High-SchoolBaseball: C.J. Saylor

Stryker Trahan is nation’s best backstop

February, 17, 2012
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Stryker TrahanScott Kurtz/ESPNHSAcadiana (Lafayette, La.) senior and Ole Miss recruit Stryker Trahan batted .460 with five homers and 31 RBIs last season.

Each week from now until early March, we’ll take a look at the elite Class of 2012 high school baseball prospects by ranking our Top 10 players by position. This week, we unveil our list of the Top 10 catchers headlined by Acadiana (Lafayette, La.) standout Stryker Trahan.

Last year, Trahan was a Class 5A All-State first team selection after he batted .460 with five homers and 31 RBIs. He signed with Ole Miss.

Note: There are others that catch at the prep level that have enough offensive potential to have landed in the Top 10, but don't, in my opinion, have a great enough shot to stick at the position. This Top 10 has the best present skills and tools to remain catchers in pro ball.

1. Stryker Trahan, Acadiana (Lafayette, La.)
Trahan possesses good arm strength, quick feet and a consistent swing that produces above-average power from the left side of the plate. He's strong and sturdy, suggesting he can physically handle catching long term, but he also runs well, posting times from home to first in the low four-second range. He's committed to Ole Miss, but the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder has a chance to be taken off the board among the top 20 picks and is among the better high school catching prospects over the past five years.

2. Clint Coulter, Union (Camas, Wash.)
Coulter, a former elite wrestler, has only focused solely on baseball for one season, but it’s already paying off for the 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-handed hitter. He shows strength and a good approach at the plate and during the Area Code Games tryouts last summer stood out with a short swing and good hip rotation. He's signed a letter of intent with Arizona State, but there is also a good chance he's selected on Day 1 of the draft, which generally guarantees a player a mid-to-high six-figure bonus.

3. Alex Bregman , Albuquerque Academy (Albuquerque, N.M.)
Bregman played shortstop last summer and looked like a quality player, but most scouts project him at second base or catcher. His ranking here is based on the possibility that he sticks behind the plate. He certainly possesses the athletic ability, and his quick release bodes well for the position. He could stand to get stronger, however. He's an LSU commit who could sneak into second round with a strong spring.

4. Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Mathisen's sound approach at the plate and strong arm highlight a solid package of skills for a prep catcher. He's an accurate thrower as well and has quick hands that help him generate bat speed. Mathisen will head to Austin to play for the Longhorns if he doesn't sign a pro deal this coming summer. He projects as a potential second-round pick as the 2012 schedule begins.

5. C.J. Saylor, South Hills (West Covina, Calif.)
Saylor gets the most out of his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame, including some gap power and above-average arm strength. His strong lower half helps him produce solid pop times and provides a solid base when swinging the bat. The swing itself has flaws, including a stiff front arm, but there's bat speed and good hand-eye coordination. The San Diego State signee should hear his name called on Day 2.

6. Bryan De La Rosa, Bucky Dent Baseball School (Delray Beach, Fla.)
De La Rosa, a Florida State commit, possesses solid bat speed, generated from good hip rotation and quick wrists. His pop times sit in the 1.7-1.75 range, which is excellent, and despite his lack of size — 5-foot-9, 180 pounds — there's some upside in his game. He'll have to get stronger in his upper body and continue to work on his technique behind the plate and approach at it, but the Puerto Rico native is likely to garner a lot of attention in the middle rounds of Day 2, if not before.

7. Christopher Chinea, Gulliver Prep (Pinecrest, Fla.)
Chinea may have as much chance to jump up the charts as any other prep backstop. He's strong yet athletic at 6-feet and just over 200 pounds, and the power he's displayed is impressive. He was injured late last spring, but there are scouts who believe he's a solid talent that they'd like to keep from heading to LSU. Arm strength and a power swing may lead the way.

8. Ruben Ybarra, Riverside Poly (Riverside, Calif.)
Ybarra may be right behind Chinea in terms of possessing the raw physical tools to greatly improve his stock by draft day. There's big power in his swing and his arm is above average. He's committed to Arizona State, but another year working on his accuracy, making contact at the plate and improving his footwork could mean a spot in the top 100.

9. Tomas Nido, Orangewood Christian (Maitland, Fla.)
Nido is a favorite of mine after studying video and talking to scouts. He stands out in the most important categories as far as tools are concerned — arm strength, receiving and power at the plate. His pop times are above average, but during games he's shown a tendency to open his front side on throws. The hit tool needs work, too, and despite the raw power the swing is long and his hands are busy. He's another Florida State commit and a Day 2 prospect, but he has a chance to end up among the top five prep catchers off the board.

10. Wilfredo Rodriguez, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
Rodriguez has good feet, running many 60s in under seven seconds, which is good for a catcher. He has good arm strength, is very accurate and his footwork is also solid. His swing is simple and produces line drives, but he does bar his front arm and has a difficult time with good pitches on the outer half. He's signed on at Seminole State College.

Jason A. Churchill covers scouting, player development and the MLB Draft for ESPN Insider, as well as Prospect Insider, where he's the founder and executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider and email him at churchill@prospectinsider.com.

Lucas Giolito leads loaded Cali senior class

November, 22, 2011
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Hunter Virant, Milwaukee Brewers, Area Code Baseball, Camarillo High SchoolScott Kurtz/ESPNHSCamarillo (Calif.) senior left-hander Hunter Virant went 6-1 last year with a 1.54 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 50 innings.

While the prep baseball season is months away, it's never too soon to evaluate what we'll be watching once the schedule gets under way. “The Golden State” is typically among the three hot spots for amateur baseball with Texas and Florida in terms of producing myriad elite prospects. But it’s California that often produces the most top prospects, and this year is no different.

Here’s a look at the Top 10 California high school prospects in the Class of 2012.

1. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Giolito, a UCLA recruit, has the velocity — up to 97 mph — and projectability with his 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame to land in the top five in June’s MLB Draft. He sits in the 92 to 94 range with his fastball and also has a pair of promising secondary pitches with his changeup and two-gear breaking ball.

2. Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Fried, who inked with UCLA along with his high school teammate Giolito, stands a projectable 6-foot-4 and combines consistent mechanics with above-average velocity that reaches 92 miles per hour. Fried, who will pitch in the same rotation as Giolito in 2012, stands a projectable 6-foot-4 and combines consistent mechanics with athleticism and above-average velocity that reaches 92 miles per hour. His changeup and curveball each figure to be average or better offerings, and when the smoke clears, Fried could hear his name called shortly after Giolito somewhere in the top half of the first round.

3. Freddy Avis, RHP, Menlo School (Atherton, Calif.)
Despite lacking the physical frame of some of his in-state rivals at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, Avis has good arm speed and a fluid delivery, producing easy velocity in the 90 to 93 mph range and also holstering a curveball. He's believed to be a strong commit to Stanford, but is also likely to be considered in Round 1.

4. Trey Williams, 3B, Valencia (Valencia, Calif.)
Williams is a right-handed hitting prep shortstop who profiles defensively at third base. He's sturdy and strong with a plus arm and good athleticism. His setup needs work but with terrific hands and wrists generates well above-average bat speed that should result in plus power. Williams, a Pepperdine commit, is the son of former big league infielder Eddie Williams, who spent parts of 10 seasons in the majors after being the No. 4 overall selection in the 1983 Draft.

5. Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo (Camarillo, Calif.)
Virant, like Williams and Avis ahead of him, has the capability to soar to at least No. 2 on this list with a strong spring. He offers projection at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds and already boasts a solid to average fastball that has brushed 94 mph in the past. His arm action is somewhat short, but there's plenty of time to figure that out and it's not expected to negatively impact his draft status. The left-hander's mid-70s curveball and potential for added velocity suggest he's among the prep arms with the most upside in any state.

6. Rio Ruiz, 3B, Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.)
Ruiz is a two-sport star at Bishop Amat, where he’s a standout quarterback in the fall and an elite baseball talent in the spring. He handles multiple gigs on the diamond, including on the mound, where he’s touched 93 miles per hour. He runs well (7.1 in the 60), stands 6-foot-2 and about 200 pounds and offers left-handed power. He has good hands and may stick at third if he doesn’t outgrow the position. But if he can’t stick at third, he has good instincts and could transition to right field without any issues.

7. Cody Poteet, RHP, Christian (El Cajon, Calif.)
Packing a bigger fastball than his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame suggests, Poteet is also able to create some plane to his heater that sits at 90 to 93 mph. He throws from around a three-quarter arm slot, which creates some tilt to his curveball. He's a bulldog on the mound and I'm a little bullish on him here at No. 7, but his lack of projection doesn't bother me all that much.

8. Shane Watson, RHP, Lakewood (Lakewood, Calif.)
Watson's arsenal includes a fastball in the 88 to 92 mph range, showing sink and arm side ride, and his frame (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) may produce more velocity down the line. But it may have to come from improved mechanics, primarily better balance and use of his lower half. Watson is committed to USC and should be considered early on Day 1 of the draft.

9. Felipe Perez, RHP, Fairmont Prep (Anaheim, Calif.)
This 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander pitches at 88 to 91 mph but has touched 93 and throws two breaking balls — a 72 to 75 mph curveball and a 77 to 79 mph slider. His arm works well from a high, three-quarter slot and he's performed well in showcase events, something scouts remember throughout the spring.

10. Ryan McNeil, RHP, Nipomo (Nipomo, Calif.)
One could argue that McNeil belongs as high as No. 7 on this lists — the last four players on this are all worthy adversaries. He’s got an aggressive arm with upside, and he’s touched 94 mph with his fastball. He also employs a slider. McNeil has committed to Long Beach State, but he could perform his way into the top 50 of the draft come June. Marina (Marina, Calif.) pitcher Trevor Megill — all 6-foot-7 of him — would have ranked here, but he decided to enroll early at Loyola Marymount.


On the Brink
Corey Oswalt, 3B, James Madison High School (San Diego, Calif.)
Chase DeJong, RHP, Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.)
Nolan Gannon, RHP, Santa Fe Christian (San Diego, Calif.)
C.J. Saylor, C, South Hills (West Covina, Calif.)

NOTES
Right-handers Giolito, Perez and Poteet and southpaws Fried and Virant have all signed with UCLA, which could make for an intriguing class if any number of them pass on pro ball the first time around … Saylor is an elite defensive backstop recruited to San Diego State, where he could catch Gannon if they both ultimately honor their college commitments … Giolito could be the No. 1 overall pick if the Houston Astros buck the building trend of avoiding prep pitchers with the top overall selection. At this stage, only Appling County (Baxley, Ga.) outfielder Byron Buxton rivals Giolito among the country's top prep prospects … The new Collective Bargaining Agreement in Major League Baseball may impact how many high school talents put their professional aspirations on hold for college ball. The new tax that is expected to be introduced this week by the Major League Baseball Players Association and the league will incorporate penalties for clubs that exceed a set amount for signing bonuses in combination for the first 10 rounds. This may or may not abbreviate the bonuses for some top picks.

Jason A. Churchill covers scouting, player development and the MLB Draft for ESPN Insider, as well as Prospect Insider, where he's the founder and executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider and email him at churchill@prospectinsider.com.

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