State Report: California
|THIS YEAR'S CROP
||One for the books
||Solid, not spectacular
||Not up to par
||Nothing to see here
California is expected to produce the No. 1 overall pick this year with
San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg, a runaway choice as the draft's
No. 1 talent and a strong contender for the top prospect of the draft era.
California produced back-to-back No. 1 picks in 2003-2004 in Delmon
Young (Rays) and Matt Bush (Padres) and has eight overall, the
most of any state. (Florida is next with four).
helps mask a down year for talent among California's Division I
colleges. Only Cal State Fullerton advanced as far as the super
regional round out of the Golden State this year, and scouts and
coaches generally agreed that talent and the quality of play was down
in the Pacific-10 Conference, as well as in other leagues
such as the Western Athletic and West Coast.
Still, several of the top college position players in a draft thin on
them come out of the state in Southern California shortstop Grant
Green, California outfielder Brett Jackson and Sacramento State
outfielder Tim Wheeler. California also has depth with
power hitters like Loyola Marymount's Angelo Songco, Fresno State's
Tommy Mendonca and Cal's Brett Smith and Jeff Kobernus.
The state does have its usual bounty of prep players, starting
with lefthander Tyler Matzek and including a wide variety of catchers
(such as Max Stassi), pitchers and even prep position players, such as
shortstop Jio Mier. Northern California, where many high school players
have proved to be tough signs in recent years, has a strong class of
high school pitchers, though no one with the consensus top-end talent
to rival Matzek, fellow lefthander Tyler Skaggs and righty Matt Hobgood
in the Southland.
|NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS
1. Stephen Strasburg, rhp, San Diego State (National Rank: 1)
2. Tyler Matzek, lhp, Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, Calif. (National Rank: 8)
3. Grant Green, ss, Southern California (National Rank: 13)
4. Tim Wheeler, of, Sacramento State (National Rank: 15)
5. Tyler Skaggs, lhp, Santa Monica (Calif.) HS (National Rank: 26)
6. Max Stassi, c, Yuba City (Calif.) HS (National Rank: 30)
7. Brett Jackson, of, California (National Rank: 34)
8. Drew Storen, rhp, Stanford (National Rank: 36)
9. Matt Hobgood, rhp, Norco (Calif.) HS (National Rank: 40)
10. Matt Davidson, rhp, Yucaipa (Calif.) HS (National Rank: 42)
11. Jiovanni Mier, ss, Bonita HS, Laverne, Calif. (National Rank: 44)
12. Angelo Songco, of, Loyola Marymount (National Rank: 64)
13. Brad Boxberger, rhp, Southern California (National Rank: 69)
14. Joe Kelly, rhp, UC Riverside (National Rank: 70)
15. Jake Marisnick, of, Riverside (Calif.) Poly HS (National Rank: 71)
16. Cameron Garfield, c, Murrieta (Calif.) Valley HS (National Rank: 78)
17. Tommy Mendonca, 3b, Fresno State (National Rank: 86)
18. Jeff Kobernus, 2b, California (National Rank: 91)
19. Bryan Berglund, rhp, Royal HS, Simi Valley, Calif. (National Rank: 93)
20. Blake Smith, of/rhp, California (National Rank: 99)
21. Trayce Thompson, of, Santa Margarita (Calif.) HS (National Rank: 100)
22. David Nick, ss, Cypress (Calif.) HS (National Rank: 101)
23. Dylan Floro, rhp, Buhach Colony HS, Atwarer, Calif. (National Rank: 103)
24. Andrew Susac, c, Jesuit HS, Sacramento (National Rank: 112)
25. Josh Fellhauer, of, Cal State Fullerton (National Rank: 116)
26. Robert Stock, rhp/c, Southern California (National Rank: 118)
27. Mark Appel, rhp, Monte Vista HS, Danville, Calif. (National Rank: 132)
28. Scott Griggs, rhp, San Ramon Valley HS, Danville, Calif. (National Rank: 135)
29. Christian Jones, lhp, Monte Vista HS, Danville, Calif. (National Rank: 142)
30. Josh Leyland, c, San Dimas (Calif.) HS (National Rank: 145)
31. Nolan Arenado, c, El Toro HS, Lake Forest, Calif. (National Rank: 147)
32. Robbie Erlin, lhp, Scotts Valley (Calif.) HS (National Rank: 155)
33. Ryan Wheeler, 1b, Loyola Marymount (National Rank: 159)
34. Joe Gardner, rhp, Uc Santa Barbara (National Rank: 161)
35. Matt Thomson, rhp, San Diego (National Rank: 166)
36. Jonathan Meyer, c, Simi Valley (Calif.) HS (National Rank: 177)
37. Brett Wallach, rhp, Orange Coast (Calif.) Jc (National Rank: 189)
38. Jonathan Singleton, 1b, Millikan HS, Long Beach (National Rank: 196)
39. Brooks Pounders, rhp, Temecula Valley HS
40. Brian Slover, rhp, Cal State Northridge
41. Kyle Jensen, of, St. Mary's
42. Toby Gerhart, of, Stanford
43. Khris Davis, of, Cal State Fullerton
44. Paul Applebee, lhp, UC Riverside
45. Danny Bilbona, lhp, UC Irvine
46. Adam Wilk, lhp, Long Beach State
47. Jeff Inman, rhp, Stanford
48. Aaron Northcraft, rhp, Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana
49. Kenny Diekroger, ss, Menlo HS, Atherton
50. Beau Wright, lhp, Los Alamitos HS
51. Mike Morrison, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
52. Gavin Brooks, lhp, UCLA
53. Virgil Hill, of, Los Angeles Mission JC
54. Brian Peacock, lhp, Santa Ana JC
55. Chris Balcom-Miller, rhp, West Valley JC
56. Casey Haerther, 3b/1b, UCLA
57. Mario Hollands, lhp, UC Santa Barbara
58. Brett Gerritse, rhp, Pacifica HS, Garden Grove
59. Wes Hatton, if/rhp, Norco HS
60. Drew Madrigal, rhp, Mount San Jacinto JC
61. Stephen Kaupang, 1b, Cypress CC
62. Brice Cutspec, 1b, Azusa Pacific
63. Kyle Bellows, ss, San Jose State
64. Nick Akins, of, Vanguard
65. Adam Buschini, if, Cal Poly
66. Francis Larson, c, UC Irvine
67. Geno Escalante, c, Rodriguez HS, Fairfield
68. Ivory Thomas, of, Downey HS
69. Nick Gaudi, rhp, Pepperdine
70. Blair Moore, ss, Poly HS, Riverside
71. David Kiriakos, ss, Pacific HS, San Bernardino
72. James Wharton, 1b, Los Angeles Pierce JC
73. Carlos Escobar, rhp, Chatsworth HS
74. Andy Suiter, lhp, UC Davis
75. Richard Stock, c, Agoura HS, Agoura Hills
76. Kelly Dugan, 1b, Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks
77. Tyler Gaffney, of, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego
78. Lucas LaPoint, rhp, Knight HS, Palmdale
79. Matt Moynihan, of, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego
80. Kyle Petter, lhp, El Camino JC
81. Brent Milleville, 1b, Stanford
82. Kevin Castner, rhp, Cal Poly
83. Beau Amaral, of, Huntington Beach HS
84. Calvin Drummond, rhp, Orange Coast JC
85. James Needy, rhp, Santana HS, Santee
86. Kyle Hooper, rhp, Saugus HS
87. Garret Hughes, lhp, La Costa Canyon HS, Carlsbad
88. Ben Orloff, ss, UC Irvine
89. Mitch Patito, rhp, Patriot HS, Riverside
90. Juan Avila, of, Narbonne HS, Harbor City
91. Justin Bellez, rhp, Mira Mesa HS, San Diego
92. Donovan Gonzalez, rhp, Twentynine Palms HS
93. Chad Thompson, rhp, El Toro HS, Lake Forest
94. Ty Kelly, 2b/3b, UC Davis
95. Matt Montgomery, UC Riverside
96. Dustin Garneau, c, Cal State Fullerton
97. Brian Gump, of, UC Santa Barbara
98. Steve Fischback, rhp, Cal Poly
99. Sequoiah Stonecipher, of, Grossmont JC
100. Mark Haddow, of, UC Santa Barbara
101. Jared Clark, 1b, Cal State Fullerton
102. Daniel Bibona, lhp, UC Irvine
103. Danny Hayes, 1b, Jesuit HS
104. Jonathan Jones, of, Long Beach State
105. B.J. Salsbury, rhp, Mt. San Jacinto CC
106. Matt Nadolski, lhp, Concord De La Salle HS
107. Dylan Tonneson, c, California
108. Andrew Bellati, rhp, Steele Canyon HS
109. Jeff Pruitt, of, Cal State Northridge
110. Jeff Gelalich, of, Bonita HS, LaVerne
111. Nate Newman, rhp, Pepperdine
112. Davin Tate, rhp, Cal State Northridge
113. Charles Brewer, rhp, UCLA
114. Noah Perio, ss, Concord De La Salle
115. Anthony Vasquez, of/lhp, Southern California
116. Stefan Cordes, 1b, Saugus HS
117. Cade Kreuter, of, Hart HS
118. Ryan Platt, rhp, UC Riverside
119. Anthony Hutting, of, Tesoro HS
120. Hector Rabago, 2b/rhp, Southern California
121. Kyle Witten, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
122. Billy Ott, rhp, Cal State Northridge
123. Brent Diedrich, c, Pepperdine
124. Mitch Haninger, of, Archbishop Mitty HS
125. Christian Meza, lhp, Santa Ana CC
126. Kurt Heyer, rhp, Edison HS
127. Dyaln Jones, of, Valencia HS
128. Nolan Clark, c, Capistrano Valley HS
129. Gabe Cohen, of, UCLA
130. Stephen Takahashi, of, Palos Verdes HS
131. Garret Claypool, rhp, UCLA
132. Alex Muren, of, Ramona HS
133. Kevin Chambers, lhp, Capistrano Valley HS
134. Ian McCarthy, rhp, Mater Dei HS
135. Corey Conflenti, of, Diablo Valley CC
136. James Meador, of, San Diego
137. Mike Ford, rhp, UC Santa Barbara
138. Dennis Holt, of, Esperanza HS
139. Jack Marder, 2b/ss, Newbury Park HS
140. Kevin Grove, of, Loyola HS
141. Ben Doucette, lhp, El Segundo HS
142. Nick Capito, lhp, Santa Ana CC
143. Charlie Sharrer, of, Palmdale HS
144. T.J. Middlestaedt, of, Long Beach State
145. Marcus Piazzisi, of, Santa Ana CC
146. Jarret Martin, lhp, Bakersfield CC
147. JR Bromberg, rhp, LA Pierce CC
148. Mike Brady, ss/3b, California
149. Zack Vincej, if, Saugus HS
150. Cody Decker, 1b/dh, UCLA
STEPHEN STRASBURG, RHP, SAN DIEGO STATE
In the history of the draft, no prospect has received as much predraft hype and publicity as Strasburg—and the attention is warranted. His combination of stuff, pitching savvy and command make him a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. Between spreads in national magazines, television features and glowing articles in major newspapers, Strasburg has had a stunning junior season for the Aztecs. A relatively low-profile recruit, he has improved by leaps and bounds both physically and mentally as a college player. He closed as a freshman and BA ranked him as the New England Collegiate League's No. 1 prospect in 2007, and he emerged as a dominant starter in 2008, highlighted by a 23-strikeout effort against Utah. He pitched both for USA Baseball's college national team and then on the Olympic team last summer, the lone amateur ever to win a spot on a pro Team USA roster. He lost to Cuba in the Olympic semifinal, and that's the last time he has lost a game. His 2009 statistics defy belief for a player competing at the major college level. After a no-hitter against Air Force, he was 11-0, 1.24, with 164 strikeouts against 17 walks in 87 innings. He had allowed just 48 hits this season, for a .161 opponent average. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Strasburg grabs your attention first with his sensational raw velocity. In his first start of the season, his first six pitches registered 98-99 mph, and he touched 100 and 101 later in the season. Of course, raw velocity is no guarantee of major league success, but Strasburg has much more than that. His hard, slurvy curveball is an 81-82 mph hitter's nightmare. Not since Tim Lincecum has one hurler had both the best fastball and the best curve in the same draft. Represented by Scott Boras Corp., Strasburg will no doubt engage in protracted negotiations, and predraft rumors indicated his demands could go as high as $50 million or that he could try a side trip to Japan to make himself a free agent. Barring something unforeseen, though, he will likely sign right at the Aug. 15 deadline and should command a guarantee in the $12 million-$15 million range. There's no doubt that Strasburg is the best college pitching prospect since Mark Prior came out of Southern California in 2001. Prior's career illustrates that no amateur pitcher is guaranteed long-term professional success, but Strasburg is the closest to a sure thing that scouts have ever seen. Major league organizations may not see a prospect like Strasburg for another 20 or 30 years, so the Nationals will not let him pass with the No. 1 pick.
TYLER MATZEK, LHP, CAPISTRANO VALLEY HS, MISSION VIEJO
Matzek was virtually unknown until a preseason scrimmage last year, when he squared off against righthander Gerritt Cole, who became a 2008 first-rounder and is now at UCLA. Matzek was fantastic, striking out five of six hitters in two innings as 40 scouts were crammed into the bleachers, whispering, "Who is this guy?" He's anonymous no more. He starred in the 2008 Aflac game and at showcases both nationally and in Southern California, and while he's committed to Oregon he could be the first high school player drafted. With a rare blend of quality stuff, pitching smarts and ease of delivery, he may be the best prep lefty from Southern California since Cole Hamels in 2002. Similar in build and style to Angels southpaw Joe Saunders, Matzek features a 90-93 mph fastball, which peaks at 94, as well as a sharp-breaking curveball. He has flashed a changeup and slider in the past, but had not used them much this spring. Several crosscheckers hoped to see a more advanced feel for pitching and sharper secondary stuff, and Matzek had a few indifferent outings this year, struggling with his command and experiencing a dip in velocity, perhaps due to a blister on his pitching hand, which has since healed. Matzek's arm action is wonderfully smooth, and the ball leaves with his hand with ease, though he has a tendency to open up too soon. With a nearly stiff front leg landing, his fastball will often sail up and out of the strike zone, but any flaws are considered correctable.
GRANT GREEN, SS, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Local area scouts have long been familiar with Green, who was drafted by the Padres in the 14th round in 2006 out of high school in Anaheim. Now 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Green should move to the top of the first round this year, building on his terrific showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, where he was overwhelmingly chosen as the top prospect. He struggled early this season, perhaps due to a touch of draftitis as well as two nagging injuries: a rolled ankle and hand blisters. His average hovered near the Mendoza line early, but he rallied to .365/.436/.556 as the regular season wound down. After pounding nine homers in 2008, he had three this season. Potential five-tool middle infielders are rare at the college level, prompting comparisons to former Long Beach State stars Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. Green does not project to have the same thunder in his bat—compared with Longoria, in particular—but he is similar to Tulowitzki in his defensive skills and playmaking ability. He has excellent range, outstanding hands and the smooth and fluid actions of a possible Gold Glove defender. Green has a fine arm, though not quite the cannon Tulowitzki possesses. He's faster than either Longoria or Tulowitzki, frequently clocking in the 6.6-second range over 60 yards. While he doesn't profile as an offensive powerhouse, he should become a long-term middle-infield fixture, a solid .280-plus big league hitter who may produce 15-20 home runs annually. Such potential is extremely rare in a college player.
TIM WHEELER, OF, SACRAMENTO STATE
Among California scouts, a "Sac State guy" is typically an undersized, modestly talented but scrappy and energetic player, short on tools but long on hustle. At showcase events, it's common to hear scouts use the term as a shorthand way of identifying such players. No Sac State player has ever been drafted above the fourth round, but Wheeler will smash all of those precedents and clich√©s. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds with a strong and athletic frame and lefthanded bat, he's a prototypical corner outfield prospect. His wiry build has room for further projection. Scouts suspected Wheeler was poised for a breakout after a strong summer in the Cape Cod League, but he has exceeded even those expectations, batting .396/.500/.786 with 18 homers and 69 RBIs. Wheeler's bat is by far his primary tool. He projects to be a plus big league hitter, with power that is a shade above-average. An average arm and speed that's just a tick above-average probably mean he's best suited for left field in pro ball. Scouts laud his baserunning instincts. Scouts who saw Wheeler last year, or even earlier this year, would not have pegged him as a first-round candidate, but as the season has progressed his bat has made the prospect more and more likely.
TYLER SKAGGS, LHP, SANTA MONICA HS
Skaggs has the most projectable frame of any California prospect in this draft class. Thin and lanky at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, Skaggs has long arms, long legs, big hands and the angular and athletic build that could handle more muscle without becoming bulky. Skaggs' mother Debbie is the girls volleyball coach at Santa Monica High, and Tyler has also played football and basketball, though his emerging baseball talent caused him to drop the other sports. He cemented his reputation nationally with an outstanding performance last October in the World Wood Bat Championship, then pitched well this spring. He struck out 15 in a showdown with Bryan Berglund, and then tossed a 12-strikeout gem at the Anaheim Lions Tournament in front of 60 scouts. Skaggs' fastball sits in the 88-91 mph range, peaking at 92, and his four-seamer is most effective when it darts to his arm side. He adds a classic, over-the-top rainbow curveball, and has experimented with a slider. He will need to develop his changeup, but that pitch also shows promise. Utilizing an old-fashioned windup in which he brings his hands over his head and to the back of neck, Skaggs does a nice job of bending his back leg to drive off the rubber. He can fall into bad habits, such as rushing his delivery and overthrowing, and he'll have to be patient enough to let his velocity rise as his frame fills out. He should eventually pitch in the mid-90s, but that might not be for a few years. With his projectable build, easy arm action and promising stuff, Skaggs is one of the more enticing pitchers recently seen in Southern California. He's committed to Cal State Fullerton but is a likely first-round pick.
MAX STASSI, C, YUBA CITY HS
Stassi carries on the family's baseball tradition, and he has a chance to be the best offensive catcher in this year's deep catching crop. He is related to Myril Hoag, an outfielder who played during the 1930s and '40s for the Yankees and St. Louis Browns and was an all-star in 1939, and Stassi's father is his high school coach. Stassi got off to a sizzling start this spring, hitting .593 with nine homers in his first 21 games. For a high schooler, he's an exceptionally advanced hitter. He attacks the ball, uses the entire field and has above-average bat speed. Defensively, Stassi is solid but not outstanding. Other catchers are superior in catch-and-throw skills, but scouts agree that Stassi should have no difficulty remaining behind the plate. A bothersome shoulder injury restricted him to DH duty for about a month, but he has since returned to catching full time.
BRETT JACKSON, OF, CALIFORNIA
Jackson is most frequently compared with J.D. Drew, at least physically. But while critics often question Drew's passion, the same accusation could never be directed at Jackson. Strong and muscular, Jackson is a wonderful athlete who is a perpetual motion machine on the field and plays with flair. He is an enthusiastic, upbeat and supportive teammate, and he's an aggressive baserunner who challenges outfielders and takes the extra base, often diving in headfirst while doing so. He uses his above-average speed to chase down drives in the gaps in center field, and he has the range to flag down balls hit in front of him or over his head. His arm can be inconsistent, but he has enough arm strength for both left and center. Most criticism surrounding Jackson centers on his hitting, where he's not nearly as polished as Drew. He utilizes an inward-turning, hand-pumping, leg-kicking, load-up-and-let-it-fly swing. He has excellent bat speed and shows the ability to rifle the ball around the diamond, with acceptable home run power, particularly for a leadoff man. His high strikeout totals hurt his draft chances, though, and he had 58 whiffs in 206 at-bats this season.
DREW STOREN, RHP, STANFORD
Storen was considered one of the more polished high school pitchers available in the 2007 draft, which makes sense since he was 19. He instantly settled in as the closer and helped the Cardinal reach the 2008 College World Series. The eligible sophomore has been one of the few bright spots for a disappointing '09 Stanford club. Storen has been one of the team's few consistent performers, thanks to his ability to throw quality strikes. He pumps his fastball in the 92-94 mph range and regularly touches 95-96. His fastball has decent life, and his biggest difficulty has been locating it. When he misses, he misses up, leaving him a bit homer prone. While he throws a decent changeup, it's rare, and his power slider is his best secondary pitch, giving him a second plus offering. Storen challenges hitters and isn't afraid to pitch inside. He has a good chance to be the first college closer drafted, potentially in the supplemental or second round. While many eligible sophomores at academic institutions such as Stanford can be tough signs, Storen, whose father Mark Patrick is a radio talk show host who worked on XM Radio's Home Plate baseball channel, will be 22 in August and has little left to prove in college.
MATT HOBGOOD, RHP, NORCO HS
Hobgood first gained attention in Southern California when he outdueled Gerrit Cole (who went on to be a first-round pick) in a high school playoff game in 2008. That made him the local player of the year as a junior, beating out first-round picks such as Cole, Kyle Skipworth and Aaron Hicks. A 6-foot-4 245-pounder, Hobgood resembles a young Goose Gossage. He has tremendous power at the plate, but he realizes his future is on the mound. His raw stuff is electric, with a fastball ranging from 90-94 mph and peaking at 95. He maintains his velocity deep into games, and in a March start he was firing four-seamers at 92-94 mph in the fifth inning. His curveball shows sharp, late break, and he also has shown a changeup and slider. All three show promise, but his command is spotty and he'll need to develop and sharpen each one. Hobgood's mechanics are cleaner than most high school pitching prospects, though he still needs refinement. If his terrific stuff combined with a more projectable build, he would probably be drafted even higher, but as it stands he should go no later than the second or third round.
MATT DAVIDSON, RHP, YUCAIPA HS
Davidson won the home run derby during the Aflac Classic at Dodger Stadium last summer, and only a late rally by the East squad prevented him from being the game's MVP. Athletic and powerfully built at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Davidson has always flashed impressive raw power. As a junior in the spring of 2008, he put on an eye-opening power display during the National Classic home run contest. Actual games, of course, are not home run derbies, and like many young power hitters, Davidson struggles with consistency and had trouble catching up to quality pitching at some showcase events. When hitting well, he waits out the pitch and then uses a short backswing and sweeping follow-through to wallop the ball. When slumping, he struggles to read the pitch, flinches his front side and commits too early or too late. Davidson's speed is well-below-average, but he does have an above-average arm. His hands and footwork will probably force him to first base down the road. Davidson may never produce in games to match the grades scouts put on his raw power, but the lure of that potential should put him as high as the supplemental first round if he's considered signable away from Southern California.
JIOVANNI MIER, SS, BONITA HS, LaVERNE
Mier is supported by a large and enthusiastic family. At the 2008 Aflac Classic they made up a sizeable cheering section, complete with artfully constructed banners and signs. His mother Leticia is a fixture at his games, with her ever-present video camera, and has seen plenty of highlights this year. Mier is the rare prep shortstop who projects to remain at that position in pro ball. He has above-average speed and a powerful arm that grades out to well-above-average. He occasionally pitches for his high school squad, and scouts have gunned his fastball in the 91-93 mph range. He has an athletic and projectable 6-foot-2 170-pound frame. Mier has decent hands, though his actions need to be smoother, which should come with experience. He has been inconsistent with the bat, struggling last summer during showcases but looking sensational last fall at the World Wood Bat Championship and the Southern California scout ball all-star game. Overstriding threw off his timing earlier in the spring, but of late he shortened his stride, though he still has a tendency to lunge at the ball and get his weight out on his front leg. When Mier squares a pitch up, the ball flies off his bat. He has the natural quickness and hand-eye coordination to be an excellent hitter. He projects as a line-drive singles and doubles hitter, with slightly below-average power.
ANGELO SONGCO, OF, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT
Undrafted out of high school, Songco has been one of the hottest college hitters in California this spring. Hot bats translate to draft helium, and Songco may have hit his way into the first two rounds. He utilizes one of the most distinctive stances in college baseball, starting deep in the box, standing tall with his bat held high. He lifts his front right leg straight up and then drops it straight down before lashing at the ball with a quick bat. His power was evident with wood bats last summer, when he hit eight homers to rank second in the Cape Cod League. An aggressive hitter, Songco is vulnerable to offspeed pitches and has difficulty covering the outside corner. Early in the count, he looks for a pitch middle-in that he can hammer. He has average speed and is an average defensive outfielder. While he has played right field for Loyola Marymount, his arm probably dictates a move to left in pro ball. But he'll be drafted for thunder in his bat, possibly as early as the supplemental first round.
BRAD BOXBERGER, RHP, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Boxberger is the son of Rod Boxberger, a righthander who led Southern California to a College World Series title in 1978, when he was also a first-round pick of the Astros. Both father and son attended Foothill High in Orange County, where Brad succeeded Phil Hughes as the staff ace and became a 20th-round pick of the Royals in 2006. He decided to follow in his father's footsteps to Southern Cal instead, and he has essentially been the Friday starter since he was a freshman. At an even 6 feet with a strong and mature frame. Boxberger has three pitches with plus potential. First is a 91-93 mph fastball that peaks at 94. He can add and subtract velocity from his 79-80 mph curveball, and his circle changeup is a bit inconsistent but has excellent deception and late drop when it's on. During his windup, he has a distinctive habit of turning his back to the plate. Boxberger offers little projection and ideally would be a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues. He has a tendency to hit the wall, and late in starts his velocity will drop, his command will disappear and the wheels will come off. Brad doesn't figure to be the 11th overall pick as his father was, but he could reach the back of the first round in a best case.
JOE KELLY, RHP, UC RIVERSIDE
Plagued by shoulder trouble early in his college career, Kelly has emerged as one of the nation's top college closers in 2009. At 6-foot-1, he doesn't fit the classic image of the physically intimidating closer, but his stuff is plenty big. In fall ball Kelly flashed a fastball that ranged from 93-96 mph, with wicked natural sink, and he maintained his stuff in the spring and now regularly clocks in at 94-97. Strictly a short relief man, Kelly is an aggressive hurler who wants the ball in pressure situations. He had nine saves this spring for the Highlanders, with 18 strikeouts against five walks in 25 innings, though his 5.33 ERA wasn't impressive. In his delivery, Kelly is reminiscent of Brett Hunter, chosen last year out of Pepperdine, with a high-effort delivery from a low three-quarters arm slot, and he falls off to his left after delivery. Most pitchers begin their pro careers as starters and are then converted to relievers, but Kelly figures to be a closer from the opening bell. His stuff may help him rush through the minors as quickly as any pitcher in the draft class.
JAKE MARISNICK, OF, RIVERSIDE POLY HS
A tall, lanky and projectable 6-foot-4 outfielder, Marisnick's build and raw tools remind scouts of Jeff Francoeur and Dale Murphy. He's one of the best athletes in this draft class and has run a 6.7-second 60-yard dash with a vertical jump of nearly 36 inches (best among those tested at the Area Code Games). He also has a powerful throwing arm, which he shows off in pregame warm-ups. A center fielder in high school, Marisnick projects as a corner outfielder as he fills out. Scouts are split on his future hitting ability. Some are confident he will produce, while others point to mechanical concerns. He's well balanced throughout his swing, and his stride is short and closed. However, a weak beginning hand position sabotaged Marisnick early in the season, keeping him from driving the ball with authority. His frame and athletic skills make him one of the most appealing outfield prospects in the nation, but any club selecting him early will have to be convinced of his hitting potential.
CAMERON GARFIELD, C, MURRIETA VALLEY HS
In a banner year for prep catchers, Garfield stands out as one of the best pure defenders. At 6-feet and 190 pounds, Garfield is fit, strong and powerful. His pop times range from 1.85 to 1.90 seconds at showcase events, with one scout clocking a 1.78, and he has an above-average arm. Scouts' primary worry is that Garfield shines at showcases and struggles in games. He often puts on eye-opening power exhibitions during batting practice, but he has trouble carrying those results into games. He has a breathtakingly quick bat, but he often pulls off the ball and opens his front side, pulling the ball hard but foul. Failure to track the pitch and let it get deep throws off his timing, though he will occasionally show the ability to stay back on the breaking ball. Doubts may exist about Garfield's bat, but few doubts exist about his defense. His bat shows the promise of power, but he'll need improvement to bring it up to big league average.
TOMMY MENDONCA, 3B, FRESNO STATE
Mendonca is well known to college baseball fans for his tremendous performance—offensively and defensively—in last year's College World Series. He was the Most Outstanding Player in Fresno's unlikely run to the title in Omaha, and he has been nearly as good this season. Mendonca can be streaky both offensively and defensively. At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, he has unique power from the left side and puts on one of the best batting practice exhibitions in college baseball. He's a flyball hitter who looks to lift everything, and his opposite-field power is outstanding. On the 20-to-80 scouting scale, he already possesses 50 power, and projects to 60 raw power easily. He has a distinctive swing. He starts with his hands high, then drops them into an angled launch position. He can drive a ball out even if he doesn't get all of it. In an early-season game at Loyola Marymount, he was slightly fooled by a changeup, got out front and under the ball but still lofted it out of the park. Scouts worry about the fundamentals of his swing, however. He comes close to locking or blocking his hands out front in an arm bar action, and he shows a weakness with offspeed stuff, setting a Division I record with 99 strikeouts last season. There are similar questions about his defense, where he looks fluid going to his left but not to his right, and his arm varies from cannon to squirt gun. He doesn't run well. Still, the lure of Mendonca's power bat and record of rising to the occasion will entice an organization to select him as early as the second round.
JEFF KOBERNUS, 2B, CALIFORNIA
Kobernus is one of the most versatile players in the nation. His athletic and still projectable 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame fits almost anywhere on the diamond, and indeed he has played several positions during his career at Cal. He played second base this season, overcoming a sluggish start to bat .351/.385/.563 with eight home runs in a disappointing season for the Golden Bears. With above average speed, Kobernus stole 17 bases this spring, giving him 41 for his career. Defensively, Kobernus displays fine range, with excellent hands and playmaking ability. He will make careless errors, as with many young infielders, but his arm and glove grade out to solid-average. Primarily a line drive hitter, Kobernus shows an advanced approach, utilizing the entire field and intelligently looking to go with the pitch when needed. He will flash occasional power, but his forte is gap-to-gap line drives. While Kobernus does not have overwhelming tools in any one area, he is an athletic and well-rounded player who has the potential to fill any number of roles as a professional. Look for the organization that drafts him to start him out as a second baseman, with a move to third possible if he fills out his frame more.
BRYAN BERGLUND, RHP, ROYAL HS, SIMI VALLEY
Berglund was little known until a local all-star game last December, when he enjoyed a breakout performance and rocketed up draft boards. Berglund is a Swedish citizen who has picked up the American national pastime. His fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range, and his secondary pitches well developed for a prep pitcher. His slider has the makings of a plus pitch, but his best current offering is his changeup, which shows both deception and late drop. Berglund's velocity takes tails off as he progresses through a game, slipping down to 86-87 mph by the third or fourth inning, and he leans too much on his fastball, two problems that should be solved by simple maturity and development. Berglund's projectable 6-foot-4 build, with his three legitimate pitches, make him attractive enough that he probably won't follow through on his commitment to Loyola Marymount.
BLAKE SMITH, OF/RHP, CALIFORNIA
California's lefthanded-hitting, righty-pitching Smith perplexed scouts all spring. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he has premium size to go with athleticism,. He had emerged as a premium prospect last summer with USA Baseball's college national team, when he hit .327 with three homers (second on the team) while also throwing nine scoreless innings, striking out 11. Smith flashes terrific stuff on the mound but struggled in getting hitters out. After early-season difficulties on the mound he has rarely pitched since, finally being relegated only to a DH role by a lat muscle strain. As a pitcher, Smith fires a 92-94 mph fastball, which exhibits fine arm side movement but is straight to his glove side. His 82-84 mph changeup resembles an old-fashioned palm ball, and that pitch shows both arm side movement and "drop dead" action. Unfortunately for Smith, he has poor command and control and gets behind hitters too often. A pitcher with his quality of stuff should not get hit as hard or as frequently as he did this year, when he walked 20 in 20 innings. As an outfielder, Smith has a well above average right fielders arm, and his long, sweeping lefthanded swing produces provocative home run power. However, the length and severe uppercut path of his swing may produce holes that professional pitchers can exploit. Observers who saw him regularly with Team USA last summer believe Smith might be better suited for the everyday player role than working on the mound, and see him as fitting the right-field profile perfectly if his bat emerges. However, plenty of scouts believe in Smith's future as a short stint relief man. To be successful in that venture, Smith must greatly improve his command. No one doubts he has the raw stuff to succeed in a middle relief capacity, but he may make it as a hitter as well.
TRAYCE THOMPSON, OF, SANTA MARGARITA HS
Thompson is the son of Mychal Thompson, the former NBA star who played on several Los Angeles Lakers NBA championship clubs in the 1980s, and the bloodlines show. A 6-foot-4, 200-pound outfielder, Thompson has terrific bat speed, and his future power potential is exciting. He has a great frame that's both athletic and projectable, and his arm strength is impressive. The primary drawbacks are his instincts and feel for the game. He has the look of a player who is relatively new to baseball and is still learning the basics. He often hesitates in the outfield and won't attempt to throw out runners trying to advance, or will defer to other fielders on balls hit in the gaps. Thompson generates terrific bat speed, but his swing is long on the back end and his timing is affected by his habit of pulling out his front side too quickly. Thompson's selection in this draft would be made on potential alone. If he goes to UCLA, develops his skills and gains experience, he would likely be a much higher pick in 2012.
DAVID NICK, SS, CYPRESS HS
Cypress High in Orange County is a top-notch program that has recently produced first-rounders Scott Moore (2002) and Josh Vitters (2007). Nick doesn't figure to be drafted quite that high, but he is an outstanding player nonetheless. A 6-foot-2 high school shortstop, Nick will probably move to second base in pro ball. He doesn't have the arm, hands or actions to hold down shortstop beyond college, but second should be a perfect fit. Nick is an excellent all-around athlete, with one of the most interesting batting stances seen in years. Eschewing modern hitting theory, he stands dead still at the plate, with his feet spread and the bat held above his back shoulder. Motionless as the pitch comes in, he turns on the ball by whipping the bat and snapping his wrists violently at the last instant. No one would be foolish enough to compare a high schooler to Joe DiMaggio, but Nick's swing is a near copy. And it gets results. Nick is a line-drive hitter, and the ball screams off his bat when he squares a pitch up. The only concern with Nick is that his terrific quickness will at times cause him to pull off the ball too soon, imparting topspin to the ball. As a professional, Nick profiles as an offense-oriented second baseman with average defensive skills, above-average speed, average power, and potentially well-above-average hitting skills.
DYLAN FLORO, RHP, BUHACH COLONY HS, ATWATER
Many clubs had Floro pegged as a supplemental first-rounder when the spring began, and while his velocity has dipped this spring he still isn't likely to last much past the second round. Slightly undersized at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Floro has a long track record with local and national scouts. He still sits at 90-92 mph with his fastball, and he adds a changeup to his mix, but his best offering may be his tight, high 70s slider, which has the makings of a plus pitch. Floro is committed to Cal State Fullerton and might be well served by three years of college experience, but he may find it hard to pass on signing if he goes in the second round.
ANDREW SUSAC, C, JESUIT HS, SACRAMENTO
In a draft year bursting with promising high school catchers, Susac may be the best catch-and-throw receiver available. Big, strong and physical at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Susac uses his quick release and powerful throwing arm to consistently record pop times in the 1.85- to 1.90-second range. Scouts look for catchers who are comfortable behind the plate, and whose receiving style is quiet and relaxed. Susac rates highly in both categories, showing the ability to handle all types of pitches in all locations with ease. Where he ends up getting picked will depend on how much a team believes in his bat. At times this spring, his balance was poor at the plate, he lunged at pitches and his timing was off. He has home run power potential, but he will need to made significant strides as a hitter. But Susac's catch and throw skills alone will carry him into the early rounds of the draft.
JOSH FELLHAUER, OF, CAL STATE FULLERTON
Fellhauer is one of the more exciting and dynamic players in college baseball. Similar to Lenny Dykstra in his build and playing style, Fellhauer has emerged as the best player on one of the nation's top college teams. Fans of the College World Series may remember the sensational throw Fellhauer made in 2007 to nail UC Irvine's Taylor Holliday at home plate to temporarily stave off defeat in the longest game in CWS history. Fellhauer seems to have baseball in his genetic code. His grandfather pitched for two years in the St. Louis Browns organization in the early 1950s, and his dad was a sixth-round draft pick of the Athletics years later. An alumni of the 2008 college national team, Fellhauer tied for the team lead with 26 hits and finished second on the team with a .299 average. He had performed even better this spring. Fellhauer is one of the finest defensive outfielders in the nation, showing the ability to run down drives in front of him, over his head and in the gaps. His excellent arm is made more effective by his accuracy and quick release. Fellhauer exhibits a quick bat and the ability to rip line drives to all fields. He projects as an average to above-average hitter, though his home run power is below-average. Fellhauer's lack of size and power may depress his draft stock, and some scouts have placed the dreaded "fourth outfielder" tag on him, but if he proves he can hit in the minors he should be a reliable big league starter.
ROBERT STOCK, RHP/C, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Stock is one of the draft's most intriguing players due to his background. He was Baseball America's Youth Player of the Year in 2005 when he was 15, and a year later, Stock skipped his senior year in high school to enroll at Southern California. He's a 19-year-old draft-eligible junior, and his college career has been one of valleys and recent peaks. He was the Trojans' starting catcher and sometime closer his first two seasons, showing modest power, a good fastball and good catch-and-throw skills. He showed raw power and catch-and-throw tools in his first two seasons, particularly arm strength. However, his draft stock suffered; after ranking No. 5 in our Cape Cod League Top 30 following his freshman season, he didn't even make the top 30 last summer, and scouts were stunned by his poor performance on scout day in fall 2008, when his bat looked slow and his pop times sluggish. When Stock got off to a slow start offensively in 2009, attention shifted to his performance on the mound. The Trojans turned to Stock as a starter this year, and he has delivered. He made his first start March 29 and beat Arizona State, striking out 10 in five innings, and hasn't looked back, registering a complete-game win at Arizona and showing surprising polish. His delivery is fairly easy, giving him good control of an 88-92 mph fastball that can hit 95 and a surprisingly good changeup that some scouts consider a plus pitch. His low-80s breaking ball also grades out as average, and Stock now figures to go out in the first three rounds as a pitcher—if he proves signable.
MARK APPEL, RHP, MONTE VISTA HS, DANVILLE
A projectable 6-foot-6 righthander, Appel typically got off to a late start in high school baseball due to his basketball commitments, and his lack of baseball time sometimes showed. In a start at a showcase event in Florida last October, for example, his fastball was in the high 80s to low 90s and he showed poor mechanics and command. Scouts report that looked much better this spring, when he threw a no-hitter and his fastball has peaked at 94 mph. Appel adds a curveball and changeup that have been serviceable but need refinement. He has a lot of potential but might be a tough sign because of his relative inexperience and commitment to Stanford pledge, so he could slide in the draft if teams don't think they can sign him in the first three or four rounds.
SCOTT GRIGGS, RHP, SAN RAMON VALLEY HS, DANVILLE
A veteran of elite showcases such as the Aflac Classic and the Area Code Games, Griggs has long been familiar to area scouts in Northern California. A 6-foot-2 righthander, he has been inconsistent with his command this year, but his raw stuff is still impressive. Griggs' fastball tops out at 95 mph, sitting in the low 90s, and he spins off a excellent curveball. Some scouts don't think Griggs' control is good enough for him to go straight to pro ball and expect him to follow through on his commitment to UCLA. Because of that Griggs is considered a tough sign and could join the Bruins unless he goes in the first two or three rounds.
CHRISTIAN JONES, LHP, MONTE VISTA HS, DANVILLE
Jones has emerged as the best prep lefthander in Northern California this year. A projectable 6-foot-4, 180-pounder, Jones has impressed scouts with a loose arm and easy motion, though some scouts worry about his near slingshot delivery. Jones commands his 88-91 mph fastball well, and while it doesn't exhibit a great deal of sink he does get some side-to-side movement on it. He dabbles with changeup but has rarely used it in high school. The best pitch in Jones' arsenal is probably his slurvy slider, which one scout described as "one of the dirtiest I've ever seen." Jones is committed to Oregon and reportedly considered entering school early to get a jump start on his college career. Considered a tough sign, he projects as a fourth- to eighth rounder in 2009, and many scouts think if he develops in college he could be a first-rounder in 2012.
JOSH LEYLAND, C, SAN DIMAS HS
Surefire high school hitters are a scare commodity in Southern California and throughout the 2009 draft class, and that helps Leyland stand out. A 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, he may be the most mature and fundamentally sound high school hitter in the state. In an early season game, one coach told his team of Leyland: "These guys have an Adam Dunn over there." Two homers later the same coach lamented, "I shouldn't have pitched to him." Leyland has average to above-average raw power, which has been on display at showcases nationwide. He has done more in those events than hammer the ball in BP, also showing his power in game action. Few high schoolers are as advanced fundamentally as Leyland. His stance is well balanced, and his swing is short to the ball and long afterward. Leyland does not run well, so first base or catcher will be his future defensive home. While not a polished catcher, his hands work decently at that spot. His arm is acceptable, though he'll need work on his catch and throw technique. Whatever position he plays, Leyland's bat will always be his trump card. Few high school hitters can match his blend of raw power and technical precision.
NOLAN ARENADO, C, EL TORO HS, LAKE FOREST
Arenado was far from impressive during the summer Area Code Games or the fall scout ball season last year. Flashes of power from his bat were negated by his soft frame, lack of speed and absence of athletic ability. But he has since transformed himself. Now strong and fit at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Arenado's speed is still below-average, but he now exhibits a powerful throwing arm and greatly improved fielding actions. A high school shortstop, Arenado has no chance of staying there after graduation. His improved hands make third base a possibility, but catching is his most likely destination. His muscular build and howitzer arm appear to fit best behind the dish. Scouts are mixed on Arenado's hitting. He has powerful hands that enable him to drive the ball long distances, particularly to the opposite field. But there's some stiffness in his swing, and some scouts worry about his habit of getting too far out front with his front shoulder and arms. Arenado's draft stock jumped during this year's National Classic, when he was named the tournament's most outstanding hitter and was by far the most dominant player. Arenado's power potential alone will get him into the early rounds, in spite of his defensive questions.
ROBBIE ERLIN, LHP, SCOTTS VALLEY HS
Erlin is a 5-foot-11, 170-pound lefthander from the Santa Cruz area, and several scouts have said the same thing about him: "If he were two inches taller, you'd be talking about him as a first-rounder." And while some scouts lament the cookie-cutter approach to drafting, it doesn't hurt Erlin as much because he's a lefty. Despite the small frame, he has life on his fastball, pitching at 89-92 mph. He commands the pitch to both sides of the plate and has an above-average curveball—a hammer he can throw for strikes in any count. He can get underneath his changeup a little bit, but it too has a chance to be above-average. Erlin is regarded as a great kid and is committed to Cal Poly.
RYAN WHEELER, 1B, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT
Wheeler was a high school basketball teammate of North Carolina forward Deon Thompson. During his prep baseball career, Wheeler did little to impress scouts, but in the summer after his graduation in 2006 he began working with a local part-time scout who doubles as a travel ball coach. The sudden change in his hitting ability was striking. Wheeler blasted several long shots out of old Torrance Park in a home run derby during a summer showcase, and he has been hitting ever since. Now 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, he batted .285 with five home runs in the Cape Cod League last summer and was batting .324/.429/.576 with nine home runs this spring. Wheeler has dabbled as a third baseman, but his long-term home should be at first, where he projects as an average defender. Scouts are most intrigued by his hitting ability, as he displays promising power as well as patience and an intelligent approach. Wheeler also gets high marks for his plate coverage, as well as his knack for driving the ball to the opposite field.
JOE GARDNER, RHP, UC SANTA BARBARA
Gardner first gained traction as a draft prospect with an excellent showing in Alaska last summer. A tall and lanky 6-foot-5, 220 pounds with a near sidearm delivery, Gardner is somewhat reminiscent of Tyson Ross, drafted last year out of Cal. His best pitch is his 91-93 mph fastball, which has natural heavy sinking action. His secondary pitches lag behind. He has some sink on his changeup but has trouble locating the pitch, and his curveball and slider have been mostly flat and rarely find the strike zone. Mechanics are also a concern with Gardner, who has a tendency to open up his front side too quickly and then land on a stiff front leg. If he improves his mechanics and secondary stuff, he could easily profile as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, though many scouts feel he fits best as a reliever, able to use his nasty sinker to induce groundballs.
MATT THOMSON, RHP, SAN DIEGO
Big and physical at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Thomson entered the 2009 season with high expectations and ranked 28th in BA's preseason ranking of draft-eligible college prospects. He and the Toreros had a disappointing year, though, and he finished the season at 5-5, 5.98 as the team didn't make regionals. Having spent most of the season as USD's Friday starter, Thomson encountered command difficulties, running up high pitch counts and falling behind hitters consistently. His stuff was good but not spectacular. His fastball sits in the 90-91 mph range, peaking at 92, but without a great deal of movement. He offers a slow curveball, sometimes starting a game with that pitch, and a slider and changeup fill out his arsenal. Drafted in the 22nd round by the Blue Jays out of Santa Rosa JC in 2007, Thomson has tinkered with his mechanics during his college career. His current version features a low three-quarters arm slot, with a kind of modified tilt to his delivery. His 2009 performance may have scouts concerned, but they still like size and arm strength. He'll need to improve his mechanics, sharpen his command and add movement to his pitches to have success in pro ball.
JONATHAN MEYER, C, SIMI VALLEY HS
Meyer is a versatile player whose draft stock has risen steadily as the season has progressed. A solidly built 6-foot-1 switch-hitter, Meyer has played shortstop and third base as well as catching. And as a pitcher, his fastball ranges from 87-91 mph, peaking at 92. Meyer's curveball is serviceable and could develop into a plus pitch. But his future is likely as a position player. He has the frame and arm to be an outstanding catcher. Yet his hands and fielding actions have improved immensely over the past year, and he flashes the playmaking ability to be an average to plus defensive third baseman as well. Meyer probably does not have the speed or quickness to play short, but second base is also a possibility. He is a recent convert to switch-hitting, and while he shows promise he has more power—and is more comfortable—from the right side.
BRETT WALLACH, RHP, ORANGE COAST JC
Wallach is the son of Tim Wallach, a 1979 first-round draft pick who was a longtime major leaguer with the Expos and Dodgers. Brett possesses a nearly ideal frame for a pitcher; at 6-foot-3 he's lanky and projectable. Right now his fastball ranges from 88-89 mph, and his body promises more velocity in the future. His secondary pitches are excellent. Wallach features a slurve, which when thrown well has quick and late break. His changeup is his best pitch, showing sudden late drop while thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball. He has a smooth delivery, and his fluid arm action permits the ball to leave his hand easily. Wallach presents scouts with a complete package. He combines a big league lineage, projectable frame, smooth delivery, and an excellent feel for three pitches.
JONATHAN SINGLETON, 1B, MILLIKAN HS, LONG BEACH
Singleton first came to the attention of scouts and college recruiters in the summer of 2007, when he was 15 and with a wood bat, he blasted a 400-foot home run out of Inland Empire's ballpark. His frame and natural hitting ability have impressed scouts, though his results have lagged behind. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Singleton has an impressive build, and his large, strong hands indicate natural power potential. He has a sweet, fluid swing, and his bat speed produces an audible "whoosh" as he swings at a pitch. He has struggled to connect with quality pitching at showcase events, and an early-season slump this spring drove down his stock. His backswing can get wrapped and unnecessarily long, leading to problems making solid contact. As the season has progressed, though, Singleton has warmed up. He impressed a group of 30 scouts in an Easter tournament game by ripping several base hits. He has excellent defensive skills, and should be an above-average defender at first base. Singleton is just 17, so a club that thinks it can draw out his terrific natural hitting ability can be patient in developing him. He could also shoot up draft boards in three years if he opts for Long Beach State instead of pro ball.
College Teams Have Less Talent, And It Showed
How down was the college talent in California in 2009? None of the four California schools in the Pac-10 made regionals, nor did any of the California schools in the West Coast Conference. Just five California schools—Big West trio UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly, plus Fresno State and San Diego State—made the NCAA tournament, and only Fullerton survived the first weekend.
Fullerton's talent ran deep in its freshman and sophomore classes. Among upperclassmen, outfielders Josh Fellhauer
(in the top 200) and Arizona prep product Khris Davis
should be the top Titans drafted. Davis seized on the opportunity to play in 2009, enjoying a productive season. Despite tailing off slightly at the end of the year, he hit 12 homers, batted .320 and stole 13 bags. Davis, whose father Rodney played, scouted and coached in pro ball, has a quick bat and plays above otherwise average tools. Appearing to be built out of concrete, Dustin Garneau
is a workmanlike catcher who functions as an on-field manager. Never a big hitter, he still hit .296/.416/.444 this season with four homers. Defense is his forte, as he handles pitchers well. Garneau will drift into stretches where his release becomes too sidearm, but he still tossed out 59 percent of opposing basestealers, shutting down opposing running games.
Righthanders Mike Morrison
and Kyle Witten
will be the next two Titans picked. San Diego product Morrison has had an up-and-down career for Fullerton but has fit better in the bullpen, using a low-90s fastball and uniquely gripped changeup. He lost the closer role early in the season, while Witten opened the season in the rotation but quickly lost his sport, winding up 4-3, 6.14 entering regionals. Drafted twice previously, Witten can touch the low 90s with his fastball, but he struggles with control of his four-seamer and secondary pitches, which include a split-finger pitch.
Cal State Fullerton's Jared Clark
has enjoyed two "I can tell my grandkids" moments in his college baseball career. The first occurred at the CWS in 2006, when he clubbed a three-run homer off of first round pick Andrew Miller of North Carolina at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium. The Titans eventually lost that game, 7-5, in 13 innings. On May 15, 2008 at Fullerton, Clark connected with a hanging curve from San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg and blasted it 400 feet over the fence in left center field. Fullerton won that contest, 4-3. A 23-year-old fifth-year senior, Clark dabbled as a pitcher in his first two seasons, 2005 and 2006. A knee injury forced him to redshirt in 2007, but he was nonetheless drafted that year by the Indians (21st round). The 6-foot-4, 215-pound righthander hitter found his stride in 2008, leading the Titans in home runs and finding a spot as a replacement on USA Baseball's college national team, where he replaced an injured Kentrail Davis. Despite his short stay with Team USA, Clark still led the squad with four homers. Clark has made a habit of driving in all the rabbits Fullerton places at the top of their batting order, leading the team with 74 RBIs and ranking second with 11 home runs. As a pro prospect, Clark is a kind of right handed Lucas Duda, who played at USC and was drafted by the Mets in 2007. Clark is acceptable as a defensive first baseman, and he has obvious power potential. His sweeping uppercut swing can get a shade long and pull-happy. Clark's relatively advanced age, injury history and lack of projection may work against him in the draft. Most importantly, Clark will need to convince scouts that his power translates to wood, and that he can consistently—not just occasionally—catch up to quality pitching.
Among other Big West schools, UC Irvine spent six weeks atop the Baseball America college rankings, but the Anteaters aren't loaded with prospects. Senior shortstop Ben Orloff
was the team's leader, and catcher Francis Larson
is a junior who played a lot of DH as well. Orloff, a 19th-rounder a year ago, is a skilled California shortstop who handles the bat well, though his range may be short for pro ball. Larson has led the team in home runs in consecutive seasons with 16 combined, and has thrown out nearly 50 percent of opposing basestealers (24 of 49).
Cal State Northridge improved to 24-32 this season and has two interesting prospects, though only one has produced in college. Redshirt sophomore righthander Brian Slover
has a chance to jump into the first five rounds. A physically imposing 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, Slover pounds the strike zone with a low- to mid-90s fastball and hard slider. He led the Big West with a 1.39 ERA, saving nine games while striking out 48 in 45 innings. Outfielder Jeff Pruitt
has a pro body at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, with plus tools in his arm strength, speed (6.5 seconds in the 60) and defense. A redshirt sophomore, Pruitt has not hit enough to get scouts that interested, batting .212 this season and striking out 53 times in 179 at-bats.
UC Santa Barbara fell short of lofty preseason expectations, in part because its pitching staff didn't perform as expected. Sophomore-eligible lefthander Mario Hollands
had inconsistent stuff all year, though at his best he scrapes the low 90s with his fastball and gets on hitters quickly, thanks to his deceptive delivery. His secondary stuff hasn't developed, leaving him without a strikeout pitch. Junior righty Mike Ford,
the team's ace in 2008, saw his ERA balloon from 2.96 to 6.75 this season, putting his draft status in doubt.
The Gauchos' hitters under draft scrutiny also struggled at times. Outfielder Mark Haddow
wowed scouts during UCSB's scout day last fall, then batted just .298 with five home runs in an injury-interrupted season. Big and strong at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he has run a swift 6.69-second 60 and shows a plus throwing arm from right field. Corner outfielders must hit, though, and Haddow has yet to show consistent results at the plate, despite his provocative raw power. Speedy, lefthanded-hitting Brian Gump
returned to UCSB after the Mets picked him in the 46th round in 2008. Plus speed (he had 22 steals) is his best tool.
While Cal Poly's presumptive ace, Steven Fischback,
missed the season with a shoulder injury, the team rallied to make its first Division I regional appearance. The teams was led by versatile infielder Adam Buschini,
whose brother Shane played in the Padres system last year. Held back by Tommy John surgery in 2008, Buschini was healthy and able to put in a full season in 2009. He responded with a huge year, batting .412/.478/.723 with 11 homers. A 6-foot-2, 205-pound righthanded hitter, Buschini's power and advanced hitting approach may place him in the single-digit rounds, especially after he showed versatility by moving from first base to second base after an injury to standout freshman Matt Jensen. A former prep soccer player, Buschini has also filled in at shortstop, third base and the outfield in his career.
Cal Poly also contributes hard-throwing reliever Kevin Castner,
who nearly signed with the Rangers last year as a 10th-rounder. Now a redshirt junior, Castner still throws hard—in the mid-90s consistently and at times more—but doesn't find the strike zone consistently. In 55 career innings in college, he walked 52.
Elsewhere in the Big West, UC Davis crashed to earth with a 13-42 record one season after making it to regionals. The Aggies' top prospect this year, lefthander Andy Suiter,
went 0-2, 8.89 with 41 walks in just 26 innings. He does have big-time arm strength. He opened the season as a weekend starter and failed miserably, then rallied in a relief role, running his fastball up to 95 mph to go with a power curve that reaches the low 80s. Repeating his delivery remains an issue, but when he's down in the strike zone Suiter can overmatch even good hitters, striking out Brett Jackson and Blake Smith in a matchup at California late in the season.
Davis' top hitter this season is versatile switch-hitter Ty Kelly,
who won the Big West batting title a year ago (.397) but dropped to .307 this spring, albeit with 20 doubles. Kelly is versatile, having played center field in the Cape Cod League last summer and third and second base in college. He's a better fit at second with gap power, average speed and an average to above-average arm.
Teams looking for college bats were having to look harder than usual this year. One option is St. Mary's outfielder Kyle Jensen
. He was a skinny 6-foot-2, 180-pound lefthanded pitcher in high school, with an ordinary mid-80s fastball. Now a slugging righthanded-hitting outfielder, he has grown into a powerful 6-foot-4, 230-pounder. Jensen enjoyed a sensational 2008 season, belting 13 home runs while hitting .421 to lead the West Coast Conference. He also was productive in the Alaska League, hitting .265 for Mat-Su. His 2009 encore wasn't quite as impressive, as he swung for the fences more. He wound up at .286 with 58 strikeouts in 213 at-bats. Scouts love Jensen's huge raw power but are concerned about his contact rate. Some scouts think his high strikeout numbers came because he was pressing, though he does have holes in his swing. Despite his bulk, Jensen has excellent speed—6.7 seconds on the 60-yard dash. He played both corners in college but profiles better in left, with a solid-average arm and acceptable defensive skills. He could go out as high as the third round despite his poor season.
Righthanded closer Nick Gaudi
was the most pleasant surprise in a disappointing season for Pepperdine. The 6-foot-4, 202-pounder racked up 47 strikeouts in 35 innings and saved nine after having 15 saves in 2008. Scouts attribute his 2009 success to the development of his slider and split-finger fastball, which finish off hitters after he sets them up by throwing his 88-91 mph fastball for strikes.
UC Riverside's Paul Applebee
is the prototypical crafty lefthander, moving his 86 mph fastball around the strike zone and keeping hitters off-balance with an excellent curveball and changeup. He doesn't miss many bats, but Applebee doesn't give up a lot of solid contact either. After a solid summer in the Cape Cod League, Applebee went 10-2, 3.74 this spring. His track record and ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (five homers allowed in 89 innings) could make him the second Highlander drafted, after closer Joe Kelly. At 6-foot-2. 170 pounds, he's got similar stuff to UC Irvine ace Daniel Bibona
but with better pro size, as Bibona is just 5-foot-11, 165 pounds.
The Pac-10 has little in the way of depth, and several top prospects went backward. Stanford righthander Jeff Inman
leads that line; he started the year as a potential first-rounder after a solid sophomore season and good summer in the Cape Cod League. He never got it together this spring, though, going 2-6, 6.11 as opponents hit .307 against him. At his best in the past, he showed a low-90s fastball that touches 96, solid curveball and changeup, but he was never at his best this spring and scouts said he got worse as the year went on. Against New Mexico on May 10, his velocity dropped into the low 80s and he left after one batter, with reports that he had shoulder tendinitis. He didn't pitch the rest of the season, so teams' views of the condition of his shoulder could drive how high he's drafted.
Fellow Cardinal Toby Gerhart
is one of the best athletes in the draft, and he set Stanford's single-season rushing record last fall with 1,136 yards. As a high schooler, he demolished all California state rushing records at Norco High, finishing with 9,622 career rushing yards, including 3,233 as senior. A 6-foot-1 232-pounder who combines remarkable strength and speed, Gerhart has enjoyed more success on the gridiron than the diamond. He finished strong with home runs in two of his final three weekends of the season, giving him a .288/.392/.475 line on the season with seven homers. Despite his football background, Gerhart's terrific tools and athleticism will lure a club to draft him. But signing him out of his senior year at Stanford (and away from football) would take a big number, and he may not have shown enough on the diamond yet to justify that.
Stanford's other hitter who has a good shot to be drafted is senior first baseman Brent Milleville,
a highly recruited prep out of Kansas who came on in his last two seasons. He overcame a slow start in '09 to hit a career-high .324 with 14 homers this spring. He's more athletic than he looks at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and needs to cut down on his swings-and-misses, but his raw power from the right side should earn him a look. He also can catch in a pinch.
USC and UCLA won't make many contributions other than Trojans stars Grant Green and Robert Stock. With his distinctive pigeon-toed gait, Hector Rabago
is easily recognizable. Rabago is versatile and has been a jack of all trades for USC. His terrific throwing arm allows him to profile at several spots on the field, but catcher or pitcher may be his best options. Because his bat remains below par (.257 this year, just nine extra-base hits), Rabago's low-90s fastball may be more attractive to pro teams. He didn't pitch at all for the Trojans this spring, however, and has pitched just six innings since his freshman season.
The Bruins' top players in another disappointing season were freshman righthanders Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. Among eligible players, they have several teasers, such as outfielder Gabe Cohen
and lefthander Gavin Brooks
. Built like an Adonis, Cohen flashes a strong arm, power and above-average speed. He has tinkered with his stance so often, though, he has never truly found a niche at bat. An occasional long home run is often followed by prolonged slumps. A better hitter may be Casey Haerther,
who was soft and overweight when drafted by the Padres out of high school and has worked hard to transform his frame at UCLA. His blazing start in 2009 cooled as the season progressed—he finished the season batting .305/.372/.473 with nine home runs—but Haerther has power and is a smart hitter, using the whole field and not trying to do too much with a good pitch. He has dabbled at third but is a better fit as a first baseman, and could still go with a single-digit pick.
First baseman Cody Decker
played the lead as a senior in his high school play, often changing out of acting garb to rush over to the baseball clubhouse and put his uniform on. Now a college senior, he set career highs in average (.322) and home runs (21) this spring, feasting on anything middle-in. His shorter frame and high strikeout total—58 in 2009—may depress his draft position, but Decker's power should draw draft attention.
A tall and rangy lefthander, Brooks has battled several injuries, primarily to his throwing shoulder, and missed his senior high school season. When healthy, he can sit in the low 90s and touch the mid-90s. He averaged a strikeout an inning in 2009, but also walked 20 in 36 frames, posting an unimpressive 0-4, 4.71 record. He rallied in a relief role, leading the Bruins with eight saves after imploding early in the season in a starting role. Clubs will have to satisfy themselves about Brooks' health, but hard-throwing lefties are hard to find.
Juco, Small-College Ranks Improve
California's junior college were down in 2008 but improved in '09, with Orange Coast JC righthander Brett Wallach likely to be drafted in the first five rounds. There's greater depth this season as well.
Drafted by Kansas City in 2008, lefthander Kyle Petter
is a 5-foot-9, 180-pounder with a 86-89 mph fastball and mid-70s curve. He's a two-way player, leading El Camino JC in home runs this spring with 10. An aggressive pitcher who works quickly, he struggles with his command and will run up high pitch counts. Other pitchers who could be drafted include Orange Coast righthander Calvin Drummond
and Mount San Jacinto righty Drew Madrigal
. Drafted out of high school by the Yankees in 2008, Drummond has a tall, lanky and projectable frame. He will flash a low-90s fastball, but he gets little movement. Scouts were concerned with Drummond's poor early season outings and his apparent lack of intensity. Madrigal drew flocks of scouts to his early-season starts. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and he adds a fine two-plane curve. He used the curve to lead California in strikeouts with 138 in 106 innings, and he threw seven complete games. The conference MVP, Madrigal also is a two-way player, hitting .404 this spring, and is a two-way recruit to Auburn. A mature frame and inconsistent mechanics and control hamper Madrigal's pro ceiling, but he may be a draft bargain as a reliever.
and James Wharton
are limited defensively to first base, but both have shown power. Wharton blasted 16 home runs this spring. His swing can get a bit long, but he has shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields. Tall, strong and rangy, Kaupang has excellent raw power and hitting ability, as evidenced by his 11 homers and .428 average. He has shown a tendency to point his front foot and open up his front side too soon, but if scouts think he can correct those problems, he could be a sleeper.
Two other juco hitters attracting attention were outfielders Virgil Hill
and Sequoyah Stonecipher
. Hill, a 35th-rounder last year (Athletics), is a 6-foot, 190-pounder who hit .462 with 10 homers and 27 stolen bases this spring. An exciting and aggressive player, he flashes a rare combination of speed and power. Hill is still a bit raw after missing a year in high school to run track and play football. He has tremendous athleticism and bloodlines, as both of his parents were Olympians. His mother Denean Howard-Hill won a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics in the 4x400 meter relay. His father Virgil Sr. also won a silver medal, as a boxer in the 1984 Olympics. He later won the WBA cruiserweight title.
A showcase and Area Code veteran in high school, Stonecipher hasn't ever generated much scouting excitement because of his lack of big tools. He improved after leaving the San Diego program and playing juco ball. He hit .355 with 17 homers this spring, and may now draw some draft attention in the double-digit rounds, thanks to his bat.
A couple of other pitchers earning notice were lefthander Brian Peacock
and righty Chris Balcom-Miller
. Peacock, projectable at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds with an easy arm action, throws a mid- to high-80s fastball and a sharp curveball. Peacock, just 19, needs to develop his changeup, but his other attributes figure to draw late-round draft attention. Drafted by the Royals in the 35th round in 2008, Balcom-Miller has an impressive frame and excellent stuff. His low-90s fastball and plus changeup enabled him to strike out 106 batters in 83 innings in 2009. His slider regressed as his changeup took charge, but he has shown the ability to spin one in the past. A Lewis-Clark State signee, his fine season may entice a ballclub to draw him away from his college commitment.
Six-foot-4 former Arizona recruit Brice Cutspec
wound up at Azusa Pacific, helping lead the team to the NAIA World Series with 30 home runs. He now holds both the Cougars' single-season and career home run marks. He has interesting lefthanded power and a good arm, but his lack of mobility and big body limit him to first base defensively. He was a prep catcher, but that doesn't seem to be an option anymore. His huge 2009 numbers were inflated by Azusa Pacific's tiny ballpark.
Here we go again as outfielder Nick Akins
is back in the draft. Drafted twice previously out of high school and Riverside (Calif.) CC, Akins hit .314 this spring and led NAIA Vanguard with 13 home runs and 15 doubles. Akins is now a left fielder with the same strengths and weaknesses as before. His sculpted build can produce massive home runs, but his inability to handle breaking and offspeed stuff frustrates scouts as much now as it did when he was a showcase star in high school. Always a tough sign, Akins has only one more year of draft eligibilty remaining, so his window may be closing.
Amazing Prep Depth, As Usual
Among California preps, Temecula Valley High righthander Brooks Pounders
has split scouts more than any other player. Pounders' father Brad was a star at UC Riverside and played in the Padres farm system in the 1980s. Brooks is a jumbo-sized 6-foot-5, 240-pounder, who despite his intimidating size is not a fireballer. Instead, he has a feel for four pitches and advanced secondary stuff. His fastball ranges from 88-90 mph, peaking at 91. He throws both a tight curveball and hard slider, both of which have plus potential, and rounds out his repertoire with a changeup. Pounders' frame is not projectable, so he doesn't figure to throw much harder in the future. His fastball is fairly straight, and his command can be inconsistent. Those factors may combine to depress Pounder's draft position, and if he slides he'll end up at Southern California.
led Mater Dei deep into its sectional playoffs, beating top-ranked Norco and ace Matt Hobgood, a likely first-rounder. Northcraft settled down after giving up a three-run homer in the first and continued to boost his draft stock. He's a 6-foot-4, 215-pound righthander who has modified his delivery, better incorporating his lower half. Delivering his pitches from a near sidearm slot, Northcraft has improved his stuff noticeably since last year. His four-seam fastball sits at 87-90 mph, and his best offering is his 84-85 mph two-seamer, which shows both sink and armside movement. He lacks control of his curveball, but that pitch shows interesting, sweeping break. A Southern California recruit, Northcraft needs some mechanical adjustments, but his combination of size and lively stuff could get him into the first five or six rounds.
UC Irvine's top recruit is lefthander Beau Wright
, who during a practice session for the 2008 Aflac game was conked in the head by a line drive. The injury restricted him from pitching until the spring, and scouts were disappointed by his performance. A 6-foot-2, 230-pounder, Wright doesn't offer much projection and may struggle with fitness as his career progresses. His raw stuff is decent but not overwhelming, featuring an 89-91 mph fastball, a mid-80s two-seamer and a 74-77 mph curve. Both his command and velocity are hurt by his poor mechanics. Wright's freak injury has slowed his progress, but he still may draw early draft attention as a lefthander with average stuff.
Cal State Fullerton figures to lose several of its top recruits, such as Matt Hobgood, Dylan Floro and Tyler Skaggs (from our top 200 list). The Titans have a chance to hang onto some key players, such as versatile, athletic Wes Hatton
. He can pitch (89-91 mph fastball) and play the infield or outfield. Hatton has above-average speed as well, but his lack of size and absence of one huge tool may keep him out of the top 10 rounds. Middle infielder David Kiriakos
would add speed to the Titans lineup, as he's a 6.75-second runner in the 60 and has a quick, line-drive bat. Just 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, he's a bit undersized, and while he has an excellent glove, his lack of arm strength will place him at second base defensively, likely at Fullerton as opposed to pro ball. A third Titan recruit, showcase regular Ivory Thomas
, is a bit undersized for pro ball at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. He's a plus runner (6.77 seconds in the 60) and has a decent arm. He also offers provocative raw power and drew notice for getting five hits and scoring the winning run in a 20-inning game in 2008, the longest game in CIF Southern Section playoff history. His strength and energy could make him the top draft pick among this trio.
Two Long Beach State recruits drawing attention were shortstop Juan Avila
and righthander Brett Gerritse
: A 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, Gerritse has an awkward delivery and less-than-ideal arm action, but his stuff will get him drafted. Big and physical, he delivers a 90-91 mph fastball and 80-81 mph curve that at times is a plus pitch. His changeup may be his best pitch, as it has split-finger movement late. Naturally an outfielder, Avila is perhaps the finest all-around player in the Los Angeles area and profiles to big league average almost across the board—in speed, arm, glove and bat. A switch-hitter who played shortstop as a prep senior, he has a quick bat and has filled out into his 6-foot, 170-pound frame in the past year. He lacks the actions to stay in the infield. He could be a steal if a team decides to sign him away from college.
Riverside Poly's Blair Moore
is a prep infielder who would fit better in the outfield in pro ball. A San Diego State recruit, Moore outperformed teammate Jake Marisnick, the better prospect of the pair, by leading the team in batting and home runs this spring. He has a promising lefthanded bat and acceptable run, throw and field tools. Moore also has a projectable 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame.
Righthander Chad Thompson
had Tommy John surgery on May 1. Before that, he was a top 200 candidate with a projectable 6-foot-7 build and 93 mph fastball. Assuming he makes a full recovery, he could be a top-round candidate for 2012, particularly if his mechanics improve. He's committed to Arizona State along with his El Toro batterymate, catcher Nolan Arenado
While Jio Mier is the top talent on the Bonita High roster, UCLA recruit Jeff Gelalich
also attracted attention with a strong frame, average-to-plus arm and solid-average speed. The lefthanded-hitting outfielder has yet to show scouts consistent hitting ability. Tyler Matzek's catcher, Nolan Clark
is a solid all-around backstop who has signed to play at Nevada-Las Vegas. Good but not overwhelming in all phases of the game, he is a valued as a team leader and mature presence, and his handling of his pitching staff draws praise. At his best, his pop times are right around 2.0 seconds.
Several pitchers in Northern California were making noise this spring, with lefthander Christian Jones
chief among them. He has a loose arm and good size at 6-foot-4. The biggest negative is a slinging, low-slot delivery, but he pumps fastballs in the upper 80s consistently, touching 91. He throws strikes with it and throws a hard power slider to complement it, with work required on his changeup. Some consider his slider a plus pitch, and he misses a lot of bats with it at the prep level. Jones is a strong competitor who could step in as a freshman at Oregon, but who also could go out in the fifth-round range.
From the baseball relatives category come catcher Richard Stock
and outfielder Beau Amaral
. Stock, the younger brother of USC's Robert Stock, has been hobbled by injuries to his wrist, back and ribs. A top 200 prospect when healthy, he figures to follow Robert to USC, where he could develop into one of the nation's finest catchers and a first-round candidate in 2012. He has better size than his older brother at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, and raw power from the left side to go with above-average arm strength. UCLA recruit Amaral, whose father Rich played 10 seasons in the majors, follows in his dad's footsteps as a smart, aggressive baserunner. Amaral lacks power projection and will have to fit in as a top-of-the-order center fielder, and he's unlikely to get bought away from college.
One of the top running backs in the state, Tyler Gaffney
signed to play baseball and football at Stanford,. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder led the state with 56 touchdowns in a 14-game season, and he'd back up Toby Gerhart if Gerhart doesn't sign in the baseball draft. Gaffney has it all for baseball: speed, power and arm. He'll get to first in under 4.0 seconds from the right side on a bunt and has interesting bat speed. He's an aggressive, energetic player with surprising arm strength for a football player. After a disastrous BP session in a summer 2008 showcase, Gaffney has improved at bat to enjoy a fine 2009 campaign. He'll be a difficult sign to say the least with football and Stanford in the mix.
One of the San Diego area's better athletes, outfielder Matt Moynihan
is a 6.6 runner in the 60 and has an impressive 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame. He has a fringy arm and has raw power. His hit tool is quite a bit behind his athletic ability and requires a lot of projection. And with his San Diego commitment, he's a tough sign.
Switch-hitting first baseman Kelly Dugan
has some power now in his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame and projects to hit for more down the line, though he likely will wind up doing that at Pepperdine. He's a solid runner at around 7.1 seconds over 60 yards and has decent arm strength, so he could give the outfield a try. He's the son of actor/director/producer Dennis Dugan, who has worked frequently with Adam Sandler for years.