Image credit: Glennallen Hill (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
LONG BEACH, Calif. — The 2018 Area Code Games kicked off Monday morning at Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif., with hundreds of scouts coming to town to see the best of the 2019 high school class.
After many teams heavily scouted the East Coast Pro showcase on the other side of the country last week in Hoover, Ala., the Area Code Games is arguably the biggest national event that brings the top players from around the country together in one place.
The showcase is made up of eight teams consisting of players from different regions throughout the country, though exceptions are made for roster needs as well.
The teams and their respective regions are below:
- Chicago White Sox (Midwest)
- Cincinnati Reds (Four Corners)
- Kansas City Royals (Northwest)
- Milwaukee Brewers (Southern California)
- New York Yankees (Northeast)
- Oakland Athletics (Northern California)
- Texas Rangers (Texas)
- Washington Nationals (Southeast)
Annually, you can look back at the Area Code Games and see a big performance from a future first-round pick. The most notable example from last year’s Area Code Games is righthander Cole Winn, who the Rangers selected with the No. 15 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. Winn immensely improved his stock at the event and left the scouting community discussing his performance and hammer curveball for weeks afterwards. He was eventually named the Baseball America High School Player of the Year.
Now, here are a few of the standouts from day one of the 2018 Area Code Games:
Glenallen Hill | INF | Santa Cruz (Calif.) HS
Committed: Arizona State
The most impressive player on Monday was certainly Hill, an Arizona commit who went 3-for-3 on the day and reached base in every plate appearance, getting plunked in the foot during his other trip to the batter’s box.
Hill started off his day with a deep line drive against a 91 mph fastball from RHP Quinn Priester (Ill.). The ball came off of Hill’s bat at 102.5 mph and he further impressed with his speed and running ability around the bases, rounding first base in 4.30 seconds and eventually sliding into third for a triple. He followed up with a single through the right side of the infield against an 88 mph offering, and doubled in his final at-bat—again hitting the ball 102.5 mph—to straightaway center, burning the White Sox centerfielder and winning the game for the Athletics in the bottom of the seventh.
Standing just 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, Hill doesn’t look like he would have such impact ability in his bat, but he made regular loud contact Monday and turned more than a few heads with his offensive performance. In addition to rounding the bases well, Hill also swiped second base with ease on one occasion, showing an interesting power/speed combo that should continue to improve as he adds more strength—but the bat speed alone is enough for him to do damage presently.
Matthew Thompson | RHP | Cypress (Texas) Ranch HS
Committed: Texas A&M
Thompson is an athletic 6-foot-3, 184-pound righthander who showed flashes of dominating stuff in a three-inning outing for the Rangers on Monday afternoon. With a fastball that consistently sat in low 90s and touched 93 mph, the Texas A&M commit struck out five of the 13 batters he faced while routinely spotting his fastball inside to lefthanders and away from righthanders. Thompson also showed off an above-average, 77-79 mph curveball that featured solid depth and sharp break, generating swings and misses as well as soft contact.
The only downside for Thompson, who allowed only one single and no runs in his three innings of work, was his inconsistent command. He walked four batters in total, including the first batter of the game and back-to-back walks to begin the second inning. Thompson does have a slight wrist wrap in the back of his delivery, which could hinder his control, and his most common miss during Monday’s outing was low and in the dirt with his fastball.
All in all, it was an encouraging outing for Thompson, who might be one of the most projectable prep righthanders in the 2019 draft class. With two above-average pitches and plenty of room to add additional velocity as he continues to physically mature, Thompson is a name to remember as the summer showcase circuit begins to wind down.
JJ Goss | RHP | Cypress (Texas) Ranch HS
Committed: Texas A&M
A teammate of Thompson’s at Cypress Ranch High, Goss is also pitching for the Rangers at the Area Code Games and is also committed to Texas A&M. After Thompson pitched three scoreless innings, Goss came on in relief and threw up three zeros of his own, striking out four batters while walking two and allowing three singles.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Goss pitches from a slightly crouched, closed-off delivery, but still produced velocity with a fastball that routinely touched 93 mph during his first inning of work. After pitching almost exclusively in the low 90s early in his outing, Goss’ velocity dipped slightly to the 88-90 mph range in his third and final inning. That inning, however, was his most efficient, as he showed better control and retired the side in order with a strikeout, flyout and groundout.
Pitching out of a high, three-quarters arm slot, Goss also showed a low-80s slider with tight spin, as well as a low-80s changeup. He was able to throw both secondaries for strikes during his brief, three-inning cameo on Monday, showing scouts the potential for three future above-average pitches.
After Thompson and Goss concluded their six innings of work, fellow 2019 Texas righthander Jacob Meador closed the game with a scoreless inning of his own to secure the Rangers’ 3-0 victory over the Reds. Pitching off an 88-90 mph fastball, Meador flashed a tight, 76-78 mph curveball with a spin rate that occasionally got north of 2,500 rpms, giving scouts just another glance at a top Texas arm for the 2019 draft class.
Joseph King | RHP | Woodside HS, Redwood City, Calif.
Committed: Washington State
A two-way player who has also pushed his name out into the scouting community with his ability to catch behind the plate, King was most impressive during his time on the mound Monday afternoon. A 6-foot-1, 195-pound righthander, King struck out five of the eight batters he faced in the Athletics’ 4-3 win over the White Sox.
Committed to Washington State, King pitches from the first-base side of the rubber with a three-quarter arm slot and a fastball that sat in the 88-92 mph range. He was able to induce four swings and misses on his fastball in just two innings of work, which was the same number of swings and misses King generated on his 78-81 mph curveball.
King’s fastball-curveball combination and above-average command was more than enough for an efficient two innings of work, although he did flash one firm, 86 mph changeup that he spiked in front of the plate.
Davis Heller | RHP | Mesquite HS, Gilbert, Ariz.
There were a number of solid pitching performances Monday, as noted above, but Heller’s brief one-inning look stood out in part because a large majority of high school pitchers couldn’t possibly do what Heller did—throw strikes from an imposing, 6-foot-8 frame.
Heller is listed as the tallest player at the Area Code Games—narrowly edging out 6-foot-7 LHP/1B Spencer Jones (Calif.) and 6-foot-6 LHP Jacob Widener (Calif.)—and worked a quick, 1-2-3 inning for the Reds while showing good feel for a solid three-pitch mix. Nothing Heller threw looked plus, but his stuff all plays up thanks to his height and the fact that he’s also throwing out of an overhand arm slot, which only makes his release point higher.
The natural plane that Heller gets on his 89-91 mph fastball likely makes the pitch difficult to square up, and his length presumably adds a tick or two of additional effective velocity. Heller didn’t miss any bats against three hitters, but allowed no hard contact—just a flyout, and a pair of groundouts.
On top of his fastball, Heller also showed a mid-70s curveball with 12-to-6 shape that pairs well with his height and arm slot, and he also broke out an 82-85 mph changeup that he located well and threw with solid arm speed. He generated outs with each of his three offerings.
While other arms who threw had louder raw stuff, Heller’s package of height, pitch-mix and strike-throwing ability proved extremely effective in a brief look. He’ll be worth keeping an eye on.
Jason Hodges | OF/1B | Marist HS, Chicago
While Hill had the best overall day at the plate, it was Arkansas commit Jason Hodges who had the most impressive individual hit. In his first at-bat against the Athletics RHP Hunter Bryan (Calif.), Hodges jumped on an 88 mph fastball that caught too much of the plate and hit a massive home run to left field (his pull side), that was a no-doubt shot off the bat.
The ball came off Hodges’ bat at 102 mph and showed off the natural strength and power that Hodges has within his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame. The Razorback commit flew out to right field against an 89 mph fastball in his second plate appearance and drew a walk in his third.