ESPNHS has begun its search for the nation’s top high school baseball player, regardless of school year and based solely on on-field performance. Every two weeks, we’ll rank the nine players in order in The Starting Nine. And at the end of the season, whoever is in the top spot will be crowned The Diamond Gem, our award given to the nation’s most outstanding player.
There aren’t any major changes in our second update of The Starting Nine. But there is one player who’s threatening to move his way up to No. 1 if he continues his torrid start on the mound. That player is Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.) senior right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who tossed a no-hitter with 12 strikeouts in his last start. He hasn’t allowed a run through six starts and opponents are hitting just .075 off him.
McCullers jumps up one spot to No. 2 in this week’s rankings, but he couldn’t unseat Appling County (Baxley, Ga.) senior outfielder/right-handed pitcher Byron Buxton. Though he’s not seeing much to hit and has no homers as a result, Buxton is still batting .500 and has also dominated on the bump.
The Starting Nine — March 29th Edition
Through games of March 25
1. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
Previous spot: No. 1
What he’s done: Buxton doesn’t have a homer yet, but he still hasn’t seen anything to hit, either. Hitting from the leadoff spot, Buxton is batting .500 with seven doubles, three triples and eight RBIs and is a perfect 15-for-15 on stolen bases. He’s also got a 1.96 ERA on the bump with 47 strikeouts and only four walks in 25 innings.
2. Lance McCullers Jr., Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
Previous spot: No. 3
What he’s done: We’re now almost into April and McCullers still hasn’t given up a run this season, running his scoreless streak to 30.1 innings. He’s 6-0 and fanned 57 and walked only nine during that span, and he’s also brought his averaged up to .310.
3. Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
Previous spot: No. 2
What’s he’s done: The nation’s No. 1 team in the POWERADE FAB 50 has started out 8-0 thanks in large part to Gallo, who’s batting .588 with a .667 on-base percentage and 14 RBIs.
4. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Previous spot: No. 4
What he’s done: Hawkins and Carroll, which is 16-0, continue to roll. Hawkins is hitting .469 with six homers and 23 RBIs and is 1-0 on the mound with a 0.66 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 10.2 innings.
5. David Dahl, Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.)
Previous spot: No. 5
What he’s done: Dahl's numbers continue to be solid across the board. He's hitting .386 with a .533 OBP, one homer, 27 runs scored nine RBIs, 11 doubles, two triples and 15 stolen bases.
6. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
Previous Spot: No. 6
What he’s done: Cecchini has propelled Barbe to an 18-4 start with both his hitting and his defense. He’s batting .378 with two homers and 15 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 15 attempts. And he still hasn’t committed an error in the field.
7. Kyle Carter, Columbus (Ga.)
Previous spot: No. 7
What he’s done: Carter has played a huge role in Columbus’ 10-0 start. He’s hitting .387 with six homers and 13 RBIs and is 4-0 on the mound with a 1.17 ERA, two saves and 34 strikeouts in 24 innings.
8. Kayden Porter, Spanish Fork (Utah)
Previous Spot: No. 8
What he’s done: Porter is starting to pick it up on both the mound and at the plate and has helped Spanish Fork begin the year at 8-0. He’s hitting .500 with a .581 OBP with two homers and nine RBIs. He’s 1-0 on the hill with a 1.87 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 15 innings. We’re also keeping an eye on his teammate Hayden Nielsen, who’s got a 0.47 ERA.
9. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Previous spot: No. 9
What he’s done: Fried has been rock solid ever since his teammate Lucas Giolito — the nation’s No. 1 recruit — went down with an injury. In two starts over the past two weeks, he struck out 24 batters in 12 innings, including a 14 K performance in five innings against Lancaster (Calif.) on March 23. At the dish, Fried is hitting .459 with 17 RBIs.
Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas)
What he’s done: With Mathisen playing like this, it’s no surprise Calallen is 20-0. He is hitting .426 with 23 RBIs at the dish, and he’s been even more impressive on the hill. He has thrown consecutive complete game victories in his last two starts, including an eight-inning outing in which he pitched into extra innings and fanned 15.