2018 Area Code Games: Day 4 Notebook
LONG BEACH, Calif.—The fourth day of the 2018 Area Code Games was the busiest yet, with the entire day scheduled for five games, giving scouts an extended look at the country's high school talent, second looks at pitchers on some occasions and a break-out pitching performance in the case of one Missouri righthander.
Several strong regions of the country are also making themselves known, as evaluators have routinely seen impressive performances from Texas-based prospects and a number of players in the Northwest as well.
Below you can find reports from all the action on Thursday, and you can also find links to draft notebooks from days one, two and three.
Carter Rustad | RHP | Staley HS, Kansas City, Mo.
Committed: San Diego
The scouts who stuck it out and stayed around for the fifth and final game Thursday night were treated to a show by Rustad, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound righthander out of Missouri. In a week filled with pitchers throwing no more than three innings at a time, Rustad faced 15 batters and threw 60 pitches over four scoreless innings, allowing only three hits, no walks and striking out six batters while scouts received an extended look at the San Diego commit.
Pitching on the first-base side of the rubber from a three-quarter arm slot, Rustad started his outing by throwing seven consecutive fastballs, all between 91 and 94 mph. With a compact, low-effort delivery and a short arm swing, Rustad’s fastball stayed in the low 90s for much of the night, until eventually tailing off and sitting 87-89 mph in his fourth and final inning.
Even with the slight velocity drop, Rustad remained effective thanks to above-average control of a fastball he was able to locate on both sides of the plate. Of Rustad’s six strikeouts, three came on fastballs. His two first-inning strikeouts came on 92 mph heaters, while his final strikeout was on an 89 mph fastball against the second-to-last batter he faced in the fourth inning.
Off of his fastball, Rustad threw a breaking ball with excellent depth, although at the times the pitch became loopy and would lose some of its tight, side-to-side break. Regardless, Rustad trusted the pitch enough to consistently start it on the hip of righthander hitters and have it break across the inside corner of the plate. In all, Rustad was able to get three strikeouts—two of which were swinging strikeouts—with his breaking ball.
Through four days and 15 games, Rustad became the first pitcher at the 2018 Area Code Games to complete four scoreless innings in a single outing, and he was also the first pitcher to strike out more than five batters in one game. Showcasing swing-and-miss stuff and above-average strike-throwing ability, Rustad surely made a strong impression on everyone in attendance Thursday night.
Lone Star Studs
There were 17 high school pitchers drafted from the state of Texas during the 2018 MLB Draft, which was more than any other state outside of California. While the pitching in the 2019 class isn’t as deep as a unique 2018 class, there were still several arms from the Lone Star State who performed well for the Rangers during Thursday’s first game against the Nationals (Southeast).
It’s also worth pointing out that RHP Grayson Rodriguez, who was selected No. 11 overall by the Orioles, pitched at the Area Code Games last year and was not considered a first-round arm at the time last year. He made a huge step forward and improved both his stuff and the composition of his body during the offseason to become the second prep righthander selected in the 2018 draft and the fourth pitcher overall.
While the names below might not be considered first-round talents presently, Texas routinely has prep arms pop up during the spring. These are a few of the names to watch as we get closer to draft time.
Josh Wolf | RHP | St. Thomas Catholic HS, Houston
Committed: Texas A&M
Wolf was the first pitcher to toe the rubber Thursday morning, and he came out of the gate with a curveball that proved incredibly difficult for Nationals batters to barrel up or even make contact with. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound righty struck out the side and generated eight whiffs in the first inning alone—five of which came against his 75-79 mph curveball.
The pitch was his most consistent weapon in this appearance, and of the five strikeouts that the Texas A&M commit ranked up over three innings, four came via the breaking ball. It ranged from three-quarter shape to a more slurvy-look when thrown to his glove side, but the effectiveness of the pitch was consistent even if the shape varied.
Wolf also threw a fastball that was in the 90-92 mph range in the first inning before dipping into the 88-90 range during his next two innings. He also threw an 83-85 mph changeup.
- RHP Connor Phillips took the mound in relief of Wolf and worked two solid innings with a fastball in the 89-91 mph range, a mid- to upper-70s curveball and a changeup in the upper 70s. The secondaries weren’t the sharpest for Phillips, as he spiked both his breaking ball and his changeup on separate occasions, but there were flashes of solid offerings with each. Phillips is committed to Louisiana State and attends Magnolia (Texas) West High.
- RHP Blake Mayfield made his second relief appearance of the Area Code Games after Phillips finished his outing, this time pitching two scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts. Mayfield, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound righthander, also threw a scoreless inning on Monday, and he has now retired all nine batters he’s faced with three strikeouts, three groundouts and three flyouts. A Texas A&M commit, Mayfield gets excellent extension on his 90-92 mph fastball, and he has even shown feel for both a curveball and a slider, albeit in very brief looks
Nothing Like The Northwest
The Northwest had several prospects taken on the first day of the MLB Draft this year, with three players taken from Oregon State alone within the first 37 picks—Nick Madrigal (No. 4), Trevor Larnach (No. 20), Cadyn Grenier (No. 37).
The 2019 class is shaping up to be another strong one for the region, with Beavers catcher Adley Rutschman the presumptive favorite to be the top overall college prospect and a strong group of prep players hailing from the region as well.
Below you can find notes on a pair of Washington position players who impacted the game offensively and defensively on Thursday, though the following are certainly not the first players from the region we’ve noted. You could also lump in Canadian infielder Cesar Valero as a member of the Royals (Northwest) team and an Oregon State commit.
Carter Young | SS | Selah (Wash.) HS
Young made a name for himself last fall as the starting second baseman on Team USA’s 18U National team, where he dazzled with the bat and with his glove. He did the same Thursday in a game against the Brewers, with a 1-for-3 day at the plate that also included a walk.
Young’s sole hit came on a hard hit ground ball up the middle against a 90 mph fastball from LHP Joshua Hahn (Calif.). The ball came off of Young’s bat at 90.7 mph, and in the fourth inning—though he flew out to left—Young had another ball hit just a tick harder than 90 mph.
Young has a quick, balanced stroke at the plate from the righthanded side, but even more impressive was the ease in which he defended at shortstop. Capable of playing anywhere on the field, Young has a chance to stick at the most difficult infield position thanks to his quick hands, outstanding footwork and an advanced internal clock. The Vanderbilt commit’s most impressive play was a backhand deep in the hole that he fielded cleanly, despite an in-between hop, before quickly firing a strike to first base to beat a 4.25-second runner.
Joshua Mears | OF | Federal Way (Wash.) HS
A teammate of Young's on the Royals team, Mears had the more visually impressive defensive plays of the day and was certainly a crowd favorite for his athleticism in the outfield. On two separate occasions, Mears made full-extension, diving catches in left field.
There’s some improvement than can still come in Mears’ routes and jumps on balls, but the ability to close and utilize the most of his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame was admittedly impressive. While he likely won’t continue to get much faster given his frame, Mears has the offensive potential that would make any defensive value more of an afterthought.
Possessing one of the quickest bats of the event, according to Blast Motion, Mears showed above-average raw power to the pull side earlier in the event with a big, aggressive swing that displayed the natural strength that the outfielder possesses. In-game on Thursday, Mears went 1-for-2 with a single and a hit by pitch, with the single coming against a 77 mph offspeed offering that he hit back up the middle at 92.9 mph. During his first at-bat—before striking out looking—Mears turned on a pitch that he pulled foul down the line at 100.6 mph.
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- New Jersey shortstop Anthony Volpe entered this year’s Area Code Games with the reputation of a strong defensive infielder, and he has backed up that talk with his play in the field this week. After making several excellent plays to his backhand and finishing them with a strong throw earlier in the week, Volpe was tested ranging to his left on Thursday night. With the ball hit hard up the middle, Volpe showed off just enough quickness to make a sliding stop directly behind the second base bag while on his knees. In one motion, Volpe popped up from his slide, made a full 360-degree turn, and fired a dart across the infield to beat the runner in plenty of time. A Vanderbilt commit, Volpe has also had a nice week at the plate, but it is plays like this—which made at least one person in the stands recite SportsCenter’s “DaDaDa, DaDaDa” jingle out loud—that has Volpe as such a highly regarded prospect in the 2019 draft class.
- Maryland outfielder Marcus Lee Sang didn’t wait long to make an impact in Thursday’s final game, as the 6-foot, 187-pound lefthanded hitter stroked the game’s first strike—an 88 mph fastball from Arizona righthander Davis Heller—off the right-field fence for a leadoff triple. Sang, which hit the triple with an exit velocity of 99 mph, made it into third with ease and then scored on a passed ball one pitch later. A centerfielder with quick feet and above-average run times, Sang displayed loose, quick hands in the batter’s box that helped him pull the hard-hit triple down the right-field line. Sang is committed to St. John’s as a member of the 2019 class.
- Louisiana righthander Antoine Harris showcased three potential above-average pitches and a fastball up to 93 mph on Thursday morning, when he threw three innings and struck out four batters in the Nationals’ (Southeast) 5-1 loss to the Rangers (Texas). Harris is an athletic, 6-foot-4, 190-pound righthander with plenty of projection remaining in his frame, despite the fact that he is already touching 93 mph with an easy delivery at just 17 years old. In addition to his power fastball, Harris has a 75-77 mph curveball with sharp, 11-to-5 break and a firm, 84-86 mph changeup. While the New Orleans commit routinely pulled his changeup low and to his arm side on Thursday, both of Harris’ secondary offerings showed signs of being above-average offerings in the future.