What’s worse than baseball played during freezing temperatures with bone-chilling winds? Spending days mapping out a loaded schedule that the frigid weather ruins. But as baseball has taught us, expect the unexpected, pick yourself up and show up the next day ready to play (or in my case watch, evaluate and take video). Unless Rob Manfred is in charge of your baseball. Then, you’re screwed.

Anyway, Friday, February 25th was the coldest I’ve ever been at a baseball game, but that didn’t stop some players from performing well and grabbing my attention. Then the following Tuesday evening, the Baseball Gods rewarded me with perfect, picturesque conditions in San Antonio and the best pitching performance I’ve seen thus far during the 2022 high school season. I’m going to deliver these notes in a bit more rapid-fire fashion since I was bouncing around from location to location Friday before a full report on Tuesday’s game between San Antonio Johnson and Clark. Let’s get to it:

Keller High School

ROUND ROCK HIGH SCHOOL – Perhaps the most fitting image of the day came when I arrived at Dragon Diamond and saw Keller players huddled around one of those huge heaters that looks like a mini-jet engine. Before I could blink, because my eyelids were frozen, Keller was up 10-0 on San Antonio Johnson in the fourth inning. In addition to the weather, the game presented a weird dynamic because Keller was trying to gear up for district play weeks away while San Antonio Johnson had already started district play.

Keller needs to replace a lot of quality experience from last year’s outstanding team, although the physical senior right-handed bats in the middle of the lineup will undoubtedly help. While Keller lacks experience at the varsity level, it doesn’t lack talent. At the top of the lineup, Keller features two uncommitted juniors, who are both intriguing, left-handed hitting outfielders with physical projection and speed.

Center fielder Jackson Hill, who tracked fly balls instinctively and confidently, and right fielder Brayden Simmons, who made a fantastic diving grab in foul territory to end an inning and strand the bases loaded, both look like division-one players. It was a quick look at both, and they didn’t always get to put the bat in motion. However, it was obvious Hill and Simmons have well-rounded skill sets and the type of tall, athletic, long frames that are easy to dream on. It’s always easy to see why Keller is so high on sophomore right-handed hitter Fisher Polydoroff, who looked like a future power hitter in the middle of a good high school lineup. Polydoroff saved all the homers for my colleagues in the Dallas area the following week.

On the mound, left-handed pitcher and Texas Tech signee Zach Erdman touched 86 MPH and showed some feel for a promising three-pitch mix in terrible pitching conditions. Erdman featured a two-plane breaking ball with big, 1-7 shape at 68 MPH and a changeup with the type of pronation that almost gave it a screwball vibe with movement to his arm-side.

Although there is some backward torso tilt in the delivery that could Erdman’s four-seam up and breaking ball out of his arm slot, it’s, basically, gone at foot plant. It was easy to see why Texas Tech signed the left-hander, who profiles as a future starter with a chance for his stuff to tick up and attack hitters with four-seamers up, a big breaking ball with some horizontal break one way and a changeup with break the other. Junior Nick Robb, an uncommitted prospect, followed Erdman with a fastball up to 86 MPH with some heavy life and a sharp, hard slider with late, short, two-plane break. With the type of frame that strongly suggests projection, Robb looks like he’s one to follow closely as a future D1 prospect.

Keller looked like a team that could be very dangerous come playoff time as its younger players gain valuable varsity experience. It has a good mix of athleticism, speed, physicality and depth on the mound.

Brandeis High School

GEORGETOWN HIGH SCHOOL – Yes, this is a small sample, but I’ve now seen Jalin Flores play two full games this high school season, and I’ve yet to see him swing and miss. And he puts the bat in motion often. The more I watch Flores, the more I see a hitter who is blessed with a baseball brain capable of recognizing and tracking pitches. I bet his S2 Cognition score would rate very strongly in that area.

Combine that pitch recognition and tracking with good hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skill and you have a really talented senior who makes contact at a high rate. If you’ll allow me to nitpick for a second: Flores does this so well for a high school player the next step in his offensive game is likely minimizing the pitches he swings at by focusing only on the pitches he can drive instead of the ones he can make contact with. Flores’ power remains intriguing enough to think there is more raw power lingering in his 6-3 frame than he shows in games currently, and if he doesn’t catch the baseball too far out in front or with a topspin path, he can easily pull one over the wall right now.

INSTAGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

In addition to never swinging and missing, at least when I watch him, Flores remains the definition of ‘smooth’ on the diamond. For a player his size and length, he makes shortstop look easy with smooth, good defensive actions and an easy arm with carry across the diamond and plenty of strength. Sometimes, it’s the little things that can catch your attention: as an inning was ending and Flores was jogging into the dugout, he effortlessly flipped a ball behind his back to a teammate like he starred on the hardwood for his high school team. Speaking of the dugout, during truly miserable weather conditions Flores was always on the top step or on the rail encouraging his teammates and totally into the game. He seemingly plays with an infectious joy and energy.

The more I see Flores, the more I think he and his family will be faced with a difficult question: go to college or turn pro?

In the game I saw, the other half of Brandeis’ double play duo caught my attention. Sophomore right-handed and leadoff hitter Drew Saucedo ran from home-to-first in 4.18 seconds on a ground ball and played with a lot of confidence. Undersized and in need of strength to get the bat through the zone quicker in the future, Saucedo is unique because he’s an athletic long-strider despite being short. Regardless, he gets to top speed quickly, athletically and played a clean second base with a contact-first approach in the batter’s box.

Copperas Cove

CONNALLY HIGH SCHOOL – When I arrived to watch Copperas Cove versus LASA, let’s just say everyone was ready to go home for the day. Well, everyone was ready to go home or somewhere warmer. The main attraction was 2022 Texas Tech signee and Copperas Cove shortstop Travis Sanders. Unfortunately, Sanders didn’t see anything above 80 MPH, and that led to trying to do a little too much in the batter’s box and timing being just a tad off. The Five Tool 55 member ran 4.55 seconds from home-to-first and just missed one pitch, resulting in a very high fly ball. Although it was a quiet game offensively, the hitting talent was obvious.

San Antonio Johnson vs. Clark

NORTHSIDE ISD No. 2 – In our first edition of the 2023 Five Tool 55 we ranked San Antonio Johnson right-handed pitcher Mason Bixby No. 3. He looked like the state’s best pitcher in his class and one of the nation’s best 2023 pitching prospects. Against a very solid Clark lineup, Bixby, a TCU commitment, tossed a complete game one-hitter (7.0 IP, 82 pitches) with one walk and five strikeouts.

Based on the reports I heard coming out of the summer, I expected to see an overpowering pitcher who was more fastball velocity/shape than pitchability. Interestingly, what I saw is a tall (6-6 or 6-7), long right-hander who is rapidly learning how to pitch and execute. Bixby presents a tough, unique look to hitters. In addition to his size and length, Bixby, who pitches exclusively from the stretch, starts on the first base side of the rubber and attacks hitters with a crossfire look. Sometimes, this type of delivery prevents right-handed pitchers from getting to the glove-side, but as the outing progressed, Bixby was able to execute pitches to that side regularly.

Early, Bixby’s fastball sat comfortably at 91-93 MPH and touched 94 MPH; he held this velocity fairly easily, and was touching 88-89 MPH in the seventh inning. For a pitcher with his size and length, Bixby was able to repeat and carry his stuff well. The big right-hander gets a lot of “layback” during his delivery; appeared to have good hip-shoulder separation at foot plant; had good chest positioning over a strong lead leg; and, especially for a guy his size, pitched with a quiet head. On a beautiful evening that began more warm than cool, it didn’t look like Bixby even broke a sweat during his entire outing; he’s a slow heartbeat pitcher who was never once uncomfortable.

Initially, it appeared Bixby would feature more changeups than breaking balls. The right-hander fired his changeup with conviction and it was 85-87 MPH early before settling in at 83-85 MPH. It has a similar appearance to his fastball out of hand and seemingly carried a similar shape, too; during the first time through the order, Bixby actually used the pitch in a right-on-right matchup to get a swing and miss and effectively utilized it against left-handers the second and third times through the order with the occasional swing and miss, including in the seventh and final inning to set up a strikeout swinging with a fastball.

Then, the second and third innings delivered promising glimpses of Bixby’s slider, which began to generate swings and misses at 83-85 MPH. Later, the right-hander showed better slider shape and execution around 82-83 MPH. That’s when Bixby started burying the slider when ahead in counts and as he worked through the Clark order multiple times, he began using his breaking ball early in fastball counts to keep hitters off-balance. When Bixby missed with his slider, the misses were often in good spots down and away from right-handed hitters. It looked like a pitch that could eventually be a plus offering.

Although Bixby didn’t rack up a huge strikeout total, he was very efficient and routinely created weak contact. It was an extremely impressive performance and Bixby is going to be one of the most exciting players to track this season and beyond. The only player to record a hit against the big right-hander was Clark sophomore catcher Jacob Silva. A switch-hitter, Silva smacked a hard liner into the right-center gap in the fourth inning, but was held to a single by a very strong throw from San Antonio Johnson senior center fielder Caden Wallis. An uncommitted prospect, Wallis plays a strong, athletic center field, looks like an above-average or better runner and has strong hands with a pull-heavy offensive approach.

In addition to players like Wallis, Bixby benefited from strong defense from the likes of shortstop Ryne Farber, too. A standout with hits from both the right and left sides when I saw San Antonio Johnson versus Keller, Farber is undoubtedly a D1 caliber prospect with intangibles and a good baseball mind to accompany solid all-around skill. He is one of the top shortstops in the state for 2023 and plays shortstop with quick hands and transfers.

Another player who stood out against Keller and also caught my eye against Clark is freshman Kayson Cunningham. I’m all-in. He’s a dude. Cunningham, who looked like an above-average or plus runner thanks in part to his instincts, recorded two hard base hits against Clark and has a future plus hit tool. An advanced player for his age, Cunningham carries himself in the batter’s box and on the bases like a player much older than he is. The left-handed hitter gets aggressive, good secondary leads on the bases, is always reading the game, and has an energetic bounce to his step. Although I’ve yet to see Cunningham do more than in-and-out defensively because there are some much older, quality middle infielders ahead of him, his bat profiles so well that even if second base is his eventual home he’s going to be one of the best players in the 2025 class.

I haven’t seen him on the mound, but physical, tall, right-handed hitting outfielder Mason Krahn created some very loud contact in both games I watched. Krahn nearly hit a homer to right field against Clark and is a good athlete for his size, which shows in the batter’s box and I’m willing to bet it shows on the mound, too. A guy who I’ve seen on the mound twice now is 2024 Clark right-hander Jake Neely. Called on mid-inning to enter the game from first base, I’m not sure Neely ever truly felt comfortable or loose during his outing.

However, he competed well and kept his team in the game, pitching out of jams multiple times by challenging hitters with his fastball. When I saw him earlier in the season, he was up to 91 MPH. Against San Antonio Johnson, he was up to 87 MPH and showed inconsistent command to his glove-side with another look at a promising curveball (around 73 MPH) with good 12-6 shape and flashes as a future plus pitch.

It was a quiet day at the plate for TCU signee and Five Tool 55 member Anthony Silva, who put the ball in play every time with nothing to show for it. But it wasn’t a quiet weekend for the 2022 prospect. He smacked two homers.

Random thoughts from the road…

Why are so many coffee shops closed on random days like Tuesdays? I had a place all picked out near Northside ISD facilities when I left my house only to discover, thanks to Google Maps alerting me, it was closed on Tuesday. Thankfully, I was able to pivot to coffee shop/food truck Tuxedo Cat’s Coffee.

The hospitality was outstanding and it was the first place I’ve ever been that offered a half iced coffee and half iced latte. It was good and certainly kept me caffeinated for my game and eventual drive back home from San Antonio to Austin following a postgame meal. The Shack, a nearby burger spot and sports bar, lived up to its glowing Google star rating. I put a confident 60-grade on the bacon cheeseburger with jalapenos. The bun was one of those lightly glazed buns that melt in your mouth, and before I could blink, I was nearly halfway through the burger without noticing. It was that good. #FiveToolFoodies endorses that one.

Dustin McComas 
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

©2021 Five Tool Baseball.

All rights reserved. Privacy Policy.

About. Contact.

Director Login | Login / Register

Five Tool Baseball