Big SoCal Tournaments Get Started

LOS ANGELES—Scouting Directors, cross checkers, area scouts and sundry others have descended this week on Orange County to observe the action in both the Anaheim Lions and National Classic tournaments.

My first stop in the Lions tourney on Monday was to see Cypress (Calif.) High, who faced off with Long Beach’s Millikan High in front of 30 scouts, cross checkers and scouting directors included.

Infielder David Nick is the primary attraction for Cypress. Nick is off to a terrific start this season, hitting .461 with 5 homers in his first 15 games. His timing was a shade off in this game, as he opened up his front side just a bit too soon in the three at-bats I witnessed.

First baseman Jonathan Singleton is the top prospect for Milliken. Singleton, BA’s No. 79 ranked high school prospect, started poorly in his 2009 campaign but has recently shown distinct signs of life.

Monday was my first glimpse of Singleton this season, and he has made some subtle but noticeable alterations to his stance. Singleton is crouched and more spread out in his setup now, and his hands are angled above his helmet.

In the three at bats I witnessed, Singleton hit the ball with authority: single to right, double off the right field fence and single into a stacked infield shift.

Singleton displays all the basics of an outstanding hitter: a strong and athletic frame, bat speed and a sweet swing. He still needs to make some technical adjustments, such as tracking the ball onto his bat and keeping his front side closed longer.

While Singleton has struggled against quality pitching in the past, he is an appealing draft prospect. His mechanics will need some tinkering, but the lure of his hitting potential will  draw attention on draft day.

The national Classic was my next destination, as I took in the contest between Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks, Calif. and Jesuit High of Carmichael, Calif., at El Dorado High.

Jesuit’s Andrew Susac is one of the nation’s finest catchers. Competition in that category is stiff this season, with the likes of Luke Bailey, Max Stassi, Austin Maddox, Gino Escalante, Cameron Garfield, Richard Stock and Josh Leyland lurking in the shadows.

Susac’s arm is on par with anyone in the nation. His combination of arm strength and quick release enable him to zip the ball down to second base in the 1.8 to 1.9 second range. I timed a 1.87 effort in this game.

Susac’s bat may keep him from being drafted in a round commensurate with his national peers. His stride is too long, and his tendency to stab his front foot causes his weight to be forced onto his front leg, causing a slight lunge. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Susac is very strong, but he gets no leg drive in his swing, his timing is poor and his weight often goes up onto his toes.

Kelly Dugan, a Pepperdine signee, is Notre Dame’s top player. Tall, lanky and projectable at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Dugan has a sweet lefthanded swing and is a silky smooth first baseman.

The son of actor, director and producer Dennis Dugan, Kelly will not need a stunt man or body double on a baseball field. Home runs flew out of the tiny El Dorado yard in this game, with Kelly Dugan poking two opposite field home runs.

No one should alter his swing, but Dugan may benefit from lower, more relaxed hands. In addition, Dugan initiates his load mechanism too late, often forcing him to flick at the ball as it is nearly past him. He’ll probably windup in college after the June draft, but there is little doubt that Dugan has the ability to be a top draftee in 2012.

El Toro High (Lake Forest, Calif.) and football stalwart De La Salle High of Concord, Calif., tussled in an afternoon National Classic game at El Dorado. Nolan Arenado of El Toro, BA’s No. 92 prospect, had a big game by blasting a homer and double in his first two at bats.

Arenado has worked diligently to improve his conditioning, and the results are obvious in his strong 6-foot-2, 200 pound build. Currently a shortstop, Arenado will move from that spot when he gets to pro or college ball. Catcher or third base figure to be his most probable destinations. Arenado has the arm strength for either position.

At bat, Arenado exhibits both power and bat speed, but his swing mechanics cause scouts to scratch their heads. Arenado drives his front shoulder at the pitcher, getting his weight onto his front leg while severely dragging his hands behind. This permits Arenado to drive the ball to the opposite field, but he also runs the risk of locking or blocking his hands out front while pinning the bat to his body.

There is no doubt, however, that Arenado is a top power hitting prospect who will have draft value in 2009, but probably much higher draft value in 2012.