On The Road: NHSI Arms

Kiley brings us notes on the top pitchers from the recent NHSI high school tournament in Cary, NC.

The pitching story of NHSI was Tullahoma HS (TN) RHP Jordan Sheffield (Vanderbilt signee) being a late scratch from his start with continuing soreness in his right forearm. Sheffield was the clear top pitching prospect at the event and a number of scouting directors were in attendance to see him as he hadn't pitched in nearly three weeks.

Not all was lost as some notable arms for the 2013 and 2014 drafts pitched in the event. In addition, a number of high level evaluators took the same trip I did after day three to see hands down the best prep pitching prospect on the east coast.

- The top 2013 draft pitching prospect matched up with the top hitting prospect on day one as Cathedral Catholic HS (CA) LHP Stephen Gonsalves (San Diego signee) matched up with Grayson HS (GA) CF Austin Meadows (Clemson signee). Gonsalves allowed Meadows to get on base three times with a walk, hit by pitch and a jam job that aluminum made into a double, a string that explained Gonsalves' outing well.

Gonsalves has a lot going for him: he's an athletic, projectable 6'6, 200 pound lefty with a clean arm, good delivery and an 89-91 mph fastball that he commands and should add a few ticks. The problems are just about everything else. Gonsalves simply can't spin the ball enough with a curveball that's a 40 at best on the 20-80 scouting scale. His changeup is way too slow at 71-73 mph; it's good enough to fool prep hitters but will need more giddy up for pro hitters. Gonsalves loses a few ticks from the stretch and seems passive on the mound at times. A team that loves him may take him in the third round as a project, but I think he'll fall even further and it feels like the Toreros will be getting a premium prospect on campus that is a pitching coach's dream.

- The best pitching matchup of the event came when Jenks HS (OK) RHP Thomas Hatch (Oklahoma State signee) faced The Woodlands HS (TX) LHP Ryan Burnett (TCU signee). Neither are top round pro prospects right now but could be very good college arms that work their way into being high picks in 2016. Hatch sat 89-92 with some arm-side life in the first inning, was 87-89 in the 4th inning and was 84-88 by the end of his outing. Early on, Hatch flashed an average slurve and a fringy changeup from a clean delivery and sturdy 6'2, 205 pound frame. Hatch is also not a bad prospect as a third baseman, so all the tools are here to be a multi-year factor for the Cowboys. Burnett is a crafty left-hander with a 6'2, 210 pound frame similar to Hatch's. Burnett sat 86-89 and hit 90 early on with a below average to fringe average loopy curveball and changeup, with the changeup being the more advanced pitch now. Burnett showed solid feel and should be a college performer that is a factor as a freshman for the Horned Frogs.

- Among the other 2013 arms on display were Harvard-Westlake HS (CA) RHP Davis Tominaga (Oregon signee), Florida Christian HS (FL) LHP Chris Pelaez (LSU signee) and Eustis HS (FL) LHP Alex Hagner (Florida signee). Tominaga is a rail-thin 6'2 righty that worked 86-89 mph with a very slow changeup that fooled a lot of hitters. He has solid feel for his stuff and a loose arm that could also allow him to contribute early for the Ducks. Pelaez worked 85-88 when I saw him over the summer and was down a tick at 84-86 at NHSI. He has some similarities to Burnett, slightly smaller at 6'0, 175 pounds but with more crispness to his offspeed, with an average slurve-changeup combo and some feel for his craft. The mid 80's velocity may get him in trouble early in the SEC but he may work his way into a prominent role with the Bayou Bengals. Hagner has been a head-scratcher for scouts. The lefty is a teammate of potential 2013 first round catcher Chris Okey, has a similar frame to Pelaez and a sound delivery but his velocity has been all over the map, topping out at 89 or 90 in consecutive showcase seasons, but sitting in the low to mid 80's the past two springs. Hagner was pitching with an 82-84 mph cutter and average changeup at NHSI that won't stack up on a deep Gators pitching staff.

- I'll be writing about the 2014 arms in a separate article on the 2014 prep class, but four underclassmen arms stood out, not counting Jack Flaherty of Harvard-Westlake HS (CA), who was up to 88 mph on the mound with three pitches but is a far superior prospect as a third baseman. The three premium underclassmen were RHP Dylan Cease of Milton HS (GA) who is uncommitted, LHP Justus Sheffield of Tullahoma HS (TN) who is a Vanderbilt commit and LHP Brady Aiken of Cathedral Catholic, a UCLA commit. Another arm that stood out as one to follow was Christian Brothers HS (TN) RHP John Wesley Ray, an Ole Miss commit.

- The best pitching prospect of my whole trip to North Carolina was Bandys HS (NC) RHP Hunter Harvey. Double digits of VPs and directors were in a crowded grandstand for Harvey on Thursday night against a very weak opponent and he didn't disappoint. Harvey struck out 17 batters over 6 innings, yielding one single, one walk and the one non strikeout out was a bunt. Harvey sat 90-93 and hit 94 with his four-seamer and his curveball flashed plus, ranging from 73-77 mph. I only saw one changeup in game but it looked like Harvey had feel for an average pitch in warmups. Harvey is very athletic and projectable at 6'3, 175 pounds with a great arm action and low effort delivery. The delivery is almost too low effort, as he's basically playing catch on a mound and he gets his front foot down way too early. This causes his arm to drag, affecting the crispness of his curve and his command, but since there's so little effort, it isn't a huge problem. There's a lot to work with here and Harvey is flashing plus stuff despite looking very young and having a suboptimal delivery. Harvey could entice the right team toward the end of the top 10 but I can't see him getting to pick 25. Harvey is not committed to a school and his father, former big league reliever Bryan Harvey, will handle his negotiations.

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