Cary, NC - The first day of the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars is in the books and though I didn’t see every pitcher, I was able to look at all eight teams. It started with the first game at 10 AM followed by three more in the scorching heat at the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.
Many of the same players I saw last week in St. Petersburg are in attendance here. Pinecrest (NC) High righty Dillon Maples was one of the most highly anticipated, but after a brilliant outing at the Perfect Game National (ranking #4 among the Top-10 Prospects), Maples struggled mightily for Dixie pitching against the Stars in the first game. He was cutting off his finish and left everything up even though his velocity was still in the low-90s. Maples was so often behind on the hitters, he hardly got to use his slider that was so sharp in the Trop. Maples ended up yielding five earned runs, three walks, and three hits in his inning of work.
Following Maples for Dixie was Carson Baranik, a righty from Parkway High School in Louisiana who ranked #5 in my Top-10 from the PG National. Baranik started out showing his running 90 MPH fastball and hard-biting 73-79 MPH curve, but the Stars hitters catching up and his usually sharp command fell apart. Baranik ended up giving up six hits and three earned runs in just two innings of work.
Both were so sharp in St. Petersburg, it just goes to show how tricky it is to scout high school prospects. The good scouts look past performance to things like stuff, mechanics, and character, and those are things that show in some way just about every time out.
A hitter who showed well in that first game was Cole Gleason from Red Mountain High School in Mesa, Arizona, who played DH for Stars. The 6’0”, 200 lb Gleason has a powerful righthanded stroke and hit a hard double to the gap in four at-bats. He showed a true hitter’s approach and I’m curious to watch him swing the bat more and play in the field as the week goes on.
Redmond (WA) High righty Dylan Davis ranked #7 in the PG National Top-10 and looked outstanding again today, pitching in the final game for the RBI team. The powerfully built 6’0”, 200 pounder showed a strong delivery and easy arm-action, throwing 90-93 MPH and better depth on his slider than he’d shown in the Trop. The two things that stand out with Davis from the typical power-armed 6’0” righty is the strength in his delivery and his ability to mix pitches.
Third baseman Chris McFarland (Lufkin HS, TX) ranked #9 at the PG National and put his tremendous speed on display again playing for the American Legion team in the third game. The righthanded hitter crushed a triple to right-center and rounded first base in an astounding 4.08 seconds. He stood up at third and many in the crowd were disappointed he didn’t go for an inside-the-park homerun.
McFarland, who stands a little over 6’0”, is well-built at 200 lbs and has strength in his swing. He did show big holes on the outside of the plate, swinging and missing at fastballs in that location. He’ll need to work on that and polish up his glove, but the bat-speed and the running speed make him a premium prospect on their own.
Another hitter on the American Legion team caught my eye, a young left bat from Wyoming whom I’d never seen before. Brandon Nimmo showed nearly MLB-average bat-speed despite a very slender and immature 6’1”, 165 lb build. He hit one ball very hard over the centerfielder’s head and I got him home-to-first at a “plus” 4.11 seconds. From Cheyenne East High School, Nimmo looks to draw scouts to Wyoming next spring. I haven’t gotten a good look at him in the outfield yet, but he’s awful intriguing so far.
Indianapolis native Christian Montgomery (Lawrence Central HS) ranked #14 from the PG National and the righty threw even better today. The thickly built 6’1”, 240 lb righty dealt at 91-92 MPH and showed nearly a big league curveball. His delivery incorporates his massive lower-half and core muscles and though scouts are concerned about his future weight, there’s no questioning Montgomery’s tremendous strength compared to the average pitcher. He pitched very well in a three-inning stint.
Check back the next few days as I file more reports from Cary culminating in a Top Prospects article. There are a number of pitchers still to see and I’ll get a longer look at some of the nation’s premier position prospects.