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2018 Perfect Game WWBA: Day 1 Notebook

Image credit: Rece Hinds (Photo by Stacy Jo Grant)

JUPITER, Fla. — The first day of the 2018 Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) World Championship kicked off Thursday, with hundreds of major league scouts watching more than 2,000 players compete in the biggest travel ball tournament of the year.

Below are reports of the some of the standout players who Baseball America saw on Day 1:

Joshua Rivera | 3B/SS | IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Committed: Florida

We discussed the strength of the state of Florida last week when we released the BA High School Top 50, and Rivera is another reason for the incredible depth and talent of the state. Forming a formidable left side of the infield alongside the No. 6 high school prospect Rece Hinds, who we touch on below, Rivera showed off his talents on both sides of the ball Thursday afternoon for Florida Burn Platinum

At the plate, Rivera went 2-for-2 with three RBIs on an infield single in his first trip to the plate and a hard line drive in his second at-bat. The second at-bat showed off Rivera’s bat speed and the strength of his hands, as the Florida commit jumped on a first-pitch, 87 mph fastball that leaked into the inner/middle-half of the plate. Rivera kept his hands inside the pitch nicely and let it travel, driving it up the middle and into center field for a hard single.

Playing shortstop, Rivera also showed off solid footwork and above-average arm strength. He rounded a ball to his right side in the hole between shortstop and third base, getting around the ball and positioning himself well to fire a hard, accurate throw to first base to get a 4.57-second runner down the line.

Listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Rivera is likely a better fit at third base than shortstop defensively, though he has plenty of arm strength for the position and has continued to show solid feel for barreling the ball into the fall, after an impressive summer with the bat as well.


Andrew Devine | RHP | Simi Valley (Calif.) HS
Committed: Texas Tech

Listed at just 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, Devine is not particularly imposing when he takes the mound. However, after the Texas Tech commit winds up, pulls his hands over his head and fires to the plate, there’s plenty to worry about.

Devine threw two innings of relief for North East Baseball in a 5-0 loss to Rivera and Florida Burn Platinum, but he showed plenty of impressive stuff, striking out five batters, walking one and surrendering just one hit. Devine opened the game with a 93 mph fastball, which explodes to the plate with late life and arm-side run. The pitch plays up thanks to Devine’s short arm action, and it was coupled nicely with a tight, 73-75 mph slider that had late-breaking movement and three-quarter shape.

The breaking ball didn’t have exceptional depth, but Devine generated several swings and misses with it at the bottom of the strike zone thanks to it’s late movement. Devine’s size will be an obstacle for major league scouts, but he’s got plenty of raw stuff in a smaller package that should serve him well if he makes it to campus in Lubbock.  


Josiah Siegel | LHP | Woodstock (Ga.) HS (2020)
Committed: Georgia Tech

Underclass arms routinely show out at the PG WWBA, giving scouts a small taste of what’s coming in future draft classes, and 2020 lefthander Josiah Siegel turned in a terrific outing Thursday night, striking out 12 batters—tied for the most in the tournament through one day—in 6.1 innings, scattering seven hits and one run.

None of Siegel’s pitches came across the plate harder than 85 mph, as the Georgia Tech commit sat mostly in the 81-84 mph range. But the lack of velocity wasn’t much of an issue for Siegel as he helped pitch East Cobb ST to a 3-1 win over SF Giants Scout Team-Christman.

Throwing from a low, three-quarter arm slot, Siegel got plenty of arm-side action on both his fastball and mid-70s changeup—the latter being particularly effective against righthanded hitters on the outside corner of the plate. Siegel located his entire repertoire—which also included a three-quarter, 69-73 mph curveball—well throughout the game, though he did struggle to get on top of his breaking ball consistently toward the end of the game.

Siegel has more than a year and half still to go before major league scouts start to bear down, but he showed plenty of promise Friday night and could see his stock rise if he’s able to add more strength and velocity to his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame.


Marquis Grissom Jr. | RHP | Counterpane HS, Atlanta (2020)

Grissom Jr. made his first appearance of the tournament on Thursday afternoon, making a relief appearance against the D-Bat Elite team. Although the game ended in a 4-4 tie, Grissom Jr. was very impressive in keeping the opposition off the board.

The righthander tossed two scoreless innings, primarily working with a fastball/curveball combo. He is an athletic, lanky pitcher who makes the most of a high-effort delivery. The quick arm helps him work through his delivery and get on top of the baseball. It was a good tempo performance, as he was aggressive with hitters and mixed in his secondary offerings when necessary.

His fastball sat in the upper 80s and touched 90 mph across his relief outing. He pounded the strike zone, allowing no walks and giving up just one hit. His curveball topped out at 77 mph, showing good depth and shape. It was his primary strikeout pitch, as he was able to throw it for strikes as well as use it to expand the zone on hitters as well. Throughout the performance, Grissom Jr. managed to mix in some changeups that worked to get hitters off of his fastball.

The outing clearly showed Grissom’s athleticism and the good pitch mix that he brings to the table. The class of 2020 pitcher is one to watch in the future as he continues to impress at these events. Grissom is the son of former major league veteran Marquise Grissom.


Ethan Haislip | RHP | Cuthbertson HS, Monroe, N.C.
Committed: UNC-Charlotte

Haislip made the start for the On Deck O’s, squaring off against a potent offensive club in the Canes American team. The UNC-Charlotte commit breezed through the first two innings, striking out three of the first five batters he faced before running into some trouble. While he kept his team in the game, the righthander was lifted after allowing runs to score in three consecutive innings.

He threw a little over 50 percent of his pitches for strikes during the 87-pitch outing. Mixing up his pitches helped him keep his walks to a minimum and persevere on the mound. Haislip changed locations well, maneuvering the ball in and out of the strike zone. In doing so, he racked up seven strikeouts over five innings.

While his velocity is solid, he works with his command to get hitters out. His fastball topped out at 90 mph and got some misses up in the zone. He shows good command and features a curveball that sat in the low 70s. The curveball is his best secondary offering, showing the ability to throw it for a strike when he needs to. While his changeup lags behind the other two pitches, he was able to use it when necessary.

While his team lost 6-4, his outing was highlighted by his command. The advanced pitchability should work nicely at the next level and in the amateur circuit.


Nasim Nunez | SS | Collins Hill HS, Lawrenceville, Ga.
Committed: Clemson

The Clemson commit showed off his tools during the afternoon game against D-Bat Elite, a game which ended in a tie. The athletic middle infielder is No. 22 on BA’s High School Top 50, and he is noted for his defensive skillset. He managed to hold his own at the plate Thursday, going 1-for-3 with a stolen base.

Defensively, all the goods are there. He is a plus runner and moves well on the dirt, showing off a good throwing arm to boot. His defensive skills show the ability to stick at shortstop in the future, although he is athletic enough to play other positions as well.

While he may not look very strong, he has the ability to make solid, loud contact. While he does make contact, he also tends to have a long swing at times. His knowledge of the strike zone is above-average, showing the ability to work deep into counts.  

His athleticism jumps out at you, and it shows in his ability and performance in games. The upside is there, and it will be intriguing to see him in the future.  


Blake Bennett | LHP | Hayleyville (Ala.) HS
Committed: Alabama

The big lefthander put in some work for the East Coast Sox Select team in the second game his team played Thursday. An Alabama commit, Bennett gave up one run across three innings, scattering two hits before making his exit. His arm lagged behind in his delivery, causing him some difficulty in the early going. Despite that speed bump, however, Bennett managed to flash solid stuff, making this outing particularly noticeable.

His fastball topped out at 86 mph, working with good downhill plane and cutting action in on the righthanded hitters. The cutter helped to keep righties honest, helping him to work toward his secondary offerings. The curveball was impressive, working in the low to mid-70s with good shape and some downward snap. He showed solid command of the pitch, and it flashed above-average at times.

With a quality curveball and the aggressive mentality to pitch inside, Bennett has a nice starter profile. The big body and athleticism leave room for growth on the mound as he moves forward.


Other Notable Players

— Canes National shortstop Anthony Volpe (N.J.) continues to do his best vacuum cleaner impression at shortstop. The No. 37 high school prospect in the country, Volpe never misses a beat defensively, and he made several impressive defensive plays Thursday afternoon in an 8-0 win against DRB Elite/Georgia Bombers. On one occasion, Volpe made a leaping grab on a line drive to his right, landed and unloaded a strong throw to first for a double play. Later in the game, Volpe charged a slow-rolling ground ball on the infield grass and showed off advanced body control. He quickly went from a fielding position to throwing position, with a quick exchange and an accurate throw on the run.

— The Houston Astros Scout Team/Elite Squad showed plenty of firepower in their lineup after beating the East Cobb Astros 13-5 Thursday afternoon. No. 23 prospect Gunnar Henderson (Ala.) led off and went 1-for-4 with a home run, while No. 11 prospect Tyler Callihan (Fla.) put on a hitting clinic with a 3-for-4 game, including a triple and pair of singles. The triple was a backside shot to left-center field that carried well and displayed some of the natural strength that the South Carolina commit possesses. Oklahoma State commit Caeden Trenkle (Texas) went 3-for-4 out of the two-hole with a double and two singles, while first baseman Gavin Casas (Fla.)—the younger brother of 2018 first-round pick Triston Casas—also singled in the game.

— No. 6 prospect Rece Hinds, who will play his senior season with IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., went 2-for-3 Thursday morning in a 6-5 win over Team Mizuno Prime. The Louisiana State commit has prodigious power inside of his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, and he showed it off with a towering home run that was the third-longest hit on the event’s first day. Hinds had difficulty with offspeed stuff, but managed to stay on the fastball to deposit it over the right-center field fence. 

— The man responsible for the farthest hit ball on day one was Illinois first baseman Jason Hodges, who went 2-for-3 with a double and a single for Chicago Scouts Association in a 2-1 win over Team Warstic. Hodges hit a ball 413.4 feet, according to TrackMan, and also sits atop the leaderboard for max exit velocity, with a 103.9 mph batted ball. Hodges checks in at No. 47 on the BA High School Top 50.

— The high school catching class is down in 2019 relative to the 2018 class, but Fla. backstop Nathan Hickey showed off a strong arm for East Cobb ST, firing a strike to third base to nail a would-be basestealer from second. He showed quick footwork in-line to his target and put the ball directly on the third base bag for an easy out. Hickey, a Florida commit, also went 1-for-3 at the plate with a bloop single into center field. The top-ranked catcher in the class, Ga. backstop Jonathan French, showed up on the exit velocity leaderboard with a 101.8 mph batted ball.

— Wash. outfielder Corbin Carroll, who ranks No. 7 on the BA High School Top 50, didn’t get much to hit in the three-hole for Canes National. One of the top bats in the country, Carroll was forced to settle for a pair of walks and was hit by a pitch. The UCLA commit has some of the best strike-zone judgement of the prep class and routinely draws free passes with a poised, selective approach at the plate.

— Kentucky righthander Jackson Fristoe turned up the heat on day one, topping out with his fastball at 94 mph. The Kentucky commit tossed one inning in relief in an early afternoon game, a close 2-1 loss for the East Coast Sox Select team. His delivery is violent, and his command suffered in the one-inning stint. He wasn’t able to command his curveball, missing often to the arm side. While his fastball clearly punctuated the performance, he also threw a solid slider with lateral movement. Fristoe is a member of the 2020 draft class. 

Day 1 TrackMan Leaderboards:

Max Fastball Velocity

  1. Jackson Fristoe — 94.1
  2. Carter Sheppard — 93.8
  3. Andrew DeVine — 93.0
  4. Tyler Chadwick — 92.2
  5. Mark McLaughlin — 92.1
  6. Jackxarel Lebron Figueroa — 91.7
  7. Jairon Rivera — 91.5
  8. Jackson Phipps — 91.4
  9. Ty Collins — 91.1
  10. Benjamin Chestnutt — 90.6

Max Spin Rate

  1. Simon Graf — 2,996
  2. Cody Benton — 2,923
  3. Mark McLaughlin — 2,921
  4. Blake Bennett — 2,848
  5. Clayton Callan — 2,782
  6. A.J. Wilson — 2,760
  7. Andrew DeVine — 2,757
  8. Bradley Blalock —2,735
  9. Elijah Dale — 2,662
  10. Trey Donathan — 2,639

Max Exit Velocity

  1. Jason Hodges — 103.9
  2. Bobby Witt Jr. — 103.4
  3. Jordan Beck — 102.2
  4. Emanuel Dean — 102.1
  5. Jonathan French — 101.8
  6. Cayden Wallace —101.6
  7. A.J. Vukovich — 101.4
  8. Chad Knight — 100.5
  9. Brian Kalmer — 100
  10. Matthew Lugo — 99.6

Max Estimated Carry

  1. Jason Hodges — 413.4
  2. Brian Kalmer — 410.8
  3. Rece Hinds — 389.4
  4. Chad Knight — 379.8
  5. Christian Collier — 376.5
  6. Kendall Ewell — 371.9
  7. Chase Davis — 369.8
  8. Bobby Witt Jr. — 367.7
  9. Michael Hoes — 366.7
  10. Judson Fabian — 364.2

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