Victor Mederos Wins MVP At 2019 Under Armour All-America Game
CHICAGO — When Victor Mederos toed the rubber, he felt calm.
In the middle of Wrigley Field, with hundreds of fans watching him and the best hitters in the country facing him and dozens of scouts sitting behind home plate analyzing his every move—he felt perfectly within himself. It was like he had been here before.
A year ago, Mederos was one of two underclassmen at the 2018 Under Armour All-America Game, and now he admits that the nerves got to him then. Now, returning to the event for the second year (along with Southern California righthander Jared Jones), Mederos felt perfectly in his own element.
"I was loose,” said Mederos, who attends Monsignor Pace High in Miami. "I felt like last year, I was a little nervous. My hat was flying, everything was all over the place, so I tried to stay within myself this year and just act like an older man and just go up there and throw strikes. If hitters hit it then congrats to them.”
In his one inning at the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game, Mederos faced three hitters. Each one walked back to the dugout he came from with a strikeout after flailing at Mederos’ now-polished four-pitch mix. For his efforts on the National Team, which topped the American squad, 4-3, Mederos was named the game’s MVP.
"First of all, he’s a great young man,” said Steve Bernhardt, Baseball Factory’s Chief Baseball Officer. "Great personality, smiling all the time, fun . . . so it makes you even happier when he has success on the field.
"And he went out today and really was dominant with a four-pitch mix . . . When guys come back a second year there’s a comfort level and what comes with that is a little bit more confidence, a little bit of a leadership role that he took on and I think that carried over to the mound. He just went out there comfortable and thinking, ‘I’m going to beat you,’ to each hitter. And he did that today.”
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound righthander mixed pitches well and worked with a 92-94 mph fastball, a mid-80s changeup, slider and curveball. He landed both of his breaking balls well, and while the two pitches can blend together at times, his slider has sweepy shape in the 80-82 mph range and his curveball varied between three-quarter and 11-to-5 break with bigger depth. Mederos finished two of his strikeouts with sliders that left batters frozen and finished his third by getting a whiff on an 85 mph changeup.
Mederos has two variations of his changeup—one a four-seam grip and one a two-seam grip. He varies the type depending on the fastball that he’s shown a hitter previously during an at-bat.
“I hit in high school,” Mederos said. “I’m not the best high school hitter, but I see pitches. So what I see a lot is that it’s a lot of repetitive stuff. There’s always a rhythm, and (as a pitcher) you always want to break the rhythm to keep the hitter off balance, right? So on a two-seam fastball the ball kind of gets on you a little bit and the two-seam changeup, it’s the same spin as a two-seam fastball, it’s just dropping. So you have to be a very good hitter to stay back on that and drive it somewhere. I understand if you get a little blooper or something, but for you to stay back and drive it, I’ll tip my hat to you.
“I feel like my control has gotten way better (since a year ago). I have a lot of command for most of my pitches now. In high school, I am throwing curveballs in 3-2 counts because that’s the type of person I am. I’m not scared. I’m competitive, and if you can beat me on my best pitch then I’ll tip my hat to you. But I’m always going to come at you with the best pitch I can.”
On the other side of the battery, The Woodlands (Texas) High catcher Drew Romo impressed as well, though he was handling the American Team’s staff and didn’t work with Mederos. But he would likely have no problem doing so if he needed too.
"I’ve played with all these guys so many times,” Romo said. "I pretty much know every pitcher and every hitter as well . . . It’s really fun catching all of these guys. Each guy is different, so you just have to make sure you know what the game plan is. Each guy is really good, so it’s really interesting to see what they’ve got and just to see if they execute out there on the field. It’s fun to be helping them out there on the mound.
"I think it’s a lot more managing than people realize. I think I am kind of pitching the game as well because I’m executing the game plan with each guy, we’re going through it together. I know the hitters’ strengths and weaknesses.”
While Romo will always be known first and foremost for his defensive effort behind the plate—he showed why by throwing out Zac Veen trying to steal third base—he also went 2-for-2 with a single and double, tallying hits as both a righthanded and lefthanded hitter.
During his first at-bat against righthander Jared Kelley (Texas), Romo hit a ground ball through the 4-3 hole against a 79 mph slider. In his second trip to the plate, he took a 94 mph fastball from lefthander Nate Savino (Virginia) the other way and doubled down the right field line.
"I had two strikes in both at-bats,” Romo said. "My first at-bat, (Kelley) had thrown me all fastballs and changeups and I knew the slider was going to come eventually and that’s the one that I hit for a single. (Savino), I was down 0-2, I didn’t know what he was going to throw, I was just trying to be on time for his fastball and he threw it away and I just went with it opposite field.”
Puerto Rican shortstop Steven Ondina also stood out in the game, though he went hitless with a strikeout, a hit by pitch and a walk.
Ondina’s strength is his defensive ability, and he showed a knack for making difficult plays up the middle at both shortstop and second base. One of the game’s most impressive plays came in the eighth inning, when Alabama outfielder Robby Ashford—who himself had a terrific diving catch in center field—hit a ground ball in between second and first.
Ondina got a quick jump off the bat and ranged to his left before diving, gloving the grounder and immediately popping up to his knees, where he made an easy toss to first base from the shallow right field grass to get Ashford with time to spare. The 5-foot-8, 156-pound Florida International commit has some of the best instincts in the class and the tools to match, giving him tantalizing defensive upside.
"I’m a big fan,” Bernhardt said of the infielder. "His defense, he plays low, he plays quick, he plays with confidence . . . He didn’t necessarily have to show the arm today, but it’s a plus arm also with a quick release. We see those sometime in a workout, but (doing it in-game) gave me an idea today that there’s a little bit of anticipation. He gets good jumps on stuff. A quick first step. He lays out and timed it perfectly, gets up quick and makes the out. A pretty good internal clock as well.”
Ondina is also a pesky baserunner and his quick first-step on the defensive side of the ball translates to the basepaths, where he’s an above-average runner and consistently looks to steal a bag whenever he reaches.
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With no home runs in the game, it was a more pitching and defense heavy Under Armour Game than a year ago—when both Bobby Witt Jr. and Riley Greene homered in the event—but it gave a number of players a chance to show their talent, and they acquitted themselves nicely.
"When you bring these 40 guys in, you want them all to do well,” Bernhardt said. "But you understand in the game of baseball for somebody to hit a rocket somewhere the pitcher has to give it up and for a pitcher to have great stuff and strike guys out the hitters have to fail a little bit. But that’s just the nature of the game.
"It was a nice balance of some impressive defense—a few more highlight plays than we’ve had in year’s past. I guess it was kind of expected but no home runs because of the wind howling in. But still some well-hit balls, a couple extra-base hits. The pitching, in some cases, was pretty dominant.”
Thirty-three of the 54 outs in the game came via the strikeout, but there were a few impressive offensive performances to be found, in addition to Romo’s 2-for-2 showing.
— Infielder Blaze Jordan (Mississippi) went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles, but he made loud contact in four of his five trips to the plate. Jordan reached on an error during his first at-bat (a high fly ball to center field), but found the barrel in each of his ensuing trips to the plate. He drove a 76 mph slider straight to center field during his second trip to the plate, turned around a 92 mph fastball down in the zone during his third at-bat and singled in his fourth at-bat after keeping his hands back and driving through a 78 mph curveball for another ground ball single past third base.
Jordan’s hands work exceptionally well, and despite being the youngest player at the event, he made the best contact during the game. Jordan made the last out of the game, but it was a screaming line drive straight to third base that turned into a 5-3 double play.
— Catcher Daniel Susac (California) made it to the finals of the home run derby prior to the All-America Game, and he went 1-for-2 with a single and a walk during the showcase. Susac’s single came against a 77 mph curveball from righthander Max Rajcic (California), which he lined into left field.
— Outfielder Zac Veen (Florida) was one of the most talked-about names among scouts during the weekend, thanks to his impressive hitting display in Sunday's workout and his five-tool potential. He hit one of the furthest balls in the home run derby, and during his first at-bat in the All-America Game, Veen went inside-out against a 95 mph heater from Jared Jones for a solid single through the left side of the infield. Veen showed good running ability on the bases—swiping second against Jones and Romo immediately after singling—and also covered ground and tracked balls well in center field.
"Veen’s name came up a lot,” Bernhardt said. "Not just for the production, but the way he goes about it. It’s a pretty simple, easy lefthanded swing, and I think he showed a little more power maybe than some people realized here. I think he was one of the guys who stood out.”
— Infielder Coby Mayo went 1-for-3 with a single and a pair of strikeouts, but his single during his first at-bat was scorched—a hard-hit line drive up the middle against a slider from Jones. Mayo is a physical righthander listed at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, and he uses an unusual setup at the plate with his weight shifted back significantly, but he has some real impact potential from the right side.
— Outfielder Jace Bohrofen (Oklahoma) struck out three times in four at-bats, but he was also responsible for the loudest hit of the day. In the seventh inning against 2021 righthander Christian Little (Missouri), Bohrofen took advantage of an 81 mph changeup that was left over the plate and smashed a deep fly ball to center field that would have gone for a triple, but the ball bounced over the fence after he had already rounded second base, forcing him to settle for a ground-rule double. Bohrofen was one of the few players at the Under Armour All-America Game who is still uncommitted.