SoCal Baseball Notes 3/28/17

We are quickly approaching the mid-way point of the high school baseball season in 2017 and that means only one thing, it’s time for mid-season tournaments and some of the biggest are taking place this week.
These tournaments are good for several reasons, one it gives teams a final warm up before they head back into league competition, and second it gives coaches a chance to see some players that aren’t starters play in a very competitive setting.
So, let’s dive right in.
National High School Invitational (NHSI)
The NHSI is back for it’s sixth incarnation at the USA Baseball National Training Center in Cary, North Carolina. Having been to two of these I can tell you first hand this event is a big deal. With several games a day being streamed on both USABaseball.com and MLB.com, the bright lights will be on the participants. And if that wasn’t enough, you can add in the 60-80 scouts that attend the event.
While this a national event, it may as well be the SoCal Invitational because area teams have won 4-of-5 these tournaments: Mater Dei (2012, 2013), San Clemente (2015), and Huntington Beach (2016) have all brought home the hardware, and if you’ve seen the trophy awarded to the winner, it’s some nice hardware.
There are four teams from SoCal in this years event: Orange Lutheran (third appearance), Huntington Beach (third), South Hills (first), and Dana Hills (first) all made the cross country trek to show the nation what they’re capable of. For the first time in the events history, all four teams from SoCal are in different pairings of the bracket meaning we could have an all-SoCal semifinal.

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Other SoCal team that have participated include Cathedral Catholic, JSerra, Harvard Westlake, (two-time runner up), and Aliso Niguel. Other California schools that have participated are Clovis (runner-up in 2014) and College Park. 
The event prides itself for being chock full of prospects and this year is no different.
My friends at Baseball America recently put out their Top 100 prospects list and several of them will be participating in the tournament adding to the reputation of the event being a must stop for scouts. Nick Pratto (#8) of Huntington Beach is the highest rated prospect by Baseball America in the field this week.
While there are other top-notch tournaments around the country – the Boras Classic in SoCal comes to mind – the NHSI was the first of its kind to draw the sort of attention it has and rightfully so. From the media attention – there’s a postgame press conference after each game – to the hospitality provided by USA Baseball, this event is first class all around. 
Best of luck to the four SoCal teams in Cary this week.
ANAHEIM LIONS TOURNAMENT
In Orange County the Lions tournament is underway and the event has once again drawn some of the top teams from around the region to compete at the varying sites. This tournament may not get the national attention that others receive, but it is one of the best because of the field it annually attracts.
Not limiting itself to just local teams, the Lions attracts top teams from Utah, Oregon, Illinios, and Nevada giving those cold weather teams a jump-start on their seasons against some quality competition.
Simi Valley entered Tuesday’s play as the top team in runs allowed (which, besides record is the key factor in determining the finalists) with two.
Behind them was Sage Hill who dropped a hard fought 3-2 game to a good Glendora team. The loss ended The Lightning’s 40 game win streak. 40 games! I don’t care what division you’re in if you win 40 straight games you’re a pretty darn good program.
UPCOMING TOURNAMENTS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT
The National Classic – April 10 – 13
The Boras Classic – April 18 – 21
Newport Rib Classic – April 5 – 11

GAMES OF THE WEEK
West Ranch vs Valencia
Annually one of the top leagues in SoCal, the Foothill League is again really good at the top this year. The battle for first place, and an undefeated record in league, will take place on Wednesday when Valencia and West Ranch square off. In what should a matchup between Timmy Josten (West Ranch) against Ben Farris (Valencia), this could end up being a close, one-run type game in front of what should be a boatload of scouts.
St. John Bosco vs Mater Dei
Bosco used a walk-off two-run double to beat Mater Dei in game one of the three game series with game two coming Wednesday at Mater Dei. Johnny Kuhn (LBSU) should get the start against Jonathan Schiffer (Washington). Both offenses of capable of putting up a lot of runs, and if the wind is blowing out at Mater Dei, look out.
Foothill vs El Dorado
A big time matchup in the Crestview League will go down tomorrow at El Dorado hosts Foothill. Both teams are loaded with young talent and win by Foothill will propel them into a tie atop league standing. Kyle Luckham of El Dorado is beginning to capture the attention of college recruiters and rightfully so. The junior is hitting .366 and is 3 – 0 on the mound for the Golden Hawks.
Rancho Cucamonga vs Los Osos
Coach RJ Farrell has the Cougars of Rancho Cucamonga believing they’re for real, and they just might be in the tough Baseline League. If the Cougars are to keep pace with Etiwanda they’re going to need to win games like this. Junior Ryan Kurtz and Senior Collin Chouinard are the top two arms on a staff that needs to take some pressure off the offense because Los Osos can swing it. The Grizzlies have eight hitters over .320 on the season and are very well coached. This should be a doozie.
Notre Dame vs Harvard Westlake
The Wolverines won game one of the three-game series on Tuesday behind another strong road outing from Jesse Bergin (UCLA). The junior continues to shine on the bump while the offense continues to cruise along. Notre Dame should counter with Hunter Greene tomorrow as it looks to even up the series before game three on Friday. In other words, just another week in the Mission League. 
BEST PLAYER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
Edison High School in Huntington Beach has had its fair share of talented payers over the years, and the Chargers have several this year. One of them is junior catcher Connor Aoki. Not only does he get it done on the field, but he’s getting it done in the classroom as well where he sports at near 3.7 GPA while taking AP courses.

Congrats Connor!

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FINALLY
If you know me you know that I’m not a huge fan of the new era of recruiting. It’s hard for me to get used to eighth graders committing to college baseball programs, but that horse has been beaten. 
The biggest issue I have with the practice is that is leaves schools in a bind when it comes to recruiting upper classmen because they’ve tied up money in the young guys. There is inevitably an uncommitted upperclassman that is left to look at options outside of Division I because there simply isn’t any money left. 
Case in point, Cade Seabold is a senior at Newport Harbor that all he does is hit. He can hit for power and average and would be a great fit – offensively – for any number of schools. I asked a few local college coaches about him and they all agreed he’s a very good bat. The problem? None of them had any money left in the class to make an offer. 
This seemingly happens every year. There’s something to be said about a late bloomer. Something to be said about a kid that doesn’t quit or give up because he’s not committed at a young age and continues to work his tail off to earn an opportunity. 
What do I say about those kids? I say sign me up.
Until next time, see you at the ballpark….

Email me at socalhsbaseball@gmail.com

OC Top 10 3/27/17

Below is how I voted in this week’s OC Top 10 poll.
1. Huntington Beach: Until someone can beat them, they’re at the top. Oilers are deep and talented at the positions they need to be. Best team in OC.
2. Orange Lutheran: Lancers offense took a big jump last week and they’ll look to maintain that this week at the NHSI in North Carolina.
3. Beckman: The Patriots are the best team no one is talking about. Big time matchup tomorrow against CdM will define a clear leader in the always tough Pacific Coast League.
4. Mission Viejo: The Diablos are as good as it gets and can compete with anybody. Tanner Bibee is a bona fide ace and the offense is hitting its stride in time for league play.
5. Servite: This week will tell us a lot about the Friars as they face off against JSerra. Coach Gilbert likes this team and he has good reason to…they’re good!
6. Foothill: The Knights are quietly putting together a good season. A minor hiccup last week against El Modena won’t be held against them.
7. JSerra: The Lions got a big sweep of Valencia last weekend and look to ride that momentum into their series with Servite. Early momentum in the Trinity League is always a good thing.
8. Mater Dei: The Monarchs lost a pair against El Toro last week, but it is my belief that this team is worthy of Top 10 status. Jonathan Schiffer is playing at a very high level for Coach Call.
9. El Dorado: Coach Matt Lucas has a lot of talent on this roster and it starts, for me, with Kyle Luckham who is getting it done on the mound and at the plate.
10. Sage Hill: Coach Dominic Campeau is one of the best coaches in OC. The Lightning are beginning to produce Division I talent (Connor Bock last year, Eddie Pelc this year) which may prompt a shift in divisions soon. 

SoCal Baseball Notes 3/21/17

Another week of baseball is in the books and as we begin the new week, it’s time to start focusing on league matchups for most teams around the CIF-SS. While some leagues began play last week, most will begin in earnest this week and boy are we in for a treat with some of the top leagues in the region. 
There’s a twist this season due to the realignment of divisions that was rolled out by CIF that will cause a lot of confusion down the stretch and most certainly will result in heartbreak for some teams. But I’ll dive into that later let’s first get into some more important stuff. 
MILESTONES:
In the last week we saw three coaches achieve some pretty incredible milestones for their schools and with this group of players.
At Corona del Mar, Coach John Emme won his 300th game as his Sea Kings beat Irvine 10-0. CdM has one of its best teams in recent memory and this season could end up being a special one for Emme in more ways than one. 
At Cypress, Coach John Weber won his 250th game in a 5-2 victory over San Clemente. Weber has coached some very good players over the years and has a few on his roster this year. While the Centurions have scuffled out of the gate, you can never count them out in the Empire League.
At Aliso Niguel, Coach Craig Hansen won his 200th game over the aforementioned Cypress Centurions. Like Weber, Hansen has had his fair share of great ballplayers and the future is very bright for the Wolverines as they have a very good freshman and sophomore class.
LEAGUE PLAY:
League play presents a whole different set of challenges for teams and players. In a lot of cases players are going against kids they’ve faced or played with growing up. There’s the tradition of rivalries and, in some cases, there’s flat out distaste for one another.
In other words, it’s the best time of the baseball season.
The dugouts get a little louder; there’s a little more tension at the games; the parents chirp a little louder; and coaches who are the closest of friends off the field won’t speak to each other for a few days. It’s simply the best.
Around SoCal this year there are several leagues worth keeping an eye. Let’s take a look at a few of what I think should prove to be great theater this year
Mission League: Annually one of the top leagues in the state, if not the country. This year there’s the added bonus of having the potential number one overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft playing in the league meaning there’s going to be 30+ scouts at each of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame’s games. The Knights responded by sweeping Loyola last week. So much for jitters. Harvard Westlake won a series against a stout Alemany team and their ace Daniel Ritcheson who many consider a pro prospect in his own right. The Wolverines have a solid senior class but their underclassmen ensure they’re built to last. Chaminade is quietly off to a 7-1 start despite losing a ton of talent off last years roster. Head coach Frank Mutz does a great job annually with his team and he’ll need that this week as his Eagles face Harvard Westlake for a huge three game series.  Crespi will be improved, as should be St. Francis, but they’ll be hard pressed to crack the top four in league an earn a playoff spot.
South Coast League: Coming into the season everyone thought it would be El Toro, and their four Division I pitchers, then everyone else. Well, the Chargers have scuffled out the gate while Mission Viejo is playing great baseball having reached the finals of the Lerner Division of the Newport Elks Tournament. Tanner Bibee is a bona-fide ace and has the attention of pro scouts. While many believe he’ll end up at Cal State Fullerton, scouts I’ve spoken to tell me he’s climbing boards fast with each outing. El Toro has time to right the ship and I fully expect they will. They’ll get a huge shot again Mater Dei this week before turning back to league on Thursday. Capo Valley, San Clemente, and Aliso Niguel all have the roster that can propel them to the top of the league and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened. All are well coached, and all have been there before in recent years. This is going to be a great league race.
BIG VIII: Followers of Inland Empire baseball know that this is traditionally the best league in the area and 2017 may be the best year in a long time. There’s depth. There’s talent. And there’s a whole of intrigue. King, led by first-year head coach Steve Madril sits atop the standings at 2-0 after the first week of league play.  The Wolves used a late inning comeback to defeat a very good Roosevelt team, handing the Mustangs their first loss of the season.  Roosevelt’s schedule features a who’s-who of teams ranked in their respective divisions. Credit to head coach Mark Wade for scheduling tough competition in a year he had to know he had the horses to compete. Norco’s biggest win-to-date is a 2-0 victory over a very good Ayala team. But the Cougars are no slouches and will have a chance to make some noise against Centennial and Roosevelt this week. Santiago, winners of five of their last six, will have a chance to climb the league standings this week as they square off with Roosevelt and Corona. It’s a shame that one or two very good teams from this league will not make the playoffs. More on that later.
West Valley League: This is arguably the best league in the City Section annually and 2017 is no exception. Chatsworth, who is ranked by everyone across the country, sits atop the league in the early going. Head coach Tom Meusborn has a very good team led by senior RHP/1B Tommy Palomera who, if he continues his early season pace, will have a chance to have his name selected in the upcoming draft. The Chancellors are deep, and they’re a veteran team with a ton of playoff experience. Cleveland, Birmingham, Taft, El Camino Real, and Granada Hills are all looking up right now, but if this league has taught us anything the last couple of years, it’s that anything can happen, and it usually does. El Camino Real will head to the San Diego Lions Tournament as the defending champions. It was there last year that head coach Josh Lienhard’s team really kicked into gear en route to winning their second City Section title in a row.
Pacific Coast League: Call this the Rodney Dangerfield league because it gets no respect despite being one of the best, most competitive leagues in Orange County annually. While they’re only just beginning league, the favorite has to be Beckman on the heels of their championship victory in the Lerner Division of the Newport Elks Tournament. Matt McLain (UCLA) is beginning to command the attention of scouts who have an eye on next year while scouting this year. They also have a legitimate ace in Zach Espinoza. The roster is veteran-laden and head coach Kevin LaValle has been there before.  If Corona del Mar can get consistent pitching they too will be a threat for the league title. Preston Hartsell (USC) is a superstar waiting to happen. The kid is a freak athlete who generates big time bat speed and power. As demonstrated last year, you can never count out Woodbridge so long as Tim Murray is the head coach. Spencer Weston (SDSU) provides the Warriors a legitimate 3-hole hitter who can drive the ball out of the ballpark. University to me is the wild card in the league and we’ll know a whole lot more about them after this week when they face Beckman and CdM.
Southwestern League: Murrieta Mesa surprised everyone last year as they marched all the way to the CIF SS Division I title when nobody gave them a fighting chance. The Rams lost their coach Bryn Wade before the start of the season when he unexpectedly resigned. The Rams are off to a rocky start so far this season and it once again appears that Vista Murrieta is the cream of the crop in the league. Head coach Matt Mosiello has a darn good club that features senior leadership and has good underclassman. Temecula Valley appears to be back to its winning form after dipping a bit last year and they, along with Chaparral and Great Oak, will battle for the top of the league as usual. It’s going to be interesting to see which teams earn a postseason birth because one very solid club is going to be on the outside looking in.
Palomares League: When all is said and done, this may be the best league in SoCal from a competitive standpoint. While nationally ranked South Hills are the favorites, nothing will come easy as evidenced by their loss to a very good Bonita team last week. The Huskies have their fair share of talent on the roster and that may ultimately win out over most teams, but Bonita proved last week that you still have to play the games. Bonita came into this season with big expectations and have scuffled out the gate. Maybe the win last week was the spark that gets them going. Ayala is deep and talented while Glendora appears to be back to their winning ways after a rough 2016 season. There are four very good teams at the top of this league and the ones that earn a postseason birth will be battle tested and primed for a deep run in the playoffs.
Trinity League: Widely considered the top league in the state – some say the country – the Trinity League this year features close to 50 Division I baseball commits amongst its six teams. 50! The big question this year is who is the favorite? While in years past it was pretty obvious to identify the top team, 2017 is different. Is it Bosco with their incredible pitching depth? Is Mater Dei with their overall talent? Is it Servite with their mix of veterans and young talent at most positions? Is Santa Margarita with their consistency? How about JSerra with best player in Orange County, a key transfer and a lot of young talent? Or is it OLu with their 11 DI commits? What we do know is that OLu is off to a 2-0 start against Santa Margarita while others are waiting to start league (OLu started league early because they’re playing in the NHSI next week). These games are always fun to watch because of the talent level, the resources poured into these programs, and because of the expectations.
OTHER LEAGUE RACES TO WATCH
Sunset League: This looks like Huntington Beach then everyone else, but this league is never what is appears to be. 

Freeway League: Fullerton appears to be the frontrunner, but don’t count out Troy. Love what Arlie Kearney is doing at Sunny Hills.

Sea View League: Hans Crouse is the best player on what appears to be the best team in the league.

Moore League: The league may be down a little bit from a talent standpoint, but this is always a fun league to follow. Read the league preview from my friends at the PT Gazette. 

Crestview League: Foothill is off to a great start and El Dorado is right behind them. The league title should come down to their three game series.
LOOKING AHEAD (AGAIN):

In my opinion the class of 2019 is the next best class in the SoCal area as it pertains to MLB Draft prospects. That class is as loaded at the top as this current class, but in my opinion has far greater depth – especially on the mound where there are several top pitchers in this class.

When Vanderbilt comes in to SoCal to pull kids out of here, that ought to be an indication of how special the talent is, and the Commodores did that four times already!
Let’s look at some of the top prospects in this class. Please remember this is in no way a complete list – that would require its own post which I may do later, this is just my opinion of who the top players are in this class.
This is not a ranking of these players; these are just notes. Players are listed in no particular order.
Right handed pitcher Wesley Scott (Vanderbilt) of Woodcrest Christian in Riverside is arguably the top player in the state for the 2019 class. Working in the low 90’s with his fastball, Scott has easy arm actions that projects big time. Scott has enjoyed a lot of success during the summer circuit and I’d expect him to be on the Underclass Area Code Games team – at worst – this summer.
Outfielder/Left handed pitcher Spencer Jones (Vanderbilt) of La Costa Canyon is the next big thing for the Mavericks who produced number one overall pick Mickey Moniak in 2016. Jones flashed big time power at the plate, but it’s on the mound where he’s most intriguing. Standing at 6’7” Jones’s ball gets on hitters in a hurry and is already in the mid-80’s.
Outfield Jasiah Dixon (USC) of Orange Lutheran is arguably the most athletic player in his class as evidenced by his 6.3 60-yard time. A former football player who has decided to focus on baseball, Dixon is a freakishly athletic player who is beginning to show flashes of power as well. A big time outfield arm to go with speed, Dixon too will likely have a big summer and position himself for more acclaim heading into his junior year.
Catcher Gabe Briones (USC) of Riverside King is, in my opinion, the best catcher in this class. Briones is a three-time Team USA member – 12U, 15U twice. I saw Briones as an eighth grader playing in a league against college redshirts and he more than handled himself calling his own pitches and handling himself at the plate. Briones shows power potential with a short, compact swing that stays in the zone. If that power comes, look out.
Left handed pitcher Joe Naranjo (Cal State Fullerton) of Ayala is one of my favorite players in this class because all he does is compete. I had the opportunity to coach him in a USA Baseball event for a weekend as an eighth grader and was completely impressed with his demeanor and approach to the game. A member of the 15U National Team last summer, Naranjo has shown the ability to hit at a high level to go along with his pitching skills. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the next two-way standout for the Titans.
Left handed pitcher Cooper Benson (Arizona State) of San Luis Obispo is a household name in baseball circles because of his natural ability to throw gas! Working in the high-80’s to low-90’s, Benson uses a quirky delivery that has a lot of moving parts which adds to the intrigue. He’s not afraid to work inside and challenge hitters giving him that old school feel.
Middle infielder Johnny Olmstead (USC) of Newport Harbor is a name that continues to pop up when speaking to scouts because of his ability to hit and his developing power (see video below). A slick fielder who can run well, Olmstead is having a break out season so far for the Sailors and is one to continue to watch in this class.
Left handed pitcher Tony Jacob (Vanderbilt) of Saugus is as intriguing as they come in this class. Working in the mid-to-upper 80’s, Jacob is seeing his stock rise due in part to his ability to throw multiple pitches and the fact that he’s a winner. Jacob will be a four-year starter when he graduates and has already played on one National Team (15U) and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does that again.
Right handed pitcher Cole Dale (UCLA) of Notre Dame is one of those pitchers that after you watch him throw you ask yourself, “how’d he do that?” Very few kids his age have as deep an understanding of how to pitch – working both sides of the plate, mixing up speeds, changing locations, etc. – as Dale which is what separates him at this stage in the game.
If Briones is the #1 catcher in this class, then Jared Thomas (Miami) of Cantwell Sacred Heart is 1A. Thomas burst onto the scene last year and carried that momentum into the summer where he was lights out on the travel ball circuit. A good defensive catcher, it’s his left-handed swing that separates Thomas from other hitters in this class. Shows present power that projects continued improvement.
OTHER TOP PLAYERS:
Michael Carpentier Jr. (TCU) – Citrus Valley
CJ Rodriguez (Vanderbilt) – Mater Dei
Jake Skipworth – Riverside King
Justin Campbell – Simi Valley  (Note: I have not seen Campbell pitch in person so I didn’t list him above)
Josh Hahn – Huntington Beach
Evan Fitterer (UCLA) – Aliso Niguel
Jayden Cruz (Cal State Fullerton) – Gahr
Eddie Pelc (USC) – Sage Hill
Michael Curialle (UCLA) – JSerra
Connor Buchanan (USC) – La Canada
Mac Bingham (SC) – Torrey Pines
Cody Freeman (Baylor) – Etiwanda
Nick Pena (Oregon) – Riverside King

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THE BEST PLAYER YOU’VE LIKELY NEVER HEARD OF:

When a professional baseball scout says that a kid is the most athletic player he’s seen in his class, it catches your attention. When he says that about a player in the 2019 class you better pay close attention.
Such is the case with sophomore shortstop JaJa Bellinger of Carson. Bellinger will be a four-year starter at both quarterback and shortstop for the Colts when all is said and done. While his future is bright in both sports, it is baseball – in the opinion of at least a few scouts – where his ceiling is highest.
Bellinger has the rare combination of tools that intrigue scouts. He can run, hit for average while flashing power, plays defense at an advanced level, and can throw.  His arm may be his best tool in a box full of them.
Congrats, and good luck this season, JaJa!

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I JUST REALLY LIKE THIS GUY
RJ Lan of La Mirada is signed to play baseball at TCU and the funny thing is he could’ve played Division I football had he chosen to. According to his football coach, Lan was the only player in SoCal with Division I offers in both football and baseball. Based on the video below, I think the kid made the right decision. 

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COMMENTARY

Finally, I want to discuss the new competitive balance playoff format for a bit. Let me get it out of the way, if my understanding of the new format as explained to me by several coaches is correct, I think the CIF SS screwed this up big time.

With teams from the same league being in different divisions, this is not going to end well at all.

Take for example the BIG VIII League. The league is the best it’s been in years but all the teams are spread out in different divisions. Corona, Norco, Santiago are in Division I, King is in Division 2, and Roosevelt and Centennial are in Division 3.

At last checked, Roosevelt was #1 in D3 and King was #5 in D2. The rest of the teams are pretty chalk full of talent too.

Could you imagine if Roosevelt is #1 in D3 at the end of the year but finishes fourth in league and doesn’t make the playoffs?  Or what if King or Norco finish in 4thor 5th place in the league and miss the postseason?  

The same holds true in Trinity League if Bosco lives up to expectations. The Braves are absolutely loaded on the mound and have some very good hitters as well. They could theoretically finish in the top 5 of Division 2, but finish fourth in league and not make the postseason. Or, what if the Braves finish in the top 3 in league and bump a fellow league team from the Division I playoffs?
Compounding the issue, it appears the top divisions will not have any wild card entries either.
Look, I’m for equity and fairness. But this seems too much like the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality that has led youth sports to where it is.
I don’t like. I think it’s ridiculous. And if I’m CIF SS commissioner Rob Wigod, I better start crafting a response because there are going to be some angry coaches calling and emailing him when the brackets are released.

As always, thanks for reading. 

Until next time, see you at the ballfield…

Email me at socalhsbaseball@gmail.com

OC Top 10 3/20/17

Here is how I voted in this weeks OC Top 10.

Huntington Beach (7-0): Continue to be the best team in Orange County. Hagen Danner is off to a Player of the Year type season for the Oilers.

Orange Lutheran (5-1): Only loss is to the top team in the county. The Lancers have a ton of talent in their offensive lineup and it appears the pitching is beginning to catch up too.
Beckman (7-1): Winning the Lerner Division of the Newport Elks Tournament is no joke, and neither are the Patriots. Matt McLain is a superstar waiting to happen and Zach Espinoza is a bona fide ace.
Mission Viejo (6-3): One loss is to Beckman and another happened with a lot of starters on the bench. Coach Aschbach has plenty to be excited about with this team. Tanner Bibee is off to a Pitcher of the Year type season.
Mater Dei (6-1): The Monarchs are quietly off to a great start. Their only loss came in a 3-2 contest against Beckman. Jonathan Schiffer is excelling both on the mound and at the plate.
Foothill (8-2): The Knights are playing tough for head coach Vince Brown after having to deal with some nonsense before the season started. Junior Sean Higgins is tearing the cover off the ball in the early going.
Servite (9-2): The Friars are rolling heading into Trinity League play after scoring a big win over Chatsworth last week. Coach Shawn Gilbert has his best team since he’s been at Servite, we’ll see just how good in the coming weeks. My guess is they’ll be more than competitive in league.
JSerra (0-3): How can an 0-3 team be ranked, you ask? Easy, they were in both games against the #1 team in OC and played tough against highly ranked De La Salle. The Lions are not going to go quietly, you can count on it.
Los Al (7-3): After winning the Loara Tournament the Griffins had a three-game week including a matchup with top ranked Huntington Beach. Pitching depth may be a concern for LosAl, but for now they’re in the Top 10 for me.

Newport Harbor (7-4): The Sailors crack the Top 10 for me after sweeping neighbor CdM in the Battle of the Bay played at UC Irvine. This may be the best team Harbor has had in the last few years, in my opinion. Johnny Olmstead is a flat-out player. 

Email me at socalhsbaseball@gmail.com

SoCal Baseball Notes 3/13/17

The 2017 season is well underway and so far there have been some surprises. A few teams we expected to come out of the gate hot have not quite found their groove yet, while other teams have come out of that gate on fire while not expected too. 

In other words, it’s a typical high school baseball season in SoCal.

The San Diego Section got underway last week and already the section has seen two no-hitters! The “big boys” (Cathedral Catholic, La Jolla Country Day) down there are doing big boy things, while once proud programs (La Jolla, Patrick Henry) are showing signs of revitalization.
In the Southern Section, champions have been crowned in the two biggest tournaments – Loara and Newport Elks – in all divisions and now teams turn their attention to familiar foes.
Let’s dive right in.
League Time:
With most of the pre-league tournaments done, it’s time for the league season to kick off for most teams. For public school players this is the best time of the season because it usually means you’re playing against your buddies who attend rival neighborhood schools.
In many cases these are the same buddies guys have been playing with and against since their youth baseball days. In today’s day-and-age of recruiting, transfers, and general anger from parents over playing time, it’s refreshing to see teams with seniors that have been playing together for four years.
There are many great leagues in SoCal that annually produce a bevy of talent for the college and professional ranks, and 2017 is no exception.

The Trinity League is often considered by many to be the best league in the state and that may very well be the case with roughly 50 Division I commits playing among the six participating schools. 

However, there are plenty of leagues that play a very good brand of baseball and should have fierce competition this season.

Look for the champions of the Mission, Crestview, Sunset, South Coast, Palomares, Big VIII, and Pacific Coast leagues to make deep runs in the postseason. These teams will be battle tested and the winners of these leagues will have  he advantage of competing in tough leagues.
Looking Ahead:
While this year’s MLB Draft prospects in SoCal are as good as any class in recent memory, the 2018 class has its fair share of talent too.  The list of prospects from SoCal is top heavy, but just like every other year, there will be players that rise draft boards with solid summer and fall seasons.
(Note: this is by no means a complete list, just guys I’ve seen that have stood out)
At the top of everyone’s list is Brice Turang of Santiago HS in Corona. Turang was the MVP of the 15U National Team a couple of summers ago. He made the 18U National Team last summer only to suffer an injury and miss the entire tournament. The LSU commit is hands down the best high school infield prospect in the country and will have a busy summer.
While many will have varying opinions on the next best group of players available from the region, I’ll offer mine here.
Kameron Ojeda of St. John Bosco is a freak ballplayer. The catcher will have started behind the dish since his freshman year when he showed signs of his ability. Well, now his bat has caught up to his defense. The Cal State Fullerton commit is one of the most polished hitters in his class as demonstrated by eye opening performance in many of the top events this fall/winter.
Randy Abshier of Otay Ranch High School is arguably the top left-handed pitcher in SoCal. Reaching the low 90’s with a fairly effortless delivery, the University of Arizona commit stands 6’5” and has plenty of room to fill out his frame. The son of a coach – dad is head coach at Grossmont College in San Diego – Abshier has benefitted from quality coaching both at home and through his travel ball organization.
Preston Hartsell from Corona del Mar High School has done an incredible job in transforming himself physically which has provided major returns on the field. The USC commit is a monster in the weight room and the power part of his game reflects that. He’s always had very good bat speed and athleticism, but now the power is being displayed more. Have I mentioned the power? This kid will continue to climb draft boards this summer/fall.
Brandon Deiter from South Hills High School is the ace of a highly ranked team and will have an opportunity to win many games for the Huskies this season. But it’s his defense at shortstop and his bat that have scouts intrigued. His ability to drive balls to all parts of the ballpark – and sometimes out of them – combined with incredible hand-eye coordination makes him an intriguing prospect.
Mason Pelio from Rancho Bernardo High School is the next in line of stud ballplayers produced by Broncos head coach Sam Blalock. The Boston College commit touches 94 mph with his fastball and offers good feel for secondary pitches. At 6’4”, the academically gifted right-handed pitcher has plenty of room to continue to grow and fill out.
Tony Bullard from JW North High School has been a known prospect since his freshman year when he showed up to campus at 6’3”. Bullard now stands 6’5” and isn’t done growing from a physical standpoint. His game continues to grow, too. He’s intriguing because he reaches the low 90’s on the mound, and can really swing the bat offensively. Bullard is committed to the University of Arizona.
Branden Boissiere from Woodcrest Christian High School burst on the scene before his freshman season when he led the 15U National Team to a Gold Medal. All he’s done since is continue to use his left-handed swing to produce great results. The USC commit is often criticized for hammering low level pitching during the high school season, but with Woodcrest’s jump from Division 5 to Division 2, Boissiere should provide ample opportunities for Boissiere to silence critics.
Nick Nastrini is a right-handed pitcher from Cathedral Catholic that is committed to UCLA and the Bruins will be happy to have him arrive on campus. The long, lean Nastrini oozes projectability for scouts because of his ability to both pitch and hit a high level. His future is likely on the mound where he reaches the high 80’s despite being fairly raw there. At the plate, Nastrini seemingly barrels everything up and drives balls with power.
Kingston Liniak from Mission Hills High School is one of my favorite prospects in this class because of the skill set he brings to the table. At 6’2” 175, Liniak is a quick-twitch athlete that is long, lean and freakishly athletic. The USD commit gets very good reads from the outfield where profiles best in right field because of his arm strength. At the plate he presently keeps it simple resulting in a fluid, consistent swing that should produce more power as he fills out.
Other 2018 Prospects (high school – college commitment):
Jaden Fein (Royal – SDSU)
Blake Burzell (Laguna Beach – Duke)
Matt McLain (Beckman – UCLA)
Clay Owens (Norco – USC)
Zack Prajzner (San Marcos – Notre Dame)
Grant Burton (Mater Dei – Stanford)
Blake Peyton (El Capitan – Arizona)
Jake Moberg (Vista Murrieta – UCLA)
Jacob Allred (Cathedral Catholic – Arizona)
Mikey Perez (Gahr – UCLA)

Looking Further Ahead:

The list of stud freshman playing baseball is extensive, and rightfully so. With a handful of these players already committed to D1 schools – USC has a whopping 6 of them – it is not a stretch to say that this class is loaded with projectable talent.
(Note: this is by no means a complete list, just guys I’ve seen that have stood out)
At the top of the list for me is right-handed pitcher Jared Jones of La Mirada. A member of the Gold Medal winning 15U USA Baseball National Team last summer, those in baseball circles have known the name for some time, and Jones hasn’t disappointed in the early goings of the season. With a fastball that already reaches into the low 90’s Jones, the USC commit has the attention of pro scouts already because of his command of secondary pitches and his makeup.
Joining Jones on the list of top freshman in SoCal is his teammate and catcher Emilio Morales who stands at 6’1” and demonstrates the types of tools that will have college scouts enamored. The magic number for catchers is 2.0, no, that’s not their GPA, instead that’s their pop-time down to second base and Morales regularly works below that.
Pete Crow-Armstrong of Harvard Westlake is an intriguing freshman prospect. Crow-Armstrong is big – 6’0” 175 – and powerful and that power translates with the bat where it is easy to project his potential.
Crow-Armstrong’s Harvard Westlake teammate Drew Bowser also makes this list for me. Bowser’s ceiling is high because of his defensive prowess at either of the middle infield positions where he shows a quick first step to go with very good range and good, reliable hands. His tall frame allows for room to fill out which shouldn’t affect his quick hands at the plate.
Parker Welch of Riverside King is a name not a whole lot of people outside the region know about, but trust me when I tell you that college coaches do. The kid is well above average defensively at his shortstop position and shows the ability to handle himself at the plate. Will be a highly sought after recruit in due time.
Daylen Reyes of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is arguably the most polished of the freshman on this list that is not a pitcher. A UCLA commit, Reyes plays a premium position (shortstop) when Hunter Greene is pitching.
Christian Rodriguez of Orange Lutheran is an incredibly intriguing prospect. Standing at 6’5” tall, the freshman is an imposing figure on the mound. His fastball works at a downhill plane not often seen at the high school level, much less from a freshman. His curveball is already a very good pitch while his changeup continues to develop. This guy is next in the long line of quality pitchers to come out of OLu in the last decade.
Nate Nankil of Bonita Vista HS in the San Diego section is a very intriguing freshman that is already committed to Cal State Fullerton. The shortstop flashes good arm strength across the diamond to go with very good footwork and instincts. Shows good power potential with the bat and already is a gap-to-gap hitter.
Tank Espalin of San Dimas is the next highly touted player for the Saints. The kid can flat out pick it at shortstop and the bat, oh the bat! Espalin is one of the more advanced hitters in his class which has resulted in an average above .400 in the early portion of this season.
Other Top Freshman (high school – college commitment):
Garrett Guillemette (Servite)
Max Rajcic (OLu – UCLA)
Kyle Casper (Valhalla – Arizona)
Brandon Madrigal (Oaks Christian)
Lucas Gordon (Crossroads)
Sebastian Murillo (Fountain Valley – Arizona)
Colby Canales (Servite – LMU)
Roger Vasquez (Tustin)
Connor Bane (Santa Margarita)
Fisher Pyatt (St. Augustine)

New Season, New Names:
As part of the couple games I took in on Saturday, I came across a few new guys that stood out. It seems that there is an endless supply of talented baseball players in SoCal because just when I think I’ve seen it all a new guy pops up that intrigues me.
I was out at the Servite vs Vista Murrieta game and saw an arm for the Friars that was both funky and effective.
Sophomore Alec Rath came in to the game in a tough situation and made the most of his opportunity by shutting down a Vista Murrieta threat. His delivery is unorthodox – he uses a fast leg kick and a pronounced back turn to hide the ball well. This is a name that I will file away and check back on later in the season.

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The second player that made me pay attention on Saturday was Ted Burton of Edison. A slick fielding middle-infielder, Burton is the prototypical player for many of SoCal’s colleges: hard nosed, old school, will do whatever it takes to win type attitude.
Watching Burton during pregame prompted me to immediately begin texting contacts to find out as much information as I could about him. Let’s just say that many coaches got a text message with his information on it. The kid can flat out play.
Games That I’m Excited About This Week:
Los Al @ Bishop Amat
Harvard Westlake @ Alemany
Centennial @ Santiago
Chatsworth @ Servite
King @ Norco
El Dorado @ Canyon
South Hills @ Bonita
LB Poly @ Millikan
De La Salle @ JSerra
Los Al @ Huntington Beach
De La Salle @ Mater Dei
Loyola @ Notre Dame
El Toro @ Gahr
De La Salle @ OLu
Damien @ Upland
The Best Player You’ve Likely Never Heard Of:
It seems that every week a different player pops that I get a text or tweet about with the message that usually says something along the lines of “what do you know about this kid?” It’s cool when I know something about the kid and can respond. When I don’t know anything I usually reach out to my boy SoCal Steve because let’s face it, Steve sees and knows everyone!
Anyhow, for this week’s winner of the “Best Player You’ve Likely Never Heard Of” award I have seen him and know plenty about him due to a friend who is tight with his family.
Dylan Zavala from Walnut High School is a catcher committed to New Mexico. You might say, “he’s committed to a D1 school, how is he unheard of?” Well, because of his size every school in the Great State of California ignored him despite his ability to hit the crap out the ball. For further proof, see video below.
 

Congrats, Dylan. With this award and $2.00, you can get a cup of coffee.

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Commentary:

This week we are being constantly reminded of what not to do as parents as it pertains to our children’s participation in sports. Unless you’re living in a hole somewhere, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Lavar Ball and his ridiculous comments about both his children’s high school team, and their future earning potential as pros. 

You’ve probably also heard his claim that he would school Michael Jordan in one-on-one.

Firstly, MJ is the greatest player ever, so stop Lavar.
Secondly, stop talking about what your kids deserve to be paid – $1 Billion dollar shoe deal? You’re high as a kite.
But the biggest problem I have is with him saying that when his boys are through with Chino Hills High School that the team will go back to being s**t. I don’t have a problem with being confident in your kids abilities, after all, if you’ve raised them right you should both be confident in their ability. It’s the arrogance that I have a problem with.
When you cross that line between confidence and arrogance, that’s generally when things begin to go south, but Lavar doesn’t seem to think that. In fact, it’s as though he thinks the complete opposite and, unfortunately, at least one of his sons seems to think the same way.
The true losers in all of this are his sons. While way more talented than I ever was on a basketball court, these boys don’t even appear to be enjoying themselves and with the added burden of expectations laid on them by a mouthy father, one can only wonder how this will turn out.
The arrogance being displayed by Lavar Ball in this case reminds of once highly touted hoopster that was a can’t miss prospect. He was so good – or so he thought – the he once told Kobe Bryant – KOBE FREAKING BRYANT – that he would dominate him when he got to the league.
That player you ask? Lenny Cooke. If you don’t know his story, look it up.
Until next time, see you at the ballpark…

Email me at socalhsbaseball@gmail.com

What A Start To The Season

Welcome back to the zany world of high school baseball in SoCal. 

This column will share my  insight into what is, in my opinion, the best region for baseball in the country. And 2017 may be the best year in memory given the amount of talented players strewn around SoCal. 
If you read any of my posts last year you’ll know that I don’t take myself too seriously and enjoy having a good time with this column. People tell me that I tell it like it is, I don’t know about all that, but I do know that I don’t like to sugarcoat things. And I appreciate the same in return. 
So, if you disagree with something that I post here, fire away in the comments below.
Okay, now that we got the pleasantries out of the way, let’s dive in 
WEST COAST, BEST COAST?
We are lucky to live where we live when it comes to high school baseball. The coaching, the players, the weather all combine to produce great talent year-in year-out. 
If you mix in the summer travel ball circuit, some of the best players and teams from around the nation reside in SoCal. 
Need proof? 
Consider that in 2016 the 18U National Team, which won yet another Gold Medal, had seven players from SoCal. You may not think that’s a big deal, but when you realize there were only 20 players on the roster, you begin to understand. 
Take it a step further and look at the 2016 MLB Draft. The #1 overall pick, Mickey Moniak, toiled his trade in North San Diego County after earning Team MVP honors while playing for the 18U National Team in the summer of 2015. 
I think you get the idea. At least I hope you do. 
So having said that, let’s get started on this crazy thing we call high school baseball in SoCal. 
THE PROSPECTS
2017 is a banner year for high school prospects in SoCal. As many as eight players have potential to be selected in the first round alone! And while that’s not likely to happen, the group of top prospects does include a couple players being talked about as the top overall selection. 
Below is a list of those prospects in no particular order. Note: most videos courtesy of our friends at Prospect Pipeline.
Hunter Greene (Sherman Oaks Notre Dame): Recently touched 101 mph with his fastball and has advanced feel for two more pitches. Oh yeah, and he has potential to hit 25 home runs at the next level while playing shortstop. Hands down the best high school prospect in the country. Greene is signed with UCLA. Greene threw five innings and hit a grand slam in his 2017 debut. More on that later. 
Royce Lewis (JSerra): Lewis was the best player in the best league (Trinity) in back-to-back seasons. Barring injury, there’s no reason he won’t pull off the trifecta in 2017. Lewis can hit for average and power and is one of the fastest players in the country. During the Under Armour All-American game, Lewis nearly hit one out of Wrigley Field (it bounced off the bleachers onto Waveland Avenue). Lewis is signed with UC Irvine. 
Hans Crouse (Dana Hills): Does things that you can’t teach – like throw 97 mph. Pitches with flair and excitability. Appears to be doing things the right way after some scouts questioned his maturity. Gives Dana Hills a major boost despite a recent alleged “inquiry.”
Nick Pratto (Huntington Beach): No hitter in the region had a better fall season than Pratto. The USC commit put on a show during batting practice at a recent MLB Scouting event. One NL scout said about the left-handed hitting first baseman, “this kid has won everything since he was 12 years old; you can’t quantify what that means at the next level.” Pratto is signed with USC. 
Kyle Hurt (Torrey Pines): At 6’4” 205, Hurt already has the physical traits of a Big League pitcher. Mix in the fact that he throws 94 mph and the USC commit has the full attention of scouts. If he continues to develop the consistency in his secondary pitches, you will hear his name early in the 2017 draft.
Garret Mitchell (Orange Lutheran):  Along with Lewis, Mitchell is one of the fastest players in the country. Unlike Lewis, Mitchell is a sure fire center field prospect. An outstanding overall athlete – there’s a video out there of him doing a standing dunk of a basketball while wearing sandals – the UCLA commit is being talked about as a top 60 selection. 
Jeremiah Estrada (Palm Desert): The right-handed pitcher is going to have scouts trekking out to the desert en-masse this season. With a fastball that touches 96 and a devastating breaking ball, the UCLA commit has climbed scouting boards since bursting on the scene two seasons ago in winter scout ball. In addition to his stuff, it’s his makeup that sets him apart from many of his peers. 
Nick Allen (Francis Parker): In my opinion, Allen is the best defensive shortstop in the country. Allen was once considered to be too small for scouts, but when you watch him play, he’s a highlight waiting to happen. Allen has bulked up and what once were bloopers of infielders heads are not line drives into the gaps. He’s also shown the ability to get into pitches and drive them out of the park on occasion. Allen is committed to USC. 
Calvin Mitchell (Rancho Bernardo): The stocky Mitchell is a treat to watch hit both in batting practice and in-game. His smooth approach generally leads to balls hit very hard all over the field. The USD commit has impressed all fall as he appears to have significantly improved his defense, which was once a considered a liability. 
Hagen Danner (Huntington Beach): Seems like we’ve been hearing about Danner for 10 years now, but 2017 is finally his draft year. The question on Danner is where do you play him after you draft him? He touches 94-95 on the mound, but can hit at an advanced level too. Does he play first base or catch if you draft him as a hitter? I’m glad I don’t have to make these decisions. One thing is for sure, he’s going to get drafted – and likely pretty high – and have to make a decision about honoring his UCLA commit or go pro. 
Others: These players are in the next tier of prospects, but all should have the opportunity to hear their names called during the 2017 MLB Draft. 
Ben Ramirez (Eastlake)
Jayson Gonzalez (Bishop Amat)
Carlos Lomeli (St. John Bosco)
Adam Kerner (Oaks Christian)
Tyler Freeman (Etiwanda)
Kevin Abel (Madison)
Matthew Sauer (Righetti)
Jacob Amaya (South Hills)
Jonny Deluca (Agoura)
Blake Beers (Loyola)
Sam Glick (El Toro)
Tanner Bibee (Mission Viejo)
WHAT A START!
The 2017 CIF-SS season is only a couple weeks old and already we’ve been treated to some great performances. 
Hunter Greene’s grand slam and seven strikeout performance did nothing but further cement his status as the top high school prospect in SoCal. 

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Ayala is off to a great start at 6-0 and will play in the championship of the Chino tournament. Head coach Chris Vogt has a bevy of talent on his roster and at the top is two-way standout Joe Naranjo. The LHP/1B is sophomore Cal State Fullerton commit who is a quiet leader of the team. Patrick Ise, Adam Seminaris, Dylan Cook, and Daniel Ramirez are all batting over .400 for the Bulldogs who will challenge South Hills for the Palomares League Title. 

On opening day Foutain Valley got a combined no hitter from pitchers Jared Brand, Isaac Campbell, and Justin Yang. The Barons always make noise in the tough Sunset League and it appears they have some horses to do the same in 2017.

El Dorado is off to an impressive start for head coach Matt Lucas. After an opening loss to Cypress, the Golden Hawks have reeled off three impressive wins highlighted by a 4-3 win over a very good, top 10 ranked, El Toro team. The Golden Hawks play Los Alamitos tomorrow in the semis of the Loara Tournament. 

Mission Viejo’s Tanner Bibee had one of the more impressive performances of opening day. The senior threw a complete game shutout over a stout Cypress team. The impressive part of it was he struck out nine, walked none, and only gave three hits on 81 pitches. That’s efficiency. And that’s the reason his name is climbing scouts boards. He followed that up with a strong performance last week against a stout Riverside King HS. Bibee is expected to start the championship game of the Newport Elks Tournament this Saturday.

Speaking of Riverside King, the Wolves are one of those teams people like to call sneaky good because of the talent that not many know about. This season is a new beginning as head coach Steve Madril came in after guiding JW North for 10 years including a CIF-SS Championship in 2011. The Wolves opened the 2017 campaign with a resounding double-header sweep of highly touted Bishop Amat. It’s way too early to tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if King is one of the better teams at seasons end.

La Mirada scored a solid win over Downey 6-0 on Opening Day and continue to roll. The Mats have a ton of talent on their roster, but it was lesser known players Kevin Smith (3 RBI) and Eddie Salcido (6 shutout innings) that led the way on opening day. Coach Zurn played as tough a winter schedule as anyone, and will play in the Boras Classic this year making them the first non-division 1 team to participate in the tournament since the first incarnation of the event. Freshman pitcher Jared Jones (USC) gives the Mats an ace to build with to complement Kevin Kendall (UCLA), RJ Lan (TCU), Chad Wilson (Uncommitted for now), and host of other offensive weapons.
Huntington Beach swept a pair of games from Aliso Niguel on Saturday, both in shutout fashion. But the real fireworks for the Oilers came this past weekend compliments of Hagen Danner when, in front of some 30 scouts, he went yard not once, but twice. He also was 92-94 on the mound. Talk about a having a day. 
 

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One side note about Aliso, one person whose opinion and ability to evaluate talent I respect greatly told me the Wolverines have arguably the best freshman and sophomore class in the county. 

Legendary coach Bob Zamora who is one of the greatest coaches in Orange County baseball history leads Capo Valley. His cougars had an impressive double-header sweep over what should be a very good Edison team. It’s a good start for the Cougars who will play in a lot of big games this season. 
Servite head coach Shawn Gilbert may have his best team in 2017 after taking some lumps the last couple seasons. That initial freshman class is now juniors and there is reason for optimism in the land of the Friars. Servite swept a double-header against a good Villa Park team on opening Saturday needing extras to clinch the first win. The Friars had an exciting finish to a big win over Cypress to improve to 5-1 in the early part of the season. 

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COMMENTARY:
I had planned on writing about a hot topic dealing with parents, administrators and coaches in this section until I got what I once considered a disturbing text, but is now commonplace. And with baseball recruiting picking up in earnest on March 1st, the first day coaches are allowed back out on the road, I felt this was a good time to share some thoughts on the topic. 
The text was from a high school coach in the area with a screenshot of a tweet congratulating an 8th grader for committing to a Power 5 school. I’m sure this young man is a pretty talented player. I mean he obviously has some tools because the school wouldn’t accept a commitment – presumably after making him an offer – if he didn’t.
The problem I have is this, among the three “revenue” sports in college – football, basketball, and baseball – it’s the latter that is probably the most difficult to project future ability. 
Think of it this way, an 8th grade basketball player can have great ball control skill and a smooth jumper or the ability to pass like nobodies business. Those skills are not likely to deteriorate as he grows. But, the games factors are constant. The hoop is 10 feet high. The court is the same size, etc. 
Similarly, an 8th grade football player may demonstrate characteristics that a coach covets that will only improve. Keep in mind that an 8th grader committing to a school for football is incredibly uncommon, unless, of course, Lane Kiffin coaches the school’s team.
But, I digress. 
In baseball, college coaches are accepting commitments for 8th graders at a pace that is reaching scary levels. Eighth grade boys are generally in the area of 13-14 years old – sometimes older – meaning most of them are playing 13U, 14U, or 15U. If you’ve ever been to a 15U tournament, you know that rarely do you see pitchers that flat out wow you.

Therefore, if little Jimmy is crushing a pitcher who is at-best an average to above average varsity player in their part of the country, how then can one assume that Jimmy is going to handle big time college level pitching?

How can coaches predict the continued upward trajectory of a prospect? 
There’s the rub.
Coaches are making assumptions about development that can be dangerous. They’re assuming that little Jimmy is going to continue to develop and become the player they envision he can become. 
I’ve been lucky to befriend many college coaches at all levels, from JUCO to Power 5, and everything in between. I have not once met a coach that looks forward to getting out to see an 8th grader play. 
Not once.
When I ask coaches their opinion on this trend of committing 8th graders, the answer I usually get is, “if we don’t do it, our opponents will.” 
It’s the side of the game that’s bothersome. The business side. With salaries escalating at a disproportionate rate, some coaches are feeling pressure to attract the best talent, regardless of age. 
The worst part of it is if a player doesn’t develop as expected, schools, for the most part, simply cut ties with said player.
It’s a sad state of affairs. Coaches are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. And that, my friends, is the direction sports are headed.
Until next time, see you at the ballpark…

2017 MLK Tourney (updated 1/12)

The annual MLK tourney has grown into one of the best preseason tournaments in SoCal thanks to the incredible work by event organizers. What started as just a few teams at a few fields has grown into an event that has 48 of the best teams in SoCal all descending to fields in-and-around the Orange County area.

The event is presently scheduled to begin Friday and run through Monday. With rain expected to hit the Southland all day on Thursday, coaches are hoping to have fields ready to play on by the weekend.

There have already been modifications to the schedule as a result of the weather that’s hit the area this week and there are likely to be more coming. Therefore, for updates throughout the event, be sure to follow @sanjuanmissions for updates on the schedule and game results.

The event is expected to have many top committed and uncommitted players participating, giving pro scouts an opportunity to get eyes on some upcoming draft eligible prospects. Every coach I’ve spoken with told me they look forward to this event every year as it serves as the unofficial kickoff for their season.

“It’s an opportunity to play really good competition in mid-January which gives us a really good opportunity to evaluate where we are headed into the season,” said one participating head coach. “We hope (the tournament) continues for a long time.”

Below is the complete schedule as of Wednesday, January 11th. 

1. Jserra Catholic 2. Chatsworth 3. Vista Murrieta 4. El Dorado
Friday: vs Villa Park 4:00 No Game No Game No Game
Friday: vs Agoura 6:30 No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: vs Calabassas 8:00 at Jserra 10:30 at Santa Margarita 10:00 vs De LaSalle 1:00 (JS)
Saturday: vs Chatsworth 10:30 at Dana Hills 1:30 vs Valencia 1:30 (Saddle) vs Bishop Amat 6:00 (JS)
Sunday: No Game at Tesoro 10:00 at San Clemente 10:00 at St John Bosco 10:00
Sunday: No Game No Game No Game No Game
Monday: vs Moorpark 10:30 at St. John Bosco 10:00 vs Servite 8:00 (JS) vs West Ranch 12:00
8. Moorpark 9. San Luis Obispo 10. Canyon 11. Great Oak
Friday: No Game No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: at Dana Hills 10:00 at Esperanza 10:00 vs Thousand Oaks 10:00 at El Toro 1:00
Saturday: No Game at El Modena 1:15 vs El Camino Real 1:15 vs Agoura 3:30 (JS)
Sunday: at Mission Viejo 10:00 at Villa Park 10:00 vs Camarillo 10:00 No Game
Sunday: at Tesoro 1:00 at Canyon 1:00 vs San Luis Obispo 1:00 vs Valencia 1:00 (Sant)
Monday: at Jserra 10:30 No Game vs Palm Desert 10:00 at Corona 10:00
15. Calabasas 16. Malibu 17. Palm Desert 18. Agoura
Friday: No Game No Game No Game at Jserra Catholic 6:30
Saturday: at JSerra 8:00 vs Riverside Poly 8:00 (JS) at Tesoro 10:00 vs Palm Desert 1:00 (JS)
Saturday: at Woodbridge 10:45 at Woodbridge 1:30 vs Agoura 1:00 (JS) vs Great Oak 3:30 (JS)
Sunday: at San Clemente 1:30 at St Paul 10:00 No Game at Santa Margarita 10:00
Sunday: vs Bishop Amat 6:00 (JS) No Game at Santa Margarita 1:00 at Dana Hills 1:30
Monday: vs De LaSalle 8:00 (JS) at Tesoro 10:00 at Canyon 10:00 No Game
22. De La Salle (2) 23. Camarillo 24. Capo Valley Christian 25. JW North
Friday: No Game No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: vs Temecula Valley 10:00 (Sant) at El Modena 10:00 vs West Ranch 10:00 (CYP) at San Clemente 10:00
Saturday: vs Riverside Poly 1:00 (Sant) at Foothill 1:00 vs Sun Valley Poly 2:00 (CYP) at San Juan Hills 1:00
Sunday: vs ML King 8:00 (JS) at Canyon 10:00 at Buena Park 10:00 No Game
Sunday: at Crean Lutheran 10:30 at Esperanza 1:15 at St Paul 1:00 vs West Ranch 1:00 (JS)
Monday: at Santa Margarita 9:00 No Game No Game vs Harvard Westlake 10:30 (JS)
29. Crean Lutheran 30. Bishop Amat 31. Sun Valley Poly 32. Oaks Christian
Friday: No Game No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: vs Sun Valley Poly 10:00 No Game at Crean Lutheran 10:00 at Corona 10:00
Saturday: No Game vs El Dorado 6:00 (JS) at Capo Valley Christian 1:00 (CYP) at Corona/Santiago 1:00
Sunday: vs De Lasalle (2) 10:30 vs Harvard Westlake 3:30 (JS) vs Temecula Valley 10:00 (Sant) at El Toro 10:00
Sunday: vs Birmingham 1:30 vs Calabasas 6:00 (JS) No Game No Game
Monday: vs Newbury Park 10:00 at Corona Santiago 10:00 at Buena Park 10:00 at Mission Viejo 10:00
36. Harvard Westlake 37. Foothill 38. Esperanza 39. Newbury Park
Friday: No Game No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: at El Toro 10:00 vs El Camino Real 10:00 vs San Luis Obispo 10:00 at Villa Park 10:00
Saturday: at Mission Viejo 1:00 vs Camarillo 1:00 vs Newbury Park 1:00 at Esperanza 1:00
Sunday: No Game vs Newbury Park 10:00 vs El Camino Real 10:00 at Foothill 10:00
Sunday: vs Bishop Amat 3:30 (JS) vs Thousand Oaks 1:00 vs Camarillo 1:15 No Game
Monday: vs JW North 10:30 (JS) vs Alemany 10:00 vs Birmingham 10:00 at Crean Lutheran 10:00
43. Woodbridge 44. El Toro 45. Mission Viejo 46. Villa Park
(Ryan Lemmon Stadium)
Friday: No Game No Game No Game at Jserra Catholic 4:00
Saturday: vs Calabassas 10:45 vs Harvard Westlake 10:00 vs De LaSalle 10:00 vs Newbury Park 10:00
Saturday: vs Malibu 1:30 vs Great Oak 1:00 vs Harvard Westlake 1:00 vs Thousand Oaks 1:00
Sunday: at San Juan Hills 10:00 vs Oaks Christian 10:00 vs Moorpark 10:00 vs San Luis Obispo 10:00
Sunday: No Game vs Notre Dame 1:00 vs Riverside Poly 1:00 No Game
Monday: vs Riverside Poly 10:00 vs Etiwanda 10:00 vs Oaks Christian 10:00 No Game
50. Birmingham 51. Notre Dame 52. Alemany Saturday Host Site Game
Friday: No Game No Game No Game Jserra Field 2
Saturday: at St Paul 10:00 at Corona/Santiago 10:00 No Game 8:00 Riverside Poly vs Malibu
Saturday: at Buena Park 1:30 at Corona 1:00 at San Juan Hills 10:00 10:30 Valencia vs Roosevelt
Sunday: vs Etiwanda 10:30 (JS) at El Toro 1:00 vs ML King 10:30 (JS) 1:00 De LaSalle vs El Dorado
Sunday: No Game No Game vs Servite 1:00 (JS)
Monday: at Esperanza 10:00 No Game at Foothill 10:00
Saturday Host Site: Saturday Host Site: Saturday Host Site Sunday Host Site
Jserra Varsity (Saddleback College) Corona Santiago (Field 2) Corona Santiago (Field 2)
8:00 JSerra vs Calabasas 10:00 Temecula Valley vs De LaSalle (2) 10:00 Sun Valley Poly vs Temecula Valley
10:30 Jserra vs Chatsworth 1:00 Riverside Poly vs De LaSalle (2)
1:00 Agoura vs Palm Desert 1:30 Vista Murrieta vs Valencia
3:30 Agoura vs Great Oak
6:00 El Dorado vs Bishop Amat
5. St John Bosco 6. Thousand Oaks 7. Santa Margarita
No Game No Game No Game
Friday: No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: vs Etiwanda 10:00 at Canyon 10:00 vs Vista Murrieta 10:00
Saturday: vs ML King 1:00 at Villa Park 1:00 vs West Ranch 1:00
Sunday: vs El Dorado 10:00 at El Modena 10:00 vs Agoura 10:00
Sunday: vs El Camino Real 2:00 at Foothill 1:00 vs Palm Desert 1:00
Monday: vs Chatsworth 10:00 No Game vs De LaSalle (2) 9:00
12. West Ranch 13. Valencia 14. Temecula Valley
Friday: No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: vs Capo Valley Christian 10:00 (CYP) vs Roosevelt 10:30 (JS) vs De LaSalle 10:00 (Sant)
Saturday: at Santa Margarita 1:00 vs Vista Murrieta 1:30 (Saddle) No Game
Sunday: vs JW North 1:00 (JS) at Corona Santiago 10:00 vs Sun Valley Poly 10:00 (Sant)
Sunday: vs De LaSalle 3:15 (JS) (2) Lights? vs Great Oak 1:00 (Sant) at Roosevelt 1:30
Monday: at El Dorado 12:00 No Game at San Clemente 10:00
19. El Camino Real 20. Buena Park 21. De La Salle
Friday: No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: at Foothill 10:00 vs Servite 10:00 at Mission Viejo 10:00
Saturday: at Canyon 1:15 vs Birmingham 1:30 vs El Dorado 1:00 (JS)
Sunday: at Esperanza 10:00 vs Capo Valley Christian 10:00 vs Servite 8:00 (JS)
Sunday: at St John Bosco 2:00 No Game vs West Ranch 3:15 (JS) (2) Lights?
Monday: No Game vs Sun Valley Poly 10:00 vs Calabasas 8:00 (JS)
26. El Modena 27. Roosevelt 28. Servite
Friday: No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: vs Camarillo 10:00 vs Valencia 10:30 (JS) at Buena Park 10:00
Saturday: vs San Luis Obispo 1:15 at Tesoro 1:30 No Game
Sunday: vs Thousand Oaks 10:00 vs Temecula Valley (Roosevelt) 1:30 vs De LaSalle 8:00 (JS)
Sunday: No Game No Game vs Alemany 1:00 (JS)
Monday: vs Roosevelt 10:00 at El Modena 10:00 vs Vista Murrieta 8:00 (JS)
33. San Clemente 34. Corona/Santiago 35. Etiwanda
Friday: No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: vs Jw North 10:00 vs Notre Dame 10:00 at St John Bosco 10:00
Saturday: vs Calabasas 1:30 vs Oaks Christian 1:00 No Game
Sunday: vs Vista Murrieta 10:00 vs Valencia 10:00 vs Birmingham 10:30 (JS)
Sunday: vs Etiwanda 1:00 No Game at San Clemente 1:00
Monday: vs Temecula Valley 10:00 vs Bishop Amat 10:00 at El Toro 10:00
40. Riverside Poly 41. ML King 42. Corona
Friday: No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: vs Malibu 8:00 (JS) No Game vs Oaks Christian 10:00
Saturday: vs De LaSalle 1:00 (Sant) at St John Bosco 1:00 vs Notre Dame 1:00
Sunday: No Game vs De LaSalle (2) 8:00 (JS) at Dana Hills 10:00
Sunday: at Mission Viejo 1:00 vs Alemany 10:30 (JS) No Game
Monday: at Woodbridge 10:00 at San Juan Hills 10:00 vs Great Oak 10:00
47. San Juan Hills 48. Dana Hills 49. Tesoro
Friday: No Game No Game No Game
Saturday: vs Alemany 10:00 vs Moorpark 10:00 vs Palm Desert 10:00
Saturday: vs Jw North 1:00 vs Chatsworth 1:30 vs Roosevelt 1:30
Sunday: vs Woodbridge 10:00 vs Corona 10:00 vs Chatsworth 10:00
Sunday: No Game vs Agoura 1:30 vs Moorpark 1:00
Monday: vs ML King 10:00 No Game vs Malibu 10:00
Sunday Host Site Games Sunday Host Site Monday Host Site
Jserra Varsity Jserra Field 2 Jserra Varsity/Field 2
8:00 Servite vs De LaSalle 8:00 ML King vs De LaSalle 2 8:00 Servite vs Vista Murrieta
10:30 Alemany vs ML King 10:30 Etiwanda vs Birmingham 10:30 Jserra vs Moorpark
1:00 JW North vs West Ranch 1:00 Alemany vs Servite 8:00 Calabasas vs De LaSalle
3:30 Bishop Amat vs HW 3:15 West Ranch vs De LaSalle (JS) 10:30 Harvard Westlake vs JW North
6:00 Bishop Amat vs Calabasas (Until Dark)?
Monday Host Site Sunday Host Site St Paul: (Late Add)
Corona Santiago (Field 2) Roosevelt HS Sat: vs Birmingham10:00
No Game Temecula Valley at Roosevelt 1:30 Sund: vs Malibu 10:00
Sund: vs Capo Valley Christian 1:00
Monday:

USD MLK Team Camp

USD assistant coach, Brad Marcelino, has built the MLK Team Camp into one of the best camps on the west coast. The event annually draws the top teams from the west coast. What started as an event with top teams from SoCal has expanded to include teams from as far away as Colorado. This years roster of teams includes teams from Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona in addition to the usual roster of quality programs from SoCal.

This years event will certainly attract scouts from most teams with picks at the top of this years draft as the team camp features three of the top 40 players nationally. Garrett Mitchell (OLu/UCLA), Nick Pratto (Huntington Beach/USC), and Hagen Danner (Huntington Beach/UCLA) are scheduled to participate in the event and are expected to be high round draft picks in the 2017 MLB Draft.

Other top players include Evan Fitterer (Aliso Niguel/UCLA), Ethan Reed (Aliso Niguel/USC), Blake Hunt (Mater Dei/Pepperdine), Grant Burton (Mater Dei/Stanford), Emilio Rosas (Mater Dei/CAL), Blake Mann (Chaminade/UCSB), Sean Sullivan (Chaminade/Oregon State), Austin Wells (Bishop Gorman), Drew Swift (Hamilton), Cole Bellinger (Hamilton/Grand Canyon), Nick Brueser (Hamilton/Stanford).

Below is the complete schedule. 

FRIDAY, JANUARY 13TH
DAY OFF: Chaminade, Hamilton, Mater Dei, Orange Lutheran
3:00pm – Huntington Beach HS (CA) vs. Cherry Creek HS (CO)

5:15pm – Aliso Niguel HS (CA) vs. Basic HS (NV) 

7:30pm – Mesquite HS (AZ) vs. Bishop Gorman (NV)
SATURDAY, JANUARY 14TH
DAY OFF: Basic and Cherry Creek
11:00am Orange Lutheran HS (CA) vs. Hamilton HS (AZ)
1:30pm Bishop Gorman HS (NV) vs. Mater Dei HS (CA)
4:00pm Huntington Beach HS (CA) vs. Mesquite HS (AZ)
6:30pm Aliso Niguel HS (CA) vs. Chaminade HS (CA)
SUNDAY, JANUARY 15TH
DAY OFF: Bishop Gorman and Mesquite
11:00am Mater Dei HS (CA) vs. Aliso Niguel HS (CA)
1:30pm Basic HS (NV) vs. Huntington Beach HS (CA)
4:00pm Hamilton HS (AZ) vs. Chaminade HS (CA)
6:30pm Cherry Creek HS (CO) vs. Orange Lutheran HS (CA)
MONDAY, JANUARY 16TH
DAY OFF: HBHS and Aliso Niguel
9:30am Mesquite HS (AZ) vs. Chaminade HS (CA)
11:50am Hamilton HS (AZ) vs. Cherry Creek HS (CO)
2:10pm Bishop Gorman HS (NV) vs. Orange Lutheran HS (CA)

4:30pm Basic HS (NV) vs. Mater Dei HS (CA)

Get To College Camp

San Gabriel Valley youth baseball players are invited to the inaugural San Gabriel Valley “Get To College” Free Baseball Clinic.

The clinic will take place at Mt. Sac on December 26th from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

The brainchild of current St. Mary’s head coach Eric Valenzuela, the free clinic is an opportunity for youth ballplayers – both boys and girls – to receive instruction from collegiate coaches, along with some of the areas most respected coaches, and have a good time doing it.

“This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time,” said Valenzuelza who led the Gaels to the NCAA tournament last year in just his third season as the head coach at St. Mary’s. “Giving back to my community is very important to me. I absolutely love where I come from and have been wanting to give back to the SGV community for years.”

Valenzuela, a Bishop Amat alum, is not the only former player from the San Gabriel Valley that will be serving as instructor at the clinic. Sergio Brown, a Mountain View HS alum and current assistant coach at the University of Arizona, and Gabe Alvarez, a Bishop Amat alum and current assistant coach at the University of Southern California are also serving as host coaches for the clinic.

“Gabe, Sergio, and I are the only Division I coaches from the San Gabriel Valley.” said Valenzuela. “Our vision is to give back as well as let kids from the SGV know that going to college can happen.”

While the focus of the clinic is baseball, there will be giveaways, prizes, and an autograph session with other former SGV area players. The hope for Valenzuela, Brown, and Alvarez is that the clinic allows kids from the area to realize that baseball can be a tool to reach their dreams and goals.

“I am hoping we can reach some of these kids and help them better their lives in some way,” said Alvarez who currently serves as the recruiting coordinator at USC. “The SGV is very special to Eric, Sergio and myself and we want to do our part in making it better.”

The San Gabriel Valley has long been a hotbed of baseball talent in Southern California. The region annually produces top collegiate and professional prospects, many of whom have gone on to have successful baseball careers. The talent rich area is a very tight knit community and baseball produces a great sense of pride in the area.

“My love of baseball was established at South El Monte Little League and Mountain View High School,” said Brown who serves as recruiting coordinator at the University of Arizona. “I’m only reciprocating what I owe my community for what it’s helped me become.”

The sense of pride in their community is evident with the three coaches behind this clinic.

-Les Lukach

Palm Desert Tournament

The Annual Palm Desert winter baseball tournament is taking place this coming weekend and it once again is absolutely loaded with talent.

The tournament will run from Tuesday, December 6th through Saturday, December 10th and will again be hosted by Palm Desert HS, La Quinta HS, Shadow Hills HS, Indio HS, Xavier HS, and College of the Desert.

This years version will host many of the top teams from Southern California along with some of the top collegiate and pro prospects from the area. The tournament has become an annual stop for professional scouts and this years should be no different as three of the top 100 high school prospects are expected to play. Garrett Mitchell (OLu), Jeremiah Estrada (Palm Desert), and Jayson Gonzalez (Bishop Amat) are all considered Top 100 prospects by most major publications that produce such rankings.

The tournament will also feature countless committed and uncommitted collegiate prospects as is annually the case. The event is widely considered the kickoff to the winter high school tournament season that runs up to the start of the spring season.

Below is the full schedule.

–Les Lukach