Now that the 2022 MLB Draft and its unpopular July date is finally in the rearview mirror, professional scouts have turned their complete focus to the 2023 class. Last Tuesday, the Texas Scouts Association hosted its annual Prospects All-Star Game at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, home of the Houston Astros AAA affiliate the Space Cowboys. Five Tool Baseball was on hand and survived an unrelenting combination of authentic Houston humidity and heat to bring you these notes and would have more video to include if my iPhone didn’t overheat every other batter.

Blake Mitchell is still really, really good

After showing some pull side juice during his batting practice session, Sinton do-it-all star Blake Mitchell (Sinton) provided the top highlight during the game. Against big, 6-7 right-hander Hayden Morris (Oak Ridge), Mitchell turned on a 92 MPH fastball down-and-in and hammered a no-doubt bomb over the right field fence. An audible gasp could be heard from the seats almost immediately after the impressively loud crack off Mitchell’s wooden bat. Mitchell, a LSU commitment, also caught a runner stealing, remains in excellent shape physically, and made it clear with his performance that he will be one of the most heavily scouted prep players in the country this season.

As for Morris, he actually hit the exact spot with the exact pitch his catcher called. If not for the homer by Mitchell, the Texas commitment would have completed one of the best, most dominant pitching performances during the event. Morris’ power curveball (81-82 MPH) racked up swings and misses at an outstanding rate and showed tight shape and spin, which resulted in it diving off the table late. The big righty also recorded a swinging strikeout with a 85 MPH slider, threw strikes with his fastball up to 93 MPH and showed a changeup in warmups that is definitely a true part of his arsenal.

In such a short look, it was tough to tell how well Morris could hold his stuff, repeat and pitch deep into a game. But if he continues to work on his body and add strength, there is a starter’s arsenal to work with and certainly a workhorse-like build making him an intriguing candidate to make a big jump over the next 11 months. That said, it would be fun to see Morris in the backend of a bullpen because the future stuff would be dominant in that role.

A trio of arms made it clear they are emerging as top prospects in Texas

Seeing Easton Tumis (Friendswood), Alex Solis (Weslaco East) and Zane Adams (Porter) made sweating and baking in the punishing sun worth it. It was my first look at all three pitchers, and it didn’t disappoint.

Solis stepped onto the mound with a 6-1, 185-pound frame that upon first glance immediately suggested there is meaningful physical projection remaining. The righty then showed a four-pitch mix: fastball (92-93 MPH), sinker (91 MPH), slider (83 MPH) and changeup (81 MPH). Impressively, the Houston commitment showed signs of being able to execute all four of them. Solis’ four-seamer showed a hint of angle, some glove side command and was able to beat hitters; his sinker was thrown to its intended target to his arm side with some hard tumble and his changeup had more of a circle-type look with spin and arm side fade; the slider had a true look, shape and break and profiled as his best secondary offering.

It wasn’t a surprise to see Solis throwing so hard because his delivery included noticeable hip-to-shoulder separation and shoulder rotation and a good downhill path towards home plate. As Solis matures and adds strength, he’ll be better able to throw harder and hold velocity, especially with improved lower half strength because his front lead leg had visible knee bend/give after release.

Sticking with thin right-handers, Friendswood’s Easton Tumis, listed at 6-4, 165 pounds, used arguably the event’s best slider to breeze through his dominant outing on the mound. A Houston commitment, Tumis used good timing and posture in his delivery to execute his fastball (92-94 MPH) and slider (83-85 MPH) to his glove side and showed signs of promising future command with present control. Physically, Tumis showed a strong lead leg despite his thin frame and rotated his shoulder well with a pretty quiet head throughout his delivery and through the finish. Even if Tumis doesn’t add a ton of weight and muscle in the future, there are present ingredients for a standout starter at the next level.

The ability to consistently get his fastball to his glove side helped his tight, hard slider overwhelm hitters; because of its velocity and shape, the breaking pitch looked like a heater heading for the same area only to drop and dive late, which resulted in multiple strikeouts including a backfoot offering to standout hitter Boots Landry, who is really tough to whiff. From a low three-quarters slot, Tumis didn’t have any issue staying on top of his breaking ball and keeping its shape. He also showed a firm changeup around 85 MPH that’s clearly his third best offering at the moment, but one that lefties will have to think about.

I had plans during the high school season to see Porter’s Zane Adams but an ankle injury delayed my first view until the TSA Prospects All-Star Game. The wait was worth it because Adams is making a very strong case that he’s the best left-handed pitching prospect in the state despite still recovering from that ankle injury. As he slowly and gingerly walked to the mound with a slight limp, I didn’t quite know what to expect, although I heard he was up to 94 MPH recently heading into the event and created a ton of buzz with his Area Code tryout. Then, I saw what all the buzz was about.

Thanks to his shoulder tilt, Adams gives hitters the appearance of an overhand look, a look that also plays off his stuff very well. Committed to Alabama, Adams fired fastballs 92-94 MPH with some angle down in the strike zone and then struck out a batter by going up the ladder to his intended target. The curveball was thrown hard at 76-79 MPH with promising shape and when it started in the middle of the zone, it fell off the table late and quickly for swings and misses compared to when it started higher in the zone and showed a little bit bigger break and depth into the strike zone. Adams also included an 82-84 MPH changeup with late downward action and true promise as more than just a complimentary offering to show righties.

Listed at 6-4, 180 pounds, Adams utilizes an uptempo, active delivery that he repeated just fine and there’s a ton to like about his present ability and long-term outlook. It would be a surprise if Adams isn’t one of the most heavily scouted prep pitchers in Texas.

Why Diego Luzardo reminds me of Kyle Hendricks

After his outing, I knew immediately that La Porte’s Diego Luzardo, another Houston commitment, is going to fill the Brian Panneton spot for me in the 2023 class. If you’re unfamiliar with Panneton, the 2022 pitcher from Tomball Memorial and future Texas State Bobcat had the best control and command of any pitcher I saw in the 2022 class and was a big-game performer in the summer and during the high school season. While Panneton is a little bigger and a tad more physical, Luzardo might have better pure stuff. Regardless, the right-hander looked like he too has that same outstanding control/command combo that Panneton possesses and can flat out pitch in the truest sense of the phrase.

In fact, after a few pitches I saw a lot of similarities between Luzardo and current Chicago Cubs right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks. That’s not to say Luzardo is going to be Hendricks or is a slam dunk prospect right now, but the easy, repeatable, low-effort delivery; arm action; and release out of the hand were eerily similar. Luzardo doesn’t throw a sinker like Hendricks and instead featured an 88-90 MPH fastball that played up a tick and registered a couple swings and misses. He also had at least one swing and miss on his curveball (75-79 MPH) and changeup (82 MPH). A product of La Porte High School, Luzardo manipulated the shape and velocity of his breaking ball to feature more curveball-like look and depth at a slower velocity and more two-plane break with a harder offering. Houston should be ecstatic about Luzardo’s long-term outlook because he looks like one of the safest pitching prospects in the class.

Nehomar Ochoa Jr. is one of the most interesting prospects in the nation

The last time I saw Galena Park two-way standout Nehomar Ochoa Jr. he showed up to a 2021 Five Tool at Premier Baseball in Tomball and proceeded to smash homers into the trees beyond left field. Why did that performance stick with me? Everyone else was using metal and Ochoa Jr. swung a wooden bat painted as the Venezuelan flag, which he used to punish pitches with good bat speed and a loud barrel.

Fast forward, and Ochoa Jr., a Houston commitment, has to be one of the most interesting two-way prospects in the nation. He supported that description by throwing 94 MPH off the mound and ripping a triple into the left-center gap, which allowed him to show an athletic stride, especially for a 6-4, 209-pound prospect, as he kicked it into impressive gear and motored around the bases. As I describe Ochoa Jr., keep in mind he’s young enough to be in the 2024 class.

As a pitcher, Ochoa Jr. battled the elements some – he was dealing with a lot of sweat on his hand which hindered his control. The delivery was a bit robotic and lacked the athletic fluidity, likely the result of not as many pitching reps as some of his peers and still growing into his size, he shows in everything else he does on the diamond at such an impressive, physical size with room for more strength. Once Ochoa Jr. leverages his physical gifts on the mound and works quicker and more fluidly to the plate, it’s not a stretch to think he’s going to possess a plus fastball with the makings of a starter’s arsenal because his slider and changeup both had the type of shape you look for.

As a right-handed hitter, the Houston-area prospect showed flashes of impressive raw power during his batting practice session and a promising swing worth betting on, reminiscent of the one I saw create good angles and a good bat path last summer. Not only could Ochoa Jr. hit for power in the future, I think he has a real shot to hit for average, too. Basically, there is a lot to be excited about and a year from now he could be one of the biggest risers in the state and a possible MLB draft pick. Unlike many top prospects in his class, Ochoa possesses a huge gap between where he is presently and where he could be next year and five years from now.

Other notes…

– Mostly, it was a quiet event for hitters, thanks in part to the standout pitching and, at times, the lack of strikes from some other pitchers. A couple of Texas Tech commitments created very hard contact multiple times: Waller catcher Davis Rivers and Hutto 3B/RHP Garet Boehm. Both also showed some standout power to the pull side in batting practice and Boehm also showed power to the gaps, too.

Rivers possesses a bat-first profile with raw power as the carrying tool and Boehm has the ingredients to be a solid defensive third baseman with soft hands, confident actions and good arm strength, although a misplay, and one he knows he should have made, on a stolen base late in the game allowed the opposing team to score the winning run.

– Left-handed hitting first baseman Boots Landry (Friendswood) and catcher Conner Bennett (Oak Ridge) showed some of the best feel for contact and tracking pitches. Landry, a Texas A&M commitment, is a bat-first prospect who should continue to grow into more power as he matures (6-3, 205 pounds). The much smaller (5-8, 170 pounds) and physically mature Bennett is committed to Vanderbilt and was a quiet receiver behind the dish with a quick transfer that resulted in a 1.86 pop time to catch a runner stealing.

– New Texas A&M commitment and Corpus Christi Ray shortstop Jack Bell made one of the top defensive plays of the event when he ranged up the middle and showed quick actions to throw out Drew Markle, who was moving down the line well. Like almost every hitter, Bell’s day in the batter’s box was a mixed bag with some whiffs but also some solid contact, too. For a player who is still adding strength and should fill out through the upper half, Bell’s barrel occasionally created some impressive pop to the pull side in batting practice.

– John Paul II switch-hitter and LSU commitment Derrick Mitchell had a strong day all-around, which included hitting a homer from the left side on a fastball down-and-in and throwing out a runner at home from left field. And as he typically does, outfielder Sam Myers, a TCU commitment from Cy Woods, put together competitive, pesky at-bats with feel for making contact.

– Dondreone Kennedy (Benbrook) impressed the right people because he immediately committed to Texas after the game. A plus runner with plus athleticism, Kennedy looks like a future second baseman and perhaps center fielder, although his arm profiles better on the dirt. In addition to his speed, his bat has a chance to be a carrying tool because of his compact stroke and very quick hands create impactful paths to the baseball and can time velocity.

– Tompkins standout and Ole Miss commitment Drew Markle didn’t have a loud day at the plate, but I just saw him perform as well as any hitter at the AABC Don Mattingly World Series. What stood out in Sugar Land was how well and athletically he bounced around multiple infield positions defensively and showed a stronger arm than I had seen before. Speaking of the AABC Don Mattingly World Series, uncommitted right-handed Tanner Wiggins (Temple Christian) showed a similar look at this event – lively fastball up to 91 MPH and hard slider at 81 MPH that flashed as a swing and miss offering.

– It was good to see Jaquae Stewart back in action and his batting practice session, which included a couple of impressive homers out to left-center field, was one of the most impressive at the event.

– Shame on me for two things: not knowing a ton about Carthage 3B/OF Connor Cuff and not making it a point to go see Aidan Coleman (San Antonio Reagan) pitch this past season. At 6-4, 205 pounds, Cuff, a Louisiana commitment, is an impressive, physical player with a lot to like in the batter’s box from the left side and interesting power. Coleman, committed to Pittsburgh, touched 91 MPH with his fastball and showed a solid four-pitch mix – changeup caught a left-handed hitter looking for a strikeout – and a loose, quick arm.

– Memorial left-handed pitcher and Vanderbilt commitment Jakob Schulz looked a tad rusty, but as his outing progressed, he started to find the feel for throwing strikes with all his pitches. His 73-76 MPH curveball was the standout offering with good shape, depth and an overhand look. Schulz’s fastball sat 86-89 MPH and he also showed an 82 MPH slider and 82 MPH changeup. He looked like a lefty with pitchability who could throw four pitches for strike when it’s all clicking.

Similar could be said for uncommitted left-handed pitcher Landon Bowden, who hit the first batter he faced and took a few pitches to find his timing and release. Once he did, he fired 86-89 MPH fastballs towards the lower part of the strike zone with signs of glove side execution. Early, Bowden’s curveball (75-77 MPH) was too firm, but later it began to show improved shape and break. Although he didn’t feature it a lot, Bowden’s changeup looked like his best secondary offering, capable of getting whiffs against right-handed hitters. At 6-2, 180 pounds, Bowden has yet to fully fill out and could still be growing, too.

– Wylie left-handed pitcher and Arkansas commitment Tye Briscoe was so impressive I kept thinking he was a 2024 prospect and not 2025. In addition to already throwing 92 MPH with a swing and miss curveball, Briscoe has some natural deception in his arm path, giving his fastball even more opportunities to beat hitters.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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