East Coast Pro Day 1: Top Players From Each Team
HOOVER, Ala.—The annual East Coast Pro showcase kicked off Wednesday morning at the Hoover Met Complex just outside of Birmingham, Ala. The event—completely run by major league scouts—kicks off a two-week stretch that is vital for teams to get looks at some of the top high school players in the 2019 draft class.
Following East Coast Pro, teams will have many evaluators head out to Long Beach, Calif., for the Area Code Games at Blair Field and then drive south to San Diego for Perfect Game’s All-American Classic. These three events (along with the Under Armour All-America Game, which was played on July 20 in Chicago) make up some of the most important summer looks for the prep class and go a long way in forming the prospect status of the entire country.
Last year at the ECP, Georgia righthander Ethan Hankins put on the most impressive pitching display of a loaded 2018 class of arms and vaulted to the top of the prep class, before eventually dealing with an injury during the spring of his senior year. Scouts undoubtedly are looking for more performances like Hankins’ a year ago, and while day one didn’t bring quite that noise, there were a few standout players, including a four-inning outing by righthander who’s making his case for the top 2019 prep arm.
Below you can find breakdowns of the most impressive player from each team: Blue Jays, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Red Sox and Royals.
Tyler Owens | RHP | Trinity Catholic HS, Ocala, Fla.
Owens isn’t an imposing righthander on the mound by any means, standing a small 5-foot-10, 185-pounds on the rubber, but he worked two impressive innings against the Royals in the second game of the day. The Gator commit worked a 1-2-3 first inning with a pair of strikeouts and five swings and misses—two against his fastball and three against his curveball—in the frame.
The Northern Florida righty sat 92-94 mph with his heater in the first inning and dropped down to 88-92 in the second inning, though he did touch another 94 mph in that frame as well, with little movement on the pitch. His curveball was particularly impressive, in the 76-80 mph range with good spin and depth, though it backed up on at least one occasion when he threw the breaking ball to his arm side. In addition to his fastball-curveball combination, Owens dropped in a couple 81 mph changeups that showed slight fading action, but it was a distant third pitch.
He threw with a three-quarter slot from the first base side of the rubber, with slight crossfire in his landing to the plate with good arm speed.
Final Line: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 K, 1 BB on 30 pitches (66.7 percent strikes)
Jonathan Cannon | RHP | Centennial HS, Roswell, Ga.
Cannon got the ball to start the game for the Brewers in the first game of the day, and threw three, no-hit, shutout innings while striking out four batters. A tall, 6-foot-5, 200-pound righthander, Cannon pitched off of a fastball that sat in the 87-90 mph range throughout his outing, occasionally touching 91, with both cutting action to the glove side and running action to his arm side. It wasn’t an overpowering fastball, but his control of the pitch and the movement allowed him to throw three straight 1-2-3 frames with the help of his secondaries.
Cannon threw a 79-82 mph slider as well, with fairly tight spin and 9-to-3 shape that generated one swing and miss—a strikeout of Mississippi catcher Hayden Dunhurst. Perhaps his most impressive individual offering, though, was a low-80s changeup that he used to generate a pair of whiffs, both of which resulted in strikeouts. It has some tumbling, fading action in the 81-83 mph range and Cannon showed advanced feel to locate the offering with mostly impressive arm speed as well.
A slight crossfire delivery might allow that pitch—as well as his others—to play up, and Cannon also pitches out of an overhead windup with a three-quarter arm slot and short arm action. He showed a willingness and ability to pitch inside and outside with his fastball.
Final Line: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 4 K, 0 BB on 33 pitches (72.7 percent strikes)
Brennan Malone | RHP | IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Committed: North Carolina
The most impressive arm of the day as far as pure stuff and future major league potential is concerned belonged to Malone, who has been steadily making his case as the top pitcher in the prep class this summer with consistently strong outings in big events.
Starting the final game of the day against the Red Sox, Malone opened up with a 96 mph fastball and sat in the 94-96 mph range in the first, touching as high as 97 mph. The pitch showed its usual heavy life, with occasional running action and generated nine total swings and misses, dipping down to 89-92 in his fourth inning of work.
While the fastball was impressive, scouts were impressed with the step that Malone’s breaking ball took on this evening. After looking below-average at best in previous outings—including in the Under Armour All-America Game last month when he hung a slider to Riley Greene, who homered off of the pitch—Malone flashed a sharp, late-breaking slider Wednesday afternoon in the 80-83 mph range. The pitch had two-plane break at times and created whiffs in each of Malone’s first three innings of work. In addition to the slider, Malone also threw a slower curveball with 11-to-5 shape that wasn’t quite as sharp and broke earlier on the path to the plate. The curve sat in the 76-78 mph range, with the Tar Heel commit struggling to regularly get on top of the offering.
Malone unraveled a bit with his control and command in his final inning, when his velocity dipped as well, and much of his stat line damage came in this frame. Malone occasionally loses the release point of his fastball, more often than not when he lands off-balance to the plate with his body falling more towards first base than usual, but he showed the ability to make adjustments and correct in-game when this happened.
Final Line: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 6 K, 2 BB on 75 pitches (58.7 percent strikes)
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Jerrion Ealy | OF | Jackson (Miss.) Prep HS
On a day where pitchers outperformed hitters across the board—there were 21 hits to 58 strikeouts in three games—Ealy stood out for both his offensive and defensive ability in a 3-0 win over the Brewers in the first game of the day.
Also a prominent football prospect, Ealy packs a lot of strength into his muscular, 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame and has frequently made loud contact throughout this summer, both in games and batting practice. After lining out to first base against a 90 mph fastball in his first at-bat, Ealy showed his extra-base ability in his second at-bat, hammering an 88 mph fastball to deep left field in a 1-0 count. Ealy burned the Brewers’ left fielder with ease and one-hopped the wall, coasting into second base for an easy stand-up double that was likely the most impressive hit of the day.
In the outfield, Ealy wasn’t particularly challenged, but that’s largely in part of the impressive jumps he took on fly balls both in center and right field. He didn’t have a chance to show off his plus arm strength, but he displayed polished defensive instincts and route-running ability.
Jack Leiter | RHP | Delbarton HS, Morristown, N.J.
Leiter matched up with Malone in the final game of the day, which his Red Sox won, 4-2, and while his stuff wasn’t as impressive as the North Carolina commit’s, his result were better.
The Vanderbilt commit—who is also a standout student with a 32 ACT—struck out five batters over three innings of work, showing a mix of four pitches that included an 89-92 mph fastball with gloveside cutting action. He also threw a 75-78 mph curveball, 80-82 mph slider and a changeup in the 80-84 mph range.
Of the offspeed offerings, Leiter’s curve is easily the best and is likely to be one of the better breaking balls in the 2019 class, with tremendous depth and 12-to-6 shape. He’s able to spot the hammer breaking ball at times, but it’s frequently better when he lets the pitch fall out of the bottom of the zone and into the dirt for swings and misses—of which the pitch generated three.
Leiter’s slider is harder and has more horizontal break than top-to-bottom, and it isn’t quite the swing and miss pitch, though it is a respectable offering to keep hitters off-balance. Leiter still has some work to do with his changeup, which he spiked in the dirt a few times and is mostly straight.
While Leiter did walk three batters—one per inning—he wasn’t so much wild as he was just missing around the edges of the zone. His fastball control can come and go at times within the outing as his direction to the plate also comes and goes, with his land foot tending to get closed off at times and in-line to the plate at others. That should be an easy mechanical fix down the line and when he’s synced up he’s shown a good idea of where his fastball is going. Leiter pitches from the first base side of the rubber with a three-quarter arm slot, short arm action and occasionally falls off to the first-base side in his finish.
Final Line: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 5 K, 3 BB on 55 pitches (58.2 percent strikes)
Chris Mokma | RHP | Holland (Mich.) Christian HS
Committed: Michigan State
One of three interesting Royals arms—in addition to Ohio righthander Mack Anglin and Tennessee lefthander Hayden Mullins—to throw Wednesday, Mokma struck out three batters and didn’t allow an earned run over 1.2 innings of work.
Committed to Michigan State, Mokma generated seven swings and misses with a fastball in the 89-92 mph range and also got multiple whiffs on a 77-78 mph changeup that has great fading, tumbling life. The 6-foot-4 righty also showed some promise with a 73-75 mph curveball that showed solid depth and three-quarter shape, but it got loopy and times and also breaks early at the moment.
With a quick arm out of a low, three-quarter slot with slight crossfire in his delivery, Momka will be an interesting arm to keep an eye on as the draft cycle progresses.
Final Line: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 3 K, 1 BB on 29 pitches (69 percent strikes)
- Brewers SS CJ Abrams (Ga.) looked uncharacteristically non-smooth at shortstop Wednesday. Usually a sure-handed defensive player, Abrams bobbled a routine ground ball in early in the first game but recovered in time to make the out at first base. The ensuing at-bat featured a slow-roller that Abrams wasn’t able to field cleanly as well, this time with the runner reaching first base. Offensively, the highly-touted speedster went 0-for-3 but continues to post top-notch home-to-first times, with a 4.00-second trip down the line clocked by Baseball America on a groundout to second base. Abrams is currently ranked as the No. 2 high school player in the 2019 class and committed to Alabama.
- While the Brewers didn’t manage a hit in their first game, Myles Austin (Ga.) and Jonathan French (Ga.) hit the ball hard in separate at-bats, the former with a loud groundout to shortstop and the latter with a well-struck fly ball to deep center field. French, in particular, had a good round of batting practice earlier in the day, pulling a home run to left field and routinely hitting deep, long line drives to left, center and right field. Austin is committed to Alabama. French is committed to Clemson.
- 6-foot, 190-pound backstop Ryan Dyal (Ga.) showed off the arm behind the plate, throwing out two would-be base stealers at second base. In batting practice, Dyal didn’t use much of his lower half to generate power, but showed quick hands and sprayed hard, low line drives and ground balls. Dyal is an Auburn commit.
- Marlins OF James Beard (Miss.) only logged one at-bat Wednesday, but he was used as a pinch runner to great affect and has obvious, game-changing speed on the basepaths. Beard was one of the few runners who didn’t have much of an issue stealing against Dyal and he stole second base twice (one on a delayed steal) and third base once as well. Beard’s batting practice was solid as well, with good bat speed and a solid bat path with consistent contact. He’ll be one to keep an eye on throughout the week as he gets more trips to the plate and defensive opportunities. Beard is currently uncommitted.
- Puerto Rican players continue to make noise at big events this summer, and Wednesday it was SS Matthew Lugo who impressed with a loud triple to left field against a low-90s fastball from Ohio RHP Mack Anglin. Luge pulled a line drive off the left field wall that was a few feet shy of going over the fence for a home run and could have settled for a double, but instead turned the play into a hustle triple with an aggressive turn around second base. The 2018 Puerto Rican class was a bit down; perhaps that changes in 2019. Lugo is a Miami commit.
- Maryland infielder Jose Torres flashed the leather at shortstop for the Diamondbacks Wednesday. He had one impressive forehand play ranging to his left up the middle, where he reacted quickly to a late, hop from the baseball, fielded it cleanly and then spun, re-set his feet and fired a strike to first base. His footwork looked smooth on the play and the sureness of his hands was evident. He also gloved a ball deep in the hole to his right with ease, on his backhand but was pulled too far from first to make the play. Scouts will continue to bear down on Torres and try to get a better feel for his arm strength, but he has some interesting defensive ability. He also doubled to left field against an 88 mph fastball in his last at-bat, showing some quick-twitch in the batter’s box as well. Torres is committed to North Carolina State.