Extreme heat, which led to some fields playing like Coors Field, wasn’t the only thing provided at the Z-Sports Plex in Melissa, Texas during Five Tool’s premier 17U event. If you enjoy drama, the AABC Don Mattingly World Series provided plenty. Star players starred in huge moments. New names caught the attention of scouts. And Saturday’s semifinal between Twelve Baseball 2023 Maroon and Dulins Dodgers Prime is a leader for best game of the summer.

Let’s continue with the second part (we’ll have a part for each of the four brackets) of our AABC Don Mattingly World Series scout notes, featuring the Marlins bracket and bracket champion, GPS Legends 17U Puffer:

(Note: with so many games often going at once, it’s impossible for us to have eyes and ears on each at-bat and pitching performance. So, some players will be unintentionally left off. But our social media team did a fantastic job, like usual, of capturing all the standout moments from each game. All prospects are in the 2023 class unless otherwise noted.)

GPS Legends 17U Puffer

Arguably the best pitching staff in the event, GPS Legends 17U Puffer finished with a 2.74 staff ERA and 54 strikeouts across 46.0 innings. In particular, Cade Waibel (Round Rock), Jackson Elizondo (Smithson Valley), Mason Gerrard (Lake Belton) and Connor Freeman (Vandegrift) threw very well; the foursome of uncommitted prospects gave up zero earned runs in 21.1 innings.

Waibel didn’t pitch much for Round Rock last season, but that should change in 2023. At foot plant, the uncommitted right-hander showed a lot of hip-shoulder separation, among a few reasons why he’s already throwing 90 MPH and has room for more. He also keeps his back foot on the rubber through release and rotates his shoulder well with a lot of “layback” present as his arm gears up for release. As Waibel adds strength, fills out – he has the kind of thin, 6-2 build that results in his jersey flapping around during gusts of wind – and gains a better understanding of how to repeat and become efficient on the mound, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t throw noticeably harder in the future.

Waibel created some uncomfortable looks for right-handed hitters, which included breaking a bat with a hard fastball, with his sidearm slot; it was one of those stuff profiles featuring a hard fastball that could run to the arm side on occasion with a 71-73 MPH slider that moved the opposite direction. In 5.0 innings, he gave up just one hit, walked two, and struck out six. Waibel also hit two batters and keeping his delivery and body in sync is the next step to unlock some more control.

Elizondo, who has present strength packed onto a compact frame with short arms, tossed 5.0 scoreless frames and gave up just two hits, walked two and struck out eight. It seems like nothing Elizondo throws is truly straight. His fastball, which was up to 89 MPH, occasionally featured a lot of late, arm side run; they can blend together occasionally, but Elizondo will show two different breaking balls (the slider looked like a future strikeout pitch) with a gap in velocity; and the lefty’s changeup flashed as a future weapon against right-handed hitters.

Because of his strength and athleticism, Elizondo pitches with a very steady head in his delivery and should continue to throw strikes with the possibility of better command in the future. At times, the lefty can work a little too quick on the mound and rush towards home plate and he’s an especially exciting prospect because there’s another level of efficiency he can reach with his delivery to really take off with improved command and more consistent stuff. I’m expecting a big senior season from this arm. Oh, I forgot to mention this: he also hit three bombs, too.

Following a shoulder injury that kept him off the mound during his high school season, Lake Belton two-way standout Mason Gerrard returned to the mound this summer. Although his velocity (83-86 MPH) is still building up as expected, Gerrard fired a lot of strikes and threw his curveball with conviction. As a hitter, Gerrard, who has played all over the infield and could profile in the outfield, too, did show some swing and miss, but also some bat speed and exciting exit velocity. A one-time Baylor commitment, Gerrard should garner a lot of recruiting attention to end the summer.

Vandegrift lefty Connor Freeman carved up one of the most talented lineups in the event, and finished with 7.1 scoreless innings spanning a start and a relief appearance with just two hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts. Tall with plenty of physical projection remaining, Freeman spun a pretty, tight, 69-71 MPH curveball with good shape and depth that dominated hitters, especially lefties out of a crossfire look. Although he touched just 83 MPH, Freeman’s fastball played up and he could move it to both parts of the plate with signs of a developing changeup, too.

During the high school season, Freeman only touched 80 MPH when I saw him in the playoffs, but he was up to 86 MPH in an earlier outing. Regardless, I’m expecting the velocity to continue trending up and the curveball was one of the best breaking balls in the entire event. He knows how to get outs. Also, keep an eye on left-handed pitcher Cameron Williams (Hendrickson), who was up to 89 MPH.

At the plate, 6-3, 220-pound masher Cooper Scott (Lake Travis) showed his big raw power by hammering two bombs and slugging .867. His swing does sell out to get to the power, but he understands who he is as a hitter and didn’t just hit pitches in one specific area. It’s fun to think about the possibility of him hitting in the same lineup next season as 2023 Oklahoma State commitment and big, physical right-handed masher Cole Johnson.

Statistically, Kade Crawford (Stony Point) didn’t have a strong event with the bat, finishing with a .143/.269/.333 slash line with nine strikeouts. But he showed some interesting all-around tools coupled with unmistakable physical projection and athletic actions in center field. Left-handed hitter Blake Brinkmeyer (Gateway College Prep) didn’t strike out once, which showed in his swing that often created a direct path with timing. He hit .375/.524/.438. Smithson Valley catcher Ethan Gonzalez maintained infectious energy despite catching in unrelenting heat and his arm remains one of the better ones behind the dish with a bat that has some raw power to tap into more often.

Texas Twelve Black 2023

Texas Twelve Black 2023 rode its talented lineup all the way to the bracket championship game, but came up a tad short. We’ve covered Katy catcher/infielder Brady Englett (Katy) after he emerged as a talent to watch during earlier Five Tool events, and the right-handed hitter finished with a .375/.500/.375 slash line. A uniquely quick and athletic player at catcher who could also end up at second base in the future, too, Englett, against some of the best competition he’ll face, proved a strong start to the summer was no fluke and continues to hit.

Weimer do-it-all gamer Brady Henke was one of the toughest hitters for pitchers to deal with because of strong hand-eye coordination and pesky, contact over power approach. In 17 plate appearances, the uncommitted right-handed hitter didn’t strike out once and used his short swing and bat control to slap liners around the field.

Another look at Prestonwood Christian Academy utility player William Johnson, who could play a number of positions around the diamond at an average level or better, revealed the same thing: he has a very interesting all-around game. His aggressive swing with strong hands covered the top and bottom parts of the hitting zone and I think he’s going to grow into some gap-to-gap power with some occasional big flies. Listed at 6-1, 170 pounds, it wouldn’t surprise me if Johnson ends up adding a couple of inches and keeping his athleticism with more muscle, too. He hit .375/.474/.563 and although he whiffed some (five strikeouts), he did so because his approach often creates loud contact.

He started a bit slow with the bat, but by the time his team’s deep run was over, Brenham left-handed hitting center fielder Lane Sparks showed why he’s one of the most coveted outfielders in the state by college programs. When Sparks lets the baseball travel and isn’t out on his front foot with a slap-like swing, he has the type of athletic, quick, rhythmic left-handed swing worth betting on. And Sparks’ defense led to my favorite quote from the event.

As a ball was hit in the air towards center field, a parent for Texas Twelve Black 2023 referred to Sparks as “the Roomba” because he sucks everything up in the outfield. Sure enough, the Brenham prospect easily glided over to catch the fly ball and looks like he could be an impact defender in a premium position.

Mattingly WS: Five Early Takeaways

In addition to Waller right-handed pitcher Clayton Frescorn standing out on the mound (you can read my detailed breakdown of his performance above), Katy righty Lucas Moore, another favorite of mine, pitched a complete game shutout. Despite dealing with some fatigue after throwing a ton of quality innings for one of the best programs in the state, Moore regained his command and control after a rocky first inning and gave up just one hit, walked two and struck out seven. Almost immediately after the event, Moore, whose fastball was up to 87 MPH and flashed an above-average changeup and high-spin hook, committed to UTSA.

I think Boerne’s Tyler Garritano is recruited more as a hitter than pitcher, but I’m not sure it shouldn’t be the other way around. He’s an intriguing hitter with a corner infield profile, but he was good again on the mound – 5.0 shutout innings with one hit, three walks and eight strikeouts. I could see him being a physical right-hander who sits in the low 90s soon with a slider that flashes as an above-average pitch and enough changeup to run him out as a starter to begin his college career.

Lefty Andrew Del Hierro (Brazoswood) and righty Andrew Hilton (Katy) both didn’t have the tournaments statistically they would have preferred and walks were an issue. That said, the former had good arm strength and the latter kills the spin on a strong changeup and ran his fastball up to 89 MPH with the chance for improved shape to make it play much better.

More Notes from the Marlins Bracket…

– Hebron switch-hitting outfielder and DBU commitment Aden Howard was as talented as advertised. I timed him in the 4.2-4.3-second range down the line from both the left and right side of the plate, and he hit .455/.478/.500 for Dallas Tigers – Hernandez 2023. Immense upside and there’s a big gap between where he is currently – physically and skill-wise – and where he could be at this time next year. Regardless, he’s definitely one of the top prospects in the state.

Teammate Caden Mitchell (Celina), who recently decommitted from Illinois, finished with a .429/.579/.571 slash line and five walks compared to just one strikeout. This was my third time to see Mitchell and it was by far the best I’ve seen him play in all areas, and especially with the bat. His left-handed swing looked more controlled with fewer whiffs and he pulled the ball with authority.

His numbers – .222/.364/.556 – aren’t a true representative of the way left-handed hitter RJ Ruais (Celina) swung the bat. After seeing him time Blake Mitchell and hit a hard single off him in the state tournament, Ruais, a Baylor commitment, convinced me even more that he could emerge as one of the top left-handed bats in the state. Hitting the ball hard and timing good velocity comes natural to him, and his late hand separation in his timing often leads to a dangerous barrel path with feel for pulling rockets and bombs before an athletic, controlled finish.

Right-handed pitcher and Texas A&M commitment Cooper Strawn struggled to throw strikes, although his stuff, particularly his changeup, showed signs of dominance. On the flip side, the big, strong, physical right-handed hitter smashed two homers. Left-handed hitter and teammate David Heefner also created some of the loudest contact in the event and looked like a hitter who will tap into more power in the future.

On the mound, the Dallas Tigers – Hernandez 2023 collectively looked fatigued, and it showed in the performances of Oklahoma commitment Noah Bentley (six walks; velocity down), Strawn (six walks), Harrison Rosar (four walks). My educated guess is both control and performance from those arms looks much better in the future, especially Bentley, who is a standout athlete and looked like a much better strike-thrower with command when I saw him in the state tournament.

– There’s a lot to like about Sandlot 17U – Russell’s Jax Ryan, an Oklahoma commitment from Verigris (Oklahoma). I felt like each time I saw him, he smacked a double down one of the lines or into one of the gaps. He takes a big stride towards the pitcher when he times, but doesn’t lose his posture and really rotates well and athletically. Ryan, who can play shortstop as well as other places around the infield, kept his quick barrel in the hitting zone and finished with a .571/.727/1.000 slash line. Another shortstop, uncommitted right-handed hitter Chandler Fowler (Jenks; Oklahoma), caught my eye because of his defensive actions and ability to routinely put the ball in play hard.

I can’t imagine tall right-handed pitcher Braydon Sanford remains uncommitted for long because through three innings he looked as good as any pitcher in the event, and then some bad luck and a good lineup cut his outing short. With room to fill out, Sanford (Owasso) didn’t allow his 6-4 frame to prevent him from getting downhill and he touched 89 MPH with his fastball. Sanford threw a 77 MPH slider with true shape and a promising 80-81 MPH changeup that definitely projects as a quality third offering.

– HFA Wichita Vipers 2023 Hall center fielder Drew Veatch (El Dorado; Kansas) ran down the line in 3.96 seconds at 6-2 with impressive athleticism and physical projection. The talented right-handed hitter also made one of the best defensive plays during the event and hit .364/.417/.364. He looked like the type of athlete and defender a D1 program should bet on.

– North Texas Longhorns shortstop Cade Dodson (Gunter) was one of the 2024 prospects playing up in the event, and he didn’t just hold his own; he looked the part and made an impact offensively and defensively. Although there isn’t much strength in his swing right now, more should come in the future as he fills out and his hand-eye coordination and feel for contact resulted in zero strikeouts and a .455/.538/.455 slash line. I didn’t get a run time, but Dodson moved with speed and athleticism in all areas.

– Dallas Mustang Sharp’s Jackson Rooker, committed to Tennessee Tech, looks like a future middle-of-the-order power bat in college. And I really liked the strike-throwing and fastball command I saw from right-hander Wade Huckaby (Aubrey), who threw 7.0 innings of one-run baseball with seven strikeouts and no walks.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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