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MLB Draft: Top 20 California Prep Prospects

Taylor Blake Ward ranks the top 20 California prep players for the 2017 MLB Draft.

 DISCLAIMER: All opinions and reports below are from Taylor Blake Ward, who serves as a Senior Publisher and Scouting Analyst for The majority of miniature scouting reports below are first-hand reports from Ward, while a limited amount are from information and reports attained by Ward from area scouts in California. All reports are to the utmost knowledge of Ward, and may not be 100% accurate beyond May 1, 2017.

PODCAST: MLB Draft experts, Jeff Ellis and Taylor Blake Ward, talk California prep prospects and up-and-coming draft prospects one month before MLB Draft



1. Hunter Greene, Right-Handed Pitcher/Shortstop

Notre Dame High School (Sherman Oaks)

Committed: UCLA


The once in a generation arm resides in Southern California. Hunter Greene is considered one of the top draft prospects, and is nearly a lock to go in the first three picks of the upcoming draft. An athletic strike-thrower, Greene is equipped with an explosive fastball that has reached 101 MPH, and above-average slider. Though Greene has been shut down from the mound by his coaching staff and conspiracies stirring about his desire to fall to the Padres at #3, there's little standing in the way of being the first prep right-hander taken first overall in MLB history.



2. Royce Lewis, Shortstop/Center Fielder

JSerra Catholic High School (San Juan Capistrano)

Committed: UC-Irvine


One of the most athletic players in the draft, Royce Lewis chose the perfect moment to showcase his big tools - hitting a walk-off home run in front of scouts and executives at the Boras Classic. Lewis shined over the summer and fall as well, with his line-drive stroke and plus-plus speed, which is his primary tool. Scouts believe the arm may not be enough to keep him at shortstop despite his ability to play the position, and the outfield may be his final destination. Lewis has been tied to teams as high as the Reds at #2.



3. Nick Pratto, First Baseman

Huntington Beach High School (Huntington Beach)

Committed: Southern California


No prep hitter has created more helium this spring than Nick Pratto has. Drawing comparisons to Adrian Gonzalez, Pratto is a premium defender at first base with a strong arm (pitches in the high 80's). Showing a power surge at the start of spring, Pratto has an advanced approach and competitive edge that makes him one of the most desirable bats in this draft.



4. Hans Crouse, Right-Handed Pitcher

Dana Hills High School (Dana Point)

Committed: Southern California


One of the most electric and eccentric pitchers in the draft, Hans Crouse thrived off a performance at the National High School Showcase where his fastball peaked at 97 MPH. Some reports have noted his fastball can touch 99 MPH. Crouse has trouble replicating his continually-altering violent-delivery, which has some believing he'll have a future in the bullpen. Though he has a feel for his off-speed, it is inconsistent at times. Scouts love his fire ball mentality on the mound though, and most organizations feel they can harness his delivery, making him one of the most valuable arms coming into the pro ranks after the draft.



5. Nick Allen, Shortstop

Francis Parker School (San Diego)

Committed: Southern California


If Nick Allen was just a few inches taller, he'd be a consensus first-round pick. However, at five-foot-eight, the draft may not be friendly to one of the best prep players in the country. A true gamer with an outstanding knowledge of the game, Allen is an exciting player who can hit for average, play well above-average defense at short and give pitchers and catchers fits on the base paths. He's added muscle to his frame, but size will always be the knock on Allen. Whichever team lands Allen will be more than happy with what they receive in effort and talent, seeing a potential four-tool player in the system.



6. Hagen Danner, Catcher/Right-Handed Pitcher

Huntington Beach High School (Huntington Beach)

Committed: UCLA


One of the top two-way talents in the draft, Hagen Danner has been on the map since 2011, when he was a star in the Little League World Series. On the mound, Danner uses his mid 90's fastball and average curve and change he throws for strikes regularly to show teams he's a potential first-rounder. Danner has a lot of strength in his stalky frame, which helps him at the plate and behind it as well. An athletic young man with smooth actions behind the plate in a weak catching class, scouts are still 50/50 on whether he'll be a pitcher or catcher.



7. Matt Sauer, Right-Handed Pitcher

Ernest Righetti High School (Santa Maria)

Committed: Arizona


Another power arm, Matt Sauer has plenty of helium in the final month before the draft. Touching 97 with his fastball, and showing a plus slider with premier velocity, Sauer is as projectable as they come. Though he has a loose arm, Sauer is pretty violent in his delivery, which has some scouts believing he'll be a power arm in the bullpen at the next level. However, with his deception, premium offerings, and large MLB-ready frame, Sauer is someone to take note of.



8. Calvin Mitchell, Outfielder

Rancho Bernardo High School (Rancho Bernardo)

Committed: San Diego


Calvin Mitchell hits, and hits, and hits some more. After a tough spring, Mitchell is closing the spring strong with his bat, raising his average to .342 with eight home runs. Altering his setup to show pull power did cause some swing-and-miss concerns, but Mitchell is likely to be a first day selection with his bat being the carrying tool.



9. Garrett Mitchell, Outfielder

Orange Lutheran High School (Orange)

Committed: UCLA


Someone is going to pay Garrett Mitchell big money due to his large-scale tools across the board. Though the in-game performance hasn't shown regularly, Mitchell has flashed plus base running and defensive skills, while having desirable traits at the plate, primarily in batting practice. A Type-1 Diabetic, there are concerns regarding Mitchell in multiple elements, but as stated, the tools are too much to pass on him on the first day of the draft.



10. Jeremiah Estrada, Right-Handed Pitcher

Palm Desert High School (Palm Desert)

Committed: UCLA


A bit undersized, Estrada has fallen on draft boards to not fault of his own. Being compared to Marcus Stroman, Estrada has a three-pitch mix of a low-to-mid 90's fastball with sink, a plus changeup, and above-average slider, all of which he throws for strikes with regularity. Competing and challenging hitters in each outing, Estrada is another Southern California prep talent who should be taken on the first day of the draft.



11. Kyle Hurt, Right-Handed Pitcher

Torrey Pines High School (Del Mar)

Committed: Southern California


For as good as Kyle Hurt was during the summer, he just wasn't as good in the spring, which can be attributed to a knee injury suffered over the winter. However, with a loose and projectable frame, Hurt works in the low-to-mid 90's with regularity, and shows plus at times with his curveball and changeup. Another pitcher who throws strikes with his entire arsenal, Hurt is a bit more polished overall, with plenty of growth ahead of him.



12. Michael Mercado, RHP

Westview High School (Torrey Ranch)

Committed: Stanford


In a world of compare and contrast, Michael Mercado is very similar to Kyle Hurt, but had a stellar spring, lifting his name up draft boards at the right time. He has an athletic frame and delivery, making scouts believe he'll remain a starter throughout his pro career. His arsenal is near matching Hurt with a low 90's fastball, plus curve and change - that he throws for strikes - but does possess a "show-me" slider as well. Whether teams can draw him away from his Stanford commitment or not will be the key question.



13. Tyler Freeman, Shortstop

Etiwanda High School (Rancho Cucamonga)

Committed: Texas Christian

Dominating competition in his senior year, Tyler Freeman is a gamer that scouts are beginning to rave about. Another prospect who has a chance to stick at shortstop due to his quick actions and strong arm, Freeman has the perfect athletic mold to be a middle infielder at the pro level. His line drive swing doesn't provide a lot of pop, but should be enough to give him near average power. The defense will carry him, but any questions about his bat and approach have gone away coming into the draft.



14. Ben Ramirez, Third Baseman/Outfielder

Eastlake High School (Chula Vista)

Committed: Southern California


Always considered one of the best in the class from the Southern California ranks, Ben Ramirez is giving scouts something to ponder as of late. A two-sport player at Eastlake, Ramirez is athletic with a projectable frame and good actions in the infield, though some feel he'd be best suited off the dirt. A bit of a pull hitter, there's a lot to like with the bat as well, and he should be able to be swayed from his USC commit early on the second day of the draft.



15. Blake Hunt, Catcher

Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana)

Committed: Pepperdine


Doing well in front of the right people can put you in a good spot for the future. Blake Hunt did just that at the Boras Classic in front of plenty of people looking for a toolsy catcher. With a large frame, Hunt has shown a harsh swing that many like, but his catching abilities have many asking for his number. He remains quiet behind the plate, in a good way, making the right moves at the right time, and has enough arm to keep the running game honest.



16. Kevin Abel, Right-Handed Pitcher

James Madison High School (San Diego)

Committed: Oregon State


It's rare that you see a prep arm with as large and challenging of an arsenal as you see with Kevin Abel. Using his low 90's fastball as a secondary option, Abel has a plus-plus changeup that is near 20 miles per hour slower than his fastball, with a screwball look to it. He throws these for strikes, along with his tight curveball, and work-in-progress cutter/slider. A bit on the small side, there's a lot of growing room for Abel in both his physical and baseball development.



17. Je'Von Carrier-Ward, OF

Richard Gahr High school (Cerritos)

Committed: Southern California


With the look of a college shooting guard, teams may struggle to take Je'Von Carrier-Ward away from his commitment to USC. Tall and lean, Ward has a swift swing from the left-side, with plenty of power to all fields. With a good approach at the plate, Ward will be an advanced player at the pro ranks for his age. In the outfield, Ward is calm and easy, with smooth routes, but only has an average arm and speed overall. Instinctual talent, school may be a great direction for Ward in becoming a higher pick in the future.



18. Daniel Ritcheson, RHP

Bishop Alemany High School (Mission Hills)

Committed: San Diego State


Jumping up draft boards, Daniel Ritcheson is creating some stir in Southern California with his talents on the mound. Working in the low 90's, and touching upwards of 95, his fastball has strong life. Ritcheson works with three off-speed pitches to compliment his fastball, with average or better potential for each. His slider is his best off-speed offering. A projection arm, Ritcheson does possess the ability to setup hitters at a young age, making him more desirable to teams.



19. Jayson Gonzalez, 3B

Bishop Amat High School (La Puente)

Committed: Vanderbilt


In a draft class that's limited in power at the plate, Jayson Gonzalez brings just that. Gonzalez has a strong and athletic build, and violent swing that can sometimes cause swing-and-misses, but the reward is consistent hard contact. A hitter who relies on timing, pro coaches could turn him into a special power bat in the future. Gonzalez will have no problem playing third base with easy actions and a strong arm, but any thoughts of him being a shortstop in the future are long gone. It's worth noting that Gonzalez won both the Home Run Derby and MVP honors at the National Classic in early April.



20. Jacob Amaya, SS

South Hills High School (West Covina)

Committed: Cal State-Fullerton


Many who watch Jacob Amaya note that he's ready to take the pro ranks with ease. A solid defensive shortstop, Amaya has quick hands and movements that allow him to cover plenty of ground and make plays many his age aren't capable of doing, but some scouts feel he'd be best suited as a premium defender at second base. Mature beyond his years, Amaya is a leader in the field as the dugout. Though there are a lot of moving parts in his swing, Amaya has kept his swing short and compact, while allowing some pull power with his line-drive approach.





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