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2018 Perfect Game All-American Classic Superlatives

Image credit: Daniel Espino (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

SAN DIEGO — The Perfect Game All-American Classic took place on a sunny day in Petco Park, immediately following Sunday’s major league game between the Phillies and Padres. Fifty-two of the best prep players in the country showcased their abilities on a field that many of them will likely go on to play on again at some point professionally. 

You can find a recap of the most impressive player performances here, but below we’ll award the individual tools that stood out during the game:

Best Fastball: Daniel Espino, RHP, Bulloch Academy, Statesboro, Ga.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound righthander opened up the game with a 96 mph fastball, but actually heated up from there, getting as high as 99 mph on two occasions. Espino had the hardest fastball of the event, and he also generated the most swings and misses (four) with the pitch of any other arm. It’s not just the velocity though, as Espino routinely gets movement on his heater. He’s previously gotten running and cutting life on his fastball and on this occasion one of his 99 mph pitches showed slight running movement to the arm side, making the pitch even more difficult to hit.

Honorable mentions: RHP Brennan Malone (Fla.) touched 97 mph and sat in the 95-96 mph range. He got three whiffs on his heater, two of which came to end swinging strikeouts. Mississippi State commit RHP Landon Sims (Ga.) sat in the 94-95 mph range with his fastball during a partial inning but still managed three whiffs with the pitch, which showed some glove-side cutting life.

Best Curveball: Matthew Allan, RHP, Seminole (Fla.) HS

Allan’s curveball was his go-to out-pitch in this outing, and it had some of the best depth of any breaking ball seen during the Classic. Allan got just one swing and miss on the pitch, but used another to freeze up a righthanded hitter at the plate for a looking strikeout. Allan’s curveball ranged from 77-80 mph with 12-to-6 movement and some sharp, biting action when thrown at its best. The sharpness of the pitched varied throughout Allan’s inning, but it was routinely thrown with depth and the Florida commit seemed to locate it well.

Honorable mentions: LHP Spencer Jones (Calif.) also threw a 12-to-6 curveball in the 78-80 mph range. He finished two batters with the pitch on swinging strikeouts. RHP Dawson Netz (Calif.) closed the game for the West and showed a huge, 11-to-5 curveball that ranged from 69-75 mph. He got a pair of strikeouts with the pitch including the final out of the game against INF Anthony Volpe (N.J.), who waved at the pitch as it broke down and fell out of the bottom of the zone in the dirt. The pitch breaks early, but it has tremendous depth and movement, making it a challenging offering to square up.

Best Slider: Matthew Thompson, RHP, Cypress Ranch HS, Houston

Thompson’s slider might have been the best breaking ball (curve or slider) in the entire game, as the pitch is thrown in the 83-85 mph range with late break and two-plane bite. Thompson generated three whiffs on the pitch, making it the most waved at offspeed offering of the game. He finished both of his strikeouts with the slider and batters swung and missed both inside of the zone and chased it in the dirt.

Honorable mentions: LHP Hunter Barco’s (Fla.) slider has been inconsistent this summer, but of late it’s been solid. Sunday night, Barco got one whiff on the pitch and spotted it effectively to both sides of the plate. It sits in the low 80s and has less movement than Thompson’s offering, but is effective when kept down in the zone—which Barco did well on this occasion. RHP Bryce Osmond (Okla.) showed a four-pitch mix in his outing with two breaking balls with different looks, but his slider was the sharper offering of the two, thrown in the 81-85 mph range with sharper break.

Best Changeup: J.J. Goss, RHP, Cypress Ranch HS, Houston

It’s difficult to get a great look at a changeup in games like the Perfect Game All-American Classic, where pitchers are throwing just one inning at the most. For many high school pitchers, a changeup is a distant third pitch and among elite prep arms with 90-plus mph fastballs, the change only serves to allow hitters to catch up more easily.

Goss was one of just a handful of pitchers to throw a changeup in the Classic, and he threw the pitch in the mid-80s with impressive arm speed and located the offering well. The pitch showed some fading life and on one occasion allowed him to induce a soft groundout back to the mound.

Honorable mentions: RHP Jack Leiter (N.J.) didn’t have his sharpest outing Sunday, but still showed a change in the low 80s that has solid movement to the arm side. LHP Hunter Barco (Fla.) throws an extremely low spin rate split-change, which he routinely goes to and sits in the low 80s. The pitch has a similar velocity to his slider and works well to compliment the breaking ball.

Best Hitter: Corbin Carroll, OF, Lakeside HS, Seattle

A full breakdown of Carroll’s day can be found here, but a 1-for-1 day with a pair of walks was enough to stand atop a talented field of hitters Sunday. Carroll’s triple to leadoff the game came against a 97 mph fastball from Espino, which he drove to deep left-center with more authority than you might have expected from a 5-foot-9, 160-pound center fielder.

In addition to his feel for the barrel, Carroll has an advanced approach at the plate, and while he does swing and miss at times, he rarely expands the strike zone and is perfectly fine drawing a walk. He drew a number of them during the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., and with his speed, a walk frequently turns into extra bases via stolen bags.

Honorable mentions: OF Riley Greene’s (Fla.) double in the first inning was the only extra-base hit the East managed in the game, while Darius Perry (Calif.) laced a low line drive against a 92 mph fastball to left field—the first pitch he saw in the game.

Best Power: Rece Hinds, 3B, Niceville (Fla.) HS

Hinds went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and a flyout to right field, but won the home run derby prior to the game and also just missed a long home run to left field into the Western Metal Supply building, which hooked foul. His flyout to right was hit hard and deep into the outfield, but he got under the pitch a bit too much.

Honorable mentions: Carroll and Greene had the hardest and deepest hits of the game—let’s not overcomplicate things here. It’s also worth noting that Carroll made the final four of the home run derby, which again speaks to the impact he manages despite a smaller frame.

Best Defensive Player: Nasim Nunez, SS, Collins Hill HS, Suwanee, Ga.

There weren’t a ton of highlight-reel plays in this game, as pitchers tamed hitters for the most part. But Nunez did make an impressive play from shortstop on a slow-rolling ground ball. The Clemson commit fielded the ball on the run and made a quick exchange and accurate, off-balance throw to first to nail the speedy outfielder.

Honorable mentions: INF Myles Austin (Ala.) made a nice play up the middle when he moved over to shortstop mid-game, showing quick footwork and range to his left. C Logan Tanner (Miss.) threw out a would-be base stealer at second base with a strong and accurate throw from his knees.

Best Runner: C.J. Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity HS, Roswell, Ga.

Abrams walked to leadoff the game for the East before quickly stealing second base after getting a fantastic jump. Abrams routinely clocks 70 and 80-grade run times down the first base line out of the lefthanded batter’s box, and while he didn’t get to quite that level Sunday, he did post the fastest home-to-first time of the game per Baseball America’s stopwatch at 4.18 seconds on a groundout to third.

Honorable mentions: Carroll’s speed was showcased on his triple and as he ran the bases, advancing on steals and passed balls. He’s an active and aggressive baserunner who routinely gets good jumps. SS Bobby Witt Jr. (Texas) went 0-for-2 with a walk but posted a 4.28-second home-to-first time on a groundout to shortstop, an above-average time for a righthanded hitter.

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