High-SchoolTexas: Brandon Lopez

Top prospects shine at H.S. Invitational

April, 1, 2012
4/01/12
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Baseball NHSIAndrew Craft/ESPNHSMater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) junior catcher Jeremy Martinez celebrates the Monarchs' win over Harvard-Westlake in the championship of the inaugural USA Baseball H.S. Invitational.
CARY, N.C. -- From a scouting perspective, the problem with high school baseball is the lack of competition top draft prospects face throughout the season. With prospects spread out across the country, the cream of the crop are rarely matched up against one another, which makes it difficult to accurately assess their skills.

That is why the USA Baseball National High School Invitational is such a welcome addition to the spring schedule. And not only by the major league scouts and front office executives who came out in droves, but also by the players who got a chance to prove themselves in a competitive environment. You’d be hard pressed to see better high school baseball played anywhere in the country. As one scout put it, “It’s the best collection of talent I’ve seen in one complex in my 20 years of doing this.”

Here’s a look at 10 prospects — in no particular order — who stood out over the four days in North Carolina.

Jeremy Martinez
Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), C, Jr.

Martinez's beautiful line-drive stroke — in addition to his hustle and leadership — was on full display throughout his team's run to the title. The USC commit also shut down the opposition's running game. Overall, the junior backstop showed once again why he’s one of the top prep prospects in the Class of 2013.

Lucas Sims
Brookwood (Snellville, Ga.), RHP, Sr.

Sims was close to unhittable in his start against Highlands Ranch on Wednesday, giving up just one knock over six innings while striking out 11. His fastball sat between 91-93 mph with a devastating curveball and a changeup that has improved since the Prospect Classic. He’s currently committed to Clemson, but there’s a real chance he’ll be taken in the first 20 picks of June's draft.

Ty Moore
Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), RHP/OF, Sr.

Moore was one of the better two-way prospects on display over the week. He shut out the vaunted Carroll lineup over five innings on Thursday using a fastball with plenty of movement and a breaking-ball that he commanded well all day. He made good reads on the ball in the outfield, and he showed some pop at the plate by hitting one of the longer homers of the event.

Max Fried
Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), LHP, Sr.

At No. 4 in the ESPN 100, Fried was one of the most-hyped prospects coming into the event. He didn’t disappoint. The left-handed ace struggled early against Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.), but the UCLA pledge ended up throwing a complete game and striking out eight. He hit 94 on the gun and showed the best breaking-ball of any pitcher in the field.

Arden Pabst
Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), C, Jr.

Another impressive SoCal catcher from the Class of 2013, Pabst showed impressive pitch recognition and a swing that should be conducive to power as he gets stronger. Behind the plate, he demonstrated solid catch-throw skills. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Pabst and Martinez are off the draft board very early in 2013.

Courtney Hawkins
Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas), OF/RHP, Sr.

When you throw a shutout and hit a home run in a 1-0 victory, you know you've had yourself a pretty good day. Hawkins did that Thursday, and he did it against Florida power Gulliver Prep (Pinecrest, Fla.). Hawkins' fastball sat in the low-90s all game, and he touched 94. His combination of arm strength, speed and raw power makes him one of the top prospects for the 2012 draft.

Brandon Lopez
American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), SS, Sr.

There was no better defensive shortstop over the week than Lopez. The Miami recruit made dazzling plays going to his left and right, and he showed plenty of arm strength for the position as well. He was no slouch with the stick, either, but it’s his glove that makes Lopez such a valuable commodity.

Ryan Burr
Highlands Ranch (Colo.), RHP, Sr.

Burr battled Sims neck and neck for five innings on Wednesday, but some defensive miscues ultimately led to the lopsided final score of 7-0. The Arizona State signee sat in the low-90s and touched 93. Additionally, he showed good commanded of both his fastball and hard-biting breaking ball.

Matt Olson
Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.), RHP/1B, Sr.

Georgia's Gatorade State Player of the Year in 2011, Olson was a dominant force on the mound and at the plate during the tournament. He shut down a strong George Washington (New York) lineup on Wednesday and then crushed a Fried fastball for a homer on Thursday.

Rock Rucker
Russell County (Seale, Ala.), OF, Sr.

In addition to having one of the best names out there, Rucker is an impressive athlete who turned a lot of heads at the event. The left-handed hitting OF has plenty of arm strength — his fastball has been clocked in the 90s — and there’s raw power and plenty of bat-speed in his stroke as well.

Honorable Mentions
Joey Gallo, Bishop Gormon (Las Vegas), 3B/RHP, Sr.
Jack Flaherty, Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), RHP, Soph.
Adrian Marin, Gulliver Prep (Pinecrest, Fla.), SS, Sr.
Ryan McMahon, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), 3B, Jr.
Ivan Pelaez, Gulliver Prep (Pinecrest, Fla.), LHP, Sr.

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

Shortstop Correa tops middle infielders list

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
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Carlos CorreaCal Sport Media via AP ImagesPuerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) shortstop Carlos Correa is projected to be a top-10 pick in June's MLB draft.
Each week since early February, we’ve been taking a look at the elite Class of 2012 high school baseball prospects by ranking the Top 10 players at each position. This week, we unveil our final set of rankings with the Top 10 middle infielders, which is led by Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico) shortstop Carlos Correa. The Miami commit is projected to be a top-10 pick in June’s MLB draft.

Note: The rankings below are partially based on each player's chance of remaining at a middle infield position well into professional baseball.

1. Carlos Correa, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
Correa's physical tools suggest he has a bright future at the plate and is top-10-pick material in June's draft. If the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder can stick at shortstop he could be a star, but he possesses the raw power to take his game to third base, if necessary. He has the hands, arm strength, foot speed and agility to play the position, but he could outgrow it in the long term. Correa is committed to Miami.

2. Gavin Cecchini, Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
Cecchini is a gamer with plus makeup and good athleticism and has a chance to stick at shortstop as a result. His arm is good enough and he's accurate, and there's some pop in the bat thanks to sound mechanics and a solid hit tool. Cecchini is committed to Ole Miss.

3. Addison Russell, Pace (Fla.)
Russell looks more like a third baseman than a shortstop, and his power follows suit. But he moves his feet well and has terrific hands, so there's a chance for him to stick at short in pro ball as long as he remains in top condition. Auburn will miss out on a premium recruit if Russell signs a pro deal this summer.

4. C.J. Hinojosa, Klein Collins (Spring, Texas)
Hinojosa has the arm and hands to play shortstop, and would likely do so if he heads to Austin to play for the Longhorns -- something he nearly did as an early enrollee -- but his thicker build may push him to second base or the hot corner down the line. He squares up fastballs regularly and is considered a tough sign due to his college commitment.

5. Jesmuel Valentine-Diaz, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, Puerto Rico)
Valentine-Diaz is a switch-hitter with a traditional split; he's stronger from his natural right side in terms of consistency and contact, but there's a little more pop from the left side. He doesn't stride, which can be good and bad. He's quick in the field and on the bases and could earn his way into consideration as a second- or third-round pick. He'll be LSU's starting shortstop in 2013 if he passes on the pro game for now, and he could use that time in school to get stronger.

6. Brandon Lopez, American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.)
Lopez is a bit raw in some areas, but once he defines his future -- he's also a right-handed pitcher who has touched the low-90s -- his game may round into shape. He has good hands and a quick bat at the plate and despite a stiff front arm his swing finishes quick and with good plane producing line drives and hefty fly balls. He tends to over-stride a bit, but that's generally an easy fix.

7. Tanner Rahier, Palm Desert (Calif.)
Rahier brings athleticism, strength and good defensive mechanics to the table, but most scouts bet on him ending up at third base as he matures physically -- he's already over 200 pounds and stands 6-foot-2. He has a plus arm and above-average power potential that he could take to the University of San Diego next fall. If Rahier was a better bet to stick at shortstop, he'd rank higher here because he has a better bat than the three prospects ranked ahead of him.

8. Avery Romero, Pedro Menendez (St. Augustine, Fla.)
Like many prep shortstops, Romero may have to move to second or third base, but the tools are there for his bat to play anywhere. He has a strong arm and average speed, but his hands are soft and his release is quick, though he drops his arm angle a little more than scouts prefer.

9. Richie Martin, Bloomingdale (Valrico, Fla.)
Martin, a Florida signee, gets the most out of his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame, but could stand to get stronger. He's good with the glove and his release is quick, but a move to second base due to long-term arm strength may be necessary.

10. Tim Lopes, Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Lopes possesses good instincts on defense and his approach to the game suggests he's a high-makeup talent whose tools will play up as a result. He's not likely long for shortstop but handles the bat well and makes consistent contact.

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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