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August 17, 2015

Some Projection Left

PG All-American: Pitchers

by Christopher Crawford

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This year’s Perfect Game All-American Classic came with as much anticipation as any I can remember in my years of covering the event, and many scouts along with front-office members I spoke to believe this is the best showcase roster in several years.

I was fortunate enough to get to take in the spectacle and wonder of the game, and though the East prevailed with a 3-1 victory in Petco Park on Sunday, both teams had a plethora of potential first round selections on display.

First up, a look at the night’s pitching. As per the norm of the last few years, we saw our fair share of flamethrowers, but the feel for pitching from some of the standouts was just as impressive. The following are in order of their respective appearances.

East

Jason Groome | LHP | Barnegat HS (N.J.)
Ht/Wt: 6-6/180 | B/T: L/L | Commitment: Vanderbilt

Snapshot: Arguably the most touted prospect at the event, and lived up to the hype.

Game Notes: After a solid-if-unspectacular start in the Area Code Games, Groome was dominant in his start for the East. The left-hander’s fastball touched 96 and sat comfortably 92-94, and the breaking ball was an out pitch with two planes of break and outstanding depth. He also threw a quality change that faded away, and all three pitches were within the margin of error of their relative spots. If there’s a better southpaw prep pitching prospect in this draft, I look forward to seeing him.

Austin Bergner | RHP | Windermere HS (Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6-4/195 | B/T: R/R | Commitment: North Carolina

Snapshot: One of the more “famous” arms in the country over the past two years, but delivery questions remain.

Game Notes: Bergner’s arm is as quick as any pitcher here, but the action it takes to get through the zone suggests that starting may not be in the UNC commit’s future. Still, there’s a lot to like in the arsenal, with a 92-94 mph fastball that touched 95 and an above-average curveball to boot, with one quality change added in for good measure.

Zachary Hess | RHP | Liberty Christian Academy (Ala.)
Ht/Wt: 6-6/200 | B/T: R/R | Commitment: Virginia Tech

Snapshot: Easy to make Carson Fulmer comparisons because of the deception and movement, but will he throw enough strikes?

Game Notes: One scout told me Hess can be “electric” coming into today’s game, and it’s easy to understand why, with a fastball that was 92-94 and a couple of filthy sliders that froze hitters. Batters looking for that slider will be able to hit it though, as his arm speed slows down on his off-speed offerings. The delivery has too many moving parts as well, and his command is unlikely to be anything more than fringe-average unless he slows things down, considerably.

Braxton Garrett | LHP | Florence HS (Ala.)
Ht/Wt: 6-3/ 190 | B/T: R/L | Commitment: Vanderbilt


Snapshot: The cleanest arm action I saw out of a southpaw today.

Game Notes: Garrett is the “other” left-handed pitcher committed to Vanderbilt, but there’s a lot to like about this southpaw as well, even compared to Groome. He’s likely to add velocity to a fastball that was 90-93 today with some life. The breaking ball is the best pitch here though, a high-70s pitch that offers two-plane break, and depth to make it a swing-and-miss pitch. Assuming a change is going to come, this is the arsenal of a solid mid-rotation starter.

Tyler Baum | RHP | West Orange HS (Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6-2/170 | B/T: L/R | Commitment: North Carolina


Snapshot: Quick through the zone and impressive arm strength, but couldn’t locate anything on Sunday.

Game Notes: Baum struggled with his command on Sunday, and gave up a double to Blake Rutherford that would have been a homer in a large portion of ballparks. There’s lots of athleticism though, and he’s likely to add a few ticks to an 89-91 mph fastball. My biggest issue with Baum was with the breaking ball, a pitch that had some good spin and downward break, but a noticeable difference in arm speed when it was being delivered.

Cole Ragans | RHP | North Florida Christian HS (Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6-4/190 | B/T: L/L | Commitment: Florida State


Snapshot: Gets rave reviews from scouts for his feel for pitching, though he had very little feel for the strike zone last night.

Game Notes: Ragans was one of the “soft-tossers” of the event with a fastball that sat 88-91, but it was an above-average pitch because of its run, though there were some location issues on Sunday night. His arm angle gives him a chance to be death to left-handers, as does a breaking ball that flashed plus in the low-70s with depth and late break. The upside is somewhat limited here, but as a southpaw with two above-average pitches and feel for pitching, he has a chance to pitch in a big-league rotation someday.

Ian Anderson | RHP | Shenendehowa HS (N.Y.)
Ht/Wt: 6-3/170 | B/T: L/R | Commitment: Vanderbilt


Snapshot: Like Ragan, gets high marks for pitchability, but with much more present stuff.

Game Notes: Anderson gets rave reviews for his feel for pitching, but sometimes that term comes along with the caveat that the stuff isn’t great. That’s not the case with Anderson. He did issue a walk to Rutherford—something that’s going to happen to plenty of pitchers—but his fastball touched the mid-90s on more than one occasion, and the curveball looks like an above-average offering at times, too. Today was not Anderson at his best, but there was certainly enough there to understand why so many I’ve spoken to believe he’s one of the more underrated pitchers in this class, if it’s possible to be underrated ten months before an event.

Anthony Locey | RHP | Houston County HS (Ga.)
Ht/Wt: 6-3/225 | B/T: L/R | Commitment: Georgia Southern


Snapshot: Right-hander has a big-league body, though the lack of third pitch and projection makes him an early bullpen candidate.

Game Notes: There’s very little projection, if any (he’s listed at 225 pounds, but looks closer to 240), left in Locey’s development, but being a finished product developmentally isn’t such a bad thing. The right-hander generated sink on a 92-94 fastball that he kept below the knees, and the curveball was a 50 offering that, like so many here tonight, will need to gain some ticks if it’s going to play at the professional level. There are pitchers with more upside here, but he might be one of the quickest to the big leagues.

Joshua Lowe | RHP | Pope HS (Ga.)
Ht/Wt: 6-4/190 | B/T: L/R | Commitment: Florida State


Snapshot: Really struggled to throw strikes, but the athleticism and stuff was still impressive to see.

Game Notes: Lowe is not only one of the best athletes we saw on the mound Sunday night, but one of the best athletes in the entire draft, as evidenced in his impressive 60- and 10-yard shuttle times. Most believe the right-hander’s future is on the mound, though, and while the (potential) future Seminole athlete struggled to throw strikes—14 balls in his 22 pitches—the right-hander showed a plus fastball that topped out at 93 along with an above-average slider. Someone might be tempted to make him an everyday player, but the stuff might be too advanced for him not to end up going every fifth day.

***

West

Reggie Lawson | RHP | Victor Valley HS (Calif.)
Ht/Wt: 6-4/187 | B/T: R/R | Commitment: Arizona State

Snapshot: Loads of athleticism and more velocity coming.

Game Notes: Lawson started for the West and was relatively effective in a scoreless inning, giving up one hard single but showing a 92-93 mph fastball that will surely pick up more velocity as he packs on muscle. He also showed a pull-the-string change and a curveball with good spin that will need to add some velocity to be more than an average offering.

Kevin Gowdy | RHP | Santa Barbara HS (Calif.)
Ht/Wt: 6-4/170 | B/T: R/R | Commitment: UCLA


Snapshot: Not the most physically imposing pitcher in the class, but maybe the cleanest delivery.

Game Notes: Gowdy wasn’t overpowering, sitting 89-92, but he repeated his delivery exceptionally well, and he showed a solid breaking ball and above-average changeup with deception from his quality arm speed. He was able to get plane on his fastball, and like Lawson he should be able to add some velocity in time.

Charles King | RHP | Coppell HS (Tex.)
Ht/Wt: 6-5/200 | B/T: R/R | Commitment: TCU


Snapshot: Impressive at the National Showcase; not quite as impressive in San Diego.

Game Notes: Hey, a big right-hander from Texas with potential for a plus fastball: There’s something you don’t see every day. King is still filling out his considerable frame, but he was 91-93 with his fastball. He struggled to locate it and his slider, though he did generate a few swings and misses with the latter. Of all the pitchers here, King is the one who is mostly projection over finished product.

Drake Fellows | RHP | Joliet Catholic HS (Ill.)
Ht/Wt: 6-5/205 | B/T: L/R | Commitment: Vanderbilt


Snapshot: Complex delivery, may need to be toned down to pitch at next level.

Game Notes: Fellows' delivery offers a ton of deception, but the overall stuff and the command both struggled on Sunday, though like every other pitcher the results were just fine. The fastball was 89-92 with some life, but he rarely hit his spots. He showed the potential for both an average slider and change, and if he can add some extension to the delivery he should be able to get downhill plane with those offerings as well.

Ryan Zeferjahn | RHP | Seaman HS (Kan.)
Ht/Wt: 6-4/190 | B/T: L/R | Commitment: Kansas


Snapshot: Arguably the quickest arm that we saw, but command just wasn’t there.

Game Notes: There isn’t a ton of effort in Zeferjahn’s delivery, but the arm gets through the zone exceptionally quick and allows his low-90s fastball to play up. He also showed a slurvy breaking ball that was more slider than curve. It lacked huge bite but had enough spin to be effective. He struggled to locate anything off-speed though, and scouts tell me this has been a fairly recurring theme.

Karl Kauffman | RHP | Brother Rice HS (Mich.)
Ht/Wt: 6-2/200 | B/T: R/R | Commitment: Michigan

Snapshot: Former high-school teammate of Cardinals first-rounder Nick Plumer, sturdy build but could add some good weight.

Game Notes: These events can be very important to players that come from the more obscure talent pools—aka not Georgia, Florida, California, and Texas—so Kauffman performing well on Saturday could be a big boost to his draft stock. The right-hander showed sink on a fastball that sat 90-92, and he showed the makings of a quality change. The command left a lot to be desired however, as the Wolverine commit struggled to locate anything in the strike zone.

Dion Henderson | LHP | IMG Academy (Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6-4/195 | B/T: L/L | Commitment: Kentucky


Snapshot: Looked thinner than 195 pounds, as raw a pitcher as I’ve seen this summer.

Game Notes: Calling Henderson a “work in progress” is the understatement of, well, at least this article. The southpaw oozes athleticism, but his fastball was only 86-89, and multiple breaking balls were in the mid-60s. Because of his size and the aforementioned athleticism, he’s intriguing, but he’s light years away from being much more than a lottery ticket.

Nick Lodolo | LHP | Damien HS (Calif.)
Ht/Wt: 6-6/175 | B/T: L/L | Commitment: TCU


Snapshot: Wafer-thin; arm-strength is good but will need to add pounds to get the fastball to average range.

Game Notes: Do you like southpaws who can get downhill with their fastball and offers tons of projection? Of course you do, everyone likes this. Like Henderson, the present stuff is light-years away: his fastball consistently hits 87, and when he reached back for 90 he hit someone, and his breaking ball had some shape but will need to add at least five to 10 miles per hour if it’s going to be effective. You have to dream on this one, but it’s a pretty nice dream.

Matt Manning | RHP | Sheldon HS (Calif.)
Ht/Wt: 6-6/190 | B/T: R/R | Commitment: Loyola Marymount


Snapshot: Extremely athletic delivery, and the ball explodes out of his right hand.

Game Notes: Manning is the son of former NBA player Rich Manning, and it appears he has passed that athleticism on to his son. Manning the Younger gets excellent extension and downhill plane from his 6-foot-6 frame, and while I would raise the arm-slot up, he was consistently hitting 94 on the gun, and he located it well, too.

Christopher Crawford is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christopher's other articles. You can contact Christopher by clicking here

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