San Francisco, CA - On February 22nd I saw a high school game followed by the Cal vs Stanford game and what a day it was. I might have seen the top high school and top college team in the nation that day and they are separated by only a short trip on the El Camino Real.
Saint Francis High School of Mountain View, California was playing Palo Alto High School that day. I was aware Saint Francis had a good group of players, it hit me during the game just HOW talented they are, even for a traditionally strong California high school team.
How talented is this group?
All 10 of the players in the starting line-up for Saint Francis that day (including the pitcher and the DH) are D1 college players. Seven of them already committed and the other three I know will be D1 players. Is there another high school in the nation that can start 10 D1 players? Beyond that, of those 10, I think no fewer than five and as many as seven of them could play pro ball someday.
Saint Francis has six seniors that signed early with D1 programs and a junior who has already verballed to a Pac-10 team. That alone is very impressive. Beyond that, the two other junior starters are already being recruited by D1 programs and the previously unknown senior OF/P who was in the DH spot that day is a D1 talent, just under the radar.
So who are they?
3B Tyler Goeddel (UCLA), starting pitcher LHP Colin Reed (UC Santa Barbara), SS Alex Blandino (Stanford), 1B Geo Saba (Stanford), C Jon Williams (San Jose State), and LF John Williams (UC Davis). We know that junior CF Braden Bishop (6'1" 180, R/R) has already verbally committed to Washington. That is seven players so far. Trust me, the other three are going to be D1 players too.
Goeddel is already getting big scout and crosschecker heat (well over two dozen scouts on hand the other day to see him). One NL East club had three guys there. I think Blandino and Williams will certainly play pro ball out of college and then Reed, as a lefty, and Nelson, as a good hitting catcher, certainly will be in the mix. Saba is the most physically strong of the group and his bat certainly could give him a chance after his junior or senior year. Bishop is going to be one of the most scouted players in Northern CA in the spring of 2012.
Senior OF/P Richard Prigatano (6'3" 192, R/R) started at DH and he sure looks to me like a D1 hitter, with bat speed, strength and balance. Reports from his assistant coach (who happened to be one of Troy Tulowitzki's high school coaches) are that he is also interesting on the mound (he says mid-80s, has touched around 90) and has a strong OF arm. Junior RF Steven Golden (6'1" 170, R/R) is already being recruited by some local D1 programs that I am aware of and though he is a little raw with the bat, he is a D1 talent. Junior 2B/P Trevor Bettencourt (6'1" 185, R/R) is a good position player but he is going to make his mark in college on the mound. I saw him pitch for the Giants scout team last fall (in addition to an outing at BAWS last June) and he has a good arm and a really good curveball.
Just like at Stanford, the freshman and sophomore classes at Saint Francis are talented and there are players down there who could and would be starting for many good high school teams. Of course whenever a private school like St. Francis gets an influx of talent like they have in recent years, there are cries from other programs about recruiting, which is not legal at the high school level. I don't know anything about how or why all those kids are at St. Francis now, but I do know they ARE there.
Saint Francis, a co-ed school with approximately 1,600 students, has a strong baseball history. Their alumni include former Major Leaguer Eric Byrnes. Jared and Josh Lansford also played there, as did Angels minor league prospect Matt Long and St. Cardinals prospect Daniel Descalso.
Stanford Baseball Also Loaded with Prospects
In Palo Alto, the Stanford Cardinal are thinking College World Series and they have me thinking back to back CWS titles, even before they win one. The reason is simple, they are loaded with talent and in particular, they are loaded with talent in the freshman and sophomore classes. It may not be so simple for everyone else to comprehend how I feel, but during my days as a Braves scout, I ran a scout team and got to know a few of the Stanford players on a personal level (Appel, Diekroeger, Piscotty, and future pitcher Hochstatter), which allowed me to know their make-up, beyond their outstanding physical ability.
The Stanford sophomore class is one of the top groups of players at one school in the nation but guess what... the Cardinal freshman class is quite talented themselves. In fact, a group of three freshman position players led Stanford to victory in the 3rd and rubber game of the series at Rice (Stanford won the series 2-1). They started a soph on Friday (RHP Mark Appel) and a soph on Sunday (RHP Dean McArdle), the two games they won at Rice. Fast forward and he has gone from 89-92 mph with the makings of a good hard curveball to 94-98 mph with a devastating mid-80s slider. Yikes.
The Cardinal start a soph at SS in pre-season All-American Kenny Diekroeger, 3B Stephen Piscotty, CF Jake Stewart, LF Tyler Gaffney (for now), occasionally at 1B with Justin Ringo, and occasionally at 2B with Eric Smith. They start a freshman in RF in pre-season 3rd team All-American Austin Wilson, occasionally at 1B with Brian Ragira (though he is an outfielder and a VERY talented one), and occasionally at 2B with Lonnie Kauppila. The only upper classmen position players you are likely to see in the starting line-up for Stanford are senior catcher Zach Jones and senior DH/C Ben Clowe. The pitching staff leans on Appel, McArdle, juniors Jordan Pries (RHP), Scott Snodgress (LHP), and Chris Reed (LHP) to this point. Freshman RHP A.J. Vanegas pitched against Cal and he is as talented a freshman as you will see in America.
Against Rice, in order to get Ragira in the line-up, Stanford put him at 1st base, while keeping Gaffney in LF, Stewart in CF and Wilson in RF. From what I saw of Ragira in the summer of 2009 at the Area Code Games, he is a high level athlete, a 5-tool caliber player. Yet at Stanford this year he gets moved to 1B. He will not finish his career there and I think he likely will replace Gaffney at some point this season.
This Stanford team is set-up to win big NOW and NEXT year (and beyond) when they will bring in another very talented freshman class. This June we can expect to see Snodgress and Reed get drafted pretty highly and it is conceivable that Pries could sign as well, though it is more likely he comes back as a senior. Junior RHP Brian Busick hasn't pitched yet and he was in the mix toward the end of last year. Junior LHP Brett Mooneyham was one of the more highly touted starters heading into the year but has been injured (and the whispers among the scouts don't sound good). Somewhere along the way a few other pitchers will step up and develop during the season and they also have senior RHP Danny Sandbrink who has pitched a lot for the Cardinal during his career.
Next year, in June 2012, Diekroeger is a likely 1st rounder, Piscotty will get drafted highly, as will Appel and likely Stewart too (he is ultra-athletic and starting to figure out how to play). That might seem like a hard thing to handle, but they will still have Wilson, Ragira, Vanegas, and Kauppila. They will have high school senior infielder Alex Blandino coming in and won't miss too much of a beat because he is a very polished player who can really hit. They will have talented and polished high school LHP's John Hochstatter and Spenser Linney coming in, Texas high school catcher Wayne Taylor and I know I am missing some other outstanding players from across the nation. For that matter, there are players on the current roster I haven't mentioned and I know many of them are VERY talented and will heavily contribute in the coming years.