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West Coast Draft Notes: Joey Volchko Leads Banner Crop Of California Prep Righthanders

Image credit: Kyle Karros (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

The 2023 draft class was already shaping up to be a strong one for California high school righthanders.

Then Joey Volchko stepped up to make it even better.

Volchko, a 6-foot-4 righthander from Redwood High School in Visalia, has emerged as one of the draft’s fastest risers this season and vaulted into first-round consideration with his early performance. The Stanford commit pitched five no-hit innings with 12 strikeouts in his latest start on Monday and has become a hot ticket item for scouting directors, crosscheckers and other high-level decision-makers in recent weeks.

A top athlete who is also a standout basketball player, Volchko has improved his stuff and control this spring to put himself in the mix with the best high school pitchers in the draft class. His fastball now ranges from 91-96 mph out of a large, athletic frame, his slider has long been an above-average pitch, his curveball is a tick above average and he’s shown a usable changeup to give him a complete, four-pitch mix. He has flashed excellent movement on all of his pitches and improved his control, which was a shortcoming at the Area Code Games last summer. While his delivery is a bit effortful and his strikes scattered on occasion, he’s made enough strides to convince teams he’s worth investing in.

Volchko is also one of the youngest players in the class and won’t turn 18 until shortly before the draft. His combination of youth, stuff and movement has vaulted him to the top of the California high school pitching crop in one of the strongest years for the demographic in recent memory.

Behind Volchko, righthanders Cole Schoenwetter (San Marcos HS, Santa Barbara) and Gabe Gaeckle (Aptos HS) have maintained their preseason status as top draft prospects and been joined by in-season risers Cole Miller (Newbury Park HS) and Cole Stokes (Redondo Union HS, Redondo Beach) to round out a strong collection of high school righthanders commanding significant attention from evaluators.

Miller, in particular, has been rising rapidly in recent weeks. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound UCLA commit has increased his fastball velocity to 91-95 mph with hard arm-side life and added power to his slider to make it an above-average, 80-84 mph offering with late depth. Where he primarily stands out is his above-average control. Miller throws strikes with ease with all of his pitches, especially to his glove side, and has shown the ability to add velocity without sacrificing his control. His growing stuff, size, control and advanced pitchability have made him a priority draft prospect for top decision-makers, and one who has a strong chance to be drafted early enough to pass up his college commitment.

High school righthanders, of course, are a notoriously risky demographic, but there is a sense this group has the talent worth taking a chance on. The last time five or more California high school righthanders were taken in the top 100 picks was 2010, a group that included Aaron Sanchez, Taijuan Walker and Vince Velasquez.


UCLA third baseman Kyle Karros has emerged as one of the top pure hitters on the West Coast—college or high school—and was rising into day one draft consideration before he rolled his ankle in late March. The son of former Dodgers standout Eric Karros, Kyle shortened his swing, tweaked his approach to stay up through the middle of the field and began showing some of the best, most consistent quality contact of any player in the region to start the season.

Karros adopted a line-drive, gap-to-gap approach and was driving balls to both alleys consistently before he got hurt, including against 98 mph fastballs and quality sliders. He hit .364 with seven doubles and four home runs in 18 games with nearly as many walks (10) as strikeouts (12) and also improved defensively, showing the ability to make plays charging in at third base and flashing an above-average arm.

The 6-foot-5, 220 pound Karros is also tapping into his power better by staying within himself, keeping his swing short and letting his natural strength do the work. His four home runs through 18 games this year came after he only hit six home runs in 43 games last year.

Karros is due to return in a few weeks. If he picks up where he left off, he’s on track to go as high as the second round. 


The Boras Classic is annually loaded with the top teams and players in California, and this year is no exception. The North version of the event began Monday and runs through Thursday at Army Depot Park in Sacramento. Catcher Ryder Helfrick (Clayton Valley Charter HS, Concord) and outfielder/lefthanded pitcher Nolan Stevens (Franklin HS, Elk Grove) headline the top draft prospects participating.

The main event, though, is the South edition, which takes place April 11-14 at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana and JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano. The tournament received a boost from an especially strong year talent-wise in Southern California and will feature many of the top high school players in the draft. First baseman Ralphy Velazquez (Huntington Beach HS), shortstops Gavin Grahovac (Villa Park HS) and Eric Bitonti (Aquinas HS, San Bernardino), third baseman Trent Caraway (JSerra Catholic HS) and second baseman/outfielder Grant Gray (Norco HS) headline the players participating and are all considered potential top two-round picks. Shortstops Cameron Kim (Norco HS) and Austen Roellig (Etiwanda HS, Rancho Cucamonga), outfielder Dean West (Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks) and righthanded pitcher Justin Lee (Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks) lead a long list of other well-regarded players set to play, as well.

Outfielder Derek Curiel (Orange Lutheran HS), one of the top high school players in next year’s draft class, will also be among the participants.


California schools continue to dominate the National High School Invitational.

Huntington Beach scored seven runs in the ninth inning to beat JSerra, 8-1, in the NHSI championship game last weekend. It marked the eighth time in 10 years that a team from California won the NHSI championship. Mater Dei (2012, 2013), Orange Lutheran (2017, 2018, 2019), Huntington Beach (2016, 2023) and San Clemente (2015) all own NHSI titles.

It also marked the seventh time in 10 years that the championship game featured two California high schools. At least one California team has reached the NHSI championship game in nine of the 10 years the tournament has been played.

Huntington Beach sophomore righthander Tyler Bellerose was named tournament MVP after pitching nine innings with five hits, one run allowed, three walks and eight strikeouts over two appearances, including pitching six strong innings in the championship game. Velazquez (6 for 13, 2B, 3B) and Caraway (7 for 16, 2 2B, 3B) were named to the all-tournament team.

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