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Ranking top-20 MLB Draft prospects from California high school ranks

Taylor Ward ranks the top-20 MLB Draft prospects from the California high school ranks.

1. Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade Prep (Canoga Park)

No player in California currently has been recognized as a premier talent for as long as Rutherford. His biggest knock is that he'll be 19-years-old on draft day, and that's about it. He has some five-tool potential, something that sets him apart in this draft. He hits for both average and power, plays well in the field, and has plenty of speed to hold his own in a foot race. This season has jumped Rutherford around from a potential first overall pick, to early teen selection. Regardless, he's the best prep talent in the nation, and has the makeup to prove potential as a future star at the Major League level.

2. Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS (Carlsbad)

Moniak hits, and hits more, and then after that, he hits just a little bit more. There's no fear in taking his bat, and scouts now see a guy who will stick in centerfield and be an above-average defensive outfielder. The tools don't scream superstar, five-tool talent, but they do scream well above-average player of the future. He's quick both on the paths and in the field, and is beginning to show he's not just a gap hitter, but can put the ball over the fence with ease. Every swing, you hear the hard thud of contact, and Moniak is sky rocketing up big boards. He's been linked to nearly every team in the top-10, and is primarily brought up as a top-five selection, even as high as Cincinnati on some mocks.

3. Kevin Gowdy, RHP, Santa Barbara HS (Santa Barbara)

If it weren't for Braxton Garrett, Gowdy would likely be the most polished prep arm in this draft. He has a nice three-pitch mix, all of which he throws for strikes consistently. His fastball mostly sits in the low 90's, his slider has some swing-and-miss qualities, and he has an advanced feel for a sinking changeup. Prep arms are constantly linked to being "risks," but Gowdy is climbing the ladder due to the lack of risk in taking him early in the draft.

4. Matt Manning, RHP, Sheldon HS (Sacramento)

Manning is the highest riser in this draft and is possibly the best athlete in the California prep class. That's not to say anyone else isn't athletic, but Manning is off the charts. His fastball has been up in the high 90's, and he flashes a power curve that will mix well at the professional level. Manning has the size and frame, and could have followed in his father's footsteps in basketball (father is former NBA player, Rich Manning), but instead will be looking at a hefty signing bonus in the first or second round of the upcoming MLB draft. The only reason I have him this low is that Gowdy is more polished.

5. Dylan Carlson, LHP/OF, Elk Grove HS (Elk Grove)

There's a bit of mileage on Carlson's arm, which has flashed 90 and higher as a southpaw, but there's a great plan to fix this. He has shown extraordinary power from both sides of the plate, along with a disciplined approach. Why he hasn't been spoken of more often is beyond me, the kid can ball. Elk Grove also has a nice resume of professional players, seeing a draftee in each of the last seven drafts. Mix in his two-way athleticism on the football field, Carlson is very under the radar, but scouts have been open about their excitement in him.

6. Hunter Bishop, OF, Serra HS (San Mateo)

There's a lot going right for Bishop. He was verbally committed to Washington as a wide receiver, and then changed his mind to opt for Arizona State for baseball as an outfielder. Teams also see him as a better talent in the future than his brother, Braden, who was a third-round pick for Seattle last year. Mix incredible athleticism, a strong and large frame, and nice tool set on the field, you could see Bishop jump to the early rounds of the draft with ease. Personally, Bishop is one of my highest risers and I wouldn't be blown away if a team jumps at him in the second round.

7. Jared Horn, RHP, Vintage HS (Napa)

Teams that love athletic pitchers - and who doesn't, to be honest - will be clawing at the chance to get Horn in the second round, or earlier. He was the quarterback at Vintage, and has impressed in every outing this season. His fastball sits in the mid 90's, jumping upwards of 97 MPH based on reports. With a plus curve, he has shown some struggles throwing his slider for strikes and with a continuous break, but this could be a simple change from professional coaches. There's a lot of risk in taking a prep arm, but Horn is one of those guys you can't just nit-pick around; he's worth it.

8. Reggie Lawson, RHP, Victor Valley HS (Victorville)

Before the season started, Lawson was believed to be the best prep pitching talent on the West Coast. His season ended early with tightness in his side, and his stock fell, but not enough to keep him from being considered a potential first rounder. Lawson comes equipped with low 90's fastball that has touched 94, with a big breaking ball that lacks premier velocity to make it a plus pitch just yet. He throws everything for strikes, and teams will still be jumping to take him away from Arizona State, even at Scott Boras' asking price.

9. Nick Lodolo, LHP, Damien HS (La Verne)

When you talk about projects, Lodolo fits the mold. He's tall (6'6'') and slightly filled in, giving him plenty to project into. Also, he's a southpaw who has reached the low to mid 90's at times with a sinking fastball. Although that's about all that really registers in Lodolo's package, there's been progress with his off-speed pitches and command, which have turned him into a name people will notice across the country.

10. Josh Stephen, OF, Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana)

A program that's known for putting guys into pro ball, Mater Dei head coach Burt Call has another gem in his lineup. Stephen has made plenty of adjustments and has not only made consistent contact, but has flashed some gap power as well, while limiting his strikeouts. He has plenty of arm to play in right field, and athleticism to be worth the price when drafted.

11. Nolan Martinez, RHP, Culver City HS (Culver City)

The biggest knock on Martinez is his size, primarily around his shoulders. Aside from that, you can begin nit-picking a little despite him being one of the more upside California prep arm draft candidates this year. He ranges in the low 90's with his fastball, although his velocity has dropped over the course of the year. He has had some trouble commanding it and keeping it low, but it has enough movement to believe in the rawness. His curve has nice shape to it and will get professional hitters to swing-and-miss, but it could use a few ticks more in velocity. There are plenty of things to like about Martinez, but the things that stick out primarily are his abilities to repeat and his overall polish as a prep arm.

12. Avery Tuck, OF, Steele Canyon HS (Spring Valley)

Tall and athletic, there's still plenty of rawness in Tuck's game. His stock has dropped off, but teams still see him as a future professional player that molds well into his 6'5'', near 200 pound muscular frame. Every year, guys like him fall off and then we all wonder why they weren't drafted higher once they hit the professional ranks. There will be multiple teams scratching to take him in the early stages of the draft, likely anywhere from the third to fifth rounds.

13. Nick Kahle, C, Chaminade Prep (Canoga Park)

Every time scouts went to see Rutherford, and let's be honest, there were plenty at each game, they saw Kahle hitting immediately after Rutherford. Kahle didn't disappoint, hitting well all year with some power. That power showcased in one of the highest stages this year where a scout from every team was present. The only knock is how likely it is that Kahle sticks behind the plate, but he has enough arm to attempt taking him (think Dalton Blumenfeld). Teams also saw great communication on the field and leadership, which can't necessarily be taught to an 18-year-old. Kahle's stock is jumping high, and it may not take a high load to nab him from heading to Washington with teammate, Tommy Costello, who was also seen regularly and has a shot at being drafted.

14. Ben Baird, SS, Agoura HS (Agoura Hills)

Another great pickup for the Washington recruiting class, Baird had a rough senior year at the plate, but still has plenty of talent for scouts to dream on. He suffered a broken knuckle just prior to the season which may have had a bigger impact on his offense than expected. When all is said and done, he's strong enough defensively and showed enough at the plate prior to this year for teams to take a flier and possibly shoot for him to sign in the early teen rounds.

15. Ryan Garcia, RHP, La Salle HS (Pasadena)

Garcia is one of the better arms that isn't getting any attention from national outlets, despite coming from a program with recent success. His fastball has some natural run to it and could gain some movement with added velocity (88-91 MPH). He'll fill out a little more into his six-foot, 165-pound frame and has grown a few inches over the past 12 months. That could indicate that he may be reaching his physical limit - height wise. He comes with a big sweeping curve that should be able to fool college hitters, and has a plus changeup for a prep pitcher that comes with sink and arm-side run. Garcia has an incredibly easy delivery, but has some struggles with command. His stuff is pretty good and may spark some scouts to pull him from his UCLA commit.

16. Ryan Kreidler, SS, Davis HS (Davis)

Though he hasn't performed to the highest of levels, Kreidler's overall skill-set is desirable. He has quick feet which plays well on the paths and in the field. He'll stick at shortstop, even at a professional level, and has outstanding baseball IQ. At the plate, there are some knocks, but when all is said and done, he hits to the gaps with power and can tap into more raw power for home runs. He's a two-sport athlete (basketball), and takes that athleticism with him to each game. Mix in leadership qualities and a 4.2 GPA, and you've got yourself someone teams will be scratching at in the fifth to ninth rounds.

17. Blake Sabol, C, Aliso Niguel HS (Aliso Viejo)

Sabol is a big-framed catcher and hitter who has drawn interest from a multitude of teams. Scouts believe he has enough arm and lateral movement to stick behind the plate despite his larger than average frame. There's a pretty serious thud behind his swing and the power has been around since he was a sophomore. That should give teams plenty of initiative to try and get him away from his USC commitment. Although he has plenty of size, some teams wish they'd seen him on the football field or basketball court to prove more athleticism.

18. Jeremy Ydens, OF, St. Francis HS (Mountain View)

The drawing interest in Ydens is his tool set and ability to come up big in the clutch. Although he's a young defender, he has enough speed and plenty of arm to stick in centerfield. That speed mixes well on the base paths, along with his ability to reach base with a strong mental approach at the plate. He uses his large frame (6'3'', 190 pounds) to create power in his swing. He's impressed in front of scouts enough to likely hear his name be called at some point during the draft, but he is also likely to stick to his UCLA commitment, and succeed as a college outfielder.

19. Dominic Fletcher, OF, Cypress HS (Cypress)

Fletcher's stock has jumped lately and he may be a steal for a team in the early rounds, into the teens. He has plenty of bat speed and has plenty of baseball IQ to at least contend with some professional players. Defensively, he's one of the better prep players in the nation in the outfield and has enough arm to stick in center or right field. Taking him away from his Arkansas commitment may be tough, however.

20. Shane Martinez, SS, JW North (Riverside)

Martinez passes the eye test, as scouts have been able to see a lean and athletic frame take ground balls at shortstop, and fire across the diamond with a cannon that he takes to the mound with him. The power didn't show up this season for Martinez, and lacking power this season may keep teams from calling his name during the draft. However, he's been on the radar for some time, and scouts will have seen the progress enough to know what they're getting if they jump at taking the athletic infielder. Also, his fastball sits in the high 80's, upwards of the low 90's, with a chance at an improving off-speed offer.

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