See also: Thursday's Area Code Games Report
LONG BEACH, Calif.–As the Area Code Games came to a close Thursday at
Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif., there was one big name noticeably
absent from the mound: Stock.
Baseball America's 2005 Youth Player of the Year, Robert Stock was in
good spirits, enjoying his final days of summer like most other kids
his age. And he spent time showing off his powerful lefthanded swing
this week in Long Beach before departing for San Diego, where he will
appear in the Aflac All-American Classic. But the rising senior from
Westlake Village, Calif., who has been clocked at 95 mph off the mound,
wasn't practicing what primarily has made him the talk of scouting
circles since he was a 14-year-old.
This spring as a junior at Agoura (Calif.) High, Stock came down with a
shoulder injury and decided it was best to concentrate on hitting and
catching while he gave his arm some rest.
"The rotator cuff got inflamed and irritated," Stock said after
completing a workout at University of San Diego Thursday in preparation
for Saturday's Aflac game. "It feels fine now. I've just been focusing
on catching because I don'™t want to risk it again. Catching and
throwing feels fine."
Since Stock carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the California
Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division I championship
game in May, he's toed a rubber less than a handful of times. He missed
several weeks during his junior season when his shoulder began
bothering him, and his velocity hasn't been the same since.
Stock's last outing was in Joplin, Mo., in June when he pitched well
enough to make the preliminary roster for USA Baseball's junior
national team, but he acknowledges he hasn't been his usual dominant
self this summer.
"In my first inning (in Joplin) I got roughed around, and then I went
to the junk pitches and I did fine from there," Stock said. "I might
not have the same velocity on the hill anymore. I don'™t know, just
because I haven't tried it in a while.
"This summer I've been spending much more time behind the plate working
on my defense, because I felt like I am a little raw behind the plate.
So not pitching has given me more time to work on the defense part."
Stock's catch and throw skills are unrefined, but his arm strength
serves him well as a catcher. He turned in times of 2.09 and 2.15
seconds from home to second base on a pair of stolen base attempts this
week in Long Beach. His footwork and exchange can be cleaned up, which
would improve his pop times from home to second. He's athletic and
agile enough to block balls adequately at present. His instincts, work
ethic and championship-caliber makeup should serve him well as he
continues to develop. The tough part for Stock this summer has been
learning on the job . . . not to mention doing so in front of hundreds
of scouts at almost every stop along the way.
"Sometimes it's tough because you know when you make a mistake you know
there's going to be every scout there taking note of it when you
misplay a ball," he said. "Whereas in a high school game, it's mostly
parents there watching. So yeah, it hasn't been the easiest thing to
do, but I like catching . . . and there's no other way to do it."
USA Baseball still considers Stock a two-way player, and he's scheduled
to pitch the second inning of the Aflac game for the West Saturday
afternoon at Tony Gwynn Stadium at San Diego State. He has narrowed his
potential college choices to Southern California and Stanford, and those two
schools, as well as 30 major league organizations, will be monitoring
Stock closer than traders on Wall Street.