Scouts Flock To SoCal Tournaments

LOS ANGELES — Unlike college students, springtime provides no break for scouts. In Southern California, Easter week annually has scouts scurrying from venue to venue to catch glimpses of top players participating in a variety of round robin tournaments.

No doubt the two most prominent local events are the National Classic and the Anaheim Lions Tournament. In an unusual twist from previous seasons, the Lions tournament is heavy with seniors who are elite current draft prospects; the National Classic is laden with underclassmen that are top future draft prospects.

Such has not always been the case. A few years ago I spoke to a scout, since retired, who covered the National Classic in 1993 and observed a senior SS from Westminster Christian High in Miami named Alex Rodriguez.

“He was the only prospect in my life that I’ve given a 75 OFP grade to,” the scout recalled.

Stefan Sabol isn’t A-Rod, but he's not bad. On Friday, Sabol blasted two home runs and a double for Aliso Niguel High in a league game against Tesoro. About 40 scouts were on hand to watch the 6-foot, 190-pound catcher Saturday in the first game of a Lions tourney doubleheader against Buena Park at Glover Stadium.

Situated in La Palma Park in Anaheim, Glover Stadium was opened in 1939 and served as the spring training home of the Philadelphia A’s in 1940. That A’s club was managed by Connie Mack and featured stars Sam Chapman and Bob Johnson. The baseball field at Glover is named in honor of a man named Dee Fee, who at some point in his life probably endured the nickname “fiddle."

While Sabol did not enjoy a spectacular game (double and walk in four plate appearances) his tools were evident. Sabol exhibits a quick bat, strong arm and well above-average speed.

On scout commented: “I’m not sold on him as a catcher. His throws to first and third are crisp, but his throws to second fade past the pitchers mound. The hands are a bit stiff. He is a heck of an athlete, and the bat is pretty quick. He’s got a chance to hit.”

A crosschecker added: “He’s very fast and a very good athlete. I would move him to the outfield. Right now he is very pull oriented as a hitter, but he is quick. I think the second round is the best spot for him . . . I can’t put him any higher than that.”

Indeed, Sabol’s athletic skills should make any possible future move to the outfield successful. He possesses the speed and arm to patrol either outfield corner. At bat, Sabol over strides slightly and his backswing is a shade long, but those issues are easily correctable. The general consensus among scouts is that Sabol profiles as an outfielder with 5 average to above average tools—a general OFP in the 50-55 range.

The 2010 National Classic is packed with prospects—for the 2011 draft. First and foremost are three juniors: lefthander Henry Owens, shortstop Christian Lopes and outfielder Eric Snyder of Edison High in Huntington Beach, Calif.

That trio is joined by first baseman Ryan Garvey (son of Steve) and catcher David Schuknecht of Palm Desert (Calif.) High; third baseman Bernardo Zavala and shortstop Rio Ruiz (2012) of Bishop Amat High in La Puente, Calif.

The lone upper echelon 2010 prospect in this year’s National Classic is outfielder Cory Hahn of Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., who recently has found terrific success in an alternate career as a lefthanded starting pitcher.

Saturday’s home run derby at El Dorado High in Yorba Linda, Calif. provided unexpected suspense as an unknown challenged the well-regarded and highly publicized Lopes for the title.

Sammy Moore, a lefthanded-hitting outfielder from Peninsula High in Palos Verdes, Calif. nearly upset Lopes to capture the home run crown. Unimposing at a slim 6-feet and 180 pounds, Moore’s unique stance belies unique power.

Moore stands with his hands close to his body, well below his left shoulder. His feet are close together, knees unbent. Moore then cocks his head to his right, appearing to search for an incoming bus far off in the distance. As he begins his swing, Moore rotates his lead shoulder inward, points his back elbow and flips his eyes wide open, as if suddenly surprised by a loud noise.

With four homers in the final round, Moore was within two outs of winning the crown when Lopes blasted two long shots, giving him five total in the final round and thereby the title. In horse racing parlance, the long shot was nipped at the wire.

Both tournaments continue through Thursday.