Texahoma Regional Feature: A South Texas passion play
This is the fourth of a ten-part series previewing all ten regions of the United States. The schedule is as follows:
1. Corpus Christi primed for a big year
While having a pair of highly ranked teams on a national level and several exciting draft prospects is par for the course in the hotbed of Houston, the Corpus Christi area is getting it's share of national attention this year as well. Click here to read Jeff Dahn's full length feature.
2. Return of CJ Hinojosa
The offseason drama surrounding where All-American shortstop CJ Hinojosa would be playing this spring has finally been settled. Hinojosa had indicated plans to graduate early and enroll at the University of Texas to compete for the starting shortstop job this spring. The motivation behind his decision to stay at Klein Collins is unknown, and was a very complicated decision for anyone, let alone a teenager. Regardless, Hinojosa is back at shortstop (and occasionally one the mound) leading Klein Collins, one of the top contenders in Texas 5A baseball. Whether Hinojosa ever gets to Austin remains to be seen. He is committed to play his college baseball for the Longhorns, but those plans could be affected by the MLB Draft. For now, he is focused on leading the Tigers to their first ever state championship.
3. Oklahoma Reloads
2011 was a special season in Oklahoma, as the top two high school pitchers in the country helped lead their respective teams to the 6A championship game. Dylan Bundy, (fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft) and Archie Bradley (seventh overall pick) are both rare talents, and the state hasn't seen multiple prospects of that caliber at the same time in the past, and may not again. But that doesn't mean the cupboard is bare. Edmond Santa Fe, who lost a nailbiter to Owasso in the 6A state semifinals last year, boasts the region's top 2012 RHP prospect in Ty Hensley. Jenks RHP Thomas Hatch (2013) looks as though he has a chance to follow suit. The 2014 class is well represented by SS/3B Drew Ward of Leedey, who is currently the No. 1 ranked player in the sophomore class.
4. The Woodlands pitching factory keeps on churning out prospects
Last year in this space we highlighted how The Woodlands passed the torch down from 2010 ace Jameson Taillon (second overall pick) to Bryan Brickhouse (fourth round pick, first round signing bonus). Now a year later the tradition continues with RHP Kevin McCanna, who appears below in the Best Tools section for command and pitchability. The powerhouse has also produced big league RHP Kyle Drabek (first round, 2006), and two-way college All-American Brett Eibner (fourth round pick in 2007 as RHP, second round pick in 2010 as OF). The Houston area is a notorious hotbed of baseball talent, but even so, The Woodlands has produced far more than their fair share of high level pitchers. Head Coach Ron Eastman, pitching coach Shane Graves and the rest of the staff have done a remarkable job.
5. Hitting the ground running
The newly minted George Ranch (Richmond, TX) program has gotten off to an excellent start. In 2011 the brand new school played a 24 game JV schedule, and after starting the season 2-2, they went on a 20 game winning streak to close out the season 22-2 (14-0 in district), and few of their late season games were even close. That momentum has carried over into 2012, as the Longhorns opened their first varsity campaign (class 4A) by going 4-0 and winning the Hop Priest Tournament. While they haven't faced off with a powerhouse opponent yet, this group which has no seniors has outscored their opponents 21-2 thus far. 2014 OF Stone Garrett has been a big presence in the lineup and is one of the top players in the class of 2014. It is far too early to proclaim this the next Houston area powerhouse, but it will be an exciting story to follow over the next few years.
March 1 Galveston Ball (TX) vs Houston Christian (TX)
The opening matchup of the Gary Herrington Tournament in Baytown features a head to head matchup between two of the top prospects in the state of Texas when Houston Christian RHP Mitchell Traver takes the mound against Galveston Ball OF Nick Williams. In his last start Traver reportedly worked at 92-95 with his fastball, and Williams homered in his first plate appearance of the season.
March 20, April 14 Calallen (TX) vs Moody (TX)
An intense rivalry has developed in recent years between these two 4A Corpus Christi schools. Each program owns multiple state titles (Calallen three, Moody two) and there was no love lost when they met in an intense best of three regional semifinal series last season. Calallen and top prospect Wyatt Mathisen look to be the favorites on paper, but this is the type of rivalry matchup where you can throw out the records.
March 22, April 15 Rockwall-Heath (TX) vs Rockwall (TX)
This cross-town rivalry has the potential for big league championship implications, as both teams open the season ranked in the top 25 teams in the region. Both teams feature talented senior leadership with interesting prospects and plenty at stake. MIF/OF Spencer Edwards and C/IF Steve Bean lead Rockwall, while RHP/1B Jake Thompson and C/RHP Jovan Hernandez of Rockwall-Heath give this game four of the top 40 ranked 2012 players in the state of Texas. Rockwall-Heath junior SS Brett Boswell has also begun to emerge as an interesting prospect to watch who will take part in this intriguing series.
April 5, 6 Broken Arrow (OK) vs Owasso (OK)
The rematch of last year's 6A state championship game won't have as much fanfare this time around, but in spite of graduating two of the best prospects to come out of Oklahoma in years, both teams remain strong contenders to return to to the title game in 2012. Owasso will host the first meeting on April 5 at Stegall Field, with the second matchup to be held at ONEOK Field, site of their matchup in the 2011 6A championship game. While both teams lost a ton of talent to graduation, including Bundy and Bradley who are in pro ball now, Cory Taylor of Owasso and Trey Lee Cobb of Broken Arrow lead quality pitching staffs.
April 14 SB Memorial (TX) @ The Woodlands (TX)
This out of league matchup between two of the top programs in the state features a pair of teams that opened the reason ranked nationally. This prospect laden matchup includes: Memorial C Boomer White, 1B/RHP Kacy Clemens (2013) and OF Matt Collins (2014); Woodlands RHP Kevin McCanna, OF Clayton Davis, and C Alex Dunlap (2013). Not only are both teams currently ranked in the National Top 50, but both open in the top 10 of the Texahoma rankings as well. Give credit to these two programs who already have plenty of tough matchups in league play on their schedule for taking on all comers out of league.
Texahoma High School Dream Team
*Based on present tools and current position
C Jovan Hernandez, Sr. Rockwall-Heath (TX)
Hernandez edges out fellow Rockwall, TX product Steve Bean (Rockwall HS) and rocket armed Hunter Kopycinski of St. Thomas Catholic in large part because of his offensive ability. Which is not to say that Hernandez isn't a quality defensive catcher, he certainly is and boasts impressive arm strength as well, but his presence in the Hawks' lineup has such a big impact that it puts him over the top.
1B Austin Dean, Sr. Klein Collins (TX) (2-time Texahoma Dream Team Selection)
Dean's athleticism and defensive ability at first base are something of a status symbol in testament to just how good the Klein Collins infield is. Dean is athletic enough to play in the middle of the diamond and has enough arm for third (where he also sees time for the Tigers), but his power bat is plenty adequate for first base as well. The Texas Longhorn commit edges out CC Carroll's two-way star O'Shea Dumes.
2B Leon Byrd, Sr. CyRanch (TX)
While he may also see time on the left side of the infield Byrd has significant experience on the keystone for CyRanch, and he utilizes his speed and athleticism there very well. His short compact build gives him a low center of gravity and a small strike zone, and his contact ability and speed make him a quality leadoff hitter.
SS CJ Hinojosa, Sr. Klein Collins (TX) (2-time Texahoma Dream Team Selection)
Not only is Hinojosa the best defensive infielder in the state, but he's also the best pure hitter. While his swing is geared for consistent hard line drive contact, he also has dangerous power potential as well. It was thought that Hinojosa would be spending the spring manning shortstop for the Texas Longhorns, instead the Klein Collins Tigers get one more year out of a special talent. In spite of the presence of several other strong shortstops like the highly athletic Geonte' Jackson of Elkins, Hinojosa is head and shoulders above the rest in the class of 2012.
3B Cavan Biggio, Jr. St. Thomas Catholic (TX)
As his name would suggest, Biggio is an advanced hitter who works counts extremely well. He also combines the makings of good power and polished defensive actions to become a high level player at a young age. Frisco Wakeland's Willie Schwanke is another high level third baseman who received strong consideration for his power bat and arm strength.
OF Nick Williams, Sr. Galveston Ball (TX) (2-time Texahoma Dream Team Selection)
OF Courtney Hawkins, Sr. CC Carroll (TX) (2-time Texahoma Dream Team Selection)
OF Stone Garrett, So. George Ranch (TX)
The highly ranked duo of Williams and Hawkins have terrorized pitchers from around the country during the past few summers while playing together with the Houston Banditos. Both have massive power, strong throwing arms and are high level athletes, and both are also committed to the University of Texas. They are joined by the first sophomore to ever be named to a region's dream team, Stone Garrett of George Ranch's brand new program. George Ranch is playing a varsity schedule for the first time ever and are off to a 4-0 start (after going 22-2 in JV last year). They are doing so without a senior class, thanks in large part to Garrett who is hitting .559 and slugging .889 on the young season.
UTIL Wyatt Mathisen, Sr. RHP/SS,C Calallen (TX)
Mathisen is considered one of the best high school catching prospects in the 2012 MLB Draft. The captain of the preseason No. 12 Calallen Wildcats, Mathisen rarely catches for the Wildcats, instead serving primarily as the team's ace and shortstop. 2013 two-way prospect Sheldon Neuse seems primed to take over this spot next year thanks to his consistent low 90s fastball and power bat.
P Ty Hensley, Sr. RHP, Edmond Santa Fe (OK)
P Kevin McCanna, RHP, Sr. The Woodlands (TX)
P Austin Fairchild, LHP, Sr. St. Thomas Catholic (TX)
P Mitchell Traver, RHP, Sr. Houston Christian (TX)
P Jeremy Kivel, RHP, Sr. Spring (TX)
The pitching in Texas is extremely deep, and several highly deserving candidates missed the cut as a result. Oklahoma lacks the incrdible firepower that fans in the Sooner State were treated to the past few years with Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley, each of whom are now pitching for a (comfortable) living. But Ty Hensley carries the torch for Oklahoma in 2012, with 2013 RHP Thomas Hatch poised to carry on that tradition in 2013, who barely missed the cut this year. Southpaw Rex Hill of Tomball has made a big jump heading into his senior campaign, RHP Teddy Stankewicz of Forth Worth Christian has been very solid in the early going and 2013 RHP Kohl Stewart looks like the top junior in Texas. Since this group of high level pitchers enters the season in something of a logjam, expect several to emerge from the talented group and generate a lot of interest come June. Sleeper watch: 2013 LHP Evan Anderson out of Dale High School (Oklahoma Class 2A).
Texahoma Region Best Tools
Best Hitter For Average CJ Hinojosa, SS, Sr. Klein Collins (TX) (second year in a row)
If you look at his basic stat line from the 2011 WWBA World Championship (.278/.381/.389), it would appear that Hinojosa had a pedestrian showing at the plate. But his true ability was skewed by the small sample size, as Hinojosa swung and missed just three times in six games (21 plate appearances). His pure hitting tools really stand out, and while his high hand set prevents him from generating much loft, he hammers screaming liners that leave the yard as a result of his plus bat speed and ability to drive the ball hard to all fields.
Best Hitter For Power Nick Williams, OF, Sr. Galveston Ball (TX) (second year in a row)
Williams has a lot of competition for best power bat in the nation, and while there is no consensus on the best raw power in the class, his ability to launch majestic Home Runs to any part of the ballpark makes Williams' power somewhat unique. In Williams' breakout four-homer game at the 2010 16U WWBA National Championship he launched a monster Home Run down the left field line in his first at bat, before going on to hit one to right, one to right center and another to left center.
Best Baserunner Leon Byrd, MIF, Sr. CyRanch (TX)
Byrd does possess good straight away speed, but his quickness and acceleration are what make him stand out from the crowd from an athletic standpoint. His aggressive, high energy game allows him to play above his tools, and that approach combined with his instincts and quickness allows him to be a disruptive baserunner.
Best Defensive Catcher Wyatt Mathisen, Sr. Calallen (TX)
Mathisen is considered one of the best long term catching prospects in the 2012 MLB Draft from the high school ranks. Which is remarkable because he doesn't catch much for Calallen, instead putting his plus arm to use on the mound and at shortstop. At the 2012 World Showcase Matthisen posted an impressive 85 mph velocity on throwdowns to second during the workout. He is still somewhat raw in terms of his receiving and blocking skills and can improve his release time, but physically he has the tools to become a prototypical catcher at the next level. Hunter Kopycinski of St. Thomas Catholic would take the honors if Mathisen were projected for another position.
Best Defensive Infielder CJ Hinojosa, SS, Sr. Klein Collins (TX)
Hinojosa combines plus plus range, an above average arm, good defensive actions and good body control giving him high level defensive tools. The result is that Hinojosa not only makes the spectacular play, but more importantly he makes those plays look easy.
Best Defensive Outfielder Eric Williams, Jr. Sachse (TX)
Williams has big time arm strength (96 mph from the outfield at the 2011 Junior National Showcase) combined with well above average athleticism (6.89 60 yard dash). He also shows good routes and reads in the outfield, and had a highlight reel caliber diving catch in center at the Jr National.
Best Infield Arm Sheldon Neuse, SS/RHP, Jr. Fossil Ridge (TX)
Neuse's arm strength has many debating about whether his future lies on the mound or on the left side of the infield. He has enough arm for third base or to be a high level pitcher, but his high level athleticism and fluid defensive actions allow him to be a high level defensive shortstop as well. Neuse ran his fastball as high as 92 last summer and should continue improving his already impressive arm.
Best Outfield Arm Jake Cosart, OF, Sr. Clear Creek (TX)
Brother of Houston Astros top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart, Jake uncorked a 98 mph throw from right field during the workout portion of the 2011 National Showcase. There are several other candidates with strong arms from the outfield, including Courtney Hawkins and Nick Williams, but none who can match the arm strength of Cosart.
Best Fastball Mitchell Traver, RHP, Sr. Houston Christian (TX)
There is no shortage of candidates for this category, ultimately Traver edges out an impressive field thanks to his combination of velocity, downhill leverage and extension out front which allows him to release the ball closer to the plate. At 6-foot-7, Traver's fastball, which has reportedly been up to 95 this season, plays up even heavier. Kohl Stewart has bumped his velocity up to 96 this spring and is the early favorite to suceed Traver in this category next year. Ty Hensley is the strongest candidate from Oklahoma, and the converted catcher is not that far behind.
Best Offspeed Stuff Jeremy Kivel, RHP, Sr. Spring (TX)
Kivel's power curveball and solid changeup give him the edge over Tyler Gonzales' wipeout slider. Kivel's ability to throw his nasty hook for strikes makes him extremely difficult to hit. Teddy Stankewicz's slider also put him into contention, but Kivel's plus curveball earns top billing in the region.
Best Command Kevin McCanna, RHP, Sr. The Woodlands (TX)
McCanna makes a strong case for best pitcher in the state of Texas. His ability to locate his low 90s fastball (up to 94 this spring) with a low effort delivery allows him to get ahead consistently. He also throws his curveball and changeup for strikes. As a junior in 2011, McCanna threw 66.4% of his pitches for strikes according to The Woodlands' GameChanger statistics.
Best Pitchability Kevin McCanna, RHP, Sr. The Woodlands (TX)
Not only does McCanna locate well, he also mixes his quality three pitch arsenal very well. His ability to change speeds with a fastball that has reached 94 and a quality changeup puts hitters off balance, and his pair of promising breaking balls can serve as out pitches. His ability to harness that impressive repertoire will allow him to carve up hitters at this level, and probably the next as well.
Texahoma Top 25 Regional Rankings
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