The 2013 WWBA World Championship kicked off October 24 for a 4-day look of the prep class of 2014 The tournament consisted of 85 of the best high school travel teams in the nation and is one of the most heavily scouted events of the year.
The event closed out the 2013 showcase circuit, giving scouts their final shot to see players in games before the spring schedule starts.
As we head into the 2014 high school season we can start to piece together rankings for the upcoming draft class. Below are some headlines of class as winter — the slow period — approaches.
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Jackson Atop Prep Bats
Alex Jackson (Rancho Bernardo HS, CA) emerged onto the scene as an elite high school talent in 2012 when he had an impressive showing at the 2012 Area Code Games as a Junior. He entered the summer as one of the top position players in the class, but after an impressive summer he has placed himself at the top of the prep class.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound catcher may ultimately move to right field but his bat is his calling card, anyway. He has elite bat speed with a potential plus hit tool and potential above-average power to all fields. His plus arm will be a weapon at whichever position he lands in pro ball.
“You draft Jackson as a hitter,” said one crosschecker after the completion of the summer. “It’d be a big, big bonus if he could catch, but Bryce Harper was a high school catcher that was drafted and immediately moved to the outfield to take advantage of his skills at the plate. That’s where the value is with Jackson, too; very high upside, maybe Top 10.”
The two top names behind Jackson are Clovis High School (CA) shortstop Jacob Gatewood and T.C. Robertson High School (NC) outfielder Braxton Davidson. Gatewood has big upside with huge raw power, but showed contact issues over the summer, as his swing was often stuck in batting-practice mode during games leading to a lot of swings and misses.
Davidson showed enough plate skills to suggest he’s one of the best pure hitters in prep class but may require an eventual switch to first base. His draft stock will carry him, but if he can stick in right field he’s probably a surefire first-round selection come June.
“Gatewood may have the highest ceiling because there’s a chance he plays up the middle,” an assistant scouting director said after the Area Code Games in Long Beach. “There’s a lot to like and a lot to dream on with him. Am I concerned about his swing? A little bit. He’s got time to figure it out.”
Arms Dominate Class
One of the biggest strengths of this year’s class is the quality and depth of frontline starting pitching. After the summer, it appears as if as many as 10 high school pitchers could go in the first round.
Right-hander Tyler Kolek (Shepard HS, TX) brings some of the biggest heat in the class. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound, right-hander has been up to 99 mph and flashes two plus breaking balls: a low-80’s slider and a mid-70’s curve.
“Not a whole lot else to say, is there,” quipped one east coast supervisor. “He’s big, strong, throws hard, shows a feel for his breaking ball — both of them — and is a workhorse.”
The top prep lefty in the class may be Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic HS, CA) who had a dominant summer while showing great stuff, including a low-90s fastball, improving curveball and an advanced changeup. He has a smooth, low effort delivery and a projectable, 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame. He commanded both secondary offerings well and both project as swing-and-miss offerings.
Other notable right-handers include right-handers Touki Toussaint (Coral Springs Christian HS, FL), Grant Holmes (Conway HS, SC), Luis Ortiz (Sanger HS, CA), and Sean Reid-Foley (Sandalwood HS, FL). Toussaint has some of the best raw stuff, showing a mid-90’s fastball and a power curveball but struggled throwing strikes over the summer. He did rebound with his command late, setting him up for a big spring. Holmes has been in the discussion as the top prep arm, sitting in the mid-90s and showing a plus curveball with a solid change that flashed above-average in the showcases.
Toussaint has the physical attributes and raw stuff to earn his way into the top half of the round.
Other top left-handers include Mac Marshall (Parkview HS, GA), Kodi Medeiros (Waiakea HS, HI), and Justus Sheffield (Tullahoma HS, TN). Marshall really impressed at this year’s Games, sitting low-90’s with his fastball and showing a plus changeup while mixing in an above-average curveball and repeating his delivery well. Medeiros was one of the hottest names this summer, jumping onto the scene at the Area Codes and showing some of the best overall stuff. He touched the mid-90s with a fastball that has plus armside run created by a low arm slot. He also throws a plus slider but the arm slot, size — he’s listed at 6-feet and 185 pounds — and lack of a changeup suggest reliever long term.
Things can and will change in terms of who’s who in the draft class, and those changes will occur all spring, sometimes week-to-week and even day-to-day. While we never know what a high school talent is going to be, exactly, we’ll begin the 2014 season with a group of talents that rival that of any prep class in recent memory.
A Look at the Northwest
The Northwest lacks the big time names like we saw last year, but there is still plenty of talent and interesting guys who have the potential to improve their stock this spring.
Kelliher is a smaller arm at 5-foot-11 and a 170-pounds but has some exciting stuff. His fastball sits 89-92 with life and has been up to 94. He also throws a mid 70s, 12-6 curveball that has solid shape and depth, and a high 70’s changeup that had good action. He mixes his pitches well and knows how to use them. He recently decommitted from the University of San Diego and it was announced a few days ago that he has committed to the University of Oregon.
Burland throws an 88-91 mph fastball that has good life, and he commands it well. He also throws a curve at 73-75 and he mixed in a change at 82 that showed good fade and sink. In his appearance at the Area Codes, he worked quickly and did a good job keeping the ball down. The velo is easy for Burland and he has a good build at 6-foot-2, 190-pounds with some projection remaining.
On the offensive side for the Northwest, Oregon State commit Trace Loehr (Putnam HS, OR) has established himself as the top position prospect in the region. The left-handed hitting shortstop has a small, athletic build, but with good present strength and is a high-energy player. He has shown good contact ability this summer with good footwork and instincts on the defensive side of the ball but his arm is fringy for the position.
Some other position players to watch for out of the Northwest this year are third baseman, Michael Gretler (Bonney Lake HS), catcher Justin Hancock (Kennewick HS), and third baseman Jackson Soto (West Albany HS, OR).
As we head into the spring, it is important to remember that so much can change with these rankings. Guys can see their stock take a huge hit while others can shot up draft boards leading up to the draft, and Washington State in particular is known as an area where prospects grow on scouts as the draft nears.
Photo of Jacob Gatewood, top left, by Andrew Drennan, Area Code Baseball
Photo of Alex Jackson, middle right, by Scott Kurz, Area Code Baseball