High School : : General
Friday, February 22, 2013

Regional HS Preview: Southwest

Todd Gold        
Photo: Perfect Game
2013 Perfect Game High School Baseball Preview Index

Region: Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah

Bloodlines grab the headlines in AZ while the rest of the region looks to rebound from heavy losses to graduation

The bloodlines storyline in the state of Arizona is the headline grabber heading into the spring. Jeff Dahn highlighted three prominent high school prospects who are all the sons of former big league players here, but there's another bloodlines story in Arizona this year.

In 2011 the story in high school baseball was Mountain Pointe (AZ) catcher Kevin Cron's assault on the record book, as he broke his own single season record for home runs, as well as the career record. But he was only the second biggest draft prospect in his family, as his older brother CJ, a junior at Utah, was having a big year of his own. CJ went on to become the 17th overall pick in the draft (LA Angels), while Kevin passed on signing as a third rounder (Seattle Mariners), following in his brother's footsteps and taking his game to the college level.

This year there is a similar scenario, with University of New Mexico third baseman DJ Peterson, and his younger brother, Gilbert HS INF Dustin. DJ has a real shot at becoming a first round pick this June, and if the Peterson's follow the Cron's lead it would be great news for Arizona State, where Dustin is committed. Though it is somewhat unusual for third round picks to not sign, so if he Dustin does get selected as high as Kevin Cron did, it's somewhat unlikely for the scenario's parallels to carry over completely.

Thanks in part to Peterson and the bloodlines prospects of Cody Bellinger, Riley Unroe and Brantley Bell, the state of Arizona has an abundance of infield talent this year. While the state of Nevada is still looking to fill the void left by 2011 and 2012 PG High School (Position) Player of the Year Joey Gallo. Gallo's alma mater, Bishop Gorman, is looking to extend their record streak of state championships without him, and while that will be a tall order they have had some promising results in preseason games that suggests they may just be able to pull it off. The story in Nevada will certainly be the Gorman streak, but the top prospect in the state, and the top pitching prospect in the region is RHP Andrew Church.

Nevada is certainly not alone in suffering a hangover from the phenomenal depth of the 2012 class. The state of Utah was already going to be down a bit from last year's strong crop even before former Spanish Fork RHP Brady Corless enrolled at Salt Lake CC a year early. But that loss puts the spotlight on Bingham OF Brennon Lund and Riverton RHP Tanner Draper even more. New Mexico lost a couple of high level players in MIF/C Alex Bregman and OF Shilo McCall. So far there hasn't really been anyone to step up and take reins in the state, as Volcano Vista MIF Andre Vigil and Albuquerque Academy RHP Tyler Buffett are currently the only two players from New Mexico's 2013 high school class that have established themselves to this point.

As you will see below, the cupboard hasn't been left bare, though there are some big shoes to fill after having graduated such a strong class a year ago.  

High School Dream Team

Based on present tools

C - Ryan Scott, Sr., Notre Dame Prep (AZ)
Scott doesn't have the top bat for the position and he's not the top defender, but his overall package is the best in the region as a solid defensive catcher who can contribute with the bat, and that's a very good combination. Bronson Larsen and Matt Duce are candidates thanks to their strong defensive play, while Max Schuman's left handed bat puts him in the conversation as well.

1B - Cody Bellinger, Sr., Hamilton (AZ)
This is a slam dunk choice, as Bellinger is not only a high level present hitter with plenty of projectable power, he is also a very high level defender at first. He's also very effective on the mound, showing good command and pitchability with solid offspeed stuff to compliment his upper 80s fastball, but it's the bat that interests scouts most.

MIF - Riley Unroe, Sr., Desert Ridge (AZ)
Arguably the top present hitter in the state, Unroe is a very athletic player who does just about everything well. He's a switch hitter with a power bat who swings it well from both sides of the plate (though he's more advanced from the left side where he gets far more in-game reps) and he can also run and throw. The son of a big leaguer, the sixth tool is also strong, as Unroe has good instincts and plays the game hard.

MIF - Jaime Westbrook, Sr., Basha (AZ)
Westbrook gets the nod over several other talented infielders, the deepest part of the talent pool in Arizona's 2013 class. Westbrook's powerful arm, athleticism and plus raw bat speed all make him an intriguing prospect. His present skills aren't as advanced as some of the other prospects on the Dream Team, but his physical tools offer a good deal of upside and he's learned to harness them enough to make the cut. Jeff Paschke and Brantley Bell miss out due to the depth this year in Arizona, while Andre Vigil is the top infielder from New Mexico.

3B - Dustin Peterson, Sr., Gilbert (AZ)
The best bat speed in the state in the 2012 class belonged to 3B Mitch Nay and Peterson will carry the torch for the position this year, though he sees a good amount of time at shortstop as well, he projects for third long term and already has experience there. Like his older brother DJ, a high level draft prospect from the University of New Mexico, Dustin has a big time power bat that dampens potential concerns about the length of his swing or his tendency to be overaggressive in the box. The hit tool still has a ways to go, but he can do more damage than anyone else in the region.

OF - Brennon Lund, Sr., Bingham (UT)
Lund's run and throw tools combined with his feel for the game make him the top defensive outfielder in not only the state, but also the entire region. He has a quick left handed bat that allows him to spoil pitcher's pitches, catch up to fastballs and make hard contact. His offensive approach is suited for a table setter type of role, which works well with his speed on the bases and his position as a centerfielder.

OF - Austin Paschke, Sr., Mountain Ridge (AZ)
Consistency will be the key for Paschke. His long lean athletic build with projectable strength and good bat speed from the left side offer up a lot of upside. At times, he looks like a high level prospect, though he's prone to streakiness and is still learning the finer points of hitting. But the raw power is big and he's a hitter who has to be pitched to carefully.

OF - Gerard Hernandez, Jr., Pinnacle (AZ)
The top power bat in the 2014 class rounds out an outfield comprised entirely of left handed hitters. Hernandez can really put a charge into the ball and his power will be his calling card throughout his playing career. Others who were considered include: Marcus Still, MJ Hubbs and Kenny Meimerstorf.

UT - Alex Verdugo, Jr., OF/LHP, Sahuaro (AZ)
It's a bit tougher for players from the Tucson area to make a name for themself on the national scene than their counterparts from the Phoenix metropolitan area. But Verdugo has the kind of ability that will force scouts to make the trip south to watch him, as he has a chance to become a high level prospect over the next year. He can push his fastball onto the right side of 90 miles per hour, and has a good curveball to go with it. But for as good as he is on the mound, Verdugo's left handed bat is even better. He shows power to all parts of the yard with loose swing actions and a good bat path, he can really hit and has the peripheral run and throw tools to go with the bat. The state of Arizona has several highly talented two way prospects, but with Ryan Castellani on the Dream Team's pitching staff and Cody Bellinger manning first base, Verdugo becomes the obvious choice.

P - Andrew Church, RHP, Sr., Palo Verde (NV)
Church is one of the more well rounded pitching prospects you'll find in the high school ranks. He doesn't have a glaring weakness, as he commands his low 90s fastball well, throws both of his secondary pitches (a plus curveball and a solid-average changeup) for strikes consistently and shows some feel for pitching. He doesn't have any one area where he absolutely stands head and shoulders above his peers, but he's the staff ace on the Dream Team thanks to his combination of stuff and pitchability.

P - Ryan Castellani, RHP/OF, Jr., Brophy Prep (AZ)
A year from now the conversation about Castellani could be very different. If his command and pitchability come along over that time and he starts to realize his tremendous upside, he has a chance to be one of the best players in the nation. The 6-foot-4 hurler is already working in the low 90s consistently, and has an arm that should be able to generate more velocity than that in the near future. He whips his arm through a low three quarters slot that creates big tailing action on his fastball and he pairs it with a hard slider that also shows big potential. He has streaks of absolute dominance already, and they are becoming more and more frequent.

P - Tanner Draper, RHP, Sr., Riverton (UT)
Draper doesn't rely on any one pitch or the ability to throw fastballs by overmatched hitters to get outs. He hits his spots, mixes his pitches and is constantly one step ahead of the hitter. The first time Draper threw at a PG event he tossed a no-hitter...and then followed it with another 6 1/3 innings of no-hit ball before finally giving up a single. He's continued to show that high level pitchability at other high level events ever since. While some scouts will be scared off by the fact that he's a right hander who works in the upper 80s with his fastball, that could wind up being great news for Oregon State, where he has signed a National Letter of Intent. Should he make to campus, Draper has the polish and pitchability to find success from day one, though there are likely going to be several MLB organizations who try to prevent that from happening.

P - Brick Paskiewicz, RHP/OF, Sr., Sunrise Mountain (AZ)
Don't be fooled by his size, the 5-foot-11 175 pound right hander can light up the radar guns. At the 2012 WWBA World Championship in Jupiter Paskiewicz sat 90-92 and backed it up with an upper 70s curveball that topped out at 78 mph and also worked in an 81 mph changeup. The lack of physical maturity only suggests that there's a lot more coming in the future from Paskiewicz, who is also a solid centerfielder, making him a player to keep an eye on going forward.

P - Dylan Myers, RHP, Sr., Coronado (NV)
The final spot was a difficult decision, with several strong candidates missing the cut. Myers is a physical right hander with a sound delivery and good command. He spins his breaking balls well and has a solid changeup. He has the potential to be a workhorse type of pitcher down the road and shows good pitchability for a high school arm. Other pitchers considered include: Tyler Buffett, Chandler Blanchard, Zach Wynn, Seth Martinez and Andrew Shaps.

Southwest Region Best Tools

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