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Tournaments | Story | 12/24/2021

Regional Review: California

Alexis Gonzalez      Steve Fiorindo     
Photo: Marcelo Mayer (Perfect Game)
Regional Review: Texas

With the Perfect Game scouting staff spread throughout the country and another action-packed season in the books, we'll take a look back at some highlights from individual states over the next couple of weeks, from the 13u level all the way up through the collegiate ranks and the MLB Draft.

Biggest 13u/14u Breakout Player
Zach Strickland is someone to keep an eye on as we enter the new year, as he won this year’s National 14u Pitcher of the Year. He features a tall, lean, athletic build with plenty of room to add more muscle as he matures. The right-handed pitcher can run his fastball up to 89 mph with good life and swing-and-miss ability. When I first saw Strickland in March his velocity was dominating his competition, but was still trying to find the strike zone here and there. He kept his head down and kept working and started to climb in the rankings, earning himself an invite to the 2021 14u Select Festival, where he was named the National Pitcher of the Year and is currently ranked the No. 1 right-handed pitcher in California and is nationally ranked No. 2. The UCLA commit has a promising future and will be fun to watch over the years.



Biggest Moment in College
Stanford hosted a regional for the fourth straight season, dominated their bracket, then had to travel to Lubbock, Texas to face No. 8 Texas Tech, where they dominated as well and took the series in the first two games to advance to the College World Series. In game one of the CWS they faced a tough loss to NC State, but came back strong and took it to the Arizona Wildcats to advance. Next facing Vanderbilt, they battled and took the lead early, but ultimately fell to the Commodores. The pitching staff dominated all year and got stronger as the season went on. Offensively, the team was led in every offensive category by sophomore Brock Jones, a strong, physically-built outfielder with great power and a lot of speed that played well on both ends of the ball.

Biggest Breakout/Ranking Riser
Ethan Hedges had a big summer, as he made some noise in the PG 17u World Series. He caught the attention of scouts early as he crushed the ball all weekend to all fields and had several home runs, pitched well, and made some awesome plays defensively. He came to the tournament under the radar, with not many scouts knowing who he was, and left with a few college scholarships offers. The USC commit features a lean athletic build with a very projectable body and room to add more muscle. He has a violent, compact swing that stays long through the zone, consistently generating line drives to all fields. Defensively, he moves well and has good range to both sides of the ball with good arm strength. When he gets on the mound, he'll get his fastball to 92 mph with good arm-side run.

Biggest Draft Moment
The first prep player picked in the 2021 MLB Draft came from California in shortstop Marcelo Mayer, who was taken by the Boston Red Sox with the No. 4 overall pick. Marcelo was ranked the No. 1 shortstop and overall player in California per Perfect Game, where he finished ranked No. 2 nationally in the final player rankings installment. He is very athletic, very smooth defensively, and offensively could do it all with good speed. Mayer was set to attend USC prior to getting drafted and he'll continue to rise and excel at whatever level he plays at and will be a good one to follow in this year’s season.

Top Travel Teams
There are a few organizations that rank in the top-five programs in California in a few age divisions. CBA Marucci National is ranked No. 1 in both the 18u and 17u divisions. The San Diego Show holds a top-five position in three different age groups, as they are ranked No. 5 in both the 18u and 14u age groups and ranked No. 2 in the 17u division. Alpha Prime is another top contender, as they are ranked top-three in four age groups; ranked No. 1 in 16u and 15u and No. 3 in 18u and in 17u. BPA has a top-five ranking in three different age groups. They are ranked No. 5 in 17u, No. 2 in 16u, and No. 3 in 15u. The MVP Hustle is ranked No. 2 in both 15u and 14u divisions. The ZT Prospects have a few teams in the top-five in the younger divisions, as they are ranked No. 1 in both 14u and 13u divisions and have a third place team in the 14u division as well. All these programs have great coaches across the board that produce good athletes years after year. These teams compete and usually have a top finish in the tournaments they play in.

A Look Ahead:



College

Youth may prevail at UCLA in 2022 as they had their best recruiting class in recent memory and there are many holes to fill. The Bruins return just 6 starts from last year’s staff, but they are armed with a bevy of talented arms in the freshman class, including Thatcher Hurd, currently the top-ranked collegian in the 2024 draft class. From the left side, Gage Jump came off an outstanding senior campaign at JSerra and looks primed for an impactful role. Ethan Flanagan, Alonzo Tredwell and Luke Jewett all had some injuries in their senior years of high school and could have roles in 2022.



The Bruins lost a lot of at-bats from last year’s squad to the draft and they have some freshman that could step in right away. Cody Schrier (ranked No. 5 in 2024 draft class) looks primed to have an early impact somewhere on the dirt (they have a lot of talent that can play multiple positions). In the outfield, Malakhi Knight and Nick McLain were both starting in fall looks.  



Long Beach State

Coach Valenzuela and his staff have recruited and developed a team that has gotten them back to their true Dirtbag roots, featuring pitching and a blue collar approach to the game. Luis Ramirez and Jack Noble return to anchor the weekend rotation and Team USA reliever Devereaux Harrison returns as closer and could also be stretched out to a longer role. Juaron Watts-Brown and Marques Johnson are two arms that impressed in fall looks. Connor Burns returns behind the dish, a standout defender that can handle the staff and can really throw. Sophomore Jonathon Long can swing the bat and is expected to be one of their key hitters in the middle of the lineup.
 
High School

In California the high school discussion generally starts in the Trinity League, and once again it will be loaded with talented teams and draft talent. Perennial power Orange Lutheran has three of the top-10 ranked players in California, led by Perfect Game All-American Mikey Romero (ranked No. 3), lefty Oliver Santos (ranked No. 4) and catcher Karson Bowen (ranked No. 9). Add 2023 infielder Casey Borba and Derek Curiel (No. 1 in nation for 2024 class) to that group and you have a very deep and talented squad. The Trinity League is a gauntlet with tough series every week. Look for Santa Margarita to make some noise with a young nucleus of talent. JSerra will plug in a new batch of talent and rely on some youth and two big arms in David Horn and Tyler Gough. Servite has some big arms and a deep lineup featuring 2022 Jarrod Hocking and Roman Martin.

Some of the usual suspects outside of the Trinity League that are expected to have big years, CIF Champions Harvard Westlake reloaded for 2022 and will have a pair of 2024 arms to lean heavily on in Bryce Rainer and Duncan Marsten to eat up innings. Huntington Beach has depth and talent led by Raffaele Velazquez (No. 13 in the state), one of the most pure hitters in the class. Yucaipa is loaded once again, with commits all over the field, including Jacob Reimer (No. 20 in state for 2022), Owen Egan (No. 14 in state for 2023) and Daniel Arambula (No. 22 in state for 2024). Corona will have one of the deeper lineups with three committed sophomores joining seniors Andrew Walters and transfer Troy McCain.

Further north, Buchanan is locked and loaded for 2022 with D-I commits all over, headlined by 2022 RHP Sam Tookoian (No. 34 in the state), an Ole Miss commit. Twin brothers Jared Lewis (No. 22 in state) and Jordan Lewis (No. 26 in state) headline a talented San Ramon Valley team chalked with D-I commits.

Some up-and-coming teams that will be exciting to follow for the next few years are San Dimas, which had nine freshmen on their varsity roster last year, five which are now committed (along with one 2025 commit). Aquinas, led by Eric Bitonti (No. 2 in state), is another young team establishing themselves as one of the better private programs in the Inland Empire.
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