2019 National High School Invitational: Day 2 Pitchers Notebook
Day two of the NHSI was a busy one, as inclement weather pushed Friday games to Thursday, putting major league scouts, scouting directors, and a few GMs on a swivel with games on multiple fields from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Here are the standout pitching prospects and performers from Day 2. And if you've missed any of the NHSI action, be sure to check out our hub page here that includes results, standout players from each game and links to daily scouting notebooks.
Jack Leiter, RHP, Delbarton (Morristown, N.J.)
-2019 Vanderbilt Commit
Normally the top arms go on Day 1 of the NHSI, as the single elimination tournament naturally dicates, but the second day of the 2019 tournament offered a number of intriguing arms including the No. 37 prospect in the country in Leiter.
Leiter dominated in a six-inning complete game against South Forsyth (Cumming, Ga.) Thursday, striking out eight batters on 69 pitches (68 percent for strikes) and allowing just two base runners—one on a single to right field and one on a walk.
Armed with one of the best curveballs in the class, Leiter used the breaking ball to finish seven of his eight strikeouts. The pitch has good spin and three-quarters breaking shape and despite its impressive depth, Leiter has a terrific feel for putting the pitch wherever he wants. He had no issues spotting the breaking ball for strikes in any count and also used it to expand the zone and get chases as well. It ranged from 72-76 mph and could be an easy plus pitch in the future if Leiter can avoid casting the ball, which he did at times in this outing.
Leiter has gotten into the mid-90s at times and reached that range again Thursday, touching 94/95 in the first inning, but he mostly worked in the 90-93 mph range with solid control. Leiter also used a few sliders, which had much tighter spin and less depth than his curveball, and were in the 81-83 mph. They were solid offerings, but still a bit behind the curve, which was his go-to offering on the day. Leiter has previously shown an impressive changeup, but didn’t throw any in this outing.
Working with a clean arm action and delivery out of a three-quarter arm slot, Leiter makes everything look fairly easy on the mound. He works with a quick tempo, is quick to the plate out of the stretch with runners on and also gets off the rubber well to field his position with impressive athleticism.
Kendall Williams, RHP, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
-2019 Vanderbilt Commit
Williams tossed six innings, giving up just one earned run against Blessed Trinity in the afternoon matchup. The sturdy righthander threw 98 pitches, 73 of which were for strikes.
The 6-foot-6, 208 pound righthander has an excellent pitcher's body. He has long limbs, squared off shoulders and excellent physical projection. He throws from a slightly higher three-quarter arm slot and shows plus arm speed with arm action that gets a bit long in the back. He generates torque from his core area which makes up for late hip rotation in his delivery, allowing him to ensure that he gets his arm through his motion and on time. He makes the most of his lower body strength with his stride and is able to repeat the timing of his delivery.
Williams worked mostly with a fastball that sat around 92 and touched 94. It was a four-seam fastball that had good angle to it. He showed above-average fastball command and had a feel to throw it in different quadrants of the strike zone.
His changeup was above-average, topping out at 83 mph. While he lacked feel for it in the early innings, Williams was able to throw it for strikes later on in the outing. The pitch was deceptive with arm action that was mostly similar to his fastball. It had some arm-side fade and got some empty swings from hitters. He showed confidence in the pitch and even lead off at-bats with it, pitching backwards to particular hitters in an effort to get them off his fastball which he used frequently early on.
The righthander also used two different breaking pitches to get through Blessed Trinity. His most effective was a slider that topped out in the lower 80’s. It had a short break and some horizontal movement, being most effective as a two-strike chase pitch. At times it did appear to blend with his curveball, which he threw in the mid-70’s. The curveball had a nice eleven-to-five shape with good downward snap. Williams was able to throw it for strikes before using mostly his harder slider as the game progressed.
While he lacked a consistent tempo, Williams made his pitches when he had to. He showed tremendous pitchability, and was confident in his secondary offerings in fastball counts. He shows mental maturity and the ability to adjust to the game situation when he has to. Williams has huge upside and will be exciting to watch in the coming years.
Christian Rodriguez, RHP, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran
Rodriguez took the ball for the defending champions in their quarterfinal game Thursday morning, and went all seven innings, striking out seven batters and walking two while scattering eight hits and allowing just one earned run.
At 6-foot-6, 185-pounds, Rodriguez is a highly projectable pitcher who can add plenty of weight in the future and easily see his fastball velocity improve, though he is already sitting in the 88-92 mph range and touched 91-92 in the seventh inning as well. While he doesn’t have elite arm speed, Rodriguez throws from an easy, three-quarter slot with some wrist wrap and hooking action in the back.
He threw a 69-74 mph curveball with 12-to-6 shape that has solid depth and a 2200-2300 rpm spinrate, which could become an above-average offering down the line by tightening the pitch up a bit and adding more power. He also worked with a changeup in the low 80s that showed fading life. There are plenty of elements to like with Rodriguez, with his size, present velocity, projectable secondaries and solid strike-throwing ability—71 percent of his 100 pitches went for strikes. There’s lots of upside here.
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Aaron Roberts, RHP, Desert Oasis (Las Vegas)
-2019 Nevada Commit
Roberts started the third game of the tournament against Huntington Beach (Calif.) Thursday afternoon and tossed six solid innings, striking out five batters and walking three while allowing just one earned run.
Roberts works with a slow, methodical delivery that includes a step back and slight bowing motion before a high leg lift and slight pause before firing to the plate. He has impressive natural arm strength and touched 94 mph early in the game and sat in the 89-92 mph range in his final two frames, touching 93. The velocity comes with some significant effort though, and a noticeable downer head whack that hurts his command.
His fastballs were scattered throughout the outing and he overthrew the pitch at times and landed 52 percent of his 89 pitches. He threw first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 22 batters he faced. Roberts threw a low 70s curveball that has 11-to-5 shape, but he cuts the pitch at times when he gets around it to his glove side and it currently lacks sharp bite. He also worked in an 84 mph changeup. There are some solid ingredients here, but some further polish needed.
Jonathan Guzman, RHP, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran
-2019 San Diego State Commit
Something works with Orange (Calif.) Lutheran’s pitching staff, as Guzman took the ball in OLu’s second game of the day and picked up right where Rodriguez left off. The 2019 San Diego State commit threw six shutout innings against Monsignore Pace (Miami) in the semi-final game, striking out four batters and allowing just two hits and a walk.
Guzman retired 13 consecutive batters during the game and worked with a mid 80s fastball that got up to 88 mph in the first inning, a mid to upper-70s slurvy breaking ball and a changeup that had some fading life. Guzman got four whiffs in the first inning alone on his breaking ball, which breaks early but has an impressive amount of break and horizontal movement.
Michael De Haro, RHP, La Mirada
De Haro was on the mound for 4.1 innings in La Mirada’s win against Christian Brothers Academy. The righthander tossed 83 pitches, 50 for strikes. He gave up three hits and had eight strikeouts before making his exit.
De Haro is a 5-foot-11, 160-pounder who uses a three-quarter arm slot and is able to repeat it. He comes to a good balance point before exploding to towards home plate. While he uses his lower half effectively, there is a bit of effort in the delivery. He has plus arm speed and gets out in front to finish his pitches effectively.
His fastball was mostly 87-88 mph with some arm-side run. It got some swing and miss, and he was able to keep the pitch down. While he threw it for strikes, De Haro did leave a few out of the plate that opposing batters didn’t miss.
He threw two different breaking pitches as well. His curveball topped out at 77 mph, with ten-to-five break. He disguises it well and throws it for strikes. De Haro also throws a slider which has slurve-like action. He threw it mostly in the lower 80’s with a shorter, tighter eleven to four break on it. The righthander used it mostly as a chase pitch and had some difficulty pouring it into the strike zone.
De Haro threw a few changeups but mostly worked with his two breaking pitches during the start. The righthander has plus arm strength and a feel to spin the ball, making him one to watch in the future.