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Area Code Games Notebook: Day 2

LONG BEACH—The second day of the 2017 Area Code Games wrapped up shortly before 8:00 p.m. Pacific Time, giving scouts a solid look at a number of the top hitters and pitchers in the 2018 high school draft class.

While Georgia righthander Ethan Hankins’ start was highly anticipated in the final game of the day—especially considering he would match up with top-ranked Southern California shortstop Brice Turang—it was far from the only impressive performance Monday, where several hitters took center stage.

Here are some of the day’s most notable performances:

Max Marusak | OF | Amarillo (Texas) High

Texas outfielder Max Marusak had quite the day during Monday morning’s first game. After drawing a five-pitch walk in his first at-bat against Jack Perkins, the speedy outfielder beat out an infield single against Arkansas righthander Connor McCulloug, getting from the righthanded batter’s box to first base in just 4.05 seconds, a well above-average time.

After reaching first, Marusak got an excellent jump and stole second base, in just over three seconds. Not just a slap and dash hitter, though, the Texas Tech commit barreled an 89 mph fastball out of the hand of Wade Beasley, burning the White Sox left fielder and hitting the bottom of the fence in left field, showing some pop to his pull side.

He wasn’t done there. With 2019 infielder Bobby Witt Jr. batting, Beasley threw a ball in the dirt that squeaked to the backstop, and Marusak managed to go from second all the way home, and the play at the plate wasn’t particularly close.

Timmy Borden | SS | Our Lady of Providence High, Clarksville, Ind.

Timmy Borden showed off his defensive skills during warmups this week at Blair Field, with an above-average arm from shortstop, plus footwork to ground balls and around the bag at second base, as well as quick hands on transfers and the ability to throw accurately from multiple angles.

He made some noise with the bat against big Texas righty Braxton Ashcraft in the bottom of the fourth inning, jumping on a first-pitch 83 mph slider over the plate and one-hopping the fence in left:

Cole Winn | RHP | Silver Creek High, Longmont, Colo.

Winn pitched two innings in the second game of the day, coasting through a 1-2-3 first with a strikeout, groundout and soft lineout to short.

The Mississippi State commit pitched off of an 89-91 mph fastball, which touched 92 once and generated two swings and misses in his first inning. His strikeout came on a 78 mph curveball—a pitch that looked even better later in his outing.

While he did walk a batter in the second, Winn’s secondary pitches looked sharper, with tighter bite on his upper-70s curve, as well as flashing a harder 83 mph breaking ball with more horizontal movement that looked like a nice chase pitch, although the batter (Damiano Palmegiani) laid off it before swinging through a 90 mph fastball on the outside corner for strike three.

Winn picked up his third strikeout of the outing on another fastball, this one 89 mph over the middle of the plate, to Idaho catcher Alex Guerrero.

Winn threw from a low-effort, three-quarter arm slot with only a slight head whack and had an athletic, balanced finish.

Tanner O’Tremba | OF | Cherry Creek High, Greenwood Village, Colo. 

O’Tremba had one of the more exciting batting practices Monday morning, despite the fact that he broke a bat on one swing. The 6-foot, 210-pound outfielder has a strong, stocky build and an uppercut bat path that produced several long fly balls and line drives.

That pop played in the second game of the day against the Royals and Nationals righthander Jayson Schroeder, as O’Tremba jumped on a 92 mph fastball up and away in the zone. The Texas Tech commit got a good amount of backspin on the ball, sending it over the right fielder’s head—good for a standup double.

Ethan Hankins | RHP | Forsyth Central High, Cumming, Ga.

Five days after turning in what scouts say is the best outing of a 2018 high school pitcher at East Coast Pro, Hankins took the mound in California in the final game of Day 2 at Area Codes. His first batter? Top-ranked high schooler, Brice Turang.

Hankins opened with a 94 mph fastball on the outside corner for a strike, then came with another 94 mph pitch that Turang fouled off. Up 0-2, Hankins went with a changeup, but he didn’t get completely on top of the 85 mph pitch, which missed to his arm side. He then missed to the same side with a 94 mph fastball for ball two, before getting Turang—one of the best hitters in the class—to swing through a 96 mph fastball on the outside corner.

That 96 mph pitch would be the fastest of the night for Hankins, who sat 94-97 in Tampa, Fla., but was mostly 91-94 through three innings at Blair Field. His command wasn’t as sharp as last week, as Hankins missed several times to his arm side, and all three curveballs he threw missed the zone as well. Comparing Hankins to his own peak might not be exactly fair, as he still managed to navigate three scoreless innings, walking two batters and allowing two hits—one a high-chopping groundball from Kingston Liniak and the other a solid single into right field from Matt McLain. He also used his fastball to strike out five.

Hankins continued to use a rapid tempo when on the mound, and varied his delivery with pauses in his windup, both before and after his initial leg lift and regularly quick-pitching batters as soon as he legally could.

Brice Turang | SS | Santiago High, Corona, Calif. 

Speaking of top-rated Turang, the shortstop had a solid day despite striking out in his first at-bat of the game against Hankins. He faced the Georgia righthander once again in the bottom of the third inning, drawing a four-pitch walk after an interesting bout of gamesmanship between the two, with Turang stepping out of the box several times to disrupt Hankins’ quick tempo, and Hankins walking off the mound and then pitching immediately after re-setting to once again try and control the tempo.

The Louisiana State commit had a solid at-bat against Tennessee righthander Ethan Smith in his next at-bat, fouling off three straight 90-91 fastballs after working into a full count. Turang then spit on an 83 mph slider that appeared to be off the outside corner of the plate but was rung up on a fairly generous call to the pitcher.

His final at-bat resulted in a walk against Luke Little after seven pitches. While he didn’t get a hit on the evening, he continued to show an advanced understanding of the strike zone and the quick hands to stay alive in pitcher’s counts. During batting practice, Turang was loose and fluid, with a backside approach that sent quite a few line drives into left field.

Other Players to Note:

• LHP Sasha Sneider closed the game out in the bottom of the seventh for the Reds, pitching out of the stretch from the third-base side of the rubber, and throwing mid-to-upper 80s from a low, three-quarter slot. Sneider walked one batter but retired the three others he faced, on a groundout, flyout and strikeout. He showed good feel for a low-to-mid 70s curve and a 73-74 mph change—both pitches he used to get swings and misses.

• RHP Ian Mejia was hurt by the BABIP gods in his one inning on the mound, allowing a single on a blooped ball into center and giving up another single when Jake Dukart grounded to where the shortstop would have been if not for covering a steal attempt. Mejia showed a fast arm out of a three-quarter slot, pitching 89-91 with some sink on his fastball. He has some long, stabbing action in the back but has interesting stuff to keep an eye on.

• RHP Ethan Smith‘s first inning showed off his unique delivery, which occasionally features a double leg pump out of a full windup, and helped the Vanderbilt commit retire three straight batters. Smith has good stuff in addition to a deceptive delivery, throwing 90-91 mph fastballs that often have late running life and a sharp, late-breaking low 80s slider, which he used to strike out Kingston Liniak.

• LHP Easton McMurray followed Smith in the bottom of the fifth inning of the final Day 2 game, striking out two batters and forcing a third to ground out on a dribbler in front of the plate. McMurray throws from a high-effort, low three-quarter arm slot, and pitched mostly 87-90 with his fastball, although he touched 91, and the pitch has quite a bit of running movement away from righthanded batters and into lefties. McMurray also showed solid feel for an upper-70s curveball that had some depth, and that was a pitch he used to get Florida first baseman Triston Casas to chase out of the zone for strike three:

• Texas OF Korey Holland showed off his bat speed and foot speed in the top of the seventh inning of the day’s final game, barreling a 92 mph fastball from California righthander Owen Sharts deep into right-center field. Holland got out of the righthanded batter’s box quickly and flew around the bases, sliding smoothly into third even though he could have coasted in standing up. During batting practice earlier in the day, Holland showed at least average bat speed, with good contact, sending line drive after line drive back up the middle.

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