The days of non-district tournaments, freezing temperatures and coaches getting looks at as many players as they can to figure out their best lineups are in the past. Well, I at least hope the calendar flipping from March to April means those freezing temps are gone, but who the heck knows in Texas? Anyway, district baseball is in full swing and competitive matchups are determining playoff positioning across the great state of Texas.

On a personal level, the end of those tournaments and the move to district scheduling means fewer games and more time between my trips to ballparks around San Antonio, Houston and Central Texas. The newest Dustin’s Deep Drives covers four games over the last two weeks and the last game made me wonder if I watched the state’s best prospect in the 2024 class. Let’s get to it:

Atascocita vs. Summer Creek

SUMMER CREEK HIGH SCHOOL – I arrived at Summer Creek High School anticipating a very competitive, back-and-forth district matchup between arguably the two top teams in the district. I left singing the praises of Cisco College following Summer Creek’s dominant 16-3 win. Sure, Texas signee Jayden Duplantier made an impact and Pepperdine signee and right-handed starting pitcher Adam Troy racked up more swings and misses than I could count with his entire arsenal. But I left wanting to see Erick Arcay hit over and over and over again.

A Cisco College signee, the left-handed bopper tracked and took pitches in a way that made me excited to see what happens when the bat is in motion because there was such a natural vibe to what he did in the box. With some players, you get a hunch they could be special hitters simply by watching them recognize and track pitches and the way they carry themselves in the batter’s box. It’s a reason why I’m so high on Waxahachie standout and Texas signee Jared Thomas. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Arcay put the bat in motion a lot, but when he did, it was one of the best left-handed swings I’ve seen from a senior this season.

Later in the week, he treated my co-workers to a show when he went 3-for-4 with six RBI and a walk. He also hammered that bomb (above video) off Abilene Christian signee Parker Matthews, a very talented right-handed pitcher. We always discuss on the Five Tool Podcast that JUCO baseball in Texas is outstanding and often filled with excellent talent. Credit Cisco College for signing Arcay and his brother Diego, who showed some intriguing bat speed from the right side and some juice, too. Both players could make some noise next season and Erick looks like a future MLB draft pick.

Arcay was so impressive it overshadowed Jayden Duplantier running 3.96 seconds down the line to beat out a grounder up the middle. The Texas signee has gotten quicker, faster and showed slightly improved bat speed, too. He reached base three times and remains one of the most impressive athletes in the class. Although he booted a hard grounder that took a tough hop, his defensive ability remains on track to stick on the dirt in college. All that said, Duplantier’s best attribute could be that he’s an “energy-giver.”

When I covered Shaka Smart during his team as the University of Texas’ basketball coach, he discussed “energy-givers” and “energy-takers.” The former carry themselves in a competitive environment in a way that radiates energy and indirectly gives energy to teammates simply through things like effort, body language, approach, communication and leadership; the latter carry themselves in a way with poor body language and the type of vibe that sucks energy from the team. Duplantier is unquestionably an “energy-giver,” and those are the types of things you often get a glimpse of during the summer but truly show during the high school season in a different competitive setting.

If Troy can harness his stuff and control/command at Pepperdine, he could become one of the best starting pitchers in the program. The tall, athletic right-handed pitcher routinely created swings and misses with his fastball, changeup and curveball. His fastball played up because of its shape/spin and although his overhand curveball was inconsistent, it did show a future plus look when it was around 65-68 MPH instead of 72-74 MPH because the slower speed included more spin and break. Troy also had full confidence in his changeup and was unafraid to use it. Physically, he has the tools to carry his stuff deep into outings as a starter, which showed when he struck out the side in the fourth inning after laboring some through the first inning because of his control.

Keep an eye on 2025 Summer Creek outfielder William Hill. He didn’t look at all overmatched at the varsity level, showed an intriguing right-handed swing and his all-around tools suggest he could develop into one of the states best prospects in his class. Hill hit a hard single, carried himself with an advanced hitting feel in the batter’s box and looked like a future plus, maybe plus-plus runner.

It was a tough night for an Atascocita club that fell behind early and didn’t match Summer Creek’s competitiveness and intensity. Kendall George tracked the ball very well in center field and looked like he could end up being an above-average defender at worst at a premium position. But he had a very quiet night offensively (was much better later in the week). It was the opposite for senior Chase Sowell, a Colorado Football signee. He was one of the few Atascocita players to hit the ball hard and did so multiple times, but he had a rough night defensively in left field. If Sowell continued playing baseball in college, his hitting tools and skill would undoubtedly make him a very intriguing D1 prospect.

Harlan vs. Brennan

NORTHSIDE ISD No. 1 – I really know how to pick them. After Summer Creek beat Atascocita 16-3, I watched Harlan take a 20-1 lead after four innings against Brennan before winning 22-1. I wish I could have pulled more from the game besides Harlan sophomore right-handed pitcher Tristan Bristow, but I’d be lying if I did. Frankly, it was as ugly as the score.

I wanted to see Bristow, a 2024 prospect committed to Vanderbilt, because we didn’t have any recent video on him and I’ve been trying to get some eyes on the 2024 class when I can. After seeing pitchers like Jake Neely and Casan Evans (more on him below), I wanted to see Bristow, who is just as famous as those other arms. His upside on the mound was obvious. An athletic and very projectable pitcher physically, Bristow touched 89 MPH in the first inning and pitched around 83-86 MPH out of the stretch and 85-88 MPH out of the windup. Currently, he’s just a two-pitch pitcher with an inconsistent breaking ball that at times shows an overhand look, a slurve look and even a sweeper look; but one thing remained consistent: his natural feel for spinning a breaking ball that created many uncomfortable takes and swings.

With a short leg kick and quick, loose arm, Bristow, as he matures and develops, should be able to tap into a big velocity jump in the future. It’s easy to see why Vanderbilt secured an early commitment because his upside is immense, but I’d classify him right now as a very, very, very talented piece of pitching clay to develop as compared to an advanced arm with signs of execution and command. That’s not a knock because Bristow is just a sophomore with elite potential and is absolutely going to be in the Five Tool 55 mix for the 2024 class when it’s time to unveil the initial list.

Oak Ridge vs. The Woodlands

SCOTLAND YARD – It’s impossible for us to be everywhere. But I still deal with major cases of FOMO when I miss awesome performances and The Woodlands’ two-way star Brayden Sharp contributed to a bad case of FOMO when he struck out 17 and threw a perfect game in late March. The junior left-hander has been on my must-watch list for a while and he’s been throwing the ball as well as any pitcher in the state. So, I made the trip to The Woodlands early last week to see a rivalry matchup against another outstanding team, Oak Ridge. The pitching didn’t disappoint.

Sharp, who has grown to around 6-4 and might not be done, is on the attack when he’s on the mound. He shows his athleticism with a big leg kick and finishes his delivery with good chest positioning and a strong lead leg. At times, the leg kick can contribute to the timing being a tad off, which led to some fastballs missing up-and-away against Oak Ridge and occasional control issues. That said, Sharp touched 95 MPH in the first inning, touched 91 MPH in the fifth inning with a high pitch count and his athleticism and strength allow him to fire gas even with the active delivery, which features a very quiet head despite the leg movement. I anticipate Sharp sitting in the mid-90s in the future and perhaps as early as next year.

Once Sharp settled in, he showed some command and execution with his fastball to his glove side and had a lot of confidence in his curveball, which sat 76-77 MPH early and played a little better at 73-76 MPH later. At times, the hook popped out of his hand, allowing hitters to track it better early, but later in the outing with less velocity, the pitch had better bite and created swings and misses with a tougher look for hitters. Occasionally, Sharp mixed in a 77-78 MPH slider with slurve-like shape and it was effective enough to project it as a possible impact pitch moving forward; in one of the only times he used it he recorded a strikeout swinging with it. Sharp threw one changeup at 83 MPH and it’s definitely a work in progress. Across 5.0 innings, he gave up one unearned run on two hits, four walks and struck out eight.

Oh, Sharp can swing the bat, too. He rolled over a pitch his first at-bat and ran 4.28 down the line. Later, he hit two rockets from the left side right at the left fielder and center fielder, who was positioned in very deep right-center field. The ball jumps off Sharp’s bat thanks to his added strength and there’s noticeable feel for the barrel. If he was just a hitter, he’d be one of the top juniors in the state. But as impressive as this hitting look was, Sharp looked like he possesses the most potential on the mound. And I’m talking potential day one MLB Draft pick in 2023. When you consider the frame, athleticism, velocity, and present feel for his arsenal, it’s easy to dream of a special left-handed pitching talent.

Perhaps I’m burying the lede here because Oak Ridge right-handed pitcher and Tyler Junior College signee Aden Lucas threw a three-hit shutout at The Woodlands, one of the toughest places in the state to leave with a win. Lucas only touched 83 MPH with a dancing sinker, but he manipulated the shape of his slider and threw his breaking stuff wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted with impressive spin, which led to a lot of frustrated swings.

Lucas is the definition of a ‘slow heartbeat competitor’ because it didn’t even look like he broke a sweat on the mound and he walked off the mound after the final out like he just tossed a couple scrimmage innings. He’s simply a ballplayer and the game comes easy to him. At the next level, he likely profiles as a position player first and the right-handed hitter had one of the few hits against Sharp and looked comfortable in the box when most hitters his age wouldn’t.

What helped Lucas’ standout performance on the mound was the work of 2023 catcher and Vanderbilt commitment Conner Bennett. He’s an undersized catcher, but he has a lightning-quick transfer, positioned and received well and uses his athleticism and agility to his advantage. Bennett broke a scoreless tie when he smacked a hard RBI double the opposite way against Sharp. He creates a consistently good bat path with a simple, repeatable approach in the batter’s box.

The game featured outstanding catching on both sides because St. Edward’s signee Nathan Owens performed as well defensively as any senior catcher I’ve seen this season. In particular, Owens blocked breaking stuff exceptionally well and managed to deaden the baseball with his chest to keep it from getting away. Owens moved with impressive agility, athleticism and quickness and showed a 1.93 pop time during warmups.

Keep an eye on Oak Ridge uncommitted junior center fielder Dillon Staples. He smashed a hanging slider late for a three-bomb in the seventh inning and read the ball off the bat very well in center field. A lot of his movements on the field are athletic and so is his projectable build. Unfortunately for junior right-hander Carson Kimball, the homer came at his expense. However, the uncommitted prospect recorded, during his 2.0 innings, swings and misses on his fastball, changeup and slider. The delivery looks like a relief profile, but he touched 89 MPH, and when the slider was right, it was tough to handle.

I also thoroughly enjoyed watching Western Texas College signee Azais Garza hit because he has impressive bat speed and doesn’t get cheated. But he also knows when and how to cut down his swing from the right side. Galveston College signee Jacob Bulcroft made a couple of tough plays at third base and swung the bat as well as anyone for The Woodlands.

Concordia Lutheran vs. St. Pius X

CONCORDIA LUTHERAN HIGH SCHOOL – It’s pretty dang cool to walk into Concordia Lutheran’s ballpark and see the recognition of recent studs Ke’Bryan Hayes, Shane Baz and Glenn Otto. All three of them appeared in MLB games last season. Did Friday night’s game feature a few future big leaguers? We’ll see. But it did feature some outstanding pitching.

Observers didn’t know it at the time, but a three-run first inning by St. Pius X would be enough for sophomore right-hander Casan Evans. This was my second time to see Evans and this look was a tad different. Evans still featured the lively heater, which touched 93 MPH in the first inning and still touched 91 MPH in the final inning of a two-hit shutout (10 strikeouts, just one walk). As his outing progressed, one difference was Evans’ ability to sink the fastball towards his arm-side to give right-handed hitters issues. Another difference I noticed was Evans’ slider often had a slurve shape at 76-79 MPH and on a couple of occasions he snapped off a true, short, tight slider.

The outing reinforced my thought that while Evans’ velocity will grab headlines, his advanced pitchability for his age makes him the early leader to be ranked No. 1 on the first 2024 Five Tool 55. He doesn’t just have overpowering stuff. He can really pitch and make adjustments on the fly, like mixing in more changeups (82-85 MPH) to left-handed hitters as he worked his way through the order and manipulating the shape of his breaking stuff. Evans showcased his outstanding athleticism when he made a brilliant play to field a slow roller and then utilized his best Derek Jeter impression to make a jump throw across the diamond to first base for the out.

As for Arkansas signee and Concordia Lutheran left-handed pitcher Sean Fitzpatrick, he basically made just one mistake all game. Unfortunately for the senior, St. Pius X junior third baseman Austin Brown made him pay for it. The right-handed hitter smacked a two-run bomb in the first inning when he jumped all over a fastball that ran back over the heart of the plate. Later in the game, he nearly hit his second homer when, after whiffing at a curveball, he again perfectly timed a fastball and sent a screaming liner to the wall in left field. Brown, who hit third Friday night, utilized a short, athletic swing and a heavy barrel.

After his velocity, control and command bounced all over the place during a three-run first inning, Fitzpatrick was essentially unhittable the rest of the way. Across the next five innings, he threw 6.0 total, the lefty struck out 11 hitters thanks to his curveball, which racked up countless swings and misses. Fitzpatrick’s arm slot is just barely above sidearm, but instead of throwing a sweeping breaking ball like so many pitchers with that slot he spins a sharp, tight, short curveball that baffled St. Pius X hitters. Because of the shape of the pitch, batters often picked up the breaking ball too late because it had a similar plane as his fastball.

Plus, Fitzpatrick works very quickly and although he gives the appearance of a lot of moving parts in his delivery, it’s actually a simple, repeatable delivery because of his excellent athleticism (you don’t typically see pitchers able to actually push and lift their back foot off the rubber and move it a noticeable amount away from the rubber, showcasing unique ankle flexibility and athleticism). The future Razorback adds some deception to his breaking ball because at the height of his leg kick, he is in somewhat of a crouched position with his hands and front shoulder near his raised knee, making it more difficult for hitters to pick up the ball, which isn’t shown much to the hitter.

Although Fitzpatrick hit 88 MPH a few times and mostly sat 84-87 MPH, he’s a candidate to add velocity at the next level because of his athleticism and loose, quick arm, which features noticeable layback. The next step for the talented lefty will be tightening his fastball command and incorporating a better changeup more consistently to keep hitters off his heater. But right now, his curveball is a major weapon and his athleticism strongly suggests he’s going to be a strike-thrower.

After nearly hitting a homer to dead center field, sophomore Nolan Traeger, a TCU commitment, struck out twice against Evans in a battle of elite 2024 prospects. However, Traeger’s bat speed, raw power, physicality and swing strongly suggested he’s going to emerge as one of the top bats in the 2024 class. He also made a fantastic defensive play in the seventh inning when he threw out a runner at second base from his knees.

Watching Auburn 2023 commitment Alex Petrovic move around at shortstop and in the batter’s box gave me the impression he is going to be an elite pitching prospect on the mound. Some chatter in the Concordia Lutheran stands suggested the tall, athletic and very projectable right-handed pitcher has been up to 93 MPH recently. A two-way talent in high school, Petrovic showed some surprising raw power and moved better than I anticipated. Really excited to see him on the mound in the future because the physical profile was outstanding.

Random thoughts from the road…

I know everyone likes to complain about their respective city’s traffic and driving, but allow me to label San Antonio as the worst combination of driving skill and traffic in Texas. There is no such thing as a quick drive to San Antonio, as I learned when I went to go see Tristan Bristow for a 4:45 first pitch. I’ve driven to San Antonio numerous times this year for games and I’ve yet to have a normal drive that didn’t feature some sort of traffic, wreck or alternate route. Sorry, San Antonio. At least you have the Spurs and tacos.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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