If we’re doing this right, already seeing over 90 high school games in the great state of Texas should mean seeing a lot of outstanding performances. And while I am a tad biased, I do believe we’re doing this right. Last week, Drew Bishop and I listed players who we’ll make a strong case to move up the Five Tool 55 rankings along with four 2024 players who need to be on the initial list. This week, Drew and I list some of our top performances that we’ve seen in person thus far. Take a look:

Dustin’s Picks

Blake Mitchell – C/RHP/SS – Sinton (Dripping Springs Tournament)
Okay, I’m going to cheat a little because all of this didn’t happen in one game. However, it did happen over the same weekend in Dripping Springs and I was there to see all of it. Sinton junior Blake Mitchell showed during Sinton’s impressive performances at Dripping Springs why he’s regarded as a unicorn-type prospect. Rated as the top player in the 2023 Five Tool 55, Mitchell did it all.

While he didn’t have any, “Oh my God!” moments with the bat, the left-handed hitter routinely reached base with a patient, mature approach, hit liners to all parts of the field and showed a very intriguing hitting profile that boosts the main attraction we’ll get to. Incredibly, the main attraction isn’t what happened when he came out of the bullpen to close a win. A right-handed reliever who has an absurdly dominant – last I saw a week ago he had a 0.00 ERA across 25.0 innings with 47 strikeouts – pitching line this season, Mitchell touched 96 MPH with a heater no one could time. Oh, he also flashed a curveball that flirted with a future 70 grade.

And that wasn’t the main attraction. After rain canceled Saturday’s action, Sinton returned to action for a 9:00 a.m. game against one of the state’s best 6A teams, Smithson Valley. Mitchell started at catcher, his most likely future position because of his rare blend of skill, athleticism, physical attributes and arm strength. Kasen Wells, one of the fastest senior outfielders in the state, reached first base and tried to steal on Mitchell. With his first throw of the game, the junior LSU commitment gunned down Wells with ease thanks in large part to a 1.87 pop time.

At that point, I looked at my stopwatch and just laughed. It’s one thing to do that in warmups. It’s another thing to do it just after 9 a.m. against one of the state’s top runners with barely any warmup throws. Mitchell went on to show all the receiving, blocking, and movements behind home plate scouts dream of from any catching prospect. Of the course of a couple games, everything Mitchell did basically reinforced why he’s our top rated player in 2023, which is saying something because earlier in the week I watched junior Travis Sykora throw 99 MPH and dominate.

Mason Bixby – RHP – Johnson (vs. Clark 3/1/22)
Before I saw junior right-handed pitcher Mason Bixby in person for the first time I heard some glowing reviews from scouts about his performance at the prestigious Area Code games. After seeing him, I left extremely impressed, but impressed in a way I didn’t anticipate. Bixby wasn’t some fireballer who relied on a dominant fastball no one could time. He was a pitcher.

Against one of the top teams in the state and certainly in his area, Bixby tossed a one-hit shutout against Clark and needed just 82 pitches to do it. I’m not sure he even broke a sweat that evening partially because despite being such a big, tall (6-7) righty, he’s a low-effort pitcher who stays within himself. And his heartbeat on the mound remained slow and steady all game long. Early, Bixby’s fastball sat comfortably at 91-93 MPH and touched 94 MPH; he held this velocity fairly easily, and was touching 88-89 MPH in the seventh inning. For a pitcher with his size and length, Bixby was able to repeat and carry his stuff well. The big right-hander gets a lot of “layback” during his delivery; appeared to have good hip-shoulder separation at foot plant; had good chest positioning over a strong lead leg; and, especially for a guy his size, pitched with a quiet head.

In addition to his fastball, Bixby’s changeup (85-87 MPH early and 83-85 MPH late) was a weapon of choice, which included some quality usage in right-on-right situations because the changeup played off a tunnel and shape similar to his fastball. As the outing progressed, Bixby began throwing backwards in fastball counts as he turned the lineup over two and three times and the changeup was used often against left-handed hitters while the slider began to be used as a pitch to grab strikes early in count and an execution pitch later in counts to finish at-bats. Once the breaking ball settled in at 82-83 MPH, it was tougher for Clark hitters to handle because of its shape and where Bixby could put it.

It’s pretty rare to see a pitcher with Bixby’s height and length hold his stuff and repeat his delivery – exclusively out of the stretch – for seven full innings. And it’s probably just as rare to see a pitcher calmly execute a different plan with all his pitches as he worked deeper into the game and through the order multiple times. While Bixby didn’t rack up a huge strikeout total (just five), he generated weak contact over and over again while pounding the zone with strikes. Big-time performance.

Casan Evans – RHP – St. Pius X (vs. Concordia Lutheran 4/8/22)
My second look at 2024 right-handed pitcher Casan Evans was more impressive than the first, which is quite the statement because I left his first outing thinking I just watched the top 2024 prospect in Texas. Against a really good Concordia Lutheran team in its home park, Evans went the distance with a complete game shutout and gave up just two hits with one walk.

Evans’ stuff is really, really loud, especially for a sophomore. But it was the young righty’s ability to adjust on the fly and execute that really impressed me. As his outing progressed, Evans started to sink his fastball to his arm side routinely, which really gave right-handed pitchers problems. The first time I saw him, Evans’ breaking ball of choice was the slider more often and he showed two distinct ones. This time, he used more of a curveball shape but did start to mix in a true slider occasionally deeper into the outing, giving those hitters something else to think about.

Again, he isn’t just a stuff guy on the mound. Evans can flat out pitch and does so in a way that’s well beyond his years. He’ll throw a changeup to anyone, move his fastball around the zone, and show two different breaking balls with knowledge of which one he has the better feel for. Plus, he carried 91 MPH into the final inning of his outing and showed his plus athleticism with one of the best defensive plays I’ve seen this season.

Drew’s Picks

Jack Livingstone – RHP – Lovejoy (vs. Rock Hill 4/5/22)
Where else could I possibly start than Jack Livingstone’s no-hitter of a really good Prosper Rock Hill team? The night before committing to Texas Tech, Livingstone was masterful moving the ball to both sides of the plate while striking out 10 in 7.0 innings. His cutter and two-seam led to uncomfortable at-bats and mishit balls all night long. Like all no-hitters there was that one play to keep it intact, and on this night it was a line drive from Brett Foss over third base that was snagged by a leaping Matthew Mainord (2024). This came on the heels of one of two walks on the night that was quickly erased by the Branch brothers, Kolby and Kyle, turning two. That third inning posed the only real threat on the night for the Blue Hawks.

On the night, Livingstone was 88-90 MPH with his two-seam fastball, 87-91 MPH with the cutter, 82-84 MPH with a slider,and mixed in some solid changeups at 77-80 MPH. Nothing coming out of the hand of Livingstone was straight and he did a good job changing eye levels and staying out of patterns. We have talked at length about Livingstone’s upside and that he reminds me of a young Tanner Scheppers, but his competitiveness is what sticks out to me the most. Jack pitches with a passion that is sparked from intensity and not theatrics directed at opponents. Upon the last out of the game, a groundout to second base, his celebration was directed towards his team as he looked to celebrate the accomplishment with them.

Andrew Hickey – RHP – Frisco Heritage (vs. Lone Star 4/14/22)
The art of pitching is, at its core, designed to disrupt the hitter’s timing. Some people do it with an array of pitches while some do it with velocity and pure stuff. Heritage senior RHP Andrew Hickey combines all methods to be an effective pitcher. While Hickey does not light up the radar gun, he uses deception and an assortment of windups to thwart batters’ timing. The use of the quick pitch, multiple leg lifts and pauses, and different arm angles frustrated Lone Star hitters all night long.

Outside of the second inning where a couple hits and multiple errors led to five runs, Hickey put up five zeroes in the rest of his innings to throw a complete game in the losing effort. A good Lone Star lineup had several lazy pop-ups that led to some efficient innings for the righty. While Hickey did earn the loss on the stat sheet, this was by far one of the most enjoyable outings I have seen all spring. It was a good reminder that you don’t have to have massive stuff to be an effective pitcher where the name of the game is getting outs. The senior is coming off of a junior campaign where he was First-Team All-District after posting a 1.92 ERA for the year.

Jake Duer – OF – Flower Mound Marcus (vs. Arlington Martin 3/3/22)
One of the best offensive performances I have seen this spring belongs to a guy that, while I was there, logged a walk and two singles. What doesn’t show up in a quick glance at a boxscore would be the number of pitches Flower Mound Marcus saw over the course of his at-bats against University of Texas signee, Max Grubbs. In the three at-bats I saw, Duer worked the count to draw a walk, then battled back from being down in the count to eventually shoot a single through the left side to extend an inning. Later, Duer would drive one the other way to left field for an RBI.

As a leadoff man for the Marauders, Duer does his job to get on base. He is a tough out and can create havoc on the bases. The definition of a table-setter, Duer uses his baseball IQ and athleticism to make pitchers uncomfortable, which is exactly what happened on this day as Duer and his teammates scratched and clawed their way to get Grubbs out of the game on their way to victory. Duer will have a chance to fit in the TCU lineup nicely early on in his career for the Frogs. Before that, Duer will play a big part of what could be a big run through the playoffs for Coach Sherman and the Flower Mound Marcus Marauders.

Listen to Drew and Dustin discuss…

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