And down the stretch they come... Cal Poly, Stanford, Nevada, Sacramento State and USF all are headed in a good direction, Saint Mary's looks ready to make trouble for their remaining WCC foes, as does UC Davis. Cal is on the bubble and has a rough road ahead... enjoy the end of the season!
On Tuesday night former Stanford and Castro Valley HS star Jason Castro of the Astros was run over at home plate by Mat Gamel of the Brewers, in a collision that was similar to the Posey/Cousins collision. Castro held onto the ball, Gamel was out and that was it, save for the headache Castro no doubt received (hopefully not a concussion). There was some analysis of the play on MLB Network and their point was the same point I will make here and the same point I made when Posey was run over last year.
Jason Castro plays for the Astros so little attention was paid to the play. Jason Castro is not a star or a reigning Rookie of the Year of the defending World Series champs, so little attention was paid to the play. The point many impartial observers made last year when Posey got hurt was that if he was a back-up catcher or just an average MLB player playing for an average or bad team, there would have been little to no attention paid to the collision and subsequent injury. That point has just been proved 100% accurate.
Is the person and well-being of Jason Castro is any less important than the person and well-being of Gerald Posey?
Castro was in a similarly bad position as Posey was at the plate, with both of his knees on the ground. Gamel came at him just as hard as Cousins came at Posey, leading with his shoulder. Fortunately for Castro one of his feet didn't get caught underneath him as Posey's did and he was able to get unhinged from the ground, which saved his knees and ankles from injury. If you pause the video you can see that Castro's left foot was very close to getting caught underneath him, like Posey's did, and he was periously close to a season ending injury.
Castro did have the ball and was turning to face the runner, who had already launched at Castro, when he got hit. He actually wasn't blocking the plate when he took the hit, he was behind the plate, leaving the plate exposed had Gamel wanted to slide (go ahead, watch that video and pause it just before Castro gets his). Posey didn't yet have the ball, he was about to receive the ball and was a bit in front of the plate toward the infield when he got hit. It wasn't a game winning run that Gamel was trying to score. Yes, there are some differences but in terms of the severity of the hit and the way the runner went at the catcher, the plays were nearly identical. To disagree would not be an objective point of view.
It was terribly unfortunate that Posey got hurt, I wouldn't wish that on any person and I'm glad that it looks like he is back to form.
Oh, one other difference, the Astros' GM didn't go on the radio to make a pariah of Mat Gamel.
Because you are likely watching the Giants attempt to sweep the Mets in a DH, I'll be very brief. I will say this, it was a great weekend for a couple of programs (Cal, USF, Stanford) and though they still face LONG roads to get back to the top in their respective conference races, they are at least now back in the conversation. The most impressive player this past week and weekend? Stanford freshman 3B Alex Blandino, the National Player of the Week.
I saw an entertaining game on Wednesday afternoon, which was won by De La Salle, 8-5. DLS had an 8-1 lead (I think) before the Cowboys made a late run after the DLS staff put in some reserve players and pitchers. I was there to see quite a few De La Salle players, some for my own interest and a couple at the request of some college coaches.
Ok, first and foremost, I went out to catch up with a player who is one of the more complete and solid seniors in the area yet doesn't yet have a four year school to attend (though he has had two D1 programs invite him as a walk-on, the schools were too expensive). The player is 2nd baseman Chris Fornaci. Here is some video of him hitting yesterday and he was on it pretty good. The batting average for the year isn't outstanding but he knows how to hit. He also showed the ability to play above average D at 2nd base. He came in on one play with a runner at 1st base, got to the ball to make it an easier short hop instead of an in between hop, closed ground on the ball because it was a double play situation, made a great backhanded flip to the covering SS and started the double dip like he was a seasoned pro. It couldn't have been done better by a big leaguer.
Later in the game Fornaci was covering on a steal attempt and though the throw led him into the runner, he caught the ball, squared up to the runner, took some contact and made the tag, without one ince of give to the runner. It was a great play. He was talking all game long on D, talking the "right way" during the game, with energy yet not just useless chatter. I was sitting with an associate scout and he says to me, "that kid plays like a Fullerton kid"... I agree.
Every night I see the highlight shows and every time I see the Giants on TV, I am reminded of how many local players are in the big leagues. Of course we see Nate Schierholtz and Brandon Crawford of the Giants playing nearly every day and last night, Tyson Ross made his season debut as the A's beat the Angels. There are more around the bigs and a bunch more in the minors waiting to make their impact. Not only that, we could see two of the local college pitchers drafted VERY HIGH in the first round. Stanford RHP Mark Appel has been in consideration for the #1 overall pick all season and USF RHP Kyle Zimmer is also considered a first round talent, possibly in the first ten picks.
Here are some notable local and regional players and their stats for the season so far... there are MANY more big leaguers from this region but this is a nice snapshot of some recognizable names:
Matt Garza, RHP Cubs, Washington Union HS (Fresno), Fresno State - 1-0, 1.23 ERA
Bud Norris, RHP Astros, San Marin HS, Cal Poly - 0-0, 3.46 ERA
Doug Fister, RHP Tigers, Golden Valley HS (Merced), Fresno State - currently on DL
Vance Worley, RHP Phillies, C.K. McClatchy HS (Sacramento) - 0-1, 3.75 ERA
Jimmy Rollins, SS Phillies, Encinal HS (Alameda) - .311, 6 R, 2 RBI, 2 SB
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Red Sox, Woodland HS - .295, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 8 R, 1 SB
CC Sabathia, LHP Yankees, Vallejo HS - 1-0, 5.59 ERA
Ted Lilly, LHP Dodgers, Yosemite HS (Oakhurst), Fresno City College - 1-0, 0.00 ERA
Troy Tulowitzki, SS Rockies, Fremont HS (Sunnyvale) - .244, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R
Brandon Morrow, RHP Blue Jays, Rancho Cotate HS (Rohnert Park), Cal-Berkeley - 0-0, 2.57 ERA
Kyle Lohse, RHP Cardinals, Hamilton Union HS (Hamilton City), Butte College - 2-0, 0.89 ERA
Aaron Hill, 2B Diamondbacks, Redwood HS (Visalia) - .189, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R, 1 SB
Nate Schierholtz, RF Giants, San Ramon Valley HS (Danville), Chabot College - .360, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R
Brandon Crawford, SS Giants, Foothill HS (Pleasanton) - .214, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R
Jonny Gomes, OF/DH A's, Casa Grande HS (Petaluma), Santa Rosa JC - .143, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 1 SB
Bryan Shaw, RHP Diamondbacks, Livermore HS - 0-2, 2 SV, 1.29 ERA
Ryan Cook, RHP A's, Clovis HS - 0-0, 0.00 ERA
Ryan Mattheus, RHP Nationals, Galt HS, Sacramento City College - 1-0, 5.40 ERA
David Hernandez, RHP Diamondbacks, Elk Grove HS, Cosumnes River College - 0-1, 4.50 ERA
The weather is clearing and the season is now moving along nicely. Not only that, but the draft is fast approaching and even teams having bad seasons are intriguing to follow because they have draft prospects who remain firmly on the radar of the local area scouts. That keeps teams like USF (Kyle Zimmer), Saint Mary's (Patrick Wisdom, Martin Agosta), and San Jose State (Zach Jones) very relevant.
What is also interesting this time of year is how the attention given to the known players helps out the lesser profile players. For instance, say a crosschecker comes in to see Kyle Zimmer on a Friday and later that game he catches a glimpse of hard throwing senior lefthanded reliever Jordan Remer, on one of his better days. Normally a crosschecker wouldn't be in town to see a senior lefty reliever, but he sure would pay attention when he sees the type of stuff Remer has. That could vault Remer up a few rounds.
I will get to some draft nuggets in the coming days and weeks but for now, let's spin around the area and see what took place on Tuesday...
* San Jose State, fresh off a sweep of Fresno State last weekend, defeated #10 Stanford 3-2 on Tuesday. Former Carmel HS infielder Michael Gerlach had a two out RBI knock in the 8th inning to give the Spartans the lead. That hit came on the heels of two consecutive four pitch walks issued by the Stanford staff. SJSU has won four in a row and eight of nine. San Jose State’s previous victory over Stanford came on April 24, 2007. Stanford could muster only five hits off seven SJSU pitchers.
* Cal defeated Santa Clara 4-0. Freshman left-hander Chris Muse-Fisher won in his first collegiate start, throwing 5.1 quality shutout innings and four relievers taking it from there. Good midweek win for Cal and Santa Clara continues to really struggle with the bats. Common theme around here. Cal scored only four runs but posted 12 hits, with the 2-3-4-5 hitters combining for nine hits, each of them with at least two.
* Fresno State snatched a 5-3 victory from Cal Poly with four runs in the top of the ninth. The Bulldogs made three errors but they still won, not easy to do. Three Cal Poly relievers couldn't close the door in the ninth. A stretch of three hitters sort of sealed the fate of the Mustangs that inning... a walk, a hit by pitch, then an error and next thing you know, a 3-1 win turns into a 5-3 loss. Cal Poly had 11 hits but seeminlgy couldn't come up with the big one or string enough of them together to get more than three on the board.
* Sacramento State put up four in the sixth inning to get past UC Davis, 8-5. Two Aggie throwing errors in the top of the sixth led to that four run inning. College baseball has really become a game of pitching and defense, especially since the new bats have really dampened the amount of power we see at this level now. Teams that cannot pick it up and throw it across consistently are exposed now more than ever because they can't come back with thunderous offense to make up for defensive mistakes. The Hornets are now 20-18 for the season.
* Nevada used a seven run sixth inning to surge past USF 10-5 on Tuesday. Brook Klein's grand slam was the big blow for the Wolfpack, who is now 2-0 against USF this season. That is a rough day trip, to drive all the way to Reno then to lose a game by giving up a huge number in the sixth inning, then turn around and come home. USF also walked in a run in that inning. Nevada moved to 20-16 and USF dropped to an unsightly 16-24. They outhit Nevada but after getting four runs and knocking out the Nevada starter in the 3rd, they were shut down by the Nevada pen.
Some of our local 9 squads bounced back from tough times and had productive weekends (USF, Cal, UC Davis) and a couple of them got important conference sweepts (SJSU, Nevada) so let's take a QUICK swing around the area...
I wasn't there for a long time (only a couple of innings) but saw some interesting players. As for why I didn't stay for the whole game and basically drove 240 miles to see two innings, well, I thought I was headed to Muni Stadium in SAN JOSE but of course it was in Salinas. Thought maybe SJSU was hosting a game between two good teams so they could get a look at some good juniors. Speaking of which, which players might they want to see? Well, I'm glad you asked!
2013 RHP Chris Viall - 6'9" 215 and has feel of three pitches. I also know he is a 4.04 student with a 1960 SAT. He was in the mid-80s, up to 86 for me and I have had some people tell me they have seen 88 out of him before. He is a great development candidate and at that size it might surprise you to know he has very good athleticism, lots of coordination and that speaks VERY well to his future. If I am a college coach, I see those grades, I look at his body, I see his stats (check maxpreps.com) and I AM ALL OVER this guy. At some point he should really bust out in terms of stuff and the right pitching coach to get a hold of him in college can unlock something very good.
2013 2B Caleb Fidiam looks like he has some pop in his bat. He is 5'11" 170, R/R and hits in the two spot for Soquel.
2013 SS Scott Akrop is the 3-hole hitter and I like his frame, body type, and what I saw of his stroke. He is a 6'3" 170 lb athlete and I love his projectability as a player. He will be at BAWS 2012, as will Viall.
2013 3B Fabiano Hale is another good looking player, listed at 6'1" 215 lbs and I think he has some seroius power projectability. He is strong and he runs well (at least it looked like that to my eye). He hits in the 5-hole for Soquel.
Now, I saw this team for two innings and had never seen any of these players before. They just caught my eye and I think there is something worth following up for each of them. As for Palma...
2013 CF Jack Ross is a player. He is a L/R athlete who has also played a lot of SS in high school and summer/fall ball. He has a sweet lefthanded stroke (hits to all fields), runs well and throws well. He has tools to play at the major D1 level and I would think he will be a highly recruited kid this summer and fall.
2013 C Charles Byers looks like he is a strong kid, with a chance to do some things with the bat. He is willing to use the whole field and can drive the ball.
2014 DH Anthony Payan DOES have juice. I think he is a 3B normally but was in the DH spot. He is strong and compactly built and his bat speed is legitimate. Keep that name close by, I think he will be heard from for the next couple of seasons.
A bit late and since I already recapped a lot of the first games from the Easter weekend series', let's get right to it and this time I will keep it pretty short. Afterall, in the case of some teams, their recent play has more or less put their hopes of conferences titles or NCAA bids out of reach unless there are some BIG turnarounds...
Ok, I finished the rundown this evening and wow, I am kind of harsh on some of our local teams. Why? Well, there are quite a few talented and really underachieving teams in the region and with the season more than halfway finished (though the conference seasons aren't that far along yet), time is running out. I think these teams have basically showed their hands and we know what they are by now.
Obviously the score, a 22-0 SFHS win, tells a big part of the story. Further background info tells us that WGHS is in a league tournament starting today and that the coaching staff decided to hold back some of the primary pitching for the Rams. Now, the score might indicate that WG pitchers who did throw had little to offer and to a certain extent, they were overmatched by St. Francis, but again, there is more to the story than that, which is the way it works in baseball and frankly, all sports. Read on because really what needs to be known is that though St. Francis is more talented and in my opinion, the better team, I don't think they are 22 runs better.