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Check out our 2018 Draft Spotlight Library for more notes on the top prospects in the 2018 MLB Draft Class.
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Burke Granger and Nick Faleris were on hand to take in USA Baseball’s 2018 National High School Invitational and returned with update notes on some of the top performers at the event. Below are spotlights on five arms that stood out.
Cole Winn, RHP, Silver Creek (Longmont, Colo.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/180 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 6m
Winn attended Silver Creek High School in Colorado last year, but transferred to Orange Lutheran this year in time to help the Lancers repeat as National High School Invitational Champions. Perhaps no player improved his stock at the event more than Winn. Pitching against Florence on the Tournament’s opening day, Winn worked six scoreless innings, allowing just one hit on a swinging bunt, walking two and striking out nine.
A Mississippi State commit, Winn has an athletic 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame. Winn pounds the zone with a fastball that sat 92-to-94 mph with late life that he was able to locate to either side of the plate. Winn missed a lot of bats with his power curveball, a high spin offering that he throws with 11-to-5 shape and plus depth. He also mixes in a low 80’s slider, with short horizontal movement, but it’s behind the curveball at this point.
Winn displayed fiery competitiveness on the mound, challenging opponents and staring them down after strikeouts. While he already had first round talk heading into the tournament, Winn strengthened his case with a strong performance on the national stage in front of an abundance of evaluators.
Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge (Glendale, Ariz.)
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/185 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 7m
Liberatore entered the National High School Invitational as perhaps the most highly regarded prospect at the event. Though he allowed just two runs on one hit and one walk, while striking out 10 against Walton (Ga.), Liberatore wasn’t as sharp as the stats would suggest.
Liberatore touched 95 mph early in the start, sitting at 91-to-93 mph throughout the first two innings, before pitching in the 88-to-90 mph range thereafter. Throughout the summer, Liberatore found success mixing up his tempo, occasionally shortening his already abbreviated windup to quick-pitch his opponent. During this outing, this move led to mechanical inconsistencies, causing his arm to drag well behind his body, and his command suffered as a result. When it’s on, Liberatore’s hammer curveball is one of the best in the class, a plus pitch with depth and 12-to-6 movement, though he didn’t consistently stay on top of it during this viewing. He struggled with feel for his changeup, a pitch that flashed above-average, with arm-side fade in previous outings. In what appears to be a recent development, Liberatore has started incorporating a slider into his repertoire, a low-80’s offering with average bite.
Liberatore’s dip in velocity during the game appears to be attributed to a need to slow down mechanically more than anything else. He later found his groove, striking out six consecutive hitters, and working back up into the low 90’s in the seventh inning. Despite the up and down performance, Liberatore’s projectable frame, pitchabiltiy, and three potential above-average or better pitches still make him a top half of the first round talent.
Cole Henry, RHP, Florence (Florence, Ala.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/205 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 10m
Henry faced off against fellow draft prospect Cole Winn and Orange Lutheran on Wednesday, in what was the most highly anticipated pitching matchup of the National High School Invitational. He didn’t fair as well as Winn, however, as Henry was routinely barreled, allowing five runs, three earned runs on eight hits over five innings, though he did strike out eight hitters while walking just one.
An LSU commit, Henry has a projectable 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame, and strength in his lower half that translates into above average fastball velocity. Sitting at 91-to-93 mph, and touching 94 mph, Henry often left this pitch up in the zone and paid the price with hard contact. His curveball flashed big shape, missing bats with 11-to-5 break early in the start. He struggled to locate his 80-to-83 mph changeup throughout the first couple innings, but gained feel as the game progressed, generating swinging strikes with arm-side fade.
Though Henry labored through an up-and-down start, he displayed some of the better average fastball velocity (90.8 mph) in the tournament. With a big arm, projectable body, and a changeup that flashes above average, Henry is a potential early day two draft choice with a ceiling that of a back-end starter.
Christian Scott, RHP, Calvary Christian (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 11m
Pitching against Hattiesburg on Wednesday, Florida commit Christian Scott turned in an impressive performance at the National High School Invitational. In a complete game win, Scott allowed just one run on three hits, striking out nine and walking one.
Working with long levers and a projectable 6-foot-4 and 190-pound frame, Scott has clean, easy arm action and a three-quarter slot. Working downhill, his fastball sat at 90-to-93 mph, touching 95 as he worked out of a high leverage situation against the meat of the Hattiesburg lineup. Scott threw his curveball at 75-to-78 mph with moderate depth and 11-to-5 movement. He’ll cast the pitch on occasion, but it shows above average snap when he stays on top of it. Though he’s primarily a two-pitch pitcher at this point, Scott filled the zone with these two offerings, locating both to either side of the plate.
Scott entered the tournament regarded as a potential top five round talent, and the strong showing will only help to drive his stock north.
Luke Bartnicki, RHP, Walton (Marietta, Ga.)
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/205 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 4m
In short spurts over the summer, Bartnicki showed a power fastball at 92-to-94 mph that got on hitters in a hurry thanks to plus deception. He didn’t find the same success at the National High School Invitational, struggling through a start against Green Hope (N.C.) on Wednesday.
Though he touched 94 mph in the first inning, his fastball sat more regularly in the 88-to-91 mph range with below average command. There’s some funk within Bartnicki’s delivery, complete with a wrist wrap and stabbing arm action behind his back, and he stays closed deep into his throwing motion, often causing inconsistencies in his release. What minimal movement his slider showed was vertical, though it lacked the bite it showed over the summer. His changeup was firm and flat at 82-to-85 mph. What was particularly noticeable from both behind home plate and in observing Bartnicki from the side along the first-base line, was that Bartnicki was slowing his arm considerably when throwing his secondary pitches, something that was not evident in prior viewings.
Committed to Georgia Tech, Bartnicki has a ceiling as a back end starter, but may be more effective as a high leverage reliever, as his velocity plays up in shorter stints.