High School : : General
Friday, February 15, 2013

Regional HS Preview: Pacific

Todd Gold        
Photo: Perfect Game

2013 Perfect Game High School Baseball Preview Index

Pacific Region: California, Hawaii

Gardena Serra steals the spotlight from southpaw surplus with impressive offseason haul

The Cavaliers of Junipero Serra High School in Gardena had a solid 2012 campaign and looked to be one of the stronger teams in the CIF Southern Section for 2013 with the region's top player, Dominic Smith, on the roster. But they appeared to be a pitcher short of being a powerhouse, and Smith was routinely walked last season so some protection in the lineup would've been a big boost.

Thanks to the California Interscholastic Federation's new trasnfer rules the Cavs were able to fill all of their needs, and improved themselves more than any other team in Southern California; including the Los Angeles Angels. They added high ceiling OF Marcus Wilson who came over from Hamilton, and then grabbed a pair of USC commits in 2014 outfielder RJ Bates and his brother, 2015 right handed pitcher Solomon Bates.

With speed demon 2014 outfielder Denz'l Chapman manning center field and a talented hitter in place in 2013 outfielder Trent Hammond, the addition of Wilson freed up Smith to move to his natural position of first base, where he is easily the best defender in the nation. Wilson is the type of power threat who can make opponents pay for intentionally walking Smith, something that happened a lot in 2012. RJ Bates' addition gives the Cavs four talented outfielders, not even counting Smith, which will allow them to shift one over to first when Smith takes the mound. The younger Bates brother is ranked in the top 50 prospects for the 2015 class and will be counted on to contribute on the mound right away. 

Were it not for the impact additions to Serra, the storyline heading into the 2013 high school baseball season in the Pacific Region would surely have been the rare combination of both quantity and quality of left handed pitching in the area. Ian Clarkin, Jonah Wesely and Matt Krook all enter the season with first round aspirations. PG All-American Stephen Gonsalves has a chance to join them if he can develop his secondary stuff. Even the top position prospect, Dominic Smith, is a talented left handed pitcher. Blake Taylor, Chris Kohler and Andrew Wright form a group of southpaws who would in most years belong near the top of the list of lefties in the region, a testament to just how strong and deep this group is.

Left handed pitching isn't the only surprising strength in the region this year, as the crop of Hawaiian prospects is unusually strong. Jeff Dahn highlighted  this year's crop in his feature that can be found by clicking here.

While the draft buzz will mostly center around the left handed pitching and the high end position prospects like Dominic Smith and JP Crawford, the team that will draw the most attention this season is likely to be San Diego's Cathedral Catholic. The Dons opened the season ranked No. 2 in the nation thanks in large part to a pitching staff that boasts five Division I commits (including the aforementioned Gonsalves). With the new classifications in the CIF San Diego Section, the Dons are unlikely to be challenged much as they compete for a Division I title. Mater Dei opens as the favorites in Division I of the Southern Section, though the format of the playoffs makes winning a championship a difficult proposition for even the heaviest of favorites.

Pacific High School Dream Team

Based on present tools and position played for high school team

C - Alex Jackson, Jr., Rancho Bernardo
2013 grad Jeremy Martinez held this spot a year ago and through no fault of his own has passed the torch to the No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2014 class: Alex Jackson. It was something of a surprising development to see Martinez knocked off the spot, considering how advanced he is for a high school prospect, and in any other year or region he would have been the choice. But Jackson's immense power, plus/plus arm and surprising athleticism for his imposing size give him a chance to be a special talent. Tyler Alamo, Francis Christy and Gavin Collins also merit discussion in this conversation for their ability.

1B - Dominic Smith, Sr., Gardena Serra
While Ryan Tellez held this spot a year ago and would be a good choice to keep it this year if not for the presence of Smith, there is little question at this juncture as to who the best player in the Pacific Region is: Dominic Smith. With the addition of transfers Marcus Wilson and RJ Bates, Smith will move full-time to his natural position of 1B after having been primarily used as a right fielder as a junior last year. Smith will also be counted on heavily as a left handed pitcher, where he utilizes a low 90s fastball from the left side.

MIF - JP Crawford, Sr., Lakewood
Crawford is a no-brainer for this spot. Coming into his senior season he has all the makings of a potential first round draft pick, and will be leaned upon heavily to carry the torch for Lakewood this season. While his defensive actions don't quite scream 'natural shortstop' his plus/plus athleticism allow him to play as one of the best shortstops in the nation. His athleticism is apparent in the box as well where he controls his long powerful swing well, generating very good bat speed from the left side and hits for both average and power. The scary part is that he's not even close to his ceiling at this point, if he ever gets there he could become one of the most dynamic players in baseball. And if he were to fall short of that, he should still be a very productive player at the next levels.

MIF - Trey Arbet, Sr., Great Oak
The competition is very fierce for the MIF spot opposite JP Crawford. There are two true second basemen who would make natural fits in an actual lineup with Willie Calhoun from the northern part of the state, as well as San Diego product Gosuke Katoh. From the shortstop position, cases could be made for Elliott Barzilli (who will not be playing for his high school), Chris Rivera (who will occupy the Utility spot thanks to his ability to play any position on the diamond) and the scrappy Robbie Tenerowicz. The 2014 class has some excellent MIF at the top of the class in masher Jacob Gatewood, Jack Flaherty and Josh Morgan. But ultimately, it's the high level hitability combined with athletic and energetic infield actions that give Arbet the nod for this spot in 2013.

3B - Ryan McMahon, Sr., Mater Dei
The two-sport star is also the starting quarterback for Mater Dei, which is not only the No. 4 ranked team in the nation heading into the season, but also a highly regarded football powerhouse as well. McMahon uses his long levers well in his swing to generate very good present power, and projects to develop even more as his body matures. His defensive ability at third is solid as he moves well for his size in spite of lacking high end straight line speed. While scout's are most interested in his long term power projection, his present power and hitting ability should make him a big asset to Mater Dei this season. Gahr's Kevin Franklin was tough to pass up for this spot given that he has the biggest raw power in the region, but McMahon's overall profile is slightly ahead at this point.

OF - Jordan Paroubeck, Sr., San Mateo Serra
Paroubeck showed off big time bat speed and power from both sides of the plate at the 2012 Area Code Games. He has a ways to go to learn the finer points of hitting high level pitching and taking control of his at-bats, but he has plenty of time to do that and already dominates high school competition. Factor in good routes and range with a solid arm in centerfield and Paroubeck is one of the most dynamic position prospects from Northern California.

OF - Dane McFarland, Sr., JSerra Catholic
Most 6-foot-4 high school players who weight over 200 pounds don't move well enough to cover much ground in the outfield. But McFarland is highly athletic for his size, as evidenced by his 6.50 60-yard dash time at the 2012 National Showcase. But his calling card is his power from the right side, as he uses his length and strength well together to really drive the ball with authority.

OF - Scott Hurst, Jr., Bishop Amat
While just a junior, Hurst already shows an advanced knowledge of nearly every aspect of the game. He's the type of hitter who is locked in from the on-deck circle and it pays dividends once he steps into the left handed batter's box. He's a solid runner, and with his routes and reads is a good centerfielder at the high school level, though his plus/plus arm makes his long term future home right.

UT - Chris Rivera, Sr., El Dorado
Rivera can play any position on the field well, if need be. He's a primary shortstop at this level, who is also the closer for El Dorado with a low 90s fastball and hard spinning curveball. He's played second and outfield at times during elite level national events. The position that has scouts dreaming on the possibilities is catcher, where he filled in at times last season and has posted workout pop times as low as 1.71. He's far less polished behind the plate and in the outfield than he is in the middle infield, but his arm strength make third playable as well if the need were to ever arise. It seems highly unlikely that there would ever be a scenario in which a manager would waste Rivera's defensive ability by putting him at first base, but it would be no surprise if he showed natural ability there as well.

P - Carlos Salazar, RHP, Sr., Kerman
The only thing more surprsing than a 6-foot right hander being heralded as the top pitcher in the Pacific Region is the rapid pace of Salazar's ascent. Prior to October of 2012 few outside of Northern California had even heard the name, let alone seen him pitch. But the reports coming out the Fresno area were too promising to ignore, and Salazar caught on with the Ohio Warhawks for the 2012 WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, FL. Salazar topped out at 96 mph and showed a good changeup with practically the entire baseball world watching him for the first time. He then built off of that showing with an absolutely dominant performance at the MLSB Southern California Invitational Showcase in February, flashing good potential with the curveball as well.

P - Ian Clarkin, LHP, Sr., Madison
The impressive depth of quality left handed pitching in the state of California has been the story for the 2013 class for some time now. Heading into their senior season, Clarkin sits in the pole position as the favorite to finish as the best southpaw in a very impressive group. The San Diego product has added significant power and bite to his curveball from last year, and it gives him three weapons at this level and the projection to potentially throw three above average Major League pitches from the left side. That type of profile screams 'first round pick' and as a result scouts will flock to Madison High School in San Diego to bare down on Clarkin. His fastball command has also come along well, and is above average while throwing downhill in the lower 90s, but has a chance to add a few ticks over time.

P - Jonah Wesely, LHP, Sr., Tracy
Wesely is the type of player that even the scouts can't help but root for. His work ethic and passion for the game are blatantly obvious, even to the most casual of observers. Thus it should come as no surprise that he has shown a steady rate of development over the past couple of years. His advanced pitchability was on display at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter when he fired a complete game and showed the ability to navigate his way through a batting order multiple times in a game. At the high school level Wesely was completely dominant as a junior in 2012, and given the strides he has made since then, there is no reason to believe that won't continue to be the case in 2013.

P - Matt Krook, LHP, Sr., St. Ignatius Prep
Krook is a classic example of the scouting addage that spin rate on a breaking ball is a strong indicator of future velocity increases. He worked 89-91 with his fastball at the Area Code Games back in August, which is plenty firm for a high school hurler. But what stood out most about him was the outstanding spin rate on his 12-6 curveball that climbed into the low 80s and had serious bite. Sure enough, fast forward to preseason games and his fastball velocity has reportedly climbed into the mid-90s. His tall projectable frame, arm speed, downhill plane and hammer curveball all create the makings of a high level pitching prospect. He's still learning to put the pieces together, but the stuff will likely be unhittable at the high school level regardless. 

P - Trevin Haseltine, RHP, Sr., Wood
The final spot on the Dream Team's pitching staff was a tough call. Haseltine is certainly deserving, but in order to give him the spot several impressive southpaws had to be left off. PG All-American Stephen Gonsalves being one of them, along with teammate 2014 LHP Brady Aiken another. Blake Taylor has shown low 90s velocity and has a strong physical build that makes him a prospect as does the command of Chris Kohler. But with three southpaws already on the staff, the power armed righty Haseltine adds balance to the staff in addition to low-mid 90s heat with life from a deceptive herky jerky delivery that creates a sharp downhill plane. Sophomore Kyle Molnar appears to be a strong candidate for future dream teams.

Pacific Region Best Tools

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