3/21/2011 4:17:53 PM
Leading Off: What is the best double play combination in the country? Todd Gold: While there are a lot of excellent choices here, I don’t think I could choose anyone over the combo of Klein Collins (TX). 2B Austin Dean and SS CJ Hinojosa are not only the best double play combo in the class of 2012, they’re the best in the country already. The duo of future Longhorns have a lot of experience playing together, as they are both members of the Houston Banditos during the summer and fall.
Not only are they both gifted defenders, they both posses high level hitting tools. Dean currently leads all Houston area players with 8 Home Runs, Hinojosa has 7. It is scary to think about how good these guys might be come playoff time in 2012. They provide major impact in the Klein Collins lineup and give the pitching staff a boost preventing runs. Their presence gives Klein Collins a chance to contend the next two years.
Ben Collman: The best double play combination resides in southern California at Edison High, currently the #4 team in the PG Top 50 Rankings. At SS is AFLAC All-American Christian Lopes, a USC commit currently ranked #31 in the 2011 class. He has been a top prospect since his freshman year of high school, and has maintained his lofty rank with consistent solid performances for Edison as well as during the summer travel and showcase circuit. He currently has solid tools across the board with 6.7 speed, smooth fielding actions, a solid arm, and lots of pop for a 6’0 185 lb SS.
The other half of the combo is his younger brother Tim, a top ranked junior, currently 93rd in the 2012 class. He plays SS during the summer and fall, but during the high school season he shifts over to 2B. He shows tools similar to his older brother with bat speed and overall quickness as well as very good actions and arm on defense. The duo, along with LHP Henry Owens and OF Eric Snyder, makes Edison one of the favorites in the state of California this year.
Another interesting double play combination to watch is Northwest Cabarrus (NC) combo of junior SS Corey Seager and sophomore 2B Tanner Bigham, two of the highest ranked players in North Carolina.
2 Hole: What team has the best chance of going undefeated?
BC: It is extremely tough to go undefeated in any sport, especially baseball. Teams need top level talent, of course, but also need the right mix of favorable scheduling and luck. Last year, only two teams in the final PG top 100 rankings went undefeated. Jonathan Alder HS went 34-0 on their way to an Ohio Division II title and C. Milton Wright continued its domination of Maryland baseball with a 23-0 record.
Madison Central (MS) may have the best shot to do it this year. They have started the year 10-0 and have another key component of teams that have a chance to go undefeated: pitching depth. With senior RHPs Josh Laxer and Spencer Turnbull and junior LHP Zach Irwin, the Jaguars know they will get a quality start every time out. All three feature 90 mph fastballs, Laxer and Irwin have committed to Mississippi, and Turnbull with Alabama.
The offense has scored plenty of runs, scoring over ten in five of those wins. They have one-run victories over two top Alabama teams in Cullman and Hillcrest, as well as wins over solid Mississippi teams Clinton and Brandon. Tough games remain including Warren Central, Clinton, two against Northwest Rankin, and a possible late April tilt vs. Sumrall, the last Mississippi school to go a full season undefeated.
TG: This is the toughest one we’ve done this season. Who do I want to jinx here? While St. Francis (Mountain View, CA) has looked unstoppable at times en route to their 10-0 start, I just can’t picture anyone running through that schedule undefeated. I’d say the best bet might be 12th ranked Don Bosco Prep (NJ). Not only do they have the talent to compete with just about anybody in the nation, they will avoid Seneca RHP Kevin Comer. The Ironmen are a deep and talented team led by OF Nick Bruno, MIF George Iskenderian, and 3B Grant Van Orden and look like a heavy preseason favorite.
Clutch Time: Who has impressed you the most with their improvement from last season to this one?
TG: Biloxi RHP Hawtin Buchanan is the player that sticks out the most to me with the progress he’s made from last season. When I saw Buchanan last year at the East Cobb Invitational tournament I was very impressed with his arm and overall strength and athleticism. But, his mechanics needed a lot of work. Over the offseason he put in that work and it has paid off. He’s increased his velocity by 5-7 MPH and has been up to 95. The 6’ 8” righty who is committed to Ole Miss has really been boosting his draft stock with big performances this season. In a big game against George County on March 10th, a game that drew a lot of interest from MLB scouts (as Buchanan opposed LHP Mason Robbins) Hawtin threw a complete game 3-hitter in Biloxi’s district opener and showed improved command of his secondary stuff.
BC: Last season, St. James (SC) OF Tanner English hit .345, hit six home runs, had an OPS of 1.044, and stole 17 bases. A great season by all accounts, and St. James went 22-8. English committed to South Carolina, had a very good summer for the Diamond Devils travel team, winning the prestigious 17U WWBA Championship in Marietta. English was seen as a top prospect and was ranked in the top 200 of the 2011 class.
Since 2011 hit, English has broke out in a big way. First at PG’s World Showcase in Fort Myers he ran a blazing 6.37 60-yard dash, threw 97 mph from the outfield, and took one of the best BPs of the event. He was the talk of the showcase and used that performance to vault up to 41st in the nation, and on the follow lists of a number of MLB scouts. He has continued this spring, hitting .516 with 11 RBI, has scored 12 runs, and has added two home runs and 10 stolen bases. St. James has started the season 8-0 and English has established himself as one of the breakout performers of 2011.