Top Area Code Hitters

LONG BEACH—The 23rd annual Area Code Games conclude today at Blair Field in Long Beach.

The 2009 position player class features several provocative multi-tool athletes, but is relatively thin on big-time power bats. Several players have made outstanding fielding plays, but in general defensive play has been very disappointing.

With the help of a national crosschecker, a veteran pro/amateur scout and hitting guru Don Slaught, Baseball America has ranked the top ten hitters/position players in the 2009 event:

1. Josh Sale, of/3b, Bishop Blanchet HS, Seattle, Wash.: Sale was the top hitter at Long Beach, showing power and bat speed out of his signature crouched stance. Defensively, he is acceptable as a third baseman, catcher or outfielder, but his lefthanded bat will always be his primary asset.

Solidly built at 6-feet and 205 pounds, Sale has a “Mike Moustakas or Travis Snider type of body” said the crosschecker. Don Slaught broke down Sale’s swing and found only one flaw.

Sale begins with his weight on his back leg, and instead of driving his back knee toward the pitcher, he bends it outward, toward the 3rd base on deck circle. Nonetheless, Sale blasted a homer on day one and hit the ball hard throughout the week.

2. Austin Wilson, of, Harvard Westlake School, Sherman Oaks, Calif.: Wilson shuttled back and forth from the Wrigley Field Under Armour Game to Long Beach during the week. He homered in Chicago, and while he didn’t hit quite as well at Blair Field, he was still impressive from an overall standpoint.

“He was the best of everything out there,” the crosschecker said. “I saw a lot of good things from him, and he has a big package of tools.”

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Wilson has above average speed (6.79), a plus arm, and big power potential.

3. Stefan Sabol, c/of, Aliso Niguel HS, Aliso Viejo, Calif.: Sabol is a sensational all around athlete, placing first overall in the SPARQ testing while posting a blazing 6.28 60 time. He displays a lightning quick bat, but struggles with his timing.

“With a few mechanical adjustments he’ll be able to square up the fastball,” the crosschecker said.

The crosschecker then broke down Sabol’s defense: “For me, he has to move from behind the plate. He has a strong arm, but he doesn’t show a good release. It was good to see him take some pregame in the outfield later in the week.”

4. Kevin Jordan, of, Northside HS, Columbus, Georgia: Sporting an athletic 6-foot-1, 190 pound frame, Jordan is a premium athlete, recording a 6.62 60 and a 35.1-inch vertical leap. He exhibits a quick left handed bat, and shows a knack for ripping hard line drives to all fields.

Don Slaught viewed Jordan’s swing in super slow motion and found one red flag. Jordan rotates his back foot too quickly, almost flipping it off the ground.

“Your hip rotation should bring that back foot off the ground,” Slaught said. “You don’t want to lift that foot before your hips rotate.”

5. Brian Ragira, of, Martin HS, Arlington Texas: The veteran pro/amateur scout raved about Ragira, a 6-foot-2, 180 pound outfielder.

“He has a great body, loose, athletic and projectable. He runs well, has a good arm, and I see him having some pop in that bat as he fills out.”

The Texas club did not participate in the SPARQ testing, but Ragira’s all around ability could not be hidden. “There is an awful lot of upside there” the scout said.

6. Marcus Littlewood, ss, Pine View HS, St. George, Utah: An athletic switch-hitting shortstop, Littlewood was the most complete middle infielder in Long Beach. He runs well and possesses a strong arm with decent defensive skills. Littlewood is a switch-hitter who favors the right side, but shows quickness and bat acceleration from both sides.

“I saw a lot of good things out of him,” the crosschecker said. “He made some nice plays at short and can swing the bat.”

7. Michael Lorenzen, of, Fullerton Union HS, Fullerton, Calif.: Lorenzen reminds observers of Jake Marisnick, an Area Code star in 2008 and a third round pick of the Blue Jays in 2009. Tall, athletic and projectable, Lorenzen has fine speed (6.81) and a powerful arm which sits in the low 90s off the mound.

“He has a smooth timing type swing,” the crosschecker said. “His bat is not real quick yet, but I would hold off making a pitcher out of him. With his tools, I’d start him (in pro ball) in the outfield and give him every chance to hit.”

8. Dominic Ficociello, 3b, Fullerton Union HS, Fullerton, Calif.: Lorenzen’s prep teammate, Ficociello drew more comments for his fashion choices than for his play on the first two days. He opted for the high stirrup look then smartly switched to solid colored socks. That wise move appeared to boost his hitting.

A switch-hitter, Ficociello, drilled five hits in a Saturday doubleheader and hit the ball hard the remainder of the week. Don Slaught examined Ficociello’s swing and was impressed.

“He has the sweetest swing out here. The only thing he needs to correct is his plane. He swings down on the ball, instead of using a slight uppercut. It looks like somebody taught him that. It’s correctable.”

“He grows on you,” the crosschecker said. “He enjoys the game, and he made some nice plays at 3rd—I’d keep him there. I like his swing—it’s loose and aggressive, and he lets it fly. He’ll have some power as he fills into his frame.”

9. Sam Wilson, of, Eldorado HS, Albuquerque, New Mexico: Lefthanded all the way, Wilson is a Mark Kotsay type with excellent speed (6.88), a powerful arm, and a promising bat. He is an aggressive hitter early in the count, but will give away at-bats and become passive if he gets behind.

Still, Wilson has the skills to hold down a corner outfield job. “”It definitely looks like he can swing the bat,” the crosschecker added.

10. Kris Bryant, 3b/1b, Bonanza HS, Las Vegas, Nevada: Bryant snoozed through this event, playing far below his capabilities. However, his easy power swing drew attention.

“He is a tough one to figure out,” the crosschecker said. “He’s way too laid back, I want to see more energy from him. But he has big power, and that’s hard to come by. He’s got the best raw power out here, but he’s not quick to the pitch. I can see him hitting 25-plus homers, but he won’t hit for a high average. Also, he didn’t play well at third for me. I’d say he’s limited to first base.”

Baseball America will post the top pitchers from this year’s Area Code event on Tuesday.

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