3/5/2011 5:23:02 PM
PG's High School baseball coverage coordinators share their thoughts on 3 new topics each Saturday to discuss them with our readers.
With the season still young lets highlight notable performances by young players getting their first taste of high school baseball. Who is the freshman that has really made a strong impression on you right off the bat?
Todd Gold: While Creekside (FL) SS/RHP Blake Hennessey would be a good candidate here, this is actually his THIRD season of high school ball so he doesn’t really count. And though there are a few other names that come to mind, that one that really jumps out to me is Harvard Westlake (CA) CF/SS/RHP Jack Flaherty. Flaherty has some big shoes to fill as he takes over CF for Austin Wilson (currently starting for Stanford as a Freshman).
That’s a lot of pressure for a kid his age but Jack has hit the ground running, with an impressive performance on the road against Valencia last week he went 2-for-3 with a double and Home Run against one of the top teams in California. Flaherty has impressive tools, not only can he hit, he has an impressive arm and runs very well. I’m told he is also a good defender at SS, and at 6’ 3” 180 lbs he certainly looks the part. This kid should be a valuable player for Harvard Westlake for the next 4 years so long as he continues to work hard.
Ben Collman: A freshman that caught my eye during the fall season and has continued to perform well is OF Alex Abbott from Tift County, GA. Abbott played for White Sox Scout Team/Florida Legends during the October WWBA World Championship in Jupiter and stood out on a huge stage against the best high school competition in the country.
Abbott has carried that impressive performance over to his high school season. In Tift’s season opener he hit a grand slam to tie the game and jumpstart the offense, leading to a 11-5 victory. Last night he went 3-3, crushing a home run that flew an estimated 400 feet in a 10-8 win over Lee County (alma mater of 2010 NL ROY Buster Posey). Abbott, at 6’0 180, has the lean projectable build of many high school freshman. Where he does stand out is at the plate where he has a very advanced, simple approach with very good pitch recognition and bat speed. Abbott is a top prospect to watch for the next four years.
Which team will receive the biggest boost from a player coming back from injury?
TG: The team that looks to gain the most from a player coming back from injury is Petal (MS). Star OF Anthony Alford suffered an injury during the football season but looks to be back playing by the end of the month. When he does Petal will return one of the best athletes in the nation. Alford batted .390 last year with 7 homers and 41 RBI. He is currently the state’s top-ranked player in the 2012 class and is #45 nationally.
He also excels as a quarterback and was named Gatorade Mississippi player of the year as he threw for 1,399 yards and 16 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,253 yards and 19 touchdowns this fall. Alford may try to play both sports at the collegiate level and has reportedly received scholarship offers from SEC schools. When he does return to the diamond they will get a tremendous athlete and all around player who will bolster a team that went 30-4 a year ago, winning the 6A title.
BC: LHP/OF Stephen Tarpley of Gilbert (AZ) is arguably the most important player on his team. The Tigers have fared well without him thus far, earning a berth in the Scottsdale Invitational Championship Game (very strong field for this tournament). This speaks to the depth and overall talent on this team, as well as the job that Coach Matt Gutierrez has done.
But make no mistake, this team will be significantly better if Tarpley can come back healthy and perform at the level he did in 2010 when he made huge strides on the mound and worked his way into the conversation of best LHP in the southwest. Tarpley suffered a freak knee injury during pre-season workouts and has not appeared in a game yet, but is expected to be able to play again later this month. The fact that Gilbert has played as well as they have without him suggests they have a chance to become the best team in a very good state when he comes back.
Clutch time: Which team has made the biggest statement thus far in the season?
BC: While it is no surprise that Flanagan (FL) is one of the top baseball teams in Florida, it is a surprise how quickly they have began the season. The Falcons won the Florida 6A championship and finished #9 in the Perfect Game National Rankings a year ago, but lost seven seniors including all Broward County selections Justin Machado and Pichi Torresalong with Corey Janson and Geoffrey Jimenez, now playing at Miami and FAU respectively.
Flanagan has ripped through the early season competition, winning their first six games by a combined score of 87-13. Included were victories over St. Thomas Aquinas, Monsignor Pace and Calvary Christian, all strong squads. Flanagan dropped a 3-2 decision to Douglas on Friday, suffering their first loss, but has showed with their early season play that they are among the top teams in Florida, and the road to the 6A title will again go through Flanagan.
TG: So many choices but the run that Clements (TX) has been on at the Ewell Jackson tournament this weekend has been very impressive. The Rangers moved to 9-0 on the season and will be playing in the Ewell Jackson Championship game tonight at 7:00. The Rangers were 2 outs away from playing in the state championship game last year and are off to a great start for 2011. A few of the players from the Rangers that have caught the eye of scouts at PG events last year include: Cline Andrews, Blake Johnson, Austin Bass, Alec Horvath, and GR Hinsley.
While their most dramatic win thus far was the 5-3 defeat of Dulles in the semi-finals this afternoon (walk-off 3-run HR by Blake Johnson) the biggest win thus far was yesterday’s defeat of St. Pius X, who came in undefeated and has looked very strong to this point.
edited by tgold on 3/7/2011