As the high school season winds down, the summer season begins. For Five Tool, that means baseball of almost all ages taking place almost each day across what seems like the entire state. I spent time in the Houston area this past weekend seeing some of the Houston Regional competition at Houston Baptist University and Tomball Memorial High School. Here are some 17/18U scout notes:

(Note: Our social media team, as usual, did a phenomenal job covering the event, highlighting standout plays, performances and more. My notes focus on in-person looks during the event. Obviously, I can’t be everywhere at all times, which means some performances or players are left off unintentionally.)

Next Level 2023 – Davis

Klein Collins 2023 shortstop Colton Griffin, a SFA commitment, really stood out during Five Tool competition last summer and he again grabbed my attention. The left-handed hitter ran 4.1 seconds down the line and I bet he breaks 4.0 seconds before his high school career ends. With an athletic bounce to his step and movements, Griffin showed improved defensive glovework, which included making three highlight plays and nearly completing another. He’s definitely athletic enough (football standout) to stick at shortstop and the range/hands he showed this past weekend increased the likelihood he could stick there in college; the next step is improving the throwing accuracy.

I didn’t get to see Griffin put the bat in motion much because he didn’t see a lot of strikes, which led to three walks in addition to being hit by a pitch once. Griffin’s relaxed hands start low near the letters across the chest and help create a better bat path with his quick hands and bat speed. He didn’t strike out once across 15 plate appearances.

After a strong junior season at Klein Oak, uncommitted two-way talent Bret Deegan unsurprisingly hit .350/.500/.727 during the Five Tool Houston Regional. A physical right-handed hitter, Deegan has gap-to-gap power, which showed with four doubles this past weekend, and is a threat to pull a mistake over the wall with a swing built to do damage with liners or flies. Each time I’ve seen Deegan, he’s never looked bothered or overwhelmed by anything happening on the field, especially in the batter’s box; he has a natural competitiveness that should translate well at the next level and is likely a player mid-major D1s and top JUCO programs will track closely this summer.

Left-handed hitting outfielder McKade Massengale (Barbers Hill) played very hard, which meant he easily stood out during Thursday’s competition that lacked energy. On that note, there were too many players who carried themselves with terrible body language, poor energy and simply looked like they didn’t want to be there. Just know if you’re a player like that, you’ll immediately stand out in a bad way. And if you’re a player like Massengale, who took extra bases and sprinted on a routine grounder to second base, which led to an error with the surprised second baseman looked up, you stand out positively. Colleges want the players who stand out positively.

Garrick Williams, an uncommitted 2023 two-way player from Woodlands College Park, creates some natural deception in his delivery thanks to his arm path; hitters see the ball late, which helped his 81-85 MPH fastball (sometimes he unintentionally cut the heater) play up. The tall, lean righty threw a slurve-like breaking ball 68-70 MPH for strikes and some downward break when commanded down in the zone. With physical projection present and a lot of room for developmental gains with reps/delivery tweaks, Williams should garner some looks from colleges this summer. Strong through his lower half, my limited look at Williams as a hitter saw some intriguing bat speed and the chance for impact to be added to the swing.

Wheelhouse Baseball 17U

Admittedly a sucker for slick glovework at shortstop, 2023 Langham Creek standout Jonathan Trejo immediately grabbed my attention. Smoothly and instinctively moving around the dirt with a loose body that has projection (skinny legs and arms but some chest and shoulder width), Trejo, who is uncommitted, showed clean, slick, confident defensive actions and enough arm to make throws from deep in the hole.

He played shortstop with soft hands and wanted the baseball hit to him. His profile is definitely defense first, but the defense looked good enough to put him on some college radars this summer. As you can see below, he showed his range, instincts and fearlessness when chasing down a shallow fly ball in left field.

Klein Cain 2023 infielder Alfonso Camacho looked like one of Wheelhouse’s best hitters, and the numbers – .400/.417/.600 this past week – back that up. Short with a compact, muscular frame and short arms, Camacho used the entire field and has a line-drive swing. The right-handed hitter ran 4.39 seconds from home to first on a turn and speed looked like it’s part of his offensive profile.

The only guy who swung the bat better for Wheelhouse than Camacho was Oak Ridge two-way player Justin Bryant. A skinny right-handed hitter, Bryant did a good job of using hip rotation to add to his hand/bat speed and tracked pitches comfortably and naturally. The infielder and pitcher made an impact for a really, really good Oak Ridge team this past season and is poised to play a bigger role as a senior next season. In the meantime, his intriguing two-way profile, which features some arm strength, should lead to a productive summer.

I’m going to cheat with a performance I didn’t see but deserves recognition: Lake Creek 2023 right-hander Jace Newkirk was up to 87 MPH and threw a no-hitter with eight strikeouts. After becoming a key starter for one of the best 5A teams in the state, Newkirk was named 20-5A’s District Newcomer of the Year and looks like an arm college programs need to get some eyes on as soon as possible because he won’t remain uncommitted long.

Houston Athletics 17U Gold

Let me first say that I enjoyed watching this team more than any other this weekend and that’s because of the way the coaching staff coached and interacted with its players and because of the way the players took the field and competed. When the A’s were on the field, they played with a competitive joy and brought energy to each pitch, something that was clearly lacking in other games.

Among the players who set the tone for the A’s was 2023 catcher Tommy Willis. A tall catcher (around 6-2) who won a state championship this season at Second Baptist, Willis worked hard for his pitchers and quietly created targets for pitchers while showing some catch-and-throw skill. His right-handed swing looked like it was more contact based than power, but he should grow into some gap-to-gap power and should be physical enough to add an occasional homer to his profile.

I left a big fan of 2023 Milby two-way standout Art Perez. A key member of a team who made a very deep playoff run this past season, Perez oozes a gamer-like vibe and a lot of the game comes naturally, especially hitting. The lefty fired strikes – 4.2 innings pitched, zero earned runs, four hits, three walks and six strikeouts –
with all his pitches on the mound, and utilized a simple, repeatable delivery with some signs of command to both sides of the plate with his fastball.

In the batter’s box, the left-handed hitter tracked pitches out of the hand very well, allowing him to keep his weight back and use his quick, confident hands to smack hard liners and grounders up the middle. I didn’t see much swing and miss at all in Perez’s hitting profile and although his hitting outlook is definitely more batting average over power, I think there’s some intriguing, natural hitting feel present; he had noticeable hand-eye coordination and feel for making contact at a high rate, which included easily timing an 87 MPH fastball with the type of body language that made the pitch seem slow.

Pearland 2023 outfielder Brett Smajstrla, who was a first-team all-district selection, has an intriguing hitting profile which features some speed to go with some raw power. There is a little swing and miss present in the bat from the right side, but there’s also some noticeable gap-to-gap impact that will grow into more homers. Although there is some present strength packed onto an athletic, linebacker-type frame, Smajstrla still has some more physical projection remaining and has some quick twitch as well. He easily handled a lot of action in center field.

Another Pearland standout also doing his thing for the Athletics is infielder Braeden Morse, who was the district Newcomer of the Year. I could see why. At the hot corner, Morse comfortably and confidently handled some hot shots his way and showcased quality instincts, like scoring from second base on a wild pitch that the catcher was slow to find. With quick, strong hands, Morse got his barrel through the hitting zone quickly and accurately, which led to a .556/.714/.556 slash line this past week. He’s probably going to hit more topspin liners than backspin flies, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t rack up a ton of hits this summer.

Wildcatters 2023 Richardson

After watching a couple of Braelon Richardon’s at-bats, I saw why South Alabama already secured a commitment from the talented 2024 prospect, who is a middle of the diamond player on the dirt or in the outfield. The Kingwood product profiles as a future top-of-the-order hitter because of his barrel control, bat speed and feel for using all parts of the field when in the batter’s box. Although he gets out of the box slowly, Richardson’s speed shows up in other areas of the game.

Texas State 2023 commitment John Hebert was up to 89 MPH out of the bullpen in the first game I saw the Wildcatters play and then started the next game, which predictably led to decreased velocity and stuff. Another Kingwood product, Hebert flashed a 78 MPH slider, with true shape, that recorded a swing and miss and also flashed a promising yet lightly used changeup that led to a swing and miss as well. He worked primarily with his fastball, and he looked visibly fatigued during his second outing. That said, he showed glimpses of why his upside is high.

I liked the hitting feel tall, switch-hitting first baseman Kendall Dove showed. The New Caney product took under control at-bats from both sides of the plate and I liked the swing from the left side. A two-sport athlete who is a standout football player, Dove should fill out considerably more and added strength in the future could change his hitting profile to add more power. He hit the ball had multiple times.

Sons of Thunder

Let’s keep it in the Dove family: College coaches need to track New Caney 2023 right-handed pitcher Kamar Dove, who should be on the radar of JUCO and mid-major D1 coaches presently with the potential to develop into more. A first-team all-district pick, the skinny, 6-4 righty doesn’t lack physical projection and has an intriguing feel for spin (69-71 MPH curve; true overhand shape) to go with a sinking fastball (85-87 MPH) and a straight changeup (76 MPH) thrown with conviction.

Dove takes the field with a noticeably joyous energy and was into each pitch of the game, offering encouragement to teammates, even when he wasn’t on the mound. He has a quick, loose arm and his basketball background shows in his athleticism on the mound, when he bounces off it defensively, and his ability to repeat his delivery. There’s definite potential here.

All 2023 Hargrave product Ramiro Meza did this past weekend as hit over and over and over again. He hit breaking balls, changeups, fastballs and smacked liners all over the field. The left-handed hitting third baseman finished with a .500/.500/.800 slash line and didn’t strike out once. His power and athleticism aren’t going to stand out, but the feel for hitting will.

Expos Baseball 18U

At HBU, the infield is grass and grounders approach infielders quickly and in a bad mood. So, if a shortstop can handle that surface without much experience playing there, it’s going to stand out. Bay City 2023 infielder Ashton Wallace, a right-handed hitter, did exactly that. He made all the plays defensively with soft hands and showed range to both sides, which included a fantastic sliding stop on a hard grounder up the middle to save a run. Light on his feet with quality defensive instincts, Wallace has a defense-first profile, but he did hit .400/.500/.600 this past weekend.

Was a little surprised to see left-handed hitting third baseman Reagan James (Angleton) only hit .167/.375/.167 during the Houston Regional. There was a noticeable loop in his left-handed swing, but there was also bat speed and what looked like the ability to punish mistakes with some power. James showed a good baseball clock defensively and quality instincts. He looked like the type of guy who ends up at a JUCO and mashes.

USA Prime Houston – Limonta

Undersized, pesky 2023 leadoff hitter Darius Woodson (Tompkins) was an on-base machine for his team and scored eight runs across five games thanks to his ability to let the baseball travel, cover the plate and make contact to all fields. Woodson made all his plays in the outfield defensively and looks like he’s going to annoy pitchers all summer with his bat control.

Katy 2023 catcher Reese Ruderman ripped liners into the right-center gap multiple times, but the right-handed hitting catcher also showed some pull-side ability when he smoked a double to the left field wall. With strong hands and wrists, Ruderman had a very productive event at the plate.

Even though he didn’t put up huge numbers with the bat, Westside 2023 infielder and right-handed pitcher Cade Langford caught my eye. He handled shortstop well, although his future looks like it would be at second or third base, and his right-handed swing should translate to some success this summer. Langford started a game on the mound to open the event and punched out eight across 5.2 scoreless innings.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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