Area Code Games Top Pitchers

LONG BEACH, Calif.—As the 2010 Area Code Games wind down, Baseball America enlisted the help of former Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen to evaluate some of the top pitching prospects. Also assisting BA was a pitching expert who is a veteran pro and amateur scout with 30 years of scouting experience.

Many talented pitchers took to the mound in the 2010 ACG, but here is BA’s list of the Top 10 hurlers. . .

1. Henry Owens, lhp, Edison HS, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Among all pitchers and position players participating in this year’s ACG, Owens is the premier candidate to become a first round draft selection in 2011.

At 6-foot-7 and 195 pounds, Owens is colossally projectable but also displays strong stuff and pitching acumen. His fastball currently sits between 88-90 mph and he adds a low to mid 70s curveball and high 70s changeup. Owens' lanky frame promises more velocity in the future—his fastball will probably eventually sit between 91 and 94 mph.

Saberhagen said of Owens, “He is pretty solid, he knows how to pitch. Owens is very competitive and his secondary stuff is good but a bit inconsistent. He will throw a great curve, then a so-so curve; a great change, then a so-so change. But that is all part of the learning process.”

2. Lucas Giolito, rhp, Harvard Westlake HS, Los Angeles
The hardest thrower in Long Beach, Giolito topped out near 96 and tossed eight pitches that registered 94 or higher. Only 16 years old and a member of the 2012 class, Giolito is a physical beast at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds.

Saberhagen was duly impressed. “He has tons of upside, he is lanky and has a great body. He will only get more velocity as he gets older . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually reaches 97.”

Giolito struggled through command problems in his first outing. Saberhagen said, from a mechanical standpoint, that Giolito “needs to be cleaned up a little bit . . . he needs to do a better job of using his lower body."

The June 2012 draft is two long years away, however Giolito is an early favorite to be chosen with one of the top 10 selections in that draft.

3. Dylan Davis, rhp, Redmond (Wash.) HS
Strong and compact at 6 feet and 200 pounds, Davis does not have a projectable frame but he does possess a power arm. He hammers the strike zone with a 92-94 mph fastball and his raw velocity was second only to Giolito.

“Davis has very good velo,” Saberhagen said. “He needs to spot his fastball better. He got hit a little bit in one game because he left the fastball up and out over the plate.”

4. Patrick Hope, rhp, Broken Arrow (Okla.) HS
Scouts always enjoy watching a pitcher who has a hellacious curveball, probably because they don’t have to try to hit it. Hope’s wicked, low 70s hammer was the best breaking ball on display in Long Beach, showing near-perfect two-plane break, depth and tilt.

Not that Hope is just a curveballer. At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Hope has the requisite angular and projectable frame, plus he is able to locate his fastball well. With his fastball, Hope lures hitters into a false sense of security, delivering a consistent series of 89 mph four-seamers. Suddenly, Hope will step on the gas pedal and fire a fastball in the 91-92 range.

5. Bryan Brickhouse, rhp, The Woodlands (Texas) HS
Brickhouse is built like his surname: strong, mature and powerful. He fires a lively 92-94 mph fastball, and can add some cutting action to that pitch. To his credit, Brickhouse has several other pitches in his repertoire, including an 84 slider, 85 change and a 76 curve.

Brickhouse was touched up a shade in the second inning of his first start. Aggressive and blessed with a unique arm, once Brickhouse learns to command all of pitches he has a chance to be dominant.

6. Tyler Beede, rhp, Lawrence Academy, Auburn, Mass.
Beede’s arm action is admirably smooth and fluid. His fastball leaves his hand easily, sits in the low 90s and peaks at 93.

“The basics are there," the scout said. "He is very tall and very projectable, and his arm is very clean. He doesn’t have a great deal of life on his fastball, but that should come in time.”

7. Michael Howard, lhp, Prescott (Ariz.) HS
Howard is not an imposing physical specimen like fellow lefty Henry Owens, but his arm action is loose and his 6-foot-1, 165-pound frame does contain some projection.

Energetic and aggressive, Howard challenges hitters with a 90-91 mph fastball that can touch close to 93. He adds a low to mid 70s curve which has the potential of becoming a plus major league breaking ball.

8. Rio Ruiz, rhp, Bishop Amat HS, La Puente, Calif.
Ruiz suffered through a poor tryout at Westmont College in Santa Barbara and did not make either Brewers AC team. Named to the Yankees squad, he has come to life in Long Beach, showing flashes of exciting bat speed as a hitter and a power pitching arm.

Stoutly built at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Ruiz shows hitters no mercy by pounding home a 91-93 fastball that peaks close to 94. His 75 mph curve is a bit of an afterthought. A member of the 2012 class, Ruiz has two more years to exhibit his intriguing array of skills. At this stage, scouts seem evenly split on whether they prefer Ruiz as a pitcher or position player.

9. John Maggliozzi, rhp, Dexter HS, Milton, Mass.
Somewhat undersized at 5 foot 11 and 185 pounds, Maggliozzi still fires a hard low 90’s fastball that peaks at 93.

 “He is a little guy, but he has a chance to be a very special little guy—kind of like Tim Hudson," the scout said. "I saw him in Florida recently and he seems to be throwing with more effort out here. Still, the arm works very well.”

10. Robert Stephenson, rhp, Alhambra HS, Martinez, Calif.
Several scouts voiced concern over Stephenson’s near maximum effort delivery. His stuff, however, is of high quality.

A projectable 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, Stephenson relies heavily on his 90-92 mph fastball, which peaks near 94. That pitch shows late jumping life as it reaches the strike zone. Stephenson adds a 77 curve and 74 change, both of which show promise but need to be sharpened.

Several outstanding pitchers fell just short of making our list. One of those is Brandon Bonilla, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound lefthander from The Pendelton School in Bradenton, Florida. Always pitching from the stretch, Bonilla has an old fashioned, over-the-top delivery which produces an 88-90 mph fastball and a low 80s slider. His proud father Bobby, a former major league star, was a constant presence at Blair Field this week with his beaming smile and ultra-powerful handshake.

Recorded by Trackman Baseball, here are the top pitcher velocities through the first three days of the 2010 ACG. . .

Lucas Giolito 95.8
Dylan Davis 94.2
Bryan Brickhouse 93.8
Robert Stephenson 93.7
Rio Ruiz 93.6
Tyler Beede 93.6
John Magliozzi 93.5
Parker French 93.4
Jerrick Suiter 92.9
Sam Johnson 92.9

The following pitchers all registered between 92.7 and 92.1: Michael Howard, Matthew Troupe, Patrick Hope, John Hayman and Chris McCue.

BA will have a wrapup of the 2010 Area Code Games, as well as a discussion of some of the top position prospects, on Aug. 11.