WWBA shifts into full gear on second day of play
High school showcase features prospects Verdugo, Gatewood; arms Murray, Medeiros
JUPITER, Fla. -- Perfect Game's World Wood Bat Association World Championship featured several intriguing pitchers on Thursday's Opening Day, which included 19 games. But the final major event on the high school showcase circuit didn't really get into full swing until Friday.
Dozens of top prospects for the 2014-16 First Year Player Drafts took the field in 54 games, with start times from 8 a.m. ET through 7:40 p.m. and as many as 12 contests going on at once. That's why teams deploy squadrons of scouts to Jupiter's Roger Dean Stadium complex -- there's simply too much action for an individual to take in at once.
That didn't stop us from trying. We picked our spots on Friday, and here's what we saw:
• Evoshield Canes right-hander Brandon Murray (Hobart H.S., Hobart, Ind.) created buzz by reaching 96 mph earlier in the summer, but he wasn't as overpowering when he worked the first two innings of a 12-0 rout of the Texas Sun Devils. He topped out at 94 mph and mostly sat at 91.
Murray has good strength in his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, but he also has some effort in his delivery. He wasn't especially sharp on Friday, throwing just 22 of 39 pitches for strikes while relying almost solely on his fastball. He threw only four curveballs, which ranged from 73-76 mph, but none of them found the strike zone. He's a South Carolina recruit.
The main attraction on the Sun Devils was supposed to be athletic shortstop Ti'quan Forbes (Columbia H.S., Columbia, Miss.), but he was absent because of football commitments.
• After Murray left the game, I hustled over to the other side of the complex, hoping to catch late-inning at-bats from Alex Verdugo (Sahuaro H.S., Tucson, Ariz.) and Michael Chavis (Sprayberry High, Marietta, Ga.).
Verdugo is also a prospect as a pitcher, and he struck out nine in three innings on the mound on Thursday. The 6-foot, 195-pound lefty has a quick bat and good feel for hitting, which were on display when he pulled a ground-rule double to right field in the sixth inning.
The Arizona State recruit finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk. A solid runner who usually plays center field, he played left in this game for the Texas Scout Team Yankees.
Chavis, who plays for Team Rawlings and has committed to Clemson, struck out against a breaking ball in the fifth inning. Earlier in the game, he drilled a triple to center field and made a nice play on a slow roller at third base, though he also mishandled a throw from the outfield.
Scouts who like the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Chavis believe in his bat and solid all-round athleticism. He won the Home Run Derby at the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park in August.
• The ever-present golf carts were stacked three and four deep around Marlins Field 4 at 12:40 p.m., as left-hander Kodi Medeiros (Waiakea H.S., Hilo, Hawaii) was the main attraction of the day. Medeiros, who flew in from Hawaii to join the Ohio Warhawks, pitched the first three innings of an 8-0 win over Chandler Baseball.
Though Medeiros didn't display the 92-95 mph fastball and quality slider he featured in an inning of work at the PG All-American Classic, he still impressed with the life on his heater. The 6-foot, 185-pound southpaw throws from a low arm slot, and his fastball dances all over the place.
Medeiros threw 29 of 43 pitches for strikes, averaging 90 mph with his fastball and topping out at 94. He struggled to keep his upper-70s slider in the strike zone, but he recorded a pair of strikeouts with his diving changeup in the second inning. He has committed to Pepperdine.
Right-hander Jonathan Teaney (Quartz Hill H.S., Quartz Hill, Calif.) followed Medeiros on the mound for the Warhawks and was also impressive. A San Diego recruit, he has a quick arm and projection remaining in his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame.
Teaney threw just 15 of his 28 pitches for strikes, but allowed only a hit batter in two innings of work. He recorded three strikeouts (two looking) with an 89-92 mph fastball and showed impressive depth on his 80-82 mph curveball.
The Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler has the deepest lineup in Jupiter, but that didn't faze Team Northwest righthander Matthew Mercer (Timberline H.S., Lacey, Wash.), a junior who will be Draft-eligible in 2015. He struck out the side in the first inning: Nicholas Gordon (Olympia H.S., Orlando, Fla.), Forrest Wall (Orangewood Christian H.S., Maitland, Fla.) and Alex Jackson (Rancho Bernardo H.S., San Diego, Calif.), all of whom project to go in the first couple of rounds of the 2014 Draft.
Mercer is a slender 6-foot-2, 160-pound right-handed hitter who has already committed to Washington State. He hides the ball well with a deceptive delivery, and he consistently missed bats Friday with both his 88-90 mph fastball and 71-75 mph curveball. He worked into the sixth before tiring, and the Northwest bullpen couldn't hold the lead in what became a 9-5 Cardinals victory.
Jackson could be the first position player drafted in June, but he didn't do much in this game. He struck out twice against Mercer fastballs, knocked him out of the game with a broken-bat single and whiffed on an offspeed pitch in the seventh.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound player has impressive raw power from the right side of the plate, but his swing can get long, and he has been missing fastballs in Jupiter. He also did so Thursday night as well against some quality Cangelosi Baseball pitching, though he also went 2-for-3 with a double in that game. An Oregon recruit, Jackson has a strong arm behind the plate, but wasn't tested on Friday by Northwest.
Gordon, the son of former All-Star Tom Gordon and brother of current Dodgers infielder Dee Gordon, went 0-for-4 at the plate, grounding out three times after his first-inning strikeout. He did show off his plus-speed when he pressured a Northwest infielder into a seventh-inning error. He bats left-handed, but he'll need to add strength to his 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame to do damage at the plate.
Gordon had a rough game defensively on Thursday and spent Friday as an extra hitter and a second baseman, but he has the actions and arm strength to make it at shortstop. Scouts had hoped to see the Florida State recruit close the game on the mound, but the Cardinals changed their game plan and will pitch him later in the tournament. He has displayed a low-90s fastball and a sharp curveball in short stints during the summer, though it's believed he'd prefer to be an everyday player.
The most impressive Cardinals on Friday were shortstop Milton Ramos (Florida Christian H.S., Miami) and right-hander Alex Faedo (Alonso H.S., Tampa, Fla.). A Florida Atlantic recruit, Ramos is an outstanding defender and made two nice plays at short, and he also drilled two line-drive singles at the plate. Faedo, a Florida commit, worked two scoreless innings with a 90-93 mph fastball and a 79-82 mph slider.
• Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team shortstop Jacob Gatewood (Clovis H.S., Clovis, Calif.) looks the part. He's a 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-handed hitter who moves well, has a strong arm and can put on as impressive a batting-practice display as just about anyone. He made a name for himself by winning the junior portion of the All-Star Game Home Run Derby, blasting 13 homers with a metal bat at Citi Field in July, then won the same event at the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field in August.
While Gatewood has impressive strength and bat speed, his power doesn't translate easily in game action. Committed to Southern California, he has a long swing and a very busy setup at plate, leading to struggles with his timing. He went 0-for-3 Friday night against GBG Marucci, striking out on a high 87-mph fastball and hitting a pair of routine groundouts to shortstop.
GBC Marucci, which rallied for a 5-4 win, has one of the deeper rosters in Jupiter. The standout on Friday was shortstop Josh Morgan (Orange Lutheran H.S., Orange, Calif.), who went 3-for-3 with a double off an 89-mph fastball, a walk and two steals.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound right-handed hitter has impressive power and makes consistent contact. A UCLA recruit, he may have the defensive chops to stay at shortstop and should provide enough offense even if he moves to third base down the road.