Hitting the Trail: Standout Bats at the PBR Super 60

Ben Rortvedt, C, Verona Area (Wisc.) (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Welcome to 2080’s first installment of Hitting the Trail, series focused on 2016 MLB draft-eligible prospects.

Earlier this month, as has become custom, pro scouts and a collection of high-end high school ballplayers kicked off their Super Bowl Sunday with the Prep Baseball Report “Super 60” — an invitation-only indoor workout held at the Max McCook Athletic & Exposition Center just outside of Chicago. This year’s event represented the 13th anniversary of the showcase, which has steadily grown in scope and popularity since its inception, but has particularly grown over the last five years.

Originally viewed as an opportunity for midwest scouts to get an early look at their cold-weather draft follows, the Super 60 has grown to include players from over fifteen different states, as well as Canada, with the scouting contingent encompassing evaluators from across the country and up the food chain.

2080’s Nick J. Faleris and Mauricio Rubio provide thoughts on 10 position players who stood out at this year’s event.

Click here for Part Two:  The Pitchers

Ben Rortvedt, C, Verona Area (Verona, WI)
Ht/Wt: 5’10″/190 | B/T: L/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 8m

The Arkansas commit may be the best overall catching prospect in the draft class when all is said in done, showing a balanced profile featuring solid actions behind the plate, pop times ranging from 1.9 to just over 2.0 seconds, and a loose lefty swing that has continually produced hard contact both in-game and during workouts. His most recent BP showing was a popcorn popper fueled by leverage and bat speed, with Rortvedt showing pull-side pop and an ability to cover the quadrants and spray across the diamond. He had on display a thicker physique in the trunk and core but has not lost mobility or agility, projecting to a sturdy but athletic build down the line. He’s a clear early-round candidate at this point, with first-round potential. –Nick J. Faleris

Cooper Johnson, C, Carmel Catholic (Mundelein, IL)
Ht/Wt: 6’0″/200 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 1m

The fulcrum of Johnson’s draft stock is his work behind the plate, which has been consistently excellent. He routinely shows grace and efficiency behind the plate with his footwork, lateral movement in blocking pitches, and transfer in his catch-and-throw game. Johnson consistently pops to second in the low 1.8-second range, which is a testament to his coordination as a catcher and his arm strength. The Ole Miss commit had an impressive batting practice session at the Super 60, showing above-average bat speed and balance, and an efficient path to the baseball that maximizes his impact at contact. The biggest chink in his profile is the inconsistencies that evaluators have seen between his batting practice sessions and his in-game swings (which tend to get long, and hint at issues with picking up and adjusting to quality spin). If he can better carry over his batting practice swing to his game at bats this spring, his draft stock will start to see some serious helium. –Mauricio Rubio

Nolan (Nonie) Williams, SS, Turner (Kansas City, KS)
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/195 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 0m

Nonie Williams elected to reclassify as a 2016 draft-eligible player last May and immediately increased his draft stock by virtue of upgrading from a 19-year old 2017 draftee to a 2016 draftee turning 18 just a couple weeks prior to the MLB Draft.  During his Super 60 workout, Williams showed athletic actions in the infield, and an arm that should easily play on the left side. He is comfortable and instinctual in his actions, giving him a good shot to stick at the six-spot at the next level. The LSU commit showed fluidity in his swings during his BP session, with a good feel for the barrel and compact cuts geared for contact. Though listed as a right-handed bat, he takes capable cuts from both sides of the dish with a hit tool that projects well.  Williams ran a 6.57 60-yard dash, which is consistent with the plus to double-plus speed he has shown previously in both showcase and game settings. It’s a versatile profile with first-division upside. –Nick J. Faleris

Gavin Lux, SS, Indian Trail (Kenosha, WI)
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/195 | B/T: L/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 6m

Lux’s ability to utilize his quickness both in defensive workouts and in batting practice stood out at this event. He maintains an excellent swing path with a good feel for the barrel and stays loose and quick to the ball. While not a thumper, Lux projects to have enough strength to abuse the gaps when he fills out. The Arizona State commit showed some flash defensively, displaying excellent footwork and hand-eye coordination with a strong arm and quick release. His top line speed is above average at present (he ran a 6.8 60-yard dash), but as he continues to fill out his projectable frame it’s possible he loses a tick of speed, making a shift off of shortstop possible if his range suffers. Nevertheless, Lux is without question a high follow for the spring, with potential to provide defensive value at a high-skill position, while providing some offensive impact, as well. –Mauricio Rubio

Tyler Fitzgerald, SS, Rochester (Rochester, IL)
Ht/Wt: 6’3″/190 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 9m

Fitzgerald’s was one of the more entertaining performances of the day, showing solid growth across his game and hinting at more to come. The Louisville commit began the day with a solid 6.69 and 6.71 60-yard dash (he was one of a few players to run twice) and was noticeably bigger with “good weight” added since my last viewing in the fall. That strength translated to the batters box, as Fitzgerald produced louder contact and showed more explosiveness in his swing than he displayed over the summer circuit. There was more consistent carry off the barrel and more natural lift in his cuts, further positive developments and a nice indicator that he is heading in the right direction developmentally. The glove remains steady, though he is noticeably better straight on and to his glove side than he is to the backhand. The arm is average and may fit best at second base long term, though there is still time for him to tease a little more carry and force out of his throws; the release is quick enough to help the tool play up some. It’s always fun to see a player blossom, and Fitzgerald’s Super 60 showing was a very good data point for evaluators plotting his draft development. He’ll get close looks this spring and could be on the verge of solidifying himself as a high-value target for the June MLB Draft. –Nick J. Faleris

Jake Slaughter, SS, Ouachita Christian (Monroe, LA)
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/198 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 4m

Slaughter’s swings come with their share of issues, but he showed some interesting ingredients that could, in time, add up to a noteworthy bat. His biggest advantage is his quality bat speed, which he couples with a swing path well suited to lift and drive the ball. It’s an up-tempo swing with some violence, which led to him getting off balance at times during his Super 60 sessions, but the balls he squared were loud and indicative of some offensive upside when everything’s clicking. Defensively, the LSU commit showed a strong arm with a below-average release that impacted his accuracy across the diamond. He should find a comfortable long-term home at third base where his solid hands and arm should play. Slaughter ran a 6.78 60-yard dash and has enough athleticism to handle an outfield corner should he have to shift away from the dirt. He isn’t yet a surefire pro target, but with some further smoothing out of his game over the next few months, Slaughter could work his way comfortably into the signing rounds. –Mauricio Rubio

Joe Acker, OF, Marquette University (Waukesha, WI)
Ht/Wt: 5’11″/175 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 2m

Acker increased his stock with a strong overall performance, though the tools are more solid than impactful. A solid-average runner (6.83 60-yard dash), Acker shows some feel with the glove, tracks well, and shows a strong arm with low, on-line carry and accuracy, making him a potential fit across the grass. His BP session was workmanlike, with a low maintenance, no-frills swing that regularly produced solid contact. He covered the plate well and was comfortable hitting the ball where pitched, though he may need to produce a little more force at impact to sell clubs on a meatier draft-day investment. Acker’s committed to play at Nebraska should he forgo pro ball, and he could emerge as an earlier round target after three years with the Cornhuskers. –Nick J. Faleris

Jordan McFarland, OF, Waterloo (Waterloo, IL)
Ht/Wt: 6’4″/225 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 9m

McFarland’s batting practice session was a good reminder that it’s early in the season and perceptions on these players can change quickly. His first few swings were unbalanced and aesthetically lacking, but he quickly settled into a groove and started utilizing his above-average bat speed and feel for the barrel to produce quality contact with flashes of above-average raw power. The Arkansas commit squared balls up across all quadrants of the zone and stood out amongst the crowd with a handful of rockets caught just right on the sweet spot. While McFarland is a large, strong human, he comes with solid athleticism and average speed (as evidenced by his 6.84 60-yard-dash). He profiles as a left fielder due to a below-average arm, but the power potential alone should garner attention from clubs this spring. –Mauricio Rubio

Matt Mervis, 3B, Georgetown Prep. (North Bethesda, MD)
Ht/Wt: 6’4″/230 | B/T: L/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 2m

Mervis put together a solid effort during his BP session, showing good plate coverage on the outer half and quality pop when he got extended, allowing the torque generated in his core to take over. The swing has some length to it, and the Duke commit would fall into consecutive cuts where he would get a little lungy out front, two characteristics that have impacted his ability to get to higher-end velocity in the past — particularly on the inner half of the plate. When he does get a hold of the ball, however, it jumps. He has registered impressive exit velocities over the past nine months, including the best recorded this fall during the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter (108 mph). Defensively, the range and hands are limited, though he possess the arm strength to make the required throws across the diamond. There’s cleanup to be done but also some intriguing power to be unlocked with further development. Mervis was also solid off the bump, showing an 88-to-90 mph fastball and the makings of a usable slider and change. –Nick J. Faleris

Quin Cotton, OF, Regis Jesuit (Aurora, CO)
Ht/Wt: 5’11″/190 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 2m

The swing isn’t a finished product but Cotton showed above-average bat speed and good things happened when he barreled the baseball up. There’s some natural lift in the cut but he’ll need to take a more direct path to the ball to produce hard contact with more consistency, as the Grand Canyon commit tended to come around the ball to contact, decelerating the barrel. He clocked in at a fringy 6.9 seconds in the 60-yard-dash and is generally a tick-below-average runner. His foot speed combined with fringe-average arm strength could relegate Cotton to left field, where the offensive production may not be enough to carry the profile. Still, there’s enough intrigue with the bat to keep an eye on him as the season progresses. — Mauricio Rubio