A lightning delay at Premier Baseball in Tomball and late-night baseball until almost midnight didn’t prevent some of the state’s 2022 stars from shining bright at the Five Tool Texas Houston Wood Bat Classic, an event that will be the last select baseball event for many seniors. If that latter part is indeed the case, many 2022 players went out with a bang. Literally.

 

Houston Fall Wood Bat Classic: 2022 Scout Notes

 

For Hunter Pence Baseball 2022 Cunningham, Texas Tech commitment Jeric Curtis didn’t waste any time reminding observers why he’s one of the best outfielders in the nation. Curtis, ranked No. 23 in the Five Tool 55, continued to make a strong case to move up the rankings list and led off the matchup versus LBC National – Winkler by smashing a laser to the wall in left-center and flying around first base with a 4.36-second time on a turn. Curtis’ speed and energy never take a game off and his bat looks a little bit better and more consistent each time we see him.

Curtis hit the ball hard multiple times during that first matchup against LBC National – Winkler. But later that same night, he teamed up with teammate Chase Mora to provide the highlight of the weekend. Against Trosky Texas Ina/Knoblauch, Curtis ripped a sinking liner over the left-center wall for a solo homer. Then, Mora followed by hitting a majestic, moonshot blast way over the left field fence and onto another field. A Texas State commitment, Mora created the type of sound off the bat capable of making everyone nearby stop and look for a baseball. 

The Tomball product showed more strength and impact in the batter’s box than he did during the summer. Part of the reason is Mora, a good athlete, rotates his hips well and fires them just slightly ahead of his bat before it rips through the hitting zone. Perhaps the increased ability to impact the baseball in the air is influenced by a two-handed finish after contact as opposed to top hand coming off during summer looks and Mora also quieted his front leg kick too, which probably helps him from getting too wide and losing some energy in the box. 

Defensively, Mora made two excellent plays at shortstop, including reading a hard liner off the pitching rubber and positioning himself near the bag at second base to grab a short hop and turn a double play. Considering Texas State’s middle infield features a lot of important seniors, Mora definitely looked like a young player capable of arriving in San Marcos and immediately competing for playing time. 

For HP Baseball 2022 Cunningham, the home run attack didn’t end with Mora and Curtis. Magnolia West 2022 utility player Ethan Bourg used a short swing to smash a mammoth shot way over the left-center wall. Catcher Tanner Chelette (Homeschool) smacked a homer during Sunday’s action, and like he showed in the summer, he’s capable of consistently putting together quality at-bats. Both players are uncommitted. 

While we’re on the subject of uncommitted 2022 players who stood out, Trosky Texas 2022 Ina/Knoblauch infielder Rashaad James (Kinkaid School) was consistently one of the best hitters of the weekend. With a swing that gets the barrel into and through the hitting zone quickly, James recorded base hits to all parts of the field, showed good swing/take decisions and moved well around the bases. Although he profiles as a third baseman at the next level, James made all the plays at shortstop with confidence and a slow heartbeat. 

CLICK HERE FOR JAMES’ WEEKEND HIGHLIGHT REEL

Another standout with the bat for Trosky Texas 2022 Ina/Knoblauch was Clear Falls catcher Evan Aslaksen. Listed at 6-1, 180 pounds, the uncommitted right-handed hitter looked taller and bigger than his listed height and weight. He smashed a homer during Sunday’s action and hit perhaps the hardest ball I saw in person when he smoked a liner just over the shortstop’s head into left-center. The swing is short, powerful, and creates the type of angle that led to a bunch of homers this fall. 

James and Aslaken’s teammate, right-handed pitcher Jared Schaeffer (Katy Taylor), was the victim of the Curtis and Mora duo going back-to-back. However, he baffled a loaded HP Baseball 2022 Cunningham lineup often, especially the first couple of times through the order when he routinely racked up strikeouts, uncomfortable takes against his curve (71-73 MPH) and swings-and-misses against a lively sinker with noticeable horizontal movement. 

 

A competitive strike-thrower and high-waisted athlete with a simple delivery, Schaeffer sat comfortably in the 84-85 MPH range with his fastball, touching 86 MPH occasionally without much effort. The uncommitted righty also threw a 78-79 MPH straight change, and although it was a tad too firm at times, it did flash with fade on occasion. 

Why did Schaeffer’s stuff play up and lead to seven strikeouts across 5.2 innings? He utilizes a short arm action with good arm speed through the finish and that arm action hides the ball very well. Hitters don’t actually see the baseball in Schaeffer’s hand until after his front leg plants because the way he breaks his hands helps hide the baseball before the short action in the back keeps it hidden. 

 

There’s a lot to like about Schaeffer’s potential and his present feel for spin suggests he could add a slider to the repertoire against righties to better play off the lively sinkers. Select and 2022 high school teammate Blake Wolf, a right-hander, touched 87 MPH earlier in the day and threw strikes to his arm-side with both the fastball and changeup (74-76 MPH). 

 

Earlier in the day, and I’m probably guilty of burying the lede here, Dynasty 2022 Harvey right-hander Ryan McClish (Kingwood) tossed a complete game and earned a 3-2 victory against Houston Heat 2022. Oh, he also struck out 19 batters. 19! For those non-Math majors out there, that means Kingwood’s ace recorded 90.5% of his outs via the strikeout. 

An impressive-looking 6-2, 200 pounds, McClish finishes his delivery – he held his fastball velocity all game – with intent as his back leg whips through and turns his torso. As for the stuff, McClish’s fastball features some natural cut and played up. The right-hander features a unique crossfire look that especially baffled righties because he was able to get his fastball to both sides of the plate and bury breaking stuff. 

He didn’t reach 19 strikeouts, but Joshua Pena’s 12 across 6.0 innings were really impressive, too. Once Pena found feel for his breaking ball, the spin to his hook repeatedly racked up swings and misses and he had confidence and feel for throwing the pitch in any count, which helped his 82-84 MPH fastball.

Back to the hitting side where a select and high school teammate of Curtis at Tomball Memorial impressively passed the eyeball test in the batter’s box. First baseman Lance Cantrell looked like a future impact bat somewhere in the middle of a college lineup. With bat speed and the type of swing and angle that can lift the baseball with some impact, Cantrell is a name to follow closely during his high school season. A high-motor, defensive-minded player on the hardwood with an experienced basketball background, Cantrell has a strong, compact frame with intriguing potential as a gap-to-gap hitter with occasional home run power. 

LBC – National Winkler infielder Nico Ruedas (Dripping Springs) made a few tough plays look relatively easy at shortstop, including charging a slow runner to get a quick runner busting it down the line. Ruedas showed his well-rounded skill set, swings a heavy barrel and after being a switch-hitter this summer, he swung right-handed versus righties this past weekend. 

 

On the mound, Ruedas, a true two-way talent, came in from shortstop cold without warmup time in the bullpen, which led to some control issues. But he punched out Arizona State commitment and 2022 Five Tool 55 member Jose Vargas with an 86 MPH fastball to close a victory. Vargas did some damage at the plate, though, which included smashing a two-run bomb to left-center field when he received a 3-0 green light. The Clear Springs product looked the part of one of the state’s top outfielders. 

Vargas’ teammate Christian Salazar made a strong case to move into the Five Tool 55 during its next update. Committed to Rice, Salazar showed his baseball instincts and defensive versatility by making a standout, running grab in center field. Typically, the 5-9, 185-pound prospect plays in the infield and profiles more as a second baseman at the next level. 

With the bat, Salazar showed a slow, confident heartbeat in the batter’s box and put the ball in play hard almost every plate appearance. Leading off for Trosky Texas 2022 Ina/Knoblauch in the final game of Saturday night against HP Baseball 2022 Cunningham, Salazar, a right-handed hitter, blasted a no-doubt bomb way over the left-center wall. His short-levered swing features bat speed and don’t be fooled by the size because he can drive mistakes out of the yard. 

 

MORE NOTES
— Carson Queck, a 2022 prospect playing with HP Baseball 2022 Cunningham, showed some impressive speed and got down the line in 4.29 seconds on a routine ground ball. Committed to Kansas State and ranked No. 27 in the Five Tool 55, Queck has shown some strong tools this fall with a fastball up to 90 MPH off the mound, home run power, an intriguing hit tool, and now some speed that plays on the bases and defensively. 

— His future is most certainly on the mound at Texas A&M. That said, physical, tall and athletic right-handed hitter Blake Binderup smashed a rocket off the wall in dead-center field and will undoubtedly be an imposing presence in the middle of his high school lineup. 

— At Five Tool, we appreciate when players make us look smart. Okay, I’m just speaking personally. Shout out to LBC National – Winkler third baseman Tony DeJesus for blasting a grand slam days after we featured him in our Five Tool All-Summer Team Superlatives story. True to form, the University of Incarnate Word commitment’s simple swing and approach showed its punch and effectiveness. 

— Pitching for Offseason Baseball 18U Lozano, Texas Wesleyan commitment Kade Baron punched out eight across 6.0 scoreless frames. From the right side, Baron features a sidearm release point with a fastball up to 84 MPH and, especially for a pitcher with that slot, really spins his 72 MPH breaking ball well; the breaker comes out of that unique look versus righties and pushes them back off the plate before it drops in for a front-door strike.

— McLennan commitment Joey Ruiz showcased a strong arm, blocked balls in the turf well, and moved well behind the dish. His skill level suggests he can stick at catcher at the next level and his undersized frame should add more mass and muscle as he matures. 

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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