High-SchoolBaseball: Harvard-Westlake High School

The Starting Nine: Preseason look

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
9:51
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The Starting NineMike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images, Scott Kurtz/ESPNHS(From left to right) Byron Buxton, Lucas Giolito and Joey Gallo are the three top preseason candidates for The Diamond Gem, the title bestowed upon the nation's most outstanding baseball player based on on-field performance.

With spring right around the corner, 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.

So to kick it off, we give you our preseason Starting Nine. Leading the way is Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.) senior Lucas Giolito, the nation’s top right-handed pitcher who dominated opposing hitters last season and has looked very much like an early first-round pick in the early going this year.

The Starting Nine: Preseason

1. Lucas Giolito, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
RHP, Senior
Why he’s here: The nation’s top right-hander, Giolito went 9-0 last year with a 1.00 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 70.1 innings. He also pitched four complete games, three of which were shutouts.

2. Joey Gallo, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
1B/3B/RHP, Senior
Why he’s here: The top player on the top team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Gallo hit .471 last year with 25 homers and 78 RBIs while leading Gorman to its sixth straight state title. He also was 3-1 on the bump with a 1.12 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.

3. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
OF, Senior
Why he’s here: The nation’s top outfielder and potential top 10 pick in June’s MLB draft flirted with the .600 mark last season (he finished hitting .594) and clubbed 10 homers while driving in 48 runs.

4. Lance McCullers Jr., Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.)
RHP/SS, Senior
Why he’s here: The hard-throwing right-hander (he’s hit 100 mph on the radar gun) went 5-2 with a 1.71 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 45 innings last season for the Class 4A state runner-up. He also hit .422 with seven homers and 24 RBIs.

5. Kayden Porter, Spanish Fork (Utah)
RHP/OF, Senior
Why he’s here: Porter picked up ESPNHS National Junior of the Year honors last year after leading Spanish Fork to its third straight state title. He went 9-1 with 85 strikeouts in 59 innings and hit .570 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs.

6. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
SS, Senior
Why he’s here: Leader of Louisiana powerhouse picked up Gatorade State Player of the Year honors last season after hitting .548 with 10 homers, 41 RBIs and 32 stolen bases.

7. Max Fried, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.)
LHP, Senior
Why he’s here: The nation’s top lefty, Fried went 7-3 with a 1.31 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 69.2 innings at Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, Calif.). He transferred to Harvard-Westlake after Montclair Prep cut its athletics program.

8. Kyle Carter, Columbus (Ga.)
OF/LHP, Senior
Why he’s here: Carter, who starred on the Columbus team that won the 2006 Little League World Series, set a single-season school record with 22 homers last season to help Columbus earn its second straight state title and 11th overall. He also hit .467 with 47 RBIs and went 9-4 on the mound with a 2.33 ERA.

9. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
RHP/OF, Senior
Why he’s here: The leader of the No. 4 team in the POWERADE FAB 50, Hawkins led Carroll to a state title as a sophomore and the state semifinals last season. As a junior, he hit .410 with 15 homers, 49 RBIs and 22 stolen bases and was 10-2 with a 2.35 ERA and 81 strikeouts.

ON DECK
Another 25 players we’re tracking to begin the 2012 season

OF Albert Almora, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.), Sr.
RHP Freddy Avis, Menlo School (Atherton, Calif.), Sr.
1B Keon Barnum, King (Tampa, Fla.), Sr.
RHP Ryan Burr, Highlands Ranch (Colo.), Sr.
C Zach Collins, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), Jr.
C Clint Coulter, Union (Camas, Wash.), Sr.
OF David Dahl, Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.), Sr.
RHP Ty Hensley, Santa Fe (Edmond, Okla.), Sr.
3B/RHP Carson Kelly, Westview (Portland, Ore.), Sr.
LHP Nathan Kirby, James River (Midlothian, Va.), Sr.
C Jeremy Martinez, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), Jr.
C/SS/RHP Wyatt Mathisen, Calallen (Corpus Christi, Texas), Sr.
OF/RHP Ty Moore, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), Sr.
3B/OF Mitch Nay, Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.), Sr.
1B/RHP Matt Olson, Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.), Sr.
3B Rio Ruiz, Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.), Sr.
SS Addison Russell, Pace (Fla.), Sr.
RHP Lucas Sims, Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.), Sr.
LHP Matt Smoral, Solon (Ohio), Sr.
1B/RHP Jake Thompson, Rockwall-Heath (Heath, Texas), Sr.
RHP/OF Keegan Thompson, Cullman (Ala.), Jr.
C Stryker Trahan, Acadiana (Lafayette, La.), Sr.
LHP Hunter Virant, Camarillo (Calif.), Sr.
RHP Walker Weickel, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.), Sr.
OF/LHP Jesse Winker, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.), Sr.

Preseason FAB 50: Closer look at top 10

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
11:33
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Courtney HawkinsCorpus Christi Caller-Times/Photographer George TuleyCarroll (Corpus Christi) senior outfielder/right-handed pitcher Courtney Hawkins leads the way for the Tigers, who advanced to last year's state semifinals.

Coming up with a preseason baseball top 10 for the Powerade FAB 50 ESPNHS Team Rankings was no easy task.

How high should we rank Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), which has the nation’s top right-hander (Lucas Giolito) and left-hander (Max Fried) on its roster?

And what about Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.), led by senior flamethrower and likely first-round pick Lance McCullers Jr.?

Ultimately, the top spot came down to a pair of traditional national powers in Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) and Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), two schools that once again field impressive collections of players that will make them very tough to beat in their respective leagues.

Read More »

Max Fried leads Class of 2012 left-handers

February, 3, 2012
2/03/12
10:13
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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.

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