Savino among Thursday's top PDP League performers

June 28th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Perhaps the best high school left-hander in the 2020 Draft class, Nate Savino (Potomac Falls, Va.) knew he was in for a big challenge when he was invited to participate in Major League Baseball’s first Prospect Development Pipeline League.

“This is definitely the biggest thing I’ve participated in,” said the 6-foot-3 Savino. “It’s the most high-caliber, great competition. I’ve never pitched against people like this, top of the class guys.”

Committed to attend the University of Virginia should he go that route, Savino certainly hasn’t shied away from this bigger stage. After giving up a run on three hits over three innings in his first outing for Team Larkin a week ago, he was completely dominant at Tropicana Field in appearance No. 2 on Thursday.

Coming in to pitch the final three innings, Savino allowed just one hit and struck out five, including striking out the side in the ninth, to secure a 4-3 win against Team Howard. Savino threw the two hardest pitches of the game, both close to 96 mph, and topped 95 mph a total of six times in his three innings of work. He was pretty much able to do what he wanted with his heater throughout his outing.

“Definitely locating my two-seam fastball, hitting my spots, inside and outside,” Savino replied when asked what was working for him.

But he also commanded his breaking ball extremely well. In that ninth inning, two of his three K’s were of the backwards variety, freezing hitters with his slider.

“I’ve talked a lot with Coach Alan [Embree], my pitching coach for this team and he’s taught me a lot, mostly focusing on my fastball and pounding the one. He’s been teaching me a slider, actually, he and Andy Pettitte, a slider to get more velocity on it.”

The slider is a work in progress for Savino, who knows it will help him keep hitters more off balance and get even more swings and misses. He still uses his more familiar breaking ball, but he’s learning to trust the new one.

“When I started, it was more of a cutter actually, but it looks like a slider,” Savino said. “Now I just call it a slider. I’m still throwing the cutter-slider one because I’m not comfortable with the new one they taught me completely. But I’m going to get there one day.”

Even though this is a higher level of competition for Savino, it’s clear he has the confidence to succeed while facing it. This isn’t a soon-to-be high school senior who is going to shy away from any competition.

“When I get on the mound, I just think I’m better than everyone,” Savino said. “I can be facing anyone. My mindset is that I can get this guy out every time. Even if I’m facing Bryce Harper, that’s what I’m thinking. I’m the best, that’s my mindset.”

Other standouts

• Lefty Timmy Manning (Cardinal Gibbons HS, Pompano Beach, Fla.) righted the ship after a rough first outing. Starting for Team Jones, the Florida Gators recruit tossed three scoreless innings, allowing just one infield hit, walking none and striking out four. He also got three ground-ball outs as he focused on keeping the ball down in the zone, something he struggled to do in his first appearance. He put his mid-70s curveball, a pitch he says he feels he can throw at any point in the count, on display in the outing.

Having the chance to work with and learn from fellow-southpaw Andy Pettitte has been an invaluable experience, even if he hasn’t been able to get the instruction he truly wants from the former big leaguer.

“I really want him to teach me the pickoff move, because I don’t really have one,” Manning joked. “But you can’t really teach that.”

• Center fielder Enrique Bradfield (American Heritage High's, Plantation, Fla.) continued to show how his premium speed makes an impact on the field. He had a pair of hits for Team Jones and drove in two. Neither ball left the infield, but Bradfield’s ability to leg out hits was on display. He had the top three home to first times in the first game of the day, recording a 4.00 (seconds) on his first hit and 3.99 on his second (he also was 4.08 on a groundout in the ninth).

“Speed is something they can’t take away from me,” Bradfield said. “People can take away my bat, but they can’t take away my speed or my defense. If I hit the ball hard, I know I’m going to give 100 percent down the line and put pressure on the defense to make things happen.”

• Right-handers Max Rajcic (Orange Lutheran, Calif.) and Mick Abel (Jesuit High, Beaverton, Ore.) picked up where they left off in their second outings. Pitching in relief, Rajcic gave up two hits and an unearned run, but struck out six and walked none over three innings. Abel gave up an earned run in the ninth, but showed the same electric stuff he did in his first appearance in his three innings of work, earning the save for Team Jones. The pair had the top 25 highest velocities in the game, with Abel’s first offering a 95-mph fastball that broke Drew Bowser’s bat, one of two pieces of lumber he sawed off. The pair also dominated in the spin rate department, with Rajcic recording the four best curveball spin rates (with a high of 2869 rpm), while Abel’s four-seamer recorded the top three spin rates, all over 2600 rpm.

• Right-hander Jared Jones (La Mirada, Calif.) entered into the second game at the same time as Savino and worked around two walks, striking out three in two innings of work. The USC recruit now has tossed five scoreless frames with eight K’s.

• Carson Swilling (Smith Station, Ala.) has been a bit under-the-radar, but that might not last long. After getting a save a week ago with three shutout innings, he got the win on Thursday for Team Larkin with three more zeroes and six strikeouts in three innings. He ran his fastball up to 94 mph at the Trop.