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Standouts from the 2020 Perfect Game National Showcase

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It’s never too early to pick out your favorite prep prospect the Mariners won’t draft in 2021

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Ian Moller on Instagram

In case you missed it, there was actual live baseball played over the past week at the Perfect Game National Showcase. The event was held in Hoover, AL, at the site of the former Birmingham Barons ballpark, and spectators and staff wore masks and maintained social distance, as did anyone not actively playing in a game or on the field. With 300 players in attendance, it will be worth monitoring over the next couple of weeks how many—if any—positive cases come from the event, which could give us some baseline info about transmission rates in a purely baseball environment to add to the data coming out of places that have resumed baseball overseas, as well as virus outbreaks we’ve seen in camp environments that have been more social.

Another aspect to the showcase that stood out was the strength gains made by many players during the layoff. While the spring and summer are usually a busy time for players on the showcase circuit, this was the first opportunity evaluators had to see players in game action in several months, as well as the first opportunity most players had to face equal levels of competition or live pitching. That led to some necessary rust-shaking, but there were also several players who popped off thanks to a combination of maturation and intense strength training during quarantine, especially among pitchers who had been throwing in the high 80s climbing to the low 90s and beyond. As a result, a few players who might have been ranked more towards the back half of top-100 lists made dramatic cases for their names to be considered more highly.

Since it’s never too early to start thinking about the ‘21 draft, where the Mariners should again have good draft position, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite names from the showcase to share with you. First we’ll cover some top-rated* names to familiarize yourself with, as well as local kids to root for in the draft; then we’ve broken down some of our other favorites by position. Maybe your new favorite player is somewhere in here.

(*Note: Perfect Game uses their own proprietary ranking/grading system. The names we list here are considered not only top players by PG, but have also gained recognition in the broader scouting community.)

Top names to know:

C Ian Moller

Spoiler alert: It’s Ian Moller. Ian Moller is your new favorite player. The history of prep players out of Iowa is pretty thin, and the history of prep position players even thinner, but the Dubuque, IA native hopes to change that. Another demographic that’s woefully underrepresented in MLB? Black catchers. There are currently no active Black catchers in MLB, demonstrating Jo Adell’s assertion that Black players are often “coached out of the infield.” That’s something MLB has taken steps to address, and Moller participated in a special MLB Dream Series program focused on developing Black pitchers and catchers where he was able to catch Chris Archer. Moller’s defensive chops are legit; he’s loose, agile, and athletic behind the plate, with a quick release and clean mechanics allowing for accurate, on-line throws. But what’s most exciting about Moller is he can really hit, showing legitimate pop to all fields as well as solid plate discipline that allows his hit tool to shine. Moller has a simple, balanced approach at the plate and barrels the ball up consistently. He also has an incredible work ethic—during quarantine he trained hitting, defense, and strength in an alternating pattern for upwards of three to five hours per day—that shows up in a high level of polish to all aspects of his game. -KP

RHP Chase Burns

Chase Burns registered the event’s highest recorded velocity, a blistering 99 mph. A big body at 6’4”/215, Burns throws with easy power from a high ¾ slot, and the fastball doesn’t just have premium velocity; it can rise up on a RHB or cut in at a lefty’s knees. Burns also throws a changeup in the high 80s and a similarly firm slider, both of which show swing-and-miss potential. In true power pitcher mold, Burns also has a high-70s hammer curve, although it’s currently more of a ball peen type rather than a sledgehammer. There’s premium ace upside here with future strikeout leaderboard stuff. -KP

RHP Christian Little

There’s a scouting term—”didn’t see him good”—which is basically a way to indicate that a promising prospect didn’t have a good day on a particular look by a scout. Little didn’t have the most dominant outing of the pitchers who threw on the day, but there’s a lot to like in Little’s not-so-little 6’4”/200-pound frame, especially considering he’s one of the youngest players in the class, currently 16 and will be just a lad of 17 on draft day. Little features a loose, whippy arm and clean, repeatable mechanics with a polished delivery and easily sits around 91-93, occasionally bumping to 94-95. He’s not afraid of the high fastball and will challenge hitters all over the zone. His fastball was coming out flat and hittable early in his outing but developed more life and movement as the inning progressed. Little also threw two breaking pitches: an 11-5 mid-70s curveball with depth that shows good consistency and a mid-80s changeup with some cut. Little is a Vanderbilt commit. -KP

SS Izaac Pacheco

A certified Texas Big Boy, Pacheco stands at 6’4” but has a good shot to stick at shortstop thanks to a strong arm, clocked at 92 mph across the infield, soft, quick hands, and smooth footwork with an ability to read the ball off the bat well and get a quick first step. Pacheco is no light-hitting shortstop; he creates big power to all fields with a strong lefty swing with an uphill plane and showcases those same quick hands at the plate with a quick, compact stroke that leads to consistently barreling up balls with explosive contact. He’s exciting to watch take BP. -KP

One more because I heard you doubting a 6’4” shortstop:

C Carter Jensen

Carter Jensen was one guy who really popped off the page at the showcase. He largely wasn’t on the map, but his bat and defensive prowess made that a thing of that past. Jensen has a lean, strong frame. He has great flexibility and burst behind the plate, and his arm/pop times for the event were among the best. At the plate, Jensen found barrel after barrel against some of the best arms in the entire country. He was one of the more impressive offensive standouts all week in a tough showcase environment. -JD

OF Benny Montgomery

Montgomery might be one of the most supremely talented players in the 2021 draft, but good lord does he do it in an unconventional way. Montgomery already grades out as a plus runner, sometimes touching 70 grades per 60-yard dash times. His barrel speed is sublime, and his frame suggests there’s potential 70-grade raw power in the tank. He also clocked one of the fastest throws from right field during the entire showcase. So what’s the catch? His swing makes Hunter Pence look like Robinson Canó. I would go into the mechanics of the swing if it made sense, but it might be more beneficial to YouTube it for yourself. The point is, Montgomery may be one of the most physically gifted players in the 2021 draft, but it sure comes in an obscure package. -JD

SS Jordan Lawlar

Listen, we already know Dipoto won’t go the prep infield route in the first round, so feel free to move along now if you’d like, but if you keep reading, you may find your favorite player in the draft. Lawler presents one of the cleanest, most connected swings that was present at the showcase. His swing is compact and short to the ball, exhibiting balance along the way. There’s not much raw power in the tank right now, but it could come thanks to his 6-foot-2 frame and broad shoulders. Lawlar is a slick-fielding shortstop that earns high marks for his actions at the position. Maybe the most surprising number of the showcase, Lawlar popped a 6.45 60 time, suggesting he’s now a plus-plus runner after most scouts had tabbed him in the plus range. He’s a big name to watch this summer circuit. -JD

OF Braylon Bishop

Bishop might have the fastest hands in the class with an ultra-quick stroke from the lefty side. Bishop’s swing is built around allowing his elite hand strength and speed to do the work; he stays on his back leg and lets the ball travel to him before ripping his bat through the zone with a moderate front stride, sending line drives to all fields. The power is currently more to the pull side but that should change as he continues to pack muscle onto his six-foot frame. Even when he gets jammed on pitches, BB is able to use his natural strength to muscle balls over the second baseman’s head. He has elite speed as well (6.5 60) and can turn doubles into triples thanks to natural speed and a high IQ on the bases. That speed translates well to the outfield, where Bishop is a smooth and agile defender, light on his feet, with a throwing arm that was clocked at 92 mph (although remember, this was a showcase environment, so it was done with a crow-hop follow through). Bishop is committed to Arkansas. -KP

SS Luke Leto

Leto is one of the most polarizing players in the 2021 draft cycle. He’s been a mainstay in scouting circles and preemptive top ten lists for a couple years now, but the PG Showcase didn’t do him any favors. The bat in-game was solid after a pretty underwhelming BP session. Leto found a few barrels against good pitching, ultimately saving his showcase. On defense it was a different story. Some have marked Leto as the best shortstop to come out of Michigan since Derek Jeter. That’s a tough sell after he looked quite stiff, lacking much range and lateral ability taking ground balls. Now purportedly 6-3 and pushing 200 pounds, Leto may simply outgrow the position and have to move to third base. While some of his top ten sheen may have faded, he’s still one of the better prep bats in the class, and that alone may keep him in the first round. There’s so much time between now and next June, a lot can change. Leto committed to LSU to play quarterback at the age of 14. This could be moot. He may not even be a baseball guy when all is said and done. -JD

SS Cody Schrier

Schrier, like Leto, has long been on the radar of scouts thanks to his physicality and offensive potential at shortstop. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Schrier already has a pretty impressive body for a 17-year-old. He uses his frame to drive the ball to all fields thanks to a mechanically sound swing. There’s already plenty of present power to his pull side. Schrier is a UCLA commit, though his first round talent may see him forego Los Angeles for pro ball. Schrier figures to stick at shortstop, although he likely isn’t a plus defender at the next level. He’s smooth and fluid for a kid his size, and the arm plays comfortably at the position. If Schrier does ultimately move to third base, the arm and range will be an asset and the potential for added weight could bump the bat to another level.

SS Alex Mooney

Last, but certainly not least, Mooney represents another potential first round talent in a deep year for prep shortstops. Mooney may be the most advanced defensive shortstop of the bunch. The bat lags a little behind Leto and Schrier, though there’s probably more punch in this stick than in Lawlar’s. At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Mooney is still putting on good weight and many think with 15-20 more pounds, he’ll turn himself into the best prep shortstop in the class. There’s a little extra effort at the plate because of his lighter stature. The hands have a tendency to drift a little, and he’s still learning how to leverage his lower half in creating impact at the plate. It’s an above average arm, maybe better, and he projects a plus defender at the position. Mooney is a Duke commit, and will likely follow in Jordan Walker’s footsteps of forgoing Durham in favor of a big pay day next June.

Local Talents:

RHP Max Debiec (Seattle, WA; UW commit)

He probably belongs up in “top names to know,” but we want to emphasize that Seattle gets to claim the 6’7” righty as a member of the 206. Debiec was already considered a Top 250 prospects in the 2021 draft, but after pumping 97 at the showcase, as well as some impressive supplemental offerings, Debiec is now a guy that could pop into the first few rounds of the draft if he continues his ascent throughout the year. It’s far too early to put any grades or expectations on the 2021 draft, but Debiec is certainly in the conversation for the loudest stuff last week. -JD

OF Malakhi Knight (Marysville, WA; Oregon State commit)

If you live in Marysville and hear loud noises, that’s not fireworks; it’s just Malakhi Knight taking BP. Washington’s Gatorade Player of the Year for 2020, the righty already has present power with a 6’3” frame to pack on more muscle and develop even more, especially with a swing that generates good speed and shows gorgeous extension (95 max exit velo at the event). He’s also a plus outfielder with a quick first step who gets good reads on the ball. With an arm clocked at 91 from the outfield and a 6.6 60-yard time, there’s genuine five-tool potential here. -KP

RHP Nathan Deschryver (Silverdale, WA; Gonzaga commit)

With apologies to erstwhile LL-er Isabelle Minasian, the pride of Bainbridge High was throwing in the high 80s last summer but came out at this event working in the low 90s, topping out at 92. Deschryver is listed at 6’2” but looks bigger than that on the mound, with a long, easy arm action and the ability to spin a slider along with some late movement on the fastball. At just 185 pounds, there’s room to grow on lean frame. Deschryver is also a threat in the batter’s box and if he winds up at Gonzaga, could challenge Marco Gonzales’s record for the John Olerud two-way player award. -KP

C Michael Tsoukalas (Arlington, WA; Oregon State commit)

Tsoukakas is a big, strong kid at 6’3”/200 who flashed some serious power with a max exit velo on the weekend of 93. With plenty of arm strength but somewhat limited mobility behind the plate, he might be more of a corner outfielder or third baseman at the next level, but it will be exciting to watch how his career develops at OSU under ex-Mariner coach Mitch Canham. -KP


RHP Micah Ottenbreit

If you would like a glimpse of what Logan Gilbert might have looked like as a high schooler if he’d started pitching a little earlier, check out the 6’4” Ottenbreit, who has similarly long levers and an advanced feel to pitch. Ottenbreit’s velocity has shot up over the past year to sit 91-92 and touched 94 several times at the event. He pairs the fastball with a curve (77-79) with 12-6 break and a change (80-81) that shows some promising tilt. Ottenbreit can command all of his pitches and move the ball around the zone at will, and used his curve to get ahead of batters at the event before putting them away with his sinking fastball or the curve he’d throw in any count. Ottenbreit, a Michigan native, is committed to Michigan State. -KP

LHP Maddux Bruns

Bruns was the hardest-throwing lefty of the showcase; the ball exploded out of his hand at an easy 95-96. Bruns also showed a true 12-6 hammer curve (73-74) with elite spin and tilt along with a changeup. Both breaking balls could use some more refinement in their shapes but the curveball, especially, was effective at getting whiffs. At 6’2”/210 there might not be a ton of physical projection left in his frame and there’s somewhat of a crossfire delivery that can lead to some inaccuracies in spotting the ball, but his outing was dominant enough to catch the eyes of all three of our staffers watching the event. Bruns is a Mississippi State commit. -KP

RHP Luke Hayden

Hayden sat 92-95 on his fastball and flashed a swing-and-miss slider along with a curveball, and showed an ability to control and locate all his pitches. His fastball has a high spin rate and some heavy sink that induced almost as many whiffs as his nasty slider. Hayden is currently listed at 6’1” and might not have much growing left to do, as he’s already physically mature-looking, with a broad chest and a strong lower half. The Bloomington native is committed to Indiana. -KP

RHP Brady Tygart

Tygart is a strong-bodied 6’2” Arkansas commit who can run his fastball up to 94 but stood out more for the sick movement on his pitches. He mixes the fastball with a two seamer and an above-average changeup plus a slider, and was able to command all his pitches all over the zone. Showcase environments tend to favor pitchers but Tygart didn’t dominate on sheer velocity, out-thinking hitters on the mound rather than overpowering them. -KP

RHP Aaron Calhoun

Calhoun is one of the shorter pitchers at the event as just 5’11” but models his game after Marcus Stroman—maybe why his high school coach says he has a “heart as big as the world.” Despite his shorter stature he creates good extension with a whippy arm and can run the fastball up to 93-95 with ease, which he pairs with a swing-and-miss slider with late life and a curveball (73-74) that is further away than the other two pitches. Calhoun is committed to Oklahoma and might go to campus to add strength so he can be more Boomer rather than Sooner, but he’s a big, bright personality and one to root for over the coming years regardless of where he ends up. -KP

LHP Ryan Ginther

Ginther only stands six feet and looks fairly maxed-out physically, but he came out throwing gas (94-95) paired with a nasty tightly spun slider that overmatched hitters. A high-effort delivery and a bulldog mentality on the mound suggest a potential floor as a back-end reliever. Ginther is committed to Vanderbilt. -KP

RHP Coleman Willis

6’6” with room to pack on muscle, Willis has a mature approach on the mound and mixes his pitches well. Willis doesn’t have the biggest fastball in the class (87-91), but it plays up due to movement, deception, and location. He pairs the fastball, which he also will throw as a two-seamer, with an 11-5 curveball that sets up the fastball for whiffs. The Warner Robbins, GA native will probably head to Georgia, where he’s committed, but he’s worth keeping an eye on, especially as he names new Mariner Emerson Hancock as the pitcher he admires most. -KP


SS Ty Hodge

Hodge is a 6’1” shortstop in the “tiny house” model of baseball player (see: Clase, Jonatan) with a powerfully built frame; like Clase, despite his mega-muscles, he also is a plus runner, posting a 6.5 60 time at the showcase. At the plate, Hodge shows an advanced feel to hit, barreling up pitch after pitch and working gap to gap, and has posted triple-digit exit velos, suggesting more power to come. -KP

SS Colson Montgomery

Like Pacheco, Mongtomery is a tall drink of water for shortstop—6’4”, with a high waist and super long legs, but Montgomery showed some smooth actions in fielding drills, with soft hands and light on his feet with good footwork. Curiously, Montgomery doesn’t post a fast 60 time (6.9) despite those long limbs, and doesn’t have as likely a chance to stick at short as Pacheco—he also doesn’t have Pacheco’s arm strength across the infield—but the offensive profile is equally promising, with plus bat speed and an aggressive swing where he explodes into the ball in the hitting zone, showing an ability to direct the ball to all fields with power. Like Luke Hayden above, Montgomery is committed to Indiana, making the incoming class one to watch. -KP

C Austin Bode

Six foot tall and barrel-chested, Bode is a plus defensive catcher, a good blocker who is athletic behind the plate with good lateral movement and an accurate throwing arm. He presents pitches well and has an advanced feel for handling a pitching staff. At the plate, currently Bode is more hit over power but shows strong quick hands and an ability to get the barrel on the ball with gap to gap power. Bode is a Louisville commit. -KP

SS Luke Heefner

Luke Heefner has some impressive baseball lineage; his uncle is Ben Zobrist, and his dad is the coach at Dallas Baptist. DBU is more known for consistently churning out pictures who get selected in the MLB Draft, but Heefner’s obviously been coached up well in the box, with a smooth swing optimized to create loud contact despite his 5’11”/160-pound frame. He can at times get flat with the swing and put the ball on the ground, but has fast hands and good bat speed, and his frame has room to add more muscle and strength. In the field, Heefner shows plenty of athleticism and gets good reads in the field with smooth footwork and a loose, easy arm clocked at 91 across the diamond. -KP

SS Justin Javier Colon Jaime

JJCJ doesn’t maybe get the same attention as power-hitting teammate V-Rod (he’s in the outfielders section), but he’s one of the best defensive shortstops in the class, with a powerful arm (clocked at 94), and an elite combination of rhythm and balance in his fielding actions, with light, precise footwork and smooth funneling actions. At 6’2”/175 he’s got plenty of room left to pack on muscle and strength to go along with his simple, loose swing that already results in some good pop off the bat. He attends Montverde High School in Florida, the same program that produced Francisco Lindor. -KP

SS/3B Aries Samek

Aries Samek, in addition to having one of the best names (and heads of hair) in this draft class, also makes some of the loudest contact, with triple-digit exit velos. But he’s not all power over hit; Samek has an advanced plate approach and is a disciplined, patient hitter who seeks pitches to do damage on but will also work a long plate appearance and settle for a hard-hit single or double with an all-fields approach to hitting. He’s a plus-plus runner (6.5 60) with a strong arm clocked at 97 across the infield. The Teaneck, NJ native is committed to Clemson. -KP


OF Victor Rodriguez

“V-Rod” is originally from the DR but moved to the US to attend Montverde Academy in Florida—the same school that counts Francisco Lindor as an alum (Fellow ‘21 prospect Justin Javier Colon attends the same school). V-Rod is a 6’5” outfielder who will garner Julio Rodriguez comps both for his build and explosive power-hitting ability from the right side (105 exit velo, the loudest of the tournament), although the younger Rodriguez has more swing-and-miss than the Mariners prospect. -KP

OF Michael Bello

A New Jersey native, Bello has a contact-based plate approach but will probably add more power thanks to an XL athletic frame (6’2”/215), although his disciplined plate approach and ability to grind out ABs shouldn’t mean he’ll sacrifice any of that hit tool when the power comes. Bello is an average runner with average arm strength who probably is a corner outfielder at the next level. He’s committed to Auburn. -KP

OF Christian Smith

Smith, out of Hotlanta, is a graceful, long-limbed outfielder who tracks balls well and takes crisp routes in the outfield. Smith has a smooth, balanced lefty stroke that produces line drives to all fields and should produce more power as he gains strength. He’s committed to Vanderbilt. -KP

OF James Wood

Despite super long levers on a 6’6” frame, Wood is loose-wristed and short to the ball in his swing and follows through with excellent extension. While currently a gap hitter with some pull power, there’s the promise of much more power to come as he continues to refine his mechanics and build strength. Wood shows a good approach in the box, letting the ball travel into the hitting zone before making loud, hard contact. Wood, a Maryland native, is committed to Mississippi State. -KP