Prep Baseball Report

Rankings Update - Underrated 2024's

Justin Goetz
PBR Georgia Asst Scouting Director

Since the beginning of America’s Pastime, there have been underrated players who’ve had to battle a lot more adversity receive the recognition they truly deserve. Many times, those players end up being some of the best in the world.

2021 MLB All-Star 1B Jared Walsh was drafted in the 39th Rd, signing for 3k with the Angels just because his college team had a down year and he wasn’t heavily scouted. Now, he’s living a dream big league life that he had to relentlessly fight for every day since the 2015 draft. My point is, great players come in all shapes & sizes from various backgrounds. These are some incredibly talented players in the 2024 class being overlooked.

Sitting inside the top 50 at No. 47 still a relative unknown is one of the most powerful 2024’s in the state, RHP Jordan Thompson (Langston-Hughes; Uncommitted). The 6 foot 2, 205 pounder has the body of a D1 safety with enormous legs and a strong proportional build with broad shoulders. It's one of the most natural, repeatable deliveries in the class - compact with good rhythm, impressive patience & balance over rubber which leads to a nearly perfect direction to the plate. Love the athletic build up of pace from start to finish. Slow to square up, medium in knee lift+stride, and pure controlled violence after landing. His extremely efficient short arm circle from a ¾ slot works with his big muscles (hamstrings, glutes, obliques, lats) and fire together just after landing. There are few deliveries more explosive in this class with the arm speed+strength combo. His velo will climb year by year, and he should at least end up low 90’s 2 years from now. His heavy sinking FB currently sits 85-87, touching 88 w/ late run. Jordan’s ceiling will depend on the development of his CH and breaking ball both of which he’s shown a feel for but seldom uses.

At No. 54 is the sweet swinging State Champion 3B Brooks McKenna (Woodstock; Uncommitted). He’s an instinctive, slick fielder at the hot corner with the arm to match. It's tough to get anything by him, as he shows rare reaction time to line drives off the bat. Since he hits so many lasers of his own at the plate, Brooks knows exactly what to look for. This is a hitter who has an old school setup with a wide base and easy rhythm in the hands. The load happens at a perfect pace of his stride and rolls right into slot with 2 active waggles of the bat. This keeps the hands going in one fluid motion and ensures they will be thrown just after he lands. This is crucial in hitting high velo FB’s especially up in the zone. Brooks is also able to stretch his front hip & load long enough to wait on secondary stuff. As the swing starts his hands, back elbow, back hip+knee are in a perfect vertical line. The barrel lays just off the shoulder, allowing the knob to lead the swing without the barrel entering the zone early. As the knob gets out front, the barrel acceleration created with just his wrists is especially quick and controlled. McKenna grows on you with every barrel, and he gets a couple of those every game.

One slot below at No. 55 is an eye-catching three sport athlete with formula one speed, CF Ajay Jones (North Hall, US EliteUncommitted). We list 99% of outfielders as OF, because most don’t end up in CF at the next level. For Jones, we list him strictly as a CF. With his natural instincts & glove, 7/8 speed, and his incredible range it would be a disservice to the game of baseball if he played any other position. At the plate he's got a tall setup and sinks into the lower half on his first move back with the hips, angling his barrel into a near perfect launch position as he gains ground in stride. He controls his body extremely well in the forward move, rarely getting off balance. As his hands extend to contact point, he creates big bat speed in just a flick of his lightning wrists. Ajay has all the tools to be a high end bat - hand eye coordination, elite bat speed, short+compact path, and patience. Some small adjustments in his forward move will catapult him as a hitter. This is a player with endless energy on the field who constantly creates havoc on the basepaths for any pitching staff, as he went 29 of 29 in SB this spring. He changes every game with intangibles, not just tools. His competitiveness, passion, and baseball IQ are hard to match.

Completing the electric trifecta of mid 50’s ranked 2024’s is the most projectable arm in the class in terms of height & weight. No. 56, RHP Gabe Tatum (Winder-Barrow; Uncommitted) is a 6 foot 7, 190 pounder with a surprisingly consistent delivery and big arm speed. The reason I say surprisingly is, most pitchers at this height have a very tough time repeating their delivery, even in college and pro ball. Dellin Betances is a good example - a 6 foot 8, 4 Time All Star closer who is now a minor leaguer due to inability to command the baseball and injury. The tallest pitchers when athletic have the highest ceilings, but they aren’t always reached. I believe Gabe will reach his ceiling due to - His balanced delivery w/ gd tempo is compact+well sequenced. He maintains body control and consistent direction while producing controlled violence. It’s wicked angle from full circle AA+OH slot, easy easy hiss out of the hand. Strong on backside w/ impressive direction. FB 84-85 T86 bore, CB 68-70 nice shape w/ snap.

No. 86 and climbing is LHP Jared Webb (Lassiter; Uncommitted). This is a sneaky strong, medium framed athlete who moves naturally on the mound. It’s a clean, all stretch delivery thats very well sequenced. There’s no rush in his upper half as he gets down the mound, resulting in a fully loaded and connected back half at landing. This protects his arm and creates angle as well as consistent movement on his pitches. The arm action is a smooth one piece from an overhand slot that quickly picks up momentum as soon as it leaves the glove. I love that the delivery is semi raw and non manufactured, giving me a tip that his near 12-6 CB is completely natural and not created by instruction. His 84-85 T86 FB has late tail and plays just as well up in the zone. His 70-72 T73 CB has some of the biggest potential in the class, with tight spin, sharp+consistent 11-5 shape, already showing wipeout depth as a sophomore. Webb also has a nasty sinking, fading CH in the mid 70’s that tunnels well with his FB.

At No. 88 is an arm that you just have to experience live to understand his talent, LHP Kevin Maurer (Woodstock; Uncommitted). The stocky lefties complete game in the 7A State Championship is one of the most gutsy performances I’ve ever seen in HS baseball. He has the heart of a lion on the mound and pitches with a mix of in your face and finesse. It's a smooth yet funky delivery with many different variations & pauses but one thing remains constant, he always maintains or regains balance over the rubber before he drives down the mound. The arm starts with a loose, efficient drop out of the glove that's clean throughout and extremely repeatable. He never gets too lengthy or short with his arm swing, you know what you’re going to get as far as command gies. It's very difficult to pick up the ball until he releases from a low ¾ slot, which produces difficult angle for both LHH & RHH. Maurer throws 2 different FB’s in the low to mid 80’s - The 4 seam that carries up in the zone when he wants to change eye levels, and the 2 seam that runs & sinks. His sweeping CB at 69-72 has an angry downward tilt and should develop into a wipeout separator in the next 2 years

At No. 93 we have one of the purest hitters in the class, OF Harper Davenport (Lumpkin County, US EliteUncommitted). He’s an extremely projectable dual sport athlete who drops dimes on the gridiron and from the outfield grass. The 6 foot 1, 165 pounder has an effortless swing at the plate, made by his perfect lower half sequencing. Hips start hands in swing (25% back, 75% forward), knees inside feet keeps head still & centered. Hands fluid into load, advanced separation timing happens at the same pace into landing. Harper makes great adjustments pitch by pitch, and he always stays within his approach taking what a pitcher gives him. He’s looking to work the inner half of the baseball for liners to left center and has the twitch to turn on good velo. But even if he gets jammed, he can manipulate the barrel for oppo singles. Very instinctive in CF and has 5 tool potential.

Making his 1st appearance in our Top 100 is a special bat who surely is not done moving. The  young looking, all fields laser hitting, popeye forearms developing IF Jackson Uggla (North Cobb Christian; Uncommitted) is the real deal! The 5 foot 9 170 pounder has one of the better hitting approaches in the class with advanced pitch recognition. But what's most surprising about his current tools? The bat speed. Uggla has the bat speed of a power 5 college hitter, and he's nowhere near filled out. That's where my future plus raw power label on him comes in. He creates very good rhythm and separation timing at the plate, and is incredibly fluid in & out of slot. The result is one of the shorter, sweeter, more blurry RHH swings you’ll see in his class. Jackson has played SS his whole life and can play it well for his age, so he's very athletic. The State Champion runner up is a very solid defender with a quick exchange and strong, accurate arm. He continues to make me look smarter than I am.

At No. 129 is a gamer who can do everything well in SS Ethan Garrett (Heritage; Uncommitted). This is a legit D1 middle infielder who doesn’t make mistakes, and has a very high baseball IQ. This shows through in his approach at the plate, working himself into hitters counts by routinely laying off tough pitches to get what he wants. He’s 6 foot 1, 165 pounds now but when he’s put on 10-15 more everyone will be on him. He uses his hips better than hitters a class or two ahead of him - His weight starts shifted slightly to the front side, which allows hips to effortlessly roll back & forth creating lower hlf momentum that takes pressure off upper body. At this point it just becomes timing the load with the stride, which he does consistently. The zero head movement after landing and ability to keep his posture+balance on any pitch in any zone as well as manipulate the barrel in different quadrants shows he’s already a pure hitter. You can tell the game comes easy to Ethan, and I feel he will develop into a high level hitter and SS in college.

Coming in lean & mean at 6 foot 2, 160 pounds is the slender but very explosive RHP Ethan Rucker (Pace; Uncommitted) He has smooth mechanics and creates easy arm speed in his delivery. Rucker goes stretch only with a high leg kick and short circle arm action from an OH slot. The sophomore creates power by keeping his upper body over the rubber and getting a gradual uphill tilt in his shoulders as he strides. His sinking 84-85 T86 FB is as heavy as they come, producing ground balls with regularity. It's also aided by his steep downhill plane and over the top AA. The low 70’s CB has tight rotation which creates a good 11-5 shape. Excited to see what he looks like 10-15 lbs from now.

I ran into 3B Colin Hedges (Apalachee; Uncommitted) in the playoffs as his HS team faced off against one of the most loaded rosters I’ve seen in 10 years, Wayne County. The star of game one was undoubtedly Hedges, who hit a backspin launch at least 390ft dead central off 86 mph. The 6 foot 3, 178 pounder creates ridiculous leverage at the plate with his delayed chest load that ends up perfectly linear with his angled back knee at landing. The east to west nature of the load is gradual & smooth and is the perfect opposite to his lower half direction, which goes straight to the pitcher. But as he's loading with his core and chest, he’s working his shoulders downhill to create a lofty yet short uphill path after landing. So he’s creating the most torque possible while staying balanced and up the middle of the field, allowing his knob path to follow his lower half - keeping his barrel in the zone. Hedges long levers & precise timing = more separation in a small area AKA the batters box. Plain and simple, Colin creates the raw power of a hitter 20-30 lbs heavier just by his unique swing mechanics. This is a power 5 quality bat that would be a great fit for early playing time at a mid major, and likely work his way into a Cape Cod invite. It will be fun to watch him grow these next 2 years and beyond.

Ooh man, am I excited to see LHP Jackson Leach (Milton; Uncommitted) at our Underclass Showcase tomorrow. This young lefty has the most true 12-6 I’ve seen in the class. As a matter of fact, multiple classes. I’ve yet to see an actual 12-6 CB this entire spring despite many telling me I’m about to see one. They are usually 11-5’s with at least some horizontal break, as it seems many have forgotten what the pitch really looks like. If you want to see a great one, YouTube search - Barry Zito curveball. Jackson repeats low effort delivery very well from the stretch out of an OH slot. Everything he does is smooth and repeatable. The pitchability & secondary stuff are years ahead of his time. FB(78-80 T82) w/ impressive angle. When he starts sitting mid 80’s, you’ll have a high level D1 arm. The separator is Leach’s CB(67-69) with spin so tight you can hear it from behind the plate, it has a truly beautiful shape and if a pitch can have 3 plane depth this could be the one. The most impressive part is he has another potentially devastating pitch in the CH(last pitch- 71) was an absolute bugs bunny!

One of my personal favorite players in this class is the 6 foot 2, 180 pound SS Brandon SunWoo (Peachtree Ridge; Uncommitted) He’s easily one of the most underrated bats in GA for his class. Simple & quiet, patient approach. Head still from start 2 finish, very balanced. Gets rubber band effect w/ efficient hip/shoulder separation that stays within his frame. The best hitters can move in tight spaces - hands working close to the body, chest always over the balls of feet, creating power from subtle mechanical differences in sequence. Brandon sinks into legs well but keeps upper half posture, allowing him to match steeper pitch planes easily without losing the ability to get his hands above riding FB’s. But he’s far from just a hitter, SunWoo is a certified defender at SS and can play anywhere in the infield with ease. He’s very instinctive and makes impressive reads off the bat, which makes his range play up. It's a sure glove and smooth exchange with an arm that can make all the throws from all angles.

At No. 148 you get some of the best pitchability in the class, RHP Trey Harvey (Dawson County; Uncommitted). At 6 foot 3, 175 pounds, with long levers is a very low effort delivery that produces strike after strike with exceptional movement. It's so simple and balanced that there’s really nothing to fix in the delivery, and the arm action is already a near perfect short circle with a repeatable ¾ slot. You’ll never have to worry about Harvey throwing strikes or getting outs, the floor is very high. The FB sits in the low 80’s T85 with explosive edge to edge run and he can paint it anywhere he wants with ease. His low 70’s CB has very consistent shape and rarely ever gets wide or backs up. He’s got a very good feel for a mid 70’s fading CH, and can really be a special D1 pitcher as long as he continues to get stronger and refine his stuff.

In the depths of our 2024 Rankings is one of the most memorable prospects I’ve seen this year in 1B/OF Stephen Taylor (Stephenson; Uncommitted). The 6 foot 5, 220 boss looks like a 1st Rd NFL defensive end. I’ve got 2 AB’s on him, and both are gapper triples where he turned on the gliders to show his incredible athletic ability for his size. He’s Very quiet at the plate which helps him stay in control of his large frame. Timed up hand load w/ stride, and a steep barrel angle swing plane that seems to make a good bit of contact. As long as he can continue to develop the approach and lay off breaking stuff to get FB’s I think he has the bat speed, strength in hands, effortlessness, and simplified mechanics to get to his power consistently. Taylor will surely have plus raw power, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets faster every year and turns into a 5 tool player down the line.

3 Underrated Adds to our next 2024 Rankings Update

Zach Jackson, OF, 2024, Holy Innocents

Marquis Mitchell, OF/SS, Georgia Premier Academy

Tyler Greene, RHP, 2024, Mountain View, US Elite

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