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2016 Players To Watch

After much discussion with pro scouts and college coaches, I decided to put together a list of some of the top players in SoCal to watch heading into this season.

In this edition the focus is on the 2016 class which is shaping up to be an outstanding class for both college and pro scouts. Based on evaluations and conversations with scouts, there could be over 15 players selected in the top 10 rounds of the 2016 MLB draft.

This list includes players I've seen in person and three which I have not. The players I have not seen made the list based on the recommendation of pro scouts.

This list limited to SoCal (Los Angeles to San Diego and the Inland Empire) with the exception of one player from the Visalia area that I saw at a showcase in SoCal.

The list is in alphabetical order by first name and is not intended to compete with anyone else's list.

There are certain to be players that deserve to be on the list, but again, unless I've seen them or they were recommended by a pro scout, they were left off the list. I don't find it fair to comment on players I have not seen in person or come highly recommended by professional baseball scouts.

*Cannot guarantee the accuracy of college commitments

Position Player School College  Notes 
OF  Alonzo Billips Loyola Switch hitting OF with a consistent approach from both sides. Flashes power potential despite standing 5'9". Has a cannon for an arm. Very good base runner.
INF Anthony Walters Bishop Amat One of the better young defensive INF during scout ball season. Walters has a good understanding at the plate but was overmatched against some of the big guns. Has the defensive ability to play SS at the next level. 
RHP  Austin Burke Great Oak Big framed pitcher who will fill out. Sat 83-84 and touched 86 with FB. Curveball is a tight-spin, lots of break, type pitch that sits 73-74. Has a very good understanding of how to pitch. 
OF Blake Rutherford Chaminade UCLA Rutherford is quickly making noise to be the #1 ranked players in his class. Looks like he's playing at a different level when he's on the field. Plus speed/arm/bat have scouts drooling. Big time power potential. Doesn't waste AB's and has great pitch recognition. Not intimidated at all. The top 2016 player in SoCal.
C Blake Sabol Aliso Niguel Member of the 15U national team in 2013. At the plate Sabol shows plenty of power potential along with the ability to hit for average. Seasoned player that started on varsity last season. Scouts wonder if his size, 6'3", will be an impediment to staying behind the plate. Also plays 1B. 
OF Brady Shockey JSerra USC One of the better LHH in his class. Will make an immediate impact at JSERRA after transferring in. Smooth, quiet approach with power potential. Line drive hitter with a very good understanding of how to handle pitches.
OF Brandon Stewart Great Oak Prototype leadoff hitter with incredible speed. A bit of a slap hitter who can drive it. Will add strength and become a gap-to-gap line drive hitter. Defensively is outstanding. Strong arm. Takes good routes and positions himself for throws well. High baseball IQ kid. 
C Brett Davis Mira Costa Line drive hitter who shows an open stance before quickly closing. Has power potential. Pretty good runner. Pop times of 2.09 - 2.19 with an accurate arm.
RHP Cameron Jabarra Newport Harbor USC Low-to-mid 80's fastball that he commands well. Curveball is effective at this level but needs to improve before he gets to college. Body has room to add mass as he stands 6'1" 165.
SS Chase Strumpf JSerra UCLA Had a huge summer with Team USA where he earned MVP honors on the 15U team. Has carried that momentum into the fall/winter. Flashes power with a quick-through-the-zone swing. Defensively scouts feel he might end up at 3B at the next level. Combines good footwork with a strong arm and quick exchange to stay at SS at this level.
OF Christian Moya Bishop Amat USC Very speedy OF that uses that to get into the best position to make strong, accurate throws. Very quiet approach at the plate. Fast bat through the zone that flashes gap-to-gap potential. Also shows power potential if he adds strength to a smallish frame. 
RHP Cole Spear Orange Lutheran Crafty pitcher that mixes his arsenal to keep hitters off balance. Not overpowering with a mid-80's fastball that he spots well. Curveball dips to mid-70's and has a sweeping action. Handled himself well during scout ball season and will vye for innings this year in a loaded rotation. 
C David Clawson Mater Dei BYU Has shown considerable improvement with the bat although there are still some holes. Defensively is one of the top catchers in his class. Great receiver with soft hands. Pop times range in the 2.03 - 2.18 range. Quick transfer and feet along with an accurate arm make him a lock to man the catcher spot for three years. 
RHP/1B Dom Donato Valhalla 6'3" 210 but needs to firm that up a bit. Was impressive during scout ball season with a fastball that sat 84-85 which he spotted up very well. The secondary pitches are a work in progress. 
OF Dominic Fletcher Cypress Outstanding OF with a strong, accurate arm that is drawing SEC interest. Very good on the base paths. Line drive hitter. Will be four-year starter before moving on. 
LHP Elijah Greene Chino Hills A projectable LHP for Chino Hills. Will battle to get innings on a loaded pitching staff this year but should step right into a starting role next season.
MIF/RHP Emanuel Viramontes Heritage Has the arm strength and hands to play the MIF. Showed some power potential and the ability to lift the ball.
LHP Emilie Gugglielmelli Bishop Amat USC Another solid arm headed to the Trojans. Doesn't overpower with a low-to-mid 80's fastball. Curveball is swing-and-miss. Changeup is a nice change of pace pitch although he didn't show much confidence in it the few times I saw him. 
OF  Griffin Herrera Glendora Athletically built OF that possesses a very strong, accurate arm. Very good defensive tools. Uses his body well to get into position to make throws. Not afraid to make any throw; runners generally wont challenge twice. Flashes current power at the plate with more to come. Has a very balanced RH swing that is quick through the zone. 
OF/RHP Holden Groff Loyola Big time arm from the OF (90 RF-3B) which is accurate and quick. Arm is loose and throws look effortless. 
SS/RHP Isaak Gutierrez St. John Bosco Another member of the 15U national team, Gutierrez projects as a pitcher on the next level, despite solid defensive actions at SS. Sits 83-85 with a fastball that moves almost like a cutter. Curveball is at 70-71 that he locates very well. Changeup at 74-75 is swing-and-miss already. Works downhill. Has shed a lot of weight and added muscle since last season.
1B Isaiah Flowers Serra (Gardena) 6'3" 220 with incredible raw power. Needs to clean up some mechanical issues in swing. Has the ability to drive the ball the other way. Has potential to be a big time power hitter as well as hitting for average. Hit a home run in his first varsity AB last year as a freshman. 
OF Jordan Prendiz Mt. Whitney UCLA A very athletic OF who is a take-charge type of CF. Takes direct routes, rounds his approach well and has a strong, accurate arm. LHH that attacks the inner half of pitches. Hits to all fields.
OF  Josh Stephen Mater Dei USC Will move to CF this year after spot starts in the OF last year. Was a mainstay in the lineup for the Monarchs last year. Posseses above average speed and a strong arm but scouts feel he'll be a corner OF at the next level, especially if the bat continues to improve. Has cleaned up some noisy actions at the plate and is making more consistent contact. Shows some power, but don't expect that to be a trademark.
RHP Joshua Leaser Coronado Solidly build RHP that sits 84-86 w/FB which drops to 75 with a 11/5 breaking curveball. Stands 6'1" 190 with room to both grow and fill out. Was a standout for the Yankees scout ball team this past fall. 
RHP/OF Julian McDonald La Costa Canyon Works from a low 3/4 arm slot that makes things look effortless. Has a live, loose arm on a projectable 6'0" 160 frame. Sits 83-84 with the FB. Changeup at 74 with lots of run which could ultimately be his best pitch. 
RHP/INF Kyle Mora  Los Alamitos UCLA Projectable body, 6'2" 170, has Mora on scouts radar. Pretty good command during scout ball season of a mid-80's FB. Swings the bat pretty well, too. Has a chance to be a two-way guy for the Bruins. Body has room to grow and fill out. 

RHP/INF Logan Pouelsen  Huntington Beach UCLA 15U national team member in 2013. Pouelsen has developed into a nice weapon on the mound in recent months where he's touched 89 with his fastball. At the plate he's shown bit time power potential and an ability to come up with the big hit when needed. Will be a 4 year starter for the Oilers before moving on.
OF/LHP Matthew Acosta Ayala USC Above average defender with a strong arm. Takes good routes and positions himself well to make strong, accurate throws. At the plate he's a prototypical leadoff hitter with speed to burn. On the mound he sits mid-80's with a hammer for a curveball. 
MIF Matt Manskar Jserra Good defensive actions at 2B. Slick glovework. At the plate he gets a little handsy and tends to lunge at pitches but maintains a short approach to the ball. 
OF Mickey Moniak La Costa Canyon UCLA The LHH Moniak was also a member of the 15U national team that won gold this past summer. He carried that momentum over into a solid scout ball season. Has the body of an upperclassman already with room to fill out. Great pitch recognition and discipline at the plate. Has the speed to track balls in the OF. Projects as a corner OF at the next level.
RHP Reggie Lawson Victor Valley Scouts are enamored with Lawson because he possesses big time stuff. A fastball that approaches 90 and curve ball that is a knee buckler, albeit a work in progress. At 6'3" 195 he is certain to add velocity as he continues to grow. 
C Ryan Mendoza Birmingham A little wild behind the plate but has a strong arm with pop time of 2.06 - 2.15. Frames well and is above average defensively. Big swing-and-miss approach at the plate that produces feast-or-famine results. 
SS Shane Martinez JW North Arizona Slick fielding SS with very good defensive actions to go with a strong arm. His bat has big time projection that will allow him to stay at SS. Was one of the more impressive prospects during scout ball season where he more than held his own against older players.
INF/RHP Spencer Steer Millikan Oregon Aggressive approach at the plate that will play up in games. Has potential to add power with added strength. Strong arm that has a chance to stay 3B with his good defensive skills at the position. 
SS Tyler Flores Westlake Arizona Disciplined approach at plate allows Flores to see a lot of pitches during AB's. Gap-to-gap hitter with a projectable bat. Defensively has very smooth actions and a strong arm to go with quick feet. Reacts to the ball off the bat very quickly and positions himself well.
INF/OF/RHP Will Proctor Mira Costa Shows big time arm strength across the diamond. Very good lateral movement to both sides. Looks middle-right at the plate and takes it there with ease. On the mound he sits 84 with a high 3/4 arm slot. Slider has late movement. Needs to improve command of both pitches. 

--Les Lukach
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