Trio of Valley high school baseball stars earn growing national acclaim

The Fresno BeeAugust 22, 2013 

Sanger High's Luis Ortiz is headed for Taiwan to play for the U.S. 18-and-younger baseball team, one of three local prep stars who have reeled in top summer honors in the sport.

Clovis' Jacob Gatewood is in Chicago, preparing for a showcase that will be televised Saturday on the MLB Network.

And Buchanan's Trenton Kemp has international talent auditions in Arizona and Florida ahead.

It has been a whirlwind summer for the seniors, who could become the largest group of Fresno-area players selected in the early rounds of Major League Baseball's June amateur draft since Fresno State's Eddie Zosky, Steve Hosey and Tom Goodwin went in the first round in 1989.

Gatewood, a shortstop/outfielder, is the fourth-ranked high school prospect in the nation by Perfect Game USA, which touts itself as the world's largest baseball scouting service and counts 88% of the players taken in the first five rounds in 2012 — including 29 of 31 first-rounders — as past participants in its games and tournaments.

Ortiz, a right-handed pitcher, is No. 14, and outfielder Kemp No. 21.

All have received a Perfect Game grade of 10, indicating a "potential very high draft pick and/or elite level college prospect."

In early draft rankings by minorleagueball.com that combine high school and college players, Ortiz is No. 9 in the nation with Gatewood at 10 and Kemp at 58.

There hasn't been a high school player from the Fresno area drafted in the first round since Clovis West's McKay Christensen in 1994 by the Angels.

"They have all put themselves in the discussion to be drafted in the top couple of rounds," said Oakland A's scout J.T. Stotts, who has worked the area from Fresno to Orange County for six years. "Those three players are definitely different. There's a gap between those guys (and others from the area)."

Ortiz, who has committed to Fresno State, learned Wednesday that he made the 20-man 18-U national team. He pitched 12/3 perfect innings with two strikeouts in three games over five days during the 40-player Team Trials in Southern California.

The U.S. team is to compete at the International Baseball Federation World Cup from Aug. 30-Sept. 8 in Taichung. Ortiz, a 6-3, 220-pounder with a mid-90s fastball, said he expects to be the team's closer.

"This is a dream come true. You can't get any better than representing your country and wearing the USA across your chest," Ortiz said. "There were a lot of talented kids and it was very tough to make the team, but I came through and made it."

It's the latest achievement for the three, who have traveled to locales such as Cary, N.C., Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, Houston, San Diego and Los Angeles since school let out in June to attend top showcases.

Gatewood is one of 36 nationwide chosen for the Under Armour All-America Game, set for 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Wrigley Field. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound son of former minor leaguer Henry Gatewood won the high school portion of MLB's Home Run Derby in July at Citi Field.

National baseball writers took to social media after his 13-homer performance, describing Gatewood as a likely first-round pick.

"I try not to let that stuff get to my head," the USC commit said. "I'm just playing the game I love, giving it 110% and whatever happens, happens. It's just been so much fun to play with all the top talent. You can't get much better unless you play against the best, and I feel this will definitely help me."

All three produced in the nationally televised Perfect Game All-American Classic on Aug. 11 at San Diego's Petco Park. Ortiz didn't allow an earned run while striking out two in one inning, Gatewood went 1 for 4 with an RBI and Kemp singled once in two at-bats.

The 6-2, 185-pound Kemp got himself into the game with his performance at the National Showcase in June, where the Fresno State commit ran a 6.46 60-yard dash while also displaying a nice swing and quick hands.

"I thought I made a good name for myself this summer," Kemp said. "A lot of people are saying different things, but I just try to have fun with it. It would be a blessing if I went as high (in the draft) as some say."

 

The reporter can be reached at nickg@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6103 or @NickG_FB on Twitter.

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