2021 15u MPB Top Prospect Series Schedule/Standings

The 2021 15u Midwest Premier Baseball Top Prospect Series got off to a slow start on Thursday thanks to Mother Nature. Rain and lightning negatively impacted both the start of the day and its finish, with only three full time blocks being played from late morning to early evening. The good news is that the skies should dry out before midnight. The bad news is that more rain could hit the area Friday afternoon and into the evening.

Below are a handful of players (and teams) that stood out on Day 1.

AJ Evasco, Nebraska Prospects Scout

Following the Nebraska Prospects from afar through the power of Twitter and social media, I had seen Evasco’s name pop up on my timeline a few times in recent weeks. He continued to swing a hot stick here in Omaha at the 15u Midwest Premier event, starting his day with a sharp, line drive single up the middle that led to a big first inning against STiKS Academy. He his another ball hard at the second baseman, reaching base due to how hard the ball was hit and the defender’s inability to handle it cleanly. Evasco’s athleticism is evident, and with a 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame he’s only going to add strength and should be able to do so while retaining that loose athleticism.

Finn Hochstein, an athletic two-way player that also has room to grow without losing the bounce in his step, had the biggest blow in that first inning, drilling a ball over the left fielder’s head for a bases loaded, bases-clearing double. Noah Jobman kicked off the second inning with a bang, yanking a solo shot over the fence in left field to lead off the inning and giving the Nebraska Prospects Scout a fairly commanding early lead in their win against STiKS. Jackson Williams is another talented two-way player for the Nebraska Prospects and he stood out on both sides of the ball in this game. He motored around the bases for a hustle triple, added a sharp single up the middle and threw 76-77 mph fastballs with a sharp breaking ball from the mound.

Jay Coughlin, Nebraska Prospects Scout

Coughlin got the start assignment for the Nebraska Prospects, and showed some promise while doing so. He too is another well-built prospect, listed at 6-foot-2, 195-pounds, making it hard to believe he just wrapped up his freshman year in high school. The velocity isn’t especially overpowering, yet, throwing in the 77-79 mph range, but he got a considerable amount of late arm-side run on the pitch thrown from a lower three-quarters delivery. He commanded his 63-65 curveball well, a pitch he snapped off well and did a good job to drop in for strikes. He also threw what looked to be a small handful of low-70s changeups, a pitch he’s likely still working to develop.

Brady Johnson, STiKS Academy

Johnson started opposite Coughlin for STiKS, and while he too wasn’t overpowering, throwing mostly in the low-70s, he really showed he could spin a curveball. That pitch was thrown in the 64-65 mph range, and while pitching may not be in his long-term future, that offering alone should give him some success at the high school level. Where you can see him really standing out is at the plate. A strongly built righthanded hitter, Johnson was previously a catcher whose knees has pushed him off the position but whose arm strength is still evident. He made very loud contact in his first at-bat that resulted in him reaching base as shown in the Tweet below.

AJ Curtis, STiKS Academy

Curtis started the second game for STiKS and really proved he knew what he was doing on the mound. He started the game throwing mostly 74-75 mph fastballs but worked his way up to the 77-78 mph range. His best weapon at this staff is a wiffle ball-esque curveball that he really commands well and feels comfortable throwing in any count. It’s a pitch that really drew some ugly swings and routinely got the opposing hitters swinging over the top of it.

Landon Hagenow, STiKS Academy

There were a few hitters that stood out in STiKS’ lineup, but none more than Landon Hagenow who took consistently competitive at-bats. He’s not an especially imposing physical player, but he’s built loose and rangy and clearly knows what he’s doing on the field. He led off the fifth inning of STiKS’ first game with a double and added a sharp single up the middle in the first inning of game two. He also took the mound of the first game and really showed he knew how to pitch, moving both a fastball and a breaking ball well around the zone and sequencing well against the opposing hitters.

Cooper Kamlay had some big moments offensively on Thursday, hitting doubles in both the first and second games. In the first game he recorded his two-bagger in the first inning, golfing a shot over the left fielder’s head. In the second game. In the second game he led off the third with another double. Ryan Richter also showed well both offensively and on the mound for the STiKS on Thursday. He opened up the fourth in game two with a sharp single to right field. Later in the game he threw mid- to upper-70s fastballs showing easy arm strength from a high-wasted, long-limbed build. A name to keep on the watch list from STiKS is lefthander Cael Bertrandt. With a narrow build from top to bottom he’ll need to physically mature and add some strength, but when he first took the mound it was clear he knew what he was doing, at least for an inning. His fastball initially was 72-77 mph, snapping off a high-spin 57 mph curveball that obviously needs more power but clearly shows good command of it. The command, and velocity, dropped during his second inning on the mound, but he’s a growth spurt away from being able to gain, and sustain, increase velocity in the not-so-distant future.

Jack Jones, Building Champions UA 15 Cope

Building Champions had a few athletes stand out on the field physically, but none more obvious in game one than Jack Jones, who was playing first base in this game but also plays third in addition to pitching. He showed his physicality on a pair of hard base hits, the first just to the right of up-the-middle, and the second a line drive pulled to left field. Both hits produced runs, at the time the only two runs Building Champions had scored. The strength in his body and swing and the bat speed are all obvious.

Left fielder Victor Christal, another two-way player for Building Champions, showed off his arm strength on an on-the-money throw he made to home plate. The next half inning he hit a sharp single to left field and showed off his speed on the basepaths. Catcher Alec Kanakares made a few nice throws from behind the plate, one that almost got a baserunner at second base and another that did nail a runner at third. Both throws were on the glove with quick and clean glove-to-hand transfers. Extra-large framed righthander Tyson Grammer started the game for Building Champions, and while he didn’t throw especially hard (low/mid-70s fastballs) he did a nice job flipping his fastball/curveball combo in for strikes until he ran out of gas and started to get too much of the plate.

Ryan Anderson, Rhino Baseball

Anderson was one of the players I made it a point to see early in the tournament, knowing well of his prospect status as a 6-foot-5, 188-pound righthander with the stuff to match. And his stuff didn’t disappoint in this game, establishing his 84-88 mph fastball early while mixing in a sharp yet inconsistent 70-74 mph curveball. It also looked like he attempted to mix in a few upper-70s changeups. When he snapped off the pitch well, the curveball had really good downer bite and his fastball will be more effective with improved command. He ran into trouble in the very first inning, but managed to get out of that first inning unscathed and didn’t allow any hard contact against him in the process. He didn’t fare as well in the second inning, although he did well to keep his composure to work in and out of a couple of jams and ended up last into the fifth inning, going 4 1/3 frames. He’s a can’t-miss Division I arm at the college level with pro potential as long as he continues his development.

Despite falling behind early, Rhino Baseball chipped away at the early deficit and Darien Arteaga had the biggest, and arguably loudest, base hit for his team on the day, a two-run single in the bottom of the second that made the game 5-4 at the time.

The Indiana Nitro hitters were largely unphased by Anderson’s stuff and were very patient at the plate. They scored five runs early on only three hits, a couple of errors by Rhino Baseball and a few walks, but none of the hits were hit especially hard. After Rhino had re-claimed the lead in the bottom of the fourth, Nitro’s loudest hit came off the barrel of Deklan Thomspon who hit an RBI single to tie the game 6-6  in the top of the fifth, the final score of the game. In the bottom of the fifth it looked as though Rhino was in a perfect position to take the lead, and the game, as the first two batters reached. Righthander Ian Potts really hunkered down from there, getting the next two batters on strikeouts and finishing the inning on a weak groundout.

The final highlight from day one to share is a great throw by Indiana Nitro catcher Ethan Gardner to end the bottom of the first against Rhino, showing a quick transfer and a strong throw to gun down a runner.