A Prospect On Every Corner

ANAHEIM–As luck would have it, the best games in Tuesday’s quarterfinal action were all held at one location, so I saved some gas money and settled in for a couple of intriguing matchups.

One of the benefits of the National Classic is seeing the different styles of play from teams from different parts of the country, and hitting has prevailed over pitching for the most part this week.

Connor Hoehn’s name has been whispered frequently this spring, and there were a few dozen scouts on hand to see him strut his stuff against one of the best hitting teams in Florida, Palm Beach Central (Wellington, Fla.).

Hoehn’s a well-built, 6-foot-2 righthander from St. John’s College High in Washington, D.C. He’s had some helium this spring thanks mostly to a fastball that has been up to 93 mph.

The Alabama signee touched 91 Tuesday, and discovered just how tough Palm Beach Central’s lineup can be. Hoehn hung tough through five innings, departing with a lead before Palm Beach rallied, but his secondary stuff and overall command are behind that of some of the country’s elite arms.

He threw a couple of above-average sliders at 77-80 mph, but he tends to get underneath and around the ball upon release, which causes his fastball to flatten out and his slider to spin side-to-side without depth.

Because of his arm strength and frame, there could be a team out there that drafts him in the fourth- to seventh-round range, depending on his signability.

Kyle O’Campo’s resume was more distinguished entering his senior season, thanks to sound appearances last summer at the Area Code Games and Aflac Classic. The righthander from Poly High (Riverside, Calif.) was the main attraction in Tuesday night’s showdown with Flanagan High (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), the two-time defending 6-A champions from Florida.

Like Hoehn, O’Campo’s delivery isn’t picture-perfect and he’s still raw in the pitchability department, but he has a quick arm and a little more feel for his slider than Hoehn.

Flanagan fell behind early, then rallied before O’Campo slammed the door in the seventh inning to secure a 7-6 win. His 131st and final pitch of the night was a 77 mph slider, something Flanagan’s hitters saw a lot of as the game got later.

“Our guys are juiced to hit the fastball, we’re seeing 90-92 pretty much every night we play back in Florida, and I think he did a nice job of relying on his slider as we started to tee off on the fastball,” Flanagan coach Ray Evans said. “We were a little awestruck early in the game, but our hitters really got in a groove.”

O’Campo’s fastball touched 93, he pitched at 89-90 and sat at 77 with his slider, which was inconsistent but plus at times. He allowed six earned runs off nine hits with five strikeouts and five walks.

It’s easy to project on his thin 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame, as well as his stuff, but he worked deep into counts and a head snap in his delivery might make it tough for him to develop above-average command.

In the final inning of O’Campo’s complete game win, Flanagan summoned senior southpaw D.J. Swatscheno from the bullpen, and he retired both hitters he faced. Swatscheno has missed more than two months with an injury, which his father said was the combination of tendonitis and a minor “10 percent tear” of a ligament in his elbow.

He clearly wasn’t in the same form he was last summer, when he showed a solid-average three-pitch mix and a feel for pitching, but it was a good sign to see him back on the bump for the Falcons. He pitched at 81 mph, touching 85 mph with his final fastball, which got O’Campo–who had three hits himself–swinging, to end the seventh. He’ll most likely honor his commitment to Miami, unless he really turns a corner in his rehabilitation in the next six weeks.

Meanwhile, we have another pop-up player who’s showing off plus speed and above-average bat speed in the final round of the Anaheim Lions Easter tournament at Glover Stadium.

Diamond Bar (Calif.) High senior center fielder Gary Brown might be the fastest draft-eligible player in Southern California, and he is a joy to watch. A real throwback type, who wears his pants pulled up high, traditional stirrups, no batting gloves and hustles all over the place. You know the type. I could watch this kid all day. He had an assist on a nice throw on the run in the first inning, then laced a pair of line drives to left field in his first two plate appearances. He shows a simple, balanced stance and swing with a good load and an aggressive approach. He’s committed, appropriately, to Cal State Fullerton, where he would fit right in with the Titans’ all-out brand of baseball. With his speed and endearing style, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be drafted in the first five rounds.

I also slipped over to catch a junior lefthander from Laguna Hills (Calif.) High this afternoon, which also provided me with another glimpse of Cypress High’s Josh Viters. The lefty was interesting (we’ll save that dope for our Prospects Plus subscribers). Vitters hit another home run. Have I mentioned how good of a hitter he is?