Prep Baseball Report

Underclass Invitational Showcase 1.19.14: Catching Analysis

By Steve Nielsen
Scouting Director – Illinois/Wisconsin

The January Underclass Invitational Showcase was one of the best overall showings of young talent that this event has seen. After reviewing player videos, notes and stats we have compiled our lists of top positional players which we will unveil all week.

Today we look at the catchers. Some of the best receivers in the class were in attendance at the Underclass Invitational and Cooper Johnson solidified himself as the top catch and throw guy in the state. Johnson was highly impressive getting rid of the baseball under 2.0 every time and showing a big arm at 81 mph.

Here’s a look at the top catching prospects.

Top Catching Prospects

1. Cooper Johnson, C, Carmel Catholic HS, 2016
Among a talented crop of catchers in Illinois’ 2016 class, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Johnson may have distinguished himself as the top catch-and-throw backstop, and should quickly become one of the most coveted prospects in the Midwest. That fact became abundantly clear at the Illinois Underclass Invitational when Johnson broke the five-year event record by firing a 1.84 pop time. And that number was not an aberration. His other four throws were 1.87, 1.90, 1.93, 1.93. Those numbers were achieved without embellishment, meaning he stayed low until he received the ball. From the crouch, Johnson was clocked at 81 mph. Johnson continued to impress during bullpens, as he handles everything thrown his way with ease and maturity beyond his years. He has a durable frame and moves well laterally from the crouch. Johnson also showed his versatility at third base, displaying reliable hands, a quick transfer and carry across the infield. Offensively, Johnson hits from a balanced setup, shows good rhythm and quiet overall mechanics. Bat speed is present, 85-mph exit velocity, gets excellent extension after contact, maintains balance throughout. 

2. AJ Lewis, C/3B, Mount Carmel HS, 2016
High-level catching prospect. Athletic 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame, wide shoulders, physically developed. All-around advanced set of tools. Advanced offensive prospect; simple, quiet mechanics yet creates explosive bat speed, tremendous barrel whip through zone. Simple, repeatable swing; short stride, minimal load, maintains excellent balance throughout, gap-to-gap approach, loose, athletic hands, stays flat through zone. Defensively, has extremely athletic feet, receives with confidence and maturity. Has quick, athletic transfer, good directional footwork, ball stays on line, accurate pop times ranging between 2.01-2.07. Registered 73 mph from crouch. Showed the athleticism and hands to play third base as secondary position, but no doubt will stick behind the plate. Ran a 7.09 60.

3. Bryce Gray, C, Homewood-Flossmoor HS, 2016
Skilled, higher-level catching prospect. Athletic build, 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame, proportional strength. Has shown steady improvements in game over the course of three years. Fundamentally sound in all facets of the game. Offensively, has loose, athletic hands, above-average bat speed, excellent extension after contact, maintains good balance throughout. Quiet, repeatable swing; short stride, minimal load, generates lift in swing, pull-side approach; 83 mph exit velocity. Defensively, has sound defensive catching mechanics – directional footwork, athletic transfer, short arm action, quick release. Accurate throws, registered pop times between 2.05-2.12, clocked at 73 mph from crouch. Ran a 7.69 60. Also starting quarterback on football team as sophomore.

4. Joe Laudont, C, Kaneland, 2016
5-foot-11, 165-pound athletic catcher. Showed solid receiving skills with soft hands and quick footwork. Arm works short, from over-the-top at 72 mph with carry. Pop times were 2.1-2.16. Ran a 7.20 60. At the plate hits from a balanced stance with a long, diving stride. Swing showed some pop with above average bat speed and an uphill path. Exit velocity was 80 mph off a tee.

5. Joseph Aeilts, C, Champaign Central, 2016
6-foot, 170-pound catcher. Offensively this from a balanced stance, athletic setup, excellent balance throughout. Creates some lag in his barrel, bat speed present, 81 mph exit velocity from the tee. Defensively posted pop times at 2.10-2.22, showed arm strength out of the crouch, 74 mph, slightly longer arm action. Feet work sideways out of the crouch, lacks direction, can improve pop times immensely with improved footwork. At third base showed playable hands, above average body control, 74 mph across the diamond.

5. Andrew Millas, C/SS, Belleville East, 2016
6-foot-1, 165-pound switch hitting catcher/shortstop. Defensively showed above average arm strength from the crouch (77 mph), occasional carry, loose arm action. Posted pop times at 2.19. Displayed quick feet on the infield with a 76 mph arm across the diamond. 7.28 runner in the 60. Offensively hits from both sides of the plate, balanced setup, slightly crouched. Solid balance through contact, flatter bat path, 75 mph exit velocity from the right side, 81 mph exit velocity from the left side.

Best of the Rest

Jackson Dvorak, C/3B, Providence, 2016
Solid build, 6-foot, 200-pound catcher/third baseman. Offensively hits from a wider stance, shows bat speed. 82 mph exit velocity from the tee. Defensively posted pop times in the 2.21-2.30 range, short over the top arm slot, 70 mph arm strength out of the crouch, defensively sound mechanics. On the infield showed similar arm action from third base, 71 mph across the diamond.

Connor McCormick, C/OF/RHP, Manteno, 2017
5-foot-10, 135-pound athletic, multi-positional player. Behind the plate has an athletic setup and showed quality receiving skills. Arm works loose, from a high ¾ slot at 74 mph with carry. Pop times were 2.26-2.32. In the outfield showed athletic actions. Arm works loose at 80 mph with solid carry. Ran a 7.44 60. Offensively, hits from a balanced setup and maintains balance through contact. Has a flat bat path with solid bat speed. Exit velocity was 83 mph off a tee. On the mound the delivery has some rhythm, level shoulders and is max effort. Arm works quick, from a high ¾ slot. Fastball sat 75-76 mph, flashing 78 mph, with running action. Throws a sweeping curveball at 62-66 mph. Changeup is thrown with fastball arm speed at 63-66 mph, with arm side run, for strikes.

Will McKenna, C/SS, Mount Carmel, 2016
5-foot-9, 165-pound multi-positional player. Offensively, hits from a balanced stance with a smooth loading action and diving stride. Swing is long with a flat path and solid bat speed, and some barrel whip. Exit velocity was 84 mph off a tee. On the infield throws with a short arm, ¾ slot at 76 mph. From behind the plate he shows a solid setup. Arm works short at 76 mph with solid carry and accuracy. Pop times were 2.26-2.34. Ran a 7.32 60.

Mariano Scalise, C, Mount Carmel, 2016
6-foot, 180-pound catcher, solid build shows some strength. Offensively hits from a balanced stance, solid balance. Strong swing, has some lift, pull side approach. 81 mph exit velocity. Defensively uses a short arm action out of the crouch, 71 mph arm strength, posted 2.19-2.35 pop times. Ran an 8.01 60.

Nickolas Strysik, C, Lockport, 2017
5-foot-11, 165-pound catcher. Behind the plate showed solid blocking skills. Arm works long, from a high ¾ slot with some accuracy and solid carry at 70 mph. Pop times were 2.25-2.41. Ran a 7.42 60. At the plate hits from a slightly opened stance with a diving stride. Bat path is long and flat with advanced bat speed for his age. Exit velocity was 77 mph off a tee.

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