TAMPA—While the scorching summer sun beat down on George Steinbrenner Field throughout the second day of this year’s East Coast Pro Showcase, it was the heat on the mound that will be remembered. Numerous pitchers showed flashes of quality stuff and/or traits associated with starting pitching prospects.
Game One: Orioles (Georgia and North Florida) 5, Royals (Midwest) 5
Royals righthander Mason Hickman (Pope John Paul High, Hendersonville, Tenn.) showed promising stuff and pitchability. Hickman generated late sinking action on his fastball and his fastball crossed through the zone with angle, coming downhill from his 6-foot-6 frame. He also showed the ability to manipulate a breaking ball, showing hard bite on the slurvy pitch and mixing up its velocity, throwing as low as 77 mph and as high as 84. His fastball worked at 89-91 in the first before settling in at 88-89 in the third.
Hickman’s arm action starts with a stabbing motion in the back, but is fluid through release and his arm decelerates well, with minimal recoil despite an across-body finish. He has an athletic lower half, with a quick leg lift and a strong, balanced back side, as well as a repeatable online landing. Hickman’s breaking ball was extremely deceptive at times; he threw it from the same arm slot with what appeared to be an identical arm action to that of his fastball. Hickman is committed to Vanderbilt.
Facing Hickman was 2018 righthander Ethan Hankins (Forsyth Central High, Cumming, Ga.). As an extremely athletic and projectable righthander with present velocity and command, Hankins has a very high ceiling. He showed fastball movement and the ability to navigate the strike zone well.
One intriguing position player prospect was Orioles shortstop Oscar Serratos (Grayson High, Loganville, Ga.). Serratos, who ripped tons of line drives in batting practice on day one, struck out twice but hit a hard line drive up the middle in his second plate appearance. Serratos is extremely young for the 2017 draft class; he doesn’t turn 17 until September.
Mark Vientos (American Heritage High, Plantation, Fla.) also made hard contact in two of his three at-bats. Vientos has arguably the best combination of bat speed and physicality of any hitter at this event. He jumped on upper-80s, first-pitch fastballs for both of his well-hit balls on Tuesday.
Game Two: Rangers 9, Rays 5
Rangers righthander Nick Storz (Poly Prep Country Day, New York) continues to establish himself as one of the top pitching prospects in this year’s draft class. The righthander faced 12 batters on Tuesday, and got them all out. He struck out four (two looking, two swinging), induced three ground ball outs and generated five flyouts, only one of which could definitively be classified as a line drive. (Puerto Rican catcher Jonathan Nieves lined out to third.)
Storz, well rested, showed his best velocity of the summer, scraping 95 mph in his first inning before settling in at 90-93. Storz has a physical, built-to-last body, and every good-body cliché can be applied to his, with wide shoulders, a barrel chest and thunderous thighs. His arm action is relatively short, with a less-than-full arm circle that allowed him to consistently find his three-quarter arm slot on Tuesday. Storz also showed the potential for a wipeout breaking ball, often thrown from the same release point as his fastball. At 76-81, the pitch was more firm than it was during Baseball America’s most recent look at Storz (on July 16), when it worked at 73-77. Storz’s slider flashed plus, taking a left turn late and showed plus spin at its best. Storz’s combination of physicality, stuff and improved pitchability gives him a chance to develop into a starting pitcher at the next level. Evaluators should also have extensive track record with Storz, a high school teammate of Stanford recruit and 2016 draft prospect Daniel Bakst.
The Rangers also have a strong crop of prospects around the diamond. Third baseman Nick Egnatuk (Immaculata High, Somerville, N.J.) has burst onto the national scene with authority in recent weeks. Nicknamed “Eggy” by scouts, the Pittsburgh commit went 4-for-4 with a triple, three singles and a walk. (His fourth hit could have conceivably been scored as an error.) Egnatuk has an outstanding swing, with his hips driving forward before his hands get moving, giving him excellent torque from both axes and allow him to generate plus bat speed. He’s impacted the ball with authority, both in batting practice and in game action. He has also shown a strong arm at third base.
Game Three: Indians (Mid-Atlantic) 3, Marlins (Deep South) 2
Righthander Blayne Enlow (St. Amant (La.) High) got the start for the Marlins and showed excellent stuff over three innings of work. Enlow pitched at 92-93 in his first inning of work before settling in at 89-92. His fastball flashed late sinking action and he showed the ability to locate it down and to either side of the strike zone. Despite his projectable fastball, Enlow’s best pitch may be his breaking ball, and it may be one of the best in this year’s prep class. The pitch showed 11-to-5 shape and late break. At times it had hard snapping action, and at other times it showed no clear breaking point, making it extremely difficult for hitters to recognize out of his hand.
Following Enlow, lefthander Jacob Heatherly (Cullman (Ala.) High) showed some of the highest upside of any pitcher in this year’s class. He has a compact and clean arm action, and outstanding athleticism to go with a wide-shouldered, full-bodied frame. Heatherly pitched at 92-93 and touched 94 multiple times in his first inning of work, and the pitch also flashed sinking action down in the strike zone. He pitched at 91-93 in his second inning, and 89-91 in his third. Heatherly’s best secondary offering was his curveball, which progressed as he went along. Early on it was slow out of his hand, then picked up late 1-to-7 break and showed average spin. Later on, however, the pitch flashed plus spin multiple times. He used it primarly inside to righthanded hitters, but once located it away from a righthander. When he located his curveball to his arm-side, it looped sideways out of his hand before breaking back towards the outside black. Heatherly also mixed in a changeup, which appeared to be in its nascent stages. He buried the pitch low the first few times he threw it, but the last one he threw he was able to locate down in the zone and over the plate for a called second strike, setting up an elevated fastball that induced a swinging third strike.
Infielder Tanner Morris (The Miller School, Charlottesville, Va.) stood out at the plate for the Indians on Tuesday, squaring up Enlow twice. He went 3-for-4 with a walk, a double and two singles, showing natural line drive ability and covering the plate well.
Indians center fielder Kier Meredith (Glenn High, Kernersville, N.C.) made two excellent plays in center field, making quick reactions and running efficient routes. Meredith is an impact runner, gifted with plus-plus raw speed. He went 0-for-4 in the game and hit three ground balls in play. His home-to-first run times (as recorded by Baseball America) were 4.00, 4.07 and 4.04. On a third play in the outfield, Meredith did take a bit of an oblong route, but his raw quickness allowed him to make the play regardless.
• Rangers outfielder Quentin Holmes (Monsignor McClancy Memorial High, East Elmhurst, N.Y.) was injured on a play at first base, but told Baseball America that he only sustained a few scratches and that he expects to play on Wednesday.
• Puerto Rican outfielder Heliot Ramos, the star of the Under Armour All-America Game, is not in attendance due to a family health emergency.
• Indians 2018 catcher Adam Hackenberg (Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy) is the younger brother of New York Jets rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg.