Prep Baseball Report

Scout Ball Notes: 9/20/18

Les Lukach
State Scouting Director

I headed over to the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton on Wednesday night to take in the Atlanta Braves take on the Milwaukee Brewers in SoCal Scout Ball game. The Brewers took pregame BP before both teams took in-and-out and played a game. What started as a perfect late afternoon turned into a bit of a chilly night that brought out the sweatshirts/blankets for the first time this fall.

Both teams are loaded with many of the top players in the region that have been seen many times since the spring season. For some of these players scout ball will be a springboard into winter and into a big spring. For others it will reveal some deficiencies that they have ample time to work on before the spring season and ultimately the draft.

From a scouting standpoint it's important to realize where we are on the calendar. Knowing that we are less that two weeks away from October the expectations set by what we've seen early in the summer, especially with pitching, are different.

Having said all of that, let's get into it....


2019 LHP/1B Josh Hahn (Huntington Beach HS) looks like a different guy from the one we saw earlier this summer. His body is beginning to take a more physical shape which may be adding to his confidence at the plate. The UCLA commit seems more relaxed at the plate and is seeing the ball well. The No. 5 player in 2019 class in the state stayed inside on an 84 mph fastball to drive it into left field for a single before pulling an 85 mph fastball to right field for a single later in the game. Both balls were hit fairly hard....Speaking of being in good physical shape, 2019 C Gabe Briones looks like he's been hanging out with Hahn. Briones, the No. 18 player in 2019 class in the state, appears looser and more nimble both behind and at the plate. The USC commit has always had a huge arm - he showed it off again popping 1.91 - 2.06 - and is now showing a rejuvenated confidence at the plate heading into the fall/winter....2022 C/RHP/3B Luke Davis, a USC commit, is going to be a household name in baseball circles if he continues on his current trajectory. Davis shows athleticism in his overall game. He switch hits with natural ability - smoked a stand up double to left field from the left side on an 86 mph fastball. He pitches - he was 86-87 with a fast, loose, easy arm that really, really works. And he fields very well - see scout ball notes from Sunday. All this and I still have not seen him behind the plate which is his best position from what I've been told....2020 SS Tank Espalin (Orange Lutheran HS), a USC commit, is feeling it right now. We noticed it at our Underclass Games last month and it's carried over so far into scout ball. Espalin (#20 in 2020 class) just looks very comfortable at the plate and is allowing his tools to take over. Felt almost as though he was pressing in the spring and early summer, but no more. Smoked an 86 mph fastball into left-center field for a two RBI double before showing off his base running skills and scoring a few pitches later....Uncommitted 2020 RHP Josh Swales (Grace Brethren HS) continues to impress on the mound where he flashes an easy, loose arm and a three-pitch mix that has the attention of schools across the country. Seems to have shored up some balance issues he was showing at Area Code Games this summer and is landing inline more with greater balance. Fastball shows more consistent sinking action in on righties while his late showing, sharp slurve is a perfect backdoor pitch to lefties....2020 SS Alex Rodriguez (Damien HS), a USC commit, is trending upwards after a challenging spring/summer. Rodriguez (#28 in 2020 class) appears far more comfortable in the box facing top pitching now compared to just a month-and-a-half ago. Took an 86 mph fastball on the outside and drove into right field for a base hit in-game....Uncommitted 2019 RHP Christian Culpepper (Rancho Cucamonga HS) has the frame and stuff that really project. At 6-foot-3, 200-pounds, he's fit with present strength and has command of a sinking/fading changeup and a fastball that shows cut action. His mechanics are clean with an arm that's quick-to-fast....Uncommitted 2019 1B Mahki Backstrom (Serra HS) had a whirlwind summer that saw him criss-cross the country a couple times to play baseball. That can be a lot for a play unaccustomed to that. I first saw Backstrom (#54 in 2019 class) at the LA Identifier in early June and he was relaxed, having fun, and was loose. He seems to be back to being that guy again. Stayed inside of a fastball on the hands and fought it off into left field for a base hit....2019 OF Nick Pena (King HS), an Oregon commit, continues to show big time feel for hitting and barrel control. From a slight uppercut path, Pena drives balls into the gaps with some sneaky power....2019 RHP Knolton Clark (Servite HS) had a bit of a breakout party at the Top Prospects Showcase where he showcased very well for himself. He's carried that into scout ball this fall where last night he was very sharp in his two-inning outing. Touching 88 with the fastball was nice, but when he snapped off a slider at 79-81 mph it was something to see. Clark (#141 in 2019 class) is a recent Purdue commit who appears to be only beginning scratch the surface of his potential....2020 OF Isaiah Greene (Corona HS) is showing no lingering effect from a wrist injury in the spring as he's back to smacking balls to all fields. The Oregon commit and No. 31 player in the 2020 class, took an 85 mph fastball on the outer half that he drove into right field for a base hit. Greene is primed for a huge spring season for Corona after what has been a very good summer....2020 SS/RHP Michael Currialle (JSerra HS) took pregame and played a couple of innings in the outfield and I'll tell you what, it works. His huge arm is accurate and he has obvious athleticism to handle either of the corner spots. Curialle (#33 in 2019 class), a UCLA commit, has played the left side of the infield primarily for JSerra where he's also pitched and many believe he projects best....2019 C Michael Carpentier (Yucaipa HS) looks to be in better physical shape heading into the fall after the summer circuit. The catch-and-throw continues to be the calling card, but Carpentier appears to be having more consistent at-bats with better results too. Something to watch heading into winter....Another thing to watch heading into winter is going to be 2019 RHP Joey Estes (Paraclete HS) as the rising senior has a lot of things working for him in addition to his 92 mph fastball. You see, the senior doesn't turn 17 until October which means he'll be 17 if/when he's drafted next June. In fact, he'd be 17 for four months after he's drafted. He'd be 17 for three months after he moved into his dorm at Long Beach State if that's his path. In today's day-and-age of 16 year-old high school freshman, Estes' story is as rare as it is awesome.

Until next time, see you at the ballpark....


Rising Stars Showcase CA 09/23 Corona Santiago HS
Central Coast Open CA 10/07 Cabrillo College
Senior Games (Invite Only) CA 10/13 JSerra High School
Los Angeles Open CA 10/20 Maverick Field