The first day of the 2015 Area Code Games got underway Tuesday at Blair Field in Long Beach, California. The event annually draws that top prospects in the country that are selected by scouts during area tryouts.
Day one began with batting practice for four teams - Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, and the Kansas City Royals.
In front of at least 200 college coaches, scouts, crosscheckers and scouting directors the players took their four rounds of BP which gave scouts an opportunity to refamiliarize themselves with some prospects and some scouts an opportunity to see guys for the first time.
The first game of the day got underway at 12:30 and featured the Royals vs the White Sox.
The Royals featured some interesting prospects and no more than first baseman Christian Jones (Federal Way, WA) who measures 6'2" 205. The left handed hitting Jones showed some big time power during batting practice and carried that over into the game when he hit a rocket standup double into the right center field gap then followed that with a hard hit single later in the game.
Right handed pitcher Josh Burgmann (Nanaimo, BC) was also impressive in his outing for the Royals. Birgmann worked in the 88-90 mph zone with his fastball that showed late life and worked both sides of the plate. He also flashed an 83-85 mph changeup that was unhittable. His curveball, while loose at times, worked in the 76-77 mph zone.
Blair Henley (Fort Worth, TX) was a guy a few scouts mentioned to me before the event and he was impressed in his outing working 88-91 mph with his fastball that had a lot of life. His curveball was arguably his best pitch and showed true two-plane action at 77-79 mph.
The White Sox are chalk full of prospects and none stood out more than Ryan Zeferjohn (Topeka, KS). The right handed pitcher showed a bit of butterflies and was a bit erratic in the first innning before showing why he's an All-American in the second and third inning of his start. Working 91-93 mph with the fastball, Zeferjohn worked the pitch to both sides of the plate with late life. Showing a very live arm, Zeferjohn also flashed a hard, sharp breaking ball at 79-80 mph that had scouts dreaming on his future.
Cole Stobbe (Omaha, NE) is a flat out hitter. The right handed hitting third baseman was on base every time he came to the plate. Stobbe showed his smarts in advancing on two passed balls and also stole a base in the game.
Spencer Van Scoyoc (Cedar Rapids, IA) was electric on the mound with a breaking ball that one scout said "is the closest to big league ready that you'll see out here." Van Scoyoc showed incredible command of the breaking ball and threw it in any count. His fastball touched 90 mph and was used as a secondary pitch because of the effectiveness of the breaking ball and changeup.
The second game of the day had the Reds face off against the Rangers.
The Reds have what many consider the top position player in the 2016 high school draft class in shortstop Nicholas Quintana (Las Vegas). Quintana didn't do much at the plate flying out twice, but he made an impact defensively with his range and arm strength. I'd expect Quintana to show his hitting prowesss as the week continues.
Right handed pitcher Jack Little (Las Vegas) was very impressive in his start. Working both sides of the plate with a fast ball that touched 91 mph and lived in the 88-89 mph range. The Stanford commit also flashed a sharp, two-plane curveball at 72-73 mph which shows potential to be a plus pitch as he adds strength. Little also mixed in a solid changeup at 75-76 mph.
Left handed pitcher Chaz Montoya (Glendale, AZ) was one of the pleasant surprises of the afternoon for scouts that haven't seen him a while. Montoya has added some velocity on all of his pitches with his fastball showing the most improvement in terms of control and life. Working 87-91 mph, Montoya worked the fastball to both sides of the plate and featured different arm angles with the pitch which confused hitters. His slider might be his best pitch because he throws it from an over-the-top and low 3/4 arm angle.
The Rangers, as you would expect from a team with players from Texas, were loaded with pitching prospects and the top arm they trotted out Tuesday was Kevin Roilard (Spring, TX). The right handed pitcher was lights out with a fastball that had slider and changeup tendencies, meaning it ran in on right handed hitter and way from left handed hitters. Working in the 89-93 mph range, the pitch was electric all afternoon. Just as hitters were adjusting to the fastball, Roilard showed off a wipeout slider at 79-81 mph that was unhittable. Standing 6'3", Roilard figures to be next in a long line of Texas hurlers that you'll be hearing a lot about in the future.
The other Texas hurler you'll be hearing more about in the future is Charles King (Coppell, TX). The 6'5" 200 pound King was 1A to Roilard's 1. Working 89-91 mph on the fastball, King also flashed a changeup at 83-84 mph that had scouts vigorously writing notes. King is a tall, lanky pitcher with a lot of room to fill out which could, and should, add more velocity to his live arm.
Third basemann Ulysses Cantu (Saginaw, TX) showed off his bat speed in batting practice and continued to shine during the game where his power was on display. Cantu drove balls to all fields with authority and showed a decent run tool. Listed at 6'0", Cantu is closer to 5'10" which could hurt him come draft time.
The best game of the day was the last game of the day between the A's and the Brewers in the annual Battle of California. Both teams came in loaded with talented rosters, but the Brewers are, in the eyes of most scouts I spoke with, the team to watch out here.
The Athletics aren't slouches either and they featured some really nice players and it started with right handed pitcher Jared Horn (Napa, CA) who showed incredible command of all pitches and worked in the 89-92 mph range with his fastball. Horn's curveball is a very good pitch for him at 77-78 mph which he has great feel for.
Matt Manning (Elk Grove, CA) was as impressive as Horn. The right handed pitcher worked 90-91 and touched 93 mph with his fastball. The future two-sport (basketball) athlete at Loyola Marymount, shows major upside due to his clean mechanics and athleticism.
Armani Smith (Martinez, CA) is as intriguing a prospect as there is here. The 6'3" 190 outfielder has incredible athleticism to go with a strong arm. Listed as an infielder here, he projects as an outfielder at the next level. He was in SoCal with his high school, DeLaSalle, this spring and he started in centerfield where he first caught my eye. A very good runner and athlete, he's still a bit raw at the plate but the power potential is undeniable.
The Brewers are so loaded that I could easily do an article on them alone. There were three guys that really stood out in the game. Two are very well known by every scout in the building, while the other is beginning to get the recognition nationally that he deserves.
Avery Tuck (San Diego, CA) is looking more like a first round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft everytime he takes the field. Listed at 6'5" 195 one scout said to me "he's Darryl Strawberry." Tuck showed some Strawberry charactersitics by driving balls to all areas of the park and short-hopping the left center field wall for a bases clearing standup triple. The ball came off the bat 99.7 mph for those interested in that sort of stuff.
Reggie Lawson (Adelanto, CA) was lights out in his one inning outing. The right handed pitcher got three outs on 10 pitches while working 92-94 mph with the fastball and 76 mph on his lone curveball. At 6'4" 190, Lawson is quickly climbing in the mind of scouts because of his effortless delivery and his penache for throwing strikes and not backing down from hitters.
David Clawson (Dana Point, CA) has burst onto the scene in the last six months in the sense that his bat has finally caught up to his catching ability where he regularly pop in the 1.85 - 1.92 range. Has a very deep understanding of calling his own game along with very advanced catching skill. Clawson threw out a runner attempting to steal third on a breaking ball that was as good a play as we saw all day from a catcher. I was sitting next to a college who said, "I've coached three catchers who were drafter in the top 10 rounds, and none of those guys would have made that play, and probably still can't."
Others that stood out:
Blake Rutherford (Simi Valley, CA)
Will Proctor (Manhattan Beach, CA)
Kevin Gowdy (Santa Barabara, CA)
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @LesLukach for updates throughout the tournament.