF Brooks Lee (Calif.). After surrendering the base hit, Leiter retired the final five batters he faced via swinging strikeouts, which included finishing off each of his three second-inning strikeout victims with 94 mph fastballs on the outside corner.
Pitching from a smooth, well-balanced delivery and a three-quarter arm slot, Leiter also showcased a full four-pitch arsenal that included a 77-78 mph curveball, 81-82 mph changeup and an 81-83 mph slider that generated a swinging strikeout in the first inning. In all, Leiter received a total of six swings and misses in two innings, including four whiffs with his fastball and one each with both his changeup and slider.
A Vanderbilt commit, Leiter does not have the prototypical size of a starting pitcher, but he shows off a full starter’s repertoire and the ability to throw strikes with all four of his pitches. While his fastball proved to be his best pitch on Tuesday, Leiter’s offspeed offerings complement each other well. His 12-to-6 curveball features tremendous depth and has a distinctly different shape than his slider, which has sharp, horizontal break. Leiter's curve is usually his go-to breaking ball and was in the 2500-2600 RPM range Tuesday. Leiter’s changeup is probably his fourth-best pitch at the moment, but he has the ability to throw it with the same arm speed as his above-average fastball, which helps the pitch play up.
Leiter’s standout performance on Tuesday in Long Beach, Calif. came less than one week after he struck out five batters in three scoreless innings at the East Coast Pro showcase in Hoover, Ala., where he was once again one of the event’s premier attractions. With two strong, back-to-back performances in front of hundreds of scouts, it’s safe to say that Leiter has raised his stock as much as any member of the 2019 draft class on the summer showcase circuit over the past week.
Riley Greene | OF | Hagerty HS, Oviedo, Fla.
One of the top bats of the 2019 prep class, Greene ranked among the top 10 high school prospects in BA's initial top 10 high school list. He showed why he’s so highly thought of Tuesday, going 2-for-2 with two walks and reaching base safely in each of his four trips to the plate in the Nationals’ (Southeast) second game of the day against the White Sox (Midwest).
During Greene’s first game, which was against the Royals (Northwest), the Florida commit struck out twice and popped up to second once before looking in control of every plate appearance in the nightcap.
His first at-bat came against LHP Michael Prosecky (Ill.). Greene drove an 89 mph fastball from the southpaw, driving a screaming line drive the other way into left field for a single and the first hit of the game. The ball left Greene’s barrel at 100 mph, according to TrackMan.
After walking in his second trip to the plate against RHP Will Frisch (Minn.), Greene singled again in the fifth inning, this time against an 84 mph offering from LHP Ryan Sleeper (Minn.). It wasn’t quite 100 mph this time, but his 88 mph groundball through the right side of the infield was hit sharply as well.
Before Greene’s day was done, he walked in the sixth inning in his second time facing Sleeper. While the hits were both loud and hard contact against same-sided pitchers, Greene’s walks speak to the amount of patience that the 6-foot-2, 190-pound outfielder has in the batter’s box. While there is some swing-and-miss in Greene’s game, he always seemed to be in control of his at-bats, with an above-average understanding of the strike zone for a prep player.
He’s routinely one of the most dangerous hitters in whatever lineup he’s playing in and showed exactly why Tuesday.
Gunnar Henderson | SS/3B | Morgan Academy, Selma, Ala.
Another offensive-oriented position player on the Nationals squad, Gunnar Henderson was spoken of highly throughout the scouting community entering the summer for the strength in both his arm and his bat.
After going 0-for-2 with a pair of groundouts in the Nationals’ first game of the day, Henderson’s bat woke up—like Greene’s—for game two, when the Auburn commit hit one of the most impressive balls of the day. In the fourth inning, Henderson barreled an 89 mph fastball from Frisch and hit a 100.3 mph rocket to deep left field with impressive opposite-field carry. Not a burner, Henderson got around the bases well at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, rounding first in 4.69 seconds on Baseball America’s stopwatch.
Henderson went just 1-for-4 in the game, but he hit the ball hard in two other at-bats, flying out to center while squaring up an 86 mph fastball (98.1 mph exit velocity) and lining out to first base in his final plate appearance.
While Henderson’s bat has plenty of potential, there will be some questions about where he fits best defensively. Playing both shortstop and third base Tuesday, Henderson has 60-grade arm strength that will play at either position, but he misplayed one fairly routine backhand opportunity at shortstop and is probably not as quick as scouts want to see for a middle infielder. Third base seems to be his most natural position at the next level at this point in time.
USA Baseball Sets Field For 2020 National High School Invitational
The 16-team field for the 2020 National High School Invitational (NHSI) was announced Thursday afternoon.
- INF Brooks Lee (Calif.) was the only player to get a hit off of Leiter—as mentioned above—and showed some tools both offensively and defensively Tuesday morning. The switch-hitting, 6-foot-1, 180-pound infielder also singled off of RHP Jason Diaz (N.Y.) in the third inning, ripping an 88 mph fastball into right field at 99.3 mph. While covering second base on an attempted stolen base, Lee pulled out an interesting deke, presumably attempting to show the baserunner a throw wasn’t close, but snagging the ball at the last second and applying a quick tag for the out. His hands stood out in pre-game infield as well, where Lee turned a quick double play from the keystone with an above-average exchange.
- A favorite of many scouts thanks to his gritty, hard-nosed style of play, INF Anthony Volpe (N.J.) put on an impressive defensive display after moving from second to shortstop when teammate Christian Cairo (Fla.) exited the game with a leg injury. Volpe, like Lee, has a fantastic exchange and gets rid of the ball quickly wherever he’s at on the infield dirt and made a confident backhand in the hole at shortstop with a quick throw to first to get a 4.25 runner down the line. There are players with more raw arm strength than Volpe, but his quickness and active footwork get the job done just as well.
- The Northwest region of the country has the potential to be above-average in the high school ranks—and considering the top college prospect in the country resides in the Northwest, perhaps it’s smart to throw a blanket statement on the region and label it as a strong region entirely. OF Corbin Carroll (Wash.) is one of the prep players to watch in the Northwest, as a lefthanded-hitting centerfielder with dynamic speed and great feel for the barrel. Tuesday against the Nationals (Southeast), Corbin hit out of the leadoff spot for the Royals (Northwest) and went 2-for-3 with a strikeout, two infield singles and a walk. Carroll got to first base in 4.10 seconds on one occasion—a 65-grade run time—and when he reached base he was constantly a threat to steal. After reaching on an infield single in the third inning, Carroll quickly swiped second and third base with ease. He stole second again after walking in the fifth inning, getting a great jump and sliding into second 3.18 seconds after he took off, per BA’s stopwatch.
- OF Chris Newell (Penn.) was another member of the 100-mph exit velocity club Tuesday, hitting a loud fly ball to deep, right-center in his first trip to the plate against 6-foot-7 lefthander Spencer Jones (Calif.). Newell squared up a 90 mph fastball from the southpaw and drove it 100.5 mph into the gap and recorded either a double or a triple, depending on the generosity of the scorekeeper. The Virginia commit rounded second and advanced to third on a throw home, but he had a chance at getting in despite the throw all the same.
- LHP Connor Prielipp (Wis.) didn’t have the best outing Tuesday, with four walks to his name, but analytically-inclined scouting departments will be intrigued with his 79-82 mph slider. The pitch generated just one swing and miss—which finished off his second strikeout of the game—but it had an immensely high spin rate, ranging from 2800 RPMs up into the 3100s. The pitch doesn’t have the power and depth that Carter Stewart’s legendary curveball had during last year’s draft class—which was regularly above 3,000 RPMs—but it’s hard to teach feel for spin, and Prielipp seems to have that in spades.
- RHP Christopher McElvain (Tenn.) also showed an impressive breaking ball Tuesday, though McElvain’s stood out more for it’s results than a high spin rate. In just one inning of work to close out the third and final game against the White Sox, McElvain used his upper-70s curveball to generate multiple swings and misses, as he struck out the side. The pitch showed late-breaking action and on several occasions fell off the table and into the dirt, with hitters flailing over the ball and getting caught off-balance. It was a brief look, and McElvain’s 90-91 mph fastball and short arm action might allow the breaking ball to play up, but the 6-foot-1, 190-pound righty will be worth keeping an eye on throughout the summer and next spring.