2021 16u MPB Tournament Tracker

The final Midwest Premier Baseball Top Prospect Series event, bringing together some of the best 16u age division talent in the Midwest, kicked off on Thursday on a warm mid-summer day. Dry conditions are expected to hold through the weekend at the Woodside Sports Complex located in Mauston, Wis., about 15 minutes from the Wisconsin Dells. Twenty teams, broken up into four pools of five teams each, are competing to advance to the championship round on Sunday. Each team will play the other four teams in their pool once with the winners of each pool advancing to Sunday’s semifinals. The remaining 16 teams will each be given the opportunity to play a consolation game for five total guaranteed games.

Below are details on the players that stood out on the first day of the event.

Griffin Smith, RHP, ISA

The ISA Stars are a team I have been aware of for several years but haven’t been able to see play in person prior to Thursday. Griffin Smith left a positive impression right out of the gate. He has a lean, loose and athletic 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame that produces consistent 81-82 mph heat. He commanded his fastball fairly well and mixed in a high-spin 67-69 mph curveball while also pulling the string on a 74 mph changeup. He has room to grow and add velocity and the foundation is there for a strong three-pitch mix.

TJ Schuyler, RHP, Hitters 2023

Schuyler, who is a primary catcher and donned the tools of ignorance for the Hitters second game of the day, started opposite Smith and showed similar stuff, although with a more polished overall package. Schuyler delivered his fastball at 82-83 mph and really did a nice job grabbing corners with the pitch. He also showed advanced command of a 74-75 mph slider, recording a strikeout with the pitch on the video/tweet above.

Sam Steuber smoked a line drive trip to the gap in the third inning of this game, scoring one batter later on a sac fly off the bat of shortstop Alex Alicea, a gifted defensive middle infielder who flashed impressive glovework on a few plays on the day. Aiden Schenk, a lefthanded hitter, had a similar hit, belting a ball to the gap in right-center for a triple of his own, scoring on a groundout. Those two hits, and the runs they produced, were crucial in the Hitters 2023’s 4-3 win over the ISA Stars.

Although the Hitters lost their second game Zachary Olson returned to the mound for the first time in eight months after having Tommy John surgery. I had last seen Olson on the exact same field late last August when he was throwing low-80s as a high school sophomore. Now, heading into his junior year, his fastball has crept up to 82-85 mph. He was getting too much of the plate in this one, not surprising considering the circumstance, and was on a 30-pitch limit. At a listed 6-foot-3, 180-pounds, there’s a lot of room for continued growth and velocity gains as he pitches himself back to strength.

Garrett Kay, RHP, GRB MKE

Kay was one of the primary culprits for the Hitters loss considering he tossed a no-no. The control/command profile still needs some work, as you can tell by watching him pitch that he’s still raw in a lot of phases of the game but the arm talent is legit. He came out firing 85-86 mph fastballs, touching 87 and dipping down to 84 only a handful of times in the early innings. The stuff was good enough for him to be effectively wild and the same is true for his inconsistent 68-72 mph curveball, which is a good pitch when he snapped it off as well as he could but finding the feel/grip for the pitch is something that will come in time.

Lefthanded hitter Brady Davidson put GRB MKE on the board early in this game with an RBI double to the pull-side gap in right-center field. He later scored to give GRB an early lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Nate Langbehn, RHP, GRB Rays 2024

The GRB program had a deep well of arm talent on display on Thursday on the first day of the 16u Midwest Premier Baseball Top Prospect Series across four different teams. The GRB Rays 2024 squad is playing a level up at this event and showed extremely well a month ago at the 15u version of this tournament held in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, advancing to the quarterfinals. Langbehn continued to show intriguing arm strength, producing 81-84 mph heat in the early innings, settling down in to the 80-82 mph range for the majority of his start. He also throws an upper-60s breaking ball that he’s still working on, but the foundation is there for improvement with more reps.

Craig Kabat, RHP, GRB Rays 2024

You could tell Kabat was going to throw a better, more consistent breaking ball during warmups and in between innings in this game than he did in my last look at him in Nebraska, although his fastball velocity was down a hair. His fastball sat at 80-81 mph with much better sharpness to his 68-70 curveball. He commanded his breaker well and snapped it off consistently well out of his hand with big downer shape. With a live arm and a still-growing body, he’s going to continue to throw harder and harder moving into just his sophomore year in high school.

Logan Dunn, who put on a hitting display in Nebraska (and also pitched well) served a base hit to right field in the top of the first innings of his team’s first game. He is such a good hitter with an easy swing, an advanced approach and great swing mechanics.

Parish Beagle, RHP, Building Champions

Beagle took the mound opposite Kabat and had the most impressive approach to pitching I saw on the day leading Building Champions to an 8-2 win over the GRB Rays 2024 squad. A projectable 6-foot-1, 185-pound righthander, Beagle produced easy 82-85 mph heat and commanded the pitch well, moving the ball from corner to corner and doing a really good job mixing in his sharp 72-74 mph curveball. The curve has tight, downer break, and while his arm slows some on the pitch, he really played off the two pitches well. That approach allowed him to go nearly the distance, working six innings, in the win while really keeping a talented lineup off balance.

Daelen Johnson, RHP, GRB Rays Yellow

Built tall and slender with long limbs, Daelen Johnson offers some upside with some legitimate aspirations to pitch at the college level. In this game his fastball sat in the low-80s, pretty much sitting around 83 mph in the late innings while mixing in 68-70 mph curveball and a low-70s changeup. He threw all three pitches to one batter in the sequence shown in the video/tweet, going to his changeup to grab a strike after just missing the corner with his fastball. His overhand curve has good downer shape and he pulled the string well on the change. He went the distance in GRB’s walk-off win.

Johnson’s effort, especially in the top of the seventh when he held a threatening Pro Players Canes squad at bay – allowed GRB Rays Yellow to enjoy a walk-off victory and move to 1-1 on the day. With the bases loaded Miles Nelson provided the game-winner, a base hit smacked back up the middle of the field.

Roman Trapani, RHP, GRB Rays Green

Trapani’s older brother Vince was one of the top prospects from the state of Wisconsin this past draft cycle and he’s already taken his talents to Fayetteville as a talented Arkansas recruit. Roman is a different kind of prospect, although still talented in his own way(s). Although Roman doesn’t overpower hitters, he commands a big, slow but sharp 68-72 mph curveball very well. The pitch has big 12-to-6 shape and he uses it a lot, to any batter in any count. He usually uses it to set up his fastball, which he can grab corners with at 80-81 mph.

GRB Rays Green catcher Mason Armstrong is one of those players that always seems to play well when I walk up to the field. On Thursday he smacked a base hit right back up the middle, once against displaying his strong wrists and hands, and also made strong, accurate throws to second base. First baseman Logan Frank offers a large, physical presence on the field. A lefthanded hitter, he employs a patient approach and provides some valuable protection in the middle of the GRB order. The GRB Rays Green team went 2-0 on the day with a pair of 6-1 victories.

Cole Bensen, RHP, ISA Stars

The 5:00 p.m. time slot on Thursday offered several compelling games with exciting endings. One of those contests was between Velocity and the ISA Stars which offered a really good matchup between righthanded pitchers Cole Bensen and Nate Vela. Bensen started off slow with shaky command and that led to him elevating a few fastballs that got hit hard. He settled in from there and really did a good job not allowing another run to cross home plate, going the distance with seven full innings. Bensen missed a lot of bats with his 80-82 mph fastball and paired it well with a 68-70 mph curveball that wasn’t always sharp but got the job done. Bensen wasn’t afraid to attack hitters early and often and went right after them after the first inning came to a close.

Vela’s fastball popped out at 80-82 mph early, settling into the 78-80 mph range and really doing a good job to grab the outside corner with the pitch. His neutralizer with a big, slow mid-60s curveball that he also commanded and sequenced well to record key outs.

Down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the ISA Stars stormed back to tie the game 2-2, fitting considering both starters pitched well and delivered compete game efforts. Alex Hanneman turned on a fastball for a one-out double in the final frame and ended up scoring on AJ Korth’s single to right-center field. Both batters really battled and definitely earned their base hits.

On Field 2 the BLG Replacements got the best of STiKS Academy, 2-0, thanks to another no-hitter, this one thrown by BLG ace Ryan Klostermann. Klostermann doesn’t throw especially hard, sitting in the 77-80 mph range, but he commands his fastball very well and also threw a sharp mid-60s curveball that eluded hard contact. A good, well-proportioned athlete with strength throughout his frame, Klostermann’s competitiveness and focus on the mound were evident.

Adam Schilz enjoyed a solid effort on the mound opposite Klostermann for STiKS Academy. I’ve seen Schilz several times before, built tall and lanky with a lot of room for added strength while also showing well in the lefthanded batter’s box as a productive two-way player. Schilz once again sat in his usual 79-81 mph range mixing in an effective 68 mph curveball but was bested by Klostermann in this one.

STiKS righthander Connor Olson really did a good job shutting down the GRB Rays Yellow team in their first game of the day as part of a 5-2 win. Olson consistently sat at 81 mph with a sharp curveball that he paired well with his fastball.

Also in the 5:00 p.m. time slot was a 6-3 win by Sluggers Baseball over Edge Baseball. Providing the biggest blow was a bases-loaded, bases-clearing triple off the lefthanded bat of catcher John Wubben. Wubben really squared up the baseball on the pitch and showed good speed motoring around the bases to break the 3-3 tie. Righthander Caydon Lomas struck out the size (with a walk mixed in) in the top of the seventh to close out the win, doing a good job all game mixing between a mid-70s fastball and slow, high-spinning mid-60s curveball to keep the Edge hitters off balance.

The Silver Sluggers squeezed out a hard fought 2-1 win over Dawgs Baseball. Devin Gudenschwager got things started with two outs in the bottom of the seventh by hitting a double and scored on a walk-off single to left field off the bat of their player that wore No. 27 (who doesn’t appear on their roster). I will work to confirm the player’s name on Friday.