By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
February 13, 2011
The general overall feeling about the 2011 draft in Southern California is that this is a down year. Certainly this is not a new sentiment and it’s been known around these parts for a while. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that every player who could have played in the showcase event at the Urban Youth Academy was here Saturday, either. There are certainly players that warranted consideration and probably some who didn’t need the exposure. But I will say this – this is a draft better geared for three years from now. There are very few players who can show you a “5” tool right now, a major league average skill. That means in some bodies you will see strength. In some bodies you will see better mechanics to bring that out. The talent is less obvious this year than it was in 2010, when guys were falling from the sky.
Overall, you could give Phillip Evans two “5” grades right now. He showed a solid 5 arm in infield and he’s the only infielder in this showcase that showed a 5 arm from the left side of the infield. You are looking for throws with online carry. You would also have to grade his defense with the solid 5. In game, he made two athletic plays around the bag, both of which demonstrated body control and coordination. His BP produced two home runs to left field. Evans has his own swing, not unorthodox, but one in which he swings down but finishes with a slight uppercut. I have said here before that Evans gets himself into trouble when he gets purely lift happy. He’s got to stay compact. I felt his BP stressed a better feel for his own point of contact. His extra-base production will come from hard line drives into the gaps. At heart, that’s who Evans is – a gap hitter with a 5 arm, 5 glove and adequate speed. His 60-time (7.2) isn’t awe-inspiring but it’s not trash and he’ll run a 4.4 from the right side. Because he’s 5-10 with short strides, it’ll be hard for him to sit at a 5 running grade in the future, but it won’t set him back either. In the game, he battled Henry Owens in his first at-bat before Owens struck him out with a 90-mph fastball. Owens changed speeds on him from the left side and exposed some of the things Evans will have to work on offensively in the coming years, namely bat control against good stuff. That goes for all players, but it needs to be said about the players who are collectively viewed as in front of the others. BP only shows what you do well, not what you don’t.
Generally, hitters don’t show very well in these sorts of things. The format is more or less the time honored free-agent workout format: BP swings, OF throws, throws from SS, 3 ground balls, catchers throw, everyone runs 60, pitchers get the same few hitters each. Now comes the balance of performance versus projection.
Among catchers, I wish catchers would not throw on top of the plate during infield. I think it’s a bad habit picked up from the stopwatch culture of travel ball. Essentially, catchers are cheating. That’ll get fixed on day 1 of pro ball. What I want when I scout for potential pro catchers are guys who give me carry through the bag with a good arm action, loose bodies, and durable frames.
With that said, Adam Ehrlich threw very well, and he’s a small school player I think really helped himself here. He had the best arm in his group. I really wanted to go with the 5, but I went with the 4 because he threw on top of the plate and his throws slightly decelerated. (Don’t send me a nasty email; I like the kid.) He’s still arguably the best pure senior receiver in Southern California HS baseball this spring, Campbell Hall or not.
Offensively, Ehrlich’s BP was very good, the best I’ve seen from him, and substantially more authoritative and using of all fields than I thought I saw at Area Codes. He was closed, compact and level. Ehrlich doesn’t have the hip torque to hit a ton of home runs, so to see him shorten the stroke and hit line drives is a good sign. A telling at-bat for Ehrlich was an encounter against left-handed pitcher Max Homick. This kind of at-bat can either make a kid a potential pro or send him to college. Homick throws 86-87. In a lefty vs. lefty matchup, Ehrlich adjusted after three or four pitches. I didn’t think he would. Next pitch, he hit a hard line drive to the center fielder. I tip my cap and I hope I wasn’t the only one watching, because that showed offensive growth.
The best catching arm is Chris Rabago. I went solid 5 even throwing on top of the plate because his throws seem to take off as they come over the bag. That alone will take him to college and eventually on to the next level. Offensively, he needs to shorten his stroke for wood but keep that nice level plane. He won’t hit for a lot of power, but he’s got a durable build and catches well. My guess is that this guy will make for an above-average college catcher next year.
Jacob Anderson (Chino HS) is someone to dream on. There are two present tools here, a 5 outfield arm and 6 speed, as shown in the 60. His BP showed a loose and whippy swing, a slight wrap, and he hit a home run to left field. In game, he showed some lift, but he’s not strong or consistent enough yet to show steady results. He isn’t strong enough to show the power yet, but the bat speed is there. In this day and age, the arm and speed combination is one we don’t see too much of anymore among domestic players, so it’ll make him desirable to the teams that want to gamble on the bat.
Daniel Camarena will have a decision to make. The one knock he’s going to hear is about the power from first base, where he figures to end up as his body matures. You also couldn’t knock out right field, because he showed the best all-around arm, with a 5 grade from RF and a 1B to 3B. His throwing action is so smooth and consistent that it would lend itself to the mound. He hits from a very narrow stance and has bat speed and hips. He trusts his hands, which is unusual, I think, for a guy with a high back elbow trigger. Camarena absolutely has bat speed and I have never seen him fail to hit at one of these cattle calls. If it’s me, I put him on first base and feel pretty good that he’ll hit on the way up the ladder. He’s going to deal with the Mark Grace-James Loney thing of “sweet left-handed swing with no power.” That said, I wouldn’t want this guy to change a thing. You never know. People thought Adrian Gonzalez would never hit for power. Adrian makes more money being right than critics made to be wrong. If the bat control is there, the home runs will follow. The bat speed certainly is.
Ryan Garvey threw from the OF and from SS. He needs to be an outfielder. I can go with the 5 arm from the OF on the solid throws, one hop to the plate, some spin on the bounce. He’s not quite a 4 runner, not quite a 5 runner. I could be dangerous and go with 45, enough for a corner OF. Offensively, Garvey has some juice in the bat. I thought he was better in this look than when I saw him at the end of last Fall. He has some torque and bat speed, a level swing with an occasional uppercut, and hit some authoritative line drives. I think he’s still improving offensively, in terms of consistency. I did not see the consistent hip speed. Once he gets that, he’ll elevate himself to his own next level.
Brandon Martin is a 6 runner in a 60, and I went 4 arm and 5 infield. Offensively, he’s got a level swing that doesn’t produce lift. He is stronger, especially in the upper body, than I have seen before, but I wonder if that made him tighter up top. Martin was always loose when I previous saw him; he was firmer in his actions today.
Jay Anderson (Bishop Amat HS) ran a 6.5 60, which will get your attention every day, and then you want to see more than one tool. I put a 5 on his arm. Ok, now we’re talking, speed and arm. His BPs showed a wide crouch with a slight uppercut from a max effort swing. In the future, this is a guy to follow, and you’d want to see him shorten his stroke and get more balls in play against good stuff to maximize his speed. The bat will be the difference, for him, and for everyone.
Rouric Bridgewater has been working out. And by that I mean, running. Getting a little taller has helped, too. Best body I’ve seen on him over the past few years. He’s taller, more slender and had better movements. I think he got announced as ‘Rutger Hower’ late in the day and I saw Bridgewater laugh it off. Give him a contract for his personality alone. ASU-bound bat. Lift and pop here, but in the next few years, he will have to show enough bat control to be dangerous. You leave a fastball middle-in for him and say goodnight. He’s known how to drop the barrel without anyone teaching him for as long as I’ve scouted him. He has to prove he’s a better all-around hitter than the power that got him noticed in the first place. Then, like Crash Davis lecturing about the moldy shower shoes, he can go back to dropping bombs and the media will think it’s cute.
Max Homick is another left-handed bat with potential power who looked taller and more trimmed out to me. I’ve always liked Homick’s swing, if I’m remembering correctly from the roughly 8,000 players I’ve seen lately. If your swing stays in my head, it means I think you can hit. Too bad I’m not the one cutting the bonus checks. On the mound, Homick was 86-87, so I’m seeing a 5 arm in the outfield if he gets full extension. Either way, like Bridgewater, the bat will carry him. Homick’s BP showed a very firm front side. He’s one of the few guys at this cattle call strong enough to consistently hit off that front leg. I think he has an easy left-handed stroke with lift and bat control. Might be the best hitter here down the line. It wouldn’t surprise me. Either him or Camarena, based off this look.
Billy Flamion played well at the Area Codes and Aflac, but showed with a different look. He was much more filled out and perhaps wound tighter through his shoulders, chest, and thighs. Flamion was very loose and whippy in the summer but looked more max effort here. His BPs in the summer, which were more controlled and line-drive geared, gave way to turn-and-burn for pull power. He ran adequately enough in the 60 to get a 5 running grade, but I didn’t think he threw as well from the outfield in this look as he did over the summer. The bat is the tool and Flamion showed power last summer. I don’t want to make a conclusion based on the last look I’ll probably have at this guy this spring. He’s got some pop but he didn’t help himself in this BP round, at least in my eyes, where I felt he got away from what he was doing best in the summer.
Travis Harrison is another big body corner whose power potential is his main tool. I do think Harrison has worked hard to trim up. I would venture to say that first base is his final destination, not because I am trying to pick on this guy, but because I think at the higher levels he’s not going to be nimble enough. Left or right field are also possible destinations. So is DH. To his credit, he was a 6.9 60, which would reflect the attention to conditioning. He’ll never be a fast guy out of the box, so the run times to first probably won’t look as good. If Harrison can convince the industry that he can go first to third, I think it’ll help him a lot, and I think he showed he has that in him. In-game, he didn’t do much. This is a guy who has a pretty high standard and he’s dealing with some impatient observers who want power in every at-bat or want to walk away. Harrison was tight, in my eyes, in this look. He got better later in the game and just let the bat go to an 85-mph fastball for a hard double. Harrison is one of these guys whose contact always sounds hard off the bat. The question is how much contact? And will be enough to maintain? Hey, there’s a guy in Baltimore right now who plays third base, strikes out almost 200 times a year, hits 30 home runs, and makes more than the guy who hits .270 with 20 doubles. Gentlemen, take your fliers.
Christian Lopes (Edison) is the old standby. Any time I need to remember what year it is, I look for Lopes, and I remember its 2011. The guy did nothing to hurt himself here. He’s a 4 arm and a 5 glove. He grounded a hard single through the left side and later doubled off someone’s 85-mph fastball. He’s been broken down more times than Humpty Dumpty at this point, hasn’t he? Seriously, I just want to know if he’s going to sign. You don’t have to tell. Out of my price range.
Desmond Henry (Centennial) can fly, I mean, he can really go. But you can’t steal first base and Henry needs to learn a more consistent hitting approach. Old Angels will remember Gary Pettis – a guy who used to steal 50 bases a year, hit .240, and really annoy Gene Mauch because he refused to hit the ball on the ground. Henry is that player unless he makes adjustments. Henry also needs to work on becoming a better outfielder.
Trevor Gretzky (Oaks Christian) looks like he’s done getting taller. He’s still got lift in his left-handed swing and showed it during BP. I think one of the factors Gretzky has to deal with is that he’s from a small school. I also think that there’s more in here with work and corrections. He’s a serviceable fielder with an adequate arm and he ran his 60 in 6.8, which isn’t bad, and speaks to his long strides. I still see the upside I said I’ve always seen.
Dante Flores (Bellflower) ran well, but I think I’ve seen crisper infields and throws from him. Offensively, he might not be as potent as he was at the Area Codes, but he’s still going to be a good college player at the next level.
Bryce Mosier (Valhalla HS) should be a very good college catcher at the next level. He will throw and catch enough and showed some pop during BP. He’s not a physically imposing catcher and won’t be a basher, but he’s going to some value for the next few years.
I’d put catcher David Schuknecht in the same category and note that he has improved as I’ve seen him two or three times over a two-year period.
Other players that right now I would call very solid college freshman baseball players for 2012 include Eric Snyder, Austin Bailey and Kent Mathews. Each of these guys have usually been solid when I’ve seen them, but lack one dominant tool to make their college rides worth more than a pro opportunity at this time, in my opinion.
Taylor Sparks, at first glance, looked taller to me. I could be mistaken. He didn’t really do much here, but the BP was solid and the upside is still evident.
Kyle Raubinger is a left-handed hitting catcher, which alone may be enough to get him a job out of high school. His throwing was adequate and I’ve seen more consistent BP rounds from him. Still, he’s strongly built and it wouldn’t shock me to see somebody take a flier on him out of Arroyo Grande to see what he may become.
Kenneth Peoples and Tyrone Wiggins are both speedy center field types who were miscast as infielders during pre-game. Thomas Walker has a good build, some lift in his swing, but shows inexperience.