Draft : : State Preview
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

State Preview: Nevada

Allan Simpson        

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

Nevada State-by-State List

Nevada Overview:
With No Bryce Harper in Spotlight, Nevada High Schools Regain Focus

With teen prodigy Bryce Harper generating headlines with almost every step he took in 2010 at the College of Southern Nevada, he was almost the sole focus of scouts in Nevada a year ago. All the hype was justified as Harper assembled a monster season for a rare 17-year-old junior -college player on his way to becoming an overwhelming selection as the top pick in last year’s draft.

Had Harper not chosen to circumvent the normal draft process by skipping his final two years of high school and enrolling in a junior college, he would normally have been eligible for this year’s draft as a senior out of Las Vegas High.

With no player in this year’s Nevada draft class coming even close to Harper’s larger-than-life stature, things have returned pretty much to normal for scouts this spring. That is, the spotlight has pretty much shifted back to the strong high-school ranks in and around Las Vegas—specifically at Bishop Gorman High, which recently stormed to its sixth straight 4-A championship. The Gaels dismantled Green Valley High 10-0 in the final, in the process tying that school’s record for most consecutive state titles won, set more than a decade ago.

Interestingly, first-year Bishop Gorman coach Nick Day played on four of those state-title teams at Green Valley, from 1993-96, and effectively turned the tables on his old school with Bishop Gorman’s latest state crown. The Gaels are already prohibitive favorites to make it seven in a row in 2012 as junior third baseman/righthander Joey Gallo, the state player of the year, is only a junior and one of several key players returning.

Gallo broke the state single-season home run record this season, slamming 25 and eclipsing the mark of 22 set a set a year ago by Rancho High’s Kris Bryant (now a top freshman slugger at the University of San Diego). While the powerful Gallo hit .471-25-76 and is understandably a top prospect for next year’s draft, some scouts believe that his higher upside may actually be on the mound. He was 3-2, 1.12 with 29 strikeouts in 19 innings this spring, and his fastball was clocked in the mid-90s.

For the 2011 draft, the state’s elite prep prospect is Sierra Vista High shortstop Jake Hager, who has elevated himself squarely into the sandwich- to second-round range with a strong senior year. He hit .547-11-57 with 28 stolen bases and scored 75 runs in a leadoff role for Sierra Vista, which held the No. 1 ranking in the state as late as early May with a 29-1 record, only to lose five of its last nine games.

The athletic Hager, an Arizona State recruit, appears to have all the tools to remain at shortstop over the long haul. He has easy, loose actions with plenty of range and arm strength. He also has an excellent approach at the plate, can handle any kind of pitching and turn on the best fastballs he has faced.

His Sierra Vista teammate, catcher Scott Tomassetti (.449-15-70), also took a big leap forward as a prospect, and could nudge his way into the top 10 rounds on the strength of his combination of power and arm strength.

No one in Nevada, however, may have progressed faster this spring than 6-foot-5, 190-pound lefthander Amir Garrett, one of the nation’s foremost basketball recruits. Garrett has committed to play hoops at St. John’s, but has continued to tantalize scouts with a lively arm and fastball that has jumped more than 10 mph in velocity over the last year, and is now clocked from 94-96.

Though basketball is his game, Garrett has a baseball background. He was a summer-league teammate of Harper growing up, and high-school teammate of Hager and Tomassetti at Sierra Vista High before transferring to a high school in Lawndale, Calif., to accentuate his blossoming basketball career.

He has since transferred back to Findley Prep, a national prep basketball power in suburban Las Vegas, and been vigorously learning the finer points of pitching, mostly with his own private instruction. While some scouts believe Garrett is a potential fourth- to sixth-round talent, given his superior athleticism and arm strength, others say he is much too high a risk because of his commitment to basketball and lack of secondary pitches or command. There are also reports that Garrett has a near-seven figures price tag.

Beyond Hager, and possibly Garrett and Tomassetti, the Nevada high-school ranks offer little else in terms of high-end talent. Even Bishop Gorman, for all its success, may be hard-pressed to offer a significant draft, although 6-foot-5, 215-pound catcher Erik Van Meetren (.491-10-49) could work his way into the picture. He has had a productive senior season.

Harper stole almost all of the headlines at the junior-college level a year ago for his play on the field, after hitting .443-31-98 (almost exclusively with wood), but most of the news since he left the program after his freshman season has been negative, stemming from the departure of CSN coach Tim Chambers, who left to take the vacant coaching job at Nevada-Las Vegas.

CSN reached out to Bishop Gorman High, thinking it had a sure thing in coach Chris Sheff to fill Chambers’ shoes, but Sheff lasted four turbulent months on the job before being fired.

Green Valley High coach Nick Garritano was then brought on board to restore some sense of normalcy to the CSN program. He succeeded, for the most part, but it was almost immediately hit with sanctions that will cost the school 10 baseball scholarships (from a normal 24) in each of the next two years.

The state’s other junior-college team, Western Nevada, was clearly the superior of the two programs this spring, posting a gaudy 37-3 record in Scenic West Conference play, including a 9-0 record in head-to-head competition against its southern rival. CWN eventually succumbed against national No. 1 Central Arizona in its bid for a berth in the Junior College World Series.

Including Harper, CSN had nine players drafted a year ago, many in the early- to mid-rounds. Yet even with significant roster turnover, the Coyotes should have several more players drafted this year—many of whom were transfers from four- and two-year colleges. Lefthander Chipper Smith, the team’s go-to pitcher, was a transfer from California’s College of the Canyons, while Matt Dunbar, a lefthanded closer, is a Cal Poly Pomona transfer bound for Arizona State in 2012.

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect on the CSN roster for this year’s draft is another player named, appropriately, Harper—Cameron (no relation to Bryce), a freshman outfielder. Young Cameron led the Coyotes in homers (8) and RBIs (41), but was plagued throughout the 2011 season by inconsistency at the plate.

The player given the best chance at succeeding Bryce Harper as the state’s best junior-college draft is 6-foot-5 Western Nevada righthander Chris Garrison, a transfer from Oregon. Garrison was used mostly in an unconventional long-relief role and led CWN in wins and saves, while going 8-4, 2.64. He saved five games.

In contrast to all the talent that has passed through Nevada junior-college and high-school programs the last two years, the state’s college ranks have been relatively barren of talent. It was a down year at Nevada (23-29), and UNLV, under Chambers’ direction, got off to a hot start, winning 16 of its first 19 games, but failed to sustain that pace and limped into the six-team Mountain West Conference post-season tournament as a No. 5 seed.

UNLV’s fast start had a positive spin as it showcased the superior pitching skills of junior righthander Tanner Peters. He quickly emerged as the state’s best four-year prospect and largely retained that honor through the balance of the season.

As a 6-foot righthander with just an average fastball, though, Peters (9-3, 1.36, 112 IP/23 BB/99 SO) may be hard-pressed to be selected in the first 10 rounds. But he has an extremely advanced feel for pitching and that asset should earn him a significant shot at pro ball—not to mention his being selected the Mountain West pitcher of the year over some of the stalwart arms at Texas Christian.

Nevada in a Nutshell:

Depth of junior-college talent.
WEAKNESS: College prospects.
OVERALL RATING (1-5-Scale): 2.

Nevada-Las Vegas.
BEST HIGH-SCHOOL TEAM: Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas.

Amir Garrett, lhp, Findley Prep, Henderson. Garrett is far better known at this point as a basketball prospect, but the 6-foot-5 lefthander has piqued the curiosity of baseball scouts with his lively arm and mid-90s fastball.

PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Sam Wolff, rhp, College of Southern Nevada.
One of the better prospects to come out of South Dakota in recent years, Wolff began his college career with considerable promise at the University of San Diego. He lasted only a year there, though, and his fastball has regressed since from the mid-90s to high-80s.

WILD CARD: Cameron Harper, of, College of Southern Nevada.
Not to be confused with Bryce Harper (no relation), Cameron has the frame and some very intriguing tools, particularly power and speed, that will make a team dream on his future upside.

Tyler Anderson, lhp, University of Oregon (attended high school in Las Vegas).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Joey Gallo, 3b/rhp, Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Kenny Meimerstorf, of, Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas.

Draft History: Bryce Harper, c, College of Southern Nevada (2010, Nationals/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Kyle Smit, rhp, Spanish Springs HS, Sparks (Dodgers/5th round).
2007 Draft: Michael McDade, 1b, Silverado HS, Las Vegas (Blue Jays/6th round).
2008 Draft: Niko Vasquez, ss, Durango HS, Las Vegas (Cardinals/3rd round).
2009 Draft: Jeff Malm, 1b, Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas (Rays/5th round).
2010 Draft: Bryce Harper, c, College of Southern Nevada (2010, Nationals/1st round, 1st pick).

Best Hitter: Jake Hager, ss, Sierra Vista HS, Las Vegas.
Best Power: Cameron Harper, of, College of Southern Nevada.
Best Speed: Jake Hager, ss, Sierra Vista HS, Las Vegas.
Best Defender: Jake Hager, ss, Sierra Vista HS, Las Vegas.
Best Velocity: Amir Garrett, lhp, Findley Prep, Henderson.
Best Breaking Stuff: Tanner Peters, rhp, University of Nevada-Las Vegas.


(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. JAKE HAGER, ss, Sierra Vista HS, Las Vegas
Fringe first-rounder; has all the tools to excel at plate (.547-11-57), on bases (28 SB), in field (range, arm).

(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

2. AMIR GARRETT, lhp, Findley Prep, Henderson
6-5 lefty with ++ live arm/frame; made huge strides with 95 FB, but + raw; ++ BKB player/St. John’s recruit.
3. CHRIS GARRISON, rhp, College of Western Nevada (So.)
Oregon transfer; 6-5 frame with ++ tilt on 87-90 FB; + CU/CH; led CWN in wins (8), SV (5) in long relief.
4. MATT DUNBAR, lhp, College of Southern Nevada (So.)
Began year as closer, then excelled in starter role (5-3, 3.62, 5 SV); velo found extra gear (86-90 to 91-94).
5. TANNER PETERS, rhp, University of Nevada-Las Vegas (Jr.)
As Peters went, so went UNLV; untouchable early/pinpoint command of 4 pitches (9-3, 1.36), FB only 88-90.
6. CAMERON HARPER, of, College of Southern Nevada (Fr.)
Teams can dream on his powerful frame, power/speed package; raw stage of development, has holes in swing.
7. SCOTT TOMASSETTI, c, Sierra Vista HS, Las Vegas
Benefitted from exposure as Hager teammate (No. 1); impressive frame with 2 + tools (power, arm strength).
8. CHIPPER SMITH, lhp, College of Southern Nevada (So.)
FB at 86-88 much of spring, but also been up to 93 in past; needs to get arm slot back up to regain lost velo.
9. NICK MELINO, of, University of Nevada (Jr.)
Demonstrated ability to hit with wood; bat is best tool, but may be SR sign as speed/arm are inferior tools.

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