The Aflac All-American Baseball Classic took place at Petco Park in San Diego on Sunday. Hot on the heels of the Area Code Games in Long Beach (covered excellently by Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts), the showcase event featured 38 of the finest high school players in the United States.
The afternoon began with a home run derby that featured four participants: Joshua Tobias (INF, Greensboro, N.C.), Francisco Lindor (INF, Montverde, Fla.), Travis Harrison (Tustin, Calif.), and Christian Lopes (Huntington Beach, Calif.). Lindor, subject of a recent Baseball America feature, won the contest, launching four homers. Harrison, whose growing legend includes a 504-foot home run at the Power Showcase in January (it’s about four minutes in on this video highlight package), stole the show with a blast off the upper deck of the Western Metal Supply Co. Building beyond left field. Harrison hit just the one home run, but it was enough to draw an unsolicited hug from Lindor.
The game started about an hour later and did not disappoint the nearly 8,000 fans in attendance. Lindor’s hot hitting continued, as he laced a triple to deep left-center and later singled to right. He also showed good range to his right and a strong arm at shortstop. Lindor appears to be an adept baserunner as well. He stole second in the eighth and had a great jump on an attempted steal of third when Javier Baez (Jacksonville, Fla.) lined into an easy 5-3 double play. (Baez, for his part, may have had the at-bat of the day, fouling off five 2-2 offerings before hitting his smash.)
None of the other derby participants did much in the game itself. Tobias, who started at second base, made a nice diving catch in the fifth while playing left field. Harrison grounded an RBI single past the shortstop that same inning, but he never laid into one the way I hoped he might.
The catchers proved to be the stars on this day. Tyler Marlette (Oviedo, Fla.) started for the East All-Stars and crushed an 0-2 pitch off the second deck facade in left field in the fourth. Marlette also made a nice throw to nail local product Phillip Evans (Carlsbad, Calif.) at second in the first inning. (It looked like a bad call from my vantage, but the throw was strong). The one thing, other than his ability to hit the ball a long way, that stood out to me about Marlette is that he really crowded the plate.
On the other side, Austin Hedges (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) knocked a double to left-center and made a terrific throw to nail Baez attempting to steal second in the first. Baez got a great jump on the pitch and I had conceded the bag, but Hedges had other ideas. I wondered if maybe Baez lacked speed, but he showed plenty when legging out a triple to right-center in his next at-bat. Hedges just made a great throw.
Returning to Evans, he gave one of the more impressive efforts of the day. The middle infielder led off for the West and reached base in each of his first four trips to the plate. He made the final out of the game, but only after working the count full. Evans singled twice, drew two walks, and made a great read going from first to third on a grounder that glanced off the shortstop’s glove in the fifth. He also saw a total of 25 pitches in his five plate appearances and generally was a pest.
Another notable name was Shawon Dunston Jr. (San Jose, Calif.). Unlike his father, he bats from the left side and is a center fielder. His swing looked a little longish to me, as he started it early in anticipation of fastballs and struggled with off-speed stuff. It’s one game; I don’t know if that’s how Dunston always looks, but that’s what I saw on Sunday.
Billy Flamion (Modesto, Calif.), who impressed Rich at the Area Code Games, didn’t do much in San Diego. He had a large cheering section, but managed just a single in three at-bats.
Among pitchers, a few stood out from the rest. East right-hander John Magliozzi (Brookline, Mass.), who at 5-foot-11 evokes comparisons to Atlanta’s Tim Hudson, retired the side in order in the eighth on just 10 pitches. His fastball registered at 91-93 mph according to the scoreboard, and none of the three batters he faced made solid contact.
Southpaw Jake Cave (Hampton, Va.), who started the game in center field, sealed the victory with a 1-2-3 ninth that included two strikeouts. Cave wasn’t the hardest thrower of the day (his fastball sat at 86-90 mph), but he kept hitters off balance. Baseball America calls Cave “a legitimate two-way threat.”
Right-hander Robert Stephenson (Martinez, Calif.) started for the West and worked two scoreless innings, needing only 20 pitches to retire the six batters he faced. The scoreboard had Stephenson’s fastball at 89-94 mph. He walked one (erased by the aforementioned throw by Hedges), struck out two, and allowed just one ball to leave the infield.
The only other pitcher to work more than a single inning, right-hander Archie Bradley (Broken Arrow, Okla.), retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth, fanning four in the process. Bradley, who has committed to play football (quarterback) and baseball at Oklahoma, featured a fastball in the low-90s and didn’t allow any solid contact.
Local two-way player Daniel Camarena (San Diego) doubled (short-hopped the right-field fence to drive in the game’s first run) in three at-bats and also took the loss after allowing two runs on a walk and two doubles in the seventh. As a pitcher, Camarena delivered his fastball in the 83-86 mph range and seemed to rely a lot on his breaking ball.
The other pitcher who impressed was left-hander Henry Owens (Huntington Beach, Calif.), who struck out the side in the ninth. He didn’t throw exceptionally hard (scoreboard had his fastball at 86-90 mph), but at 6-foot-5, he gave hitters a different look—and clearly one they didn’t like. I’ll quote Rich on this one:
…his fastball plays up a bit due to the fact that he throws on a downhill plane. Moreover, his body offers lots of projection although a scout I spoke to noted that Owens’ velocity is down a couple of ticks from his sophomore season in 2009. Nonetheless, he may be the most highly regarded prep pitcher in the country and could be drafted in the top half of the first round next June.
Sounds like someone worth tracking to me.
And that brings me to my final point. If you ever have a chance to catch one of these showcase games, by all means, do so. Like watching minor-league baseball, you never know who you’ll end up seeing before they become household names. It’s kind of cool to think that you could be watching the next Jason Heyward or Justin Upton.