2005 Baseball For The Ages:
There’s a lot that goes into being one of the best youth baseball players in the country, and Robert Stock has the market cornered on practically every criterion.
The 6-foot, 180-pound 15-year-old was tossing 90 mph fastballs by
the time he was 14 and has been known to connect on 400-foot home runs,
using a wood bat. He also has the intangibles, the moxie, the mental
edge, as well. Just ask his teammates, who have seen Stock’s
competitiveness on the field and off it.
“We’re pretty serious when it comes to poker,” said Stock, who began
participating in games as a freshman when some of his Agoura (Calif.)
High senior teammates invited him to join in. “I wear glasses and a hat
and try and stay as stone-faced as I can.”
Whether he’s leaning on pocket kings or his lightning-quick arm,
Stock has spent much of his amateur career winning. He was named
Baseball America’s best 13-year-old in 2003, best 14-year-old in 2004
and this year’s best 15-year-old in our annual Baseball For the Ages
feature. He also is being recognized as BA’™s 2005 Youth Player of the
Year, the first time a high school underclassman has won the honor.
The precocious Stock possesses outstanding skills as a catcher and
pitcher. His arm strength is his most outstanding tool, as he hit 94
mph this summer and one scout clocked him at 95 on a couple of pitches
this fall in a scout league game. He racked up 29 strikeouts in 20
innings as Agoura’s closer as a sophomore last spring, and later turned
heads at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, touching 92 mph while
dealing against some of the top players in the High School Class of
2006, despite being more than a year younger than most of them.
Stock, who turns 16 on Nov. 21, also shows impressive raw power from
the left side of the plate, and his arm strength plays well behind the
plate, where he has the potential to be a sound defensive catcher. He
hit .404-8-29 in the heart of Agoura’s lineup and scouts have long
loved his potential and proven track record of performance.
“It might be a 50-50 split with scouts in Southern California which
way we like him,” one area scout said. “I asked him what he liked most
about hitting or pitching and he just sad, ‘I just love to dominate,
whether it be hitting or pitching.’ And that’s what he does, he just
Stock solidified his spot as BA’s top youth player with another
sensational summer, spent playing against older and more experienced
At the age of 14 last summer, Stock became the youngest player ever
to make Team USA’s youth national team, which finished second in a
qualifying tournament in Mexico. He was the second-youngest player of
the roster’"yet the team’™s No. 1 pitcher.
He was on the team again for the World Youth Championship this
summer, and again the Americans drew Cuba in the championship game.
Stock, who struck out 15 against the Netherlands earlier in the
tournament, eagerly awaited the opportunity.
“The whole year I was looking forward to and practicing for that
game,” Stock said. “To bring back the gold medal and have a chance to
pitch in that game was all I could think about.”
Stock was sharp early on, racking up eight strikeouts in four
innings before a three-hour rain delay prevented him from completing
the game, which Cuba eventually won 5-0.
“Stock was incredible,” USA Baseball’s Jeff Singer said. “I really
would have liked to see him try and close it out, because before it
started raining he had dominant stuff.”
Ace in the Hole
Stock follows in the footsteps of Delmon Young, Nick Adenhart and
Cameron Maybin as BA’s Youth Player of the Year, but he wins the award
as a 15-year-old, after the others all picked up the award based on
their performance and prospect status as rising seniors.
All three of BA’s previous winners are off to promising starts as
professionals, and while we’ll have to wait a little longer to see how
Stock fares in professional baseball, he has grown accustomed to
“At this point, I feel I’m more talented at pitching, but I have a
better body and stature for catching,” he said. “So down the road, who
knows, but I’m ready for whatever’s next.”
As Stock continues to refine his skills, his attitude and
perseverance figure to serve him well. And when it’s not batting
practice or pitching lessons, there’s always poker to help him hone his
game face. “Sixty dollars, that’s the biggest pot I’ve won so far,” he
said with a smile.
The ante figures to be upped in due time.