Observations From The WWBA World Championship

As I’ve begun my foray into the scouting industry, there are a few events that I’ve really wanted to be at. I’ve often heard the stories of players making names for themselves at the Area Code Games and the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, and last weekend, I finally made it to the Sunshine State for Perfect Game’s final major showcase of the year. This event, like PG National and the East Coast Professional Showcase, allows scouts and college coaches to evaluate players against elite competition. In Jupiter, while being pulled away from the World Series, I saw some very intense competition between players who could very well find themselves playing in the Fall Classic a few years from now. What follows is a list of three observations from my stay in Jupiter.

1) Kodi Medeiros’s Crowd

Medeiros, a left-hander from Hawaii, caught my attention, and the attention of the nation, when he busted out low-90s heat and a filthy slider at PG National in Minneapolis. The low-slot southpaw pitched in front of perhaps the largest crowd of scouts of the entire event last weekend, and he gave scouts plenty of reasons to stick around. Medeiros touched 94 with his fastball and generated absolutely unfair life on the pitch. In his second inning of work, the Pepperdine commit busted out a potentially plus changeup, sitting in the low 80s with fading action and run to the arm side. His slider remains holy, with extremely late movement. Medeiros’s smaller frame and low slot will make people nervous about his future role, but in terms of pure stuff, he is easily one of the best arm in this year’s class.

Medeiros’s catcher, Aaron Rzucidlo, was injured during the outing, and replaced in the middle of an inning. Seth Young entered the game, tasked with catching Medeiros, which may be a more difficult task than hitting Medeiros. Young did a solid job after a handful of warmup tosses made their way to the fence.

The atmosphere around Medeiros was insane. Scouting directors and upper level executives from just about every Major League organization were surely in attendance to witness the lefty’s Jupiter outing.

2) Playoff Action: Atlanta Blue Jay vs. Florida Burn

The final game of pool play on Marlins Field 4 wrapped up pretty early, but a tie-breaker scenario in Pool A would determine who would take on the Florida Burn in the first round of the playoffs. When things did get underway, 2016 right-hander Austin Bergner took on a talented Atlanta Blue Jays.

Bergner stands 6’3″, 170 lbs. and already possesses three average pitches. He was able to get outs against some of the most talented hitters in the country. His fastball worked 89-91, topping out at 92 with sinking and running action. The sophomore’s change-up sat 77-81 and showed plus movement, fading and running. His curveball was inconsistent, but flashed plus depth and plus bite at times. There’s plenty of time for Bergner, but with proper coaching and strength training, he could develop into a top of the first round talent when he’s draft eligible…in two and a half years. Crazy.

The Blue Jays used Kevin Steen in relief. Steen, a right-hander from Tennessee, is one of my favorite prospects in the 2014 class. He’s super projectable, standing at 6’3″ and 170-180 lbs, and he has the potential for three strong pitches. Steen’s fastball worked 87-90 when I saw him on Sunday, and his curveball flashed plus-plus depth as it worked in the 73-75 range. He also used a change-up. The arm action and the body are very encouraging.

Outside of the prospects, the game featured intense back-and-forth action. Either team could have won the entire tournament, but the game needed to have a winner and a loser. Ultimately, the Burn came out on top. It was the most closely-contested game I saw all weekend.

3) Trackman Is Awesome And Amazing

So, in the big leagues, we have tons of Pitch F/X data, and there’s a whole world of data that we can use for research purposes. Trackman not only tracks the velocity of each pitch, but it also measures the spin rate, release point, and a million other things about each pitch. Furthermore, it tracks exit speed of baseballs off of bats, as well as the angles at which they exit the bat. Many teams have contracts with Trackman, but it’ll be fascinating if the public ever gets its hands on the piles of data that the organization has collected.

Interestingly, spin rate wasn’t an exact predictor of how I graded breaking balls. Major League average is apparently somewhere near 2400 RPMs. The Trackman data is valuable because it indicates ability to spin the ball, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the depth or the lateness of the bite, much less the command profile of the pitch, or slot or stride changes that tip pitches. So, we can collect a ton more objective data, which is exciting, but I’m more interested to see if this data can be used to make accurate projections about players. Sort of like a PECOTA system using physical data.

The experience in Jupiter was an amazing one. I saw lots of talented players, networked a bit, and escaped the chill of the Northeast for a few days. I can’t wait until I get to go back.

Featured Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com

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