This week we finish up with some trailing NHSI reports (last week’s Ten Pack had notes on ten participants), hit some more high school kids, and provide an introduction to FIU backstop Aramis Garcia and an update on FSU ace Luke Weaver.
Michael Rivera, C/3B, Venice (Venice, FL) | Commit: Florida
Rivera had some of the hardest contact I saw through my days in Cary, including a couple solid fly outs against potential first rounder Mac Marshall (LHP, Gainesville (Gainesville, GA)) and a line drive out to second. He finished the event with a 5-for-12 line, one double, one walk and no strikeouts, and put together consistently aggressive but balanced at bats. He can gear up and gear down depending on the situation and there is some pop in the swing, though he isn’t strong enough yet to fully tap into it. Behind the dish (video) Rivera plays well in the dirt and gets the job done in the catch-and-throw department, but he didn’t stand out in any particular facet during this event. The biggest concern at this point is the body, which is a little soft with a danger of ballooning if not kept in check. Still, it’s a potential five-five bat if everything comes together, and he shows enough comfort behind the plate to give him a chance to stick at the two spot long term. He has shown (and I have seen) a plus arm and pop times in the past, though I did not witness it this go-round at NHSI. Rivera is still an early-round candidate for teams willing to look past the body, and should he head to Gainesville he’ll have a chance to make an immediate impact. —Nick J. Faleris
Santiago continues to move closer to signing round than college-bound, with his NHSI performance showing positive steps forward. Defensively, he has tightened his receiving since the summer and shows a solid catch-and-throw game (video), though he remains loose in his transfer and in his side-to-side actions. He is a good athlete who should continue to mature into a solid to above average defensive backstop, but ideally we would like to see a little more in the way of established skill set when talking about a potential early-round catcher. The offensive upside is clear, including the chance for a little bit of pop, though the Tennessee commit struggled to adjust to off-speed and his pitch identification lagged some in these showings. He’s a future pro; the question is whether he finds the right suitor to put a suitable bonus in front of him. If not, he could mature into a solid top-three-round talent after a few years in Knoxville. —Nick J. Faleris
Isiah Gilliam, 1B, Parkview (Lilburn, GA)
To my knowledge the newest member of the draft class, Gilliam was declared a draft-eligible junior last month, making the NHSI a perfect opportunity for decision-makers to get an extended look at a player with whom most had little evaluative history. It’s a controlled setup and smooth barrel delivery, though he showed a tendency to throw the barrel to the outside and heave it through to get to the inner half. A couple of the squared-up balls were pitches that found the middle of the plate and were met with an efficient cut and good barrel acceleration through contact. It’s a pro body that moves well around first and might be able to handle a corner outfield spot. Gilliam won’t turn 18 until after the draft and could fit anywhere in the fourth to tenth round as an upside play. —Nick J. Faleris
Brody Westmoreland, SS, ThunderRidge (Highlands Ranch, CO) | Commit: San Diego State
Westmoreland stood out at NHSI for his impressive physicality, athleticism, and actions at short, though the offensive production left something to be desired as the San Diego State commit finished the event just 3-for-14 with a walk and six strikeouts (including a three-strikeout game against 2015 standout Kyle Molnar (RHP, Aliso Niguel (Aliso Niguel, CA)). Even with an uneven showing that hinted at some discomfort with strike zone management, Westmoreland showed a leveraged swing, good body control, and solid hand-eye work, all good signs that he has a chance to develop the power potential on display during cage work. In the field the actions are solid, and nothing stood out likely to obstruct his chances of sticking at short long-term. On the one hand it was a missed opportunity for Westmoreland to put together some loud performances in front of a load of decision-makers, but at the same time I walked away impressed that even in some rough outings there was a lot to like about the profile. He could fit in the mid–single digit rounds if he is signable in that range. Otherwise, he will look to establish a track record of performance in the collegiate ranks in San Diego. —Nick J. Faleris
Joe Gatto, RHP, St. Augustine Prep (Richland, NJ) | Commit: North Carolina
Joe Gatto opened his season last week, tossing 5 1/3 innings of a combined no-hitter and striking out nine batters in the process. Gatto stands tall and is all of his listed height of 6-foot-4, with a broad shouldered and wide-hipped immature-looking body that projects to add weight. He has an easy, repeatable delivery with some minors mechanical tweaks likely in store, and he stays tall, using his height to his advantage to create good plane. He utilizes little effort and a very fast arm and the ball really jumps out of his hand.
His fastball velocity started in the 90-91 range, ticking up to 92-94 and touching 95 three times. It had good arm-side run and plane, making it a potential future plus pitch. Gatto’s curve played in the 74-76 range with plus spin and bite. It is a projectable pitch with plus upside.
Gatto’s full arsenal was not needed against weak competition, but even with limited weapons he showed the ability to miss bats and open eyes. He is a very intriguing prospect with whom I believe a team could fall in love. —CJ Wittman
JJ Schwarz, C, Palm Beach Gardens (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) | Commit: Florida
Schwarz has an elite offensive package with plus raw power. The question remains whether he is a long-term catcher, which of course would greatly affect his draft value. Schwarz's carrying tool is his power potential. He is already big and has a lot more body to grow into. His power stems from his bat speed, which should allow his plus-plus raw power to play in games. Schwarz starts in a quiet, straight-up stance. His hands begin directly behind his ear and he has short, quick hands to the ball, and great extension. Defensively, he is just so-so. While a good athlete, Schwarz doesn’t look natural, he has a narrow setup, and his receiving and blocking have a long way to go. His arm strength is fine but the trigger can be long and his arm action lacks fluidity. He may be relegated to first or left as a pro, but if he can keep hitting like he has the ability to, it will not matter where he plays. —Steffan Segui
Pavin Smith, 1B/OF/LHP, Palm Beach Gardens, (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) | Commit: Virginia
Smith is a bigger, less quick, more powerful version of Adam Haseley (OF/LHP, The First Academy (Orlando, FL)—Ten Pack write-up). Like his fellow UVA signee, he is a lefty hitter and pitcher who could very well do both at the next level. His trademark is his sweet left-handed swing that possesses excellent bat speed, though he will occasionally pull the bat head off at extension. Smith is big bodied (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) with even more room to grow. There is plus power potential as well. As a runner, he is fringe-average, which should allow him to handle right field. At present, he is a good defensive first baseman with soft hands; in right field his big arm would be able to be more of a factor. — Steffan Segui
Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian (Orlando, FL) | Commit: North Carolina
Wall is among the best of the elite pure hitting prospects in this year’s draft. With an ultra-advanced approach at the plate, he consistently puts professional-quality at-bats together and never gives one away. Wall has lightning-quick wrists and flicks balls to all fields. With perhaps the best two-strike approach you’ll ever see out of a high school kid, Wall understands how to send away pitches he doesn’t like and wait for a better one. If there is one weakness in his hitting ability, it may be too much loft in the swing. Often he’s serving a ball to the outfield for a single, but there are also many routine popups and fly outs. In the box, he resembles Josh Hamilton in his confidence and demeanor and somewhat in his swing as well, utilizing a slight knee bend and leaning back to sit in his stance. His hands are active and do all the work.
Despite a smaller frame, Wall should grow into fringy power at the big-league level with his bat control serving as the driving force. Running and defensively Wall is plus or better and the instincts are off the charts, allowing his whole game to play up. The only thing holding him back from the first round is his arm, which is very poor and limits him to second base. Overall, Wall is a player with a very high floor who has proven to be able to hit plus pitching. His skill set reminds me of Todd Walker but with more speed. He should be taken in the top 100 picks come June. —Steffan Segui
Aramis Garcia, C, Florida International
Garcia has separated himself as the top amateur backstop in Florida this season and is among the top five overall in this season’s draft. Picked in the 20th round out of high school three years ago, Garcia has all the tools and leadership qualities that should lead him to success in pro ball. He has a tall, athletic build with a low waist and long torso. Behind the plate, Garcia is an adept receiver, moves well, and is relentless in his blocking. His arm is above average with his throws routinely 1.9-2.0 and on target. As a hitter, he has a rotational swing but does an excellent job keeping his bat in the zone. Very good at hitting the ball where it is pitched, he uses the whole field to his advantage. He has an excellent eye and keen bat control, squaring up balls and driving them routinely. A third of the way through the college season, Garcia has been on fire with a .429/ .527/.740 slash line and 13 extra base hits. He is sure to go in the first few rounds if he keeps up his torrid start. —Steffan Segui
Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State
Weaver didn't have his best stuff in this particular start, but that was likely in part due to the weather being overcast and cold with gusts reaching 30 mph. The FSU ace touched 92 mph throughout but worked primarily in 87 to 90 mph range, holding that velocity all game. The fastball graded out as plus with good sink and tail and while he’s shown better velocity in the past under more favorable conditions, it was a positive to see him dominate with less than his best stuff.
Weaver will likely always have a slender build, but there’s room for him to get a little stronger. The delivery isn’t the type that typically leads to an above average command/control profile, but he makes it work. The windup starts from the first base side of the rubber and utilizes a big leg kick and hand raise. There’s some hook in back and a head jerk to go with a fair amount of violence as he releases. Even so he remains under control and his athleticism lets him repeat and keep consistent release points. Weaver works low and lets the natural movement of the fastball play up at the knees. The slider was 80 to 81 with good depth but he can lose feel, leading to slurve out/roll at times. The changeup was 78 to 81 and flashed well but was inconsistent overall. He showed good arm speed and movement with the pitch, complementing the fastball well.
Weaver grades out as a likely first-rounder but may fit more in the mid- to late-first. The “perfect world” projection is a no. 2 starter, with a solid no. 3 or 4 designation more likely. —Al Skorupa