Jacksonville, FL - After scouting the Warriors Fall Area Showcase this past weekend, it's obvious that the Jacksonville Warriors are going to be tough to beat next summer. For anyone that doesn't know, good pitching and defense beats good hitting just about every time.
Not only will the Warriors have several major D1 arms, but they will have a few major D1 position players as well.
Our staff has been following the Warriors program for years now and know about every player, every coach and quite a few of the parents. They are as first class of an organization as it gets in travel baseball.
We know about 2016 OF Keenan Bell (UF commit), 2017 SS Jason Swan (FIU commit), and 2018 SS Isaiah Byars (UCF commit). We've been scouting them for several years and hope we played a part in creating exposure for them in front of colleges. Bell has a chance at being drafted next June, Swan and Byars both have a chance at being drafted as well after their senior years.
Here are some Warrior's players college coaches may already know about, if they don't, they need to.
AJ Labas 2017 RHP - Quick story on AJ and his determination, drive and toughness. In June of 2014 at our Sarasota tournament, he was attempting to field a ground ball down the first baseline coming off the mound. As AJ bent over to pick up the ball and tag the runner in the baseline, he took a knee to his head and suffered a severe concussion. Labas was taken to the hospital where he stayed for two days. It was a scary couple of days for his family and everyone that was a friend of AJ's or his family. Matt Bomeisl and I reached out to the Labas family and with their permission visited Mr. Labas and AJ at the hospital that night. AJ wasn't concious at the time we visited him at the hospital, but we talked with Mr. Labas for a while and asked if we could stay in contact and be updated on AJ's status. It took AJ seven weeks to recover, the first time he started a game was at our PW World Series in Port St. Lucie, Fl. He started a game that helped the Warriors get into the playoff round of 16. AJ's linescore for that start, 4 IP-0 Hits-0 BB-0 R-4 K's. Anyone that's ever experienced a family member or friend having a severe concussion understands how scary and serious the situation is. For Labas to bounce back and compete like he did later on that summer after a serious head injury showed without question, what the kid was made of.
Labas, a former PW All-American continues to get better and this past weekend in a short outing, he was the best we've seen him. AJ's arm is getting quicker and his fastball showed improved late life and some run when it was down. The biggest improvement Labas showed was the ability to repeat his delivery and have his fastball and curveball come out of the same release point with the same arm speed. He sat 86-90mph, hitting 90mph on about half of his fastballs. AJ's curveball had always shown flashes of tight spin and depth, but he showed more consistency with it on Sunday and the ability to backdoor it on LHH's as an out pitch. By his senior year, Labas should have a 50/55 fastball or better and a 50/55 curveball with a serviceable changeup. With two average or better MLB pitches, scouts will start to take an interest in Labas heading into his senior year.
Max Ferguson 2018 IF/OF - Ferguson had good at-bats on Sunday, turning on an inside fastball hitting a laser into RF and then showing he can use the entire field slapping a base hit the other way later in the day. Max has a wiry, projectable body and runs and defends well enough to play at the next level. The stronger Ferguson becomes, the tougher he'll be to get out and his base hits will turn into doubles. A LHH that makes consistent contact with a sound approach is tough to find for a lot of college programs. It will be interesting to see what happens when Max starts to mature more physically. With a stronger lower half and a quicker bat, Ferguson may become a legitimate D1 OF.
Max Holmes 2017 RHP/OF - Holmes was one of the better surprises on Sunday during the games. Holmes has always shown the ability to hit and has a lot of projection at 6'3" 190lbs with an athletic frame. Max showed above average batspeed for his grad class with a patient approach at the plate. The surprise came when Holmes took the mound, in our past events this summer he'd sat mainly 80-83mph with his fastball and touching 84-85mph. Sunday, Max sat 84-85mph and touched 86mph with decent life and a curveball that had tight spin and some depth. His arm worked well and showed some quickness, he repeated well and hit his spots. Holmes has now turned himself into a legitimate 2-way player at the next level.
Blake Marabell 2016 OF - Blake is a strong kid, with some tools. Marabell ran a 7.03 second 60 yard dash, but we've clocked him before in the 6.7 seconds area before. His speed plays better on the bases and in the OF. Blake has a bit of stiffness in his game but good enough plate discipline and eye-hand coordination to hit at the next level. If the power comes, Marabell may be a corner OF or a CF with a little bit of speed and power. Blake knows the game, competes, and is coachable which is what most coaches want.
Jared Pearson 2017 C - Pearson seems to get better every time we see him play. He has a rare combination as a catcher, the ability to catch and throw and hit for average and power. Jared has a great catchers body, strong lower half and physical all together without any stiffness. Most catchers in a showcase setting have their best pop time's, Pearson has his best pop times in games clocking a 1.98 second time throwing a runner out on Sunday. At the plate, he has above average batspeed for his grad class and is very short/direct to the baseball, the ball jumps off his bat. Jared is a "no brainer" next level catcher and could become a definite D1 catcher by this spring or next summer.
Austin Knight 2018 MIF - One definite thing that stood out with Knight this past weekend is that he is getting stronger and faster. He's always had an advanced approach at the plate and the ability to square pitches up. Now, Austin's batspeed is getting quicker and the ball is jumping better off his bat. We clocked Knight's home to first base time at 4.38 seconds from the right side, which is slightly below MLB average and ran a 7.35 second 60. Defensively, Austin makes all the plays and is reliable as a defender. As he continues to mature physically, Knight's singles will turn into doubles and his speed will start to become a useful tool. Knight is a definite next level player, but it may take another year or two to know what level that is.
Noah Searcy 2017 OF - Searcy stopped playing football this past year and started focusing on baseball only, it's paying off. Noah is a gifted natural hitter with the potential to have big time power. The first thing anyone would notice about Searcy is how physically strong he is. Typically, football players are strong with tools but stiff. Noah has a bit of stiffness in his game but it doesn't affect his tools, especially his bat. He ran a 7.12 second 60, and showed an average arm for his grad class. Defensively, he projects as a corner OF/1B in college and a LF/1B at the professional level. Searcy showed one of the more natural swings that we've seen this past summer, with plus batspeed for a 2017. We think Noah may have a chance to hit and hit for power at the highest levels of baseball at some point. For a player that hasn't fully dedicated his time to baseball yet, it's scary to think how good of a hitter Searcy can become. He already has an advanced feel for the strike zone, and is patient in looking for his pitch. On Sunday, Noah hit ball as hard as anyone all summer turning on an inside fastball. His next at-bat, he drove a ball into the RCF gap with a flick of his wrists. The ability to hit for average and power is rare at any level of baseball and Searcy seems to have that rare ability, and he's just getting started.
Hunter Barco 2019 LHP - Barco, a PW All-American at USF in late July is the real deal and will attract MLB scouts from all over by his senior year. The most impressive thing Hunter showed on Sunday was the ability to make minor mechanical adjustments and then repeat the adjustments. At such a young age, most pitchers/players can't make adjustments and then be consistent. Barco stayed more closed with his front side on Sunday and sat 83-86mph and touched 87mph. He's as projectable as it gets for a pitcher at 14 years old and 6'3" 175lbs, size 15 shoe and a great pitchers frame. It's scary to think how hard Hunter may throw by the time he's a senior when he is more physically mature. He already has an advanced feel for pitching and keeps the ball down in the strike zone. Every college in America should be on Barco now because after another summer when he's sitting 85-88mph and touching 90mph, it may be too late to recruit him. It wouldn't surprise us at all if Barco is a mid 90's LHP by his senior year and a potential high MLB draft pick.
Nolan Lepkoske 2018 RHP - Nolan has a physical body type, strong pitchers body at 6'4" 200lbs. His arm and mechanics both work well, he stays closed and uses his lower half to create his power. Lepkoske sat 83-87mph on Sunday creating a good downward plane, with some late life. The way his arm works and with the drive he creates using his lower half, Nolan will be touching 90mph soon. He showed the ability to throw strikes, but still needs to work on command. With a little more polish and the ability to throw three pitches for strikes, colleges will be all over Lepkoske. He has a chance to be a power arm in the next couple of years.
Avery Jackson 2019 RHP - Like Barco, Jackson is about as projectable as it get's for a pitcher at 6'3" 150lbs, long limbed, and high-waisted. Avery, a PW All-American at USF at the end of July sat at 81mph Sunday with his fastball but his arm speed was much quicker than his velocity. It's only a matter of time before Jackson starts to mature physically and his velocity starts jumping. He may be a mid 80's arm consistently by next summer. Jackson is all arms and legs right now and still a long ways away from physical maturity, but he's still able to repeat his delivery and throw strikes consistently. The fact that he may be a low to mid 90's arm by his senior year is enough for MLB scouts to be excited, but throw in that Avery has the makings of a 12/6 hammer for a curveball that could develop into a true power curveball.
Collin Garner 2017 3B/MIF - Garner grows on our staff the more we see him play. None of his tools jump off the charts but everything plays at the next level. Collin showed more pop in his bat lately, more than likely because he's starting to physically mature a bit. Defensively, he may fit better at 3B, 2B or even the OF at the next level. Collin doesn't take any plays off, and he's a "baseball player" with some tools. He's got above average batspeed and arm for a 2017 grad, and the ability to square the ball up consistently and ran a 6.97 second 60 last Saturday. What are college coaches waiting for on Garner?
Other players that showed well this past weekend:
Nathan Skinner 2018 INF/RHP - Skinner can flat out hit, his bat stays in the zone and he showed plus batspeed for his grad class. Projectable body. Definite next level player.
Ridge Abinsay 2018 C/3B - Abinsay has a physical body, he can catch and throw and swings the bat well. At 3B, he moves well with an above average arm for his grad class.
Ethan Camps 2018 C - Camps showed pop times of 2.06 seconds in the game on Sunday and had good at-bats. He showed above average batspeed and athleticism for his grad class.
Zach Chappell 2018 OF/LHP - Zach has some quick twitch and it showed both at the plate with his above average batspeed for a 2018 and his quick arm on the mound. Chappell could be a low to mid 80's arm by next summer.
Trey Guzzone 2018 C/OF - Guzzone's best tool is his bat, and his power. He has plus plus batspeed for a 2018 and is aggressive attacking the baseball in the strike zone.
Cameron Cooper 2016 LHP - Cooper's an uncommitted senior. He only sat around 80mph but he showed a lot of deception and a nasty swing and miss curveball/slider. Cameron could be a LHP specialist at the college level. Colleges looking for a 1-2 inning arm that can get swings and misses and outs, especially against lefties, take a look at Cooper.