2018 Area Code Games: Day 3 Notebook
LONG BEACH, Calif. — The third day of the 2018 Area Code Games allowed all eight teams to take the field in game-action on the same day for the first time this week. The day then wrapped up with a home run derby at Blair Field, which Washington 1B Henry Gargus won, beating Fla. OF Riley Greene, 8-7.
Also participating in the home run derby were Calif. OFs Michael Dixon and Emanuel Dean, Ariz. 3B Brian Kalmer, Texas 3B/1B Brett Baty and Conn. 3B/1B Chad Knight.
The highlight of the day for the scouting community, however, was another impressive performance from Ga. RHP Daniel Espino, who showed the best fastball of the tournament in a short, two-inning look. Details of Espino's outing can be found below, as well as reports on several other 2019 prospects who turned heads Wednesday.
Daniel Espino | RHP | Bulloch Academy, Statesboro, Ga.
Committed: Louisiana State
Less than one week after a dominating performance on day three of the East Coast Pro showcase in Hoover, Ala., Espino put on a show for scouts on day three of the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif. Wednesday. Although his stuff wasn't quite as sharp as it was last week—with his mid-90s fastball simply topping out at 98 mph as opposed to the 100 mph showcase he displayed five days ago—Espino still put forth a convincing argument that he should be considered one of the top prep arms in the 2019 draft class.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Espino pitched only two innings on Wednesday, but retired all six batters he faced with one strikeout, four groundouts and a flyout to centerfield. In a 12-pitch first inning, the LSU commit threw nine fastballs, all of which clocked in at 94 mph or higher with natural arm-side run. In fact, Espino’s average fastball velocity in the first inning was 95.6 mph, which is higher than any single pitch thrown by another pitcher at the Area Code Games through the event’s first 10 games over three days.
Yet even in a short, 18-pitch outing, Espino proved to be more than just a flamethrower. He flashed all three of his secondary offerings—a low-80s slider, mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball—and even recorded his lone strikeout by getting 2020 outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong (Calif.) to swing over top of an 81 mph slider. While brief looks at his slider and curveball weren’t quite as impressive as they were last week—his release point in particular was less consistent on the breaking balls—the one 86 mph changeup Espino threw at Area Code Games seemed to have the makings of an solid pitch and was better than the 88 mph changeup he spiked in the dirt last week in Alabama.
Throwing from a low, three-quarter arm slot, Espino has shown solid control and strike-throwing ability with all four of his pitches in recent outings, and he especially locates his fastball well considering he’s regularly working in the mid- to upper 90s.
Overall, Espino has thrown a total of five innings over the past five days in front of hundreds of scouts at two of the premier showcase events in the country. In those five innings, he has allowed no hits, struck out seven batters and walked none. The only baserunner to reach base did so via a hit by pitch, but he was quickly stranded as Espino has retired 21 of the 22 batters he’s faced.
Jack Kochanowicz | RHP | Harriton HS, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
Standing at 6-foot-6, 207 pounds, Kochanowicz retired the first eight batters he faced in his three-inning outing on Wednesday, eventually ending his day with three strikeouts, one walk and only one hit allowed. After retiring the side in both the first and second innings with a pair of groundouts and a flyout to centerfield, Kochanowicz picked up his first two strikeouts of the day with back-to-back swinging strikeouts to begin the third inning.
After a two-out, third-inning double off the bat of 2019 2B Peyton Powell (Texas), Kochanowicz’ lone walk and an error by his first baseman prolonged Kochanowicz’ outing. But the Virginia commit responded well by striking out his last batter of the day—top 2019 infielder Bobby Witt Jr. (Texas)—on a 90 mph fastball up in the zone. Overall, the lean righthander controlled his low-90s fastball, which topped out at 94 mph, to both sides of the plate and showed some of the best pure stuff of any pitcher outside of Espino on Wednesday.
Kochanowicz was able to throw his mid-70s curveball for strikes as well, with the pitch showing solid shape and three-quarter break early in his outing. The curveball was at its best when Kochanowicz kept his arm speed up and snapped the pitch off at its release point, usually resulting in a 76-77 mph offering. In his third and final inning, however, the pitch got slow and loopy at times, coming out of his hand around three to four miles per hour slower and lacking the quality shape and break it has at its best.
The Next 5: 2019 College Baseball Recruiting Classes
Five more 2019 NCAA baseball recruiting classes that just missed our initial Top 12 rankings.
Brett Baty | 3B/1B | Lake Travis HS, Austin
The Texas Rangers club at this year’s Area Code Games might be the most impressive team from top to bottom this summer, and the slugging Brett Baty is certainly part of the reason why. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound lefthanded hitter put on one of the most impressive batting practices on Tuesday, showing big-time raw power and the ability to drive the ball out of the park to the pull-side (multiple times) and the left-center gap to the opposite field.
While Baty didn’t homer in Wednesday’s action, he put triple-digit exit velocities on the scoreboard, according to TrackMan, multiple times. During his first at-bat, Baty got into a 92 mph fastball and hit the pitch into center field at 100.4 mph. He flew out, but the contact itself was impressive. After flying out again in his second plate appearance (this one on an 89 mph fastball), Baty singled in his third at-bat, driving a 74 mph curveball to left-center at 101.3 mph.
This at-bat was impressive for a number of reasons in addition to the gaudy exit velocity, as the Texas commit showed an impressive eye at the plate, taking pitches just out of the strike zone without hesitation before finding a pitch he could drive. When the breaking ball came out of the hand of RHP Nicholas Dean (Penn.), whose curve had a spin rate in the 2600-2700 rpm range, Baty showed impressive balance and the patience to sit back, keep his hands inside the pitch and drive it with authority, rather than leaking out on his front side and losing leverage within his lower half.
The timing and balance he showed Wednesday was impressive—combine that with his size and raw power, and Baty could turn out to be one of the deadlier bats in the 2019 prep class.
Sanson Faltine | OF | Fort Bend Travis HS, Richmond, Texas
Another member of the Rangers team, Faltine was one of several Texas players who took impressive BP on Tuesday. Also committed to Texas along with Baty, Faltine didn’t show the sort of raw power that Baty did, but regularly shot line drives into the gaps. Faltine went 0-for-2 at the plate in Wednesday’s game against the Yankees, but did hit a screaming groundball to the opposite field, turning around an 89 mph pitch that left his bat at 93.3 mph.
While Faltine is more of a pro prospect as an athletic outfielder, he got on the mound for two innings and showed impressive spinrates on both his 87-90 mph fastball and mid-70s, three-quarter curveball. Faltine spun his breaking ball in the 2500-2600 RPM range, while his fastball was even higher in the 2700-2800 RPM range.
Faltine struck out two batters, but also allowed some hard contact and in the second inning as his control backed up. Yet it was interesting to see a primary position player throw such high spinrates with multiple pitches. He generated three whiffs with his fastball and three with his curve. Faltine also threw a changeup in the upper 70s, but couldn’t locate it effectively, spiking it in the dirt.
His athleticism was obvious even on the mound, as Faltine sprang off the rubber to quickly field a ground ball to his right on one occasion. The 6-foot-3, 183-pound righty has also played all over the infield at events this summer, including USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars, offering some valuable positional versatility.
Max Cotier | INF | Canterbury School, New Milford, Conn.
A 6-foot, 160-pound infielder, Cotier doesn’t have the impact ability of a player like Baty, but throughout the week he's shown a knack for finding the barrel out of the lefthanded batter’s box.
On Wednesday, Cotier went 3-for-3 with three singles. And while his raw power is minimal presently, each of Cotier’s balls were hit 90 mph or harder. In his first at-bat, Cotier lined a 91 mph fastball the other way into left field at 90 mph exactly. He followed that up by pulling a 77 mph curveball into right field at 95.7 mph and finished his day with a groundball through the left side of the infield that came off the bat at 93 mph.
It’s a sample of just three at-bats, but an average exit velo of 92.9 for the day turns heads. Cotier starts his swing with a sizable leg kick, but showed no timing issues because of that—on 90-plus mph fastballs or breaking balls. His quick, loose hands and a level bat path produces line drives and hard ground balls both in game and during batting practice.
He could be seen as more of a college player currently because of his size and the fact that his best fit defensively might be second base, where just one prep second baseman signed in the 2018 MLB Draft. If he does make it to Charlottesville, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to raise stock and add size and strength.
Brooks Lee | INF | San Luis Obispo (Calif.) HS
Committed: Cal Poly
Another middle infielder who impressed Wednesday was Lee, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound, switch-hitter out of Central California. Lee went hitless with a pair of flyouts and a groundout, but drove a 95 mph fastball from Espino out to center field at 96 mph in his first at-bat. He also posted a 93 mph exit velocity during his second at-bat on a fly out to left field off a 93 mph fastball. While he was under each of these pitches a bit, he made hard contact on both and wasn’t fazed by upper-level velocity.
His results at the dish were more impressive on Tuesday, when the Cal Poly commit went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a walk, turning around a 91 mph fastball at 88.7 mph to center field in his first at-bat and squaring up an 88 mph fastball that he lined into right at 99.3 mph.
Lee made a couple nice plays defensively while holding down the shortstop position for the Brewers Wednesday, ranging to his left and fielding a ball up the middle to his forehand and getting the ball and in and out of his glove quickly with an accurate throw to first base while on the run. On another occasion, Lee ranged to his right on a ball hit deep into the hole between shortstop and third base, making an impressive diving stop on a groundball. While he didn’t have time to attempt a throw to first base, his range and athleticism prevented a Nationals runner from rounding third base and scoring.