2005 Youth Player Of The Year: Robert Stock
By Alan Matthews
2005 Baseball For The Ages:
• The Top Players From Ages 12-25
• Opportunity, Demands Explode For Youth Players
• New Landscape Benefits Scouting
The 6-foot, 180-pound 15-year-old was tossing 90 mph fastballs by the time he was 14 and has been known to connect on 400-foot home runs, using a wood bat. He also has the intangibles, the moxie, the mental edge, as well. Just ask his teammates, who have seen Stock's competitiveness on the field and off it.
"We're pretty serious when it comes to poker," said Stock, who began participating in games as a freshman when some of his Agoura (Calif.) High senior teammates invited him to join in. "I wear glasses and a hat and try and stay as stone-faced as I can."
Whether he's leaning on pocket kings or his lightning-quick arm, Stock has spent much of his amateur career winning. He was named Baseball America's best 13-year-old in 2003, best 14-year-old in 2004 and this year's best 15-year-old in our annual Baseball For the Ages feature. He also is being recognized as BA’s 2005 Youth Player of the Year, the first time a high school underclassman has won the honor.
The precocious Stock possesses outstanding skills as a catcher and pitcher. His arm strength is his most outstanding tool, as he hit 94 mph this summer and one scout clocked him at 95 on a couple of pitches this fall in a scout league game. He racked up 29 strikeouts in 20 innings as Agoura's closer as a sophomore last spring, and later turned heads at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, touching 92 mph while dealing against some of the top players in the High School Class of 2006, despite being more than a year younger than most of them.
Stock, who turns 16 on Nov. 21, also shows impressive raw power from the left side of the plate, and his arm strength plays well behind the plate, where he has the potential to be a sound defensive catcher. He hit .404-8-29 in the heart of Agoura's lineup and scouts have long loved his potential and proven track record of performance.
"It might be a 50-50 split with scouts in Southern California which way we like him," one area scout said. "I asked him what he liked most about hitting or pitching and he just sad, 'I just love to dominate, whether it be hitting or pitching.' And that's what he does, he just dominates games."
Stock solidified his spot as BA's top youth player with another sensational summer, spent playing against older and more experienced competition.
At the age of 14 last summer, Stock became the youngest player ever to make Team USA's youth national team, which finished second in a qualifying tournament in Mexico. He was the second-youngest player of the roster—yet the team’s No. 1 pitcher.
He was on the team again for the World Youth Championship this summer, and again the Americans drew Cuba in the championship game. Stock, who struck out 15 against the Netherlands earlier in the tournament, eagerly awaited the opportunity.
"The whole year I was looking forward to and practicing for that game," Stock said. "To bring back the gold medal and have a chance to pitch in that game was all I could think about."
Stock was sharp early on, racking up eight strikeouts in four innings before a three-hour rain delay prevented him from completing the game, which Cuba eventually won 5-0.
"Stock was incredible," USA Baseball's Jeff Singer said. "I really would have liked to see him try and close it out, because before it started raining he had dominant stuff."
Ace in the Hole
Stock follows in the footsteps of Delmon Young, Nick Adenhart and Cameron Maybin as BA's Youth Player of the Year, but he wins the award as a 15-year-old, after the others all picked up the award based on their performance and prospect status as rising seniors.
All three of BA's previous winners are off to promising starts as professionals, and while we'll have to wait a little longer to see how Stock fares in professional baseball, he has grown accustomed to looking ahead.
"At this point, I feel I'm more talented at pitching, but I have a better body and stature for catching," he said. "So down the road, who knows, but I'm ready for whatever's next."
As Stock continues to refine his skills, his attitude and perseverance figure to serve him well. And when it's not batting practice or pitching lessons, there's always poker to help him hone his game face. "Sixty dollars, that's the biggest pot I've won so far," he said with a smile.
The ante figures to be upped in due time.