COMPTON, Calif.—On Feb. 12, the Major League Scouting Bureau sponsored the Southern California Invitational Showcase featuring 50 of the most talented high school seniors from Southern California. With no other baseball on the docket yet, more than 200 scouts showed up to the event, which included batting practice, followed by a 60-yard dash, pregame infield/outfield and a simulated 12-inning game.
This was the last chance for area scouts, crosscheckers and scouting directors to evaluate the best players in Southern California before the high school season begins and it's always easier to line players up when they're playing alongside each other on the same field.
The player who played himself into the upper echelon of high school middle infielders was Brandon Martin from Santiago High in Corona, Calif. The normal names showed well, including Christian Lopes and Phillip Evans, but Martin played himself into this elite class. It's easy to see why he belongs in the middle of a baseball field. He ran very well, clocking in at 6.75 in the 60-yard dash. In the field, he doesn’t have the natural fluidness of Lopes or Evans, but he shows a quick first step with good range and plenty of arm to stay at shortstop. During batting practice, he was one of the few players who showed a good feel for his barrel, a consistent flat stroke and kept the ball out of the air. He showed a good approach and discipline in his at-bats by running deep counts and looking comfortable and balanced in the box. An Oregon State signee, Martin shows exceptional presence and demeanor on the field.
While the key to these types of events centers on players showing how well their tools grade out on a professional scale, there were some kids who helped their stock by doing some things that have been questioned. Travis Harrison has never been questioned offensively. He has a quiet, comfortable and rhythmic approach at the plate. His timing and balance are always the same and he has some of the best power in this year's class. He helped his stock at this event by showing quicker feet and more agility in the infield, to the point where it's not a slam dunk that he'll have to move to left field or first base—he may be able to stay at the hot corner.
One player that is really coming into his own is third baseman Taylor Sparks from St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, Calif. Sparks has a lot of moving parts to his swing, so it's difficult for him to get to a consistent hitting position, but it's impossible to deny his big time leverage. He's also an impressive athlete. Sparks ran a 6.7 in the 60, he got down the line in 4.27 seconds, and he showed enough rhythm in the infield to prove he deserves to be considered a third baseman when he develops a little more arm strength.
Outfielder Jacob Anderson from Chino (Calif.) High also has to be jumping up on scouts' lists. He showed a good feel for his barrel with good bat speed. His stroke is flat and he stays through the baseball well. He also ran a 6.75 in the 60, prompting one scout to compare him to Jake Marisnick, who was drafted in the third round by the Blue Jays in 2009.
The performances on the mound were not noteworthy from a scouting standpoint. But Henry Owens showed flashes of how special he is going to be. Although he was up in the zone, when he got in that right arm slot with his fingers on top, his fastball disappeared and was unhittable. He sat effortlessly at 89-92 mph. His breaking ball was just okay, but he was the first pitcher of the day and only faced four hitters, so he never really got a chance to find his rhythm. He still proved that he is the jewel of this year’s Southern California pitching class.
“If the draft is next month, the only top-tier talent on the field was Henry Owens," an American League crosschecker said. "Nobody did anything to separate themselves but several players did enough to get followed extensively through the spring.”
One pitcher who came out of nowhere was righthander Quincy Quintero of Valencia (Calif.) High. Once thought of as an infielder only, he sat 89-92 with considerable armside run, effortless arm action and a hard two-plane slider. It’s hard to deny a good athlete that pitches and Quintero could turn some heads as a pitcher this spring.
The pitcher that showed the most polish was righthander Jake Reed from Helix High in La Mesa, Calif. He threw three pitches for strikes from a three-quarter arm slot and is kind of a slinger with a lightning quick arm. He sat 89-91 with a two-seam fastball that was running in and tying up righthanded hitters. Then he threw a changeup with natural fastball arm speed that was unhittable. His feel for three pitches offsets the fact he’s not overpowering with the fastball.
There were a few other interesting arms at the event. Righthander Matt Troupe from Chaminade High in West Hills, Calif. showed command of a very good 12-to-6 curveball, and had hard angle to his fastball even though he has a short arm delivery. Righthander Tyler Leslie from Silverado High in Victorville, Calif. showed he might finally be gaining some control of his lively fastball that sits 89-93. He threw his slider with plus command and dominated hitters. Righthander Joe Musgrove from Grossmont High in La Mesa, Calif. comes from around the corner with his delivery and sits 88-91 with a heavy fastball that hitters just pound into the ground.
• Ryan Garvey from Palm Desert (Calif.) High showed he is going to hit when he stays through the baseball, but to maximize his future he needs to commit to being a third baseman.
• Chris Rabago from Riverside (Calif.) Poly High isn't in the same class as Lopes, Martin or Evans in the infield, where he plays second base, but could garner some attention behind the plate. He isn't very physical at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, but he showed agility, quickness and arm strength at catcher. He's also a switch-hitter.
• Outfielder Eric Snyder from Edison High in Huntington Beach, Calif. needs to stop changing his batting stance and trust that he needs to stay with something consistent. It looks like he's holding his hands lower and it's causing his barrel to drag through the zone, making him swing uphill. When he's quiet and in rhythm, he's one of the best hitters in Southern California.
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