CARY, N.C. -- Kendall George hit the ball about a combined 80 feet in his first two at-bats, but still got to show off the tool that makes him such an intriguing prospect to both USA Baseball personnel and scouts doing early work for the 2023 Draft.
Hailing from Atascocita High School in Texas, George has been wreaking havoc with his legs throughout the PDP League, and Monday was no different. He led off the bottom of the first with a bunt base hit, prompting a scout who clocked George at 3.4 seconds down the line to say the prospect gets “at least a 90, maybe 100” for his speed on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. For comparison, Guardians infielder Andrés Giménez has the fastest home-to-first speed, also on a bunt single from the left side, at 3.59 seconds.
“I wanted to show them I’m as versatile as they come. I can do everything,” George said about bunting for the first time in PDP League action. “I'm just out here trying to play my game, play to my strengths and do what I know that I do best. That's been working out pretty well for me out here.”
That’s an understatement. After an infield single to second that won’t set any exit velocity records and a flyout on Monday, George has gone 8-for-12 in four games here while also going a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts. That infield hit was perfect proof that this kind of elite speed is perhaps the best antidote to slumps.
“Yeah, I can get away with a few things with my speed,” George said with a smile.
Speed has been a part of the outfielder’s game for as long as he can remember, and he’s never hesitated to use it on the field to his -- and his team’s -- advantage.
“Probably when I was like 10,” the Arkansas recruit said about when he realized he was outrunning most of his peers. “I've always been pretty fast. I ran like a 6.5 when I was like 13. So I've always been on the faster side.”
One of the things that has stood out about George is his willingness to stay within himself on the field, with one of his coaches here commending him for not trying to get too big, while also thinking he can impact the ball enough for it to potentially work at the next level. Not that George doesn’t think about letting it rip on occasion.
“Yeah, for sure, because knowing a lot of guys out here are a lot bigger than me, a lot stronger than me,” George said. “You definitely want to get out there in BP and launch some, but you have to stay true to yourself and have your own approach. It’s something I have to remind myself about, because sometimes you just want to go out there and have fun swinging hard, try to go for that big swing.”
George gives credit for his game's development to his being able to pick the brains of former big leaguers at various events. He probably received the most wisdom from attending Major League Baseball’s Breakthrough Series and Hank Aaron Invitational, getting mentored by a man with more than 400 big league stolen bases on his resume.
“They were very great events,” George said. "I learned a lot of great things, like a lot of tips about baserunning from Rajai Davis. I really carried it on to my own game, and it’s really helped me a lot.”
Clark finding his groove
After his first batting practice to kick off this event on Wednesday, Max Clark, considered by many to be the best overall prospect at the PDP League, shook his head and said, “That was a terrible BP.”
While that might have been a harsh assessment for the toolsy outfielder who holds himself to a very high standard, there’s no question the left-handed-hitting outfielder was having a little trouble getting locked in, entering Monday’s game 2-for-9. Not only did he go 1-for-2 in Monday’s game, driving in two with his third-inning single, but he hit both balls on the nose. His first-inning lineout was 102 mph off his bat and the single up-the-middle registered a 97-mph exit velocity.
Clark said a small adjustment with his setup at the plate is the reason for finding the barrel again. He lowered his hands a little because he had been too steep to the ball, which was causing him to roll over into too many groundouts. The new positioning let him stay in the zone longer.
Clemmey misses more bats
Last Thursday, Rhode Island prep lefty Alexander Clemmey put himself on the map by dialing it up close to 97 mph and throwing both his fastball and slider with high spin rates, though he struggled with his command. He ended up walking three and giving up three runs in 1 2/3 innings, though the swing-and-miss stuff was apparent, finishing with five strikeouts. His second outing on Monday was much cleaner, with a fastball in the 94-95 mph range and finding the zone more consistently with both his heater and slider. He walked just one and didn’t allow a hit, giving up an unearned run while striking out four, meaning he struck out nine in 3 2/3 IP.