On The Road: NHSI Hitters Notebook

Kiley has notes on hitters from the first couple days of NHSI, a HS tourney at the USA baseball complex in Cary, NC.

The tournament is focused on top high school teams in a rankings-sense but those teams tend to have high-ranked players in a prospect sense as well. Here's a rundown of how some of the top prospects at the event have looked so far, with full reports and video on the way.

- The big attraction in Cary is Grayson HS (GA) center fielder Austin Meadows, a player many have as the top high school prospect in the class. I've always preferred another Atlanta-area prep center fielder and longtime friend of Meadows, Clint Frazier, and it sounds like scouts are coming around to this point of view. Judging by conversations with scouts and scouting directors, they don't think Frazier gets out of the top 5-10 picks and concede that Meadows could go anywhere. A couple teams picking in the 20's had high-level scouts bearing down on Meadows and explained that, while unlikely, it's conceivable that he slides that far.

The concerns aren't on his tools. Meadows is a 6'3, 210 horse that's at least a plus runner, has an average arm and a loose, left-handed cut with bat speed, some feel for the bat head and some raw power. While Frazier is a smaller presence without much projection, Meadows captures scout's imaginations with a size/speed/strength combo among the best in recent years.

The concerns come from hitting ability and Meadows simply hasn't been that good at NHSI with over 10 scouting directors in attendance. He's got a walk, HBP, single and double but also a few strikeouts and generally weaker contact that scouts were hoping for. Even Meadows' double was when he got jammed on a mid 80's fastball in the zone and the metal bat helped propel a ball that would likely be a bloop single in pro ball deeper into the gap for a two-bagger.

It's hard to imagine Meadows' tools getting overlooked in a draft lacking in high-upside talent at the top, and it isn't like he doesn't do a lot of things right at the plate already. I'll be putting out a new Draft Top 50 soon, but I think, looking ahead to a mock draft, Meadows is in the 7-15 range for me right now.

- Lexington HS (SC) catcher Nick Ciuffo jumps out at first for his enthusiasm on the field, with an intensity similar to Bryce Harper. Behind the plate, Ciuffo has a big, athletic 6'1, 210-pound presence an above average to plus arm and low 1.9 pop times. He isn't more than an average receiver long-term but is plenty athletic for his size and position. At the plate, he has been having some trouble with good off-speed stuff but shows some bat control and looseness to his powerful swing that generates above average raw power. I have him projecting as a .260 type hitter and an everyday catcher: one scout remarked that Ciuffo will hit "enough." He fits in the 20-40 pick range, just ahead of the other prep catcher in Cary.

- Eustis HS (FL) catcher Chris Okey is a guy I've seen a lot of over the past 18 months and I've already posted a video of the Clemson signee from earlier this spring here. I'll go in depth in a full report but Okey is a smaller catching prospect at 6'0, 185 pounds and some teams just prefer bigger guys like Ciuffo back there, so that may cost Okey on draft day. That said, the belief is Okey is in play for picks 25-50, so he should go good in June.

Okey is a steady defender that's very polished and active behind the plate with quicker actions than Ciuffo. Okey can stick as a catcher long-tmer and consistently posts pop times in the low 1.9s in games from a plus arm and quick release. Okey's troubles offensively come from being too-contact oriented in what one scout called a perpetual two-strike approach. He gets his foot down early and robs himself of power and some timing but has the bat speed and feel to hit well. That swing flaw is holding back his performance at NHSI but he was looking more fluid at the plate a few weeks ago.

- The underclassmen crop is solid at the event again, with Harvard-Westlake HS (CA) 3B Jack Flaherty, T.C. Roberson HS (NC) 1B Braxton Davidson, Milton HS (GA) CF Dalton Ewing and The Woodlands HS (TX) 1B Chris Andritsos.

Flaherty is a big-bodied UNC commit with a power right-handed bat, soft hands and a chance to stick at third base. He isn't bad on the mound but topped at 88 mph this week with fringy off-speed, so he could be an option on the mound in college. Davidson is a young right fielder and UNC commit with a frame that he could hang a lot more weight on, eventually moving him to first base. His power left-handed swing could use more separation but his hitting tools are evident. Ewing is a top junior on Milton HS's squad along with RHP Dylan Cease, who hit 96 (I'll cover tomorrow with the arms) and they're sure to get a lot of attention next year from scouts. Ewing is a Clemson commit that has reminds me a lot of 2013 Minnesota prep CF Ryan Boldt and is sure to generate a lot of buzz in showcase season with a live, athletic frame. Lastly, Andritsos is a 2015 prospect with a lot of buzz for his assault on his powerhouse school's HR record. He has some size and strength at a young age but he loads his hands low and has an uppercut path that scouts won't be a fan of when they're forced to bear down on him later in his prep career.

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