Phoenix, AZ - I have been pulling double duty here in Arizona the last few days, covering both the Prospect Wire tournament in Scottsdale and the USA Baseball 16U Championships, taking place in Peoria, Surprise, and Glendale. The schedule has been intense but the players out here are good and it is time to let you know about some of the top young players I have seen. I am pretty sure I have been seeing the players well, though when the temps go up to 111 as they did today, well, things can get a little blurry!
As I roam the spring training complexes in the Phoenix suburbs, my focus has been on the top 2013 grads, searching for players to invite to the Prospect Wire Underclass Alll American Games, August 4-7 at the University of Central Florida. Of course other players in the 2012 and 2014 classes have caught my eye too, so I will mix in some of those players as well.
Mind you, there are 72 teams here in the 16U event and I have caught a glimpse of a lot of those teams, but not all of them and even with those I have seen, I am not sitting on teams for real long stretches. Though, I have watched a couple of the teams a little longer than others because they simply are much stronger than other teams.
The top position player I have seen has been SS Christopher Rivera (2013, El Dorado HS, CA) of the Placentia Mustangs. He is listed at 5'10" 165 lbs but I can tell you plays much larger than that. He is a slick fielder, with a plus arm and as if that is not enough, well, he has excellent bat speed and does have some raw power, as well as usable extra base power. He also pitches and though I saw him at 88-90 with a sharp breaking ball, I was told that I didn't see him at his best and that came from a college coach who has seen him a lot.
The top overall hitter that I have seen, in terms of physicallity and ability to impact a game each and every time he steps to the plate has been OF Cody Roper (2012, Bishop Gorman HS, NV) of the Colton Nighthawks. He has good present day raw power and he can access it in the games, and did so when he easily cleard the right field wall on Tuesday. He can get a little homer happy and dip a bit at times but he has the bat speed and raw power to impact the game every time he comes up. Roper's teammate, C Jacob Nottingham (2013, Redlands HS, CA), is one of the top all-around catchers I have seen and honestly, there are 3-4 other real strong players on that Nighthawks team. I almost forgot about RHP Eric Geiger (2012, Riverside King HS, CA). He is another outstanding player on that team. His arm is easy and strong, with a fastball up to 88 and a chance for a power slider.
Then again, there are a couple of hitters on Team Northern California who could also be considered in the top hitter conversation. OF Hunter Mercado-Hood (2013, De La Salle HS, CA) and SS Dominic Nunez (2013, Elk Grove HS, CA) are both sweet swinging lefthanded hitters who can hit with some pop and look to be high average hitters for certain. They both have excellent presence in the box and if age eligible, they could find themselves competing for the 16U team.
The top 2014 grad I have seen is also on Team Northern California, INF Bryson Brigman (Valley Christian HS, CA). Brigman is a long and lean athlete, with defensive skills and today, he showed that he has some raw power too, as he homered against the SoCal Elite. Brigman was rumored to have already verbally committed to a D1 program during the spring (mind you, that was in his freshman year) but the coaching staff at that school has since resigned, so though I don't know for sure, he is likely no longer verbally committed.
The Baseball Northwest teams have some good, physical hitters. BBNW Washington 3B/1B Garrett Gallinger (2013, Gig Harbor HS, WA) is a 6'3" 190 lb specimen with a nice loose swing and plus raw power potential. His teammate, INF Adam Walker (2014, Skyview HS, WA) is also a bit, strong, physical hitter and at 6'3" 200 lb and still a youngster, keep an eye on him!
On BBNW Oregon, the player who caught my eye was C Matthew Decker (2013, Jesuit HS, OR) who at 6'4" 190 lbs sure looks the part and when he plays, he plays the part. Decker can receive and shows ability with the bat that will have him in the middle of line-ups for years to come. Another outstanding 2014 grad is on the BBNW Oregon, LHP Christian Martinek. I could be wrong on the spelling of his name and I didn't get his school info, as he was an add-on to the roster. I do know he has a great pitcher's body and his fastball was up to 87 in the time I watched. I would say he was about 6'6" and 205 lbs or so. The breaking stuff was a little suspect but he is young and could be a special one.
A team I was not familiar with, LABA (I think Los Angeles Baseball Academy) had some very good players. I did find out that the players I liked off that team normally play for one of the Southern California power club programs, San Gabriel Valley Arsenal but they were playing for LABA in this event as the coach is their high school head coach. INF Joe Corrigan (2013, Harvard-Westlake HS, CA) and C Arden Pabst (2013, Harvard-Westlake HS, CA) both impressed me with the bat and defensive ability. Pabst is a top tier catching prospect and Corrigan looks like he is really going to hit. Both have big strong builds but still have some projection left. Their teammate, RHP Rene DeLeon (2013, Alemany HS, CA) also caught my eye with his strong arm, athletic body type and demeanor on the mound. He got his fastball up to 88 and there is more in the tank. Oh yes... the 2014 SS Jack Flaherty (Harvard-Westlake HS, CA) is also a very good young plyaer. Seems that Harvard-Westlake HS has a lot to look forward to next year!
One of the top pitching prospects I saw had a terrible game and that just goes to show you that if a scout is watching, and a player has ability, don't get too concerned with results all the time. Everyone has a bad day on the mound, well, maybe except Roy Halladay! LHP Blake Taylor (2013, El Toro HS, CA) of Quakes Baseball Academy has the body type, arm action and present day stuff (FB up to 88) to suggest he has a very nice future. Frankly, he looked like a young Mark Mulder standing out there.
My favorite player on Team Anderson 2014 was CF Dalton Frize (2013, Luthern HS, CA). He is a L/L centerfielder who can run, throws well, tracks down the ball well and has the type of contact stroke, with bat speed, to suggest he can be a lead-off type hitter and a very good one. He isn't very big right now (5'9" 145 lbs) but he can play. As they say, it isn't the size of the dog in the fight!
On Team California I found a strong offensive catcher, Alex Guenette (2013, La Jolla Country Day HS, CA). He went deep and it was a really nice swing on an inside fastball then later he went deep again... but just foul. He receives well and blocked the ball in the dirt well. Overall, his combo of hitting and defense were outstanding and he rates as one of the better catchers I saw, among a great group of catchers at this event.
One of the top pure hitters I saw was on the San Diego Show Black team. INF Gosuke Katoh (2013, Rancho Bernardo HS, CA) is a sweet swinging lefthanded hitter who can hit to all fields. He is very calm in the box and has exceptional hands and feel for hitting. He is also a nice defensive player and with his still lean and thin body type, there is all kinds of potential with this young infielder. He had a couple of teammates that also caught my, in particular OF Shane Davern (2013, La Costa Canyon HS, CA) who showed me excellent bat speed and a very aggressive hitting nature in the box. He is a strong 6'1" 210 lb lefthanded hitter and will be heard from in the coming years.
Of course this is just a small samble size of the top players I saw at this tournament. The pitching wasn't as strong as college coaches would want to see but the position players, in particular the catchers and lefthanded hitters, were in abundance.