After two simulated innings of pitching to his teammates, left-hander Brandon Neeck approached Horace Greeley (Chappaqua, N.Y.) coach Anthony Marino and held up one finger.
“One more?” the highly-touted senior asked.
Marino nodded in approval.
The Quakers hadn’t managed to put any balls in play against the University of Virginia commit (they did foul off a few), but Neeck thought his command could have been better and wanted to continue building arm strength.
He’s focused on doing all he can to improve because the next few months will play a big role in determining his future.
“I think a lot of it will come down to how I do this spring,” Neeck said. “I’m definitely keeping college and pros, both opportunities, open.”
Neeck is one of two pitchers from Section 1 who throw in the mid-90s and are garnering attention from professional scouts heading into the 2018 baseball season. The other is Beacon right-hander Lenny Torres, a St. John’s-bound senior whose stock has risen in the last 12 months.
They’re considered the top two high school pitchers in New York state and have received national recognition on prospect sites like Perfect Game, Prep Baseball Report and Baseball Factory, which has both ranked among the top 75 prospects in the country.
Come the Major League Baseball Draft in June, life-altering decisions will likely have to be made.
“Baring something happening, they’re definitely going to get drafted this year,” said Dan Cevette, a former pro pitcher who is now the president of Prep Baseball Report’s New York chapter. “It’s going to depend on what teams need and what they value.”
On the radar
After transferring to Greeley from Iona Prep in between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Neeck began to open eyes.
Lefties are always hot commodities, especially those who are touching 90 mph before they get their driver’s license.
“As soon as I saw him as a 10th grader in the gym, I said, ‘This kid is getting drafted,’ ” Marino recalled. “The way it came out of his hand without any effort — it just took off like a vapor trail.”
Beacon coach Bobby Atwell felt the same way the first time he saw Torres throw, albeit years earlier.
“He had the best arm when he was 8 or 9 that I had ever seen for someone at that age,” said Atwell, who has been coaching for 29 years. “At that time, I said, ‘This kid has the potential to be something special.’ ”
By the time they were juniors, others were taking notice.
In today’s baseball culture, which focuses heavily on numbers and metrics, velocity draws college and professional scouts like magnets to iron. Torres has been clocked as high as 96 mph and Neeck at 94.
“When you look at these guys throw, you’re probably looking at one-percenters,” said Section 1 baseball co-chairman Chris McCarthy, who also serves as assistant director in the Northeast for Team Citius, an elite developmental and showcasing organization. “They’re in the top one percent in the country at their age.”
Neeck finished his junior season with 50 strikeouts in 30 innings and a 1.40 ERA and Torres had 70 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings with a 1.22 ERA.
During the offseason, Neeck was invited to play at Chicago’s Wrigley Field in the Under Armour All-American game, while Torres made the 40-man roster for the USA Baseball under-18 national team.
Cevette’s Prep Baseball Report rankings have Torres as the No. 1 pitcher in the state with Neeck right behind him, but he calls them, “interchangeable.”
“(Torres) is more physical. What really stood out to me was his ability to have a wipeout slider. In the scouting lingo, we call it a razor blade slider because it cuts hard. The movement is late and it’s a deceptive pitch,” he said.
“Neeck, he’s a little different. He has three pitches. I’ve watched tons of video on Neeck. He’s got the potential to throw maybe even harder than Torres. He’s got the really long arm action and gets really good front side extension. He’s more methodical and long with his arm swing in the back, and that’s a good sign. … His arm is clean.”