Prep Baseball Report

USA PDP at Stockton (CA)

Blaine Clemmens
Northern California Director of Scouting

USA Baseball has been conducting their 2018 Prospect Development Pipeline Premier workouts/scrimmages around the country and was in Stockton a couple of weeks back. There were 35 players who participated in assessments of their athleticism, batting practice, infield/outfield, and one inning appearances by the pitchers who each faced 3-4 batters.

It was a fairly relaxed atmosphere with sparse attendance from scouts and college recruiters, as it wasn't a well publicized workout. It can be different to see these talented young players in big showcase tryout like those for the Area Code games vs an atmosphere that didn't quite have the same stakes for the players. 

Let's take a closer look at these players (all are 2019 grads) who most caught our eye on that day.

- SS Kyren Paris (Freedom HS) is the Northern California player in the 2019 class who is rising fastest up the draft lists. The Cal-Berkeley commit is a wiry and athletic infielder with quick twitch actions and tools that certainly project to the pro game. His first step on defense is good, he displayed soft hands and his arm projects to be above average. He uses his athleticism well in the infield without being flashy or forcing his actions. There is an occasional extra step to get the throw underway. Offensively he is a slashing type hitter with lightning hands. He's short to the ball and sprays line drives around the field. He gets good energy and torque from his hips. There is some wrap to the start of his swing and occasionally can push the ball to the opposite field, but all in all, he's got the look of a line drive, all fields, pole to pole hitter with enough pop to get into the gaps and use his plus speed on the bases, where he is a legitimate stolen base threat.

- C Tyler Soderstrom (Turlock HS) is a left-handed hitting catcher with the swing type and body type that suggest he's got a chance to be one of the better offensive catchers in the 2019 class. The Oregon State commit has a loose swing and easily gets through the ball, creating easy loft and carry. His swing and the ease of it, along with his highly projectable body, foreshadow above average power potential. He's fluid and frankly his swing is pretty, and he finishes with LOUD contact. Soderstom stays behind the ball well and let's it travel, while showing the ability to adjust to pitches in different parts of the zone, even in BP. Lots of rhythm in his swing. Defensively his pop times were 2.0-2.05 with nice carry to the bag. Obviously the times can go lower and scouts will want to see that to add to his impressive offensive talents.

- RHP Josh White (Monte Vista HS) may not end up being the most heavily scouted high school pitcher in the 2019 class in Northern California, but the Cal-Berkely commit certainly could be after his junior year in college. He's in that category of 6-foot-0 right-handers that isn't always looked upon favorably by scouts, but his stuff, polish, and pitchability certainly is looked upon favorably. With an over the top slot and compact on-line delivery, White works with good tempo and has noticeable mound presence. His fastball reached 90 mph, say in the 88-89 mph range, with good control and occasional glimpses of command. His curveball is a big 12/5 breaking ball with good spin and bite, 76-77 mph. The change-up is also an above average pitch, with depth and good feel at 78-79 mph. White also showed the ability to add and subtract off the fastball.

- RHP Jake Putnam (San Ramon Valley HS) is one of the pitchers the pro scouts DO look upon favorably, with his long lanky body and loose, whippy arm and glimpses of a ceiling that certainly projects to the pro game. Stuffwise he has the goods, but it's the feel and control that will be most heavily scrutinized. Putnam has straightened out his stride a considerable amount from last summer and has gone from a strong cross body stride to being nearly on-line to the plate, which allows his arm work more easily toward a consistent release point. His fastball reached 91 mph, tops at the workout, and he unleashed a couple of sliders that give hitters nightmares. The speed (76-78 mph) is more of the curveball variety breaking ball but the lateral action, along with the tilt, are what make that pitch potentially special. Putnam is committed to Gonzaga University.

- OF/MIF GJ Hill (Santa Cruz HS) has the type of tools and switch-hitting profile that will make a scout's temperature rise. Not to mention that his bloodlines are well-known, as his father was a prolific big league power hitter. There are some similarities in Hill's stroke to that of his dad, particularly the right side, where his is very short to the ball and seemingly gets his swing going with almost no pre-pitch hand movement at all. The contact was loud and and the power was evident for the Arizona State commit. On the left side he showed plus raw bat speed and lightning hands, with a different type of swing, a little more effort to produce the power. Physically he's well-put-together, with a strong compact build. Defensively he worked out in the outfield and infield, with the ball coming out of his hand well in the outfield but lacking carry. In the infield he was able to make strong throws with a flick type of arm action and used his athleticism well, though he can eliminate some steps to the ball and to make his throw. It is the bat and speed and power potential that will keep him on the radar all spring next year, and the position he plays will be the debate.

- LHP/1B T.J. Fondtain (Buchanan HS) put on one of the most impressive power displays in the BP of any high school player I've covered. The left-handed hitter was lifting and separating and putting balls well beyond the ball at Banner Island Ballpark and in some cases, out of the stadium. He keeps his hands away from his body and consistently kept them back as he stayed behind the ball. Even an occasional early lower half didn't stop his hands from staying back and launching balls. There are quite a few moving parts in his swing but he repeatedly found the barrel and did what scouts want to see from a big young left-handed hitter. On the mound he was also good, though more in a college sense, with an 86-88 mph pitchability fastball and understanding of how to use his slow curveball (72-73 mph) to get back to spotting the fastball where he needs to. Fondtain is committed to San Diego State.

- C/P Joseph King (Woodside HS) is a Washington State commit with as much legitimate two-way ability as any player in Northern California in the 2019 class. He did not pitch on this day, but I did see him on cool and rainy spring day, up to 92 mph with the makings of a well-above average slider. The stuff was coming out easily and clean. In any case, he only hit and caught in this workout, showing some raw power that even surprised King himself. He can get a little long and around the ball at times but he's got strong hands and good bat speed. Hitting for average will necessitate a smaller swing and less loft but he's got the hand strength and bat speed to produce power. Defensively is where he shows up the brightest, with a present day plus arm and on the bag throws in the 1.83-1.90 range. His receiving is fair to average, better on the throwing hand side than his glove side. Time will tell what position he plays, but the arm is going to give him ample opportunities. 

- RHP Alex Kendrick (Buhach Colony HS) was about as impressive as a a scout would want to see in a high school pitcher. He has a very polished and repeatable on-line delivery and clean high-3/4 slot with beautiful extension that seems to maximize not only his stuff but also his feel (now that's a good combination). Kendrick was mixing three pitches quite well and had the hitters where he wanted them. The Fresno State commit was steadily 88-89 mph and showed the ability to go in against right-handed hitters and throw an occasionally heavy ball. His curveball was 76 mph but seemed harder, with late bite and power breaking action, the type of action that makes it an out pitch. His change-up is a usable third pitch (80-81 mph) and along with White, had the best repertoire and usability of his stuff of any pitcher at the workout. At 6-foot-1 and 170-pounds, he will have to climb a bit higher on the velocity scale to really move up draft lists, but if he ends up a Bulldog, he's got a shot to be one of the top guys in the 2022 college class.

- 1B/RHP Jacob King (Buchanan HS) is a physically imposing presence on the field and certainly in the batters box. He, along with Fondtain, put on about as impressive of a display of power hitting as one could expect from a high school player. King is a 6-foot-5 210-pound right-handed hitter with easy power, particularly to the pull side. Yes, the swings were aggressive and the intent was to hit it out of the yard in BP, which he did time and time again, some of them clearing a concourse toward the arena beyond the left field wall. Whether he is able to hit well enough to access his power will be a question, but he starts with plus raw power that few kids have. The echo's off his bat were loud and reverberating throughout the facility. He separates his hands from his body at contact and gets through the ball well, while being fairly direct to the ball and long through it. On the mound he was a sneaky 85-87 mph, with a big 12/6 curveball at 71 mph. His prospect status will be determined by his bat. King is committed to UC Irvine.

- OF Brock Jones (Buchanan HS) is one of the more intriguing players for the scouts in Northern California. He is a well-regarded football player as well as a baseball player and that status will be something for the scouts to work through and make a decision on come next June. He's a left-handed hitter who is built like you'd expect an athletic football/baseball player to be built like, strong, lean, physical, with musculature you can see through his uniform. Offensively (he's L/L) he possesses extremely fast hands and he can hit his swing off with ease. His ability to buggy-whip a ball to the pullside was impressive, with that swing looking a bit like a Josh Hamilton-type swing, though I am not comparing him to the power and raw ability of Hamilton. He has explosive hips and overall is an explosive athlete but the swing is a little complicated and his lower half mechanics can be cleaned up. Raw power is present but the ability to hit and do so to all fields will be a question the scouts will be working through. Defensively he his arm should eventually approach average but he's got a bit of a long release and some curl on the backside of his throwing motion. Good one-hops and good discipline. Jones is 6-foot-1 185 pounds.