Image credit: Jonathan French (Stacy Jo Grant)
JUPITER, Fla. — Day three of the 2018 Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) World Championship is in the books, with pool play games completed and bracket play beginning first thing Sunday morning.
For teams still in the running to become champs of the biggest travel ball tournament in the country, that means winning five games in a span of less than 29 hours—from Round 1 games at 8 a.m. Sunday to the Championship game at 11 a.m. Monday morning.
Over the next few days we’ll see who has the talent and determination—and pitching depth—to pull it off. For now, here’s a look at the players who stood out on Day 3.
Jonathan French | C | Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga.
French is the top-ranked catcher on our recently released High School Top 50 Prospects list, predominantly because of his catch-and-throw skills. The 5-foot-11, 213-pound backstop looked extremely advanced behind the plate Saturday with Braves Scout Team/Team Elite in a 2-0 win over the Richmond Braves.
Catching 2019 righthander Ramsey David — who we touch on below — French showed excellent blocking ability on pitches in the dirt, moving laterally quickly and routinely smothering pitches right in front of him, allowing him time to make a quick throw if a runner thought about taking the opportunity to steal.
Not many attempted to do that in this game, so French was mostly limited to throws to second base in between innings, but he did backpick a runner off of first base with a strong throw right on the bag. French again showed impressive footspeed to get himself into a good throwing position, and his mobility is particularly impressive considering the thickness of his lower half, which should allow him to handle the grind of the position over longer seasons at the next level.
At the plate, French went 0-for-1 with a groundout and a walk. He didn’t open any eyes with the bat on this occasion, but showed a patient approach and a quality eye in the batter’s box.
Ramsey David | RHP | Buford (Ga.) HS
David had the benefit of working with one of the elite catchers of the 2019 class, but the 6-foot-3, 180-pound righthander likely would have had success with anyone suited up behind the dish in this outing.
David showed one of the most consistent breaking balls that Baseball America has put eyes on so far at the tournament—a 78-81 mph slider that he spotted effectively and used to generate plenty of swings and misses over six shutout innings. David’s fastball touched 92 mph once in the first inning, though he sat in the 88-91 mph range over the course of his outing.
David throws from a three-quarter slot and has some long, hooking arm action in the back of his operation, with a high back elbow. There’s some sink on his fastball at times, but his outpitch was undoubtedly the slider, which David located to both sides and used effectively against righthanders and lefthanders. He used his slider as both a swing-and-miss pitch out of the zone, and he also had success starting it on the inner half against lefties only to break away under a hitter’s hands as it fell off the plate.The pitch has good, tight spin without significant depth, and David only failed to get on top of the pitch once in this outing.
The Georgia righthander was largely a two-pitch arm in this game, but he did break out an 83-84 mph changeup in the sixth inning.
Ben Vespi | RHP | American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
Committed: Central Florida
The UCF commit was impressive across two innings on Saturday for Houston Astros Scout Team/Elite Squad. Vespi tossed two innings while striking out three and allowing one run. Combined with righthanders Nicholas Hardy (Fla.) and Kevin Heinrich (Fla.), the trio led the club to a 6-1 victory against Kentucky Baseball Club 2019.
Vespi is a tall, lanky pitcher with a good frame. His motion allows him to gather at a balance point atop his delivery and explode toward home plate. In doing so, his fastball topped out at 89 mph. It gets on batters quickly, and the arm-side run on the ball causes some uncomfortable swings. His main secondary offering is a curveball that he threw with good command, with tight, sharp break. He was able to land the breaking ball for strikes with frequency in the first inning, which helped him keep up a good pitching tempo.
He outing was encouraging, although he began to lose the tight shape on his curveball in the second inning.
Nate Rombach | C | Mansfield (Texas) Legacy HS
Committed: Texas Tech
Rombach put his skills to good use behind the dish for the Texas Rangers Scout team, as his club won 7-2 against the All Star Baseball Academy 2019 team. He didn’t just impress defensively, but also at the plate. The righthanded hitter collected two hits and scored a run to put the game out of reach.
For a guy who is 6-foot-3, Rombach receives well at the catching position. His hands are solid, although he will need to refine his pitch presentation moving forward. Regardless, he is very athletic and has the tools to be an effective catcher. His bat was noticeable, as he generates above-average power and quick bat speed. This was on display when his quick swing helped him to smash a double to left field.
His athleticism should translate to better defense moving forward, and the power potential is real.
Deion Walker | OF | Hillgrove HS, Powder Springs, Ga.
The outfielder didn’t get a hit in an 0-for-2 day at the plate, but Walker did play sound defense and showed off his athleticism during the game. His body is extremely lanky and has plenty of room to grow, standing 6-foot-4, 180 pounds. He has good strides in right field and reads the ball off the bat well. He has some bat speed, using a leg kick to get his swing started. He noticeably tracked breaking pitches well, keeping himself in good hitting position during the at-bats.
Walker’s swing did get a bit long, at times losing his balance towards the end of his swing, but there was some solid contact made, even though it was for an out in the second inning. Although it wasn’t a noteworthy statistical performance at the plate, Walker shows some intriguing tools for the future. With his athletic and enviable frame, he’s a player to watch in the future.
Anthony Volpe | SS | Delbarton HS, Morristown, N.J.
Volpe made solid contact in his at-bats Friday, ending the day with an RBI double. The Vanderbilt commit made his presence felt on offense, and his defense shined as well.
The first thing to note about Volpe is his alertness and natural quickness in the field, with above-average speed and fluid actions in the field. He has a feel for playing in the middle of the diamond, with the range and arm to do so in the future. With a compact stroke, Volpe made some hard contact and showed barrel awareness by taking a pitch on the outer half of the plate and driving it into the opposite field. Although he might not have much power in the future, the hit tool is developing and should continue to do so.
Will Smith | RHP | Conway (S.C.) HS
Committed: Coastal Carolina
Smith took the mound for the Canes National team out of the bullpen in the fourth inning, putting on a show for those who watched. In just two innings, the righthander fanned four batters and walked only one, giving up no runs in a stellar outing. He was aggressive and it worked to his benefit across the two frames.
He has a three-quarter arm slot that has some violent action in it. The arm action allows him to throw downhill, and he hides the ball well from hitters. His fastball topped out at 92 mph, sitting mostly in the upper 80s to low 90s. It had some life and generated empty swings from hitters, even if it was effectively wild at times. He didn’t back down from attacking hitters, choosing to use his low- to mid-70s curveball aggressively to rack up strikeouts. It had quality snap and consistent shape in the small sample size.
There was some late life to his fastball, which helped him overpower hitters before going to his secondary offering.
Other Players to Note:
- 2020 righthander Nate Wohlgemuth (Okla.) threw one inning of relief for the Braves Scout Team/Team Elite and shoved for 13 pitches. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound pitcher opened up with a 91 mph fastball but quickly jumped up to 94 mph and hit that mark three more times in the outing. The pitch jumped out of his hand and exploded to the plate, and it was even more impressive when combined with a power, 76-78 mph curveball that had 11-to-5 shape and plenty of depth. Wohlgemuth struck out all three batters he faced and left scouts wanting more after his brief look. He is committed to Arkansas and was responsible for the hardest fastball of Day 3.
- 2019 shortstop Connor Walsh (Fla.) flashed some impressive tools, putting some good swings on display, including a sharp line drive single to left field in his first at-bat and a deep, well-struck fly ball to center in his second. Walsh has obvious plus speed that plays out of the box and up the middle defensively, where he has a quick first step and also showed off a strong throwing arm.
- 2019 lefthander Bodi Rascon (Texas) threw three shutout innings for the Texas Rangers Scout Team Friday morning. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound southpaw has an ideal frame to work with and touched 92 mph with his fastball, mostly sitting in the 89-91 mph range. There’s some work that needs to be done—his mid-70s breaking ball lacked bite and he’ll need more consistency with the landing of his lower half to keep his body in sync and allow him to improve his strike-throwing—but he looks like a potential high-upside arm with a few steps forward. Rascon is committed to Oklahoma State.
- 2019 lefthander Michael Harris (Ga.) tied for the Day 3 lead in strikeouts with eight, and he showed off an athletic delivery on the mound with a short arm action, three-quarter arm slot and a trio of solid pitches. Harris worked in a 90-91 mph fastball that dipped down into the 86-87 mph range out of the stretch, a low-80s changeup with fading life, and a 75-78 mph curveball with 1-to-7 shape and impressive depth. The curve was his best offering and could be a future above-average pitch down the road. Harris is uncommitted.
- Another impressive arm on the MLB Breakthrough Series club, along with Harris, 2019 righthander Andre Duplantier (Texas) showed off one of the better curveballs that Baseball America saw on the day—a 73-77 mph bender with tight spin, and late, sharp downward bite. Duplantier showed the ability to manipulate the pitch well in this three-inning outing, creating more depth and times and breaking off a tighter, snappier curve at others. Duplantier struck out six batters, walked none and worked with an 86-90 mph fastball as well.
Day 3 Stat Leaders
- Eric Grintz — 4
- Jordan Sweeney — 3
- Rohsean Riley — 3
- Robert Moore — 3
- Jamari Baylor — 3
- Terry Ham — 3
- Trotter Harlan — 3
- Leon Paulino — 5.000 (1 HR, 2 BB)
- Owen Diodati — 4.000 (2 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB)
- Eric Grintz — 3.300 (1 1B, 1 2B, 2 3B)
- T.J. Schofield-Sam — 3.000 (1 2B, 2 BB)
- Sammy Siani — 3.000 (1 3B, 1 HR)
- Jorel Ortega — 3.000 (1 2B, 2 BB)
- Cameron Thompson — 3.000 (1 1B, 1 3B, 1 BB)
- Lilo Paxia — 3.000 (2 2B, 1 BB)
- Joe Mack — 3.000 (1 2B, 2 BB)
- Ben Brantley — 3.000 (1 2B, 2 BB)
- Blake Money — 8
- Michael Harris — 8
- Davon Terry — 8
- Jacob Knapp — 7
- Hayde Key — 7
- Jaxon Weber — 7
- Chandler Dawson — 7
- Christian Gordon — 7
- Yassir Kahook — 7
- Brogan Beckner — 7
- Nicholas Hardy — 7
Max Fastball Velocity
- Nate Wohlgemuth — 94
- William Swope — 93
- Blake Money — 93
- Logan Paustian — 93
- Cristhian Nunez — 93
- Juan Lozano — 93
- Jake Eddington — 93