Jake Hernandez, Los Osos High School
The player drawing the most prospect hype in the upcoming draft is the presumed top pick, 17-year-old catcher Bryce Harper. However, though it may not seem like it, there are actually a few other solid catchers who are up for the taking. One of those catchers is Los Osos High School’s Jake Hernandez, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound USC commit.

Hernandez is known much more for his glove than his bat, though the latter has been showing signs of improvement this season. The righty usually bats third in the lineup, and with a bit of an inside-out swing, he has a strong ability to take the ball the other way when he hits. Hernandez has excellent bat speed and has pop in his bat, but he can also be exposed on off-speed offerings.

“He’s got power,” says Los Osos head coach Dominick Copas. “He hits the ball to the right side well—to the right-center field side. He hits well for both power and average.”

Behind the dish is where Hernandez shines. He’s an excellent receiver with very quick pop times—he has been clocked consistently in the mid-1.8s to low-1.9s—and an arm that Copas would rate in the “70-80 range.” Hernandez’s mechanics are good, he blocks the ball well, and he has a nice in-game awareness that helps him to control the running game.

“He has good, quick hands,” says Copas. “He has soft hands for blocking the ball and receiving from pitchers.”

Like most catchers, Hernandez is not a great runner, and as he ages, he’s going to lose a few more steps on the basepaths. Last season, many scouts saw him as more of a backup catcher than an everyday player, but with the improvements that he has made to his hitting, he does have the potential to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues.

Dominic Ficociello, Fullerton Union High School
A switch-hitting shortstop with a 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame, Ficociello will likely have to move off of short as he continues to grow and fill out. He is not particularly quick, but his arm is strong and helps to make up for lost steps right now, allowing him to profile as a third baseman, his likely destination. His coach, Marc Price, says his arm is “probably a 60” right now. Ficociello was a quarterback on Fullerton’s football team, so he certainly has some arm strength that could increase with a change in delivery.

The Arkansas commit has quick wrists and is a natural righty swinger, but it’s hard to tell because his lefty swing looks natural. He takes the majority of his hacks from the left side as well, since the majority of Fullerton’s competition feature right-handed pitchers. When he bats lefty, he has a nice, powerful swing (his thin frame is misleading) and hits the gaps well. He can also hit for power while batting righty, but his coach believes that he is actually a better hitter from the left side.

“He’s more of a control guy right-handed than he is left-handed,” says Price.

Michael Lorenzen, Fullerton Union High School
A teammate of Ficociello, Lorenzen also has a ton of potential. A Cal State Fullerton commit with a 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame, Lorenzen plays center field, but if that doesn’t work out for him, he could always try to take to the mound, as the righty has been clocked in the 90s consistently on throws from the outfield. Perfect Game has clocked him as high as 99 in drills. An additional plus is that his arm is accurate.

“He’s one of the top outfielders in the nation,” says Price. “He throws 97 or something like that—94 or 97—in the outfield. They clocked him at the Perfect Game Showcase in Minnesota at 94 or 97. He was the fastest one ever, so he throws well.”

Lorenzen’s speed is also an asset to his game (a 6.54 60-yard dash), so he will likely be able to stay in center field at the next level. His bat has improved this season, and he has solid power projection. His swing has a bit of a lift at the end to help carry balls and he can get pull-happy down the left-field line, but he can keep his swing on an even plane. Lorenzen is aggressive at the plate and has the ability to hit to all fields, but when everything is working for him, his greatest strength is hitting to left-center field.

Some assorted notes and quotes from Fullerton and Los Osos:

  • One of the most exciting players to watch on the field was one who has no prospect buzz: Los Osos’ Anthony Fernandez, a senior. A second baseman listed generously at 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds, he nevertheless displayed nice range, making multiple diving plays to his left and right, saving a few runs in the process. Fernandez also looked patient at the plate, working walks and making solid contact with pitches he could handle.
  • Lorenzen’s arm. Wow. He looked spectacular in drills, throwing balls from deep center (and the park he was playing at, Amerige Park, is deeper than most fields) directly to the catcher on one hop.
  • Copas on outfielder Ryan Ferrer, a senior, and his hitting ability: “He’s about 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10 right now. He’d have to gain a little bit of weight, but I see him more as a double-in-the-gap guy, a singles guy, a hit-and-run guy. That’s what he does for us—a push-and-drag bunt. He utilizes his bat well in pushing and dragging for base hits. He’s very aggressive at the plate. He looks for a good pitch to hit and attacks it.”
  • Copas on Nick Lavallee, a senior corner outfielder and Sterling College commit: “He’s a big kid, a little over 6-foot-3 and 200-plus pounds. He hits for power, hits for average, is good with speed. He’s out right fielder and pitches for us as well. He’s a hard-throwing right-handers—throws in the mid-80s.

    “Offensively, he’s a kid who stays back. He’s not a free swinger, but he’s an aggressive swinger. He likes the ball in the middle of the plate in.”

  • Right-handed pitcher Christian Belleque, a senior, who had 99 strikeouts and only four walks in his junior season. Those walks came in the last two games of the season. He throws a fastball, changeup, and slider (according to Price, his best pitch); he’s tinkering with a curveball right now.

    “He usually hits anywhere between 86 to 89, and sometimes 90,” says Price, “but I’d say he’s deceptively fast and that there’s a lot of movement on (his pitches).”

Some clips of the guys in action:

 I’m looking into attending additional high school and college games as the playoffs near, and I’m also interested in hopping over to some California League games. I have a few items on deck, but if there are any prospects you would like to know about in the Southern California area, games you feel I must see, want some footage or pictures of a particular player, or if you have any other suggestions for me on how to improve this feature, please feel free to throw them down in the comments or at my Twitter account.   

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Is Aaron Sanchez anywhere near your beat?
From Barstow? Unfortunately, Barstow's a bit far for me, but I'll definitely try to get some info on him and post it.