2019 Perfect Game WWBA: Day 1 Notebook
JUPITER, Fla. — The biggest travel ball tournament of the year kicked off Thursday at the Roger Dean Stadium Complex in Jupiter, Fla. While the complex typically plays host to the Marlins and Cardinals in spring training—or one of four minor league teams during the summer—the fields will be the home of more than 90 travel ball teams and hundreds of players this weekend in the 21st annual Perfect Game WWBA World Championship.
Or, colloquially known as: Jupiter.
With all of those players—many among the best in the country in the 2020, 2021 and 2022 draft classes—come hundreds of talent evaluators, including major league scouts and college recruiters. It’s one of the most distinctive scenes in high school baseball and routinely gives MLB clubs a look at some of the brightest players in the upcoming draft class.
Baseball America is on the ground for every day of the event, and we’ll be bringing reports on the standout players that we were able to see every day. While we will be focusing on members of the 2020 high school class, it won’t be unusual for underclass players to slip into these daily notebooks.
Below is a look at some of the players who stood out during Thursday’s action.
Ryan Hagenow | RHP | Farragut HS, Knoxville, Tenn.
Travel Ball Team: Knights/eXposure Baseball
Hagenow’s start on Thursday was one of the most anticipated from the scouting community, as the 6-foot-5, 208-pound righthander previously impressed at East Coast Pro and had a flock of evaluators behind the plate watching his outing.
Hagenow threw 3.1 innings against a talented MLB Breakthrough Series club, striking out six batters and walking one while scattering three hits. The Kentucky commit showcased a strong, three-pitch mix including a fastball that sat in the 90-93 mph range for two innings before ticking down into the 88-91 mph range during the last portion of his outing.
In addition to the fastball, Hagenow mixed in a slider in the 81-83 mph range and threw an occasional changeup in the same velocity band. Hagenow’s first slider of the day lacked much of any bite, but he quickly found better feel for the pitch and started to use the offering as a weapon, generating five whiffs. The pitch has 10-to-4 movement and solid depth when Hagenow threw it well, showing the makings of an above-average offering with more consistency in the future.
Hagenow’s changeup also flashed the makings of an average or better pitch, with impressive sinking and fading life to his glove side in the low 80s.
As for his delivery, Hagenow has some cross-firing action in his lower half throughout his landing, and there’s some length and plunging action in the back of his arm stroke, but he throws with relative ease and showed good control in this outing (61 percent strikes) before he started getting hit around a bit in the fourth inning.
Mikey Tepper | RHP | Fort Mill (S.C.) HS
Committed: Mississippi State
Travel Ball Team: On Deck O’s 2020
Another anticipated arm on Thursday was Tepper, who is one of a number of intriguing high school players in the 2020 class out of South Carolina. A 6-foot-2, 190-pound righthander committed to Mississippi State, Tepper took the ball against Rawlings Arkansas Prospects - Platinum and threw five shutout innings.
With the bulk of the evening scouting crowd in attendance, Tepper opened up with a fastball that sat in the 90-93 mph range during his first few innings and showed the ability to add and subtract with that pitch when necessary. Tepper also mixed in a 75-80 mph breaking ball that varied in shape from 12-to-6 to three-quarters, with solid depth when he was on top of the pitch and kept it down. While the breaking ball showed flashes, Tepper will need to increase the consistency of the offering, as he spiked the pitch in the dirt at times and left it up and hanging over the plate at others. At its best, the breaking ball has average depth and spin. He also mixed in an 82-83 mph changeup.
Tepper has a strong frame and arm, throwing out of a three-quarter slot with some length in the back. And while his arm appears to trail his lower half at the moment, it didn’t seem to inhibit his strike-throwing ability in this outing.
Vince Bonanni | RHP | Cardinal Newman HS, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Committed: Central Florida
Travel Ball Team: Scorpions Founders Club
Bonanni didn’t have to travel far to make it to Jupiter, as his high school is just a 15-minute drive down I-95. Throwing in an early exhibition game against Dirtbags, Bonanni showed off a solid three-pitch mix.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound righthander entered in relief for Scorpions Founders Club and threw just one inning, but he showed an intriguing three-pitch mix while striking out the side. An 89-91 mph fastball was his bread and butter, drawing three whiffs with the pitch and touching 93 mph at its best. The heater had solid running life, and while he did yank the pitch at times, it was a solid offering that set up his two secondaries well in this brief outing.
Bonanni also threw a breaking ball that ranged from 79-82 mph. The pitch flashed some sharp breaking action at times and was used as a swing-and-miss offering out of the zone with late, downward bite. The pitch had three-quarter movement, but when it was left up and in the zone it featured just average spin. Additionally, Bonanni threw a mid-80s changeup that didn’t have a ton of horizontal or vertical movement, but it offered a nice change of pace from his fastball.
The Central Florida commit didn’t have the loudest pure stuff of the day, but with solid stuff across the board and a terrific pitcher’s frame—in addition to a relatively clean delivery—Bonanni should be one of many Florida prospects to keep an eye on in the 2020 class.
Nick Conte | RHP | North Providence (R.I.) HS
Travel Ball Team: North East Baseball
Conte is listed at just 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, but he showed some electric stuff from the right side on Thursday. The Duke commit touched 95 mph in his first inning of work before settling into the 89-91 mph range and mixing in a 93 mph at times.
Conte threw 2.2 innings of relief against 643 DP Cougars, striking out three batters, walking one and allowing a pair of hits. A fastball/slider pitcher exclusively in this look, Conte’s breaking ball has plenty of upside, as he threw a hard, 83-86 mph breaking ball that snapped off late and got into the 2700-2800 rpm range.
He was a bit scattered with his control at times, and it’s tough to project much more given his frame, but Conte has now stuff.
Tyler Chadwick | RHP | Marshall (Wis.) HS
Committed: West Virginia
Travel Ball Team: Reds Midwest Scout Team
Chadwick was one of three Reds Midwest Scout Team arms to show interesting stuff on Thursday evening, though it likely wasn’t the cleanest or most efficient outing he could have hoped for.
A physical, 6-foot-5, 210-pound righthander out of Wisconsin, Chadwick tossed three innings and struck out five batters, walking three and allowing two earned runs on three hits. The West Virginia commit showed a 90-94 mph fastball in the first inning, but that velocity ticked down to 89-92 mph over his next two frames, and he also lost a tick or two when pitching from the stretch.
Chadwick’s control was below-average in this outing, as he threw just 52 percent of his pitches for strikes. He had a few pitches go to the backstop and couldn’t consistently get on top of his breaking ball, which ranged from 76-80 mph and lacked bite or depth. There’s length in the back of Chadwick’s motion, including some wrist wrapping action that could be problematic for his strike-throwing, but there’s obviously some gas in the tank. If he can improve his control and sharpen a breaking ball that flashed solid bite on at least one occasion, Chadwick could take a big step forward.
George Klassen | RHP | Port Washington (Wis.) HS
Travel Ball Team: Reds Midwest Scout Team
Another Wisconsin arm on the Reds Midwest Scout Team, Klassen followed Chadwick in relief on Thursday and tossed two shutout innings with three strikeouts and a walk.
Klassen has an overhead windup and three-quarter arm slot that features plenty of effort, with good arm speed but significant head whack in his delivery. His arm trails his lower half and he seems to be consistently late at foot plant, but despite those red flags he threw solid strikes in this outing.
The 6-foot-2, 165-pound righthander worked mostly off of his fastball, and after seeing some of the swings he got against it, there’s no wonder why. The pitch ranged from 90-93 mph and featured late life, which induced one impressive broken bat against a lefthanded hitter. Klassen held his velocity well over his two innings of work, and he mixed in a 76-81 mph breaking ball that showed some potential, but he currently lacks feel to spot the pitch and regularly threw it below the zone and in the dirt.
Klassen also mixed in an 86-89 mph offering, which could have been a two-seam fastball or a firm changeup that lacked fading life.
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Other Players To Note
Dylan Crews | OF | Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
Committed: Louisiana State
Travel Ball Team: Scorpions Founders Club
Crews, currently ranked the No. 12 player in the high school class, struggled with the bat over the summer but started off Jupiter hot, hitting a hard single up the middle against an 87 mph fastball in his first at-bat of the tournament. Crews also drew two walks and stole a base during his first two games of the tournament. One of the few elite players of the high school class at Jupiter (many top-ranked high school players, especially pitchers, have shut things down for the season), Crews will have plenty of eyes on him throughout the week.
Zac Veen | OF | Spruce Creek HS, Port Orange, Fla.
Travel Ball Team: Scorpions Founders Club
Teammates with Crews on Scorpions Founders Club, Veen is another elite player in the 2020 high school class, currently ranked No. 13 among prep players. Veen continued to show his patient approach at the plate and drew a pair of walks during the first day, and he singled on an inside-out line drive over third base in his second game to pick up his first hit of the tournament. A toolsy outfielder who has shown a bit of swing-and-miss at times, Veen was aggressive on the bases on Day 1 and picked up three steals.
Nathan Cmeyla | C | Briar Woods HS, Ashburn, Va.
Travel Ball Team: Dirtbags
Cmeyla showed some solid defensive work behind the plate Thursday, showing a solid target and strong, steady hand while framing towards his glove side. In addition to his receiving ability, Cmeyla moved well laterally and did a nice job blocking and keep pitches in the dirt in front of him. A 5-foot-11, 180-pound backstop committed to Dartmouth, Cmeyla also did some work with the bat, hitting a hard single backside through the 4-3 hole in the infield against an 83 mph fastball. It was a brief look, but Cmeyla showed both offensive and defensive skills on Thursday.
Jake Gelof | OF | IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.
Travel Ball Team: Canes National
Gelof drove in a pair of runs for Canes National during its two games on Thursday, including a deep line drive to center field that burned a Palm Beach Select 2020 outfielder and gave Gelof a standup double. Gelof has a strong frame and is listed at 6-foot-1, 193 pounds with some interesting pop from the right side.
Braden Montgomery | OF | Madison (Miss.) Central HS
Committed: Uncommitted (Class of 2021)
Travel Ball Team: MLB Breakthrough Series 2020
An uncommitted member of the 2021 class, Montgomery showed a smooth lefthanded swing while playing for a loaded MLB Breakthrough Series 2020 club. In his first at-bat against Knights/eXposure Baseball, Montgomery turned around a pitch from Ryan Hagenow that came off his bat at 98 mph. It was Montgomery’s only hit of the day in his one game of action, but it gave scouts a good look at his loose, quick hands from the left side. Montgomery has room to fill out a lean, 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame in the future.
Patrick Matthews | 2B | Fort Mill (S.C.) HS
Committed: Francis Marion
Travel Ball Team: On Deck O’s 2020
Matthews showed some early pop with the lefthanded bat, hitting one of the first home runs of Jupiter. A short, stocky infielder—listed at 5-foot-6, 170 pounds—with a slightly open setup in the box, Matthews pulled a home run over the right-field fence that came off his bat at 100 mph against a Trevor Linaman (South Carolina) fastball. The ball traveled an estimated 384 feet, per TrackMan. In his ensuing at-bat, Matthews showed a pull-heavy approach and pulled out on several pitches before sitting back on a hanging curveball and flying out to center field with solid contact. Later in the day, Matthews used the opposite field, driving a double down the left-field line. Matthews is a Francis Marion commit.
Sebastian Murillo | SS | Fountain Valley (Calif.) HS
Committed: Long Beach State
Travel Ball Team: Padres Scout Team/ECB
Murillo flashed some defensive skills while playing shortstop for Padres Scout Team/ECB Thursday evening. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Long Beach State commit made several difficult plays, the first by flashing the leather and making a late adjustment to a difficult hop on a ball that pulled him to his glove side before making a solid throw across the diamond. Murillo wasn’t able to complete the second play, but he made a terrific diving stop on a ball hit hard towards the hole at shortstop and came close to completing the play, but he made a low throw to the first base bag. Murillo showed quick and reliable hands, and when his feet were set, he showed a strong throwing arm as well. At the plate, Murillo went 1-for-3 with an infield single, clocking a 4.78 home-to-first time in the process.
Robert Moore | SS | Shawnee Mission East, Lakewood, Kan.
Moore, the son of Royals GM Dayton Moore, was tabbed as the leadoff man for Royals’ Scout Team 2020 and did not disappoint. The infielder collected two hits in three trips to the plate and also drove in a run, helping set the tone for an 8-0 victory over PG Iowa.
The first characteristic that sticks out about Moore is his athleticism and twitchiness. He moves with ease on the diamond and pays close attention to the game. He doesn’t take a pitch off and knows where he needs to be on the field at all times. His leadership skills are enhanced by his plus body control and solid arm. He showed that he can throw from multiple angles. He has an above-average glove and fields ground balls with confidence, squaring up toward home plate in order to get in front of the ball. His quick transfer allows for an easy exchange into his throwing hand, which allows him to steady himself on any ground ball hit to him.
With the bat, he was particularly aggressive at the plate, slapping a ground ball single to left field in his first at-bat. The infielder works from a slightly crouched batting stance and has a quick trigger as he fires the bat through the zone. Moore was able to put the bat to the ball from both sides of the plate, showing plus bat speed. He did show a long swing at times, but he has some leverage from the left side which should translate into more power as he continues to mature at the plate. Even though his bat speed is plus, he did pull off a few pitches with his front side which caused him to swing and miss. In addition, he shows an above-average run tool and cuts the bases nicely as well.
Druw Jones | OF | Wesleyan HS, Suwanee, Ga.
Commitment: Vanderbilt (Class of 2022)
Jones, the son of Braves’ great Andruw Jones, led off and patrolled the outfield for the 643 DP Cougars in their 7-4 victory over North East Baseball National. He collected a single in three at-bats and showed off a solid toolset both at the plate and in the field.
At 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Jones has a good frame for an outfielder with plenty of room for projection. He stands tall at the plate, and he has a high handset with some pre-swing movement to help him get his swing started. He strides forward with his front foot, enabling him to begin clearly his hips as he gets the barrel down in the zone. The key for Jones now and in the future will be his ability to keep his hands back, as this allows him more time to see pitches and to prevent drifting out in front on offspeed pitches. He is able to put the bat on the ball, but he didn’t show much loft in his swing on Thursday, hitting the ball on the ground in three consecutive at-bats. On the bases, Jones showed some feel to steal bases, getting a good jump off first once he reached base.
Jones shows an understanding of how to play the outfield and makes the most of his position and first step. He is an average runner who is above-average under way. He has good footwork as an outfielder, showing the ability to properly crow hop, which helps him to release the ball with ease. Jones showed average arm strength that featured plus accuracy with decent carry.
As he continues to grow and gain strength, Jones should profile as a threat on both sides of the ball in due time. He is currently the No. 5 prospect on BA's 2022 high school rankings.
Isaiah Coupet | LHP | Homewood Flossmoor (Ill.) HS
Commitment: Ohio State
Lefthander Isaiah Coupet came on in relief of righthander Miles Garrett for MLB Breakthrough Series 2020 as they shutout Knights/eXposure Baseball 2-0 on Thursday afternoon. Coupet allowed two hits and a walk in his two frames of work while striking out four batters along the way.
Coupet works from a three-quarter arm slot and is able to consistently get on top of the baseball. He is able to use the same arm slot and hides the ball well during his delivery. Coupet collapses slightly onto his back leg before beginning his drive towards home plate. This helps him to begin generating torque from his hips up to his arm, which benefits from his ability to get his arm up and through on time with his delivery. His whip-like arm action helps him to work his fastball into the low 90s with life.
Coupet showed a decent tempo on the mound, having most of his success working hitters up and down with his heater. At times, the pitch featured cutting action into righthanded batters. His best secondary offering was his curveball, a pitch with consistent over-the-top shape that he could land for strikes or bend out of the zone to get hitters to chase. It worked best when used off his fastball, as the low-70s offering showed hitters a different look. Coupet’s third offering was a changeup. While he didn’t slow his arm action down, the upper-70s offering floated arm side on him and tended to stay up in the strike zone. Coupet’s aptitude to spin the baseball, coupled with his athleticism and arm strength, should allow him to have plenty of success at Ohio State.
Satchell Norman | OF | Sarasota (Fla.) HS
Commitment: Florida State
Norman went hitless in two at-bats for Florida Burn 2020 Platinum in their 3-0 shutout over AZ D-Backs Scout Team, but he showed reasons beyond the box score as to why he is a player to watch for the future.
Norman is 5-foot-11, 185 pounds with strength and room to add more as he matures. He uses a deep knee bend at the plate with slight pre-swing hand movement before getting his swing going. Norman has confidence at the plate and tracks balls well. He showed above-average bat speed and generates good torque in his swing from his core. What really stood out was his ability to manipulate the barrel deep in counts. In one particular at-bat, he was clearly fooled by a pitch but showed enough awareness to keep his hands back and put the barrel on the ball. Norman should grow into more power and shows an understanding of what kind of adjustments need to be made during an at-bat.
He was tabbed to play left field for Florida Burn 2020 Platinum and showed more than enough athleticism out there. He moves fine in the corner and has a good arm strength with accuracy.
Nelson Berkwich | LHP | American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
Berkwich tossed two innings for the Houston Astros Scout Team in their 4-0 shutout over the Sandlot Scout team on Thursday night. The lefthander saw no traffic on the bases and recorded five strikeouts.
Berkwich works from a three-quarter arm slot on the mound. The 6-foot lefthander is able to repeat it, although there is some effort in his delivery. He doesn’t completely coil his body during the leg kick portion of his delivery. This allows him to better get his arm through his delivery and finish his pitches out in front.
The lefthander has good arm strength and attacks hitters with his fastball. It tops out at 91 mph and has good spin on it as well. Berkowich had good tempo on the mound, staying aggressive and filling up the strike zone, showing feel for command of his pitches.
In addition to a good heater, Berkowich shows the ability to spin two different breaking pitches. He spins a slider in the low 80s which has short break on it. Berkowich generally keeps the pitch down in the strike zone. His curveball, a pitch in the upper 70s, had 1-to-7 shape with good tilt. It generated some swings and misses, helping him to rack up the five strikeouts.