Diamonds in the Rough

Justin Goetz
PBR Georgia Assistant Scouting Director

With all of the talent at LakePoint on any given day, it's easy to miss a player with all the hustle and bustle going around. Sitting on one game is the best way to get true evaluations on players, and it's easier to pick up intangibles. But in our line of work, we’re also trying to identify the most talent pitch by pitch. We have to identify tools & intangibles in a split second. What if you’re only able to see one at bat because a kid up to 94 is scheduled to pitch in the 3rd inning at the other tower? It’s better to just video every swing and delivery you like without hesitation.

No matter how on point PBR, college, pro scouts are, players still fly under the radar. We can see 98% of players in the country and still some will fall through the cracks. Players can have bad games in front of certain scouts, and great games in front of others. It’s important to remember that they’re only teenagers, and not every game is going to be perfect. When the attention and crowds were forming at other fields, I found some really good players outside of our PBR National Rankings. These are the 10 best diamonds in the rough I found at LakePoint this summer!

RHP J’Shawn Unger, Blair, NE (2024)
Nebraska Commit. 6 foot 4, 200 pounds. Nebraska is an under the radar state due to being 37th in overall population. Although Unger is the No. 3 player in the state for PBR, naturally he’s going to be less scouted. This is the prototype frame you look for in a front end starter, and might be the best pure athlete I saw on the mound all summer. Unger shows a different level of competitiveness on the mound, which has undoubtedly been accelerated from playing football and basketball each offseason. Unger takes no days off all year, and is in better shape than 99.9% of baseball players. This allows him to hold velocity deep into starts, maintain control/command, and show consistent bite on his secondary stuff as the pitch count rises. J’Shawn has good rhythm in the delivery and builds up pace gradually, creating effortless torque & power by the time he lands in throwing position. He sits into his legs very naturally downhill and has the potential for elite lower half mechanics. When he learns to hold the slight bend in his back knee (throughout stride) instead of partially collapsing it before he throws, the velocity will take off. This will take lots of pressure off his front side to hold him upright, and I predict an immediate 2-3 mph jump when he gets used to the small adjustment. Unger has a healthy, efficient & explosive short circle arm action that's impossible for hitters to pick up until it comes out of the hand. Adding to the plus deception of his AA is the unique angle he creates from a slight crossfire that starts him on top of RHH, playing up all 3 pitches. In his 7 INN complete game at NPI, his FB sat 88-89 T90 with late cut and serious giddy up. His future plus CB sat 75-76 with tight shape and near wipeout depth, getting handfuls of bad swings. With how well he repeats slot and tunnels the pitch, it could end up even better. He also has a 78-79 SL with sharp HZB that differs from his CB and missed bats consistently. I see him being a big success in college either as a weekend starter or closer.

CF Brantley Truitt, East Mecklenburg, NC (2023)
Uncommitted. 6 foot, 160 pounds. Future top of the order CF who makes the game look easy in all facets. As he’s developed lean strength, the tools have really taken off. It’s an A/AVG to plus runner who’s not done in that department. He has the actions to play anywhere in the IF/OF, adding even more value and giving him the chance to contribute early in college. I’m not sure the versatility will even matter, given he has one of the most simplified swings I witnessed this summer. Truitt has extremely quiet & controlled actions that give him exceptional balance and almost no head movement. This coupled with minimal separation in his hand load (chest loads hands for him) allows him to time up big velo with ease. He has a unique, slightly open setup, squares up as hips touch & go. His chest+core “coil” to back hip in stride, unleashing just b4 landing as front hip clears & separation completes. The way his body works thru the baseball and his lower half direction fit perfectly with his left center approach. Brantley’s hands work inside the ball with ease, giving his barrel extended time in the hitting zone and promoting high contact. It will also allow him to deflect a middle-in pitch over the SS head, or an inside pitch up the middle if he occasionally gets beat by elite velo at the next level. Truitt produced a rocket up the middle in our 17U tourney at 97 EV, proving his quick twitch is real. This is at minimum a 4 tool player (hit for avg, run, field, throw) who’s 90 mph from OF and a 6.7 runner. His raw power remains to be seen, but this is no doubt a D1 guy with pro potential.

RHP Jack Geiser, Medina, OH (2023)
Ohio Commit. 6 foot 2, 225 pounds. An absolute tank of a human who aggressively attacks hitters pitch after pitch with no fear. Geiser brings a blend of power and balance in a large frame with very good athleticism for his size. His well sequenced rock & fire delivery rides the backside with gradual tilt north in stride, leading to big separation. He moves so well on the mound from start to finish, and the timing of his separation is a big part of the ease of operation. His arm action is a loose, deep, connected full circle w/ arm spd+arm strength from an extremely steep plane and elite VAA. Being such a beast you wouldn’t think he’s projectable, but the ceiling is very high. Jack’s frame can add much more strength and he will continue to develop stamina on the mound to hold velo deeper into outings. Although he’s raw as a pitcher, his FB has a chance to be truly special. I see this as a mid 90’s arm in a couple years who will regularly climb into the upper 90’s by draft time after his junior year at Ohio. The 2300-2400 rpm pitch currently sits in the 89-91 range early in starts touching 92 with nasty bore up in the zone and steep trajectory with sinking action down in the zone. His 70-72 CB has big vertical shape with downward tilt and late sweep. The pitch has tons of potential and really all it needs is more intent and arm speed, but he maintains the delivery tempo on it well. With the athletic actions he possesses on the bump, I feel good about him developing a changeup down the line as he gets more innings. A gem of a signing by the Bobcats!!

LHP Nate Gross, Little Rock Christian, AR (2023)
Uncommitted. 6 foot, 165 pounds. A lefty lightning bolt with a slender build and long limbs. This is one of my favorite arms I’ve seen in 2022 because he reminds me of former Illinois Fighting Illini pitcher Tyler Jay, who was an under the radar recruit out of Lemont Township in IL. Jay went into college at the same height/weight/frame of Gross with similar velocity, and ended up a 1st round pick for the Twins. Compared to Nate, his delivery was more rigid and the arm action less repeatable at the same age. A player's ceiling can be high without prototype size, which is the case here. Gross produces violent arm speed with little effort and a flick of the wrist, well before maxing out his physical strength. Add in rhythm & timing as well as good balance, and you’ve got an arm that's at the tip of the iceberg velocity wise. Nate controls his body well despite a slight crossfire that adds angle+deception to his clean, full Hi 3/4 AA. Nate’s FB was 85-87 T90 gradual cut glove side, sink+tail arm side. The pitch gets lots of swing & miss up in the zone, and produces a variety of grounders and fly outs in the bottom of the zone. The SL/CB hybrid is 75-77 tight+short+late depth arm side for strikes. He can also bury it glove side where it will get more sweep across the zone and extra depth. His CH in the upper 70’s is a downer, dropping below the zone last second with late sink. A few years down the road we could be looking at one of the most explosive LHP in the country. This can be one of the biggest steals in the 2023 class!

2B Ryan McKay, St. Mary’s Prep, MI (2023)
Michigan State Commit. 5 foot 8, 175 pounds. McKay’s game is loaded with supersonic twitch that will only be more noticeable the stronger he gets. With 10 more pounds of muscle to the frame I think the raw power will start to come and the tools will explode. He’s already a 6.7 runner and I see him being a 6.5 in the future. This will put him into plus range territory at 2B - where he has good instincts, smooth hands, quick exchange, and accurate throws from all angles. He gets the double play ball out of his hands in a flash, fields slow rollers in one fluid motion even when off balance, and he’s very trustworthy receiving and tagging runners on attempted steals. McKay shows good reaction time on the basepaths with a swift 1st step and initial burst. He plays with a different level of energy & competitiveness that forces you to notice him. Speaking of force, this future Spartan has the bat strength to handle big velo with the current force his supplies in his hands+forearms thru contact. The hands are thunderous and he has very sound swing mechanics. His hips control the lower half and he sinks into the legs, staying down thru his swing from start to finish - keeps head very quiet. It’s unreal torque from compact hip/shoulder separation, and his efficient little c load helps him repeat launch position at a high level. The swing is very balanced with linear connection, allowing him perfect layback, blurry lag as the barrel accelerates. This guy grinds AB’s and is very difficult to strikeout with his combo of pitch recognition and willingness to attack strikes anywhere in the zone early in the count. He has all fields pop that will soon turn into juice. He’s going to blow up in the Big 10 and I’ll absolutely be keeping up with McKay’s career progression.

RHP McCarty English, Ocean Springs, MS (2023)
Southern Miss Commit. 6 foot 2, 175 pounds. This is a future weekend starter with a nice blend of pitchability and projection. The best attribute McCarty has - he’s a natural strike thrower who hasn’t been robotically developed on the mound. English is an interesting prospect as a SS too, and I can see him doing both successfully for the Eagles in college. Many of the best MLB pitchers were former SS, as they typically are the most explosive, effortless movers on the mound. This is the 1st thing I noticed with English. The non manufactured delivery with the easy violence after landing. English has a fast tempo from start to finish, and repeats a compact delivery with good balance over the rubber. He gets consistent life on all pitches when patient uncoiling upper half. It’s exciting how simplified English’s delivery already is and he will take off velo wise with just some subtle mechanical advancements. His quick short circle arm action (L3/4) produces A/AVG deception and incredibly easy arm speed. He’s able to sit into his legs while staying tall and holding slight bend in his knees from start to finish. This creates a steep downhill plane for him, adding a tougher trajectory for hitters to match plane. The FB was 87-88 T89 with A/AVG sink+run, and he located it to both sides of the plate often. His sweeping SLV sits in the 74-76 range and is very sharp with two plane depth. It’s a pitch he can already throw for strikes and K’s. English is going into a situation where he can develop immediately with playing time, and I would be surprised if he doesn’t turn into a pro prospect in Hattiesburg.

SS Tyler Inge, Detroit Country Day, MI (2024)
Michigan Commit. 6 foot 1, 165 pounds. This is going to be a future every day player at the games highest level who’s already showing plus athleticism well before his physical ceiling. He’s on his way to being an impact defender at the games most valuable defensive position. Inge has the potential for 3 plus tools!! His run is A/AVG now as he glides from base to base with long strides and will surely end up plus or better. This gives him the potential for plus range at SS with his instincts for the position to go with his eventual plus fielding. He has one of the smoothest gloves I’ve seen all year, effortlessly stopping line drives in their tracks with a quiet push thru the ball. His footwork is advanced, always flowing toward the bag and able to change direction easily. The feet will only get more coordinated as he grows into his frame. That brings us to his loose and explosive cannon for an arm, which is already nearing plus. With how youthful Inge is currently, I can see this tool being top of the scale as he gets stronger. His exchange is smooth+easy, but has the athleticism to be much quicker there. He shows plenty of feel for throwing from different angles and making plays off balance. Without question, Tyler will be able to make all the deep throws from the hole and make unlikely plays look routine with his arm strength. Offensively, I’m a big fan of the swing - timed up & smooth separation, consistent direction, barrel lags, covers entire zone. He’s got easy bat speed and the top hand consistently stays palm up thru contact, creating backspin to all fields. The Maize & Blue commit has plenty of power potential as he gets more man strength. Inge controls his body well at the plate and his swing mechanics are eerily similar to his dad’s, 13 year big leaguer Brandon Inge. His dad was one of the best defensive 3B I’ve ever seen in MLB, and had 24 defensive runs saved in 2006 for the Detroit Tigers. I see Tyler following in his footsteps as a Brendan Ryan type player at SS.

RHP Johan Franco, Stony Brook School, NY (2023)
Uncommitted. 6 foot 2, 190 pounds. An easy paced delivery with plus balance, ramps up intent in down & out phase. As a young pitcher the key is - not messing up your delivery before you get to this phase. It’s very important to have a gradual buildup of pace/intent in the delivery. It creates healthy effortlessness, less stress on the arm, and prevents something from getting in the way of landing in a good position to throw. Johan does this exceptionally well, and it shows he has the feel to pitch of a starter. He also throws in some hesitation as he squares up and mixes lift leg pace to throw off hitters timing. His shoulders tilt north in stride, creating a deceptive front side+steep plane from a 6’8 release height. Clean 1 piece AA(OH). FB 87-88 T90 A/AVG run, CB 72 sharp, near 12-6, SL 75 tight+late. The most impressive thing about Franco is how he’ll throw the CB off his FB up, and the SL off his FB down. He also has no problem throwing either breaking ball early in counts. He has the potential to be a weekend starter earlier in his career rather than late.

C Blaize Johnson, Northwest Guilford, NC (2024)
Uncommitted. 5 foot 11, 220 pounds. This is a pure beast and one of the most handsy hitters I’ve seen at his size. He absolutely raked for me at NPI, going 3 for 3 with 2 off the wall doubles to completely different parts of the field. One was to right center and looked like it was surely going out of the park, the other was off a quality LHP oppo! Power hitters with his size are more common, but very few of them have a dynamic swing with just as much power to the opposite field. His head stays still throughout the swing, hip pace is perfect. Blaize is a backside dominant hitter with an easy load into slot. His layback and way he throws the hands are beyond effortless, catching barrel after barrel on the sweet spot. The swing path is short & compact and his hands work close to the body, creating a knob led path where his hands work inside the ball at all times. Johnson has incredible strength in hands thru contact, and it’s some of the loudest I’ve heard off a wood bat this summer. Defensively, the NC prospect shows very good effort and passion behind the plate. He communicates well with his pitching staff and is very positive with them. The catch and throw is very quick for his size and the arm is strong+accurate, with 2.05 - 2.10 pop times in game for me. One thing is for sure, Blaize is going to hit.

RHP Grant Shepardson, Mountain Vista, CO (2024)
Uncommitted. 6 foot 1, 170 pounds. A wiry strong 6 foot, 170 pounds with good balance in his delivery. The righty from the Centennial State has exceptional pitchability, as he can throw 4 pitches for strikes in any count. He sits into his legs well, moving gracefully down the mound with consistent direction and good lower half mechanics before & after landing. He repeats a clean, deceptive short circle AA. The FB was 85-86 T88 w/ late tail when I saw him, and was reportedly up to 89 at Future Games. He dots both edges to get ahead on hitters and loves to pitch inside to both RHH & LHH, playing up all of his pitches as you can’t predict how he’s going to work you. He’s got a devastating FB/CH combo in on RHH that few HS arms possess. Shepardson’s CH is a future plus or better pitch thats heavy w/ sudden fade at 74-76. His 77-78 CB has tight rotation & 2 plane shape and he already shows command to both edges with the pitch. Last but not least, his low 80’s SL tunnels well with the FB and has a short, vertical action with extremely late depth. This is a college coach's dream weekend starter.

Bonus Sleeper

RHP Jack Paulus, Walsh Jesuit, OH (2023)
Uncommitted. 6 foot 6, 205 pounds. strike thrower with plus ease of operation. Works through his delivery with smooth pace & patience over the rubber, leading to zero stress, and allows him to produce controlled violence after landing. His lower half works well for his size as he holds back knee bend for the most part from start to finish, and lands with the upper half more toward his backside. As he gains strength, he will be able to keep the back knee more vertical, and get knee to knee clearance as his arm is working to release point. This should cause the velo to jump. Balanced, repeats w/ deceptive short cir AA(OH). FB 85-86 T88 Elite sinker (17-1900) -7.5 to -8.4 VAA! 6’8 release hgt. Hit 87 on 75th pitch! CH 78-80 identical VAA & sink as FB, late fade. CB 73-75 gyro. Due to his FB+CH combo on IDENTICAL plane (from the mountaintops) with very similar life, he can be an impactful D1 starter early in his college career with routinely low pitch counts.

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