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.