The National High School Invitational (NHSI) was held this week, with the finals taking place today at 12:15 PM (see notes at the bottom for more). It’s a tournament that involves some of the best high school teams from around the country and always includes some of the top draft prospects. MLB Pipeline has been covering the tournament and as a preview, they updated their top prospect list a bit, putting together a list of the top 25 high school players in this year’s draft. Of those 25 players, seven of them took part in the NHSI.
The link above has the list of the top players in the tournament, but I wanted to focus on two players in particular. For a good reason, left-hander Jacob Heatherly from Alabama, and right-hander Hans Crouse from California, are two of the more intriguing players in the NHSI. That’s because the Pittsburgh Pirates have the 12th overall pick in the draft this year and MLB Pipeline ranks them as the seventh (Heatherly) and eighth best prospects among all high school players. When you throw college players into the mix, you’re talking about the two players in the tournament who rank closest to the first pick of the Pirates. They also ended up pitching against each other on day one of the tournament.
We start with Heatherly, who wasn’t flashing the usual velocity or control on Wednesday. He usually sits in the 89-93 MPH range, but after the first inning, he was sitting 87-90. His curve looked sharp at times and he has two versions, with one coming in slower, with more break. He usually commands his pitches well already, and could move through the minors faster than your average high school pitcher, though I’m sure if the Pirates took him, he would still be on the GCL/Bristol/WV path over the 2017-19 seasons. On Wednesday, he walked four batters and hit three others, so it wasn’t your typical day for him. Heatherly allowed just two hits in his 5.1 innings, but still took the loss in the 4-3 game. He’s an athletic player, who singled twice off of Crouse in this game.
Crouse had a strong performance against Heatherly’s team on Wednesday. He was sitting 93-95 MPH during the outing, touching 97 in the first inning (one source had him hit 98). He mixed that fastball with a high-70s slider that showed plus potential, and occasionally he used a changeup as well. It wasn’t the most efficient outing, as he went 5.1 innings on 99 pitches, with 60 going for strikes. Crouse had nine strikeouts in the game.
As for a scouting report, Crouse has a 6’5″ frame with plenty of room to fill out. He has a high-effort delivery and doesn’t have the cleanest mechanics. His fastball is one of the best in the draft class and the slider has the chance to be a plus pitch. Because he doesn’t have the best control, plus the high-effort delivery, some scouts see him as a future impact reliever.
Heatherly and Crouse are completely different pitchers. Heatherly is a lefty with control, clean mechanics and he’s smaller, with a frame that has filled out some. Crouse is tall and lanky righty, with a plus fastball and some control issues due to his high-effort delivery. It’s a case of a safer pick versus huge potential upside, or higher floor versus higher ceiling.
If you’re interested in these two players, you can watch a replay of the game here. Crouse is entertaining on the mound, very animated and will occasionally quick pitch and add some flare to his delivery. Also, his team wears throwback uniforms, as in pre-1920 style, so that’s worth checking it out by itself.
Prospect Pipeline posted this video of Crouse from Wednesday’s game:
Prep News and Notes
** In other HS news, right-hander Joe Boyle has opted out of the draft and will honor his commitment to Notre Dame. He was a very intriguing player to watch this year, with a huge 6’6″ frame and a fastball that got up to 95 MPH, plus as Baseball America noted in their article, he is young for the draft class. BA didn’t have him in their recent update of the top 100 prospects, but Boyle is the type of pitcher the Pirates look for, and he could have easily moved up the draft charts with a strong performance this spring.
**Dana Hills and Orange Lutheran will meet in the NHSI finals today, which can be viewed here if you’re interested. The game will include outfielder Garrett Mitchell on Orange Lutheran. He was ranked 20th by MLB Pipeline in the link at the top. Mitchell is a 6’1″ left-handed bat, who has at least average tools across the board. His best tool is his 60 speed, which makes him a threat on the bases and an above average defender. Mitchell is easy to root for because he’s a Type 1 diabetic since elementary school and some teams have questions about how that could affect his upside. He has the tools to be a first round pick, but a UCLA commit and health questions could keep him from going that high.
**Shortstop Brady McConnell was mentioned last week as someone who dropped in the rankings. He’s a toolsy shortstop from Florida, who started off slow with the bat this year. That drop may have been premature, as on Thursday in the NHSI, he went 5-for-8 during a doubleheader, with two doubles and a triple. Baseball America has the details of his day.