Mission Viejo, Calif. —— Below are a few quick hits on notable junior college baseball prospects that stood out during the 14-inning Wednesday evening marathon between Palomar College and Saddleback College.
A full scouting report and high-definition video of each prospect will soon be made available exclusively to our subscribers behind the paywall. If you have yet to subscribe for our exclusive junior college baseball scouting work and want access, please click here. For now, a couple notes on just a handful of standouts in what turned out to be quite a high-profile showing of Division I-quality talent down in southern Orange County on Wednesday.
Braden Olthoff, RHP
A 6’4” freshman right-handed pitcher, Braden Olthoff worked the second and third innings on Wednesday for Palomar College, sitting 91-94 with his four-seam fastball and pairing it with a 90-92 two-seamer, an 82-83 changeup, and a 75-79 slider. He showed a tendency to get around the slider a little bit in this outing, but it’s tight with depth, and he’s generally got the makings of a good secondary offering on his hands there. More importantly, his power fastball is exceptional already with good downward plane and depth, and decent feel for command to both sides of the plate.
Cameron Rowles, INF
A freshman kickback from New Mexico State, it isn’t hard to find Cameron Rowles on the field. He’s a vocal, high-energy team leader who seemed to stick his nose into every play even remotely close to him at second base on Wednesday for Palomar College. And while he’s a grinder-type who’s constantly hustling with a high motor, he’s also got tools: I had him at 4.11 today out of the left-handed box, as well as two first base turns at 4.51 and 4.54. His defensive range is very good, his hands are soft and smooth, his barrel and contact skills at the plate are advanced, and he can really battle down in the count and adjust to put the ball in play, making him a strong option as a leadoff hitter. High-priority follow come springtime.
Zac Bridger, RHP
On a day where multiple pitchers from both sides held their own, Palomar College righty Zac Bridger worked a solid 13th inning of relief long after most scouts had packed it up for the day. It’s a shame they missed him; Bridger worked up to 90 with a hard-running, deceptive fastball, mostly sitting 86-88 with a quirky delivery. He paired it with a low-70s breaking ball that he went to early and often; he had some trouble finding his feel for the breaker in the strike zone, but the spin and life are there and I have a feeling I didn’t see him at his best. Quirky mechanics seal the deal here: Palomar College may have a sneaky-good Division I power relief option on their hands in Zac Bridger.
Zak Herbers, RHP
With Tanner Brubaker, Bradley Spooner, and Daniel Harris having moved on, Saddleback College will likely count on a big chunk of innings from Nevada kickback Zak Herbers this season. The righty had originally been tabbed closer early last spring, but things didn’t work out as well as they’d hoped in the bullpen for him (plus, the impressive rise of also-now-gone reliever Connor Sealey sealed Herbers’ 2018 fate). Herbers is back and looks good now, though, sitting 88-91 on Wednesday afternoon with an 80-82 slider that showed depth and tilt. He worked from the stretch across his entire two-inning outing to start the game for the Gauchos, but showed good athleticism and repeated his delivery well.
Jacob Frankel, LHP
Left-handed reliever Jacob Frankel had one of the better outings of the day for Saddleback College, working a quick and clean eighth inning while sitting 86-89 with an 80-81 changeup and a 74-76 breaking ball. He pounds the zone with all three pitches, works quickly on the mound, and showed very hard, late arm-side run with the fastball that allowed it to stay off barrels and play up even in the upper 80s.
Willie Lajoie, INF/OF
Back for his sophomore year at Saddleback College, Willie Lajoie hit the ball all over the yard with authority on Wednesday. There’s something of a question about where he might ultimately fit defensively (he played first and third on Wednesday, and could conceivably survive in the outfield corners, as well) but there’s little doubt that wherever he goes, he’s going to hit. An added benefit comes with some bulk; Lajoie appears to have gained a little bit of weight since last spring and has likely added some pop to his already imposing offensive approach.
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