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News and Notes From The 2018 National High School Invitational

Matt Blood and the USA Baseball team put together another great National High School Invitational, with game drama, draft prospects and storylines at an all-time high. There was a lot to take in at all of the fields, and here are some observations on a handful of players from the event.

Jordyn Adams first showcased his talents on the national level at the Under Armour All-America Game where he delivered the walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning. The two-sport star had a great tournament at the NHSI, making lots of hard barrel contact, gliding to balls in CF, stealing bases at will, and even jumping on the mound and topping out at 88 mph. The most dynamic athlete in this year’s MLB Draft, Adams makes everything look easy and seems to have the ability to slow the game down regardless of the magnitude of the situation.

Continuing to make his case as the best hitter in the draft, Triston Casas piled up his usual quality at bats in North Carolina. He has outstanding strike zone judgement, extremely quick hands, and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. While the bat continues to be his calling card, scouts had to be impressed with the way Triston played third, showing dependable hands and some instincts for the position. His arm easily plays there, and it played on the mound as well with an eye-opening relief stint where he sat 92-93 mph and touched 94.

Cole Winn looked like a future Major League starting pitcher from his first warm-up pitch until his six innings were completed. He was up to 95 mph with command of all of his stuff, allowing only one hit while striking out nine. It was a dominant performance from Cole, who looks physically stronger this spring and used his two breaking balls to complement his fastball. The velocity is reached from a low-effort delivery, and the athleticism is apparent as Cole also swung the bat and played first in the tournament helping Orange Lutheran to the title.

Another pitcher who does things easily is lefty Matthew Liberatore. He battled through seven innings, leaving a tie game after striking out ten. While his command early wasn’t as sharp as most outings, he still touched 95 mph with is fastball and began landing his curve with regularity as the game progressed. It was good for scouts to get a look at how maturely Liberatore handled a rough first two innings – coming back to dominate his final five innings on the mound. It was impossible to tell if he had given up 10 runs or had a no-hitter going, one of the many traits that should make teams comfortable taking him near the top of the draft in June.

Nolan Gorman continued to show what an imposing hitter he is. With extremely loud batting practice sessions that displayed his strong hands and easy power Nolan drew quite a crowd to see everything he did at the USA Baseball complex. Though he was often pitched around in games, Nolan showed good patience and made some hard contact when he was challenged. As we’re used to seeing at this point, he was reliable at third showing good hands, a clean exchange and a strong, accurate arm across the diamond.

Another dynamic athlete who performed well at the NHSI was Joe Gray, Jr. The two-time Under Armour All American had competitive at bats throughout the event using a short, quick swing to make line drive contact on several occasions. He’s quick-twitch in everything he does, patrolling center well, running the bases aggressively and reacting well to pitches at the plate.

Brice Turang plays beyond his years with a quiet confidence and a well-rounded set of tools, with the ability to use them in games. He has excellent hands and instincts in the infield with good first-step quickness and he seems to catch everything cleanly in the correct part of the glove. He has an advanced internal clock, picks the correct hop and anticipates very well. In a similar way, his left-handed swing is natural and fluid.

Switch-hitting shortstop prospect Raynel Delgado also had an excellent week. The 2017 Under Armour All-American always plays with great energy and seems to have a knack for making a big impact on the game. He was excellent defensively all week, making both routine and spectacular plays. In addition, Raynel swung the bat with authority from both sides of the plate driving balls into gaps on a regular basis, and continuing to show what a complete all-around player he is.

Also displaying a fluid left-handed swing was 2017 Under Armour All-America outfielder Alek Thomas. Another outstanding athlete who is a two-sport star, Thomas makes hard contact to all fields with easy barrel speed and good bat-to-ball skills. He is another young prospect who plays fast on both sides of the ball with great range in CF and the ability to put pressure on the defense when at bat and on the bases.

Delgado’s Calvary Christian teammate, Christian Scott, also made a statement in North Carolina. His start against Hattiesburg, Christian sat in the low 90s throughout his outing reaching back for a 94 and a 95 when needed later in the game. He struck out 9 in his 7 inning complete game win, mixing his pitches well and showing the ability to compete on the mound.

In a loaded event, these 2018 prospects were just the tip of the iceburg. Pitchers Luke Bartnicki (2017 Under Armour All-American) and Cole Henry, hitters Brandon Howlett and Cory Acton, and true “baseball players” Zach Lew and Emilio Rosas were among the many others who made a positive impression at the NHSI.

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