August 10, 2010

Area Code Games: Ranking the top players

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The Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., are the premier summer showcase for upcoming high school baseball players from around the country. This is the last of our daily reports from the event.

LONG BEACH, Calif. - Six days up, six days down at the 24th annual Area Code Games. To wrap up the action and give you a feel for some of the top players at this event, we spoke with numerous scouts and college coaches to compile two top-15 lists: position players and pitchers.

The order of the lists is not a concrete evaluation of the players' overall ability or their performance at this event. Talent evaluators differed on the order, but they all agreed, for the most part, on every name presented below. Without further ado, the Area Code Games rankings ...

Position players

  • Christian Lopes, SS, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison - The 6-0, 180-pound Lopes dazzled scouts with his five-tool ability and instincts. Scouts say Lopes should hit, hit for some power, can run and is very good defensively. Lopes showed a patient approach at the plate all week and hit pitchers' mistakes hard. Lopes has recruiting visits scheduled this fall for USC, Arizona State, Oregon and Miami, but scouts project him to be a first-round pick next June.
  • Blake Swihart, C, Rio Ranch (N.M.) Cleveland - "He may not be just the best catcher here, but the best player here, period," one scout said about the 6-0, 170-pound Swihart. A switch-hitter, Swihart is athletic and polished behind the plate. He's committed to Texas.
  • Charles Tilson, OF, Wilmette (Ill.) New Trier - Tilson is an athletic left-handed outfielder with speed that can throw and makes consistent hard contact. "He may be my favorite player here," one coach said. On the next pitch, Tilson smacked a fastball over the wall in right for the tournament's only home run. One scout asked, "Can we get an MVP chant going now?"
  • Austin Hedges, C, San Juan Capistrano (Calif.) JSerra - Hedges, a UCLA recruit, had a great tournament. He had the strongest arm from behind the plate and a short, quick swing. Hedges has good size at 6-1, 185 pounds, and likely will be a high draft pick in 2011.
  • Shawon Dunston Jr., OF, Fremont (Calif.) Valley Christian - One of the most exciting players here, Dunston is a 6-2, 165-pound centerfielder that can fly. Scouts love his speed, line-drive stroke, and ability to get on base. Dunston, son of former big leaguer Shawon Dunston, said he wants to add strength and refine some parts of his game. He will pick from a variety of schools in about a month, he said. He's a potential first-rounder next year.
  • Julius Gaines Jr., SS, McDonough (Ga.) Luella - Gaines is a slick-fielding shortstop that one scout called the "best defensive middle-infielder in the country." Scouts had questions about his bat, but Gaines helped himself by having a strong showing at the plate, making hard contact often.
  • Tyler Goeddel, 3B, Hillsbourgh (Calif.) St. Francis - Goeddel is 6-4 and can fly. He is only 170 pounds, so he has plenty of room to develop and add muscle. Goeddel has a very nice swing that should generate consistent contact and power in the future. He will head to UCLA next fall, the same school his brother pitched for last season.
  • Derek Starling, OF, Gardner (Kan.) Edgerton - Starling is a physical beast at 6-5, 190 pounds - with room to grow. He has tons of tools, but scouts need to see more consistency at the plate. May not matter anyway, as Starling is committed to play quarterback at Nebraska.
  • Phillip Evans, IF, Carlsbad (Calif.) La Costa Canyon - Evans is a scrappy second baseman who plays hard and does well all the little things that a 5-10 infielder must do. He won't hit for power, but he smokes lots of line drives, can run and is an instinctive defender.
  • Fernelys Sanchez, OF, New York (N.Y.) George Washington - Maybe the most projection here. Sanchez is 16 years old, already 6-4, 200 pounds, can play centerfield and switch-hits. Oh, and he had the top SPARQ score at the tournament, a system designed to test athleticism.
  • Michael Conforto, OF, Woodinville (Wash.) Redmond - Conforto is a strong kid at 6-0 feet tall and has a great left-handed swing. He hit line drives all over the field throughout the tournament. By Day 3, scouts perked up each time he came to the plate.
  • Nelson Rodriguez, C, New York (N.Y.) George Washington - Hard to know what to make of Rodriguez. He's a 6-2, 210-pound catcher who mashes the ball. He's already well developed physically, and is listed as the class of 2012, although no scouts could confirm his birthday. Asked one scout what he thought about Rodriguez and he replied, "Oh, you mean the guy with a size 8 head who looks like he's 30?" That'd be him.
  • Billy Flamion, OF, Modesto (Calif.) Central Catholic - One of the best swings at the tournament, Flamion, listed at 6-1, 187, crushes balls from the left side. His swing is unorthodox but, hey, what ain't broke
  • Dylan LaVelle, IF, Lake Stevens (Wash.) High - LaVelle drew high praise this week, showing great hands and good feet at shortstop. He's 6-2 and can hit, although he needs to make a little more contact. He won't graduate until 2012 and should have plenty of schools to choose from.
  • Rio Ruiz, IF/P, Covina (Calif.) Bishop Amat - Rio is intriguing as he just turned 16 less than three months ago, and is a left-handed hitting infielder that can rake. He also pitches. Ruiz has committed to USC.

    Honorable position player mentions

  • Matt Dean, 3B, Highland Village (Texas) The Colony - Would be higher on this list if he played well here. Regardless, he's got what scouts call a big league body at 6-3, 190, and looks the part. He's committed to Texas.
  • Johnny Eierman, SS, Warsaw (Mo.) High - Eierman, a 6-1 right-handed hitter, showed he can play some shortstop and was the only guy to hit two balls out of Blair Field in batting practice on Thursday.
  • Timmy Lopes, IF, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison - Christian Lopes' younger brother, Timmy isn't as big but still plays aggressively at second base and makes plays. Part of the 2012 class, Lopes is getting interest from schools and is headed to the USA 16U Trials in September.
  • Pitchers

  • Henry Owens, LHP, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison - Owens is a 6-7, 195-pound southpaw that scouts have seen throw up to the mid-90s. He pitched at 90 mph here but commanded his fastball to both sides of the plate, dropped in a curveball and a change, and showed a good feel for pitching. In two innings, Owens struck out six and walked one. He hasn't committed to a college yet, but scouts project him to be a mid-first round pick next year.
  • Bryan Brickhouse, RHP, The Woodlands (Texas) High - Brickhouse showed the most dominating stuff of the tournament in his first inning of work. The 6-2, 190-pounder struck out the side on a 92-93 mph fastball and a filthy slider in the mid-80s. "In his first inning, he has stuff that could get big leaguers out," one scout said. "But after that he tends to struggle, so he will have to show more consistency to be a starter." Either way, Brickhouse should be drafted high in 2011.
  • Tyler Beede, RHP, Auburn (Mass.) Lawrence Academy - Beede was at the Area Code Games last year, too, and the 6-4, 195-pounder reaffirmed why he's considered at the top of the class of 2011. Beede ran his fastball up to 93 and showed a breaking ball and change up. He commanded all three of them well. Beede should be a high pick next year but he has a strong commitment to Vanderbilt.
  • Lucas Giolito, RHP, Santa Monica (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake - Giolito, who turned 16 a month ago, touched 94 and showed a sharp, promising breaking ball. At 6-5, 215 pounds and two years until he's draft-eligible, Giolito now will be all over scouts' radars.
  • Robert Stephenson, RHP, Martinez (Calif.) Alhambra - Stephenson's fastball sat 90-93 and he showed a good feel for a high-70s change. Scouts say he has a chance to have three "plus" pitches. Stephenson will graduate in 2011.
  • John Maggliozi, RHP, Milton (Mass.) Dexter - Maggliozi is a stocky guy at 5-11, 185 pounds, but he pitches bigger than that. He got up to 94 mph and showed a breaking ball and change. Some scouts worry that his three-quarter arm slot will ultimately lead to the bullpen, but Maggliozi has the stuff to start. He's committed to Florida.
  • Nicholas Burdi, RHP, So. Downers Gr. (Ill.) Downers Grove - The 6-5 Burdi was 89-94 and threw a good slider in the low-80s. He's a physical kid that comes after hitters and will be an interesting name in the 2011 draft.
  • Cole Irvin, LHP, Yorba Linda (Calif.) Servite - Scouts love Irvin's potential. He's 6-4, 170-pounds, and won't graduate until 2012. He reached 88 with his fastball, has a very good curveball and showed some feel for a change up. His delivery is clean and repeatable.
  • Derek Starling, RHP, Gardner (Kan.) Edgerton - Here's Starling again, and many scouts prefer him as a pitcher. He hit the low 90s here, but some scouts have seen him higher than that. But, again, he's heading to Nebraska on a football ride.
  • Porter Clayton, LHP, Idaho Falls (Idaho) Bonneville - Clayton is a lot like Irvin, but a year older. He's a big, physical southpaw with lots of ability.
  • Kevin Comer, RHP, Shamon (N.J.) Seneca - Comer isn't as hyped as some other pitchers, but he may have had the best showing here. The 6-4, 210-pounder pitched four innings and struck out seven although it should have been nine. His fastball reaches 90 mph and he throws a great slider around 78.
  • Max Fried, LHP, Encino (Calif.) Montclair Prep - Fried's 6-3 and part of the 2012 class. He throws a lot of strikes and goes to his slider to get swing-and-misses. Projection, much like Irvin and Clayton.
  • Nigel Nootbaar, RHP, El Segundo (Calif.) High - Nootbaar was a nice surprise as there wasn't much talk about him coming in. He threw in the low 90s and used a solid curveball to strike out both right- and left-handers.
  • Joseph Musgrove, RHP, El Cajon (Calif.) Grossmont - Musgrove, at 6-5, 225 pounds, was effective with a high-80s fastball and a breaking ball that he threw for strikes. Challenges hitters.
  • Jace Fry, LHP, Beaverton (Ore.) Southridge - Fry threw a fastball at 89 that snuck up on hitters and got by them. Throws a curveball and changeup and has a good feel for pitching. Throws strikes.
  • Honorable pitcher mentions

  • Chris McCue, RHP, Charlotte (N.C.) Ardrey Kell - McCue is pretty polished, has a fastball that reaches low-90s and has a solid breaking ball. He'll pitch backward and is aggressive in the zone. Going to North Carolina.
  • Brandon Bonilla, LHP, Bradenton (Fla.) The Pendleton School - Bonilla, son of Bobby Bonilla, is a big lefty that can reach 90 mph and has a decent breaking ball. With three years of college ball, he could blossom into very good pro pitcher. He's confident and headed to USC.
  • Teddy Mitrosilis is a journalism student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can reach him at [email protected]

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