CHICAGO -- You may not have to look far to see where some of the best high school baseball talent lies in the 2018 class. Just look at the Team Elite Prime travel ball squad based out of Georgia, which possesses three of Jim Callis' top five high school prospects
CHICAGO -- You may not have to look far to see where some of the best high school baseball talent lies in the 2018 class. Just look at the Team Elite Prime travel ball squad based out of Georgia, which possesses three of Jim Callis' top five high school prospects -- all Vanderbilt commits.
Right-handers Kumar Rocker, Ethan Hankins and catcher Will Banfield were among the boon of talent representing the state of Georgia at Saturday's Under Armour High School All-America Game at Wrigley Field. Including left-hander Luke Bartnicki, Georgia has four of the top five high school prospects playing in Saturday's game, according to Callis.
Rocker, Callis' No. 2 overall high school prospect out of North Oconee High School in Bogart, Ga., started on the mound for the National League side Saturday, and he flashed a fastball that touched 98 mph that combines with a hard-breaking slider. Scouts and experts alike project him to be a front-end type of starter. Rocker tossed a scoreless inning Saturday, working around an error and racking up a strikeout.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Vanderbilt commit leads the crop of Georgia studs who rolled into Wrigley Field, including his summer travel ball teammates in Hankins and Banfield.
"I guess they're feeding us something down there," Rocker said. "Yeah, it's special. It's definitely different knowing that maybe when you get to that level and everyone around you is from Georgia and you grew up with them, played with them. It's going to be cool."
• Pitching dominates in 11-inning Under Armour All-America Game
Hankins, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound right-hander out of Forsyth Central High School in Cumming, Ga., started on the other side of Rocker for the American League side. Hankins touched 96 mph with a cut fastball and also mixed in his changeup a pair of times. Hankins, who joins Rocker as a Vanderbilt commit, threw a scoreless inning and worked around a hit and a walk by inducing a nice double-play ball.
Hankins, who took advice from former Under Armour All-America Game participants such as Angels 2017 first-round pick Jordan Adell before coming to Chicago, appeared unfazed by the attention of having big league scouts at the ballpark.
"I've pitched in front of a lot of big crowds and crowds with scouts, specifically," Hankins said. "It's something that I don't pay attention to. I've kind of grown immune to all the eyes on me. I try to do my thing, and I don't feel any pressure at all, really."
Banfield, Callis' No. 5 high school prospect for the 2018 class and another Vanderbilt commit, started behind the plate and caught Hankins in the first inning. Banfield, who participated in the B45 Home Run Derby pregame and slugged five homers in his lone round of action, projects well at the next level defensively and will likely stay at the catcher position.
Banfield has displayed impressive pop times behind the plate and combines it with a strong arm -- his fastball has touched the mid-90s off the mound as a closer -- to be one of the most well-rounded catching prospects in his class. The Brookwood High School senior and Snellvile, Ga., native said he's learned a lot from being able to catch pitchers such as Rocker and Hankins on a regular basis.
"It's so easy to catch them," Banfield said. "They put the ball wherever they want it and wherever I want them to put it. It's really easy. They're really easy to be coached, because I can help them with their pitching or their command or something like that. They're just really good pitchers and they attack every hitter that they face."
Banfield matched up against Rocker in the first, with the right-hander getting the best of him for a punchout. Banfield finished 0-for-2 with a groundout before being pulled in the sixth.
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @FabianArdaya.