LONG BEACH, Calif. — The 24th-annual Area Code Games began Thursday here at Blair Field. Wood-bat batting practice and SPARQ physical skills testing were the primary events on day one. Many of the top 2011 high school prospects are in attendance, with several elite 2012 players present as well.
Teams selected from 8 different geographical regions of the country are participating, representing the following major league ball clubs: Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers Blue and Milwaukee Brewers White.
Among the top BP performers were. . .
Trevor Gretzky, 1B, Oaks Christian HS, Westlake Village, Calif.
After the Brewers completed their California tryouts at Westmont College in Santa Barbara on July 15, heated controversy arose regarding the merits of Gretzky’s selection to the final Milwaukee AC squad.
With a sensational BP performance Thursday, Gretzky silenced the doubters. In front of his famous father, hockey legend and Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, Trevor slapped shots all over and out of Blair Field.
Vastly improved as a hitter over the course of the past three weeks, the lefthanded-hitting Gretzky begins in a Stan Musial type stance with his head peeking around his front shoulder. Gretzky lashes at the ball with a picturesque swing which produces long line drives with backspin.
Gretzky will, however, need to correct a random habit of pulling his head off the ball. At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Gretzky is substantially taller than his iconic father, and he has significant room within his build to add strength.
Billy Flamion, OF, Central Catholic HS, Modesto, Calif.
Flamion’s unusual swing belies his exceptionally quick bat. A lefthanded hitter, he drove a series of screaming line drives to center and right field, buzzing a couple of shots over the fence.
Utilizing a Carlos Gonzalez style front leg lift, Flamion sets his foot down and takes a violent rip at the ball. Flamion’s cross body, hand turnover finish reminds older baseball observers of former Phillie outfielder Johnny Callison.
Daniel Camarena, LHP/OF, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego
Yet another left handed hitter, Camarena is fundamentally sound. His bent knee, feet close together, slightly hunched stance is reminiscent of Pete Rose.
Camarena gets his front foot down early, has an ideal short backswing and shifts his weight into his front side, instead of spinning out as do so many young hitters. He did connect for one BP homer but his forte will be as a high average, low strikeout, gap-to-gap, line drive hitter.
Spencer O’Neill, OF, Southridge HS, Kennewick, Wash.
Possessor of perhaps the sweetest swing at this year’s Area Code Games, O’Neill is—you guessed it—a lefty. Tall, stringy and eminently projectable at 6-foot-4 and 175 pounds, O’Neill figures to develop driving power as he fills into his frame.
O’Neill’s swing mechanics are already advanced. His smooth, easy, whippy uppercut enables the ball to trampoline off his bat. O’Neill displays an ideal, angled launch position, a compact backswing and a fully extended high finish.
Michael Conforto, OF, Redmond (Wash.) HS
With his strong, compact frame and power bat, Conforto reminds scouts of the top hitter from the 2009 Area Code Games: Josh Sale. Sale was chosen by Tampa Bay as the 17th-overall selection in the June draft.
While not yet a hitter on Sale’s level, Conforto is also lefthanded. (Notice a trend developing?) Conforto’s stride is currently too long, but he does an excellent job of keeping his swing on plane and delivering the bat head to the ball. Conforto lofted several drives out of Blair Field’s roomy confines.
Charles Sheffield III, OF, Columbus (Ga.) HS
Highly projectable at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Sheffield is the first righthanded hitter on our list. Sheffield’s warning track power will become homerun power as he matures into his lanky frame.
Sheffield’s swing is compact on the back end and exhibits a long, high flourish on the front end. He does a wonderful job of accelerating the bat head and firing his hands just at the moment of contact. Hitting coaches will argue ad infinitum as to whether a hitter should intersect the ball out in front of the plate (old school) or let the pitch “get deep” (new school). I’ve rarely seen a hitter catch the ball as far out in front of the plate as Sheffield does—and the results are impressive.
Johnny Eierman, SS, Warsaw (Mo.) HS
Also a righty, Eierman appears to be a disciple of the John Daly “Grip It and Rip It” school. Eschewing subtlety and nuance, Eierman attempts to hammer every pitch into orbit and occasionally succeeds, launching enormous home runs.
Eierman’s hands and feet are very active pre swing and his timing figures to be inconsistent until he quiets things down. At this stage, his timing issues cause him to rip a series of hard ground balls with long blasts sprinkled in.
The SPARQ scores will be released Friday, and Baseball America will report on the test results.