SoCal Juco All-Star Recap

IRVINE, Calif.–Anteater Ballpark on the campus of UC Irvine was once
again the site of the Fall 2007 Southern California Junior College
all-star showcase on Saturday, Oct. 6.

Though enviably successful, particularly after a 2007 trip to the
College World Series, UCI’s baseball program is known as one where head
coaches have cut their teeth for slightly higher-profile openings.

Saturday’s event featured the top sophomores from 41 Southern
California Junior Colleges, which traditionally have provided a
Comstock Lode of talent to college and professional baseball. Big
league alumni include Jackie Robinson and Darrell Evans (Pasadena),
George Foster (El Camino), Al Hrabosky (Fullerton), Jesse Orosco (Santa
Barbara), Gabe Kapler (Moorpark), Coco Crisp and Barry Zito (Pierce).

Scouts representing the Major League Scouting Bureau and approximately
20 major league organizations were present, looking for the next
players to join those alumni. Dozens of college coaches were also in
attendance, including some from Southeast Missouri State, Southern
Illinois, Oral Roberts and Virginia Tech.

An informal and unscientific survey of coaches and scouts offered the
general conclusion that the overall talent level in this year’s SoCal
event was down from past years. While high-dollar drafts-and-follow
such as Angels prospect Sean O’Sullivan may no longer be populating
local JC programs, there are still quality players for both Division I
coaches and pro scouts to follow.

Saturday featured two games, preceded by infield/outfield, with an
extended BP session in between. From this perspective, the top players
were:

Calvin Culver, of, Los Angeles Pierce College, Woodland Hills
Culver is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound center fielder who bats and throws
righthanded. The Twins drafted him in the 49th round in 2006 out of
Quartz Hill (Calif.) High. Calvin is a terrific athlete, showcasing a
strong arm and above-average speed; both tools play well in the
outfielder, where he resembles Gary Matthews in his ability to run down
balls hit in the gaps.

Scouts are skeptical about his hitting ability. Culver holds the bat
with the knob pointed away, creating loop and length to his backswing.
Calvin also exhibits the common amateur hitter habit of flying his head
and front side off the ball. Should Culver improve at bat, he has a
chance to have five average to above-average tools.

Zack Larson, c, San Diego Mesa College, San Diego
At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Larson is a linebacker-sized backstop with
an impressive arm. His pop times are slowed by awkward footwork and a
tendency to drop his elbow and arm slot on his throws, thereby pushing
the ball to second.

Zack’s bat needs work. However, Larson appeals to scouts as a big,
physical receiver, and when he makes the needed improvements in his
catching, throwing and hitting mechanics he can be an impact player.

A.J. Smith, 1b, Cypress College, Cypress
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Smith is a pro sized, aggressive
righthanded slugger. Hitting out of a crouch, he used a square stance
and a balanced swing to put on a big BP display, but was anxious in the
simulated game. Smith will reach his offensive potential when he
relaxes and lets the pitch get deeper, instead of jumping at the ball
and pulling everything.

Trevor Blood, 1b, Cerritos College, Cerritos
Sporting a name that would fit an 18th century Caribbean Pirate, at
6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Blood is another big, strong 1B/DH type. A
righthanded hitter, Trevor hits out of a pronounced crouch but is a bit
more patient than Smith, driving the ball to all fields.

Blood has some bat speed and power, and intriguing hitting potential.
He likes to work counts but will attack his pitch when he sees it.
Trevor may benefit from loosening his tight grip on the bat.

Mike Ferraro, of, Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa
At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Ferraro’s physique looks as if it was
chiseled out of marble by a classical sculptor. Mike runs extremely
well for a big man and is a fine defensive right fielder. He throws and
bats lefthanded. Despite the fact that he had a poor day throwing the
ball Saturday, Ferraro does have a strong arm. His inconsistency is due
to a habit of dropping his elbow and pushing the ball from a low arm
slot, a flaw he should have no problem correcting.

Ferraro displays impressive hitting potential. When he keeps his front
side closed, relaxes his hands and throws the bat head, the ball flies
off his bat. He will drift, drop his hands and grip the bat too to
tightly, and also opens his front side too soon.

From a scout’s perspective, Ferraro has the frame and the basic tools
to be a top prospect. He simply needs to develop consistency in his
throwing and hitting mechanics in order to reach his very high
potential. His outstanding work ethic and makeup are also significant
plusses.

Kyle Witten, rhp, Bakersfield College, Bakersfield

At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Witten has an ideal projectable pitcher’s
frame, with long arms and broad, coat-hanger shoulders. Kyle’s arm
action is easy and fairly clean, despite being a bit elaborate on the
back end.

His four-seam fastball registers in the 89-91 mph range but is as flat
as a highway in Kansas. Witten does a good job of trying to locate that
pitch to all areas of the strike zone, but it will need to have more
movement and deception to get advanced hitters out. Kyle has an
acceptable changeup at 77 mph, but he needs to correct a tendency to
get under, instead of on top of, his 74 curve.

Zack Thornton, rhp, Ventura College, Ventura
At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Thornton is a tall, big-bodied righthander
with excellent raw stuff. His fastball sat at 90-92 mph, and his 75 mph
slurvy breaking ball has decent sweep. The primary concern with Zack is
his arm action, which is truncated on the back end and crimped coming
through his delivery finish.

Dustin Mercadante, rhp, San Diego City College, San Diego
Big-league body, college stuff. At 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, Dustin is
built like a power forward. He fires a heavy fastball in the 86-88 mph
range, with both sink and arm-side movement. Mercadante’s 80 mph change
has similar action; however, he tips it off by decelerating his arm.
His 75 mph curve needs improvement, for it now shows only the slightest
wrinkle.

Dustin’s frame garners immediate attention from scouts, but he will
need to throw a shade harder to attract serious draft consideration.
His arm action from a low-three-quarter arm slot needs to be freer and
easier, and perhaps he will find more velocity if he makes an
alteration.

College | #2008

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