MLB Draft: Prepping You For California Prep

Taylor Blake Ward breaks down the top 20 prep players in California, evaluating where and when they should be taken in this year's upcoming draft.

California has always been loaded with prep talent. This year, it's a new trend. Instead of a mass amount of future superstar prospects, California is filled with a mass amount of future starters, field staff, and guys that help you win championships, not individual awards. Here is a look at the top 10 prep players from California, entering this year's Major League Baseball Draft:

1. Kolby Allard, Left-Handed Pitcher, San Clemente High School (San Clemente)

Allard would have been a top five pick in this year’s draft if it wasn’t for a back injury that took the majority of his senior season. Allard comes equipped with a mid 90’s fastball and devastating curveball. His changeup is well defined for a prep pitcher but obviously needs some fine tuning. He’s basically the Brady Aiken, minus the size, of this year’s draft. Allard should be taken in the 15-35 range, and the only reason it’s such a large range in such an early part of the draft is due to his injury and team’s lack of interest in injured pitchers.

2. Chris Betts, Catcher/First Baseman, Wilson High School (Long Beach)

Betts is an interesting take. He’s a big boy, and I really mean, BIG. He has massive power and can crank the bat through the zone. It’s doubtful he’d stay behind the plate, and move to first base which is part of why his draft stock may fall. However, the allure of a left-handed power hitter that can be developed for a few years in the minors should put him in the top 15-30 range in the draft.

3. Justin Hooper, Left-Handed Pitcher, De La Salle High School (Concord)

I doubt it will take a lot for Hooper to drop his commitment to UCLA and head for the high marks of the draft. Hooper is six-foot-seven and has thrown his fastball in the high 90’s. To say he’s intimidating is an understatement and he throws from an awkward angle which makes him harder to read. His off-speed pitches have some luster but not enough to put him in the top 25 range of the draft. Hooper throws like Jered Weaver with 5-10 MPH more than Weaver threw when he was drafted, and from the left-side. Be prepared to hear his name for quite some time and see him as a threat in the Majors in a few years despite being a prep player.

4. Peter Lambert, Right-Handed Pitcher, San Dimas High School (West Covina)

Lambert was coached well in high school but saw some overuse that could drop his stock. He throws in the low to mid 90’s and has room to grow which would add velocity. He’s another UCLA commit and I doubt it’d take a lot to get him out of that option in his career. Despite the fear of Lambert getting injured due to overuse, he should jump into the second round and early in the round with his plus stuff and knowledge of pitching. Also, it’s not a knock that he should be a part of a potential championship team in the California D3-CIF Division.

5. Tristan Beck, Right-Handed Pitcher, Corona High School (Corona)

Beck is a top 30 pick. It’s simple, he’s that good. His stuff speaks for itself, as he comes equipped with a mid 90’s fastball, solid changeup and even more solid off-speed offering. The big knock on Beck is his commitment to Stanford, which he will most likely show he’s sticking with his commitment. The kid is smart, comes from a smart family, and Stanford is one of the most prestigious schools in the nation for both baseball and academics. Also, the coaching staff as Stanford consist of Hall of Famer coach, Mark Marquess, and Rusty Filter, who worked with Mark Appel, Stephen Strasburg and Addison Reed to name a few.

6. Drew Finley, Right-Handed Pitcher, Rancho Bernardo High School (Rancho Bernardo)

A lot of teams will be calling the Dodgers asking about Finley. Finley is the son of David Finley, who is a highly touted international scout for the Dodgers who helped bring in Hector Olivera and Alex Guerrero. Though the stuff doesn’t scream at you, Finley has a nice three pitch mix that he knows how to command and mix with a strong baseball IQ for a prep pitcher. If he doesn’t opt out of his USC commit, you could see him jump into the late first round due to his strong knowledge of pitching (a.k.a, Dodgers 35th overall pick).

7. Kyle Dean, Outfielder, Rancho Bernardo High School (Rancho Bernardo)

Dean didn’t get scouted much due to a school transfer, which may cause him to fall in the draft. Also, I have no knowledge of whether Dean is Mormon or not, but he’s committed to Brigham Young University, and if he is a part of the religion, it’s a dream for Mormon athletes to compete at their religious school and develop with associates of the same faith. Dean has a solid bat, and one of the best fine tuned ones in California prep. If Dean had been seen for the whole season and can show he won’t be headed for Utah, he could go in the second round, and if not, he’ll be a 20th rounder who spends the next three to four years at BYU.

8. Tyler Nevin, Third Baseman, Poway High School (Poway)

I always believed Phil Nevin, Tyler’s dad, would have been a near Hall of Fame talent if he hadn’t spent the majority of his career in San Diego. Tyler is no slouch and obviously took some of his dad’s genes when it came to baseball. There’s a lot of flaws to Nevin’s game which includes a soft arm due to Tommy John surgery, some problems on the base paths with his size and movement, but one thing that is not a flaw is hit bat. Nevin learned quite a bit from his father, and is maybe the most advanced bat of the California prep player. He’ll probably sit around until the second round, but will be a nice pick regardless of where and when he goes.

9. Kyle Molnar, Right-Handed Pitcher, Aliso Niguel High School (Aliso Viejo)

Molnar is another UCLA commit and might be the top one to follow his commit and spend the next three to four seasons with the Bruins. Molnar has seen a decrease in velocity to the high 80’s as opposed to low 90’s. His changeup is the best of all the California prep pitchers, and he really has knowledge ability on the mound. Molnar’s commitment and more than likely continued career in college may drop his draft stock to the lower rounds and see him go in the sixth to eighth rounds… or later. If he can show he will opt of his commit, it’s likely he’d go in the third or fourth round of the draft to a team that highly scouted him.

10. Lucas Herbert, Catcher, San Clemente High School (San Clemente)

If I was a GM of any team, Herbert would be at the top of my list for the second round. Herbert caught for top prospect, Kolby Allard, for four years in San Clemente and is maybe the best defensive prep catcher in the draft’s top 100. His bat is fine, and actually has shown a scary plus in the power department as he sprays the ball beyond the fences. However, like I said, defense, defense, defense. Herbert is one of my favorite guys in the entire draft and has been scouted all season from nearly every team. Say hello to a second round talent, and potential “steal” even during that part of the draft.

11. Joe DeMers, Right-Handed Pitcher, College Park High School (Pleasant Hill)

DeMers is a safe pick that could rocket into the second round. It might take some cash and a high pick to steal him from a Washington commit, but he’s someone most teams want. Despite a decline in his velocity, DeMers was throwing in the mid to upper 90’s at a time and should return to that velocity once fully grown. He’s a brick of a figure at six-foot-two and 215 pounds, which makes him even more desirable. It’s notoriously known that the San Francisco Giants would love to take a local talent like DeMers and they pick 31st and 61st overall, with the latter looking to be where I’d put DeMers on the draft markings.

12. Jonathan Olsen, Right-Handed Pitcher, Damien High School (La Verne)

Surprise, surprise, another UCLA commit. Olsen is a very complete pitcher with three solid offerings and a very easy repeatable delivery. The only lack luster is that his fastball has yet to jump into the 90's and regularly sits in the mid 80's around 86-87. He has room to fill but has a good frame, and it seems that college would be the best bet for Olsen, which may cause his draft stock to decline or fall off. If he decides to go pro, expect to see him in the fourth to fifth round.

13. Jake Pries, Outfielder, Junipero Serra High School (Gardena)

Brett Kay is a brother of a friend who works with the Los Angeles Angels PR. Kay coached Pries and I've heard loads about him. Pries, another UCLA commit, is a strong presence from the right side and has shown power to all gaps and some over the fence pop. He was coached incredibly well as JSerra and that has helped with his overall approach at the plate. Pries has drawn interest from many teams, and could be nabbed with the hopes of signing in the fourth to seventh round.

14. Brendon Davis, Third Baseman, Lakewood High School (Lakewood)

Davis comes in as one of those good high school players that needs some more development. Teams have scouted him well, and possibly could take him with some bigger money than his draft slot would assume to nab him from his commit to Cal State Fullerton. Davis has a tall frame but needs to add on some extra pounds. He's a solid defender with a nice arm at third base, and he has a fine line drive swing that creates some gap power. Fullerton just produced a player similar to Davis that was drafted in last year's first round, Matt Chapman.

15. Karl Kani, Second Baseman, Cathedral High School (Los Angeles)

Size and a solid commitment to a Pac-12 team will make teams shy away from Kani until he's fully developed. He's five-foot-nine and 160 pounds, which has taken away his power load, but he's made up for it with steady contact and a short swing that allows gap power. He has an advanced approach and can find unique ways to reach the base paths, where he is a baller. Kani's defense is solid, beginning with a strong first step and nice arm to help make up for tough plays. If he is drafted, I'd expect it be near the sixth to ninth round range, and he'd more than likely opt out for an academic career in Seattle.

16. Brandon Alamo, Third Baseman, Cypress High School (Buena Park)

Alamo was originally listed as a non-commit prior to his senior season. That changed recently as Cal State Fullerton is going to steal him from the prep rankings and turn him into a strong, power-hitting college bat. The lack of commitment prior to the season would say he's ready to sign in the draft, and be taken prior to the eighth or ninth round. However, Cal State Fullerton may have "wooed" him to playing with the Titans for the next few years.

17. Jordan Myrow, Outfielder, Notre Dame High School (Riverside)

Myrow is a very standard college outfielder with a large upside. He should stick with his commitment to UCLA. He's very toolsy, with a good arm in the outfield, helped by athleticism and a very good glove. His bat is sometimes off due to a hitch in his swing, but he drives the ball with raw power. I don't expect Myrow to be drafted this year, but in three years, he could be a talent taken in the first three rounds after developing at one of the best programs in the country.

18. Solomon Bates, Right-Handed Pitcher

Bates would have been a first round talent if not for USC. The Trojans brought Bates' brother in on a baseball scholarship with the hopes Solomon would follow, and he more than likely will. However, Bates' brother is no longer on the team at USC and from what I know, never played a college game in his life. Bates has a mean fastball in the 86-91 range. He has a simple delivery that allows him to repeat it. Bates is notoriously known to be a good kid with strong academics, and that only translates further into the USC commit. Bates should be drafted but more than likely won't sign, meaning the teen rounds.

19. Devin Davis, First Baseman, Valencia High School (Yorba Linda)

Davis is expected to stick with his commit to Loyola Marymount and spend time along the ocean on the Los Angeles coast line, and really, who wouldn't? Davis isn't projected to go in this year's draft, which is odd because the raw power would be enough to catch my attention, and it did. The ball explodes off his bat, but the knock is the uphill plane of his swing. Davis plays outstanding defense at first base, and has the ability to play the corner outfield positions. To say he's advanced and that LMU got a steal of a prep player in an understatement.

20. Jagger Rusconi, Shortstop, West Ranch High School (Santa Clarita)

I hadn't heard about Rusconi until former Major Leaguer, Mark Gubicza, brought him to my attention. When I looked at tapes and saw what he's doing, I had to bring him into this conversation. Rusconi is known for his speed on both the base paths and in the field, and he makes up space on balls hit hard to infield holes. Rusconi has had no problem making contact, even from the time he was a freshman. However, the power was recently displayed at a prep home run derby, which he won. Rusconi's uppercut swing brings a lot of attention. It's doubtful he gets drafted high enough to sign anywhere, but he should see three to four quality years at USC, and become a high pick in his late college years.

Taylor Blake Ward is a Senior Publisher who covers the Los Angeles Angels for Taylor can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard, along with his website, @AngelsOnScout.

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