Names to dream on between now and next June
As the summer winds down, so does the high school showcase circuit. This Sunday was the Perfect Game All-American Classic, one of the big annual showcases. I listed some names to watch in a previous article; here are some players who stood out in Sunday’s game. If you’d like to watch the game for yourself, it will be available on Perfect Game’s YouTube channel soon to view for free, and there will also be a “quick play” cut released at some point. I’ll update the story with links and video once those things are available, but for now, here’s a quick reaction on who stood out:
Drew Bowser, SS, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA)
Bowser had the biggest PG Classic, winning the HR derby, being named MVP of the game, and raising the most money for Rady Children’s Hospital (could this be related to the fact that his godmother is Holly Robinson Peete? Who knows). He had a smart AB against Victor Mederos, waiting for a breaking ball and crushing it when he got it, narrowly missing a HR. Bowser has a short, quick, efficient swing that’s powerful but can also spray line drives all over the field. Bowser is listed as a SS/3B, but FanGraphs says he has a 1B body type; they have him listed at 177 on their board, while Baseball America, who updates their list more often, has him 17th on their list of Top 50 Prep Prospects. Bowser has had a strong enough showcase season that he should rise up draft boards with a strong senior season, especially if he can establish himself positionally.
Jordan Walker, 3B, Decatur HS (GA)
Walker is already 6’4” (or taller) but is athletic and agile at the hot corner. He went 2-for-3 on the day with two singles and a walk and showed off some good contact skills with a nice two-strike approach. There’s intriguing power potential in the bat, too; he made the final four in the HR derby, and his singles were hard-hit. Walker is one of the youngest players in this class, but doesn’t look overmatched by older pitchers thanks to a high baseball IQ (and high regular IQ; he’s an honor student in Georgia and a Duke commit).
Jordan Walker (2020 GA) used his whippy swing to launch balls all over the yard. Long limbs that work well together and plenty of barrel control to make it show up in games #PGAAC pic.twitter.com/T1Oa0U89jz— Jered (@JeredGoodwin3) August 10, 2019
Ed Howard, SS, Mt. Carmel HS (IL)
Howard has been gaining momentum over the summer showcase circuit and he showed why, singling and demonstrating explosive speed on a stolen base off the top receiver in the class, Drew Romo. Howard, who says his nickname is “Silk,” is an elegant, rangy defender at short; he’s now flashing some offensive line-drive power to go with his plus defense.
Pete Crow-Armstrong, Harvard-Westlake (CA)
The word “cool” gets thrown around a lot with PCA, and it’s an apt descriptor. Maybe it’s growing up with famous parents or maybe it’s being on the showcase circuit for years, but PCA’s composed, calm demeanor stood out at an event full of buzzing nerves. He was one hitter who clearly arrived at the plate with a plan, hunting fastballs, laying off close pitches, and making tons of contact. He shined in the field, as well, with a running catch that he made look very easy.
Mario Zabala, International Baseball Academy (PR)
Zabala is only listed at 6’2”, but he looks much bigger than that, with broad, powerful shoulders. He’s also a plus-plus runner, which has drawn him Raul Mondesi comparisons. I see more shades of the Mariners’ own Julio Rodriguez, not only in the power-speed combo, but also in “Super Mario”’s infectious smile and obvious love for the sport of baseball. Zabala’s speed made an impact in this game: he walked, then stole second, then third, then took home on an overthrow to score the first run of the game. Watch to the end to see the smile:
Working on a little recap of the Perfect Game showcase yesterday. A player I fell in love with: Mario Zabala, an OF out of PR. Enormous kid but blazing fast, radiates love for baseball. I get some Julioooooo-esque vibes from him: https://t.co/0wmLRZFb2D— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) August 12, 2019
Drew Romo, The Woodlands (TX)
Romo is regarded as the best defensive catcher in the prep class—he won best defender at the showcase—and the accolades are well-deserved. He has soft, strong hands and is an excellent receiver and framer, even dealing with plus-plus velocity and occasionally wayward command. He has excellent instincts and can anticipate the path of the ball and where he needs to locate his body to block pitches, and he’s able to keep his center of gravity low enough that he has explosive lateral movement, snagging balls that seem destined for the backstop. He didn’t get to show off his arm a lot and the one throw he did make sailed high (Ed Howard had the base stolen easily anyway, going off the pitcher), but there’s plenty of arm strength and his pop times are elite. At the dish, Romo, a switch-hitter (#SwitchHittingCatcher alert) is capable of putting up a tough at-bat, and he had one of the hardest-hit balls on the day, even though it went for an out:
Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit HS (OR)
Local kid McLean “Mick” Abel got the start for the West squad after winning Best Pitcher at the PG Showcase Awards. He came out throwing 96-97 but wasn’t able to locate it, throwing wildly and hitting a batter. Abel’s fastball gets a lot of armside run, but it was running right on up and out of the right-handed batter’s box. Abel took a few mph off the pitch, dropping down to 91-93, and was able to get Dylan Crews to strike out swinging. Even at the lower velocity, the pitch is still effective thanks to plus spin and late tailing action. Abel also showcased some strong secondary pitches, including a late-biting slider and a changeup.
2020 RHP Mick Abel (OR) settled in nicely, sat 92-94 mph with FB & opened with 97 mph on 1st pitch. Brought out a CH @ 85 mph we didn’t see at National, SL still biting late, up to 87 mph. pic.twitter.com/WVZbJuvd9d— Jheremy Brown (@JBrownPG) August 12, 2019
Nate Savino, LHP, Potomac Falls HS (VA)
Savino is the pitcher who rose the most up my personal draft board after this game. The standout pitch is a sweeping slider that starts out looking like it’s going to peg a lefty batter on the hip and ends up in the right-handed batter’s box. And after he shows the slider, Savino can easily spot up a 95 mph fastball right on the outside edge. He also showed a changeup with some late fade. Savino is also a hard worker who embraces critique and would be a good fit for the Mariners’ analytically-focused organization.
The slider proved to be a real swing & miss pitch for 2020 LHP Nate Savino (VA) as seen here. Late sweeping life from mimicked slot up to 79 mph, played off 92-94/95 mph FB well & showed short sink to it. #UVA commit. pic.twitter.com/L9XP6RuT3S— Jheremy Brown (@JBrownPG) August 12, 2019
Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio HS (TX)
While other arms jumped out and surprised me, Kelley holds steady as my favorite arm in this draft class. He was the hardest thrower of the day, hitting 98-99, but it’s more than fastball velocity with Kelley. His mechanics are clean and fluid, and he repeats them consistently; despite the big velo, it looks almost effortless. Savino had the nastiest breaking stuff on the day, but Kelley’s wicked Bugs Bunny “slurve” might come in second. He also showed good mound presence and composure, and some nice quick feet on a pickoff move where he nailed a runner. His lone mistake was leaving a changeup high for a single.
Daxton Fulton, LHP, Mustang HS (OK)
Dax is 6’6”, all arms and legs, and a very uncomfortable at-bat for hitters, working out of a 3⁄4 slot with sharp downhill plane. That allows his fastball, which doesn’t have elite velocity (90-93), to play up, and he pairs it with a very nasty pair of breaking balls, including a curveball and a harsh-breaking slider that doesn’t sweep across the plate so much as it dive-bombs it. (I have “nasty BB” written in my notes next to his name about fifteen times.)
Alejandro Rosario, RHP, Miami Christian (FL)
Rosario re-classified to be part of this draft class, and is holding his own with the rest of the elite arms. He’s not the tallest (6’1”), but he throws hard (consistently 94-97) with a quick arm and a lower slot that’s tricky for batters and creates nice movement on his pitches. In addition to the big fastball, Rosario throws a cutter that checks in around 85-87, and a complement of breaking pitches, including a late-breaking slider, and, per FanGraphs, a forkball (although he didn’t pull that one out of his bag of tricks at this game).
Pretty electric FB here from 2020 RHP Alejandro Rosario (FL), sitting a steady 94-97 mph with late sinking life. Fast arm, athletic build, mixed in a short SL up to 85 mph. #Miami commit. pic.twitter.com/8yYZjJ4X4U— Jheremy Brown (@JBrownPG) August 12, 2019
Assorted other notes:
OF Austin Hendrick (PA) is reported to have some of the best raw power in the class, and looking at him, it’s not hard to see why; his thighs are the size of Christmas hams. He swings hard, he hits the ball hard, and he has very quick hands. OF Chase Davis has a 70-grade arm and showed it off on a powerful throw from the outfield. 3B Cayden Wallace came in second to Bowser at the HR Derby and showcased a nice swing that stays on plane for an extended amount of time and ends with a big uppercut. He also swiped a bag, showing off some good speed despite being built to Kyle Seager specs. RHP Alex Santos doesn’t have the biggest stuff in the class but he showed some of the best command, with late movement on his sinking fastball, plus spin, and a swing-and-miss changeup. RHP Ryan Hagenow wasn’t able to participate in the event because of a ridiculous Tennessee high school sports rule that a player can’t participate in an All-Star Game after school starts—and an even more ridiculous start date for Tennessee high schools of August 5.
Mariners prospect Sam Carlson’s little brother Max also appeared in the event, closing out the side for the West. Max is a different pitcher than Sam—a few inches shorter than his older brother, he’s less of a power pitcher, but showcased some advanced breaking stuff, including the game-ender: