On my step-dad's birthday I celebrated by attending the Rancho @ Petaluma game. That actually has nothing to do with anything.
I went to the game to get a second look at Rancho senior SS Brent Gillespie. There were plenty of other players to stand out in this game, particularly for Petaluma, which won the game 11-1 in 5 innings. If PHS can get enough pitching and defense they look to have plenty of offense to have a strong year.
Gillespie didn't have a good offensive game but I continue to think there is "something" there with him. I am obviously drawn to a 6'2" 185 lb L/R shortstop and even more so when I see some tools and beyond that, I see passion and both on-field and off-field intangibles. Offensively he hit two ground balls to the right side and simply looked to be in an impatient type of rut where he is too anxious to the fastball. That can happen to seniors who are good players and still looking to secure an opportunity beyond high school baseball. He DOES have bat speed and he IS going to fill out more and when all said and done, he should have some power. He is not a burner down the line but Gillespie moves well enough on the bases.
Defensively is where a SS has to show is primary worth, if he is going to stay there. Gillespie moves around well and can make plays on the move. His arm strength is good enough to stay there at SS but he does have a little stab in his arm action that makes his release longer than it should be. He can improve going to his backhand, in particular with his footwork. Beyond his abilities and skills, it is Gillespie's intangibles I noticed. He is a communicative defender, great teammate, first guy out of the dugout and off the field and he plays with an upbeat energy. Clearly he likes to be on the field and he didn't look to be taking his offense to the field.
There were a couple of plays in particular where the intangibles and his decision making stood out. With runners at 2nd/3rd and the infield in, a ball was hit at him but not very hard. This was in the 2nd inning, I think. He could have made the decision to try and get the runner at home but it would have been a bang bang play. To me, it was too early in the game to take that risk, which could have opened up a big inning, had the risk not paid off. As it turns out, the game ended up getting out of hand anyway, but it was not due to that play. I liked the decision.
The other play that REALLY stood out to me was in the bottom of the 4th inning, I think, might have been bottom of 5th. Anyway, Rancho was down like 9-1 at the time and getting their tails kicked. I think the bases were loaded and a ball was hit in the 6-hole. Gillespie went after hit hard, dove, and made a clean stop. Now, he was not going to be able to throw anyone out on that play, but he did save a run and then didn't force a throw anywhere when there was not a play to be made. What I liked more than anything was seeing a kid continue to give full effort and play the right way, regardless of the score or situation. Gillespie went after that ball like it was the bottom of the 7th and the game was tied and he was trying to keep it tied. If abilities and skills get players opportunities to get on the field, it is the intangibles (well, and performance) that KEEP them on the field and separate them from other players.
Ok, that is a lot about two plays from a SS on a team that lost 11-1 and he himself went 0-2 and made an error. Before I get to the Petaluma players, I want to also mention RCHS senior CF Steven de la O (I think that is how it is spelled, though the maxpreps roster says Delao). I don't recall seeing him play in the other Rancho game I saw and would think he would have stood out to me. He is a strong and lean 6'0" 175 R/R outfielder who can run (4.26 down the line), has an above average (and accurate), future plus arm, bat speed, strength and can steal bases. His routes can improve in the outfield but so can most high school players. He swung a wood bat in this game and handled it well. He also kept the bat head in the zone pretty well.
Now, on to the Petaluma players. The star of the game was starting pitcher, junior RHP/3B Daniel Comstock (5'11" 200, R/R). He went the full 5 innings and really was never in serious trouble. Comstock was also 3-4 with 2 doubles and I think 4, maybe 5 RBI. Comstock is the regular 3rd baseman and I wasn't even aware that he pitched. I don't see him pitching beyond high school but he really mixed three pitches well and showed control of the FB, CB and the CHG. As a hitter, he did what I have seen him do a lot, which is drive the ball in the middle of the field. To me, Comstock is one of the better junior hitters in Northern California. The doubles went to deep right-center and to straight away centerfield, over the CF's head. His single was smoked through the 4-hole. All three hits drove in runs.
Junior SS Dylan Parks (listed 6'2" 195, R/R) is also a good looking young player. He is a little raw but you can tell he is a good athlete. Parks throws well, can run a bit and has bat speed, with an aggressive swing. He tends to get to the pull side too much right now and I don't think he is particularly well-suited to the 2-hole, where he hit yesterday, but he does have hitting tools. Defensively I don't see a pure SS but as an athlete, he should continue to work there because he can always go to the outfield.
Three other seniors on this team deserve attention from 4-year college coaches. CF Steven McElroy (5'9" 175, L/L)is a good, instinctual outfielder with a fair but accurate arm and a good contact, bat control approach at the plate. He can work the count and hits to all fields. His tools are not outstanding or really noticeable but he is a good ballplayer and very competitive on the field. He also pitches and has a lot of experience on the mound. C Spencer Neve (5'11" 185, R/R) has the defensive tools to be an above average college catcher and he would be a good one for a D1 coach to develop at that level. Neve has a strong arm and his throws track well. He can get a little inconsistent with his exchange and getting a good grip on the ball but the arm and the body work well. He receives well and has good agility behind the plate. From what I know, Neve was also the starting varsity QB and yes, that is a significant thing to know about a high school baseball player. He didn't have a good day at the plate but I saw him swing the wood bat well last June at BAWS, where he hit like 3 or 4 doubles and for the most part was in the middle of the field.
Lastly, senior 1B Anthony Sequeira (6'5" 225, L/R) has the type of body and profile that will always get him a look from a college recruiter and even a scout if he is at one of Sequeira's game. His bat speed is just fair but when he is on-time, he showed some pullside power and leverage. In some ways he reminds me of USF 1st baseman Nik Balog, who was basically unrecruited out of Mitty (I don't think he even started at Mitty as a senior), in that he is a big, timing type lefthanded hitter who has a chance to hit the ball out of the ballpark from time to time. The new bats are going to make power a much more precious commodity so seeing a big lefthanded hitter who has some pop, well, I take notice. Around the bag he moves ok and does throw well enough. Sequeira's older brother (P.J) was a good player who went to Santa Rosa JC, then eventually transferred to U of Kentucky, if memory serves correct. He was more athletic than Anthony with better tools but I like to note it when I see a younger brother of a good player.
There you have it. Even though it was an 11-1 blowout, there was plenty to take away from this game. If you are a college coach reading my game reports, feel free to contact me about my specific thoughts about what level I think the players I see can play at. You likely have my email address.