Aflac Baseball Game preview
In its sixth year as one of the nation's premier prep baseball all-star games, the Aflac All-American High School Baseball Game made a small tweak to its name, dropping “Classic” from the official title and replacing it with “Game.” They could have gone a lot further, however, and renamed the 2008 version the California-Texas vs. Florida-Georgia All-American High School Baseball Game.
A whopping 17 of the 19 members of the West team hail from either California or Texas, while 12 of the 19 members of the East team reside in either Florida or Georgia. California leads the way overall, with 11 of the game's 38 total players hailing from the Golden State.
But if ever there was a year for California players to dominate the Aflac All-American Game, this is it, as Saturday's game will be played at Dodger Stadium - the first time the game has ever been played at a Major League stadium.
Leading the California contingent are two of the nation's top prospects in pitcher Tyler Matzek of Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and catcher Max Stassi of Yuba City (Yuba City, Calif.). Leading the collection of Texas players is No. 1 overall prospect from the Class of 2009 Matthew Purke, a pitcher from Klein (Spring, Texas).
The East's Florida contingent is topped by shortstop/pitcher Mychal Givens of Plant (Tampa, Fla.) and leading Georgia's collection of talent is outfielder Donavan Tate of Cartersville (Cartersville, Ga.). Givens and Tate are two of the most exhilarating positional players to come out of the prep ranks in some time.
Naturally, the coaches for this year contest hail from, you guessed it, California and Florida. The West will be coached by Long Beach Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.) head man Andy Hall while the East squad is led by American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) coach Todd Fitz-Gerald. Fitz-Gerald led American Heritage to the No. 1 spot in the 2008 ESPN RISE FAB 50. Hall led Long Beach Wilson to a final ranking of No. 6 in the 2007 ESPN RISE FAB 50.
Below is a look at five players on the East and West to watch for at this year's Aflac All-American Game. Don't forget, you can tune in and catch the action live at 3 p.m. Eastern on FSN.
Five to Watch
School: Troup (Lagrange, Ga.)
National Rank: 7
Breakdown: Bailey introduced himself as an elite prospect back in the summer of 2006 when he helped the U.S. Youth National Team win gold at the World Youth Championships. Bailey cemented his status as a star this past spring when he hit .505 with 13 home runs, 17 doubles and 61 RBI.
School: Plant (Tampa, Fla.)
National Rank: 4
Breakdown: Givens has long been on the radar as one of the nation's top shortstops from the Class of 2009, but he recently emerged as an intriguing pitching prospect thanks to a fastball that has been clocked at 95 mph. Givens went 8-1 as a pitcher last spring with 48 K's in 43 innings, but he also hit .421 at the plate and added 16 steals.
School: Eagle's View Academy (Jacksonville, Fla.)
National Rank: 6
Breakdown: Maddox is a two-way talent behind the plate and as a pitcher, but it was his hitting prowess that he put on display as a member of the U.S. 18-U team this summer to lead the squad to a second-place finish at the World Junior Championships in Canada. Maddox hit .367 with five doubles, a home run and eight RBI in eight games for Team USA.
School: Providence (Charlotte, N.C.)
National Rank: 15
Breakdown: Shaffer put together a dream season in the spring, dominating on the mound and in the batter's box to lead his team to the North Carolina Class 4A semifinals, including an upset of state power South Caldwell along the way. Shaffer hit .410 with eight homers and 30 RBI and added 85 strikeouts in 64.2 innings of work.
School: Cartersville (Cartersville, Ga.)
National Rank: 3
Breakdown: Tate is arguably the nation's top pure positional player from the Class of 2009, and he is also a Top 100 recruit on the football field. He has offers from the likes of USC, Georgia, Florida, Michigan and Miami to play both sports in college. However, if Tate is selected early enough in the 2009 MLB Draft, he may never make it to college in favor of beginning his baseball career in the minor leagues.
Five to Watch
School: Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo, Calif.)
National Rank: 2
Breakdown: His rank may be No. 2, but Matzek is more like No. 1A behind top-ranked Matthew Purke. With four above-average pitches, including a nasty slider and a mid-90s fastball, Matzek is an early favorite to go in the Top 10 of the 2009 MLB Draft.
School: Temecula Valley (Temecula, Calif.)
National Rank: 16
Breakdown: Pounders is a legit two-way threat, and his stats with Temecula Valley this spring bear that out. He went 7-3 on the hill with a 1.83 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 65 innings. He added 10 homers and 39 RBI at the plate to go with a .376 average.
School: Klein (Spring, Texas)
National Rank: 1
Breakdown: Purke long ago established himself as the top pitcher from the Class of 2009, playing a year up for USA Baseball in the summers of 2006 and '07. Purke excels thanks to a mid-90s heater with a lot of movement that is complemented by a curve and changeup, a trio of pitches that helped him go 12-1 with a 0.37 ERA and 147 K's in 76.2 innings last spring. He is projected to be a Top 10 pick in the 2009 MLB Draft.
School: Yuba City (Yuba City, Calif.)
National Rank: 9
Breakdown: Stassi is a batter who pitcher's hate to see step into the box because he has the potential to go deep every at-bat. He has belted 29 home runs in his three-year varsity career, including 15 this past spring. A .500 hitter over the past three seasons, Stassi has piled up 124 career RBI as well.
School: Westminster Christian Academy (St. Louis, Mo.)
National Rank: 5
Breakdown: With a propensity for throwing his mid-90s fastball over the inside corner, the 6-foot-4 Turner is undoubtedly an intimidating presence on the mound. Opposing hitters found him nearly impossible to his last spring as he struck out 92 batters in 48.1 innings.