LONG BEACH, Calif. — As the six-day Area Code Games at Blair Field concluded, we asked more than a half-dozen scouting directors and crosscheckers a simple, open-ended question: "Who impressed you most this week?" Some responded with a bunch of names, some with just a few, and two of our respondents gave us just one name. It was the same name in both cases—the first name on our list below.
This isn't intended to be a ranking
of the prospects at the Area Codes—rather, it is simply an answer to
the intentionally subjective question posed above. Here are 15 players
who got the most support in our survey. . .
1. Alexander Jackson, c/of
Class of 2014, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
Jackson garnered the most support from our panel, and after the way he mashed at Blair Field, it's no wonder. Jackson reached safely in seven of his eight plate appearances over the first five days of the tournament, going 6-for-7 and hitting for a tournament cycle—a homer, triple, double and three singles. He showed the ability to punish fastballs and offspeed pitches alike, and scouts love his combination of power potential and hitting instincts. Physical and strong at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Jackson's righthanded power is his calling card—he led California prep players with 17 home runs as a sophomore this spring. He mostly DHed this week, but scouts say they would give him every opportunity to stay behind the plate in pro ball, but he is certainly athletic enough for a corner outfield spot otherwise. But whoever drafts him in 2014 will be buying his bat, first and foremost—and his bat looks very special.
2. Jonathan Denney, c
Class of 2013, Yukon (Okla.) HS
Denney, an Arkansas commit, is built similarly to Jackson (6-2, 205) and has similar thunder in his righthanded bat. He commanded scouts' attention with his 431-foot home run to left-center on Wednesday, crushing a 90 mph fastball. That homer came off his bat at 107 mph, tied with Jackson's triple off the center-field wall for hardest-hit ball of the week, per our friends at TrackMan. He also had a single and a walk in that game, and he added a double to right-center Thursday. Scouts say Denney has good catch-and-throw skills to go along with his provocative power.
3. Stephen Gonsalves, lhp
Class of 2013, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego
Gonsalves racked up five strikeouts in three scoreless innings during his appearance Tuesday, carving hitters up by spotting his 88-92 mph fastball at the knees, on the black. At 6-foot-6, 185 pounds, Gonsalves has serious projection and downward angle, and his fastball command sets him apart from most high school prospects, even though his curveball and split-finger are still works in progress. He is a San Diego commit.
4. Trey Ball, lhp/of
Class of 2013, New Castle (Ind.) HS
Already regarded as the top two-way talent in this draft class and a potential top-10 overall pick, Ball continued to demonstrate legit talent as a pitcher and a hitter at the Area Codes. Like Gonsalves, he has tantalizing projectability in his 6-foot-6, 180-pound frame, and he has better secondary stuff than Gonsalves—an 82-83 changeup with good arm speed and fade, as well as a promising 75-77 curveball. During his three shutout innings in Long Beach, Ball's fastball sat in the 87-89 range, but it projects for more velocity as he fills out. As you might expect, Ball showed a rifle arm from right field. He is a premium athlete with above-average speed and good instincts on the basepaths. At the plate, he hit singles to both sides of the field this week, and scouts think he could grow into significant lefthanded power in time.
5. Ian Clarkin, lhp
Class of 2013, Madison HS, San Diego
Clarkin went head-to-head with Ball on Monday and was even more dominant, compiling five strikeouts in three innings of one-hit, shutout ball. He showed slightly less fastball velocity (87-91) and command than fellow USD commit Gonsalves, but he did have some success busting righties inside, and his secondary stuff is more advanced than Gonsalves'. Like Ball, he showed a changeup with good arm speed and fade at 79-80, and his 73 mph curveball was effective against lefties, though it could use a little more tightening.
6. Corey Simpson, 1b/c
Class of 2013, Sweeny (Texas) HS
Simpson was the big story of the first day of the Area Code Games, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs, including a mammoth two-run homer to dead-center. The righthanded slugger also hit doubles to center, and right-center and down the left-field line over the course of the week. He showed good pitch recognition and plate discipline, and he moves well for his size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds). A Houston recruit, Simpson projects as a first baseman, but his hitting ability and plus power will carry him.
7. Jacob Gatewood, ss/of
Class of 2014, Clovis (Calif.) HS
A number of high-ranking scouts had already left the Area Codes by the time Gatewood launched his towering three-run homer Thursday, or else he might have checked in even higher on this list. The Southern California commit is loose, athletic and ultra-projectable at 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, and he already flashes massive righthanded power, as he did Thursday. His majestic home run landed on the road beyond the left-field fence, bouncing over a car and up against the chain-link fence across the street. Scouts are convinced he'll be too big for shortstop, but his athleticism and power could give him loads of value in the outfield.
8. Kohl Stewart, rhp
Class of 2013, St. Pius X HS, Houston
Stewart has first-round talent as a pitcher, but he'll be a difficult sign due to his football/baseball commitment to Texas A&M. A star quarterback, Stewart's athleticism and aggressiveness translate well to the mound, where he sat at 88-92 and touched 93 in his start Sunday. In three scoreless innings, he showed the best slider at the Area Codes—a true power pitch in the 84-86 range with tilt. He also showed good feel for his 80-82 changeup.
9. Ryan Boldt, of
Class of 2013, Red Wing (Minn.) HS
Boldt stood out for his athleticism and center fielder tool set. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Nebraska recruit is a plus runner who tracks balls well in the outfield and showed a solid, accurate arm. Aside from his triple into the right-center gap on Tuesday, Boldt did not turn in a particularly loud performance with the bat, but scouts liked his lefthanded bat speed and line-drive stroke.
10. Dustin Driver, rhp
Class of 2013, Wenatchee, Wash.
Driver was the only pitcher at the Area Codes to reach 94 mph with his fastball, and he offers a lot more than just arm strength. A UCLA commit, Driver has a durable 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, and he showed solid command in his four scoreless innings over two outings. With plus arm strength and the makings of three quality secondary pitches, Driver has a case as the best pitching prospect in the tournament, though some scouts are less enthusiastic about him.
11. A.J. Puk, lhp/1b
Class of 2013, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) HS
Puk generated support from our panel both as a pitcher and a hitter. At 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, the Florida recruit has outstanding extension out front in his delivery, and plenty of leverage in his lefthanded swing. Puk struck out the side in order during his first of two innings on the mound Wednesday, showing a 90-92 fastball and a 73-74 curve with big 1-to-7 break. A day earlier, he shined at the plate, doubling down the left-field line and doubling to right-center.
12. J.P. Crawford, ss
Class of 2013, Lakewood (Calif.) HS
Crawford was the most intriguing shortstop prospect at the Area Codes, and his prospect stock is rising fast. His best day at the plate came Tuesday, when he singled to right field and tripled to left, showing off his all-fields approach and lefthanded bat speed. The USC recruit has excellent hand-eye coordination and barrel awareness, though one scout impugned his baserunning instincts. More than anything else, he stood out for his smooth infield actions and solid, accurate arm at shortstop. He even showcased some versatility by handling himself ably in center field.
13. Nick Longhi, 1b/of
Class of 2013, Venice (Fla.) HS
Longhi wore out both gaps with hard line drive after hard line drive. According to TrackMan, he produced six hits that came off the bat at 100 mph or better. The 6-2, 205-pound LSU commit has plenty of strength in his swing and an innate feel for his barrel, but as a righthanded hitting first baseman or left fielder he doesn't have a great profile. Still, his bat could carry him a long way, especially if his doubles start turning into home runs.
14. Iolana Akau, c
Class of 2013, St. Louis School, Honolulu
Akau stood out most for his defense behind the plate. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Hawaii recruit is quick and agile, showing very good blocking and receiving skills as well as a plus arm. Scouts also liked his leadership presence—he could often be heard barking out commands to his teammate on ground balls. He had a quiet week with the bat, but he does have a promising compact swing from the right side.
15. Garrett Williams, lhp
Class of 2013, Calvary Baptist Acad., Shreveport, La.
Williams struck out four over three scoreless innings Sunday. Scouts liked his prototypical 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame and easy delivery from a three-quarters slot. He worked in the 88-91 mph range and used his sharp 74-77 curveball as an out pitch. He'll need to develop a better changeup, but he has plenty of time to do so.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES:
C Reese McGuire
OF Matt McPhearson
1B Michael Hoard
LHP Blake Taylor
2B Dalton Dulin
LHP Matt Krook
LHP Ryan Burnett
RHP Phil Bickford
OF Stone Garrett
C Chuckie Robinson
OF Nick Buckner
1B Dominic Smith
C Jeremy Martinez