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Sunday, May 27, 2012

West Memorial Day Pool Play Recap

Todd Gold        
As pool play at the 2012 WWBA West Memorial Day classic wraps up and the playoffs get set to begin, here is a look at some of the teams and players that have made a big impression on the PG scouting staff to this point.

Dbacks Elite Scout Team
The Dbacks Elite Scout Team roster is hand picked by the Arizona Diamondbacks scouting department of the top players from the state of Arizona. They place a significant emphasis on development and showcasing their players, even at the expense of winning games in the short term. With a loaded pitching staff fronted by 2014 RHP Ryan Castellani (Brophy Prep, Phoenix, AZ) who ran his fastball up to 90 mph on Friday night, the Dbacks keep their pitchers on strict pitch counts. They also sub in their deep roster to get position players the innings they need to develop, regardless of game situation. This approach combined with fielding a team of 16 and 17 year old players competing in the 18u division is not necessarily a recipe for winning games in the short term, in spite of their overwhelming talent. As a result they've lost a couple of very close games, including a 6-5 loss in the opener on a walk-off single and falling short in a tight game against the Angels Elite 2012, a similar caliber squad comprised of the state's top prospects in the class of 2012. In addition to Castellani, here are a few other top level standouts who have had a big weekend to this point:

-2013 MIF Riley Unroe (Desert Ridge HS, Mesa, AZ) is a talented switch hitting middle infielder, but thanks to opposing pitchers, he has hit exclusively from the left side during the Dbacks four pool play games. While he stood out by going 7-for-13 with a pair of triples and four stolen bases hittting in the middle of the Dbacks order, his middle infield defense has been equally impressive. Unroe is light on his feet and moves well laterally, showing above average range and a quick release on his throws with good carry. His home to first times have been in the 4.10-4.20 range and he's shown some pop, having lined one ball 94 mph off the bat and just missing a home run down the right field line after turning on an inside fastball yesterday.

-2013 MIF Jamie Westbrook (Basha HS, Gilbert, AZ) has  raw tools that are a bit ahead of his talented double play partner's (Unroe) in some areas, and his arm strength really stood out and gives him a legitimate chance to stick on the left side of the infield at the next level. Westbrook's bat speed is also impressive, giving him surprising raw power for a player with a 5-foot-11 frame. While at times his tools make you forget how young Westbrook is, there are other moments where his experience level begin to show. He has a ways to go with his development all around, but from a tools standpoint Westbrook is arguably the most exciting prospect in Arizona's 2013 class.

-2015 OF Tyler Williams (Kellis HS, Peioria, AZ) is the youngest player on the team, but he also has a chance to develop into the best. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he has a body that projects to be massive once he fills out. He is an average runner already and shows range in center field. He's showed tremendous patience in the tourney to this point, taking his walks rather than attempting to force the issue by swinging at bad pitches. In one of the few at bats where he had a chance to show off his hitting tools, he lined a comebacker through the box that registered at 89 mph off the bat off of Angels 2012 Elite RHP Gary Cornish (on an 87 mph inside fastball). He'll be an interesting player to watch develop over the next few years.

Angels Elite
Outside of the few players selected to the Dbacks Scout Team, the Angels can lay claim to the top draft prospects out of Arizona in each class. Their 2012 Elite team boasts OF/RHP David Graybill (Brophy Prep, Phoenix, AZ), OF Chris Beall (Brophy Prep, Phoenix, AZ), 1B Chris Akmon (Saguaro HS, Scottsdale, AZ) and OF Zach Gibbons (Saguaro HS, Scottsdale, AZ) form the foundation for a loaded lineup of Division I players who will are drawing varying degrees of draft interest. The talent doesn't end with the 2012 Elite roster however, as the younger classes also boast impressive talent. A few of the players who have boosted their profiles this weekend include:

-2012 RHP Gary Cornish (Arcadia HS, Phoenix, AZ) ran his fastball up to 89 mph yesterday and has a loose quick arm that portends for even more velocity in the years ahead. He limited a potent Dbacks Scout Team lineup to just three runs in a complete game effort that put the Angels in the driver's seat to win their pool and qualify for the playoffs. Cornish has already seen his velocity climb a few mph over the course of the spring, and his breaking ball flashes good spin when he gets on top of it.

-2013 C Elijah Callahan (Highland HS, Gilbert, AZ) showed a quick bat and power potential while hitting .500 through the first four games for the Angels 2013 squad. He also showed solid receiving skills and a quick release from behind the plate.

-2014 OF/1B Gerard Hernandez (Pinnacle HS, Phoenix, AZ) showed good raw power from the left side and went 5-for-10 in the Angels 2014 Elite's first four games. While he doesn't have an extra base hit, he ripped a deep foul ball that had plenty of distance on Friday night's loss to the loaded Playa Vista Orioles 18u. Hernandez is ranked in the top 100 of PG's class of 2014 player rankings.

Playa Vista Orioles
Southern California is well known as one of the top hotbeds for producing amateur baseball talent in the country. The depth of talent and presence of several elite level travel ball programs creates a skewed supply and demand dynamic of talent that leaves many high caliber players under the radar. Especially in the eastern parts of the Los Angeles area, where the Playa Vista Orioles draw their talent from. As a result, many of the Orioles players were somewhat unknown on a national level, but with performances like the one the Orioles 18u and 16u teams have put up this weekend that is beginning to change. Some of the standout prospects from the Orioles this weekend include:

-2013 RHP/3B Chad Hockin (Damien HS, LaVerne, CA) sat 88-89 mph with his fastball in a relief appearance on Friday as he nailed down a Save against the Angels Elite and backed it with a late breaking 80 mph slider. His strong athletic frame still has room to fill at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, but his arm strength and offensive prowess give him the potential to be a two-way player at the collegiate level.

-2013 C Mason Fishback (Rancho Cucamonga HS, CA) seems to be the staff favorite for best defensive catcher in the tournament. He moves very well behind the plate and is an advanced receiver, his quick release and strong arm allow him to post consistently good pop times in the 1.90 range. While his bat won't be his calling card, his defense should carry him throughout what may be a long playing career beyond the high school level.

-2014 C Tommy Pincin (Upland HS, CA) perhaps it's his strong build at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds or the confident approach he shows in the batter's box, but opposing pitchers don't seem too interested in pitching to Pincin. He is 2-for-3 with four walks through three game of pool play to this point. He shows good bat speed when he gets a chance to swing the bat and his arm strength behind the plate is an asset as well. He appears to be ready to compete at the 18u level, but with Fishback's strong play he can see more innings at the 16u level where he really stands out.

All Star Baseball Academy

While travel ball teams competing on regional and national levels is relatively new to prep baseball scene in Arizona, but All Star Baseball Academy is one of the more established player development and showcase programs in the state. Now in their thirteenth season, they have established a reputation for consistently developing players for the next level of competition. Their five representative teams entered the day a combined 10-1 and are the reigning champions in the 16u and 18u divisions.

-2013 INF Jeff Paschke (Valley Christian HS, Phoenix, AZ) made an immediate statement on opening night, as he stepped into the box and crushed a screaming liner that registered at 98 mph off the bat for a single, then followed it with a towering fly ball that one-hopped the fence in left center.

-2012 SS West Tunnell (Boulder Creek HS, Arcadia, AZ) continued to impress with his high energy play and obvious baseball IQ combined with high level defensive play up the middle and on base ability. Tunnell is also a good on-field leader who will be taking his game to Baylor in the fall, where he has a full ride, unless an MLB organization persuades him to skip college and turn pro.

-2013 RHP Joey Wise (Cactus Shadows HS, Cave Creek, AZ) topped out at 87 mph with a promising breaking ball that he threw for strikes.

-2012 C/RHP AJ Young (Gila Bend HS, AZ) got on the mound and ran his fastball up to 85 mph, but its his ability at the other end of the battery that landed him a scholarship to Utah. He has a power bat and can do some damage on balls to the pull side and has a strong arm behind the plate. He's been a huge presence for ASBA's 18u squad to this point in the tournament.

SoCal Diplomats
The Diplomats come into the weekend shorthanded, as they are missing several players whose high school season is still going as they have marched deep into the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) playoffs. In spite of missing a few key palyers, they managed to sweep through pool play at 3-0 and locked up at least the No. 2 seed (with a good shot at the top overall seed) in the 16u playoffs. This is the same squad that made a run to the semifinals of the 16u MLK Championship back in January. Lucky for the Diplomats Kaiser High School was knocked out of the CIF playoffs early as it freed up talented prospects:

-2014 OF Ryan Mota (Kaiser HS, Fontana, CA) went 5-for-10 with a pair of triples and five RBI in the three games of pool play. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds he looks the part and stands out during pregame warmups. He shows good raw power at the plate with the potential to develop more of it. He has tools that suggest he can be an adequate left fielder long term, but his bat will have to continue to develop in order to be a valuable asset at the next level. Based on what he showed this weekend, he has a good chance of doing so.

-2014 MIF/RHP Chris Mathewson (Kaiser HS, Fontana, CA) Mota's high school teammate showed good two-way ability, hitting .500 (3-for-6) and drawing three walks at the plate. He also sat 82-85 with his fastball and backed it with a solid 74 mph curveball during two perfect innings of relief (17 of his 20 pitches were strikes) in which he picked up a Win and struck out four.
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