Area Code Games Notebook: Day 4

See Also: Area Code Games Day 1

See Also: Area Code Games Day 2

See Also: Area Code Games Day 3

LONG BEACH, Calif.—The inaugural Area Code Baseball Home Run Derby, presented by Marucci, was held Thursday night at Blair Field with one contestant from each of the eight teams.

Although Blair Field is an unfriendly location to have a home run derby, power-hitting Texan Joe Davis (Bowie High, Austin, Texas) made Blair Field look small in taking the crown.

The format for the eight-person event was similar to the new MLB Home Run Derby format, with four-person brackets. A portable fence was set up 25 feet from the outfield wall and contestants received one point for hitting over the portable fence and two for a home run that cleared the stadium fence. The righthanded-hitting Davis did not need the shorter fence, hitting balls out to straight-away center field and left center.

Although most of the participants routinely pulled the ball from the outset, Davis consistently drove the ball up the middle and to the right center field gap before utilizing the pull field in the final rounds.

“In the games I have a tendency to get out front and roll over balls, so I knew I had to get it up in the air,” Davis said. “I knew I had to sit back and starting that way in my mind was a great adjustment to allow the ball to get deep and drive it. As I got loose and found my swing and got comfortable, it just happened after that as I drove the ball to left field.”

Chris Betts (Photo by Larry Goren).

Chris Betts (Photo by Larry Goren).

Davis matched up in the finals with lefthanded-hitting catcher Chris Betts, the local product from Wilson High (Long Beach, Calif.), which is across the street from Blair Field.

Betts’ first swing was a home run and then he hit two more to the pull side over the portable fence, producing four points in 10 outs.

Davis answered by hitting a homer on his first swing before tying Betts with four points two swings later with eight outs left. After one more out on drive to center field, Davis ended it with a home run to left.

“In the last round when I hit the first two out I knew I had a really good shot,” Davis said. “Because he only hit four, so I thought you have to relax and keep hitting them over the fence. Once I hit the first deep one I knew I had it. You could feel it off the bat and you instantly know that it was going to go over the fence. You could see the ball get small quick and that's what I like doing.”

The 6-foot, 220-pound Davis has a strong, powerful build and is playing for the Northeast team (Yankees) after not making the Texas (Rangers) roster.

Although Betts came up short, his he showed his plus pull side raw power, hitting a ball off the scoreboard in right center field.

“I have been trying to hit a ball off that scoreboard for four years and I finally got it,” Betts said.

The other six participants in the derby were: Jake Thurber (Royals—Pacific Northwest), Luke Miller (White Sox—Midwest), Brandt Stallings (Nationals—Southeast), Alan Garcia-Mayer (Reds—Four Corners), Nick Oar (Athletics—Northern California) and Michael Hickman (Rangers—Texas).

• Shortstop Nick Madrigal has impressed defensively in a crop that is not bountiful in sure-fire middle infielders, showing above-average range laterally. The Elk Grove (Calif.) High showed the ability to go into the hole with the some of the quickest hands and transfer in the draft class. His range to his left, up the middle, is unrivaled by anyone in Long Beach. He made a play at least five feet to the right side of second base that prompted one evaluator to say, “His UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) this week is off the charts.”

Nick Madrigal could play short in the majors right now, David Eckstein said. (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Nick Madrigal  (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

The righthanded-hitting Madrigal continued his high-contact approach, not swing and missing in three plate appearances. He went 2-for-3, both singles and ran a plus time in his other plate appearance, a groundout to third base. The Oregon State commit is 5-foot-7, 145 pounds and plays with tremendous energy, passion and instincts for the game.

• Righthander Cody Morris (Reservoir HS, Fulton, Md.), who was profiled last week after a strong outing at East Coast Pro, continued to show stuff and perform at a high level. Morris retired the first six hitters he faced in order, striking out five. He struck out six overall and allowed only one hit, a single. Per usual, Morris filled up the zone with regularity, throwing strikes on 76 percent of his pitches, less than a week after he pumped strikes at an 85 percent clip at East Coast Pro. He allowed a walk in the third inning, the first walk he has allowed this summer at the national showcases (Perfect Game National, Tournament of Stars, East Coast Pro and Area Code Games). The South Carolina commit has struck out 18 hitters in 13 innings and allowed only one walk, make him one of the top performers in the prep class on the showcase circuit. Morris did not throw a ball when he struck out the side in the second on 10 pitches.

Morris pitched largely off this fastball, which sat 89-93 and touched 94 while downhill plane from a high three-quarters arm slot that produces sink at the bottom of the zone. The 17-year-old got eight swinging strikes and has a fastball spin rate that is above-average and one of the best at the event, portending swings and misses. He demonstrated strong feel for his changeup, consistently burying the offering low and glove side to righthanded hitters. His breaking ball remains a work in progress.

“What he has been able to do this summer with a well below-average breaking ball is very impressive,” a national crosschecker said. “He had a tremendous feel for the changeup and the ability to drive it low to his glove side for a chase pitch.”

• The NorCal vs. SoCal matchup is annually the best-attended game of this event with the most on the line, as bragging rights for the best talent-producing state in the country are on the line. NorCal was victorious after pushing a run across in the seventh inning. The pitcher to throw the final two innings for NorCal was righthanded Colton Eastman (Central High, Fresno, Calif.), who threw earlier in the week.

He retired all six hitters he faced on two strikeouts and four groundouts. After sitting 90-91 earlier in the week, Eastman sat 88-90 mph with some deception and sink at the bottom of the zone while working from the far third base side of the rubber from a high three-quarters arm slot. His breaking ball stood out and was one of the best on the day. According to TrackMan, Eastman’s breaking ball spin rate was in the 2,900 range and got as high as 3,095, the highest rate of the first three days of the event. He also mixed in a changeup that he had feel for and threw to both sides of the plate. Eastman is uncommitted.