SoCal's Finest Ring In New Year

COMPTON, Calif.--There's a farmer's calendar, a Chinese calendar, celestial calendars, and then there's the lesser known scouting calendar.
Dick Clark was nowhere to be found on June 12 in Compton, and Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy didn't feature a falling ball or a countdown to midnight, but for the 50-plus scouts in attendance, it marked their own new year.

"This is the first day of 2008," a scout said. "Time to start all over again."

Four days after the final pick of the 2007 draft was made, the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau held the first wide-scale showcase of the new scouting season. Forty-four players from Southern California gathered in Compton for workouts and a nine-inning game that served as a good ice-breaker for the summer showcase and tournament circuit.

"A couple of potential first-rounders and a bunch of follows," a crosschecker with an American League team said. "We'll get an early look at 'em here, and see them down the road all summer."

Led by three hitters taken in the top 12 picks of this year's draft, Southern California's high school Class of 2007 was the best in years. Based on the collection of players in attendance in Compton, next year's class is more balanced, with better pitching, but not as deep in high-end hitters.

The younger brother of Angels prospect Sean O'Sullivan, Valhalla High (El Cajon) righthander Ryan O'Sullivan, got the start for the Red team against Wilson High (Long Beach) righthander Ray Hanson, and O'Sullivan showed quickly that he's capable of living up to his name. Sean was a third-round draft-and-follow of Los Angeles in 2005 and now ranks among the top prospects in one of baseball's best systems, and while Ryan has a slimmer, more athletic frame and a different tool set, he too has interesting upside.
O'Sullivan set down one of the country's toolsiest players in Aaron Hicks--Hanson's teammate on Wilson High's national champion club this spring--on strikes, but two pitches later surrendered the game's only home run--a solo shot to straightaway center field by Ricky Oropesa.

Oropesa, one of a handful of potential high picks in the rising senior class from the Inland Empire, is a lean athlete with plus bat speed from Rancho Cucamonga High. His plate discipline and swing mechanics need refinement, but he showed bat speed and ability to keep his hands and weight back when he served O'Sullivan's one-strike changeup off the batter's eye. He worked out at first base during infield practice, but has the foot speed and arm strength for either corner outfield position, and could perhaps handle third base as well.

While Hicks didn't have his best day at the plate, he climbed atop the mound and showed his versatility, pitching near 90 mph with an 81 mph hammer breaking ball.

Fallbrook High's Clark Murphy doesn't have the athleticism Hicks possesses, but he showed one of the better approaches among the hitters in attendance, singling to left field off Hicks in a showdown between two early Aflac all-American selections from this year.

Urban Outfitters

Mike Tonkin (Palmdale High), Matt Lollis (Rubidoux High) and Jake Thompson (Wilson High, Long Beach) were the top three righthanders in attendance, and Jonathan Pettibone (Esperanza High, Anaheim) also showed well. Lollis has feel for three pitches. His fastball topped out at 91 mph and he showed a willingness to throw his 75-76 mph curveball and 78 mph changeup in any count. Tonkin's low-90s fastball has sink and life, while Thompson creates good downhill plane on his stuff, and was up to 92. He transferred high schools entering 2007, and was forced to pitch for Wilson High's junior varsity team this past spring.

• Lefty Mike Montgomery of Hart High (Newhall, Calif.), might have had the most impressive outing of the event. The projectable, 6-foot-4 lefthander pitched at 88 mph with a heavy fastball that had armside run. He lacks feel for his 80 mph changeup and 69 mph curveball, but both pitches have good action despite his inability to spot them.

Jake Marisnick made hard contact against Thompson, and was one of four rising juniors in attendance. An outfielder from Poly High in Riverside, Marisnick ranked as the No. 1 prospect at this year's Phil Nevin National Classic as a sophomore, and because of his bat speed and plus run tool, has potential to be a high pick in 2009.

• Along with Hicks, Isaac Galloway (Los Osos High, Rancho Cucamonga) has showed five-tool potential, although he was unable to attend this event because of school obligations. He's scheduled to appear at this weekend's Perfect Game National Showcase in Cincinnati and has been named to the Aflac Classic as well.