State Report: Nevada

Coaches made more news than the players




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THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Rating compares this year's group to what a state typically produces, not to other states
The biggest baseball news in Nevada this year didn't involve players; it involved coaches.

A couple of the state's top coaches moved up a level to take on new challenges, with decidedly mixed results. First, JC of Southern Nevada skipper Tim Chambers took the reins at Nevada-Las Vegas and led the Rebels to their first winning season (33-25) since 2005.

Chambers built the Southern Nevada program from scratch beginning in 2000 and made the Coyotes a national juco power, leading them to the 2003 NJCAA national championship. The team also drew national attention last year as the home of Bryce Harper, going 52-16 and winning a district championship.

To take Chambers' place, Southern Nevada hired Chris Sheff from national powerhouse Bishop Gorman High of Las Vegas, which won five straight state 4-A titles and the BA national high school championship in 2009. But Sheff was fired before the season even began after allegations of training and conditioning irregularities. Southern Nevada then turned to another of the state's standout high school coaches, Nick Garritano, to replace Sheff. Garritano led Green Valley High, in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, to a 315-118 record and two state titles over 12 seasons, and he took over just three months before the start of the 2011 season.

A month after Garritano took the job, Southern Nevada was placed on probation by the NJCAA for violations under Sheff and lost 10 of its 24 scholarships for both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The team finished 32-27 this season.

On the field, while shortstop Jake Hager is the state's top prospect, the biggest story is lefthander Amir Garrett, who was better known as a basketball player coming into the spring but was rising fast up draft boards in spite of minimal experience on the mound.

It's also worth noting that this year's high school class could have included Nationals phenom Bryce Harper, had he stayed on a traditional path to the draft. Instead, Harper was hitting .346/.432/.623 for low Class A Hagerstown with 13 home runs.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Jake Hager, ss, Sierra Vista HS, Las Vegas (National Rank: 122)
2. Amir Garrett, lhp, Findlay Prep HS, Henderson (National Rank: 200)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

3. Sam Wolff, rhp, JC of Southern Nevada
4. Tanner Peters, rhp, Nevada-Las Vegas
5. Matt Dunbar, lhp, JC of Southern Nevada
6. Chipper Smith, lhp, JC of Southern Nevada
7. Cameron Harper, of, JC of Southern Nevada
8. Erick Fedde, rhp, Las Vegas HS
9. Cameron Coombs, rhp, Durango HS, Las Vegas
10. Erik Holdren, rhp, Rancho HS, Las Vegas
11. Zak Qualls, lhp, Rancho HS, Las Vegas
12. Brett Harrison, 3b, Green Valley HS, Henderson
13. Brock Stassi, 1b/lhp, Nevada
14. Scott Tomassetti, c, Sierra Vista HS, Las Vegas
15. Tanner Chauncey, ss, Las Vegas HS
16. Erik Van Meetren, c, Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas
17. Joe Robinson, rhp, Nevada-Las Vegas

SCOUTING REPORTS

Jake Hager, ss
Sierra Vista HS, Las Vegas

Hager doesn't have one standout tool, but he can do a little bit of everything and always plays hard. He's an average runner but has nice actions at shortstop with an above-average arm. Hager is a good hitter and performed with wood at showcase events last fall. He has some pop, though he profiles as more of a gap hitter with average power. His tools play up because he's the prototypical baseball rat. He has passion for the game and is typically the dirtiest guy on the field, playing with toughness and energy. He's a leader on the field with good makeup, exactly what you want from a shortstop. He could go as high as the second round and if he doesn't sign, he'll head to Arizona State.

Amir Garrett, lhp
Findlay Prep, Henderson

Garrett has quickly gone from being unknown to being a legitimate prospect in two sports. He didn't start playing organized basketball until his freshman year but jumped onto the varsity from day one. He has grown into a 6-foot-6 wing player with explosive leaping ability and has committed to St. John's. He is also interested in playing baseball. While playing on a travel basketball team last summer, Garrett made time to pitch in the Tournament of Stars, flashing upper 80s velocity from the windup, dipping 8-10 mph from the stretch. His athleticism has allowed him to make great strides this spring even though he hasn't played for a team. He has a throwing program that incorporates yoga, long-toss and resistance training and started throwing bullpens and stretching his arm out. When basketball season ended, he ramped up his baseball workouts and has been throwing for scouts. In early May, he threw for a group of scouts in Las Vegas and sat 90-94 mph while touching 96. He also flashed a changeup with life in the lower 80s and has shown flashes of a usable curveball. Everything is, understandably, a work in progress for Garrett but his athleticism from the left side is impossible to ignore.

More Arms At Southern Nevada

Last year, seven pitchers were drafted out of JC of Southern Nevada. Aside from Garrett, that's where the state's best arms are located again, in spite of the Coyotoes' turmoil and disappointing season.

Righthander Sam Wolff was a rare high school prospect from South Dakota in 2009 and pitched just 16 innings at San Diego last year before transferring to Southern Nevada. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, he has power stuff, including a fastball that sits 91-92 mph and tops out at 95. The ball explodes out of his hand and shows good two-seam action when he throws it in, and cutting action when he throws it to his glove side. Wolff also mixes in an above-average slider and a changeup that has a chance to be average. He's a quality athlete with a good delivery and is committed to New Mexico.

Lefthander Matt Dunbar has a 6-foot-1, 205-pound build and moved between starting and closing for the Coyotes. His fastball peaks at 93 mph and he shows a three-pitch mix, including the staff's best slider, when it's on, and a changeup. Dunbar needs to throw strikes more consistently. If he doesn't sign, he'll head to Arizona State.

Lefthander Chipper Smith doesn't have the stuff of Wolff or Dunbar, but shows a good feel for pitching. He pitches to contact with his 87-89 mph fastball that has a lot of sink, and mixes in an above-average changeup and a solid slider.

UNLV righthander Tanner Peters isn't physically imposing at 6 feet and 150 pounds, but he gets it done on the mound. Peters posted the eighth-best ERA in the country this year (1.50) heading into regional play, and finished behind only Trevor Bauer with eight complete games. Peters throws his fastball in the 88-91 mph range and tops out at 93. His changeup is his best secondary offering—and it's devastating when it's on—and he throws a curveball and a cutter. He's undersized and doesn't have knockout stuff, so scouts may wait to draft him next year as a senior.

Southern Nevada outfielder Cameron Harper shows solid tools across the board and generated late interest because of his hot finish at the plate. He still needs work on his plate discipline and needs to show that he can drive the ball the other way, which he does in batting practice but not yet against live pitching.

Nevada first baseman Brock Stassi's brother Max is a catcher in the Athletics system. Brock, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, played both ways for the Wolf Pack, and will likely go out late as a position player with the fallback of going to the mound if hitting doesn't work out.

Future Rebels?

Most of the top high school players in the state are committed to UNLV, including righthanders Erick Fedde and Erik Holdren, lefthander Zak Qualls and catchers Scott Tomasetti and Erik Van Meetren.

Fedde has a projectable, 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame. He got his fastball up to 92 mph this year and mixes in a changeup and a good slider that he can throw to both sides of the plate.

Qualls has even more projection with his long and lanky, 6-foot-3, 160-pound frame. He may be too far away for a club to take now, as his fastball is mostly in the 84-86 mph range with good armside run. He pitches with confidence and throws a sweepy slider and an occasional curveball and changeup.

Van Meetren put up big numbers and had some big games in front of a lot of scouts. He's serviceable at catcher, outfield and first base, but not a standout at any position. He's physical at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds and scouts think he wants to sign.

Tomassetti is built more like a catcher at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds. He's a little stiff behind the plate and will need work to stay back there. Tomassetti benefited from being teammates with Jake Hager and getting extra scouting attention.

Righthander Cameron Coombs is a Brigham Young recruit who showed good arm strength this year. He has a lot of funk and awkwardness to his delivery and doesn't have much in the way of secondary pitches.