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2018 Perfect Game WWBA: Day 2 Notebook

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Brennan Malone (Photo by Stacy Jo Grant)

JUPITER, Fla.—The second day of the 2018 Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) World Championship continued Friday and peaked with a primetime matchup of two of the top arms in the country in No. 4 Brennan Malone and No. 27 Jack Kochanowicz.

It's difficult to get a high-profile matchup between two of the top arms in the current draft year in Jupiter, given the fact that many of the top arms have already shut down after a long summer season with travel and plenty of innings. 

While the matchup between the two righthanders was the most heavily scouted game of the day, there was plenty more action to be seen across the vast Rodger Dean Sports Complex.

We’ll break down both starters mentioned above, as well as touch on many of the players who stood out on Day 2 of the WWBA. If you missed the Day 1 notebook, be sure to check that out here.

Brennan Malone | RHP | IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Committed: North Carolina

Malone looked like the pitcher he was throughout the summer on Friday night, though there were a few bumps in the road.

The 6-foot-3, 203-pound righthander came out of the gate hot in the first inning, touching 97 mph with his fastball, which is the highest velocity of the tournament as of this writing. Despite the velocity, Malone allowed a pair of runs in the first after a fielding error, walk, triple and hit batter. The North Carolina commit settled down after a rough first inning, though, striking out the side in the second and getting six whiffs on a fastball that was in the 93-95 mph range.

Malone's fastball ticked down over the next three innings, dropping to as low as 88-92 mph in the fifth. The pitch exploded across the plate with late life and slight running action at its best, allowing Malone to generate 12 whiffs with the offering. However his control of the pitch wavered at times and was below-average throughout the outing. He threw just 53 percent of pitches for strikes and walked four batters, hitting another.

Malone's breaking ball showed promise once again, as he threw several sharp, hard-biting offerings during the game and arguably his best in between innings, but the pitch lacked consistency in this outing. It ranged from 75-80 mph with 11-to-5 shape and had hard bite down and out of the zone at times, but he struggled to get all the way on top of the pitch consistently.

He had a few chances to field ground balls off the mound as well and showed athleticism and quickness getting off the rubber to glove multiple balls and make strong, accurate throws to first base to beat baserunners. It's a minor thing to note when talking about a pitcher, but it is another of many points that scouts will put in his favor.

Jason Hodges | OF/1B | Marist HS, Chicago
Committed: Arkansas

We touched on Hodges because of his TrackMan exploits on Day 1, but got a better look at the righthanded hitter Friday morning, when his Chicago Scouts Association club erupted offensively in a 10-5 win against Padres Scout Team/Chandler World.

Hodges is something of a polarizing prospect among scouts at this time. Some love the power he brings to the table and point to the hard contact he regularly produces, while others are concerned with his defensive ability and hit tool. While there were no challenging defensive chances for him in right field during this game, he did show some swing and miss at the plate—but also the ability to make an adjustment in-game.

After drawing a walk in his first at-bat, Hodges looked vulnerable against breaking pitches in his second trip to the plate, leaking out on his front side, pulling out and waiving over multiple offerings that fell off the table in front of him. His second at-bat ended when he got fooled on a curveball and checked his swing, but was ruled to have gone around.

During his third at-bat, Hodges swung through another breaking ball and also swung and missed against a fastball up in the zone. However, in a 1-2 count, the Arkansas commit made a savvy adjustment and sat back on another curveball, squaring the pitch up and driving a hard line drive right back up the middle into center field. His lower half had much better balance on this swing than previous breaking ball hacks, and it was a promising sign that speaks to his natural aptitude in the box.

Davis Heller | RHP | Mesquite HS, Gilbert, Ariz.
Committed: Oklahoma

A handful of scouts flocked to the field when Heller, a 6-foot-8, 210-pound righthander, took the mound in relief for GBG Marucci in a 12-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team.

The lanky, projectable righty threw just two innings, striking out three batters and walking a pair, but showed plenty to keep scouts checking back on him throughout the spring next year in the Four Corners. Heller's fastball sat in the 86-88 mph range in his first inning and touched 89 mph.

He paired his fastball with a 71-74 mph curveball that had 11-to-5 shape and impressive depth, freezing righthanded hitters on multiple occasions. The pitch averaged around 2,300 rpm, and he showed solid feel to locate the breaking ball and finish the pitch in his delivery. He also tinkered with an 82-83 mph changeup, but lacked current feel for the offering, spiking both that Baseball America saw in this outing.

With a high, three-quarter arm slot that plays to Heller's height and the shape of his breaking ball, there's a lot to like with the righthander moving forward. He's got a long arm action and a back elbow that might be higher than scouts want to see, but neither seemed to hold him back in regards to control in this outing.

-CC

Kellan Tulio | LHP | Emmaus (Pa.) HS
Committed: Louisville

Tulio took the mound for Tri-State in one of the morning games against Team Warstick. The big lefthander tossed three quality innings, using 42 pitches to do so before his departure. He gave up just one run on an RBI groundout within the first few batters of the game, but from that point on the Louisville commit threw strikes and held Warstick off the board.

Tulio works with a three-quarter arm slot and managed to keep his pitches down in the zone. His fastball worked in the mid- to upper 80s, topping out at 89 mph. He is able to pound righties inside with some cutting action on the pitch and features a sweeping breaking ball that he can spin for a strike. By attacking low in the zone with his fastball and mixing in his sweeping curveball, Tulio tallied four strikeouts.

In addition, he showed signs of maturity for a pitcher his age. He stayed cool with runners on base and broke out a nice pickoff move. 

Christian Cairo | SS | Calvary Christian HS, Clearwater, Fla.
Committed: Louisiana State

Cairo made his presence felt in the Royals Scout Team’s 5-3 victory over USA Prime/Prospect National team. While it wasn’t hit solidly, Cairo hustled all the way to third base on a fly ball he pushed to right field. This scored two runs for the club, which went on to build up a five-run third inning and never looked back.

Cairo is athletic and works well at shortstop with a quality arm and good footwork when fielding grounders. The offensive side of his game also shows promise, as he has a quick trigger and his bat path stays in the zone. He uses a small rocking mechanism to generate power in his swing while working deep counts and fouling off pitches to stay in at-bats.

His profile has value on both sides of the ball and his athleticism translates to quick actions in the field and with the bat, making him an intriguing player to watch in the future.

Brooks Lee | SS | San Luis Obispo (Calif.) HS
Committed: Cal Poly

Brooks Lee stood out in the middle of his club’s 10-0 rout of the Dulin Dodgers. Even though he walked twice and struck out once, his presence at the plate was positive. The 17-year-old switch hitter showed off a diverse skillset during the game.

He has very good actions in the field, showing easiness to how he performs and handles the shortstop position, with good hands and a strong arm. The biggest aspect of his profile is his ability to adjust. While he did strike out and drifted on offspeed stuff in his first at-bat, his second at-bat showed drastic improvements. Lee made the proper adjustments to the pitcher and showed a better approach. He tracks pitches well and was able to make loud contact that eventually steered foul. The explosive swing, especially from the left side, made a good impression during his at-bats.

His defensive work and offensive maturity lend themselves to growth in the future. The athleticism and passion for what he does are apparent, creating a positive picture of the player as he prepares for the next step in his baseball career.

Jack Kochanowicz | RHP | Harriton HS, Rosemont, Pa.
Committed: Virginia

In the marquee matchup of the day, Kochanowicz squared off against Malone and the On Deck O’s. What started off as a nice outing went south quickly for Kochanowicz, as the righty walked five batters across just 2.1 frames before being lifted. He allowed four runs, two of which were earned, throwing just a tick above 50 percent of his pitches for strikes.

Kochanowicz flashed what kind of stuff he had in the first inning. The delivery is poised and under control, using his big body to throw downhill with a consistent, three-quarter arm slot. While his arm action is a bit long in the back, it is repeatable for the most part, especially considering his 6-foot-6 frame. His fastball clocked up to 94 mph, sitting comfortably around 90 mph. The fastball helped him have success against the first few batters, generating several swings and misses. He threw a few firm sliders that were below-average, coupled with plenty of curveballs that had good shape and downward action.

His fastball and secondary command eluded him, missing to the glove side frequently and resulting in a slew of baserunners. While it wasn’t a successful outing overall, there are plenty of positives. The righty has a good frame that will help him as he matures, and he showed that he has the ability to spin a breaking ball with room for growth in both of his offerings.

Evan Boyle | LHP | Ola HS, McDonough, Ga.
Committed: Georgia Tech

The lefty from Georgia helped his club to a 8-5 win against Dallas Raiders Elite. He gave up just one hit across 3.1 innings, striking out five and allowing one walk.

Boyle topped out at 89 mph with his fastball in the game, throwing from a low, three-quarter arm slot with some sling action. He sat mostly in the mid-80s, dialing it up with runners on base. There is some arm-side run on the pitch, staying mostly on the same plane. His ability to throw it for strikes inside was critical, helping to set up his changeup and curveball. His changeup lags behind the curveball, which registered in the low-70s and had solid shape.

The quick tempo and attacking mentality of Boyle served him well, as he was able to control at-bats starting from when he first entered. 

Sammy Siani | OF | Penn Charter, Glenside, Pa.
Committed: Duke

The younger brother of 2018 Reds draft pick, Mike Siani, Sammy shows off a toolsy profile that is exciting to watch in the field and at the plate. Siani roamed around in center field for most of the afternoon, and he knocked in a run during the Royals Scout Team's 5-3 win against USA Prime/Prospect National Team.

The lefty swinger makes good contact in the zone, without much pre-swing movement in the batter’s box. He tracks pitches well and doesn’t commit early to a swing. The contact was loud, and he showed that he is a plus runner on the bases as well. His head is in the game, and he is aggressive in taking the extra base when possible. His athleticism helps him to move well defensively and it showed on Friday.

His sheer strength and approach are certainly noticeable, trending in a positive direction on amateur prospect lists.

-JC

Other players to note:

  • Outfielder Joshua Mears (Wash.) made some hard contact on Friday against the USA Prime/Prospect National Team. His swing is relatively compact for a guy who is 6-foot-3, 235-pounds. He was also no slouch on the bases, taking second on a ball in the dirt with an excellent jump.
  • Outfielder Troy Schreffler (Md.) made some noise in North East Baseball’s win over the Dallas Raiders Elite squad. He collected two hits and also scored two runs. He showed good bat speed and the ability to track pitches well. Schreffler gets good reads on the bases and has plus speed.
  • C/RHP Joseph King (Calif.) might start drawing more interest for his talents on the mound than behind the plate given his performance Friday. Touching 95 mph—the second-highest velocity of the day after Malone—in two innings of relief, King struck out three batters and walked one, allowing one earned run on two hits. King is committed to Washington State.
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The Next 5: 2019 College Baseball Recruiting Classes

Five more 2019 NCAA baseball recruiting classes that just missed our initial Top 12 rankings.

Class of 2020 Makes Noise

Most evaluators agree that the 2020 draft class is shaping up to be a strong one, and while there's plenty of time yet to see exactly how it will shape up, the WWBA is a great opportunity to get a sneak peek. College coaches are here for a reason, after all.

On Friday, a number of 2020 prospects stood out. Here are a few that Baseball America was able to see in person.

Ed Howard | SS | Mount Carmel HS, Chicago
Committed: Oklahoma

Midwest area scouts undoubtedly already have a good feel for Howard, who played his high school ball this spring along with D-backs second-round pick Alek Thomas at Mount Carmel High.

Howard made more of a name for himself on the national scale with his performance Friday morning with the Chicago Scouts Association, showing plus arm strength from the shortstop position while throwing on the run. He also barreled a fastball to deep center field, burning the opposing outfielder for a triple. The ball had excellent carry and Howard rounded the bags well, hitting first base in 4.60 seconds.

Howard did get eaten up at shortstop on one ground ball that took a high hop, but he showed exciting tools on both sides of the ball and will be a player to keep tabs on.

Andrew Armstrong | LHP | Flowery Branch (Ga.) HS
Uncommitted

Armstrong got the start for Georgia PG Texas Orange against a strong Texas Rangers Scout Team club but breezed through his outing, throwing seven innings and striking out 10 batters—the second-most of the day—while walking none and allowing two runs on four hits.

A thin, 6-foot-2, 140-pound lefthander, Armstrong drops down and throws from a sidearm slot and had plenty of success with a fastball that didn’t touch higher than 86 mph. In fact, his fastball was mostly in the 80-84 mph range. His go-to offspeed offering was a slider that ranged from 67-75 mph with sweeping action, but he struggled to get on top of the pitch throughout the outing as well.

While Armstrong has a long way to go before he attracts real draft attention (in regards to both size and stuff) he shut down some of the best prep hitters in a strong state—No. 10 Brett Baty went 0-for-2 against him—and threw 66 percent of his 105 pitches for strikes.

Other Notable 2020 Players

  • Third baseman A.J. Vukovich (Wisc.) showed off huge raw power Friday morning, hitting a towering home run to left-center field against Padres Scout Team/Chandler World. He’s an imposing, 6-foot-5 205-pound hitter already, and he still has more than a year to add more strength and muscle. Vukovich is committed to Louisville.
  • Catcher Kevin Parada (Calif.) has gone 4-for-5 in two games with GBG Marucci, with a grand slam, double, two singles and two walks. He showed a patient approach at the plate and good understanding of the strike zone Friday afternoon, with a hard single that left the bat at 91 mph. Behind the dish, Parada has a quick exchange and a strong arm, even on throws from his knees. Parada is committed to Georgia Tech.
  • Shortstop Yohandy Morales (Fla.) wasn’t fazed in the slightest by facing Malone on Friday afternoon. The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Miami commit stroked a triple to right field in his first at-bat against a 93 mph fastball from the high-profile righthander. He also made a slick defensive play on a slow roller, with a quick exchange on the run to first base. Morales is already seen as one of the top overall players in the 2020 class.

-CC

Day 2 Stat Leaders

Hits

  • Riley Greene — 3
  • Nathan Hickey — 3
  • Ethan Jenkins — 3
  • Jean Gorge Rivera Navarro — 3
  • Noah Blythe — 3
  • Jose Torres — 3
  • Dasan Brown — 3
  • David Howarth — 3
  • Kellum Clark — 3
  • Ethan Cloyd — 3
  • Max Cotier — 3

OPS

  • Daniel Baruch — 3.500 (1B, HR, BB)
  • Burke Camper — 3.500 (2B, 3B, BB)
  • Sam Link — 3.500 (2B, 3B, BB)
  • Riley Greene — 3.000 (1B, 2B, 3B)
  • Shane Sasaki — 3.000 (2B, 2 BB)
  • Ethan Stamps — 3.000 (2 2B, BB)
  • Ryan Dyal — 3.000 (2B, 2 BB)
  • Kurtis Byrne — 2.700 (2 2B)
  • Dominic Tamez — 2.700 (HR, BB)
  • Darius Perry — 2.700 (HR, BB)
  • Nathan Hickey — 2.700 (1B, 2 2B)

Strikeouts

  • Dylan Lesko — 13
  • Andrew Armstrong — 10
  • Tyler Schlaffer — 9
  • Will Mabrey — 9
  • Cutter Clawson — 9
  • Mitchell Gross — 8
  • Grant Golomb — 7
  • Tyler Kean — 7
  • Chase Keeney — 7
  • Ben Peoples — 7
  • Noah Dean — 7
  • Sam Bello — 7
  • Cristian Vazquez — 7
  • Ricky Tibbett — 7
  • John Lynch — 7

Max Fastball Velocity

  • Brennan Malone — 97
  • Joseph King — 95
  • Tyler Schlaffer — 94
  • Jack Kochanowicz — 94
  • Alejandro Torres — 94
  • Connor Phillips — 93
  • Nick Bitsko — 93
  • Stephen Restuccio — 93
  • Octavio Corona — 93
  • Ron Cole — 93
  • Ben Peoples — 93
  • Luis Guerrero — 93

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