See Also: Area Code Games Top 20 Prospects, Best Tools
LONG BEACH–In 1996, Milton Bradley, Nick Johnson, Jimmy Rollins, Eric Chavez, Brad Cresse, Bobby Hill, Eric Munson and Freddy Sanchez were all drafted out of California high schools (Cresse, Hill, Munson and Sanchez chose to attend college before signing). With each sharply hit line drive at this year’s Area Code Games came whispers that this year’s class could be comparable.
“I would concur with that,” said a crosschecker with a National League organization. “When you see Vitters, Dominguez, Freeman, Noonan, Lambo, Stanton . . . Southern California is loaded with hitters this year, and there’s a lot of people excited about next year’s draft. Last year I don’t think there were a lot of people excited about the draft.”
The consensus among scouts this summer has been that the high school Class of 2007 is deep in high-ceiling talent, and the performances of many Southern California position players in the final major showcase of the summer reinforced that sentiment.
Potent Western Attack
Third basemen Matt Dominguez (Chatsworth High) and Josh Vitters (Cypress High) could be the cream of the crop. Dominguez, who already holds a share of Chatsworth’s career home run record and has homered the past two seasons in the California high school playoffs at Dodger Stadium, comes with a proven track record, bat speed and an aggressive approach. He’s also above-average defensively. Vitters’ feel for hitting is slightly better than Dominguez’, and he also has outstanding bat speed and made consistent hard contact during the showcase.
El Modena High’s Freddie Freeman and Newbury Park High’s Andrew Lambo are both lefthanded-hitting first basemen with plus raw power. Lambo is smooth around the bag, while Freeman has well-above-average arm strength.
Nick Noonan (Parker High) enters his senior year as San Diego’s top prep prospect. His tools are less impressive than many of his peers’, but he centers balls with wood bats well and shows soft hands and good instincts at shortstop.
Sherman Oaks, Calif., product Mike Stanton offers intriguing upside. He had little trouble clearing the left-field wall in batting practice. The athletic, strong 6-foot-5, 205-pound Stanton generates above-average bat speed and has plus raw power.
The noteworthy performances were not limited to California’s contingent, however. At 6-feet, 170 pounds, Peter Kozma (Owasso, Okla., High) might not have the chiseled body of the prototypical toolsy infielder, but his bat, glove and running ability are all above-average. Jake Smolinski (Boylan Catholic High, Rockford, Ill.) showed a feel for hitting, as did Eric Eiland (Lamar High, Houston), the most impressive position player out of Texas who attended the event.
Each year, scouts look to Texas to produce some of the draft’s best athletes, and Eiland possesses that brand of pure athleticism. He has good range in the outfield and turned in a 6.59 second 60-yard dash. But Eiland also shows a feel for hitting, with balance, power and a line-drive swing.
The lack of quality pitching at the showcase was evident, though the lone appearance righthander Blake Beavan (Irving, Texas, High) made was impressive. The 6-foot-6 righthander retired three of the showcase’s best hitters in order, setting down Robert Stock (Westlake Village, Calif.), Lambo and Dominguez with his 88-92 mph fastball and 80 mph slider.
Beavan and lefty Drake Britton (Tomball, Texas, High) headed into the fall as two of Texas’ top arms, while a foursome of Texas righthanders–Corsica High’s Stayton Thomas, East Bernard High’s Paul Demny, Cole Green (Coppell High) and P.J. Dean (New Coney High)–are likely highlighted on follow lists, as well.
The country’s best high school pitching resides in the Northeast, however, and New Jersey’s Rick Porcello proved that point in Long Beach. Porcello stopped in on his way to San Diego for the Aflac game and allowed three hits in three innings against the best lineup in the showcase, touching 93 mph with a feel for pitching.