The 2012 high school baseball season is in full swing, and with the Major League Baseball draft right around the corner, we thought it was the perfect time to unveil our inaugural ESPN 100. This list of the top high school baseball players in the Class of 2012 was compiled based on last year's summer and fall events, this year's high school season and by talking to pro scouts.
Here's a look at the early trends in the first ESPN 100.
Heading into the season, the most interesting high school baseball story line came out of California with the dominant pitching duo of UCLA recruits Lucas Giolito and Max Fried teaming up at Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.).
Fried transferred from Montclair Prep (Van Nuys, Calif.) after the school decided to drop its athletics programs. And the thought was that Harvard-Westlake would be tough to beat with the nation's top right-hander (Giolito) and left-hander (Fried).
That thought changed early on, however.
Giolito sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow early in the season and had to shut it down. Meanwhile, Fried struggled early, but he's bounced back nicely, leading Harvard-Westlake to a runner-up finish at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational.
Despite his injury, Giolito is still the No. 1 overall player in the ESPN 100. He's a power pitcher with a hard fastball (consistently in the mid-90s) and good off-speed pitches. Had Giolito actually gone under the knife, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.) outfielder Byron Buxton would have claimed the top spot. Buxton checks in at No. 2 on the list and is a projected top-five pick in the MLB draft.
There are several other elite pitchers that join Giolito and Fried in the ESPN 100, including Olympia (Orlando, Fla.) right-hander Walker Weickel (No. 3) and Solon (Ohio) lefty Matt Smoral (No. 6). Ten of the 20 prospects do their work on the bump, and one player to watch in particular is Camarillo (Calif.) left-hander Hunter Virant.
When we saw Virant at an Area Code Baseball Regional workout last summer, he noted that 2011 was the first year he started to pitch on varsity (he only pitched one inning as a sophomore). Considering Virant went 6-1 last with a 1.55 ERA, the sky's limit for this southpaw.
Up the Middle
Besides pitchers, shortstops and center fielders are the dominant positions in the top half of the ESPN 100. In terms of center fielders, there's Buxton, David Dahl of Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.) and Albert Almora of Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.). The shortstop group is headlined by Gavin Cecchini of Barbe (Lake Charles, La.).
But we can't forget about the all-important catcher position, and there are two stud backstops in the 2012 class in Stryker Trahan of Acadiana (Lafayette, La.) and Clint Coulter of Union (Camas, Wash.).
The Injury Bug
Several top prospects have been hit by injuries this year. Along with Giolito, there's Albuquerque Academy (Albuquerque, N.M.) star Alex Bregman, the No. 61 player, who's out for year with a finger injurty.
Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.) third baseman Rio Ruiz, the No. 22 player, recently had surgery to remove a blood clot in his neck.
On the Bubble
There were several tough calls when we finalized the ESPN 100.
But as the season progresses and as we get closer to the draft, we'll be keeping an eye on Arbor View (Las Vegas) right-hander Zach Quintana, Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.) first baseman/right-hander Matt Olson, Oxford (Ala.) right-hander Tucker Simpson and Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, Va.) right-hander Jack Wynkoop as potential additions to the list.