Underclass Games: Catcher Analysis


By Illinois & Wisconsin Staffs

One of the biggest showcases on the summer circuit, Underclass Games, was hosted at its usual site at the University of Illinois-Chicago, on July 23. This event collects the best incoming sophomore talent in both Illinois and Wisconsin and arranges a pro-style workout and live game action. This event is among our most highly attended by the college recruiting community, making it one of the most important for our own staff of evaluators.

The level of competition is clearly evident, and it all starts with this group of catchers. It’s a small group of 10 backstops, and since they were all invited to this select event, they’re all talented. Rather than rank the best of this group, we’ll just highlight a couple quickly.

The first is the Louisville-committed catcher from Wisconsin, Will Vierling (Homestead). He starred for the Highlanders during the spring as the starting catcher as a freshman, but he’ll be carried all the way to Louisville by his hefty left-handed bat. He’s already among the best hitters in the state’s ‘22 class and it’s possible he was the top lefty bat overall in Chicago on this day.

From Illinois, Hayden Christiansen (Richmond-Burton) is already committed to Xavier, and he’s arguably the top catch-and-throw in the state’s ‘22 class. He has a strong right-handed bat, but his best tools belong to his defensive skillset.

For rapid analysis coming out of the showcase back in July, check out our Quick Hits post. You can also find measured data pulled from the event inside our Statistical Analysis. For now, check out reports on each and every one of the catchers who attended this event below.

TOP PROSPECTS (LISTED ALPHABETICALLY)

Nico Acevedo, Crystal Lake Central, 2022
Positional Profile: C
Body: 5-foot-10, 185-pounds. Athletic frame with strength.
Hit: RHH. Open stance, reverse toe tap into long stride. Long bat path on uphill plane, pull side lift approach with hard contact, above average bat speed.
Power: 88 mph exit velocity from the tee. Flashed pull side power.
Arm: RH. C - 78 mph. Strong arm out of over the top slot, short action.
Defense: 2.01-2.14 pop times. Footwork gains ground out of the crouch, quick exchange, average hands, direction works to glove side.
Run: 4.65 runner down the line. 

Osvaldo Ballesteros Jr, St. Laurence, 2022
Positional Profile: C
Body: 5-foot-11, 167-pounds.
Hit: RHH. Wide base, slightly crouched, short lift and replace stride, good balance. Level swing, line drive gap to gap contact.
Power: 78 mph exit velocity from the tee.
Arm: RH. C - 75 mph. Short over the top arm action, flashed accuracy.
Defense: 2.18-2.37 pop times. Sets up high, gets tall out of crouch, directional footwork. Average hands and transfer, solid block.
Run: 5.19 runner down the line. 

Hayden Christiansen, Richmond-Burton, 2022 (Xavier)
Positional Profile: C
Body: 6-foot-1, 175-pounds. Athletic frame with length, projects.
Hit: RHH. Tall, balanced setup, short stride. Hands work loose and create bat speed, short path stays on top of the baseball. Hits off front foot at times, line drive gap to gap contact.
Power: 89 mph exit velocity from the tee.
Arm: RH. C - 76 mph. Strong arm, plays short and over the top, showed carry.
Defense: 2.00-2.09 pop times. Quick out of the crouch, clean transfer, soft hands, advanced actions behind the plate.
Run: 4.55 runner down the line. 

Victor Izquierdo, Lockport, 2022
Positional Profile: C/1B
Body: 6-foot-0, 190-pounds. Large  frame, strong throughout.
Hit: RHH. Tall setup, narrow stance, short stride, average balance. Bat strength, long uphill path, gap to gap contact, hits in rhythm.
Power: 93 mph exit velocity from the tee. Strong power potential.
Arm: RH. C - 72 mph. INF - 75 mph. Short over the top slot.
Defense: 2.20-2.37 pop times. Looked more natural around the bag at 1B, showed footwork around the bag, large target. Hands work, works tall out of the crouch, short footwork gets slight direction to target.
Run: 4.78 runner down the line. 

Charlie Jarvis, Arrowhead, 2022
Positional Profile: C
Body: 5-foot-11, 175-pounds. Athletic frame, lean and projectable.
Hit: RHH. Balanced stance, quiet load, short stride slight leg lift, average balance. Level path, loose hands, line drive contact.
Power: 87 mph exit velocity from the tee.
Arm: RH. C - 79 mph. Arm carries out of the crouch, over the top slot, played accurate.
Defense: 2.04-2.10 pop times. Soft hands, clean exchange. Feet work quick and athletic, flexible receiver, excellent setup, athletic block skills.
Run: 4.69 runner down the line. 

Ryan Louthan, Joliet Catholic Academy, 2022
Positional Profile: C
Body: 5-foot-9, 170-pounds. Strong compact build, squared body with strength throughout.
Hit: LHH. Wide setup, balanced stance, short stride, minimal lower half. Level path, bat strength present.
Power: 90 mph exit velocity from the tee.
Arm: RH. C - 75 mph. Short, over the top slot. Accurate at times.
Defense: 2.11-2.25 pop times. Clean exchange, blocks well, efficient out of the crouch.
Run: 4.76 runner down the line. 

Matthew Merk, Lockport, 2022
Positional Profile: C
Body: 5-foot-10, 170-pounds. Strong build, solid lower half.
Hit: RHH. Tall, relaxed setup, narrow stance with slight leg lift trigger. Gets into lower half and works on uphill swing plane, ball jumped off the bat at times, showed hard contact and ability to find the barrel. Pull side power approach. 2-for-2 with a pair of singles in game play.
Power: 89 mph exit velocity from the tee. Bat strength present.
Arm: RH. C - 75 mph. Short high 3/4 slot.
Defense: 2.18-2.26 pop times. Clean exchange, hands work, lower half works tall out of the crouch, hands play soft, quiet receiver.
Run: 4.67 runner down the line. 

Kyle Smith, Warren, 2022
Positional Profile: C/1B
Body: 5-foot-11, 200-pounds. Large build, strong durable catcher.
Hit: RHH. Wide setup, short lifted stride, smooth load. Path is level, gets line drive gap to gap contact, ball jumps off the bat.
Power: 90 mph exit velocity from the tee. Power potential, bat strength.
Arm: RH. C - 68 mph. Over the top slot, short arm action.
Defense: 2.16-2.22 pop times. Hand exchange played quick, lower half changes direction and gets tall at times. Solid block.
Run: 4.76 runner down the line. 

Brendan Summerhill, Whitney Young, 2022
Positional Profile: C/OF
Body: 6-foot-2, 165-pounds. Long lean projectable frame.
Hit: LHH. Balanced stance, smooth loading action, short stride, quiet t setup and maintains balance. Long path, uphill plane, natural left-handed swing with long levers.
Power: 92 mph exit velocity from the tee. Flashed hard pull side contact, 1-for-2 with a double in game play.
Arm: RH. C - 72 mph. OF - 79 mph. Short arm action, plays over the top , showed accurate.
Defense: 2.19-2.30 pop times. Catching actions are clean, tall out of the crouch, feet work directional. Outfield actions play through the baseball deliberate exchange, long actions.
Run: 4.68 runner down the line. 

Will Vierling, Homestead, 2022 (Louisville)
Positional Profile: C - One of the top left-handed hitters in WI 2022 class.
Body: 6-foot-0, 170-pounds. Solid build, strong throughout, durable lower half.
Hit: LHH. Tall setup, balanced stance, short stride, on time, excellent balance throughout. Easy swing, quiet at the plate with simple bat speed. Path is short, line drive gap to gap approach.
Power: 85 mph exit velocity from the tee. Above average power, jumps off the bat, pull side power bat.
Arm: RH. C - 75 mph. Loose arm action plays clean and efficient, high 3/4 slot.
Defense: 2.12-2.19 pop times. Hands played soft, clean exchange. Strong, athletic blocking skills.
Run: 4.95 runner down the line. 

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