2019 East Coast Pro: Day 2 Scout Notebook
HOOVER, Ala. — Weather again delayed the action on the second day of East Coast Pro, but between lightning delays and rain, scouts got looks at a number of talented 2020 and 2021 high school prospects, though pitchers stood out on Friday.
Below are reports and video of players who stood out in the eyes of Baseball America. If you missed our scout notebook from Day 1 on Thursday, check that out here.
Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East HS, Doylestown, Pa. (Class of 2021)
The marquee matchup of Friday’s action was when Bitsko’s Red Sox squad matched up against the perpetually loaded Blue Jays and 2020 lefthander Timmy Manning. The 2021 righthander acquitted himself well against a deep Blue Jays lineup, striking out four batters over three innings of work and allowing one single (a hard line drive from outfielder Zac Veen) and a walk.
Bitsko has a great pitcher’s frame, standing at 6-foot-4, 220-pounds and has a smooth and easy operation on the bump, with an overhead windup and clean three-quarter slot. Bitsko opened up in the first with a 94-96 mph fastball, and while that velocity ticked down in the second and third innings it wasn’t much, dipping down to 92-94.
He located the pitch well and used it to rack up three whiffs, but it was a power curveball that the Virginia commit used to finish off each of his strikeouts. A 76-83 mph curve that ranged in shape from 11-to-5 to a slurvey three-quarter break, Bitsko threw the offering with power and depth and got four swings and misses on the offering, which looks like it could become at least a 55-grade (on the 20-80 scout scale) offering.
Bitsko also threw an 86-87 mph firm changeup infrequently, and while the pitch was behind his fastball and breaking ball in this outing, he showed solid feel to keep the pitch down in the strike zone. Already physically impressive with a pair of above-average offerings, scouts don’t have to do much projecting to get excited about Bitsko and he is solidly in the top tier of players in a 2021 draft class that’s making some noise at this event.
Timmy Manning, LHP, Cardinal Gibbons HS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Manning showed why he is one of the better prep arms in the country on Friday afternoon, as the lefthander fired three scoreless innings for the Blue Jays. He worked around just one base runner while collecting five strikeouts. His combination of arm strength and pitchability helped him to dominate in his three frames.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound lefthander has an athletic body with a projectable frame. Manning makes the most of his athleticism, going into a deep bend of his backside leg after breaking from a high balance point with his front leg. This helps the lefthander explode towards the plate and he does a nice job staying closed before generating hip torque as his arm comes through to deliver the pitch. He doesn’t have any noticeable pauses with his arm action and he gets to a three-quarter position with good consistency.
Manning topped out at 92 mph with his fastball. It had good spin to it, and he was able to keep it around the plate. Since he finishes well out front, the lefthander is able to maintain some angle on the pitch which makes it difficult for batters to consistently square up. Manning isn’t afraid to work the pitch inside to hitters and uses it to help set up his secondary offerings as well.
His main secondary offering is a curveball that he throws in the mid-70s. The pitch has good two-plane depth with 1-to-6 break. He did throw a few in the upper-70’s which tended to have slurve-like movement. The pitch has some late break which generated swings-and-misses. Manning disguises it well during his delivery and it comes out of the same release point as his fastball which helps to keep hitters guessing.
Manning’s third pitch is his changeup, which he throws in the low-80s. They were mostly straight changeups with little sink, but when used off the fastball, it kept hitters off-balance.
Manning has a clear idea of what he wants to do with various hitters. He will work inside to set up breaking stuff away, or work away to make them vulnerable on the inner half. His arsenal and feel to pitch should be fun to watch as the 2020 draft cycle progresses.
Charez Butcher, RHP, Kokomo (Ind.) HS
It wasn’t just the Manning-Bitsko matchup that offered pitching talent. Taking the ball in relief during game two on Friday for the Reds was, Indiana righthander Charez Butcher, who brought together plenty of elements that scouts like to see.
Butcher has a close to ideal, lean and athletic pitching frame at 6-foot-4, 200-pounds. There is some length in the back of his arm stroke, but in general the Texas commit is working with a loose and easy operation. Butcher throws from the first base side of the rubber with a three-quarter arm slot.
He opened up with a fastball in the 92-94 mph range and spotted the pitch well, with some cutting action to his glove side and paired that with a high spinrate (~2600 rpm) slider in the 79-82 mph range that featured plenty of sweeping life and depth when he broke it off successfully. The slider did occasionally back up on Butcher when he threw it to his arm side, and he’ll need to continue refining his feel for the pitch, as he spiked it in the dirt a few times as well.
Butcher did throw an 82-84 mph changeup, but it had the look of a rudimentary offering at this point and he spiked it in the dirt when he did throw it. While there are plenty of elements to get excited about with Butcher’s overall package, he did unravel a bit in his third inning, where he started to miss consistently to his arm side and struggled to throw strikes.
Butcher tossed 2.1 innings and struck out four batters, while scattering a pair of hits.
Sammy Infante, SS, Monsignor Pace HS, Miami
Infante had a good day at the plate for the Blue Jays, notching two hits and driving in a run. The shortstop smacked a double and a triple, which were the only two extra-base hits for his team. Infante’s athleticism and feel for both sides of the ball make him an exciting prospect to keep an eye on.
In the field, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop moves well and shows the tools needed to stay on the left side of the infield. While strong, he has a loose body and good hands. His foot speed is average but he is a good runner once he gets underway. His footwork helps him to get in front of grounders with ease, while his arm is strong and accurate. He showed the ability to come in effectively and throw from multiple angles, pointing to solid body control.
At the plate, Infante sets up with a slightly wide stance and some pre-swing hand movement to keep the body active. He uses a small leg lift to begin his stride, which helps him coil his hands into a loading position. As his foot comes down, he generates torque in the mid-section which allows him to bring the barrel directly to the ball. Infante is able to clear his hips during the swing and get the barrel into the zone effectively. His swing did get a bit long at times, but Infante shows above-average bat speed and tracks pitches well, choosing to swing at those which he can do damage to.
Cooper Ingle, C, A.C. Reynolds HS, Asheville, N.C.
Sometimes at events like East Coast Pro and other showcases during the summer, catchers can go under the radar. Scouts are bearing down on getting familiar with pitchers and hitters that the backstops doing the grunt work might go unnoticed.
However it was hard not to be impressed with Ingle’s defensive ability during Friday’s nightcap. Ingle showed off a strong and accurate arm during catcher workouts on Thursday, but how he received and worked behind the plate in-game might have been even more impressive.
Ingle moves well from side-to-side behind the dish and also seems to have good hip flexibility, which combined with a 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame, allows him to consistently set a strong low target and frame pitches at the bottom of the strike zone and just below it remarkably well. He has quiet, but strong hands behind the plate and never seems to take a pitch off, squeezing as many strikes as possible for his battery-mate.
While Ingle’s defense looks to be the strength of his game, he also went 1-for-1 at the plate with a sharp single up the middle. During batting practice, Ingle showed solid bat speed and drove line drives up the middle and to the pull side. The path for high school catchers is a tough one in the draft, but Ingle is certainly one to keep a tab on.
Colby Halter, SS, Bishop Kenny HS, Jacksonville
Halter had a hit in three at-bats for the Brewers, driving in two runs while coming around to score once. While he performed well, it was his ability to adjust that made an impact on the game.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound shortstop shows good actions in the field and has plus arm strength. He has a nose for the ball and isn’t afraid to take charge on the infield. Later in the game he moved over to second base, where he showed good hustle on some tough ground balls that were hit to his side of the infield. He is a heads-up player with solid baseball instincts on defense.
At the plate, Halter has a slightly open stance with a little pre-swing movement of his hands. He manages to stay loose and uses a leg-lift to get his swing started. Halter shows good balance, but did over swing at times and looked a bit too rotational from time to time. His patience was on display as he worked the count and tracked pitches well. While his swing was longer, he did manage to make a swing adjustment with a runner on third base. Halter shortened up his stroke to put the barrel on the ball and drive in a run on a sacrifice fly
Halter quietly showed why his hustle and ability to make small in-game adjustments are a key factor to profile moving forward.
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Others To Note
Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny HS, Imperial, Pa. — Hendrick is putting together a strong case for the best performance of any player after two games, with a consistently dangerous bat in the lefthanded box. Hendrick is 5-for-7 over his first two games with three singles, a double and a triple with just one strikeout. A quieter load at the plate is helping the Mississippi State commit cut down on his whiffs and it’s translated into loud contact to all fields. Hendrick went 3-for-4 on Friday with a double, triple and a single. During his first at-bat of the game the 6-foot-1, 192-pound slugger scorched an 89-mph fastball out of the hand of righthander Hurston Waldrep (Georgia), sending it deep to right-center field with excellent carry and a 98-mph exit velocity. In the outfield, Hendrick also continues to show off one of the stronger and more consistently accurate arms in the class.
Ricky Williams, RHP, River Bluff HS, Lexington, S.C. — Williams was one of the last arms to take the mound Friday, throwing three innings of relief for the Diamondbacks in a 4-1 loss against the Rockies, but he made the most of his time on the mound. The 6-foot-2, 177-pound righty struck out five batters and allowed just one hit during his outing, working with a solid three-pitch mix: a 87-91 mph fastball, a 75-78 mph curveball with three-quarter break, good depth and impressive spin (2600-2700 rpm) and an 81-83 mph changeup that he spotted well and had fading life. While none of his offerings were plus, and Williams’ velocity ticked down more into the 87-89 mph range after his first inning, there’s plenty of room for him to fill out his frame and add strength in the future. Williams also threw 71.4 percent of his 35 pitches for strikes. Williams is committed to Clemson.
Dalton Pearson, OF, Johns Creek (Ga.) HS — Pearson was the extra-hitter for the Brewers atop their lineup, getting one hit in four at-bats. While his stats might not pop out, his physicality and presence in the box were noticeable. Pearson has a good frame with a strong lower half. The 5-foot-11,185-pound outfielder moves well for his size and still has some projection with his body. Pearson is lively in the batters box, with a wide open stance and a good amount of hand movement. As he closes up with his front leg, his lower half and upper half sync up nicely. He has good bat speed and was able to make some hard contact. Once on base, he showed a solid run tool but was thrown out attempting to steal second. He did show the ability to manipulate the barrel to put the ball in play, which highlights his athletic ability and hand-eye coordination. Pearson is currently uncommitted.
Dalton Back, C, Columbia (Ind.) East HS — Back went 1-for-2 in the Friday opener against the Brewers, hitting the second home run of the tournament—a deep fly ball over the left field fence. A 5-foot-11, 195-pound backstop, Back is committed to Miami (Ohio).
Josh Shuler, OF, North Gwinnett HS, Suwannee, Ga. — A 6-foot-2, 190-pound outfielder committed to South Carolina, Shuler is an old hand at the East Coast Pro, having attended the event as an underclassmen last year as well. During the first game of the day, Shuler showed his speed and athleticism in the outfield, making a slick diving catch on a ball that threatened to fall into shallow center field. Shuler has quick hands and above-average bat speed as a lefthanded hitter in the box and a twitchy frame to dream on some power, but there’s some crudeness to his game in the box that he’ll need to refine.
Mason Miller, LHP, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla. — A Florida Gulf Coast commit, Miller showed off the best spinrate curveball of the tournament during the sandwich game for the Blue Jays Friday. A big, 74-78 mph bender with huge depth and a spinrate that was regularly in the 2800-3000 rpm range, Miller surprisingly got no whiffs on the pitch. He used it to finish a few looking strikeouts, but the pitch breaks out of his hand early and Miller also struggled to land the ball in the strike zone, instead frequently burying the offering in the dirt. The pitch has potential to become a swing-and-miss type offering with improved command and additional power, but scouts might be intrigued with a6-foot-2, 200-pound southpaw with that sort of natural ability to spin the ball. Miller’s fastball sat in the 86-90 mph range throughout his outing and touched 91, but he generated nine whiffs with the pitch. Miller throws from the first base side of the rubber, with a three-quarter arm slot and some hooking action in the back of his stroke.