7 Innings From The PBR Fall Championship

By Nathan Rode & Shooter Hunt
PBR National

After an outstanding weekend at the inaugural PBR Fall Championships, we take a look back at some of the positive themes that emerged from the event:

Combo event makes recruiting easier
Grand Park in Westfield, IN, was once again packed with college recruiters and professional scouts who were given the perfect recruiting grounds to find their future players. With the overlap of the Puma Classic—a junior college event—and the Fall Championships, they were able to set up shop in one place to recruit from six different classes. A recruiter’s time is valuable, and the PBR Fall Championship was able to save a lot of it by combining the events. Professional scouts were given the chance to get notes on many junior college players as well as some of the top names in the 2018 class and beyond.

Hitters shine in the early fall
Having shut down for some time since the end of the summer, and just starting to build back up, many pitchers at the event had lower velocities than we had seen in the past. This allowed for hitters to take the spotlight. With pitchers a bit rusty, hitters found themselves in good counts, and were able to get better swings. In contrast to some showcases where pitchers throw a single inning, the tournament saw many guys go three to four or more, which allowed for multiple at-bats and more familiarity, which brought on more success.

Alternative pitchers scouting
Whereas pitchers can count on velocity, at times, to save them, they had to be craftier at this event than they were in the middle of the summer, and will be later in the fall. It gave a chance for scouts and recruiters to evaluate pitchers on days that they did not have their best stuff. Attributes like how they added and subtracted to their fastballs, and sequenced pitches to hitters became more important than pure stuff. Jams that they found themselves in also gave evaluators a chance to see how they dealt with adversity.

Travel coaches teaching
Not as many coaches were calling pitches during the event, and the ones that did sat with the pitcher and catcher between innings to discuss why certain pitches were called in certain counts. We witnessed fielders shifting on their own in certain counts, bunts being dropped down with infielders back, and pitchers holding runners close. The coaches played a big part in all of these subtleties.

Team Indiana shows off state’s depth
A few of Indiana’s top prospects weren’t in attendance, but Team Indiana was still a central focus for major league scouts with 2B Jared Poland (Cathedral HS, IN), SS Riley Bertram (Zionsville HS, IN), OF Nick Schnell (Roncalli HS, IN) and OF/LHP Grant Richardson (Bishop Dwenger HS, IN) leading a stacked lineup. Poland went 3-for-3 with a triple and double the first night and finished the tournament 6-for-10. He has a short, direct stroke and routinely finds the barrel. Bertram was typically driving Poland in while also providing steady defense at shortstop. Schnell only played one game, as he rolled an ankle, but he squared up an RBI triple, showing off his bat speed. Richardson’s weekend wasn’t as loud, but he possesses a loose swing and is among the state’s top prospects. RHP Luke Albright (Fishers HS, IN) pitched the first night and struck out five straight after allowing a walk to his first batter. He sat 85-88 while showing feel for a changeup with sink and fade. Indiana likely won’t have two first-round picks a la 2015, but the 2018 class could be one of the deepest in its history.

Don’t sleep on Kentucky’s class
Outside of the college ranks with Louisville and Kentucky, The Bluegrass State doesn’t typically get much draft fanfare. After seeing OF Jordon Adell (Ballard HS, KY) go 10th overall to the Angels, things are back to normal in the state, but don’t overlook the top three—RHP Brendan Koester (Eastern HS, KY), LHP Drew Rom (Highlands HS, KY) and SS Gage Hughes (Greenup County HS, KY). While they aren’t slam dunk, high-level draft prospects now, we should hear plenty about them between now and a few years down the line. Koester has the look of a good college arm, as he runs his fastball up to 92 and spins a sharp curveball with 11/5 shape and depth. Rom has left-handedness working for him, as well as an extremely easy delivery and a swing-and-miss slider. Hughes has twitchy athleticism and mashed baseballs all weekend from both sides.

Crisp defense stands out
The talent up the middle defensively was noticeable, and made for some excellent baseball. More balls were in play with pitching velocities down, so defenders were tested much more than usual. The middle infielders at the event, of which there were numerous commitments and draft prospects, all showed off clean hands with some sensational plays. Not usually known for producing middle infielders, the Midwest region has a bright future moving forward. The catching was also strong with quiet receivers, and solid catch and throw guys. Again, with more action, outfielders had more balls to track down, and were forced to make more throws, which they did cleanly.