On the Road: Day Nine—Aflac Preview

LONG BEACH—Taking a two day hiatus from the Area Code games to switch focus to the Aflac All-American Game, on Friday I traveled 25 miles north from Long Beach to the campus of the University of Southern California. While the actual All-American game is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, the teams had workouts Friday at Dedeaux Field. Both teams took infield/outfield and batting practice before competing in the preliminary rounds of the homerun derby.  All 35 players that will participate in the game on Saturday took their hacks in a 10-out derby style format, with the four players hitting the most homeruns moving on to the finals to be held in Dodger Stadium on Saturday before the actual game.

After keeping a close eye on the teams during Friday’s events, here is a breakdown of what to watch out for in the game on Saturday—which will be broadcast nationally on FSN.

Power at the Plate

This year’s game will boast a few players with plus-plus power potential. Jonathan Singleton (Millikan HS, Lakewood, Calif) and Matt Davidson from Yucaipa (Calif.) HS are teammates on the West squad and are considered to have the most raw power in the 2009 class. Not far behind them is the East’s Richie Shaffer (Providence HS, Charlotte) and Luke Bailey (Troup HS, LaGrange, Ga.). During the prelims of the homerun derby, Davidson hit a derby best of six long balls—four of which came with nine outs on the board. Singleton won the homerun derby held at the Perfect Game National Showcase in June. Davidson, Singleton, Shaffer and Everett Williams (McCallum HS, Austin) will all compete in the homerun derby finals on Saturday.

Pure Speed

LeVon Washington (Buchholz HS, Gainesville, Fla.) is the fastest player on either team, but he will be sidelined on Saturday with an injured wrist. From the East, the fastest players on the field will be Brian Goodwin from Rocky Mount (N.C.) HS and Donovan Tate from Cartersville (Ga.) HS. Goodwin is a lefthanded hitting centerfielder that gets down the first base line in 4.1 seconds and covers a lot of ground in the outfield. Tate is similar but bats righthanded and posted a 60-yard dash time of 6.34 seconds at the PG National event in June. Kyrell Hudson (Evergreen HS, Vancouver, Wa.) is the most fleet of foot on the West team as he posted a 6.5-second 60-yard dash at the PG National event. He, like Tate, is an outfielder and bats from the right side.

Good with the Leather

Typically, games like this bring out some spectacular defensive plays. From the East team, shortstop Mychal Givens (Plant HS, Tampa, Fla.) and second baseman Jason Thompson of Germantown (Tenn.) HS will be a solid duo in the middle of the diamond. The West team boasts possibly the nation’s top defensive catcher in Max Stassi from Yuba City (Calif.) HS. Middle infielder Jiovanni Mier (Bonita HS, Pomona, Calif.) is also capable of making producing web gems, especially at second base.

Strongest Arm

Austin Maddox (Eagles View Academy, Jacksonville, Fla.) from the East team will have the strongest arm of anyone in the stadium on Saturday. Maddox is a pitcher but also a catcher and unleashes absolute rockets across the diamond to stop runners in their tracks—watching him throw is a real treat. Also from the East team, Givens has been clocked up to 96 mph off the mound and is able to use that arm strength while playing shortstop. The West has two position players that also pitch and are worthy of recognition in this category. Slade Heathcott (Texas HS, Texarkana, Texas) is lefthanded outfielder and Brooks Pounders from Temecula Valley (Calif.) HS is a first baseman and both guys have been clocked at above 90 mph on the radar gun.

Best Athlete

Tate is one of the best pure athletes in the entire 2009 class. A two-sport star, he also is recruited to play football at the next level. His teammate on the East team, Scooter Gennett from Sarasota (Fla.) HS is also a tremendous athlete. Gennet is a middle infielder that has the capability of playing almost any position on the field. The West team boasts Heathcott, Hudson and Williams all of which are top of the line athletes. Also on the team is outfielder Jacob Morris from Coppell (Texas) HS. Morris is physical specimen with a combination of speed, strength and agility.

MVP Predictions

The best candidates for this distinction are probably Tate or Givens as these two players have the ability to impact the game in so many ways. Givens might have the edge as it is most likely that he will play in the field but also pitch.

Best Fastball

As stated earlier, Givens has been clocked up to 96 mph with his fastball—a pitch that also boasts late sinking life. However, Jacob Turner (Westminster Christian Academy, St. Charles, Missou.) from the West team has a mid-90s fastball that is more consistent and polished than Givens.

Best Overall Pitcher

Turner is my pick for the best righthanded pitcher, but lefthanders Matthew Purke (Klein HS, Spring, Texas) and Tyler Matzek (Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, Calif.) are both very polished pitchers with low-90s fastballs, above-average breaking balls and advanced pitchability.