Around this time each year, junior college baseball takes center stage and becomes an especially important recruiting focus for division one coaches and a focus of professional scouts. Make no mistake, it’s always important to both parties. But September and October feature events that provide good evaluation settings like exhibitions against major D1 programs or high school scout teams, all-star weekends, events like the Arizona Fall Classic and much more. This fall, Five Tool joined the list with its first-ever JUCO Fall Festival, which featured 23 of the top JUCO programs from Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Hosted by Five Tool at the Z-Plex Sports Village in Melissa, Texas, the event welcomed well over 100 scouts and featured a seemingly endless number of standout players. Along with our recent coverage from the D1/D2 ACCAC All-Star Games, the Big 8 Bash, and more recent JUCO events, here are some players who grabbed our attention:
(Emphasis on "some" because there were a ton of homers hit during the JUCO Fall Festival and FiveTool.org is loaded with video of standout players.)
1) I’ve been a fan of Cade Crossland for a long time after seeing him throw exceptionally well in a high school playoff start for Rockwall. Noticeably more physical (6-3, 200 pounds), the left-handed sophomore threw the ball very well for Weatherford during the JUCO Fall Festival. He’s always featured an easy, low-effort operation on the mound. Crossland didn’t blow hitters away with velocity; his fastball sat 86-89 MPH and bumped 90 MPH. But he did punch out five batters in a short appearance because when he’s right, he flashes promising pitching feel and execution. Surprisingly, Crossland had a high walk rate during his only season at Ouachita Baptist, which could have been a trade-off to hunt for more strikeouts. But I’d bet on the delivery to deliver more consistent strike-throwing in the future. Often, Crossland was solid or better during the Five Tool Collegiate League this summer.
2) Known as a California prep prospect primarily as a pitcher, Sierra College’s Owen Faith was recently back on the mound and up to 90 MPH with a quick, loose arm. However, I thought he was one of the most intriguing right-handed hitters we covered during our recent JUCO events. He featured a balanced, repeatable right-handed swing and approach with hand-eye coordination and some feel for the barrel, which led to a really strong day at the plate. And he can also scoot a little as a good athlete.
3) We’ve mentioned South Mountain Baseball’s Dominic Chacon before because of his pretty left-handed swing and loud barrel, but he deserves more recognition after smoking a couple of extra-base hits 107 MPH off the bat. The Grand Canyon commitment looks like he could immediately slide into the heart of the lineup at the next level and provide some pure hitting feel and thump.
4) It seems like each year more and more talented international prospects are making their way to the United States to play junior college baseball and it’s now becoming somewhat expected that at least one pitcher from Japan emerges as a prospect for colleges and pro scouts to track. During a short appearance, Kansai Sugimoto was up to 93 MPH for Yavapai with a sharp slider up to 86 MPH and a curveball at 76-77 MPH. A physical presence who leverages his strong lower half in his delivery, Sugimoto showed notable shoulder flexibility and the type of rotation and quick arm/path that suggests there is more velocity in the tank.
5) We’re talking about [batting] practice?! Yes, we are because Josh Williams put on a show from the left side. The Central Arizona product showed plus raw power during a jaw-dropping batting practice round that featured a bomb over the net in right field, which goes to the top of the third story parking garage. Yeah, he has some juice, and he’s 6-3, athletic with some room to continue adding strength to his frame.
6) Presley Monteforte faced five batters. He struck out all five and created a buzz throughout the crowd with his performance. At 87-88 MPH with his fastball, the Phoenix College lefty doesn’t dominate with velocity, but he can with movement and execution. Nothing Monteforte throws is straight. He featured a lively fastball with natural arm side run and a curveball he occasionally manipulated to add a hint of sweep. With a changeup to use as well that plays well off his heater, Monteforte showed starter traits and impressive execution of his breaking ball early and late in counts.
7) On the opposite end of the spectrum was Ryan Spalliero, a short but physical right-hander who fired his heater up to 95 MPH, featured a hard, short slider up to 88 MPH with a firm changeup at 85 MPH. There isn’t anything soft about this arsenal.
8) “Packs some punch from the right side and looked like a good bet to hit with some power at the next level.” That was our quick report from last year. Thanks for making us look smart, Parker.
Parker Ibrahimi is a familiar name for the Five Tool staff. A longtime performer for Legacy High School and Texas Stix, Ibrahimi took his talents to Midland College. He returned to a familiar hitting environment in Melissa and proceeded to smash two homers during the same day. A strong player pound-for-pound, Ibrahimi did damage when he extended his arms and was able to catch the ball out in front with a path built to do pull side damage in the air.
9) When division-one colleges recruit junior college players, they’re always looking for players capable of making an immediate impact. Midland College right-hander Daniel Bass could be one of those players. With a fastball up to 95 MPH and a tight, short slider that reached 84 MPH, Bass looked like the type of arm who could slide into a bullpen and contribute, especially if he finds more consistency with his arm slot.
Teammate and Canadian prospect Tyler Boudreau featured a four-pitch arsenal and a starter’s delivery that looked especially promising. He created some angle to his fastball and his sharp slider played well out of a similar look out of the hand and path towards home plate. And Midland made it clear it is going to feature some pitching talent this season because Carson Laws was up to 94 MPH with a hard, short slider that touched 86 MPH and a really firm changeup at 89 MPH. Often catching that talented pitching staff should be Cody Rogers, who blasted a grand slam in the JUCO Fall Festival and then was impressive again the next week with a caught stealing and more impact with the bat.
10) Blinn sophomore Coy DeFury wasted no time and opened the JUCO Fall Festival with one of the loudest performances of the event. The left-handed hitter mashed two homers in one of the event’s first games, including a majestic, towering blasted over the Red Monster. A product of Melissa High School, DeFury, who is listed at 6-3, 212 pounds, looked right at home. But he also looked noticeably stronger and does a good job of leveraging that in his swing. Blinn teammates Tanner Reaves, impressive hitting feel and wheels, and Rashaad James, a personal favorite of mine out of high school, were among the many Blinn players who also stood out.
During Festival action, Richland’s Jouseph Gelpi had one of the best single-game performances of the event when he smacked two homers. Impressively, he did it with two different approaches and swings: the first came when Gelpi cut down his swing/approach and got the barrel to a fastball up that he pulled out and the second was an approach geared for more impact and came when he caught a pitch down in the zone out in front with arms extended. A good athlete, Gelpi can really run, too.
Some pitching quick-hitters to end on: San Joaquin Delta College righty Luke Giotta is a physical, strong athlete who was up to 93 MPH with a quick, clean arm… 6-7 righty Max Debiec from Folsom Lake College touched 94 MPH and also featured a promising cutter up to 87 MPH… Douglas Bauer, a pitcher I really liked out of Lamar High School in Houston, ran his fastball up to 93 MPH with carry in the Five Tool Juco Festival and has a deep arsenal that also includes a split-change that really flashes. Tyler JUCO teammate Colton Cross, another strong high school performer, was up to 92 MPH with a strong slider at 80-82 MPH… Weatherford RHP and former Celina star quarterback and pitcher Noah Bentley was impressive and efficient through 2.0 sharp innings and his sharp, short curveball flashed bat-missing potential along with a delivery that should translate to strike-throwing. As he always does, teammate Tanner Wiggins threw very hard and showed a strong slider… In a short stint closing out a game, North Central Texas College’s Drew Thompson touched 95 MPH… Richland right-hander Damian Robinson cruised through 3.0 no-hit innings with six strikeouts and showcased a starter’s delivery and arsenal with some nice feel for pitching.