2019 National High School Invitational: Day 1 Hitters Notebook
Below are notes on the top hitting prospects and standouts from Day 1 of USA Baseball's 2019 National High School Invitational.
For a continuously updating schedule and scoreboard of the tournament, with standout players from each game, check here. You can also find our 2019 NHSI preview with storylines to watch, top 2019 and 2020 prospects here.
Let's dive in:
C.J. Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.)
-2019 Alabama Commit
The top-ranked prospect at the NHSI at No. 4 on the BA 300, Abrams drew quite a crowd of scouts as his Blessed Trinity team beat Marist (Chicago) High, 3-0. While Abrams went hitless with a groundout and a pair of flyouts, what stood out was his shortstop defense, particularly with scouts wondering whether he is better suited to center field at the next level.
He made all four plays that came to them, and while none of them were exceptionally challenging, he made everything look easy with fluid footwork, soft hands and accurate throws from a number of positions on the dirt.
His first two attempts both pulled him to the third base side. On his first attempt he didn’t have to move much, but got around the ball well and put himself in a good position to make an easy throw across the diamond. On his second he was pulled deeper into the hole and timed a long hop well, again setting his feet well and making a long, accurate throw with no problem.
His final attempts both pulled him up the middle of the diamond, where he needed to use less arm strength and made a pair of accurate throws from lower arm slots that were again—right on the money. With easy plus speed, quick, choppy footwork, a solid throwing arm and clean glovework, there wasn’t much Abrams did Wednesday that would lead you to think he couldn’t handle the position.
Offensively, he was aggressive and put the bat on a few bad pitches early in the count in multiple at-bats, so scouts will be looking for more competitive trips to the plate the rest of the week.
Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty (Oviedo, Fla.)
-2019 Florida Commit
Greene, the No. 7 prospect in the country and second-highest rated prospect at the NHSI behind Abrams, went 1-for-4 with a single, walk and a strikeout on the first day of the tournament.
He had an extremely uncharacteristic at-bat to start things off in the top of the first inning, swinging and missing three times and striking out on an 81 mph changeup from Christian Brothers College (St. Louis) High RHP Christian Little (2021). His first whiff came against an 89 mph fastball low and away before he took a slider for a ball and then swung and missed at another fastball, this time a 90 mph offering up in the zone.
It was certainly a bit jarring to see the best pure hitter in the prep class whiff three times in a single at-bat and get caught out in front, but Greene did make an adjustment in his next trip to the plate, jumping on an 83 mph changeup from Little that caught too much of the plate and pulling it into right field for a single.
After walking in his third at-bat, Greene laced another hard line drive to the pull-side in his fourth trip to the plate and reached on an error.
Greene played center field for his Hagerty club, but projects as a corner outfielder at the next level. He gets solid jumps on fly balls hit his way, but lacks the speed necessary to fully close on them, with a number of flairs and shallow fly balls falling in for hits that quicker players could have converted into outs.
Anthony Volpe, SS, Delbarton (Morristown, N.J.)
-2019 Vanderbilt Commit
Volpe played shortstop and had five at-bats on Wednesday against Desert Oasis. While he collected just one hit, the infielder showed impressive actions both in the field and at the plate.
The first thing you notice about Volpe is his athleticism and body type. It fits the mold of a middle infielder and he should have some room to fill out a bit. At the plate, he is balanced and has a small pre-swing movement before getting the barrel through the zone. His hands are quick and direct to the ball, allowing him to make hard contact during his at-bats. Although he showed bat speed, Volpe did get a bit long with his swing and was out in front on a breaking ball which resulted in a ground out.
His play at shortstop proved he has the tools to play there. He reads the ball off the bat very well, and made a diving play to his right side before making a quick transfer and solid throw to nail the runner at first base. He has an average arm at shortstop, and his footwork shows that he has an innate feel for the position. Volpe is an above-average runner, and takes pride in doing the little things the right way on the field. He is both attentive during each pitch, but backs up correctly and shows leadership skills on the field.
Volpe showed his raw skills on both sides of the ball, and his athleticism should be fun to watch as he matures.
Kurtis Byrne, C, Christian Brothers College (St. Louis)
-2019 Texas Christian Commit
Bryne was behind the plate during Christian Brothers loss to Hagerty during the first game of the tournament. The catcher had two hits in three at-bats and also drew a walk.
For a high school catcher, Bryne is strong and has a sturdy build. He has a strong chest and a thick lower half. Offensively, he uses a quiet setup with a small leg kick to start his swing that doesn’t have much load to it. He gets the barrel through the zone effectively and stays balanced at the plate. He showed off a particularly good eye, willing to go deep into counts. He reads breaking pitches well, and wasn’t fooled by anything off of the plate.
Bryne showed off good receiving skills, using his strong hands to provide good pitch presentation. He makes the most of his body by getting down quickly to block pitches in the dirt. While he did show the ability to block pitches, Bryne stabbed at a pitch down in the zone which went for a passed ball. His arm was a bit erratic on Wednesday, not showing much natural carry or accuracy on stolen base attempts
Considering his size and plate discipline, it will be interesting to see more of Bryne and his development as a catcher.
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Cade Verdusco, OF, Corona del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.)
-2020 Grand Canyon Commit
Verdusco patrolled center field for Corona del Sol against Monsignor Pace (Miami) on Wednesday and went one for three with a walk. The toolsy outfielder also wreaked havoc on the bases, showing natural aggression and taking the extra base when possible.
Verdusco has a wiry build, with strong legs and a slimmer upper half. He uses a slightly open stance with a small leg kick to start his swing. He has a quick trigger and is able to manipulate the barrel to make hard contact. While he did show bat speed, Verdusco also got a little bit rotational with his swing and pulled off some pitches. His speed is also a part of his offensive game, as he was able to time up the opposing pitcher and steal third base with relative ease.
He shows some feel to play in the outfield and tracks fly balls well. He takes a good first step and is able to adjust his route when necessary. His arm plays average for the position and showed good accuracy. Verdusco showed that he has some quality tools on Wednesday and should continue to be a diversified threat in the future.
Jason Hodges, OF, Marist (Chicago)
-2019 Arkansas Commit
While Hodges already has a strong body at 6-foot-3, 212-pounds, he does have the frame to add on some more weight. He uses an open stance with a slight crouch at the plate and is quite aggressive with the bat, though he went hitless on Wednesday against Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.). Hodges doesn’t wait around and tends to swing early in counts. He generates bat speed and some loft but also tends to get a bit long with his swing.
He is an average runner and shows an accurate arm with decent strength. He shows a nose for the ball and doesn’t give up on any plays, showing a lot of effort in the outfield. Although he went hitless, Hodges shows the sheer physicality and strength.