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Scouting the Area Code Games

8/10/2012

The crop of talent at this year's Area Code Games lacked the elite layer of no-doubt first-rounders that I've seen at the six previous ones I've covered, but the usual depth of arms was there and we did have a few standout athletes worth noting for next year's draft.

&#8226; The best all-around player in Long Beach was Trey Ball, a left-handed pitcher and outfielder from New Castle High School in Indiana. His body is extremely projectable at 6'6", 180 pounds, although he's a little old for his class, having turned 18 in June. At the plate, he's got quick hands and shows good plate coverage, with the strength to make solid contact on pitches down or away. He's a well above-average runner and I think there will be future power there, since he rotates his hips well and seemed to understand which pitches he could drive and which ones he had to take the other way. On the mound, Ball was 86-91 mph with a quick arm, a long stride, and great extension out front. I've got him as a hitter right now rather than as a a pitcher, but in either role he stands out as one of the best athletes on the field and I wouldn't be shocked if his fastball shot up next spring and changed his projection.

&#8226; Left-hander AJ Puk, Ball's teammate on the White Sox club, comprising players from all over the Midwest, also stood out for his athleticism and size. Puk, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was 91-92 with a good curveball at 74-75, showing two-plane break, and a fringy changeup. Like Ball, he's a left-handed hitter who can swing the bat a little but isn't as smooth a hitter as Ball is and projects much better on the mound.

&#8226; First baseman Michael Hoard of Salpointe Catholic in Tucson was one of the best pure hitters this week, homering once, just missing a second one, and making a lot of hard contact with a swing that gets a little uphill but not so much that it might hurt his ability to make contact. He's listed at 6'0", 185, and is probably limited to first base or maybe left field, so he's really going to have to rake to overcome those factors.

&#8226; Two SoCal pitchers who stood out in Durham last month at the Prospect Classic also threw well in Long Beach -- Madison HS (San Diego) lefty Ian Clarkin, up to 93 again, and Cathedral Catholic HS (San Marcos) lefty Stephen Gonzalves, 89-91 with command although he didn't have great feel for the curveball this time around.

&#8226; Deer Park, Texas, lefty Tyler Allen, an LSU commit, threw twice and was very aggressive both times, attacking hitters with an 88-91 mph fastball and a two-plane curveball at 74-75 that he threw for strikes. He was a bit less effective out of the stretch.

&#8226; The best prospect from the northeast at this event was Christopher Oakley, a 6'8", 220-pound right-hander from Egg Harbor Township (I don't know if that's West Egg or East Egg), New Jersey, who attends St. Augustine College Prep School. The size is obviously appealing and he was 88-91 with some feel for a curveball and a changeup; his velocity dropped a tick in the stretch and he needs to work on keeping his front shoulder closed.

&#8226; Matt Krook only threw once, but the 6'4" lefty from St. Ignatius High School in Hillsborough, California, was 87-90 with a really sharp curveball at 77-82 that had consistent shape and tight rotation. He gets on top of the ball well to generate some plane. He did lose the strike zone a little in his third inning, although that was a pretty common problem all week.

&#8226; Hunter Simmons of St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California, made several good plays at first base (although he was listed as a third baseman) and had one of the better-looking swings in the event. His lower half is a little noisy but his swing path was very consistent, with good loft in his finish and strong hands. He's a 20 runner which may push him to first base permanently.

&#8226; Davis HS right-hander Trevin Haseltine of Vacaville, California, was 90-91 with a fringy curveball but good command side-to-side of the fastball and showed the ability to drop down to run a slider away from a right-handed hitter. He has good size at 6'3" 200 pounds and did show a fringy changeup as well.

&#8226; Corey Simpson (Sweeny HS, Texas) hit a huge home run in his first game and doubled over the centerfielder's head another time, but I think he's a power-before-hit guy and he clearly doesn't like offspeed stuff. He's listed as a catcher but Texas scouts tell me he's a 20 defender there and has to move to first. I thought Tres Barrera (Sharyland HS, McAllen, Texas) was a better overall hitter, with an actual two-strike approach.

&#8226; Kohl Stewart is a top football recruit, committed to Texas A&M to play quarterback, but hit 94 in his one outing at the Area Code Games and has been up to 97 consistently in the past. He'll thrown an inning in the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco on Sunday, which I'll be attending. After Ball, Stewart might be the most likely first-rounder from this event, assuming football doesn't get in the way of him signing.

&#8226; The best BP session belonged to a player listed only as a pitcher -- Nick Longhi of Venice HS in Florida, who showed plus raw power and hit several balls out to the gaps during the games. His swing is simple, with really quick hand acceleration and good hip rotation for power, without much extraneous movement. He's also a first baseman (but with a 60 arm) and is committed to LSU.

&#8226; Centerfielder Matt McPhearson of Riverdale Baptist School in Columbia, Maryland, took several good at bats and showed plus speed on the bases and in center. As a hitter he reminded me a little of Aaron Hicks, another player who can work the count but doesn't recognize offspeed stuff as often as you'd like. He has the hand speed to catch up to good velocity and should stay in center.

&#8226; Mossyrock, Washington, right-hander John Pomeroy has size (6'5", 215) but drops down during his delivery so he doesn't get the same angle on the fastball that he could if he stayed taller through release. He was 89-92 with a quick arm and threw a couple of curveballs with depth, although it was inconsistent and he didn't always finish the pitch, leaving several up.

&#8226; I don't like to focus too much on players who struggled, but I will mention two names who are already familiar to the draftniks among you. Joey Martarano, a football recruit to Boise State who comes from Fruitland, Idaho, scuffled at the plate and at third base, with pitch recognition a major issue -- not shocking for a player who splits his time between two sports. Dominic Smith has a lot of hype but I don't see any plus tools here, maybe not even any above-average tools; he glides out over his front side, steps in the bucket when he swings, and was chasing breaking balls in the dirt much of the week. On defense, he's probably limited to first base, so like Hoard he's going to have to show a big hit tool in the spring to be a high pick.

&#8226; Finally, some names to remember for 2014: Alexander Jackson, a catcher from Escondido, California, who looks like a potential star with the bat and glove; Jack Flaherty, a third baseman from Harvard-Westlake who played with Lucas Giolito and Max Fried this spring; Jacob Gatewood, a shortstop from Clovis, California, with bat speed and pop with a lot of room to fill out his frame; and Dany Toussaint, a slight, long-limbed right-hander from Coral Springs Christian Academy in Florida, who broke several bats with a 89-91 fastball he ran in on right-handed hitters' hands.