The Five Tool scouting department returned from the 36th annual Area Code games in San Diego with tans you shouldn’t be envious of. But the baseball experience? You should be envious of that.
Long baseball days began with early mornings that quickly turned into picturesque, perfect nights at the University of San Diego’s Fowler Park thanks to the nation’s best high school baseball talent putting on an entertaining show each game. We didn’t see every pitch of every upperclass and underclass game, but we came pretty dang close to seeing every game. Now, it’s time to share what we saw.
Since we’re based in Texas and made the trip primarily to see how the Lone Star State performed on the biggest scouting stage in prep baseball, we’ll continue with a breakdown of the Texas Rangers underclass (2024/2025 prospects) team before releasing notes on the national upperclass and underclass players. The Rangers’ batting practice session created more chatter from scouts than any other team, and we’ll begin with one of the main reasons why…
I’ve seen Tomball catcher and LSU commitment Cade Arrambide take batting practice before and show his plus raw power, but in a couple high school looks last season, I didn’t see him tap into it. I left San Diego wondering if Arrambide was the best Texas prospect in the 2024 class.
The physical right-handed hitting catcher didn’t just show his intriguing power a little bit; after smoking a hard double in the first game, Arrambide hit a homer to left-center field that was hit so hard it knocked a branch off a tree. Think about that for a moment: he hit a liner that cleared the fence and still had enough velocity to actually knock a branch off a tree. Incredible. And of course, my phone was overheating while it happened.
Anyway, Arrambide struck out just once and showed much better pitch recognition and future hitting ability than I saw during the high school season. As a sophomore at Tomball, spin gave Arrambide issues. In San Diego against better competition, he looked like a dramatically improved hitter and the total package as a catching prospect. In addition to finishing a very loud 4-for-8, Arrambide caught multiple runners stealing with 1.9 pop times, showcasing a plus arm. Dude. Alert.
The Rangers were loaded at the catcher position. AJ DePaolo (Prestonwood Christian Academy) was an impressive receiver behind the dish. In a setting where catchers can sometimes struggle to simply receive the baseball, DePaolo, a Vanderbilt commitment, showed advanced skill and noteworthy agility and athleticism. He displayed solid swing/take decisions, played with infectious energy and confidence and has a real chance to stick behind the dish.
Nolan Traeger, committed to TCU, has one of my favorite left-handed swings in the class and that’s mostly because of the impressive bat speed. But what might have impressed the most was the willingness to understand when to unleash an aggressive hack and when to remain patient. The Concordia Lutheran prospect smoked a hard liner in one of the games I saw and finished the event with five walks in four games. Like his teammates at the position, Traeger was constantly talking behind the plate and carried himself like a leader.
You have my full attention
I don’t think ‘surprised’ is the right word because Oklahoma commitment Austin Phillips stood out when I saw him earlier in the summer during the Pudge Rodriguez World Classic. He was obviously very talented. However, he was unquestionably one of the top infielder prospects I saw during Area Code underclass competition because he elevated his performance and showed impressive skill and stood out among his peer group, which happened to be the best collection of talent he’ll compete with and against until he’s probably back next year.
Phillips (South Grand Prairie) timed good fastballs well with some of his best swings, showed gap-to-gap power with room for more, struck out just once and played with a slow, confident heartbeat in the batter’s box and on the dirt. Phillips showed impressive defensive ability with confident actions and hands and a strong arm. As Phillips continues to fill out and grow, he has all the ingredients to be one of the state’s top position players and an all-around standout at third base.
Uncommitted but probably not for long…
Nathan Tobin (V.R. Eaton) ran 4.09 seconds down the line and finished 5-for-9 with two walks. An impressive athlete with at least plus speed, Tobin routinely let the baseball travel and smacked singles through all parts of the infield; in particular, Tobin showcased an advanced feel for using the opposite field, especially when down in the count. He looks like a future top-of-the-order bat at a major D1 program and the only thing that stands between him and major prospect status is improved outfield defense, which should come with more reps.
Speaking of excellent athletes who can run (4.29 down the line and six steals), Donte Lewis (Shadow Creek) didn’t just settle in: he emerged as one of the better prospects in the event with an extremely strong finish. With a simple approach from the right side that utilizes his quick, strong hands, balance and ability to rotate, Lewis, an infielder, began hitting the ball hard through the infield and showed some juice with a triple.
A quick-twitch, high-waisted athlete who is a standout dual-threat quarterback on the gridiron, Lewis was an impressive competitor with a natural feel for playing the game and making an impact in all phases. Long-term, he’s a middle-of-the-diamond player who has a good chance of sticking on the dirt.
The 2025 prospects arrived ready to play
It’s become a joke around the Five Tool offices - we don’t actually have an office in the traditional sense, so just think of the virtual offices - how big of a fan I am of Kayson Cunningham (Claudia Taylor Johnson; San Antonio). There are some guys who are such impressive natural hitters that it doesn’t take long to figure it out. Cunningham is one of those players. Oh, he also is a plus runner and showed in San Diego he has a real chance to stick at shortstop.
Hitting leadoff in the first game, Cunningham, after fouling a good heater, jumped all over a two-strike mistake changeup and smoked a triple to the right field wall. He later added two more very loud hits and in the following games walked twice with another hit before the event’s conclusion. Looking way ahead, there's a chance we could be discussing Cunningham in a couple years the way many people discussed No. 4 overall pick Temarr Johnson, who was regarded as the nation’s best prep hitter and had a long track record of performing on the biggest summer stages.
Heading into Area Code, I saw Taylor Tracey play at Dripping Springs, but I never saw him pitch. After seeing him on the mound, it’s obvious the lefty is one of the state’s premier pitching prospects. Tall, skinny, long, and high-waisted with projection, the Tennessee commitment threw 3.0 dominant, shutout innings and gave up just one hit, walked one and struck out seven.
After quickly settling in, Tracey went to work with a fastball (85-87 MPH) that punched above its weight class, changeup (80-81 MPH) that racked up whiffs against right-handers with its four-seam look and short, lade fade and curveball (73 MPH) that froze multiple batters. Tracey could pitch, too. He moved his fastball up-and-down, commanded his changeup to his arm side and took advantage of what the game was telling him, like following a very aggressive swing against a fastball with a changeup in a similar location. Outstanding performance.
Statistically (3.0 IP, 2R, 1ER, 2BB, 3SO), Marcos Paz (Hebron) was good but not great. However, he threw better than the box score shows. The big, physical right-hander gave up a couple of soft infield singles, needed a little more help from his defense behind him, and his misses were quality misses just off the plate. Basically, the uncommitted right-hander looked like one of the best 2025 prospects in Texas and the nation.
Paz threw his fastball with some natural sink 85-89 MPH with a sharp slider 78-82 MPH and a swing-and-miss changeup 78-81 MPH. What was more impressive than the stuff was the demeanor. Paz, with an easy, low-effort delivery, kept the same heartbeat regardless of what happened the previous pitch and during an outing when the breaks didn’t go his way, he kept competing and never once showed a hint of frustration or lack of confidence. Paz is the type of competitor and pitcher who could be dropped into any high school baseball setting - heck, probably college, too - and would be the same guy on the mound he is for Hebron or the Stix.
Up to 86 MPH on the mound, right-handed pitcher Luke Billings flashed some intriguing upside as a pitcher but also looked, unsurprisingly, a bit fatigued. With the bat, the Tennessee commitment provided one of the highlights of the underclass event when he smashed a no-doubt bomb out to left field.
Billings, another top prospect from Prosper High School, swung a dangerously heavy barrel that created loud impact and was one of the most productive hitters on the roster. For a 2025 prospect, Billings showed an advance willingness to take his walks and will likely emerge as one of the top power bats in the state. Billings played outfield for the Rangers, which looks like it could be his future defensive home thanks to his strong arm, promising athletic profile at a corner outfield spot and his bat.
Minjae Seo, the younger brother of Texas Rangers upperclass pitcher MJ Seo, threw 3.0 innings and gave up one run on three hits, one walk and struck out four. A loose athlete who should fill out considerably as he matures, Seo touched 90 MPH with his fastball and threw a 71-74 MPH curve and 78 MPH changeup; the latter two pitches created whiffs, especially the changeup against lefties, while Seo challenged hitters with some arm side execution of his fastball. A Vanderbilt commitment, Seo showed he’s on track to be one of the top pitching prospects in Texas and the nation for the 2025 class.
Quick hitters on the rest of the roster…
- Tristan Bristow gave up four runs on four hits, one walk and struck out three across 3.0 innings. Up to 88 MPH with his fastball and using a curveball in the 69-72 MPH range, Bristow remains a two-pitch pitcher in the looks I’ve seen. But he also remains one of the most projectable - physically and stuff/skill-wise - pitching prospects in the 2024 class because of his athleticism and loose, quick arm. Bristow, committed to Vanderbilt from Harlan High School, could make a huge jump in the future when he becomes more efficient on the mound and better leverages his physical gifts.
- Was excited to see David Hogg II, a LSU commitment, for the first time and left just as excited about his long-term outlook. A good competitor with impressive defensive skill on the dirt, Hogg showed some explosive actions athletically and packs some intriguing punch with his bat. Like some of his teammates, Hogg did a good job of leaving previous results in the batter’s box behind him and improved with each plate appearance, which resulted in a productive even.t
- We know Wyatt Sanford can fly and the left-handed hitting middle infielder ran 4.13 seconds down the line in San Diego. Sanford routinely put the ball in play during the final three games but didn’t have anything to show for it. As the skinny, athletic infielder fills out and adds more strength, the ability to impact the baseball should increase.
- Hagen Shedd, an uncommitted prospect from Canyon Randall, began to put the ball in play with results from the right side and cut down on his whiff rate. A two-way talent who tossed a scoreless inning on the mound, Shedd played in the outfield for the Rangers with some time spent in center field. Shedd has arm strength, but his arm action and release can benefit from becoming more consistent; finding his natural, repeatable slot as a position player and pitcher could allow him to make a huge leap.
- Up to 93 MPH on the mound with the type of fastball you can hear sizzling towards home plate, Matthew Millett threw 3.0 scoreless, no-hit innings with three walks. A tall, long right-hander, Millett does occasionally battle his length in his delivery/arm action, not uncommon for a pitcher his age and size, and a more consistent hand finish out of a low three-quarters slot could really do wonders for his command and slider (up to 78 MPH). That said, I was impressed with how Millett finished his fastball out front and he showed a promising changeup.
- Klein Oak outfielder Matthew Scott II was the talk of the underclass batting practice session, showcasing huge power and the type of right-handed swing that should allow him to tap into it. It’s not a surprise after he smashed five homers, including some the opposite way, during the Pudge Rodriguez World Classic. He just missed a homer to left field, which resulted in a triple, during game action and made an impressive adjustment to time pitches better and make quality contact after the first game.
Scott has plenty of physical projection remaining and it would be an upset if he’s not one of the state’s top power hitters in 2024. Handing the baseball in the outfield was an occasional issue but should improve with reps. Regardless, Scott is the type of hitting prospect who should be back in San Diego at Area Code next year.
- We didn’t get to see Jordan Stribling pitch, but the reports we received included a good fastball up to 93 MPH and a high-spin breaking ball. An impressive 6-5, 200-pound multi-sport athlete, Stribling has struggled with his control in the looks we’ve had this summer, but his athleticism suggests that should improve in the future. An uncommitted prospect, the best pitching coaches in the state have to love the idea of working with Stribling because there is a ton of potential to unlock.
- Sign me up as a big fan of Brayden Bergman. The Baylor commitment from Plano East was up to 93 MPH with a heater that beat hitters during his backend relief appearance with a 75 MPH curveball and an 81 MPH changeup. With the bat, Bergman showed strength, confidence and the ability to impact the baseball, which included a triple the opposite way that burned the right fielder. Most impressively, Bergman is simply a baseball player capable of doing whatever a coach asks. Looking way ahead, I could see him being a hitter and pitcher at Baylor, especially if he settles into a backend bullpen role where his mentality on the mound and stuff would thrive.
- My Uber to the airport arrived during the final inning of his outing, but I saw enough of Argyle right-hander Hudson Emeterio to know his slider has the potential to be a future plus pitch, he’s going to throw harder - probably much harder - in the future than the 88 MPH I saw and his changeup is a legitimate third pitch. A big, tall righty still growing into his frame, Emeterio did struggle with his control, but the flashes were bright.
Five Tool Baseball
Drew Bishop contributed to this report