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2023 Five Tool Texas 55: Players who Just Missed/Toughest Ranking Decisions

Cutting a list to just 55 players for the entire state of Texas is always difficult but this time felt especially tough. We aim to see as many players as possible, and in the case of some of these players it's a matter of seeing them more, seeing them healthy, or seeing them fill prominent roles for their high school teams this season.

- Pitchers Paxton Terveen (Stratford), Mason Green (Cypress Woods), Cole Kaase (Katy), Austin Vargas (Fulshear), Bryce McCain (Aledo), James Ellwanger (Magnolia West), Ty Baker (Second Baptist), Noah Bentley (Celina), Keevyn Goss (W.B. Ray), Kyle Bade (Plano), Carson Priebe (Wakeland), Jacob Gholston (Flower Mound), Jackson Elizondo (Smithson Valley), Hank Howard (Vista Ridge), Zachary Frye (Timber Creek), Ty Zahradnik (Keller), Blake Julius (Mansfield Legacy) and Lucas Moore (Katy) were all very strongly considered for one of the final spots.

The amount of pitching talent in the Houston area is exciting and the trio of lefties Terveen, Green and Vargas have arrows pointing in the right direction. Green really burst onto the scene this summer after battling some injuries last spring and Baylor immediately made a move to secure his commitment.

As for Terveen, he was so good in an outing last season, when he opposed Vanderbilt commitment Jakob Schulz, that Texas A&M locked up his commitment days later. He has some deception in a shorter arm path with really intriguing feel for spin and major strike-throwing potential; he’s certainly high on my list of guys I want to see this upcoming high school season because I haven't yet seen him and I suspect it'll take me about three innings for putting a 55 check by the name.

Vargas is tall, moves well on the mound and has plenty of room to fill out his 6-7, 200-pound frame. I saw him early last high school season against Ridge Point and by the end of the season it sounds like he was really, really starting to dominate. A former Houston commitment, Texas A&M now includes him as part of its recruiting class.

In a short look at the AABC Don Mattingly World Series, Kaase showed he might have a future 70-grade fastball. It’s a special pitch with all the ingredients you look for. If he continues to refine his slider and his strike-throwing progresses, he’s going to attract some scouting attention this high school season. After not pitching much for a loaded Katy team last year, he should figure into the mix as a key piece for a state title contender.

Speaking of Katy, I don’t think there’s a bigger Lucas Moore fan than the guy typing this story. He can flat out pitch and his changeup, which features some split-like tumble, is a plus offering and his big, high-spin hook isn’t far behind. Moore threw a ton of innings as Katy’s dude last season and you could tell in the summer that workload - Celina’s Noah Bentley fits this too - was making its presence felt. Don’t sleep on Moore as a good bet to be an all-state selection and a candidate to make a move.

When I watch Ellwanger, I see a lot of signs in the delivery/shoulder/arm that suggest there is a big velocity jump coming, but it might not be until college when DBU’s staff taps into some elements to make him more efficient on the mound. That said, physically he’s the type of prospect we often see get a lot stronger during an offseason and comes out throwing gas his senior year.

Goss and Elizondo are underrated athletes who had the steadiest heads in their delivery I saw this summer. The former was a strike-throwing machine with three pitches who is going to throw harder (good arm speed, movement and shoulder rotation) and the latter is a candidate to make a big jump in college when he leverages his physical gifts more in his delivery. While we're on the subject of Baylor commitments, Michael Herndon (Concordia Lutheran) is a definite name to follow, too. Herndon is a two-way talent and so is Vista Ridge's Hank Howard, who was a top performer with the bat this summer after turning heads with excellent performances on the mound this past spring. 

- A couple of players I’m excited to see come back from injury: Lake Creek right-hander Weston Moss and Fort Bend Travis’ Micah Dean. The former returned to the mound recently after coming back from Tommy John surgery and looks like he retained his impressive arm speed and velocity. The latter battled a shoulder injury and ended up undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. Dean should return fully some time in November and prior to injury he was one of the best combinations of all-around tools in the class.

Lake Belton’s Mason Gerrard returned from a shoulder injury to pitch this summer and is poised for a big senior season.

- Davis Rivers (Waller), Landon West (Tompkins), Lane Allen (Guyer), Ethan Farris (Cypress Woods) and Logan Myers (Arlington Martin) all possess impressive raw power and have proven capable of getting to it at the high school level. All five are top 55-type talents but many of the pitchers this summer were so good they forced their way onto the list at the expense of some bat-first power hitting prospects. Again, the list reaches a point where the talent is very similar and there isn’t much separation between 40 and the next 20 guys behind No. 55. In particular, Farris’ bat speed and Allen’s ability to cover the hitting zone stood out this summer. Although he doesn't boast the raw power those guys listed do, Westlake's Blake Peterson finds barrels about as well as anyone. He's battled injuries in the past and a strong senior season is likely on the horizon.

- I’m a sucker for talented QB1s and Connor Cuff fits that mold. He also has the makings of a plus arm from either third base or a corner outfield spot and an interesting blend of future hitting/power potential. He really caught my attention during my first look at this summer’s TSA Prospects All-Star Game. And while we're on the subject of Carthage, infielder Noah Paddie packs an athletic, twitchy punch from a undersized frame and is one to track closely.

- Brenham’s Lane Sparks and Val Alstyne’s Dakota Howard are two of the best outfielders in the state. Like the power hitters listed above, the pitching in the summer was so good that it resulted in a lot of really good hitters just missing the cut. Sparks wasn’t as consistent with the bat this summer as he’d prefer, but I think he’s going to time velocity and hit at the next level; his center field defense is probably above average at worst.

Howard is an excellent athlete who perfectly fits what Oklahoma likes to do on offense and had some bright flashes offensively and defensively this summer. While we’re on the subject of athletic Oklahoma commitments, I really want to see more of Dasan Harris because he might be one of the more intriguing combinations of projection and future tools in the state.

- Ben Tryon might prove to be this year’s edition of “the Southlake Carroll guy I should have added the first time around” because he’s capable of hitting over .400 this upcoming high school season with some power and solid third base defense. It’s telling that the DBU staff, a sharp one for finding hitting talent, jumped on him very early.

Another player who can hit and the game comes easy to is San Antonio Johnson’s Ryne Farber. A skilled switch-hitter who can stick on the dirt, Farber is among my favorite competitors and players in the state because he consistently finds ways to impact games and never looks overwhelmed. Caden Ferraro, a left-handed pitcher and two-way standout from Pearland, could lead a loaded Pearland team to an excellent season. He can really pitch, spin the baseball and can hit, too.

- As the fall winds down, we’re looking forward to another exciting high school season on the road.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball