We’re biased, but we think the 2022 Pudge Rodriguez World Classic, presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, was a smashing success. The event, which began June 14th and featured 48 of the top 16U or younger teams you’ll find anywhere, provided the next crop of emerging stars a seemingly endless amount of opportunities to stand out in front of college coaches; it also featured two-straight days of 20 games at the Z-Plex Texas Sports Village in Melissa, Texas before the bracket’s contenders emerged and elimination games occurred.

That’s a lot of baseball and for Five Tool evaluators, like myself, bouncing around from game-to-game, field-to-field meant enough looks to make your head spin. Hey, it’s a good problem to have. So, we decided to break our Scout Notes into four parts, one for each bracket appropriately named for Pudge Rodriguez – Rangers, Marlins, Tigers and Yankees.

Again, our eyes can only be in one place at one time, but we’ve done our best to feature standout players and performances from the event with more focus on the teams that emerged as the best from their respective bracket. And part one begins with the Yankees bracket and the tournament champions: Stix Scout 2025.

Stix Scout 2025

Yes, a 2025 team won the 2024 Pudge Rodriguez World Classic. Stix Scout 2025 held on to defeat Lonestar National 2024 Sanders, 4-3, to claim the title after riding the arms of elite 2025 right-handed pitching prospect Marcos Paz (Hebron) and Tournament MVP Jaxon Rickert. Rickert, an athletic right-hander, tossed 11.0 shutout innings in two appearances and racked up 14 strikeouts while giving up just two hits and issuing just one walk. Impressive.

There’s some visible length to the arm path, but Rickert shows a quick arm, especially through his finish, aided by a strong, mobile shoulder. His athleticism showed in his strike-throwing, as he easily repeated his delivery with a quick, competitive tempo. From a three-quarters slot, Rickert fired lively heaters up to 85 MPH down in the zone and did whatever he wanted with his slider whether it was early in the count or late; hitters really struggled against his breaking ball and didn’t see it well. As he matures and gets more reps on the mound, I’m confident Rickert will create a more efficient delivery that could cause his production to jump even more.

Fortunately, we’re still a year away before the 2025 Five Tool 55 because ranking soon-to-be sophomores makes my head spin, but Paz made a very, very strong case to be the future No. 1 prospect on the list.

A tall and physical right-handed pitcher with a simple delivery he repeated well, Paz’s heavy fastball – he broke multiple wooden bats during Wednesday’s complete game shutout – touched 90 MPH and sat comfortably 85-88 MPH with signs of command to both sides of the plate and down. Paz’s sharp, 81-83 MPH slider with bite joined the pitching party to terrorize opposing hitters and buckle the occasional righty and a changeup that looked like a future average pitch at worse, giving the talented righty a usable third pitch moving forward, especially against left-handers.

Although Paz did have a visible arm swing/elbow in the back, he had no issues repeating his arm path and routinely firing strikes. If he didn’t have every major D1 program in the country interested before, he should now after posting a 2.10 ERA across 10.0 innings with 13 strikeouts. And colleges will spend a lot of time around the 2025 Stix Scout Team because its roster is loaded.

As good as Paz and Rickert were on the mound, teammate Braxton Van Cleave was just as good in the batter’s box. Against arms older than him, the Mansfield prospect hit .368/.538/.474 with seven walks and just two strikeouts. The left-handed hitter showed standout bat control and quick, strong hands that covered all parts of the hitting zone with an all-fields approach. Basically, he’s a good bet to emerge as one of the top hitters in his class and has a natural feel for putting the bat on the ball. Van Cleave made a couple solid plays at shortstop, but I think he grows into a third baseman with some gap-to-gap, occasional longball power.

Cayden Mitchell (Mansfield Timberview) made multiple standout defensive plays at third base and showed he’s an interesting, projectable all-around talent by hitting .350/.391/.550 with four doubles. The game came naturally to Mitchell, who played with a calm heartbeat and put the barrel on pitches up in the zone and covered ones down in the zone.

Really liked what I saw from Whitehouse’s JJ Idrogo, who used a simple approach and short swing in the batter’s box to spray lines around the field. Idrogo, who ran 4.4 seconds (he stole five bags, easily best on his team) down the line with a big turn at first base, looked like a good athlete with speed and quickness that plays on both sides of the ball to go with the feel for making contact in the batter’s box.

Five Tool Academic Showcase standout Brady Janusek showed his noteworthy right-handed power when he blasted one of the farthest homers we’ve seen hit to left field. He hit that in the title game, too, and has a knack for rising to the occasion and creating loud contact. Keep an eye on him.

Hudson Knight (LD Bell) made a couple of standout plays defensively at shortstop and looks like he has a chance to stick there long-term. Carter Rutenbar has a good left-handed swing that should translate into some standout production long-term and has a chance to become one of the premier catching prospects in the state.

Dulin’s Dodgers (TX) 2024

The Dulin’s Dodgers pushed Stix 2025 Scout to the limit and forced a second, bracket championship game before coming up short. Allen two-way talent Jonathan Van Eerden stood out on the mound with an outstanding performance against Marcos Paz and Stix Scout 2025.

Over 6.0 innings, Van Eerden gave up one earned run on two hits, three walks and struck out six thanks in large part to a lively fastball up to 89 MPH. The tall, projectable righty created some angle to his fastball and showed command to his glove side. He showed a short curveball at 72 MPH that had sharper, non-slurve break when it came out of his hand the right way and what looked like a split-change with sinker-like shape thrown at 81-83 MPH.

It was June in Texas, which meant it was hot. That didn’t prevent catcher Josiah Mackey from catching every inning we saw, a very impressive feat because Mackey did it with impressive energy, too. The right-handed hitter from Spring Hill also hit .333 with just two strikeouts. Right-handed hitter Brady Welsh, an infielder from McKinney North, routinely put the ball in play hard and finished with a .467/.529/.467 slash line.

Two-way talent Zack Henderson (Celina) hit .444/.500./.611 from the left side and also tossed 7.0 innings of one-run baseball, although he did issue six walks. I liked Henderson’s long-term outlook as a hitter because he routinely lined pitches up the middle and into the gaps, and showed some surprising juice by smacking a pitch to the wall in center field and to the warning track in right-center.

Waco Storm 16U Astros

Midway 2024 right-hander Cameron Johnson fed opposing hitters some bowling balls for breakfast. Imagine waking up early, getting to the park around 8:00 a.m. and then facing a big, physical, 6-5 righty firing very heavy sinkers up to 87 MPH. Doesn’t sound like fun. Johnson also showed an interesting slider up to 78 MPH that really flashed when it was snapped off with tighter spin and shorter shape compared to other times when it looked more like a slurve.

Still growing into his body and understanding how it works on the mound, Johnson held his stuff, showed a changeup and is going to throw harder in the future; perhaps much harder because of the way his arm worked and his lead leg strength supported his big frame.

Second baseman Chase Fricke (Troy), who swiped three bags, consistently put together competitive at-bats with some feel for the barrel when I saw him. Center fielder Breon Lewis, a right-handed hitter who also stole three bases, provided a unique highlight when he aggressively charged a hard liner hit into center field and threw out a runner at first. Lewis, who is in the 2023 class and attends Rosebud Lott, has quick hands, but also is raw in the batter’s box, which showed in his .977 OPS and eight strikeouts. West High School product Gus Crain routinely made quality contact against pitches in different parts of the hitting zone.

Dallas Patriots 16U Brooks

My first look at left-handed hitting shortstop Wyatt Sanford, who attends Independence High School, immediately revealed why Texas A&M already secured his commitment. He’s a special talent, who ran from home-to-first in 3.9 seconds on a bunt and showcased impressive athleticism to accompany high-level hitting and defensive tools. With a slender frame already supporting some lean muscle and length, Sanford checks all the boxes as a definite Five Tool 55 candidate when the 2024 list is first unveiled in the fall. Sanford hit .462/.533/.769 with just two strikeouts.

On the mound, Jordan Stribling is one of the most intriguing left-handed pitching prospects in the state. Stribling appeared taller than his listed 6-5, 200 pounds and was up to 91 MPH with a lively heater, which was the main reason why he punched out nine hitters in 4.0 innings. However, Stribling also issued nine walks, which demonstrated he’s still growing into his body and understanding how to repeat his delivery and arm path. Occasionally, the Highland Park prospect threw a hard breaking ball in the low 80s and showed a changeup to right-handed hitters around 83 MPH.

After struggling with his control during his first outing, I wasn’t surprised to see JJ Pearce lefty AJ Ripley perform much better in his second appearance because a lot of Ripley’s misses were just barely to the arm-side and he has an easy, repeatable delivery. In a start against a strong DFW Twins Black lineup, Ripley used his fastball-curveball combo to throw 7.0 quality innings. He gave up two runs on five hits, one walk, struck out eight, and manipulated the shape of his curveball to occasionally add more two-plane look against lefties. His fastball touched 86 MPH. It looked like Ripley’s fastball played up, especially when located at the top of the zone, and when his curveball had more 12-6 shape it was sharp with depth.

Nick Bowman, a righty from Rain High School, used strong fastball command to all parts of the zone to throw 6.0 innings of one-run baseball, on six hits and three walks, with 11 strikeouts. The defensive ability of Cole Giametta (Prosper), athleticism and strong arm caught my attention. He looked like he has some interesting tools and is one to follow.

DFW Twins 16U Black

Uncommitted 2024 right-hander Jackson Burns attracted some college scouts and I saw why. Over 6.2 shutout innings against a good OK Fuel squad, Burns gave up just five hits, walked one and punched out 10.

Physically, Burns is 6-6 with projection and looks like a future big, physical power pitcher who can log a lot of innings and carry his stuff deep into outings. As for the stuff, Burns’ fastball played up at 84-86 MPH, which was probably partially because he spun some curveballs around 66 MPH and an interesting changeup at 73 MPH that looked like a weapon versus lefties. Burns showed a loose, quick arm and as he matures and tightens the shape of his hook with more consistency out front of his arm action, he could become a major D1 recruit.

Aledo’s Ryan Jones, a physical left-handed hitter, created some loud contact and has an intriguing hitting profile because of his strength, bat speed and his raw power. Although there was some swing-and-miss that accompanied his work in the box, the swing looked promising and there is a lot to work with and project.

Charlie Anderson (Trinity Valley), who finished with a .400/.571/.500 slash line, caught my eye with his barrel control and ability to put the ball in play to all fields. On the mound, Jim Ned right-handed pitcher Jake Rushing is making a name for himself with an easy delivery and 12-6 curveball, coupled with a fastball up to 87 MPH, that has caused hitters problems. Following a standout performance in the Pudge Rodriguez World Classic Qualifier, Rushing tossed 7.1 shutout innings at the main event and struck out seven with just two walks and two hits.

Houston Heat 2024 – Vinning

I saw a lot of this talented group during Five Tool SHSU and the standouts remained the standouts. Dawson Park (Magnolia West) again showed his all-around talent and skill offensively and defensively. He saw spin well out of the hand, which included hammering a hard line drive single off a two-strike hook in an at-bat I saw. A consistent performer with the bat capable of driving balls into the gaps and using the whole field, Park has athletic, twitchy movements on the diamond. He plays mostly third base for Houston Heat but could play all over the field, including shortstop.

Tomball 2024 infielder and left-handed hitter Braeden Scherzer hits every time I watch him. He has good bat control and a natural feel for hitting. In a very tough left-on-left matchup against a very tall lefty throwing 91 MPH, Scherzer cut his swing down in a two-strike count and hit a very hard grounder right at the shortstop. Currently undersized at 5-10, 160 pounds but with room to fill out, he gets the most out of his speed and athleticism with the help of quality baseball instincts and a calm heartbeat both defensively and in the batter’s box.

After looking the part of an intriguing D1 prospect at Sam Houston State with a lively heater up to 86 MPH, left-handed pitcher Austin Dolezal (Grand Oaks) threw well in the Pudge Rodriguez World Classic, too, with a four-seamer up to 85 MPH and again showing some explosive live through the zone. At times, the lefty’s breaking ball looked more like a slider and other times like a curve; it was at its best with a backfoot-type look against right-handed hitters. Already around 6-2 with a high waist, Dolezal’s frame strongly suggests there is still major physical projection to come, and he has a quick arm.

Left-landed hitters Jordan Kelly (Cypress Ranch) and Austin Wiederhold (Lake Creek) both stood out, too.

OK Fuel 2024 Brooks

Vanderbilt commitment and Edmond North right-handed pitcher Owen Hall was as good as advertised, firing lively fastballs up to 92 MPH. At 6-2 with length and plenty of room to still fill out, don’t be surprised if Hall is touching the upper-90s before he graduates from high school. As good as Hall was, uncommitted right-hander Kash Ferris (Carl Albert High School) was just as impressive.

Ferris reminded me a lot of 2023 Oklahoma commitment and two-sport Celina standout Noah Bentley; both are quarterbacks, which shows in their deliveries. From a lean, athletic frame, Ferris fired heaters up to 86 MPH and there will be more velocity in the future because his arm is quick and loose. A sharp slider 76 MPH with some command to the backfoot of left-handed hitters contributed to Ferris’ 10 strikeouts across 6.0 innings (zero earned runs) and his changeup looked like a future average offering at worst. Basically, he looked like a complete pitcher with a lot of upside.

I didn’t see every left-handed swing in the event, but I can’t imagine liking one more than Drake Fittro’s. The Choctaw High School product finished with a slash line of .600/.600/.700 and routinely created good barrel paths thanks to his excellent, quick hands. A player who plays with under control, natural competitiveness, Fittro looked like one of the top hitters in the state of Oklahoma.

Shortstop and Oklahoma State commitment Braylon Brooks is a fiery, aggressive player who wants the baseball on defense and always tries to push the action on offense. Right-handed hitting teammate Deacon Frazee performed extremely well with the bat (.429/.600/.429 with zero strikeouts) and has yet to add strength to his swing that will come with maturity.

QUICK HITTERS

– Mason Hamilton (Birdville) had a standout tournament in the batter’s box for Canes Southwest – Clementz 2024 and although he didn’t post huge numbers, center fielder Jaxon Miller showed notable athleticism, defense and bat speed.

– Switch-hitter Jaxon Selman (Sentinel; Oklahoma) tracked pitches well and utilized a calm, simple, easy approach in the batter’s box to perform well for SWAT Academy 2024.

– Action 16U White’s Grant Anderson (Vista Ridge) is a big, athletic, physical long-strider who did some damage in the box when his hands were extended and looked like a standout football player. Teammate Paul Samaripa (Gateway College Prep) got his hands quickly into the hitting zone and used a short swing to punish pitches to the tune of a .500/.563/.643 slash line.

– Episcopal and Kyle Chapman White two-way talent Ethan Bozeman snapped off one of the better curveballs I saw during the event and had a quick arm out in front. His hammer was sharp with overhead shape and bite with more velocity coming.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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