LOS ANGELES—A cursory peek at the brightly colored weather page in any national newspaper reveals the depressing news: Freezing, near-zero mercury readings throughout the Midwest and blizzards blanketing the northeast.
Not so in Southern California, as locals on Tuesday enjoyed sunny skies, mid-60s temps, and a slight breeze off of the ocean. Winter in this region requires the residents to suffer the inconvenience of being forced to wear long pants and at least one jacket or sweater. A hat is optional.
Such were the conditions as yet another spring scouting season began, with the opening of the Southern California junior college campaign. My initial foray of 2009 was to observe the tussle between Mt. San Antonio College and Orange Coast College at OCC, won 11-8 by OCC.
The sole hardship endured by those in attendance was a brutal version of "Muskrat Love" emanating from the loudspeakers during infield pregame.
OCC is a perennial Southern California JC power as well as a strong producer of Division I and professional talent. A sampling of Pirate alums who have played in the bigs include Dan Quisenberry, Damon Berryhill and Ed Sukla, pitcher and super scout.
This year's squad contains two major league offspring: Brett Wallach (son of Tim) and Josh Berryhill (son of Damon). Furthermore, the squad features three additional players who have early round draft potential.
First is righthander Calvin Drummond, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound freshman who was Milwaukee's 34th-round draft pick in 2008 out of Huntington Beach High. Tall, lanky and eminently projectable, Drummond fires an impressive fastball that peaks at 92 and a sharp 81-82 slider. He's similar in frame and stuff to Kyle Witten, a twice-drafted Bakersfield JC alum who is a candidate to be a weekend starter at Cal State Fullerton this season.
Next are the Stokes brothers, Ricky and Mykal. Ricky was forced to miss Tuesday's game with an ankle injury. A sophomore, Ricky is a fullback-sized right fielder with an impressive arm and an emerging power bat. Ricky Stokes first caught the eye of local scouts during a scout ball game in October, which pitted OCC against an Angel Elite Squad filled with So Cal high schoolers who figure to populate the first three rounds of the 2009 draft. He blasted a long wood-bat home run early in the contest, showing off his power potential.
Ricky's younger brother Mykal is a freshman, drafted last year by the Yankees in the 41st round. Tall, lithe and athletic, Mykal is faintly reminiscent of a young Carlos Beltran in build and playing style, gliding to fly balls with his excellent speed and then casually snapping up even the trickiest drives. Mykal has a decent arm, but he will need to adopt a higher arm slot on his throws and eliminate a flipping action. At bat, Mykal flashes quickness and bat speed. However, from a hitting mechanics standpoint, he is a ways away from being pro ball ready. Mykal's obvious hitting talent may take some time to develop.
The Stokes brothers are similar to the Upton brothers in the sole sense that they possess completely different frames: Ricky has a strong and mature build, while Mykal is wiry and projectable. Ricky's game is based on power; Mykal's on speed, defense and line drives.
The Stokes brothers, beyond parentage, do share one characteristic: Local scouts and college recruiters will track them closely in 2009, based on their abilities and due to the fact the Southern California JC and college draft classes are fairly thin on top notch outfielders.