At 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, Riverside (Calif.) JW North’s Tony Bullard looks more like a college sophomore than a high school sophomore.
He plays like it too.
The two-way 2018 standout is one of the key reasons the Huskies are ranked No. 4 in the Los Angeles Times’ top 25 rankings after starting 15-6 this season, including a 7-1 record in league play thus far. Bullard has done it on the mound and with the bat. He is hitting .333 and has scored a team-high 22 runs batting in front of JW North’s middle infield smash brother duo of Arizona signee Shane Martinez and UC Irvine-bound Christian Koss.
“I know they are going to pitch me since I have both of them two behind me,” Bullard said. “They are both D1 guys, so it’s very good and I get my pitches.”
With a pair of big bat threats hitting behind Bullard in the lineup, pitchers have to go after him for fear of facing Martinez and Koss with runners on base. That fits perfectly into Bullard’s mentality of always being aggressive.
“My game is aggressive because I like playing aggressive in everything I do,” Bullard said. He often swings early in the count. “Usually the first pitch is going to be a fastball since I’ve got Shane hitting behind me, so I just swing at first pitch and look for anything else I can hit.”
His strategy has worked this season as he leads the team in extra-base hits with a team-high seven doubles and a pair of home runs. Despite his aggressive nature, Bullard does a really nice job of keeping his hands inside of the baseball and letting the bathead stay through the zone for a long time.
He constantly hits the baseball on the barrel and shines brightest against elite teams like Huntington Beach and Orange Lutheran with his home runs coming in back-to-back games against the last two No. 1 teams in the LA Times top 25. Bullard was 5-for-7 with five runs and three RBIs against the two Southland powers as JW North surprised a lot of people by opening the Boras Classic tournament with a pair of wins.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play and it found the holes and I got base hits,” a modest Bullard said.
While Bullard flashed with the bat in the late March/early April tournament, scouting personnel didn’t get to see the full breadth of his talents. Rather than dazzling on the mound or on the left side of the infield, Bullard played first base exclusively because of arm soreness.
Though he may grow out of the position eventually, Bullard is a solid shortstop and will take over the position at JW North once Martinez leaves for Arizona. He is smooth and isn’t afraid to attack the baseball. Despite his size, Bullard is surprisingly athletic. He isn’t fast, but the short-range motion is there.
With all that said, Bullard may find himself hitting last in the lineup, if he ever makes it to the MLB because his future could very well be on the mound. He carries his aggressiveness to the mound where his goal is to attack the strike zone. Though his bottom half is stiff, he has a fluid arm motion with a simple and repeatable delivery. His fastball has reportedly been up to 87 mph.
“I like pitching. I just like controlling the game,” Bullard said. “It’s just that I know pitching will probably take me further. Hopefully, I can play in the bigs.”
Before he gets to the bigs, he’ll have a decision to make in a couple of years of whether to sign out of high school after the MLB draft or to attend college. Bullard has committed to Arizona first-year head coach Jay Johnson and is expected to be a used as both a left-side infielder and a pitcher, if he attends.
“At Arizona, I liked the coaches. I like that they were very interactive. They told me a lot of stuff and I just liked them,” Bullard said. “It’s a great school and they said I could play two positions, so that really drove me in there.”
“I’m trying to get my four years of college and have a backup plan just in case I don’t make it [to the MLB].
Check out Tony Bullard's prospect videos on the mound and as a shortstop from The Prospect Pipeline: