The 28th annual Area Code Games have concluded and the event once again drew a who’s who of players, professional scouts, and collegiate coaches. The annual event is a must stop on the summer tournament/showcase circuit and is played at Blair Field in Long Beach, California which has hosted the event since 1995.
Pro scouts select players to tryout for their regional team before selecting the top players to fill out their roster. There is no pay-to-play in this event and that results in the best players from their respective regions playing against the best players from other regions as selected by scouts who also serve as the coaches for the event.
In 2014 there were 42 players selected in the top five rounds of the MLB draft and 11 No. 1 overall picks in the MLB draft have played in the Area Code Games. Former event stars include: Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Gerrit Cole, Adrian Gonzales, Roy Halladay, Phil Nevin, Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, CC Sabathia, Dustin Pedroia, and Bryce Harper.
After watching the 20 game showcase event (each team plays five games) here is my Top 10 list for position players at the event.
- INF Bo Bichette (Tierra Vista, FL)
The son of former Major Leaguer, Dante Bichette, Bo Bichette was arguably the most impressive hitter in the entire showcase. Bichette had three of the top five exit speeds off the bat with his highest being 108.3. The Arizona State commit shows the ability to drive the ball to all fields and flashes some power potential. A very good mistake pitch hitter, Bichette qualifies as an average runner. A slick fielding middle infielder with a strong arm, Bichette shows the footwork and body to control to be able to play shortstop at the next level.
- OF Blake Rutherford (Simi Valley, CA)
Rutherford has been a known player in the scouting community since he was an eighth grader because of his blazing speed and his prowess at the plate. But it is his defense combined with those aforementioned skills that has scouts enamored. The 6’3” 195 UCLA commit has the ability to make the game look easy offensively, defensively, and in the running game. Rutherford hit what many scouts call “big league flyballs” throughout the week. Although most went for outs, the ability to handle high level pitching and get the barrel on the ball is something Rutherford continues to do. One scout told me, “he’s at worst a supplemental pick, but I think he’s going in the first (round).”
- OF Mickey Moniak (Encinitas, CA)
Everybody is talking about “The Catch” and rightfully so. In Thursday’s game, Moniak sprinted nearly 20 yards with his back to the ball before looking over his left shoulder and making a spectacular catch that brought the crowd to its feet and even got some applause from a few scouts. The 6’2” 185 UCLA commit is much more than just one spectacular defensive play. I counted three times during the week when Moniak got on base before stealing second and third on the next two pitches. Speed, defense, and an advance hitting ability are his game. In one game he had bases loaded with one out and the infield in. Moniak got a fastball (92) on the outside corner and he sprayed it through the drawn in infield for a two RBI single. One college coach said to me, “I’ve been coaching collegiate hitters 15 years and I can’t get 18-21 year olds to do that.”
- SS Nolan Jones (Langhorne, PA)
One of the best all around infielders in the showcase, Jones showed an ability to hit, run, and defend at a high level all week. The Virginia commit showed near elite speed by running 4.12 home-to-first. Offensively, Jones puts very good swings on the ball and doesn’t chase bad pitches while showing the ability to stay with his plan. While his present power is limited, his 6’4” 185 frame should be able to handle weight, which could transfer into bigger power numbers in the future. Defensively, Jones showed great footwork and body control and the arm strength to make all the throws necessary. One scout said to me, “I love everything about this guy. He does everything you want from that position.”
- INF Cole Stobbe (Omaha, NE)
Playing every infield position except first base and catcher, Stobbe showed a lot of defensive versatility and the ability to handle all of the positions he played. Where Stobbe made his biggest impact, though, was at the plate where he’s a flat out hitter. The Arkansas commit puts very productive swings on all pitches and keeps his approach consistent. Stobbe doesn’t project to be a big power hitter, but shows the ability to drive the ball to all fields. One scout said to me, “he’s going to go to school and be an All American if he decides to go that route.”
- OF Brandon McIlwain (Newton, PA)
The hyper athletic McIlwain will be attending South Carolina on a football scholarship as a Quarterback and will also play baseball for the Gamecocks. In baseball, McIlwain has a bright future if last week was any indication where he was one of the most impressive hitters on his or any team. McIlwain routinely drives the ball hard to all fields with fast hands and elite bat speed. He then uses his elite speed (4.08-4.12 home to first) to cause havoc once on the bases. One scouts told me, “he’s an interesting prospect in that it’s going to be tough to get him to pass on football where he’s a stud. He’s definitely a top 4-7 rounder, though.”
- OF/1B Christian Jones (Federal Way, WA)
The 6’2” 205 Jones looks like a collegiate safety and he swings the bat with the kind of aggression you’d expect from a football centerfielder. The University of Washington commit uses his athleticism to make up for some shortcomings in the outfield, but it is at the plate where Jones will earn a living one-day. The left handed hitter possesses plenty of power potential and currently is a gap-to-gap line drive machine that consistently gets the barrel on the ball. One Pac12 coach told me, “I hope he signs because I don’t want to have to deal with that for three years.”
- OF Avery Tuck (San Diego, CA)
The 6’5” 195 San Diego State commit continues his meteoric rise in the eyes of scouts that began last year in the Underclass Area Code Games. Tuck carried over the momentum from a big summer into last week where he continues to show his ability to get the barrel on any pitch and drive it to all fields. A rangy outfielder, Tuck shows the ability to cover a lot of ground despite his average speed. Tuck also possesses an above average arm. One scout told me “he’s a late first rounder now, but don’t be surprised if he jumps up with a big spring.”
- C Ben Rortvedt (Verona, WI)
The best overall catcher at the showcase, Rortvedt is a pure hitter who has the athleticism to play other positions. The Arkansas commit has a strong, accurate arm and uses his advanced footwork and receiving skills to keep runners at bay. At the plate he keeps his hands close to his chest, coils, then explodes into the ball. A slightly below average runner, Rortvedt should assimilate well in the SEC where the expectation is that he’ll push for playing time next year should he decide to go that route.
- MIF Will Proctor (Manhattan Beach, CA)
Proctor is arguably one of the most improved players in the country, especially with his right handed bat where he’s showing the ability to drive the to all fields. Defensively the University of Georgia commit has added arm strength to his already above average glove and footwork that allows him the ability to make all the throws necessary.