High-SchoolBaseball: Camarillo High School

Virant is other big arm in UCLA's class

March, 9, 2012
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.
Recruiting always brings a great deal of hope to college sports fans, who believe multiple four- and five-star prospects signing with their school will change everything.

And sometimes it works out — Michigan’s “Fab Five” in college basketball is a classic example of that.

Now, baseball is a little different when it comes to recruiting those four- and five-star recruits because of the MLB draft. But putting the draft aside, UCLA’s signing class this year is loaded.

The Bruins inked the nation’s top right-hander in Lucas Giolito and left-hander in Max Fried, both from Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), though Giolito recently found out he could be out of action for up 10 weeks after spraining the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Because of Giolito and Fried, Hunter Virant often gets lost in the shuffle in UCLA’s recruiting class, but the Camarillo (Calif.) senior left-hander has plenty of talent himself.

“It’s as good a pitching class as I’ve seen, and (Virant) is a huge reason why,” said a Pac-12 assistant coach. “The kids at Harvard-Westlake get all the attention with good reason, but you watch this kid pitch and you realize that he’s got just as much talent as anyone in the state. That’s going to be one heck of a weekend rotation.”

Rated the nation’s No. 3 left-hander by ESPNHS, Virant went 6-1 last year with a 1.54 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched, threw a perfect game against Rio Mesa (Oxnard, Calif.) and was named the Pacific View League pitcher of the year. As a reward for his strong season, he was selected to participate in the 2011 Prospect Classic -- a matchup of USA Baseball’s 18U and collegiate national teams --and this summer’s Area Code Games, where he was selected to the New Balance All-Area Code team.

“Being able to play in the Area Code Games is a great honor for any high school baseball player,” said Virant. “One of the more interesting aspects is being around all these different players and seeing the different types of characters. Whenever a team of new players is able to get along, it strengthens the team’s ability to win and play together better. ”

Virant has looked strong once again this season, fanning eight in a recent win over Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.). And while he’s looking forward to becoming a Bruin, one thing that could stand in the way of him pitching in Steele Field in 2013 is the MLB Draft. ESPN Insider senior baseball analyst Keith Law saw Virant at the Southern California Invitational this February and graded his changeup as the best at the event. He also rates Virant as the draft's No. 17 overall prospect.

So while he might not get the hype of his potential future teammates, Hunter Virant is proving he’s a name to watch this season.

Christopher Crawford is the founder and executive editor of MLB Draft Insider and a contributor to Prospect Insider. Follow him on Twitter @CrawfordChrisV.

Max Fried leads Class of 2012 left-handers

February, 3, 2012
Max FriedCourtesy of Matt LaCour/Harvard-WestlakeHarvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) senior Max Fried, who transferred from Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, Calif.) after it cut its athletics program, is the nation's top left-handed pitcher.

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 left-handed pitchers, which has a familiar feel at the top with Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) southpaw Max Fried. Last week, we rated Fried’s teammate Lucas Giolito as the nation’s top right-hander.

1. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
Fried is a fastball—curveball--changeup southpaw with projection in his 6-foot-4, 170-pound frame and a present fastball that has hit 94 mph. He's part of UCLA's tremendous recruiting class but is a good bet to go in the top half of the first round.

2. Matt Smoral, Solon (Ohio)
Smoral is interchangeable with Fried for the top spot. While Fried is further along in his development, Smoral brings more upside. At 6-foot-8, Smoral's 90-94 mph fastball comes easy and his slider works well from his three-quarters arm slot. He's a North Carolina commit but could go in the top 10 come June.

3. Hunter Virant, Camarillo (Calif.)
Virant, who could join Fried and right-hander Giolito at UCLA next season, is a first-round talent heading into the spring schedule. He sits in the 88-92 mph range and has topped out at 93, and the pitch carries some late life. He has good arm speed, which bodes well for his changeup.

4. Nathan Kirby, James River (Midlothian, Va.)
Kirby’s fastball--breaking ball combination is first-round worthy. And despite the lack of size at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, the southpaw sits in the 88-91 mph range with his heater. The development of a legitimate changeup could be the difference on draft day. Kirby has committed to Virginia.

5. Max Foody, IMG Baseball Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Foody, a Florida State commit, is big and strong at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, but he remains athletic and showed toughness in coming back from shoulder problems prior to last season. He employs a fastball, curveball and changeup, and has hit the low 90s in 2011. He could pitch his way into the first round with a strong spring.

6. Jack Wynkoop, Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, Va.)
Wynkoop lands at No. 6 mostly on projection. He's 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds and a solid athlete. He's pitched in the 84-87 mph range but touched 89 last summer and also offers a curveball, slider and changeup. He's a South Carolina signee, but could see his stock rise if the fastball becomes more firm and more consistently in the upper-80s to low-90s.

Brett Lilek
Scott Kurtz/ESPNHSMarian Catholic (Chicago Heights, Ill.) senior and Arizona State recruit Brett Lilek is the nation's No. 9 left-hander.
7. Kyle Twomey, El Dorado (Placentia, Calif.)
Twomey impresses with his ability to pitch, rather than throw, and his out pitch is curveball that flashes as a plus pitch. He's generally sat in the 85-88 mph range in games, but he has touched 91 in showcases. His fastball has also shown some arm side run. He's headed to USC if he doesn't sign a pro deal, but has a shot at a Day 1 selection, and the first round isn’t completely out of the question.

8. James Crownover, Ringgold (Ga.)
Crownover is a sturdy left-hander who has touched 95 on the radar gun. He uses his secondary stuff well, when necessary, and both his curveball and changeup has occasionally shown as above-average pitches. He lacks projection -- he's 6-feet tall -- so he's not likely a first-round talent, but the compensation round could be within reach.

9. Brett Lilek, Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights, Ill.)
Lilek offers a loose armed delivery that helps him get to the low-90s with his fastball. At times he looks the part of a first-rounder, teasing scouts in the process. The Arizona State commit also employs a curveball and change, both of which should eventually benefit from the top-end arm speed. But there are some concerns with the rest of the delivery, specifically his right leg, which lands a bit violently.

10. Austin Fairchild, St. Thomas (Houston)
Fairchild isn't built like the prototypical starting pitcher at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, but he reaches the low-90s with his fastball and also offers a curveball and changeup. He has good arm speed, too, but there is a lot of effort in his delivery, which could mean he's headed for the bullpen down the line. Fairchild is a TCU commit, and among the most likely of their better signees to actually get to campus next fall.

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.