Prep Baseball Report

SoCal Underclass Games: Quick Hits

Les Lukach
State Scouting Director

The inaugural SoCal Underclass Games took place on Saturday, August 18th at Dedeaux Field home of the USC Trojans. The Underclass Games were a culmination of our Underclass Trials Series which attracted over 200 players all vying for an invitation to the Underclass Games.

The day featured a workout in the morning for position players where they went through our hitting wheel, took on-field BP, before finishing up with a defensive workout. Players were split into four team with two sim games following the morning workout.

Of the 80 players that participated in the games, close to 40 can be found in our state rankings for their respective classes. With the majority of the players uncommitted, there was plenty of talent for the over one dozen college coaches in attendance to scout and evaluate as players head into their fall/winter conditioning workouts and games.

As part of our continuing coverage of the event, we will break down all the data, roll out stats, content, and videos from the event. In this edition we take a look at some quick hits on players that stood out to our team of evaluators.

NOTE: This is not a top players list merely some quick observation after a brief review of notes.

+ 2020 SS Devan Ornelas showed why he belongs in the conversation of top players in his class in the state. The 10th ranked player in the 2020 class, Ornelas clocked a 4.28 home-to-first time from the right side after his impressive round of BP which saw him pepper the gaps the line drives. He showed his power in-game too as he belted a solo HR over the left-center field wall. The TCU commit also posted an exit velocity of 90 mph which tied him for third best with two other players.

+ 2020 OF Chad Born is unquestionably one of the top outfielders in the state and he showed why at the Underclass Games. With a strong, accurate arm, and excellent speed, Born separated himself from just about all other outfielders on the day. The 22nd ranked player in the 2020 class, Born clocked an 84 mph outfield velocity which was good for second best at the event, but it was his consistent barreling of baseballs and his diving catch in center field that left a lasting impression on our team of evaluators.

+ 2020 RHP/OF Chris Aldrich is a physical player at 6-foot-1, 185-pounds who continues to improve on the mound and in the outfield. The 53rd ranked player in the 2020 class, Aldrich ran his fastball up to 86 mph which he paired with a slurve at 76-79 that made for uncomfortable at-bats for the opposition. Nothing is straight coming out of his hand and there appears to be way more in the tank. At the plate he was plunked twice but squared up a couple ball. The arm plays in the outfield too as he registered a session best 85 mph outfield velocity. Also ran a 4.30 home-to-first.

+ 2021 OF/RHP David Shackelford continues to impress our team of evaluators with his current skillset and his projection in the outfield. At 5-foot-8, 145-pounds, Shackelford is has present strength and a loose arm that registered an 82 mph outfield velocity. He shows fast hands and wiry strength at the plate where he registered an 82 mph exit velocity. A grinder type, Shackelford hustles no matter where he's going inside the lines.

+ 2021 SS/2B Davis Hildebrandt has a lot of tools to get excited about. His defense will carry him a long way as will his bat. Hildebrandt just looks like a hitter and it's something he's done consistently over several viewings going back to the spring and Underclass Trials I. Shows the ability to adjust to off-speed and still get the barrel on the ball. Made a spectacular play moving to his right, dropping to one knee and backhanding the ball before firing to first base to get a speedy runner.

+ 2021 C/2B Max Shor proved to be worthy of his No. 9 ranking in the class of 2021 with his all-around effort. The USD commit put on a hitting display during BP where he hammered balls to the gaps with present strength and explosive bat speed. Shor also showed very strong catch-and-throw skills behind the plate. But it was the little things that separated him from most every other player. He was the first guy up to retrieve foul balls; first guy to be a runner; his diving attempt at a ball in shallow right field. Brought an energy and passion to the field that was easily noticeable by all evaluators.

+ 2020 SS/2B Tank Espalin left quite the lasting impression on evaluators with his combination of defense and hitting. The USC commit has been a high level defender for some time now, but it was his leadership in the middle of the field that really stood out during the games. A consistent communicator, Espalin took charge from his shortstop position by directing and positioning teammates based on situations. At the plate Espalin has made marked improvements from the spring season. He looks far more comfortable and is consistently getting the barrel on the ball with his fast hands.

+ 2020 RHP Caleb Bennett might have the best slider in the class of 2020, certainly it's the best slider we've seen this summer. Bennett is a physical pitcher at 6-foot-3, 190-pounds who carries a 4.4 GPA in the classroom and runs his fastball up to 90 while living at 88-89 mph. For good measure he keeps hitters off balance with a changeup that bores into righties at 80-82 mph. Facing Bennett is an uncomfortable venture for hitters as his command and ability to throw three potential plus pitches in any count makes for a whole lot of guesswork on the hitters part.

+ 2021 RHP/3B Brian Uribe was one of the pitchers that caught everyone's attention from the second he stepped on the mound. Uribe pounded hitters with a fastball-slurve combination that kept hitters off balance and guessing. Touching 88 mph, his fastball shows cut action which he commands very well. His slurve shows a sweeping 2/8 shape and a true two-plane pitch at 69-72 mph that leaves hitters with very little chance to square it up.

+ 2020 OF/LHP Dustin Allen was a guy we saw - and liked - several times in the spring and he showed us why at the Underclass Games. An athletic and rangy outfielder, Allen glides to balls in the outfield and makes it look effortless. Tracks balls very well and has enough arm - 83 mph outfield velocity - to make all throws. Shows a controlled, smooth stroke at the plate with loose hands showing excellent bat-to-ball skills.

+ 2020 C Carter Kay has always shown us good catch-and-throw skills and is now beginning to show development in his hit tool. At 5-foot-11, 170-pounds, Kay is a long-limbed catcher with excellent instincts and mobility. His frame can handle the addition of mass/strength in the future which will bode him well. Had three great at-bats in game action where he barrelled all three and drove them to center field and right-center field gap.

+ 2020 3B Eugene Jeon is a power hitter that profiles perfectly at third base on the next level. Jeon shows easy bat speed and drives balls to all fields from a simple load using his fast hands. Hit three home runs during BP with one going three-quarters of the way up the next in left-center field. Jeon shows an easy, loose arm with the ability to make throws from all angles from third base.

+ 2021 C Daniel Briones is unquestionably one of the two best catchers in his class. Briones has the best catch-and-throw tool in his class with a quick release from a short, loose arm action. Very athletic behind the plate, he is a quiet receiver that moves around gracefully. At the plate he shows very good bat speed from a simple setup/load. Is very patient and selective and is gets extension through the ball and shows the ability to put the ball in play.

+ SS/2B Jack Johnston continues to impress with his overall game. The 7th ranked player in the 2021 class, Johnston shows excellent hands and exchanges defensively to go with a power arm that flashes life on throws. His footworks is fluid and his range excellent. At the plate he has a knack for squaring balls up and shows the ability to drive the ball the other way with a middle approach. Consistently squared balls up while getting extension through the ball.