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 third part (we’ll have a part for each of the four brackets) of our AABC Don Mattingly World Series scout notes, featuring the Gold Glove bracket and bracket champion, Texas Twelve 2023 Maroon.

(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.)

Texas Twelve Maroon 2023

Well, when a team hits .411/.526/.650 collectively, the list of offensive standouts is long. Do-it-all gamer Brayden Randle unsurprisingly hit .409/.500/.909 with three homers and his fearless, aggressive attitude in the batter’s box routinely showed. The Texas commitment handled good stuff and velocity well, plays quicker than the stopwatch in all areas and looked like one of the best, most productive infielders in the state. He’s a natural baseball player. Yeah, he’s short, but he’s physical and carries himself like he’s 6-2, 200 pounds.

Ole Miss commitment and right-handed hitter Drew Markle swiped seven bags and walked eight times with just one strikeout. A good case could be made he was the toughest out in the tournament because of his patient approach and willingness to only go after pitches he can drive, which included smacking a deep homer to left-center. He hit an absurdly good .500/.692/.813.

Long-term, I think Markle probably profiles best in the outfield, but he has the skill and athleticism to currently play third base, shortstop, second base and anywhere in the outfield. His bat speed and ability to impact the baseball have improved since I last saw him and he did a lot of his damage with extended arms catching pitches out in front of the plate.

Speaking of improved since the last time I saw him, Ridge Point catcher and DBU commitment JJ Kennett continued to add more impact off the bat because of improved strength. He’s never going to be a massive, imposing presence, but the ball is starting to come off the bat with a few more MPH and he hit .529/.619/.882 with two homers and just two strikeouts. Kennett has a true chance to stick behind the dish and everything we know and have heard about him suggests the makeup is excellent, future leader-type.

The AABC Don Mattingly World Series was my first extended look at Corpus Christi Ray shortstop Jack Bell after seeing him at Twelve Baseball’s Scout Day scrimmages. He didn’t disappoint. I had no questions about the glove, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t extremely fun to watch. Bell has some of the best hands/actions on the infield in the class and turned at least five really difficult plays, including a few do-or-die slow rollers, into outs. Bell reads the ball well off the bat and even making the difficult plays is natural for him.

As for the left-handed bat, it sounded like it started to show more impact deeper into the high school season, which makes sense because Bell is getting stronger. He hit .400/.545/.933 with a homer, three doubles, a triple, six walks and four strikeouts. I like the loose, rhythmic athleticism in Bell’s swing, which is powered by a legkick. Early in the event, Bell’s timing was off and there were times that some of his hits came when he was out on his front half and catching the ball with the barrel in front of home plate. When he let the baseball get deeper and showed better timing, the impact began to show.

Interestingly, Bell didn’t need to get his best swing off in order to record a hit. Multiple times he was able to use his hands to get the barrel on pitches up or either down and in or down and away despite timing/balance of the rest of his body being different than his swing. I’m spending so much time on Bell because it was my first extended look and because the recently uncommitted prospect is going to be heavily scouted by pros. The line of D1 programs trying to secure his commitment is longer than the list of quarterbacks who have ever played for the Cleveland Browns.

TCU commit and left-handed hitting outfielder Sam Myers hardly ever has a bad at-bat and looked like one of the better hitters in the 2023 class. Rice commitment Landon West (.467/.571/.733) played a lot of first base, but continued to pound the ball; the frequency the tall catcher/first baseman creates hard contact is among the best in the class.

Sam Houston State commitment and Lake Creek standout Blake Brown gets his short, athletic swing through the zone quickly and is showing more gap-to-gap ability, which is aided by his quickness out of the box. A do-it-all gamer, Brown can play all over the diamond with quality instincts, and this play below is a great representation of who he is as a player:

Among the guys on the mound I saw live, Texas A&M commitment Ty Baker was most impressive. Some back luck chased him from his start in the fifth inning, but he cruised prior with a lively heater up to 92 MPH that created whiffs up in the zone with its carry. Last summer, I really liked Baker’s arsenal, which featured an overhand hook. He’s replaced it with a harder, 77-80 MPH slider that flashed but was inconsistent; his changeup remains a usable third pitch he’s shown he can throw for strikes, but I think he’d benefit from adding the curveball shape back to the mix. Regardless, Baker controlled his tempo and repeated his delivery well.

DBU commitment and Magnolia West righty James Ellwanger has the ingredients to throw really hard in the future and take a big jump as a premium pitching talent. At times, he showed that, but other times, he looked a little fatigued and lost his control. In a very limited look, tall, slender uncommitted right-hander Drew Kirby fired strikes with an easy heater up to 88 MPH with some angle.

Texas Cannons 2023

After losing its first game, Texas Cannons 2023 took the hard road to the bracket championship game. Among my favorite players in the event was shortstop Drew Schmidt (Lewisville). And although he didn’t put up huge numbers (.263/.318/.368), he swung the bat well from the right side with a swing much better than those numbers. He also handled shortstop well, showing athleticism to make a few tough plays, and pitched 2.1 innings. An uncommitted prospect, I think he’s a guy mid-major D1 type programs should keep an eye on.

Denton right-handed hitter Joseph Dominguez was a tough out, and hit .462/.619/.538. His short swing is definitely contact over hit and he did a good job of using the middle of the field. On the other hand, right-handed hitter Noah Thorn was more aggressive in the box with the type of attack angle to lift the ball and do some damage, which resulted in a three-run blast and .714 slugging percentage.

On the mound, uncommitted Aubrey right-handed pitcher Blayne Polen tossed a complete game shutout with nine strikeouts and nothing he threw was straight, which included a fastball with some natural cut. But the standout pitch Polen showed was a sharp, tight, short curveball that gave hitters fits. His two-sport athleticism (football quarterback and defensive back) showed in his good, clean delivery.

More Notes from the Gold Glove Bracket…

– The best fastball in the event belonged to big, 6-4 Katy right-hander Cole Kaase. In 4.0 innings, he struck out 11 batters with a dominant, explosive heater up to 93 MPH that played above its velocity; it was easy cheese, especially for a player of Kaase’s size and although he’s big, he’s not physically mature. I thought Kaase’s breaking stuff was a total rework, but later in the outing he began throwing an interesting 79-80 MPH slider. It was a soft pitch, but it at least had the right shape and has promise.

North Shore right-handed hitting infielder Jacob Tanguma is simply a ballplayer who makes a lot of winning plays and wants to be involved in the big moments. He finished with a .333/.429/.667 slash line. He’s going to end up playing somewhere at the next level and make a coaching staff happy.

– Mississauga Tigers – Byron right-handed pitcher and Missouri State commitment Kaleb Thomas had one of the event’s best sliders, which he threw for strikes when he wanted to and buried for whiffs at 77-80 MPH when he was ahead in counts. He struck out 13 batters in 7.0 innings and was still touching 90 MPH in the sixth inning. I’d expect him to throw quality innings immediately in college.

– Gredan Wolf, a left-handed pitcher or DFW Twins 17U Black, threw a complete game shutout and it was a masterful display of pitching. The Muenster product gave up just four hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out eight. He commanded his 83-86 MPH fastball well, spun a curveball with big break that hitters didn’t see well despite being on the softer side and used a good, 74-76 MPH changeup to rack up whiffs against righties. With some physical projection ahead, Wolf is going to be a nice get for a college that does its homework and doesn’t stare at the radar gun.

Tall, lean, 6-4 righty Penner Unruh punched out 11 hitters in 5.0 innings with a lively fastball with some late tail and a curveball that bothered hitters out of a low three-quarters slot.

– Adispeed Upperclass right-handed hitting infielder Matteo Copp (Benicia; California) smashed two homers, including one on his birthday, and had some of the best athletic rotation in his swing among any hitter in the AABC Don Mattingly World Series. In the video below, Copp, currently uncommitted, did an excellent job to get his hands inside the pitch, put the barrel on the ball and keep it fair with some real juice.

– LBC National – Winkler/Wicks outfielder DJ Pinkerton made a name for himself with an outstanding hitting performance – .438/.550/.813 – and noteworthy tools. Additionally, the uncommitted prospect from Hendrickson has broad shoulders and a lean frame that suggests he’s going to add some more strength without sacrificing his promising speed and athleticism. He looked like a prospect mid-major D1 programs should track closely.

Cooper Burgess (Smithson Valley) and Jonathan Gonzales (Bowie) both had outstanding tournaments with the bat and I remain very intrigued by Eagle Pass right-handed pitcher Alex Paniagua, a projection candidate with a loose, quick arm and a breaking ball and changeup that could both be above-average pitches or better in the future. I think more velocity is coming, too. He struck out five in 2.1 innings.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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