National (Under)Classic

LOS ANGELES—The National Classic continued apace on Tuesday, April 14, with two games generating substantial attention from both local and national scouts: Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) vs. Notre Dame Prep (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Norco (Calif.) vs. Aptos (Calif.).

Esperanza High of Anaheim was the site of the Mater Dei-Notre Dame clash. Forty scouts watched studiously as Aaron Northcraft, Mater Dei’s 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior righthander, warmed up in the bullpen adjacent to the first base dugout.

A sidearmer, Northcraft took his warm up tosses on a mound situated perilously close to the chain link fence along the first base line. Without warning, one of the deliveries left his hand and traveled 12 inches sideways, clanging off the inside of the chain link.

This drew a wide variety of reactions from the assembled scouts. “Now, you don’t see that every day” was one comment. “I’ve never seen that before” was the most common response, but one smart aleck had a different take: “He’s practicing his pick off move to third."

Northcraft had nothing to apologize for during the game. He has modified his once-severe bent knee leg lift. Utilizing a more conservative delivery, Northcraft showed impressive stuff. His fastball registered from 87 to 90, and his 84-85 two-seamer has excellent natural sink. Northcraft’s 71-75 curve exhibits drastic sweeping movement.

As with any sidearmer, scouts envision arm injury issues, ala Darren Dreifort. Northcraft will, no doubt, need to tighten up some mechanical concerns. As an example, he has a tendency to land on his heel and spin off to his left at delivery finish.

Mater Dei claimed an easy 7-0 victory over Notre Dame, thanks to Northcraft and two juniors, outfielder Cory Hahn and shortstop Sean Campbell.

Hahn is one of the most talented 2010 outfielders in the nation, flashing terrific speed, a quality throwing arm and a lightning quick lefthanded swing. He was busy in this game, ripping hits all over the yard, charging around the bases and running down drives in center field. His only discernible flaw is his habit of pulling his front side and head off some pitches in an attempt to turn on the ball.

Only one pesky item holds Hahn back: He is 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds. I was lamenting that fact with a scout friend of mine, and we both came to a unanimous conclusion: If Hahn was 6-foot-2 or above, he’d be a 2010 first-round candidate.

Campbell is Mater Dei’s shortstop, inheriting that position from Tyler Rahmatulla, now at UCLA. Campbell’s thin, spindly legs belie the fact that he is a gifted middle infielder, with improving actions, decent hands and a good arm.

One would never assume that Campbell has any power at the plate. However, in the middle of the game Campbell drove a long home run to left. The cut that produced the home run was the single most perfect swing that I’ve ever seen a high school player take. If Campbell can repeat that often enough, he will be a special hitter. If not, he’ll be a sort of one shot wonder.

Norco and Aptos faced off in the afternoon game at El Dorado High. Matt Hobgood took the hill for Norco, and the big righthander’s velocity was noticeably down from a start earlier this season against Riverside (Calif.) Poly and Jake Marisnick.

In that game, Hobgood sat from 90 to 93 and peaked several times at 94. On Tuesday, in front of a throng of 40 scouts, he struggled slightly to maintain 89-91. Hobgood’s curve worked nicely, showing two plane, 11 to 5 drop at 78-79. He helped his cause by blasting a mammoth home run over the center field hitting backdrop as Norco won, 10-0.

Theories are abound as to Hobgood’s temporary loss of zip. From my standpoint, Hobgood didn’t appear to be using his legs as well as he has previously, and he seemed to open up his front side and get spread too quickly in his delivery.

El Toro High of Lake Forest, Calif. continued to roll through opponents in the National Classic, hammering El Dorado High (Placentia, Calif.) 17-3. El Toro’s Nolan Arenado, one of the nation’s finest power hitting prospects, ripped yet another home run as he nears tourney MVP honors.

In the Anaheim Lions tournament, sources have passed along these notes:

In front of 60 scouts at Loara High of Anaheim, lefthander Tyler Skaggs struck out 12 Monday in a near perfect game effort.

Also on Monday, 2010 righthander Peter Tago of Dana Hills High (Dana Point, Calif.) threw comfortably at 90-91, with an excellent curve and improving change.

Righthander Brett Gerritse of Pacifica High (Garden Grove, Calif.) was sitting at 90 in his Monday outing, but observers say his four-seamer is flat and easy to see. Gerritse’s curve shows nice late bite, however.

In today’s scheduled action, lefthander Tyler Matzek and Capistrano Valley High (Mission Viejo, Calif.) will face Mission Viejo (Calif.) High in the Lions finals.

The National Classic semi-finals find Palm Beach Central (Wellington, Fla.) playing El Toro, and Mater Dei facing Esperanza High (Anaheim, Calif.).