Southern California Prep Talent Gathers In Compton

Most of the top high school talent in Southern California was on display at the annual Jesse Flores Memorial All-Star Game on Sunday at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton. The game, which is put on by the Professional Baseball Scouts of Southern California, remains a can’t-miss event for West Coast scouts, but this year’s edition was not as strong as it has been in recent years, according to several scouts in attendance. That is partly because three of the region’s top prospects—lefthander Brady Aiken, righthander Jacob Nix and infielder Jack Flaherty—did not participate.

“Compared to the previous couple years, there weren’t any of the impact first-round type guys visible Sunday,” a National League area scout said. “When you take that star power away—Aiken and Nix and Flaherty—if those guys are there, there’s probably a little more buzz at the end of the day. But some of the famous names did show well.”

Luke Dykstra

Luke Dykstra (Photo by Stacy Jo Grant)

Shortstop Josh Morgan (Corona, Calif.), a high-profile UCLA recruit, swung the bat well in batting practice and had a leadoff double in his first at-bat. Luke Dykstra (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) did a little bit of everything, impressing multiple scouts with his intensity while playing all 10 innings. The Fresno State commit and son of ex-big leaguer Lenny Dykstra hit a double Sunday, but he stood out more for the little things he did.

“He did everything he could to be noticed—that’s what he does,” an AL crosschecker said. “He steals bases, takes the extra base on a ball in the dirt. He played third, he caught. You can tell he wants it, and he’s going to force the issue. In time, when he’s kind of settled in, he has a chance to be an everyday big leaguer.”

Those players are already established big-name prospects, but Sunday also gave second-tier prospects a chance to boost their stock. No player helped himself more than corner infielder Cole Young (Corona, Calif.), who took home MVP honors after helping the North to an 11-6 victory. A Southern California commit, the righthanded-hitting Young homered on an elevated fastball and doubled to right-center on another high heater. But he chased breaking balls to strike out in his next two at-bats, reinforcing the notion that his approach still needs refinement. Still, he has serious strength in his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, as he showed on the home run (the only homer in the game).

“It didn’t look like he got it—it looked like he might have gotten jammed a little, but he’s so dang strong that he still hit a home run,” the crosschecker said. “He is a big, strong guy, and it kind of just solidified that he’s a power threat. Whether he can play a position, if he can run and throw, if he can hit a breaking ball—all those things need to be under the microscope a little more from here on out.”

Two other players who performed well at the Area Code Games in August continued to hit Sunday. Neither Shane Mardirosian (Riverside, Calif.) nor Eric Ramirez (Oxnard, Calif.) fits an ideal physical profile, but both players have caught scouts’ eyes because they perform. Mardirosian, a 5-foot-9 second baseman who is committed to UC Santa Barbara, had three hits Sunday, pulling a single through the 4-hole, hitting a line drive up the middle and hitting another single the other way. He also worked a walk.

“He’s got a compact, strong body, looks to be a sound defender with arm strength,” the crosschecker said. “He can run, and he’s a performer—the kind of guy that, for sure, area scouts are going to fall in love with. If he’s a second baseman, maybe someone will have to think he’s a shortstop. But the size shouldn’t be anything if he can really hit and field and throw and run—yes, he’s a candidate.”

Ramirez, a 5-foot-10, 212-pound first baseman, delivered a hit on a two-strike breaking ball Sunday and also worked a walk on a 10-to-12-pitch at-bat.

“Ramirez had a very good Area Codes, and he doesn’t stand out as a prototypical body, but he’s cleaned it up, and he always seems to barrel the baseball,” the area scout said. “He’s got tremendous hands at first base, probably a 55 defender and maybe a little bit better.”

On the mound, no pitcher showed more than 91 mph velocity Sunday, although pitchers tend to be tired this late in the year. Three scouts agreed that righthander Jonathan Teaney (Palmdale, Calif.) was among the most impressive pitchers in Compton, working at 88-91 mph in his clean inning of work. The San Diego recruit pounded the strike zone with his fastball and his sharp 76-79 curveball. Teaney is slightly built at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, but he has a quick arm and plenty of athleticism to go along with his advanced feel for pitching.

Grant Hockin

Grant Hockin (Photo by Hiromi Fujita)

Righty Nate Hadley (Encino, Calif.) showed “his usual one-inning bravado,” as one scout put it, attacking hitters with a high-80s fastball and a swing-and-miss breaking ball that ranged from 71-77 mph, with varying shape. And righty Grant Hockin (Pomona, Calif.) sat 88-90 and touched 91 while showing a good curveball and changeup. One scout said he showed the most polish of any pitcher in the game; the consensus was that Teaney, Hadley and Hockin were the three top pitchers Sunday.

Perhaps the biggest breakout performer of the day was righty Danny Siwek (Chula Vista, Calif.), a “no-name guy that put himself on the fringe, or at least on a list,” in the words of one scout. He started the game for the South team and went two solid innings. A lean 6-foot-4 righty with a whippy arm action, Siwek is a groundball pitcher with good life on an 86-89 fastball and a chance to add velocity as he fills out. He also has the makings of a decent slider, but it needs refinement.

“He’s a long, rangy guy with a fast arm, and it jumps on the hitter—he’s got deception,” the crosschecker said. “Everyone else kind of blurred together, but looking at this guy, you think there is something there.”

Lefthander Cameron Bishop (Brea, Calif.) also raised his profile. A projectable 6-foot-4, 210-pounder, Bishop worked at 87-90 and showed a 73-74 mph curveball with good spin.

Bishop, Siwek and Young ensured they will get looks from scouts in the spring. Now they just need to build upon that momentum as the draft approaches.

The following video is provided by Steve Fiorindo.