Image credit: Kevin McGonigle (Courtesy USA Baseball)
All-American games are a great opportunity to focus for a day or two on a select group of the top players in the country.
At the PDP League, where 74 of Baseball America’s top 100 players in the 2023 class were on the four-team, 100-player roster, it felt like watching two All-American games every day for a full week. Hundreds of scouts packed in to the USA Baseball national training complex in Cary, N.C. for the PDP League, which included two workout days and two games daily over the other six days.
With the level of talent at PDP, we could write a report on almost everyone here, but we have those already here in our Top 100 rankings for 2023, and we’ll have more in our updated 2023 rankings that will release at the conclusion of the 2022 draft.
The focus here is on players who raised their profile at PDP, updates on the top two players in the class (outfielders Max Clark and Walker Jenkins) and others who showed a new level of talent that we hadn’t seen before, whether that’s a pitcher who made a jump with his stuff or a hitter who showed improved tools from previous looks.
Kevin McGonigle, SS, Pennsylvania
Whether you were there for the full week or just one of his games, you had to come away from PDP excited about McGonigle. It would be hard for McGonigle to raise his stock much—he’s already the No. 4 player in the 2023 class—but he did everything possible to prove he’s one of the elite hitters in the country. While even a lot of the best hitters swung and missed against some of the top pitchers in the nation, McGonigle went 7-for-15 (.467) with a double, four walks and only one strikeout. An Auburn commit, McGonigle consistently put together quality at-bats, showcasing a compact, efficient swing with an accurate barrel, with some of his outs drilled just as hard as his hits. Listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, McGonigle isn’t that big but he showed more strength and power during batting practice than he had last year with the ability to leave the yard to his pull side. McGonigle isn’t fast, but he is quick and smooth defensively with good body control and swift double play pivots at shortstop.
Walker Jenkins, OF, North Carolina
Clark is the No. 1 high school player in the 2023 class. Jenkins entered the event No. 2, and while his numbers at the event might not suggest it, he showed why he’s also a candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick next year. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Jenkins is strong, physical and athletic with some of the best raw power in the class. The cliche of the ball sounding different off his bat fits here, and it’s impact power to all fields, something he showed off on the first day of BP when he drove a ball over the fence to the opposite field. Jenkins is calm and balanced in the box, generating impressive bat speed from an easy swing. Jenkins finished PDP 3-for-12 with two doubles, no walks and five strikeouts, which might not be up to his usual lofty standards, but Jenkins typically has some of the better strike-zone judgment and bat-to-ball skills in the class. He moves around well in center field, too, with good instincts, though given his size, he might end up in a corner, where he has a chance to be an above-average defender.
Max Clark, OF, Indiana
Clark is the No. 1 player in the country. By Clark’s usual standards—he hit .577/.717/1.126 this spring and is consistently one of the top performers on the summer circuit—the PDP results probably were not what he was hoping for, as he went 3-for-16 with no extra-base hits, no walks and four strikeouts. Even when his offensive game performance wasn’t up to his usual level, his talent still was on display in a variety of ways. He showed 70 speed on the 20-80 scale, going home to first in 3.99 and 4.01 seconds from the left side. Clark is a center fielder, though at these events the outfielders rotate around all three spots, and he made a pair of impressive defensive plays in left field. On one play he showed his range by running down a ball in foul territory, tracking it well and adjusting late as the wind altered the path of the ball. On another, he broke well off the bat and again demonstrated his range, making a diving catch in the dirt in foul ground. He also showed off an arm that’s another 70 tool. At the plate, Clark displayed a compact, fluid and adjustable swing from the left side in BP. It’s a loose, relaxed swing and he consistently barreled balls in the air, driving the ball well the opposite way and to the middle of the field with home run power to his pull side. He showed little swing and miss in-game and at least a couple of his strikeouts were close calls that could have been ball four. Two of his outs also came on bunts, with another a line drive right at the second baseman. So while it wasn’t Clark’s best week statistically, there was still a lot to like from a player who should be a high first-round pick and a 1-1 candidate.
Noble Meyer, RHP, Oregon
An Oregon commit, Meyer entered PDP ranked as the No. 48 player in the 2023 class. By the end of his second outing, he made a compelling case that he could be the top pitcher in the country. Last year, Meyer was reaching 93 mph, with plenty of projection left in his lanky 6-foot-5 frame to add significant velocity once he filled out. In his first outing, Meyer ran his fastball up to 95 mph. In his second appearance, Meyer threw one inning and pumped fastballs at 96-98 mph. That’s outstanding velocity, but he also pairs it with a mid-to-upper-80s slider that flashes plus with potential for more because of its tight spin and deep sweep across the zone to miss bats. For a young, long-limbed pitcher, Meyer does a good job of syncing up his delivery to throw strikes as well, striking out six with no walks and just two hits allowed in his three scoreless innings.
Bryce Eldridge, RHP/1B, Virginia
Eldridge entered PDP ranked No. 13 overall as the top righthander in the 2023 class. He showed why he’s so highly regarded, throwing three scoreless innings with two hits allowed, one walk and six strikeouts over two outings. At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, Eldridge pitches with steep downhill plane on a fastball that was 91-95 mph and has touched 96 mph this summer. He threw strikes and mixed in both a hard curveball and slider that were both in the upper 70s to low 80s. His curveball tunneled well off his fastball with good shape and sharp bite to miss bats, with an occasional changeup as well that’s firm in the upper 80s but has good fade at times. Eldridge is ranked where he is because of his talent on the mound, but he also hit well (2-for-5 with a double, three walks and no strikeouts) and impressed defensively at first base. That athleticism is evident on the mound, too, and should be another big asset for him, especially for a pitcher his size. Eldridge is an Alabama commit.
Gavin Grahovac, INF/OF, California
If you’re looking for the best righthanded swing in the country, you can make a case for Grahovac. It’s a calm, balanced stroke with good rhythm and timing. He has a knack for driving the ball in the air, and at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he already drives the ball well with the physicality for more power to come. Grahovac has a lot of hitterish traits, though there is still some swing-and-miss against breaking pitches, but he has the upside to hit toward the top or middle of a lineup and hit well overall at PDP, going 4-for-13 with a double, a walk and two strikeouts. An average runner, Grahovac has shortstop experience but plays all over the field. Third base seems like a potential landing spot, though he could potentially play a power second base or the outfield corners (where he also spent time during the PDP), and he has catching experience as well. Grahovac is a Texas A&M commit.
Travis Sykora, RHP, Texas
We already knew Sykora had one of the best fastballs in the class. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound righthander showed that last summer and again this spring when he made another velocity jump, topping out at 101 mph. But we’ve also seen plenty of prep pitchers with high-octane fastballs and questionable command or secondary stuff go high in the draft and hit a wall even in the lower levels of the minor leagues. So while the lively 95-98 mph fastballs Sykora threw were impressive, even more encouraging was the development of his secondary stuff. Sykora doesn’t have the innate feel for spin of some other pitchers in the class, but he throws his improved slider with power and late, short break that was effective missing bats at 86-87 mph. Unlike a lot of high school pitchers, Sykora also throws a splitter, a pitch that was another effective weapon for him with tumble and should be another key pitch for him to keep hitters off his fastball. Scouts will be paying close attention over the next year to Sykora’s secondaries and command, with a promising sign already of progress from last year for the Texas commit.
Charlee Soto, RHP, Florida
When Soto pitched at the Minority Baseball Prospects All-American Game last year in October, he was a 16-year-old with a projectable frame reaching 91 mph. Since then, Soto has added seven mph, sitting at 97-98 mph in his first inning of his second outing at PDP with one fastball at 95 mph, then operating at 94-96 mph in his second inning with arm-side run up in the zone. At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Soto is still 16 until Aug. 31, meaning he’s younger than a lot of 2024 players, so it’s incredible velocity for his age with triple digits likely in his future. The uptick in velocity was already known coming into the event, but the quality of his changeup was what jumped out here. Soto flashed a plus changeup at 84-88 mph with heavy sink and fade to dive underneath barrels. He used it liberally on his final day to get empty swings from both lefties and righties, often doubling up on the pitch and even using it three times in a row for a three-pitch strikeout for his team’s final out in the championship game victory, finishing with six strikeouts and one walk in three innings split over two games. Soto’s slider is behind his changeup and will need to improve, but a 16-year-old throwing 98 mph with more to come and flashing a plus changeup already is an exciting talent. He’s the No. 22 player in the class and committed to Central Florida.
Cam Johnson, LHP, Maryland
Johnson came into the year with an up arrow, known for a powerful fastball from the left side. As he’s added strength to his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame, Johnson’s velocity has grown, to where he was sitting 91-95 mph and touching 96 mph in a July 1 outing in which he threw two scoreless innings with three strikeouts, no walks and one hit allowed. Johnson pitches heavily off his fastball that’s a lively pitch from his low three-quarters slot. Johnson’s big fastball from the left side was already known coming into the event, but the quality of his slider was a separating factor. He induced swings and misses from lefties and righties, sweeping across the zone and generating two-plane depth, with one righthanded hitter swinging over the top of it by a couple of feet. An LSU commit who will attend IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior season, Johnson entered PDP ranked No. 38 in the class and will be moving higher in our next update.
Jonny Farmelo, OF, Virginia
A Virginia commit, Farmelo was one of the most advanced offensive threats at PDP, going 4-for-11 with a walk and two strikeouts. He’s 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, tracks pitches well and has a compact lefthanded swing with an accurate barrel, catching up to 92-95 mph fastballs easily using an all-fields approach. Farmelo has a hit-first mentality at the plate, but he’s strong, drove the ball well in batting practice and should have a good mix of both on-base skills and power in an outfield corner.
Justin Leguernic, LHP, New York
LeGuernic is one of the youngest 2023 players, as he’s still 16 until October, so he could just as easily be a 2024 player. By the end of last year, LeGuernic had a fastball that reached the upper 80s, but with a ton of space to fill out his 6-foot-5 frame and a low-effort delivery that helped him fill the strike zone, there were a lot of arrows pointing up for him. At PDP, LeGuernic sat 88-92 mph and touched 93 mph several times, with the projection to be throwing in the mid 90s in the near future. He showed tight rotation and good action on a 75-81 mph slider. It was inconsistent in his second outing, but it flashed swing-and-miss properties to develop into an out pitch. He’s a Clemson commit.
Kendall George, OF, Texas
For a lefthanded hitter, getting from home to first in 3.9 seconds is an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. George showed off his 80 speed at PDP by beating out an infield single to the first baseman in 3.91 seconds. For George, that wasn’t even him going at full speed. He beat out another infield single to the first baseman in 3.84 seconds, to the second baseman twice at 3.84 and 3.77 seconds, and he nearly recorded another infield single to the first baseman when he went home to first in 3.72 seconds. On a bunt single, he got to first base in 3.58 seconds. George went 9-for-18 with two walks, two strikeouts and went 5-for-5 stealing bases, with a lot of his hits coming as weak infield grounders where his speed gave the defense no chance to get him out. At 5-foot-9, George is a high-contact hitter with minimal power, though his wheels give him a chance to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples, and his speed translates into plenty of range in center field. He’s an Arkansas commit.
Eric Bitonti, SS/1B, California
Even though Bitonti is already one of the most physical players in the 2023 class at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he’s also one of the youngest, as he’s still 16 until November. The No. 10 player for 2023 and an Oregon commit, Bitonti went 2-for-11 with a grand slam, a triple, six walks and five strikeouts. He could have had another hit, but Roman Martin robbed him with a nice diving backhand play up the third base line to take away at least a single or possibly a double. Bitonti showed off his raw power in BP that ranks among the best in the class, with a chance to develop into a 30-plus home run threat. For a young hitter with long levers, Bitonti’s swing is fairly compact. There is some swing and miss to Bitonti’s game, but he mostly kept that in check here, with two of his strikeouts coming on pitches where he seemed to know the zone better than the umpire. Since he’s 6-foot-4, Bitonti played a lot of first base, where he shows the actions and range to develop into a plus defender. He also plays shortstop, and while long term his range probably won’t keep him there, he has the hands, body control and arm strength where he could fit at third base.
Hunter Dietz, LHP, Florida
Dietz has an imposing frame at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, though it’s his pitchability that stands out among the best in the class. The South Florida commit showed that over two outings, throwing four innings with three hits allowed, with one unearned run crossing the plate, seven strikeouts and no walks. Dietz has a good track record of throwing strikes that was on display here as he pitched off a low-90s fastball that reached 94 mph. His slider at 80-84 mph had hard, three-quarters break and it was his main offspeed pitch that he used to get swing and miss from good hitters, both lefties and righties. It’s not an elite spin pitch, but Dietz used his breaking ball effectively to change speeds, showing feel for landing it in the zone to both sides of the plate and for when to bury it as a chase pitch. He mixed in an occasional firm changeup as well but had most of his success with his fastball/breaking ball combination.
Cameron Kim, 3B, California
After up-and-down performance last summer, Kim is coming off a huge junior season in which he hit .510/.544/.696 in 114 plate appearances with four home runs for Norco (Calif.) High. The hits didn’t fall for Kim at PDP, where he went 2-for-14, but he didn’t swing and miss much and still made a strong impression on both sides of the ball. He’s a well-proportioned, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds with a sound righthanded swing, and he drove the ball well to the middle of the field in batting practice. Both pregame and in-game, Kim showed quick feet, good body control, athleticism and defensive actions at third base. Kim is committed to UCLA.
Cam Kozeal, SS, Nebraska
A Vanderbilt commit, Kozeal hasn’t played as much on the bigger summer circuit events relative to other prominent players in the class. By the time PDP finished, he showed he was one of the most mature hitters at the event. He consistently put together quality at-bats, managing the strike zone well with an advanced approach and good bat-to-ball skills to go 6-for-12 with an opposite-field home run, a walk and four strikeouts. At 5-foot-11, 195 pounds with a strong lower half, Kozeal has a compact, adjustable swing with good plate coverage, barreling fastballs from some of the better pitchers in the class. Kozeal cleanly fielded the balls he got to at shortstop, though his range probably suits him best at either second or third base in pro ball. He would also be an intriguing catching conversion candidate if he wanted to go that route.
Adrian Santana, SS, Florida
Santana entered the event as a sleeper, but by the end of the workout on the first day, he was already generating more attention. Still 16, Santana is a young switch-hitter with a 5-foot-11, 155-pound frame that is still lacking strength relative to his peers, but he showed surprising power from both sides of the plate. He’s not a slugger, but he drove balls out during BP and then in-game sent a couple of balls to the warning track from the left side that didn’t land for hits. Santana’s speed and athleticism already stick out, with a chance he could take off once he gets stronger. He’s a Miami commit.
Matthew Dallas, LHP, Tennessee
At 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, Dallas is a Tennessee commit with a frame that screams projection. He pitched at 87-92 mph, but with room to add another 40-plus pounds, Dallas should eventually be sitting at least in the low 90s and likely pushing higher. He was able to get swings and misses on a low-80s changeup with good tumble that he sold well off his fastball, with a solid curveball in the low-to-mid 70s that he showed feel to spin and should play up once he’s throwing everything with more power. The usual bouts of fastball command issues that come with the territory of being a long, lanky teenage pitcher crept in at times, but there was a lot to like with the three-pitch mix and projection for Dallas.
Ariel Antigua, SS/C, Florida
Antigua’s bat is normally his calling card. His power in batting practice was impressive, as the South Carolina commit drives the ball with surprising thump to all fields for a 5-foot-8, 180-pound hitter. In games, Antigua’s performance wasn’t what it normally is, but what was encouraging about Antigua this time was how he looked behind the plate. Antigua is typically a shortstop and he did play in the middle infield at PDP, reacting well off the bat with good instincts, body control and soft hands. His range and body type might ultimately lead him to second base, but between his build and high baseball IQ, a lot of scouts will want to see him catch. Antigua doesn’t catch for his high school team, but he does have a catching background, and when he did put the catcher’s gear on in games, he didn’t look like someone who isn’t a regular catcher, and he defended his position better than some of the full-time catchers who were at PDP. As long as Antigua hits like he did throughout 2021 and during the spring, his catching potential will only make him more intriguing for a lot of clubs.
Josh Knoth, RHP, New York
Knoth walked the first two hitters he faced. Knoth typically is one of the best strike-throwers in the class—he walked just five batters all spring—but he seemed amped up for the big moment and overthrew a bit. After a mound visit, he settled in and looked more like himself, walking one batter the rest of the way in his four innings while striking out five. Still 16 and one of the younger players in the 2023 class, Knoth is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds with a simple, compact delivery to throw strikes with a fastball that parks in the low 90s and reached 94 mph. There should be more in the tank, but Knoth separates himself with his pitchability and ability to manipulate his secondary stuff. While pitchers this age who throw two breaking balls often have them blend together into one slurvy pitch, Knoth threw a hard curveball with tight spin and good shape as well as a sharp slider that he can use as a putaway pitch with tilt and two-plane depth. Knoth showed feel for a changeup as well, with a starter look and a chance for average to plus stuff across the board. He’s the No. 43 player in the class and committed to College of Charleston.
Derek Schaefer, RHP, Arizona
Schaefer has similarities to Knoth as a 16-year-old with good control of a fastball up to 94 mph and advanced feel for his offspeed stuff. And like Knoth, Schaefer seemed to be overthrowing a little bit early in his first outing, as he walked two of the first four hitters he faced. He didn’t walk anyone from there on, throwing one scoreless inning in his first game, then three more shutout innings his next outing with only one hit allowed between the two days. Schaefer pitched at 88-92 mph, with the arm speed and physical projection at a wiry 6-foot-2, 180 pounds to throw harder in the coming years. He flashed a potential plus changeup that looks like a fastball coming out of his hand but finishes at the plate with lively fade and good separation off his heater at 79-82 mph. His big-breaking curveball is another effective weapon for him, with the ability to add and subtract from it anywhere from 73-79 mph and throw it with power when needed. A Tennessee commit, Schaefer is also a good athlete who bounced off the mound to field his position well.
Alexander Clemmey, LHP, Rhode Island
Clemmey creates an uncomfortable at-bat for hitters. Part of that is because of the quality of the stuff coming out of his hand, part of it is because he doesn’t always know where the ball is going. Still 16, Clemmey is 6-foot-6, 205 pounds and pitched from the stretch only with a high-effort delivery. In 3.2 innings, Clemmey walked four and hit another batter, throwing 52% strikes. But of the other 13 hitters he faced, Clemmey struck out nine. He did it with two powerful pitches, starting with a fastball that sat 93-96 mph and reached 97, a spike from where his velocity was last summer and this spring. Clemmey paired his fastball with a 78-82 mph curveball that has three-quarters shape and was inconsistent but flashed sharp bite and tight rotation to miss bats. He’s a Vanderbilt commit.
Colt Emerson, SS, Ohio
While a lot of the top hitters at the event struggled at PDP, Emerson hit .462/.588/.769, going 6-for-13 with a pair of triples, two walks, four strikeouts and two hit by pitches. At 6 feet, 185 pounds, Emerson is still 16 and one of the younger players in the class, but he’s also one of the most advanced hitters for 2023. He has a compact lefthanded swing with good bat control, showing good plate coverage to use the whole field and connect with both fastballs and offspeed stuff. It’s a hit-over-power offensive game, though he is starting to show signs of more power developing. An Auburn commit, Emerson is an average runner who plays shortstop but might fit best long term at second base.
Riley Jackson, C, Florida
The No. 65 player for 2023 and a Florida State commit, Jackson is an offensive-oriented catcher who showed off his power on the first day, launching a fastball for a home run over the left-field fence. Jackson also showed improved conditioning from last summer and used a strong arm to alertly back-pick a runner at second base who was drifting too far from the bag.