The Rode Report
September 22, 2014
By Nathan Rode
Nathan Rode, Prep Baseball Report's National Supervisor, started covering high school baseball and the MLB Draft in 2008 with Baseball America. He has traveled the country, covering the top players and events as well as prospect showdowns. He now brings that coverage to PBR with The Rode Report, where he will share thoughts and stories from the games he attends and conversations he has with scouts, coaches and players.
Weekend Notes From North Carolina's Triangle Area - 9/22/14
All-Star Baseball Academy, the Dirtbags, Orioles Scout Team and several other travel teams came to the Triangle area this weekend for a tournament. I dropped in to see a few players. Here are some notes…
Jimmy Barnes, SS, Deep Creek HS, VA
This was my second look at Barnes after seeing him at the Baseball U Summer Challenge a few months ago. He jumps out physically with his long, lean frame. His hands were a bit lower and static in his setup this weekend than before. His timing also seemed a bit off at the plate and he was diving at pitches.
Final Notes From Baseball U Summer Challenge - 6/29/14
The Baseball U Summer Challenge wrapped up over the weekend at North Carolina and I caught bits and pieces of action on Saturday and Sunday. Here are a few final notes from what I saw…
+ Between games on Saturday a player walked by me in the concourse and immediately caught my eye with a lean, projectable frame. I turned to look at his jersey number and it turned out to be SS Jimmy Barnes (Deep Creek HS, VA). He’s listed at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, and has plenty of room to add strength. I was only able to catch four at-bats across two games, but I wasn’t disappointed.
Nikorak Showing Premium Velocity - 6/27/14
RHP Mike Nikorak (Stroudsburg HS, PA) has caught a lot of attention recently, seeing a velocity jump since last summer. He started for the Evoshield Canes against the South Charlotte Panthers at North Carolina on Friday afternoon, pitching four innings and allowing three runs (one earned) on a two hits and a walk. He struck out three. One of the hits was a home run.
Nikorak has a very projectable frame at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, with long limbs. He has a simple, classic windup in which he brings his hands over his head and turns his back slightly on the hitter. His delivery is in line with the plate and extremely easy.
Summer Challenge At North Carolina - 6/26/14
Baseball U, a summer baseball organization from the Northeast, is making its way down to Atlanta and stopped in Chapel Hill, NC, to put on a tournament at North Carolina. The tournament participants include several notable organizations from the region: Baseball U, Evoshield Canes, On Deck O’s, Orioles Scout Team, South Charlotte Panthers, Upstate Mavericks and Virginia Cardinals. I caught two games last night and am heading out to more this weekend. The highlight of the first day was RHP Ashe Russell (Cathedral HS, IN) starting for the Canes.
Russell, a Notre Dame recruit, has an ideal frame at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, with lean limbs. He has an up tempo delivery with some effort and electric stuff.
Nick Wells Adds Depth To Strong Virginia Class - 5/14/14
The volatility of high school pitching rotations bit me this week as I planned on heading to Virginia to see RHP Jacob Bukauskas (Stone Bridge HS, VA) and LHP Nick Wells (Battlefield HS, VA). Unfortunately, I missed out on Bukauskas as his start got switched to another day before I could make the necessary schedule adjustments. However, I still got to see Wells, who has received minimal media attention, but has been crosschecked by teams and could go in the top 10 rounds if he’s deemed signable.
Eight More Invited To Under Armour Game - 5/12/14
The Under Armour All-America Game, powered by Baseball Factory, announced eight additions to the event’s roster last week:
Chris Betts, C, Wilson HS, CA
Kyle Dean, OF, Poway HS, CA
Juan Hillman, LHP, Olympia HS, FL
Justin Hooper, De La Salle HS, CA
Anthony Molina, RHP, Somerset Academy, FL (2016)
Austin Riley, RHP/IF, DeSoto HS, MS
Thomas Szapucki, LHP, Dwyer HS, FL
Kyle Tucker, OF, Plant HS, FL
The game is set to take place August 16 at Wrigley Field and will be a night game for the first time in the event’s history. These invitees are in addition to the 10 announced in January.
Varga Dominates Inferior Competition - 5/8/14
Thursday capped off my trip to Ohio as I went to Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy to see RHP Cameron Varga. Pitching against Clark Montessori HS, OH, Varga dominated. He pitched all five innings of the 11-0, shortened game and struck out all 15 hitters he faced.
Bukauskas Sends Letter To Scouts - 5/9/14
It seems there is at least one prospect to do this every year and RHP Jacob Bukaukas (Stone Bridge HS, VA) is the one for 2014. Bukauskas sent a letter, obtained by Baseball America, to all 30 area scouts thanking them for their interest but stating his desire to attend North Carolina and asking them not to draft him.
Shannon Struggles To Find Zone - 5/8/14
With approximately 10 scouts in attendance, including at least one national crosschecker, Shannon struggled in this appearance. He had trouble commanding all of his pitches and was lifted after four innings, allowing six walks and two hit batters while striking out six.
Ryan Battles Command In Tough Win - 4/22/14
As mentioned a few days ago in this space, Ryder Ryan (North Mecklenburg HS, NC) has created some buzz this spring as a right-hander after spending most of his time at catcher and third base on the showcase circuit. Reportedly sitting in the low 90s and touching as high as 96, a few dozen scouts—including crosscheckers and scouting directors—saw him pitch last week. Fast-forward to April 22 and the buzz may soften as Ryan was without his best stuff and battled his command all night.
Holmes Strong In Possible Prep Finale - 4/21/14
More than a dozen scouts made the trek to Florence, SC, Monday night to see what could have been RHP Grant Holmes’ (Conway HS, SC) final high school start. Despite the 5-1 win for Conway, the Tigers still have to win their final two games this week to reach the postseason. Holmes is a potential first-round pick and has created a lot of buzz this spring with an already dominant fastball-curveball combination and added changeup.
Moeller Plays two, Finally - 4/16/14
After two days of chasing Archbishop Moeller HS, OH, and being washed out by rain, I finally got to see the Crusaders play. And they thought the weather in North Carolina would be better. Moeller played a doubleheader Wednesday afternoon at Garner HS, NC, finishing its suspended game against Orange HS, NC, before taking on the host afterward. Here are some notes on the Crusaders from the first game of the doubleheader and five innings of the second game:
+ Playing Orange HS on Monday, Moeller got a half-inning in before the game got called so the Panthers and Crusaders picked up where they left off on Wednesday, with LHP Zach Logue on the mound in the bottom of the first. He went five innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out seven. He pitched with an up tempo delivery and pounded the strike zone, working ahead in the count for most of his outing.
Ryan Gaining Attention On The Mound - 4/16/14
For much of last summer, Ryder Ryan (North Mecklenburg HS, NC) would play at catcher and third base, while occasionally getting on the bump for short outings. He has a big, strong frame at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds with a quick bat at the plate. A North Carolina recruit, he seemed destined for school—and still might be—but scouts have been flocking to see him this spring—as a pitcher.
Tough-Luck Loss For Daniels - 4/9/14
Fuquay-Varina HS, NC, the 4A state runner-up in 2013, is a favorite to contend again with two Division I recruits on the mound in RHPs Brett Daniels (North Carolina) and Jordan Bissette (North Carolina State). Daniels got the start last night against Green Hope HS with Bissette in the bullpen for relief if needed. Despite getting the loss, Daniels essentially cruised through a complete game, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. While he allowed a baserunner in each inning except the fourth, the damage didn’t come until the fifth when he surrendered two doubles and a single. Fuquay-Varina couldn’t muster a run in the sixth or seventh and Bissette didn’t enter the game. Daniels struck out 10 in six innings of work, giving him 50 in 35 innings so far this season.
Hilltop Invitational - 4/5/14
Every spring, Orange HS, NC, puts on the Hilltop Invitational, a tournament featuring several North Carolina teams. It’s hosted by a few schools within 20 minutes of me so I try to get out to it every year to see what it has to offer. Here are a few highlights from what I saw:
+ The first match-up I took in was West Forsyth HS, NC, vs. Panther Creek HS, NC. I went to see RHP Michael Bates start for West Forsyth and got lucky because LHP Josh Maciejewski was on the mound for Panther Creek. They’re both Division I recruits, signed to play at UNC Greensboro and UNC Charlotte respectively.
+ The biggest highlight to the last couple days was C Brad Debo (Orange HS, NC). Just a sophomore, he is already committed to South Carolina and it’s easy to see why. He is physically advanced and his strength shows up in several facets of the game.
Update On Southeast Prospects - 4/3/14
I talked to a couple scouts in the Southeast this week and simply ran down a list of prospects for quick takes. Here are some highlights:
+ 2B/OF Forrest Wall (Orangewood Christian School, FL) is routinely panned for his lack of arm strength and had an injury earlier this season, but he’s healthy now and continuing to show he can handle the bat. One scout said he might be the most underrated player in the draft. The hit tool is the most important in baseball and Wall’s bat seems universally loved. His speed would allow him to play in center field while second base is also a possibility.
Dunand Goes Off - 3/27/14
Joe Dunand, a shortstop at Gulliver Prep in Florida, had a week to remember in Arizona. The Raiders traveled to the Phoenix area for the Horizon National Tournament, one of the top tournaments every spring. Dunand was locked in, going 10-for-12 with nine home runs in five games.