Prospect Rundown: Area Code Games Day 1
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Taking place before the players even start their senior years of high school, the Area Code Baseball Games are a long way away from players actually stepping onto a college campus. In fact, nearly every player that has been chosen to participate in the Area Code Games will be courted by at least a couple of scouts and if the two sides decide the dollar figures might be a match, the players will be drafted and may never end up on campus at all.
But that doesn’t stop the college coaches from flocking to see the few uncommitted players, their own commits and getting an early scouting report on players they could see facing them in opposing uniforms in the future. Along with a slew of major league scouts and executives are a smattering of media members. A few players’ family members show up, but there is little cheering. Rather than a game atmosphere, it is more like an art gallery where everyone is taking a peek at future MLB masterpieces.
While many of the players will skip college and go straight to professional baseball, coaches still court and recruit them hard because there is always the possibility that something falls through in the negotiations after a player is drafted or the player slides enough to keep them from receiving the signing bonus they believe they are entitled to. Every year, schools like UCLA lose a number of committed players to professional baseball, but the Bruins and Vanderbilt have become destinations where you can upgrade your draft stock enough after three years that even some first rounders will turn down the money.
In the nightcap of the first day of action at the Area Code Games, the Brewers (Southern California area players) beat the A’s (Northern California), 7-1, but the most notable thing was that 10 of the players on the two teams’ rosters were from UCLA. That included the Brewers’ first and last pitchers for the day: 6-foot-4, 170-pound Santa Barbara (Calif.) righthander Kevin Gowdy and 6-foot-2, 195-pound Huntington Beach (Calif.) righthander Hagen Danner.
Gowdy pitched two innings, showing an 88-90 mph fastball with a 79 changeup and a pair of breaking balls at 80-81. After a clean first inning, he allowed a hit in the second inning, but also struck out the side, using three different pitches: 81 slider, 88 fastball, 81 curveball. Danner finished off the game with back-to-back strikeouts. The high school junior used a nice sequence to end the at-bat with Cal State Fullerton commit Dylan Carlson, going with back-to-back 93 mph fastballs before freezing him with an 80 mph backdoor hook. For the final out against Stanford commit Andrew Daschbach, Danner showed how nasty his breaking ball can be, getting Daschbah to check his swing on one and then flail at another to end the inning.
One of the top hitters of the day, Simi Valley (Calif.) Chaminade outfieder Blake Rutherford is also a UCLA commit. Rutherford sprayed the ball all around the yard. He had a deep fly that went 354 feet get run down in right-center field on a nice sliding grab by Michael Farley. He also went the other way, hitting a double that one-hopped the wall in left-center field and showed his strength when he singled a ball 247 feet into right field despite breaking the bat just above his hands.
Here’s a look at some other prospects who stood out in Tuesday’s action:
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