Here are the top performers during Week Five of the Summer Season.
Under second-year pitching coach Fred Corral, the Missouri staff posted a 3.24 ERA, the fifth-lowest mark in the country. That group was led by All-American left-hander TJ Sikkema, the 38th overall pick in the 2019 draft. He departs along with two other drafted arms, leaving a void in the Tigers 2020 weekend rotation.
One slot appears to be in the grasp of right-hander Ian Bedell, a 6-3, 200-pound Perfect Game All-American while in high school who is currently dominating the Cape Cod League through his first 25 2/3 innings of work.
While Bedell was a key bullpen piece for Corral, earning three saves with a 1.75 ERA over 25 2/3 innings in SEC play, he has all the makings of an elite starter, a role he’s relishing for Wareham.
We saw Bedell this week against a deep and talented Chatham lineup, and he cruised through six innings facing the minimum while whiffing eight. He set the tone early, intentionally or not, by buzzing a high-and-tight fastball to Vanderbilt’s Cooper Davis. He subsequently struck out the side and never looked back, featuring a three-pitch mix that baffled Chatham all night.
Bedell’s arm is loose and quick, helping produce an explosive fastball that he spotted all over the zone, sitting between 91-94 and bumping 95 once.
“At the 2017 PG All-American Classic in San Diego, he was 93-94 but he was all over the place,” said Corral. “Now he’s throwing strikes at 93-94.”
While the fastball is a real weapon, his secondaries really shined on this night. The 82-83 breaking ball has tight, late 12-to-6 action, inducing Chatham into countless swings and misses.
“To call it a slurve takes away the aggressiveness of the pitch,” says Corral. “It’s a power breaking ball.”
Most importantly for Bedell as a starter next spring is mastery of his changeup, a potential plus 82-83 piece with tail and sink.
“We didn’t utilize his changeup last spring like we should have,” added Corral. “It’s a beautiful pitch and will help raise his strikeout rate next spring.”
Taken together, and the fact that Bedell is only 19-years old after graduating early from Davenport Central High School in Iowa, he appears to have a very high ceiling. All that’s left are the little things.
“I sent him to Jerry Weinstein and told both I need you to come back with the little pieces that TJ (Sikkema) had, mainly to be more confident in your stuff,” said Corral. “I told Ian I want you to stay with Jerry for as long as possible. You need to leave the Cape with people knowing you’re one of the better arms in the country”.
Bedell threw 40 1/3 innings last spring and has added 25 1/3 more on the Cape to date, indicating he still has much left in the tank. A few more quality outings, including one as the starter for the Western Division All-Stars, would leave little doubt Bedell is among the top arms to watch next spring.
Many college coaches stress the importance of playing multiple sports in high school to avoid burnout, develop well-rounded athleticism and maximize opportunities to compete. The poster child for those coaches should be Western Michigan’s Blake Dunn, who earned 16 varsity letters at Saugatuck High School in Michigan, starring in football, baseball, basketball and track & field.
As a quarterback, Dunn rushed for almost 7,000 yards and scored 101 touchdowns, prompting interest from Big Ten schools as a punt and kick returner. Western Michigan head coach Billy Gernon recalls attending one of Dunn’s football games during the recruiting process.
“I show up and Blake is the QB, the free safety, kickoff guy, punter and returning all kicks,” Gernon said. “He’s playing for a small school, so I can’t really tell ‘is this just man among boys, or a man?’ At halftime it’s 56-0 and he’s responsible for 49 of those points. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Dunn missed most of his senior year of baseball after blowing out his knee high jumping and didn’t play in the fall of his freshman year at WMU.
“Ten games into his freshman season I put him in and he hasn’t come out since,” reflected Gernon.
After hitting .308 that year, Dunn blew up this past spring, earning 1st Team All- MAC after hitting .374 and swiping 30-36 bases.
Speed is 6-foot, 205-pound Dunn’s calling card, and when coupled with great instincts, he can run on just about anyone. We clocked him at 6.36 at the Fenway workout, one of the fastest times recorded that day. He’s already swiped 11 bags this summer and played outstanding defense in center field.
And while the hit tool is still a work in progress against some of the best college arms in the country, Dunn is reaching base at a .365 clip, allowing him to unleash some of that tremendous speed. No doubt the tools are there.
“He can flat out fly, he has some strength, he’s a hard-nosed kid, he can grind” said Falmouth manager Jeff Trundy. Coupled with a burning desire to success and an unparalleled work ethic, “the sky is the limit for him.”
In an era of cookie-cutter pitchers, it’s refreshing to watch someone like Wake Forest’s 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander Antonio Menendez, who attacks hitters from three different arm slots.
“He’ll go fastball, curveball over the top, fastball, slider from the side and then actually go to a submarine two-seamer that runs back arm side,” described Harwich pitching coach Steve Gruenberg. “His bread-and-butter is that heavy, lateral slider that has some depth to it. He’ll throw that 60-65 percent of the time.”
Described by Demon Deacon head coach Tom Walter as a “Swiss-army knife,” Menendez was successful filling multiple roles out of the bullpen last spring. He threw 55 1/3 innings over 34 appearances, posting a 3.09 ERA while striking out 73.
Because he throws strikes and due to necessity, Harwich moved Menendez into a starting role a few weeks ago and he’s clearly flourishing. Always tough on right-handed hitters with his sidearm slot and pronounced cross-fire delivery, the key for Menendez as a starter is dealing with lefthanded hitters.
“To beat lefties he’s now throwing a four-seam fastball in on the hands, really sticking it to the glove side,” Gruenberg added. “Once he establishes that location, he can either back-foot lefties with the slider, or go back-door.”
We saw Menendez silence Brewster last week over six innings, allowing just two hits while whiffing eight. A physical, fast-worker, most impressive was how he attacked Brewster’s left-handed masher TJ Collett. Earlier in the summer Collett has single-handedly beat Harwich with two homers. Determined not to let Collett beat his team again, Menendez struck him out three times by pounding the inner-half with an 85-89 four-seamer and bending 80-84 sliders to both sides of the plate.
“His confidence is really high right now. He realizes if he can be an effective starter on the Cape, he can go back to Wake and be a weekend guy in the ACC,” concluded Gruenberg. “He’s an incredibly smart pitcher out there, a self-corrector and a bulldog.”
When Perfect Game announced their 2019 Freshman All-American Team last month only one program placed three players on the 1st Team. That was Boston College, with outfielder Sal Frelick, right-hander Mason Pelio and second baseman Cody Morissette earning the honors.
With Frelick taking the summer off to rehab a knee and Pelio shut down after participating in Team USA training camp, Morissette is representing BC’s talented freshman class on the Cape after hitting .320 with 20 doubles for the Eagles. However, like many freshman hitters on the Cape, he started slowly.
“The first two weeks were a punch in the face,” said Morissette. “Everyone says this league will humble you. It has humbled me big-time. I was down, I had a lot of conversations with my coach. I’ve learned you have to grind through it, because it’s not the first time you’re going to face adversity. Once I got past it I just started playing baseball like a kid again.”
Well, the kid has raised his average to .286 with an on-base percentage of .382, earning himself a spot on the Western Division All-Star team.
“I grew up in Exeter, New Hampshire dreaming about playing in this league, and now to be an All-Star is just incredible,” Morissette added. “I went to the Cape All-Star Game when it was at Fenway a few years ago. What more can I ask for?”
Listed at 6-foot, 175-pounds, the lefty-swinging Morissette has a well-rounded skill-set, led by good bat-to-ball skills and power to the alleys. He stays within himself but can turn on mistakes and launch the ball with lift and backspin. His defense has been excellent on the imperfect Cape surfaces and his arm is plenty strong.
“The biggest thing for me now is working on my speed and strength,” said Morissette. “I want to put on a few pounds. I’d like to get a little faster, steal more bases next year. I want to work on the little things in the game, keep progressing and contribute to the team a little more.”
There’s no question Morissette’s ceiling is high, much like the 2020 Eagles team. In total, nine Eagle freshmen gained meaningful experience last spring. Coupled with several key returning pieces, including fellow Cape All-Star Chris Galland, and another talented incoming class, Boston College will be a team to watch next spring.
Now that most scoreboards in the Cape League display pitch speed, the temptation to “light it up” is ever present, especially when looking in at 30 scouts pointing their radar guns at you.
“A lot of these young guys want to see how hard they can throw and forget about our main objective, which is pitch, to hit spots and change speeds,” said Chatham pitching coach and former 15-year big league pitcher Dennis Cook. “Kolby has bought into it and done a great job this summer.”
That’s Kolby as in Kolby Kubichek, a rising sophomore right-hander from Texas who’s been sensational over 25 innings this summer, including five starts. Over his last three outings totaling 15 innings, Kubichek has faced 51 batters, just six over the minimum, while whiffing 22 and walking just three. His ERA sits at 1.08. That performance has earned Kubichek a spot on the Eastern Division All-Star team.
Kubichek commands a true four-pitch mix, but his calling card this summer has been a tailing 89-91 bowling-ball sinker with cutting action and a deft, tumbling 80-82 changeup. That combination has flummoxed Cape hitters, leading to weakly hit ground balls and countless swings and misses. He can also spot a 75-76 curveball, inducing chases, while his slider “has been electric” of late, according to Cook.
Listed at 6-foot, 165-pounds, Kubichek is a bundle of fast-twitch fiber, featuring a lightning quick arm action after hiding the ball well in his windup. He fields his position like an infielder, works quickly and is constantly in attack mode.
“He’s pitching with a ton of confidence right now and has really bettered himself up here,” Cook said.
The athletic Kubichek has worked only 43 total innings in 2019 and figures to be a workhorse for Chatham for the remainder of the summer.
After a solid freshman season when he hit .260 with 17 extra-base hits, Texas A&M outfielder Zach DeLoach slumped with the rest of his teammates last spring, hitting just .200. His confidence shaken, DeLoach came to the Cape hoping to get back on track.
“He’s worked endlessly in the batting cage with our hitting coach Brett Barker and is really embracing the opportunity to develop here on the Cape,” said Falmouth manager Jeff Trundy. “His swing has become something he trusts. He doesn’t have seven different things he’s thinking about up there. With a clear mind, he can simply react and attack the baseball.”
What strikes you first about the lefty-swinging DeLoach is the 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame and his easy manner in the box. With a wide stance, DeLoach keeps things simple, his hands quiet, barely waving the bat. He oozes confidence and athleticism at the dish.
That approach has translated to an eye-popping .395/.466/.618 slash line, leading the league in each category and earning DeLoach All-Star honors.
We saw him punish Chatham earlier this month, crushing a Ty Madden fastball for a no-doubt bomb before walking-off Jack Owen with an RBI-single. Last week DeLoach devastated Chatham and those two pitchers again, going 4-for-5 with homer and double while adding a sensational diving catch in the alley to prevent an extra-base hit.
“I think he’s going to go a long, long ways,” says Trundy. “The ability is there, he has all the tools. For him, it’s about confidence and continuing to believe in himself.”
Central Michigan had a huge 2019, winning 47 games, the MAC regular season title and advancing to a Regional for the first time since 1995. It was quite a debut for first-year head coach Jordan Bischel, hired from Northwood University where he developed some of the best offenses in Division II baseball.
The Bischel-Way translated immediately in Mount Pleasant, Mich., as the Chippewahs scored 511 runs, posted a.423 on-base percentage and stole 88 bags in 102 attempts. Leading the charge was switch-hitting shortstop Zavier Warren, who hit .363 with 22 doubles while walking an astounding 59 times. Oh yeah, he also swiped 14 bags without being caught.
While some may suggest those numbers were aided in facing the 261st-ranked strength of schedule, it’s worth noting Warren went 6-for-8 with four walks in the Starkville Regional, as the Chips beat No. 2 seed Miami before losing the last two to end their season.
Presently Warren’s greatest asset is a “really high level of consistency,” says Bischel. “When things get ugly on him, it doesn’t really show, he doesn’t’ lose confidence. He’s a pretty quiet kid, without much flash to his game. He stays really even-keeled.”
That makeup is serving Warren well as he’s proving he can hit elite pitching with a wood bat, to the tune of a .275 average with five doubles and two homers. More power is clearly evident in batting practice, particularly from the right side.
“He hit eight homers for us last year after not hitting one as a freshman,” added Bischel. “Once he learns how to consistently drive the outside pitch the other way, that home run total will increase.”
And while Warren is adapting well at third base, Bischel actually believes he may profile best as a catcher.
“He caught quite a bit for us last fall and looked really comfortable. A switch-hitting catcher who can also play around the infield would be a valuable addition to any big-league roster.”