The 2012 high school season produced a bit of everything, with top teams
and players from all over the country battling for state titles, star
players dominating their competition, and underclass players staking
their claim to be the next wave of prospects.
The 2012 class was one of the deepest in recent years, as evidenced by the run on prep talent early in the MLB Draft. As a result the 2012 high school season was a memorable one, in spite of the number of prominent injuries which also dampened the mood a bit on a season that nearly lived up to its potential to be one of the most exciting in years.
Below is a look at the top ten storylines along with Player of the Year,
Game of the Year and Team of the Year selections for the 2012 High School Baseball
10. Hensley performs for the circus in the desert
The states of Arizona and Florida are scouted quite heavily during the month of March, thanks to the number of MLB executives who travel to their club's spring training homes. Each of the 16 organizations that call Arizona home during spring training are all condensed into the Phoenix metropolitan area. As a result, whenever a high level draft prospect takes the field in Phoenix during the month of March, what would have been a heavily scouted game becomes something of a major event.
Eventual first round RHP Ty Hensley took advantage of the big stage when his Edmond Santa Fe Huskies (OK) competed at the Coach Bob Invitational in Phoenix. Hensley's start at Apollo HS in Glendale drew a crowd of 50+ scouts, containing Area Scouts, Crosscheckers and high ranking executives. The school's aging stands were not designed to handle this size of crowd, and seemed as though they could collapse at any minute.
Hensely wasn't the least bit fazed by the pressure, and even thrived under it. From the time he warmed up on the adjacent field with scouts surrounding he and his bullpen catcher, Hensley rode the adrenaline rush to a standout performance. He fired a five inning no-hitter (game ended after five due to the 10-run mercy rule), piling up 13 strikeouts. His fastball topped out at 95 mph and he didn't throw a single one below 91. But it was his present plus curveball with viscous bite in the upper 70s that left the biggest impression. For good measure Hensley also hit a no doubt Home Run in his first at-bat (from the left side) that one scout noted as being the longest he'd seen all spring, then he blasted a screaming line drive back up the middle (from the right side) in his next at-bat.
9. Buxton headlines very impressive group of Georgia outfielders
The state of Georgia has established itself as one of the top
producers of MLB Draft prospects amongst the high school ranks in the
past couple of decades. The crop of outfielders has been especially
impressive during that time. But the majority of that talent has typically been concentrated in the
Atlanta area in the northern part of the state.
Appling County HS, located in the southern part of the state in the
rural town of Baxley, produced its first draft pick with No. 2 overall selection Byron Buxton.
was a dominant force in Georgia AA baseball this season, hitting .513
with 38 stolen bases and going 10-1 with five saves and piling up a
gaudy 154 strikeouts over 81 innings. Buxton was a candidate to go first
overall, but fell behind Puerto Rican SS Carlos Correa. The speed demon
has been consistently timed at under 4.0 seconds home to first and has
run his fastball up to 94 mph at Perfect Game events in the past.
was a major part of Appling County's AA state championship, earning the
win in the clinching game with 18 strikeouts. Buxton's
exploits on the mound were highly impressive, but his talent in the
outfield was what made him the second pick of the draft and put him ahead of
fellow Georgia standouts like Skye Bolt, Clint Frazier, Austin
Meadows, Josh Hart and Terry McClure.
8. Spruce Creek emerges from the Sunshine State
Coming into the season Spruce Creek was seen as a solid team with a promising long term outlook, but
the only marquee player on the national scene at that point was
sophomore MIF/RHP Kyle Marsh. Competing in the highest
classification in arguably the toughest state (Florida) posed a daunting task for such a young team.
the Hawks went from unranked in the state of Florida in the preseason to finishing ranked seventh in the nation. Spruce Creek posted an exceptional mark
of 29-4. Olympia looked like the team to beat, led by a pair of high draft picks and boasting a national top ten ranking for much of the season and was sitting at 29-0 as they entered their regional final matchup with Spruce Creek. But the Hawks put an early end to Olympia's season with a convincing 8-1 victory before moving on to claim the 8A state championship that was punctuated by a decisive 8-1 victory over Miami Columbus in the state title game.
their championship squad featured just four seniors, suggesting that 2012 could be the beginning of a sustained run of
7. Gorman comes up sevens in Nevada
Bishop Gorman lived up to the preseason hype of opening the season as the No. 3 ranked team in the nation in Perfect Game's preseason National Top 50. They would finish the season in the No. 2 spot after spending a couple of weeks in March in the top spot. The Gaels went on to win a nation's best seventh consecutive state championship, breaking their tie with Punahou (HI) by throttling Coronado 11-1 in the championship game.
Gorman also became the first team to go back-to-back as the No. 1 ranked team in their region since PG began breaking down team rankings by region in 2011. They also boasted 2012 PG High School Player of the Year Joey Gallo.
Aside from a middle of the pack finish against fellow powerhouses at the National High School Invitational, the Gaels had a dominant season. Of course, due to their rare struggles coming on such a big stage there were murmurs that the Gaels run looked to be in jeopardy. But the doubters were proven wrong as the Gaels returned home to Nevada and swept the rest of their regular season schedule.
Their streak of state titles was in real danger however when the Gaels opened the double elimination district tournament against arguably the second best team in the state, Arbor View. Eventual third round pick Zach Quintana took the mound for Arbor View and helped to put Gorman on the ropes with a 9-8 victory. Gorman would bounce back to win the tournament out of the loser's bracket, sweeping Arbor View in two games in the final round.
The Gaels pulled out wins in a couple of competitive games in the state tournament before crushing Coronado in the state championship to lay claim to the title of most dominant program in the nation.
6. Dawn of the BBCOR era
2011 saw the NCAA make the switch over from the previous BESR
restrictions on aluminum bats to the new BBCOR bats, which perform more similarly to wood bats than their predecessors. California also
made the switch in 2011, but for the rest of the country 2012 was a year of adjustment in the high school ranks, and the impact on the game
Runs were down in nearly every state, with obvious exceptions in
California (where the change was made the previous year) and New Mexico
(which uses wood bats).
number of schools that compete at the high school level is far too
large to conduct a comprehensive statistical analysis of how the change
affected scoring at the high school level. Though a study done on the same
change the previous year at the college level found that the new bats
shaved about a run and a half off of the average game.
Individual power numbers were down as well. Joey Gallo saw his homer total drop from his junior to senior seasons, going from a
gaudy 26 in 2011 to a still impressive 21 in 2012. While most of the top power hitters still continued to crush the ball
with authority, the newly watered down offensive environment made
pitching around elite sluggers a more attractive option than it
had been in the past when the BESR bats elevated the offensive potency
of the hitters behind them in the lineup.
5. Monarchs crowned kings of NHSI
The inaugural National High School Invitational brought together 16
high level teams from around the country to create several exciting
matchups. Southern California was well represented, as perennial
powerhouses Harvard-Westlake and Mater Dei rolled through their
respective halves of the bracket to meet in the championship game.
Dei bludgeoned their way to the finals, hammering national
powerhouses Bishop Gorman (NV), Corpus Christi Carroll (TX) and Sarasota (FL) by a
combined score of 27-4. Harvard-Westlake didn't run up as impressive of a
composite tally, but they did impress with convincing victories over Russell
County (AL) and Parkview (GA) before pulling out a 1-0 win over eventual
National Champion American Heritage in a nine inning semifinal clash.
the title game Harvard-Westlake pulled out to an early 2-0 lead, and
held the lead all the way until the seventh inning. 2013 MLB Draft
prospect 3B Ryan McMahon cut the lead in half with a solo homer in the
fourth. Junior RHP Davis Tominaga, who was serving as the Monarchs'
first basemen, blasted a game tying home run in the seventh. The game came to an end in extras as Mater Dei's senior
captain Ty Moore came around to score the winning run in the
eighth on Ryan Barr's walk-off single.
4. Mavericks reign
The 2011 PG High School National Champions from Archbishop McCarthy in Pembroke Pines, FL had a massive target on their back coming into the 2012 season. The Mavericks had two consecutive state championships under their belt, but the level of competition in the state of Florida is extremely high. As if that wasn't enough, they also were making a big jump in classification, going from 4A to 6A.
Nonetheless, the Mavs boasted a very strong 2012 class, led by first rounder Nick Travieso (Reds, 14th overall) that managed to post an impressive 27-4-1 record en route to knocking off Pace for the 6A state title. The Mavs became just the second school to ever win back-to-back-to-back championships in the state of Florida, the first since Westminster Christian in 1998.
They didn't repeat as National Champions, finishing the year ranked No. 4 in the country, but they were in the title conversation again and garnered candidacy for Team of the Year as well.
3. Twomey shines at National Classic
LHP Kyle Twomey of El Dorado HS (CA) bookended the Hard 9 National Classic with dominant pitching to lift the Hawks to the prestigious tournament's championship. In the primetime nightcap of the tournament's opening day he threw a no-hitter against Reno (NV) at Cal State Fullerton's Goodwin Field. Twomey struck out 14 in the opener with PG All-American MIF Chris Rivera making a rare (and impressive) appearance behind the plate.
The championship game was the first varsity start of 2013 RHP Joe Record's career, and he responded in a big way, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning before losing it on a one out single. Record left to a loud ovation from the heavily partisan Fullerton crowd, having topped out at 89 and temporarily stealing the show from the senior Twomey, who came on in relief to nail down the two-out save.
Twomey would earn tournament MVP honors for his no-hitter in the opener and save in the championship game. His fastball climbed into the low 90s as he began to realize his eagerly anticipated velocity projection. His draft stock rose all spring with performances like the National Classic, though he chose to turn down the Oakland A's after they made him a third round pick, instead opting to enroll at USC.
2. Rash of injuries
Unfortunately, the 2012 high school season may best be remembered
for the severe rash of injuries that swept through the ranks of the
nation's top prospects. It began when Harvard-Westlake RHP Lucas Giolito
injured the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (aka the Tommy John ligament) in
his pitching elbow in his second start of the season. Giolito would miss the rest of the season and ultimately undergo surgery in the fall. He had been considered a viable candidate to become the first ever high school RHP to ever be selected with the first overall pick in the draft.
Ruiz was another California product who was viewed as a potential first
rounder heading into the spring, but his season came to an end due to a blood clot that was discovered in
March. The injury not only cost
him the rest of Bishop Amat's season (and he was expected to be a huge
part of that young team), but he slipped in the draft as well. He landed
with the Astros as a fourth round pick, and was still able to secure a
late first round bonus of $1.85 million and returned to action in the
Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues.
hurler Matt Smoral of Solon HS (OH) suffered a stress fracture in his
foot that cause him to slip a bit in the draft before landing $2 million
in the supplemental first round with the Blue Jays. Like Ruiz, he was
also projected as a potential first round pick coming into the spring,
with the first half seemingly a realistic possibility.
(LA) SS Gavin Cecchini did become a first round pick (Mets, 13th
overall) but he missed time during the Bucs' title run as well. Alex
Bregman would miss almost all of Albuequerque Academy's regular season
with a broken finger on his throwing hand, before making an early return
for the playoffs. CJ Hinojosa would miss the rest of the season for
Klein Collins HS (TX) with a fairly serious injury to his non-throwing
shoulder. The loss was too much for the Tigers, who were highly ranked
for much of the season in the National Top 50 before losing Hinojosa.
The Houston area also lost another big prospect to injury in Houston
Christian HS RHP Mitchell Traver who will sit out the 2013 season at TCU
recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Perfect Game All-American Matt Crownover was another Tommy John victim,
missing the rest of the season for Ringgold HS (GA) from March onward,
he has a chance to return in time to see action this spring at Clemson.
RHP Tony Blanford was viewed as the top pitching prospect in Arizona and
was forced to shut it down early for Boulder Creek HS.
Sanchez was limited to 31 plate appearances for George Washington HS
(NY), and while they still had a highly successful season finishing 30-8
with a run to the state championship, it's hard not to wonder how
things might have turned out if they had Sanchez's bat in the lineup
during their 2-1 loss to Grand Street Campus in the title game.
1. Red Devil Frazier powers Loganville
Loganville HS (GA) junior OF Clint Frazier managed to steal headlines in the state away from the second overall pick Byron Buxton, which was no small feat.
Frazier not only led the nation in home runs with 24, he also led Loganville to a 31-9 record and their second state championship in school history. They would need to go to a game three in four of their five playoff series, but the Red Devils survived and advanced each time.
In what was perhaps the biggest breakout of the spring, Frazier hit .424 with 58 RBIs and 14 SBs to go with his 24 homers. He proved it was no fluke as he then rode that momentum through the summer and fall seasons to shoot up to No. 1 in the PG Class of 2013 rankings and has established himself as a strong top of the first round candidate for the upcoming draft as he enters his senior season at Loganville.
Team of Year: American Heritage, Plantation (FL)
The perennial powerhouse that produced Kansas City Royals 1B Eric Hosmer had lofty expectations coming into the year, being ranked No. 9 in the nation in the Preseason National Top 50. The Patriots didn't shy away from the big stage, rolling to a 28-4 season.
They didn't lose a single game after a 2-1 showing at the National High School Invitational in Cary, closing out the season with 14 straight wins. Tampa Jesuit opened the season as the No. 1 team in the nation, and maintained that spot for the majority of the season, and they blocked American Heritage's path to the state championship game.
That semifinal matchup would go on to become the Game of the Year (detailed below), but that impressive victory and subsequent state championship propelled American Heritage to being crowned PG High School National Champions.
Graduation claimed several key players, including MIF/RHP Brandon Diaz, but they return an impressive trio of 2013 prospects in All-American C/1B Zack Collins, RHP Shaun Anderson and MIF Danny Zardon.
This impressive program is expected to produce yet another high caliber squad in 2013.
Player of the Year (Pitcher): Lance McCullers, Tampa Jesuit
McCullers won every start of the regular season, and all but one of his starts on the season. Unfortunately for Tampa Jesuit, his six shutout innings in the Florida 5A state semifinal game weren't enough as the Tigers fell in extra innings. But they couldn't have asked much more of their ace, as he went 13-0 with a 0.18 ERA with 140 srikeouts (30 walks) over 77 innings. McCullers was the unquestioned leader of a team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of the year before falling to 28-2 after losing the state championship game in extra innings to PG National Champion American Heritage.
Player of the Year (Position): Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman
Gallo had some stiff competition to repeat as Perfect Game HS Player of the Year, and his raw numbers weren't quite as lofty as they were during his junior campaign in 2011. That said, what Gallo continued to do was dominate as Bishop Gorman extened it's streak of Nevada 4A state championships to a nation's best seven years. A lot of the attention around Gallo during his senior season fixated on his upper 90s fastball (up to 99 mph in relief) and his relative struggles during the team's trip to Cary, NC. But Gallo also somewhat quietly broke the Nevada career Home Run record and posted a video game line of .509/.628/1.167 with 21 Home Runs. After being drafted in the supplemental first round by Texas, Gallo would go on to hit another 22 Home Runs as a professional, including a record-setting 16 in the Arizona League.
Game of the Year: American Heritage 3, Tampa Jesuit 0 (8 innings), Florida 5A Semifinals
It was a great matchup on paper, and it turned out to be an even better game between the lines. It was a clash of two teams ranked in the top five nationally meeting in the Florida 5A semifinals, each giving the ball to their ace. PG Player of the Year Lance McCullers threw six shutout innings for Tampa Jesuit. He was countered by junior righty Shaun Anderson, a Miami commit.
McCullers and Anderson would trade zeroes for six innings. Jesuit finally went to the bullpen, calling on hard throwing LHP John Kilichowski, a Vanderbilt commit, for the seventh inning. The game would cruise right through the seventh inning without any score.
The constant threat of defeat hung over both teams in every inning, and the talent level was such that the game had the feel of a major division I matchup. Both both teams executed play after play, commiting just a single error between them.
Senior captain Brandon Diaz finally generated some offense, blasting a game winning three-run homer off Kilichowski in the eighth. Jesuit threatened in the bottom of the eight, getting the tying run to the on-deck circle before RHP Dominic Mancini nailed down the save.
When the state championship game feels like a formality, it really says a lot about the caliber of the semifinal matchup that preceded it. American Heritage deserves a lot of credit for finishing the job with a 9-0 victory over Ponte Verde, but the game that will stand out for years to come was the extra innings battle between American Heritage and Tampa Jesuit in the semifinals.