Pacific Regional Feature: Watson, Lakewood continue climb
This is the second of a ten-part series previewing all ten regions of the United States. The schedule is as follows:
1. Harvard-Westlake's pair of aces
In last season's Pacific Regional preview we stated "this is a good team already and they have a chance to become arguably the best team in the state next year." That was before Montclair Prep dropped their athletics programs, making ace lefty Max Fried available. Had we known that the Wolverines would be landing another potential first round pitcher we would have said "...arguably the best team in the nation." The combo of Lucas Giolito and Fried is easily the best one-two punch in the country since at least 2006 when Newhall Hart (CA) boasted RHP Trevor Bauer and LHP Mike Montgomery. Montgomery was a junior at the time, the senior duo of Giolito and Fried will make their case for top duo in California's illustrious history of high school baseball this spring.
2. Emergence of Shane Watson
It seems like every year in California a pitcher goes from being a solid prospect who is well known in the local area as a junior, to becoming an elite level prospect on the national level as a senior. In 2011 Robert Stephenson made that leap after opening the season with back-to-back no-hitters before becoming a first round pick of the Cincinnati Reds. This year it looks as though Lakewood's Shane Watson has an shot at following in Stephenson's footsteps. Watson will have his work cut out for him to come up with an encore for 2011, but with his fastball now reaching the mid 90s to go with his quality command and plus curveball, it will be exciting to see what he has in store for 2012.
3. San Diego Prospect Factories
A pair of dynasties have emerged in the CIF San Diego Section, as long time powerhouse Rancho Bernardo and emerging Division III power Cathedral Catholic both appear to be strong favorites to repeat in 2012. Rancho Bernardo has earned the nickname "The Factory" for consistently producing high level draft picks (Cole Hamels is one of the Broncos' seven first round picks). Meanwhile Cathedral Catholic is quickly becoming a left handed pitching factory in its own right. After graduating Yankees prospect Daniel Camarena last year, the Dons turn to the future with Stephen Gonsalves (currently No. 2 ranked LHP in class of 2013) and Brady Aiken (currently No. 4 ranked LHP in class of 2014).
4. SacTown Showdowns
While a strong baseball city, Sacramento will never be confused with a national hotbed like Orange County, North Georgia, Houston or South Florida. But 2012 should be an exciting year in the Golden State's capital. Jesuit opens the season ranked No. 47 in the nation thanks to four division I college commitments returning from the 2011 CIF San-Joaquin Section Division I runners-up. They will be challenged in the Delta River League by Pleasant Grove, meanwhile the Delta Valley League features the nastiest curveball in northern California in Ben Eckels from Davis. Lefty 2013 slugger Ryan Tellez will be a dangerous presence in Elk Grove's lineup, and Eckels will need to be careful not to hang one of his curveballs with Tellez at the plate. These four strong squads will bring some intrigue to the Sacramento area this season.
5. Hawaiian Warriors
2011 was a season of change in Hawaiian high school baseball, as the seven year dynasty of Punahau came to an end, snapping the nation's longest consecutive state title streak. 2012 has the potential of another surprise in the Aloha State, as a school from the city of Hilo (pop. 40,000) looks to take down the contenders from the state's capital of Honolulu (pop. 950,000). The Warriors of Waiakea appear to be contenders thanks to top prospects 2013 OF/INF Kean Wong and 2012 LHP Quintin Torres Costa, a pair of University of Hawaii commits. Wong is the younger brother of Kolten Wong, the St. Louis Cardinals first round pick in 2011 and former All-American at Hawaii. In spite of the talent on paper and strong preseason play, it would still be a minor surprise to see a champion come from outside the island of Oahu.
March 1 Bishop Amat @ Mater Dei
An exceptional season opening matchup, with the 2011 CIF Southern Section Division III champions Bishop Amat taking on the 2010 CIF Southern Section Division I champions and pre-season No. 5 team in the nation, Mater Dei. Both are traditional powerhouses and both have very strong teams this year with big time draft prospects in 3B/RHP Rio Ruiz, OF Ty Moore and C Jeremy Martinez (2013).
March 3, April 3 Cathedral Catholic vs Rancho Bernardo
The two biggest powerhouses in San Diego square off in the season opener. Defending San Diego Section Division III champion Cathedral Catholic will likely send ace lefty Stephen Gonsalves to the mound to face the defending Division I champions. The rematch is set for a month later on April 3. Cathedral Catholic swept the two game series last year by a combined score of 3-2, both teams enter the season ranked in the top 50 nationally.
March 30, May 2 Lakewood vs Wilson
There is potential for an elite pitching matchup is present as Lakewood's Shane Watson and Wilson's Chase DeJong are the two best RHPs in the state not named Giolito. These games could decide the winner of the Moore League, as they enter the season as the top two contenders. Hopefully the high stakes will entice each team to set up their pitching for the Watson-DeJong showdown that would surely draw a large crowd of scouts.
April 17 Westlake @ Harvard-Westlake
A big out of league matchup between Division I power Westlake and preseason national No. 2 Harvard-Westlake. Even if the Wolverines don't decide to use one of their two aces it will still be an exciting glimpse into the future as each team features a player currently ranked in the top 15 players in the class of 2014 with Westlake's Luke Dykstra (No. 8) and Harvard-Westlake's Jack Flaherty (No. 15).
May 7-9 Pleasant Grove vs Jesuit
In the final series of the regular season the Delta River League will likely hinge on this series. Last year Jesuit took two out of three in the regular season to capture the title and then knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs en route to the CIF championship series. This series will feature the top position prospect in the Sacramento area's next two years with Jesuit SS Zach Green (2012) and Pleasant Grove OF/LHP Josh Adams (2013). Stanford bound LHP Logan James will almost certainly pitch during the series for Jesuit, giving the Mauraders an edge (on paper).
Pacific High School Dream Team
*Based on present tools and position played for high school team
C Jeremy Martinez, Jr. Mater Dei
Martinez edges out South Hills senior CJ Saylor who is arguably the best defensive catcher in the country. Martinez is no slouch behind the plate himself and his bat ranks amongst the best in the class of 2013.
1B Ryan Tellez, Jr. Elk Grove
Big hulking power hitter who hit .505/.562/.926 with nine Home Runs as a sophomore last year. Also posted a 3.79 ERA, top power bat in the region outside of the hotbed of southern California. Tellez edges out JW North's Gabriel Clark, who led the Huskies to the Southern Section Division I title in 2011.
2B Seve Romo, Jr. El Dorado
The addition of Romo, a transfer from Servite, sets up the Hawks to have one of the best double play combinations in the country in a pair of juniors: Romo and SS Chris Rivera.
SS Zach Green, Sr. Jesuit
California has plenty of shortstop talent to choose from and Green leads a strong crop of candidates. If Tanner Rahier were eligible he would be the obvious selection here, and the 2013 class is loaded with shortstops. Green has begun to realize his power potential after hitting six Home Runs as a junior in 2011 and is the top position player to watch in the area.
3B Trey Williams, Sr. Valencia (two-time Dream Team selection)
Massive build, massive power potential. Williams is a potential first round pick come June, thus making it surprising that he has strong competition for top billing amongst third basemen in the region. Rio Ruiz's two-way ability moves him to the Util spot and Williams' power gives him the edge over Upland's Daniel Robertson. This is the strongest group of position prospects in the region.
OF Ty Moore, Sr. Mater Dei
OF Braden Bishop, Sr. St. Francis
OF Vahn Bozoian, Sr. Chino Hills
Moore will wrap up a highly decorated prep career at Mater Dei in 2012, looking to earn his second ring after picking up the save in the 2010 CIF SS Division I championship game. Moore was named MVP at the 2011 WWBA World Championship and is committed to UCLA. Bozoian is a huge player with huge upside, which he has already begun to reach. Bozoian pofiles squarely in right field where his plus arm and power bat are perfectly suited. Bishop is a premium athlete with good all around tools and does everything well, he should be able to stick in center field long term.
UTIL Rio Ruiz, 3B/RHP, Sr. Bishop Amat (two-time Dream Team selection)
Best defensive third baseman in the state (and possibly the country) with elite hitting tools. Also a high level pitcher with a heavy fastball that we have seen as high as 93 mph that he backs well with a sharp curveball. Does everything on the field well, bright future on the hot corner.
P Lucas Giolito, Sr. RHP Harvard-Westlake
Giolito has a chance to make history by becoming the first high school RHP to be selected with the first overall pick in the draft. With that much at stake, being counted on as the ace of the preseason No. 2 ranked team in the nation (with strong consideration for No. 1) is relatively little pressure. His consistent mid 90s fastball and plus low 80s curveball will make Giolito an absolute menace to SoCal hitters.
P Max Fried, Sr. LHP Harvard-Westlake
Fried's selection of Harvard-Westlake as his landing spot was the story of the offseason. His performance on the mound this spring could become the story of the season. Fried is armed with an elite curveball to go with a consistent low 90s fastball that he commands well and a quality changeup.
P Shane Watson, Sr. RHP Lakewood
2011 was a big year for Shane. After a slow start to his junior season at Lakewood, he made tremendous strides before putting his name on the map in southern California by outdueling Henry Owens to knock out the top seed seeded Edison Chargers out of the third round of the CIF playoffs. He then made a similar statement on the national stage with an equally impressive win over Marucci Elite at the 17u WWBA National Championship. He followed that with strong showing at the Area Code Games, where he touched 93 mph. After a grueling offseason, his fastball has begun reaching the mid 90s this spring. If he can maintain the command and pitchability he showed in 2011 he will dominate.
P Hunter Virant, Sr. LHP Camarillo
Virant doesn't have quite as much hype as Fried, but in most years he would be the top lefty in SoCal. There are a lot of similarities to Fried, both work in the low 90s with ease and snap off viscous curveballs and have solid changeups. Virant hasn't reached quite as much of his upside but he not only projects to be a high level pitcher, he is already a beast. There are several more very good LHPs in SoCal who miss the cut because of the impressive abilities of Fried and Virant.
P Chase DeJong, Sr. RHP Wilson
He gets overlooked a bit because his fastball doesn't light up radar guns with big shiny numbers (highest fastball velocity at a PG event was 91 mph), but the fact of the matter is that DeJong can flat out pitch. He shows very good command of all three of his quality pitches. With strong downhill leverage, DeJong generates good sink on his fastball, snaps off a sharp breaking curveball and his changeup is highly polished for a high school pitcher. Factor in his ability to execute and mix his pitches and you have one of the best present ability pitchers in the country.
Pacific Region Best Tools
Best Hitter For Average Tanner Rahier, Sr. SS Palm Desert (does not play for HS team)
Rahier is truly a student of the game, and it shows when he steps into the box. His swing is highly polished and he has a plan of attack for each at bat, making good adjustments from pitch to pitch. He possesses high level hitting tools, including good present power.
Best Hitter For Power Trey Williams, Sr. 3B Valencia
When Williams squares the ball up (with wood) there is no crack of the bat, rather there is an explosion of sound. Williams' physical build, plus bat speed and natural loft make him one of the top right handed power hitters in the high school class.
Best Baserunner Braden Bishop, Sr. OF St. Francis
A fast runner (6.67 60 yard dash time) and a quality athlete, Bishop also shows good instincts on the bases. As a junior in 2011 Bishop was successful on 19 of his 20 stolen base attempts and earns high marks for his smart, aggressive play.
Best Defensive Catcher CJ Saylor, Sr South Hills
At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds Saylor may not look like a prototypical catcher. But his plus arm, quick athletic defensive actions and polished receiving skills make him an exceptional present defensive catcher. Saylor has also thrown 93 mph from the outfield, and has posted several sub 1.80 pop times during showcase workouts.
Best Defensive Infielder Tanner Rahier, Sr. SS Palm Desert (does not play for HS team)
Many assume that given his size and arm strength that a move to third base is imminent. But Rahier moves very well for his size (6-foot-2, 205), having consistently posted 60 yard dash times in the low 6.60s, and is a plus defensive shortstop at the national travel ball level. His plus arm strength allows him to make off balance throws without having to set his feet, giving him additional functional range beyond what his speed would suggest.
Best Defensive Outfielder Tyrone Taylor, Sr. Torrance
As a two sport star (averaged 4.7 yards/carry at RB and 15.8 tackles/game at LB) for Torrance High School, Taylor lacks the polish to his game that most of the players on this list possess. But his raw athleticism and talent suggest that once the Cal State Fullerton signee focuses his efforts entirely on baseball he has a chance to become an exceptional outfielder.
Best Infield Arm Rio Ruiz, Sr. 3B Bishop Amat
Ruiz's arm strength would make him an interesting pitching prospect if he wasn't for his high level bat and very good defensive actions at third base. His raw arm strength plays very well in game action not only as a third baseman and pitcher, but also as the starting quarterback for Bishop Amat's powerhouse football team.
Best Outfield Arm Vahn Bozoian, Sr. Chino Hills
One of the strongest outfield arms in the country, Bozoian posted a 96 mph throwing velocity from the outfield at the 2011 National Showcase. He invokes comparisons to big leaguer Jeff Francouer for his arm strength in addition to similar size and power bat.
Best Fastball Lucas Giolito, RHP, Sr. Harvard-Westlake (second year in a row)
The radar gun says that Giolito has one of the hardest fastballs in the country, but that doesn't even tell the whole story. His enormous 6-foot-6 frame and good extension out front allows Giolito to release the ball several inches closer to the plate than most pitchers. At the 2011 Area Code Games Trackman technologies calculated that Giolito released his fastball four inches closer to the plate than the MLB average. Thus allowing his heater to get on (and by) hitters more quickly than any other pitcher in the country (.404 seconds, .416 MLB average).
Best Offspeed Stuff Max Fried, LHP, Sr. Harvard Westlake (second year in a row)
The debate about Fried's curveball is not about whether it is the best among high school pitchers in California, but the entire country. Fried's curveballl in reminiscent of a vintage Barry Zito hammer, with big depth and late violent break. Most importantly he has developed feel for the pitch and can locate it well, making it a legitimate weapon. Perhaps now that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has begun to use his slider as his primary breaking ball, it is time for Vin Scully to pass the torch on the nickname "Public Enemy No. 1" to Fried's hook.
Best Command Chase DeJong, RHP, Sr. Wilson
DeJong controls himself extremely well throughout his smooth, well balanced delivery, allowing him to throw all three of his quality pitches to spots. It also allows him to dominate even the highest level of hitters. His offspeed stuff and pitchability rank near the top in the region as well. DeJong abused hitters at every high level event this past summer, including the National Showcase, Tournament of Stars and Area Code Games where he abused the best hitters in the country to the tune of: 13 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 20 K.
Best Pitchability Max Fried, LHP, Sr. Harvard-Westlake
Fried not only has a menacing KO pitch in his curveball, but he also knows how to set it up and he executes very well. He mixes his low-mid 90s fastball, deceptive changeup and hammer curve well. The combination of pitchability and pure stuff is the reason that Fried has been climbing up draft boards in the early spring and has a legitimate chance to be a first round pick come June.
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