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Shortstops stand out on Day Three

By Josh Boyd
August 8, 2002

Top Area Code Alumni
Troy Glaus
Nick Johnson
Nomar Garciaparra
Jason Giambi
Eric Chavez
Barry Zito
Pat Burrell
Paul Konerko
Austin Kearns
Phil Nevin
Sean Burroughs
Josh Beckett
Jermaine Dye
Hank Blalock

LONG BEACH--Five games and 12 hours later, day three mercifully came to an end. It was a tedious day for scouts under the sun at Blair Field, but the best prospects are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack at the 2002 Area Code Games.

Sarasota (Fla.) HS lefthander James Houser emerged as one of the ACG's best prospects by carving up the Brewers, a team made up of southern California talent. Houser punched out seven in three hitless innings, recording the only other outs by himself on comebackers. The 6-foot-5, 180-pounder displayed above-average command of an 88-91 mph lively fastball and a sharp 76 mph curveball. Houser, who was no surprise to scouts after performing well at the East Coast Showcase in Wilmington, N.C., throws from a three-quarters arm slot and works on an effective downhill plane. He dropped down to the side and painted the corner with an 89 mph fastball to notch his seventh strikeout.

Coral Park (Miami) HS shortstop Robert Valido, also coming off an impressive showing in Wilmington, has stirred up some interest among scouts. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Valido has a solid arm and good hands at shortstop, though his Coral Park teammate Sean Rodriguez might be a better natural shortstop. Rodriguez has the quick feet and soft hands scouts are looking for in the middle of the infield, and he shows good lateral movement and charges the ball well.

Valido, Rodriguez and Hickory (Va.) HS shortstop Justin Upton show promise at short, a position that usually lacks talent domestically. "Quality shortstops are tough to find," one scouting director said. "That's why these guys are exciting."

Another scout who just came from the World Junior Championships in Sherbrooke, Quebec, was in awe of the athletic ability on the international front, which traditionally has more talent up the middle. "I've never seen anything like it. All those guys on Cuba and the Dominican can play short, they can all pick it, and they can throw."

There can't be many amateurs better than Upton, who continues to put on a show. The 14-year-old stroked two hits, including a double to the warning track in the first game, and made a big league play from deep in the hole at shortstop. His brother B.J., who is expected to come to terms with the Devil Rays within the week, was on hand with the Upton family.

Amijo (Suisun City, Calif.) shortstop Sean Henry has demonstrated intriguing tools at shortstop too. His arm is average with a chance to be plus, though he runs just average at best so his future at the position may be in question. If he adds to his athletic 6-foot, 160-pound frame, Henry would profile more as a third baseman Henry has good bat speed and the ball jumps off his bat, though he doesn't shown anything more than line-drive power at this point.

For more information on this year's Area Code Games, check out

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