Area Code Games Report

So Cal position players shine in Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif.--Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif., is notorious for being one of the best pitcher's parks on the West Coast. That fact made the handful of home runs hit on the first three days of this year's Area Code Games a telling sign. "Nobody hits them out here, and especially not high school players," said a veteran American League scout in attendance. "There are some good hitters here."

The consensus among scouts this summer has been that this year's high school class is potentially the best in years, and the performances of many Southern California position players at the 20th annual Area Code Games reinforced that sentiment.

Those who have not had the opportunity to see the depth in pitching from the North and Southeast could be more reserved, but given the showings of the country's top prep pitchers this summer, combined with the bats on display in Long Beach, there's reason to believe major league organizations will have a bevy of high-ceiling players to pick from come the 2007 draft.

The list of power-hitting position players is underscored by a trio from the same suburban Los Angeles high school. Chatsworth (Calif.) High third baseman Matt Dominguez, catcher Mike Moustakas and outfielder Bobby Coyle have all shown a combination of bat speed, power and/or a feel for hitting. Dominguez' opening day batting practice session was impressive. He homered over the left-center field wall, 370 feet away. Coyle and Moustakas have made hard contact at least twice in each game they've played. Coyle is the most athletic of the trio, and he runs much better than Dominguez and Moustakas, turning in a 6.64 60-yard dash during Sparq testing.

"We'll just drive straight to Chatsworth next spring," said a scout, making reference to the frequency some scouting directors and crosscheckers will be evaluating the trio.

The lack of quality pitching at this year's Area Code Games is important to consider, but hitters with above-average hit and power tools and sound swing mechanics should be worth following closely next spring, with a chance to drafted highly.

Outside of the Chatsworth trio, Sherman Oaks, Calif., product Mike Stanton offers intriguing upside. He had little trouble clearing the left-field wall in batting practice. The athletic, strong 6-foot-5, 205-pound Stanton generates well above-average bat speed and has plus raw power.

With the Aflac All-American Classic scheduled for Aug. 12, a pair of So Cal hitters tuned up for their Aflac appearances with strong showings in Long Beach. Third baseman Josh Vitters (Cypress, Calif., High) and outfielder Freddie Freeman (El Modena High, Orange, Calif.) took turns peppering the Blair Field alleys during games. Freeman, one of the most powerful lefthanded hitters in attendance, has outstanding balance and extension to his swing, with an ability to drive the ball to right and left field. Vitters' plate discipline needs to improve, as he's aggressive in all counts, but he rarely misses his pitch.

"This is just a preliminary period, let's remember that, but there are some guys here who have a chance to hit (as professionals)," the American League scout said.

Two days remained at the Area Code Games, but from the showcase's outset, it was clear that position players from Southern California will figure prominently in next year's draft.