Week Two Report: 2019 Cape Cod Baseball League
Wet weather was the story this week on the Cape, as only 12 games were played from Monday-Saturday before a gorgeous Sunday afternoon allowed five doubleheaders to take place without incident. With the college season complete for everyone but Vanderbilt and Michigan, more noteworthy players recently joined the Cape League, including LSU’s Daniel Cabrera (Harwich), Miami’s Alex Toral (Chatham), UCLA’s Matt McLain (Wareham) and Noah Cardenas (Y-D), Mississippi’s Anthony Servideo (Hyannis) and Duke’s Michael Rothenberg (Harwich), among others. Outbound and heading to Cary, N.C. for Team USA camp are Spencer Torkelson (Arizona State), Cole Wilcox (Georgia), Trenton Denholm (UC Irvine), Bobby Seymour (Wake Forest), Nick Frasso (Loyola Marymount), Andrew Abbott (Virginia) and Holden Powell (UCLA), and perhaps a few others.
As a 2015 Perfect Game All-American, 6-0, 225-pound lefty-swinging T.J. Collett possessed so much raw power he was compared to Kyle Schwarber, now of the Chicago Cubs. After sitting out the first 20 Kentucky games as a freshman while rehabbing a knee injury, Collett showcased that power in just his second collegiate at-bat, blasting an opposite field grand slam. A second knee surgery in 2018 shelved Collett after just 34 games, but not before he launched 10 home runs in 125 at-bats. This past spring, Collett was able to play 40 games with some success, hitting .259 hitting with 10 homers and 50 strikeouts in 170 at-bats. Now a rising senior and relatively healthy, he’s looking to enjoy the summer experience while polishing his game on the Cape. “What I’ve been trying to do is simply play baseball again, not to be so robotic, to have fun again,” Collett said. “Last spring at KU I got pretty hard on myself, particularly during the middle of the season. I learned that I’m at my best when I’m staying level, no matter what happens.” Collett is also trying to consistently play within himself at the plate, fully leveraging his massive all-fields power while reducing some swing-and-miss tendencies. “I’m trying to be as quiet as I can, just trying to tap the ball,” Collett added. “Whenever I get way too big, I swing through pitches. I almost had to commit to one pitch. Now all I’m thinking is react and make contact.” That approach is working for Collett through his first 39 at-bats, hitting .308 with three homers and nine runs batted in. A natural leader and magnetic personality, Collett is excited to reach some important personal goals this summer. “I have three things on my bucket list,” Collett said. “One is getting drafted and trying to get to the big leagues. Second is playing on the Cape, and third, competing in the college home run derby.” He’ll get his chance on June 29 when he’ll compete in the College Home Run Derby at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park. The event will be televised on ESPN2, starting at 8 p.m. ET. ___________ The 2019 Coastal Carolina season was marked by peaks and valleys, ultimately ending in the Atlanta Regional. Chanticleer right-hander Zach McCambley had his moments in 67 1/3 innings, striking out 76, but battled consistency and command issues with 27 walks, 16 wild pitches and hitting 13 batters. “Zach is a fantastic, quick-twitch athlete who needs to further develop his secondary offerings,” says Coastal’s head coach Gary Gilmore. “While his command is good, it’s not elite, and we’d like him to develop the changeup, especially against left-handers, and learn how to steal strikes with his hard, quick, big-bending curveball. That will be a huge focus for us in the fall.” That athleticism is clearly evident in the 6-1, 205-pounder, whose slow, abbreviated windup turns explosive to the plate, featuring a high-spin, 89-92 mph fastball that gets on hitters quickly. And while McCambley struggled early to master his 77-80 curveball, it came on late, striking out Oklahoma’s Tyler Hardman with three consecutive hammers. A four-pitch walk immediately ensued, underscoring McCambley’s challenge with consistency. Over four innings, McCambley didn’t allow a run, striking out four with two walks. ___________ Last week we couldn’t help but notice the high-upside athleticism of Xavier’s Allbry Major. This week we feature Cincinnati outfielder Joey Wiemer, who showed promise this spring for the Bearcats, hitting .263 with 13 doubles, six homers and swiping 21 bags in 24 attempts. At 6-4, 215 pounds and with flowing blonde hair, Wiemer is easy to spot. Watch him for a bit and you see a tantalizing tool-set, featuring a lively bat, strong outfield arm and eye-popping speed. In batting practice, Wiemer stands tall, loosely waving his hands above his head. After a pronounced leg-kick, he turns to the ball and violently attacks the zone with quick hands. These actions resulted in consistently ripping drives deep into alleys, especially to the pull side. That hit tool translated well in game action, as Wiemer smoked a 415-foot homer over the left-center field fence, propelled by 103 mph exit velocity. Later he showcased his wheels, burning up the line on an infield grounder, after which one scout blurted “4.19.” He’s currently slashing .321/.441/.464 with a homer and five stolen bases. ___________ A year-ago the legendary Jim Morris era ended sadly in Coral Gables, Fla. Hungry to get back on the winning track, new head coach Gino DiMare and his coaching staff put the Canes through a rigorous fall camp, challenging players both mentally and physically, ultimately reshaping the club into a complete, fundamentally sound team. The results were impressive, as Miami went 41-20, saw its slugging percentage climb from .358 to .472, reduced the team strikeout rate and advanced to a Regional for the first time since 2016. One huge cog is 6-1, 220 first basemen Alex Toral. Once one of top high school prospects in the nation as a member of the 2016 Perfect Game All-American Classic, Toral scuffled mightily in his freshman campaign, hitting just .161 with a 34.5 percent K-rate. “Alex had never failed before,” said Canes’ hitting coach Norberto Lopez. “It was a tough year for him.” Ultimately Toral got over the shock and began working with Lopez in earnest to make adjustments. It started with totally revamping his stance, which was “choking his athleticism. We stood him up taller, lowered his hands & angled his head to improve eyesight. The result was dramatically improved rhythm, flow and timing in the box,” said the man they call “Lopes.” The massively powerful, lefty-swinging Toral also changed his approach. “His power is hard to match, but sometimes Al became too greedy, trying to maximize his power when he doesn’t need to,” Lopez continued. “When he swings easily to the ball, it really jumps.” Those changes resulted in a dramatic spike in production, as Toral crushed 24 homers, hit .293 while his K-rate dropped from 34.5 percent to 26.3 percent over 256 plate appearances. “Over70 percent of Al’s homers were with two strikes. He’d tell me with a smile, ‘Lopes, I was just trying to make contact.’” Watching Toral take batting practice is a show in itself. Starting slowly, like a senior PGA tour pro loosening up with a few easy wedges, Toral gradually turns up the heat each round until balls are sailing, deeply, all over the yard. Continuing his transition from a swinger to a hitter, using the whole field and just letting the game come to him will be a focus for Toral this summer. ___________ Few things are more exciting that watching elite speed take over a game. Braiden Ward of Washington has that ability. “Braiden Ward is about as good a runner as I’ve ever had, and he can take your breath away when you see him go first-to-third,” says Huskies head coach Lindsay Meggs. This spring Ward broke out, hitting .321 with five triples, pilfering 26 bags in 31 attempts and leading the Huskies with 41 runs scored. A legit 6.5 runner, Ward displayed that speed over a doubleheader against Orleans. With two outs and a runner on first, Ward rolled into a sure double play. But he blazed up the line, beat the throw and then stole second and third base on consecutive pitches. Instead of the inning being over, Ward stood just 90 feet from a run. Later in game two, Ward laced a sharp opposite field base hit, then stole second and advanced to third after forcing a wild throw. Again, in the blink of an eye, he stood on third base. The speed also plays defensively in center field as Ward easily cruises into gaps to take away hits. One development area is further improving his BB:K ratio and increasing his on-base average. Doing so would allow Ward to create even more havoc on the bases. Ward is currently hitting .348, with six RBI and a league-leading seven stolen bases in eight attempts. ___________ It doesn’t take long to appreciate the talents of 6-foot-2, 205-pound Austin Wells, a highly recruited catcher out of Las Vegas and yet another participant of the PG All-American Classic while in high school. Wells burst on the scene with a monster year for Arizona, slashing .353/.462/.552, including seven triples and more walks than strikeouts, earning Pac-12 Freshman-of-the-Year honors. What’s clearly evident is how slow the game appears to be for Wells. Almost always within himself, his plate appearances feature patience and sound strike-zone discipline, comfort hitting deep into counts and a penchant for punishing mistakes. Coupled with sneaky athleticism, a snappy arm and improving blocking skills, there’s no doubt he’s a favorite of scouts looking ahead to the 2020 MLB draft as a draft-eligible sophomore. Wells is currently slashing .300/.450/.667 with nine runs scored and three home runs. ___________ Last summer UC Irvine’s 5-foot-11, 190-pound Trenton Denholm burst on the scene, dominating Cape hitters over 25 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. This spring Denholm thrived as a starter under new Anteater head coach Ben Orloff, going 9-4, leading the nation in WHIP (0.81), posting a 1.81 ERA, and amazingly, allowing just one homer over 99 2/3 innings of work. That performance earned Denholm an invitation to the Team USA camp starting June 27. We saw Denholm in a three-inning tuneup and he didn’t disappoint, featuring a lively, tailing 88-91 mph fastball to both sides, some with sink. Denholm then mixed in a devastating 78-79 changeup, inducing either flailing swings-and-misses, or at best, weak contact. “He has that quick windup, quick arm and then a slow ball,” said coach Orloff. “When his change is on, it’s really, really good.” Lastly, Denholm broke out a real hammer, an 11-to-5 piece that locked up hitters with its late, biting action. That arsenal plays up as Denholm hides the ball really well, keeping hitters off-balance and guessing the entire at-bat. If that’s not enough, Denholm is currently working on a slider, adding a potential fourth pitch to an already nasty arsenal. “He still so young (Denholm won’t turn 19 until late November), athletic, explosive and someone who works really hard in the weight room,” added Orloff. That talent and work ethic, coupled with further advancing his command, would make Denholm a very intriguing 20-year old draft prospect in 2020. ___________ The legendary Southern California baseball program has fallen on hard times, earning just one Regional bid since 2005. New head coach Jason Gill should be excited to welcome back one big building block in first-baseman/outfielder Jamal O’Guinn II, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound specimen who has shown signs of emerging but remains a work in progress. In batting practice O’Guinn II has been working on allowing the ball to get deep before using an easy swing to drive balls the other way with good backspin. There’s no question significant all-fields power and good bat-to-bat skills exist, and they surfaced Sunday night as O’Guinn II blasted an opposite field grand slam home run in a win over Bourne. Coupled with a fairly selective approach, O’Guinn II is currently second on the Cape in on-base percentage (.455) and RBI (10), fourth in slugging percentage (.583) and fifth in batting average (.338). He’s one to watch this summer and next spring when he could be a force in the Pac-12.