Prep Baseball Report

PBR Fall Championship 18U Preview

By Nathan Rode and PBR Staff

On Friday, the inaugural PBR Fall Championships will begin at Grand Park in Westfield, IN. The event features 13 teams in the 18U division and 16 in the 17U. Meanwhile, the Puma Classic will also be at Grand Park, which has 24 junior colleges participating, making the weekend a one-stop shop for scouts and college recruiters. On Thursday, PBR National Crosschecker Shooter Hunt will preview the 17U division of the Fall Championships. Today, we look at the 18U division.

While there are some 2019s and even 2020s sprinkled in the upperclass portion of this weekend, there will be a lot of draft focus and it will mostly surround Team Indiana. The Class of 2018 in the Hoosier State is strong. It’s unlikely to have two first-round picks, a la 2015 with RHPs Ashe Russell and Nolan Watson, but this year’s crop looks to have more depth and balance. On Team Indiana are OF Nicholas Schnell (Roncalli HS, IN), 2B Jared Poland (Cathedral HS, IN), LHP/OF Grant Richardson (Bishop Dwenger HS, IN), LHP Jacob Sweeney (Hobart HS, IN) and RHP Luke Albright (Fishers HS, IN), all of whom are in the top 15 in the state.

Schnell had a strong start to the summer and though he had a quiet performance at the Area Code Games, it’s clear he has the tools and upside desired for pro ball. If he continues to progress and has a consistent spring, he may be bypassing Louisville. Poland, also a Louisville recruit, is an advanced hitter, profiling as an offensive second baseman and Richardson is a legitimate two-way prospect. He runs well and has a whippy swing, but he also pitches in the high 80s. He is committed to Indiana. Sweeney (Arkansas) and Albright (Kent State) were big standouts at the 2016 Future Games and warrant follows now and through college.

Team Indiana also has one of the top 2020s in the country thrown in for good measure. RHP Charez Butcher (Kokomo HS, IN) has a loose, athletic delivery and has run his fastball up to 93. He remains uncommitted and is likely one of the most coveted arms in the country.

On the San Francisco Giants Scout Team is RHP Cole Ayers (West Clermont HS, OH), who was a standout at the East Coast Pro Showcase. A Kentucky recruit, he pitches at 88-91 and has a sharp curveball with late bite at 79-81. Ayers’ high school teammate, RHP Kyle Music, will also be in attendance. The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder was 84-86 at last year’s Future Games and is also committed to Kentucky.

Kentucky’s top prospect, RHP Brendan Koester (Eastern HS, KY) will take the mound for the Vipers Baseball Club. He has run his fastball up to 92 and it jumps on hitters. He also can buckle hitters’ legs with a hard, wipeout slider. He is committed to Kentucky.

The Cangelosi Sparks bring a roster with 10 Division I recruits, including a strong infield that features Branden Comia (Sandburg HS, IL), Cam McDonald (Hall Township HS, IL) and Christian Knapczyk (Joliet Catholic HS, IL). On the mound will be one of the top uncommitted 2019 arms at the event in LHP Cole Kirschsieper (Lincoln-Way East HS, IL). He is ranked No. 12 in Illinois and ran his fastball up to 88 at the Future Games. Joining him in the rotation will be RHP Evan Tenuta (Sandburg HS, IL)—a Notre Dame recruit up to 92—and RHP Joey Payton (Brother Rice HS, IL), a Central Michigan recruit. Calling pitches for them will be C Chase Stanke (Marmion HS, IL). He is committed to Minnesota and has middle-of-the-order power potential as well as a strong, accurate arm from behind the plate.

IF/RHP Alec Gonzalez (Mount Carmel HS, IL) will suit up for Top Tier’s upperclassmen team as a 2020. He has an athletic frame, natural infield actions and some pop in his bat. He also can also pitch in the low to mid 80s.

The Iowa Sticks feature a strong group of uncommitted seniors. RHP/3B Luke Yacinich (Dowling Catholic HS, IA) has grown to 6-foot-6 and recently been 85-88. RHP/3B Tyler Lewis (WDM Valley HS, IA) lacks command, but was up to 93 at the Iowa Top Prospect Games in August. IF T.J. Mahoney (Lincoln HS, IA) has pop in his left-handed bat for an undersized guy. He led the state of Iowa in hitting this summer with a .506 average in the top classification.

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