CARY, NC -- He doesn't light up radar guns. He doesn't fit the term projectable. But one thing is certain after his outstanding Tournament of Stars start on Wednesday: Avery Short really knows how to pitch.
:: 2018 USA Baseball Tournament of Stars ::
Hailing from Southport High School in Indianapolis, Short was nearly as efficient as a pitcher can be, needing just 56 pitches to zoom through five shutout innings of work. He didn't allow his first baserunner, the only hit he'd give up, until that final inning.
"I kind of left a changeup over the middle, it was a mistake on my part, so it hurt," Short said with a smile. "I was hoping I could go perfect through five, but I feel like I did well enough."
That's an understatement. The lefty, committed to Indiana University, mixed his pitches extremely well throughout his start. He consistently pitched ahead and filled up the zone with both his two- and four-seam fastballs, his slider and his changeup, keeping hitters off-balance. He walked none and struck out eight, doing a masterful job of burying his two-seamer, changing hitters' eye levels with his four-seamer and then getting them out in front on his offspeed stuff.
"I threw my two-seam a lot more than I usually do and I got a lot of weak ground balls on that, so that was working," said Short, who touched 92 mph with his four-seam fastball. "And my slider was working really well. I got most of my strikeouts on that.
"I felt like my velo was up all game, which I felt good about. And my offspeed, some of those guys couldn't touch it, I feel like."
While no one at Tournament of Stars is completely unknown, he did not enter this summer as a high-profile 2019 Draft prospect. He circled this event as a chance for him to really put himself on the map. Consider his mission accomplished.
"This is pretty much a step up for me," Short said. "This is obviously the most talented kids in the nation and it's the best thing I've been to so far. This is something I told my parents, if I had to choose between anything, this is the one thing I'd choose to go to. So I'm glad I got here and performed well.
"I couldn't imagine it to go any better. I was kind of expecting myself to do this well just because I'm confident in myself, but it's kind of a dream come true."
Despite his outing, Short's TOS Free team lost to Pride, 5-1. That's largely because of some strong pitching that matched Short. Right-hander Jacob Meader (Centennial HS, Texas) managed to work around four errors and put up five no-hit innings of his own. The TCU commit's stuff was fringy, up to 90 mph with his fastball, but he was effective. Matthew Thompson (Cypress Ranch, Texas), committed to Texas A&M, did give up four hits and an unearned run, but also struck out four.
They were helped offensively by some toolsy hitters who had good days on both sides of the ball. Shortstop CJ Abrams (Blessed Trinity Catholic HS, Ga.) showed smooth defensive actions in the field and also went 2-for-5 with an opposite-field single and a double, and even hit the ball hard when making outs. He also stole a base.
Jerrion Ealy, a serious two-sport star at Jackson Prep (Miss.), showed off multiple tools. He threw a runner out at the plate from right field early in the game, and then homered late (albeit against a position player, Nasim Nunez), the first long ball of the tournament. Fellow outfielder Glenallen Hill Jr. (Santa Cruz HS, Calif.) showed off serious wheels, stealing a pair of bases and scoring twice.
While Free right-hander Quinn Priester (Cary Grove HS, Ill.) got tagged for three runs on four hits in three innings, he impressed scouts with a fastball up to 93 mph and a very projectable frame.
Brave 4, United 3
In the midst of non-stop evaluations, both by USA Baseball staff and scouts, there's also a team competition at the 2018 Tournament of Stars. And while it's not at the top of priority lists for all in attendance, it's pretty clear the players on the four teams -- Brave, United, Free and Pride -- want to play in Saturday's gold medal game.
The Brave lost its opener Tuesday while United won, but the Brave's 4-3 victory in the opening game of Day 2 made both teams 1-1. The Brave scored two runs in the first inning off United left-hander Hayden Mullins (Hendersonville High School, Tenn.), and two more off right-hander Ryan Hawks (Warren East HS, Ky.). The squad ultimately held on to win, as United scored once in the eighth off right-hander Mack Anglin (Highland HS, Ohio) and two against Logan Tanner (George County HS, Miss.) in the ninth.
The Brave got a pair of solid pitching performances, beginning with starter Blake Adams (Springdale HS, Ark.). An undersized right-hander committed to Arkansas, Adams was very effective with largely average stuff, putting up zeroes for four innings while allowing just one hit and a walk. He struck out six, pounding the zone with his fastball despite less-than-ideal arm action.
Anglin, committed to Clemson, was the pitcher scouts liked the most, standing out with his projection and outstanding spin rates. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound hurler gave up just three hits and walked none while striking out three over four innings of work. He reached 93 mph with his fastball and his very effective breaking ball registered spin rates higher than 2,800 RPM. He commanded the strike zone well and got a lot of weak contact, and it's easy to project more in the tank velocity-wise as he matures.
Offensively, outfielder Riley Greene (Hagerty HS, Fla.) continued to impress with his approach at the plate despite going 0-for-3 on the day. He worked deep counts, drew a walk and drove one ball to the warning track in right-center field. One scout likened him to Twins 2016 first-round pick Alex Kirilloff (Minnesota's No. 5 prospect and MLB's No. 98 overall, per MLB Pipeline) in terms of his pure hitting ability from the left side.
Catcher Matt McCormick, hitting behind Greene, also stood out from the left side of the plate. After doubling and walking in his first game Tuesday, the backstop from St. Laurence (Ill.) HS showed an outstanding approach Wednesday, hitting a pair of singles to the opposite field and drawing a walk. McCormick also drove a ball to the warning track in right-center.
USA Baseball uses Trackman to collect data on all performances. The leaders through the first two days of TOS action:
Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage HS (Tex.), 105 mph
Jerrion Ealy, OF, Jackson Prep (Miss.), 376 feet
Jared Jones, RHP, La Mirada HS (Calif.), 95.38 mph
Fastball spin rate
Jones, 2689 rpm
Breaking ball spin rate
Avery Short, LHP, Southport HS (Ind.), 2846 rpm
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.