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One of seven standout California high school baseball players will be chosen as the 2013 Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year. The following group of seven players was selected after all games were played during the 2013 season. Previous Mr. Baseball State Players of the Year since 1899 have included Walter Johnson, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, Don Drysdale, Robin Yount, Rickey Henderson, John Elway, Darryl Strawberry, Derrek Lee, Delmon Young and Mike Moustakas.
Here are the seven finalists for this year’s honor (listed in alphabetical order):
Phil Bickford (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village) Sr.
Vaulting himself into a lock to be a finalist as well as improving his draft stock, Bickford struck out a school record 18 in the final start of his high school career as the Lions defeated El Rancho of Pico Rivera 4-0 in the CIF Southern Section Division IV championship. In the win, he allowed just an infield hit while striking out 11 straight and 17 of the last 18 batters he faced while hitting up to 97 mph with his pitches. On the year, he went 12-1 with a 0.83 ERA while striking out 146 batters in 84.2 innings. He also walked just 11 batters. In last week’s MLB Draft, he was the first California high school player to hear his name called. He was chosen 10th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Jack Flaherty (Harvard-Westlake, North Hollywood) Jr.
With the CIF Southern Section Division I championship and the overall No. 1 state ranking on the line, this talented junior not only struck out eight in a complete game shutout but he also drove in the game’s only run to lead the Wolverines past Marina of Huntington Beach 1-0. On the season, he was a perfect 13-0 with a 0.63 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 89 innings with just 10 walks. At the plate, he hit .360 with two home runs while also stealing 13 bases. He has already been named player of the year by the Los Angeles Times.
Jack Labosky (Clovis North, Fresno) Jr.
Not just in the running for Junior of the Year with Jack Flaherty but for Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year, the big Labosky pitched a six-hitter and had two hits as the Broncos captured the CIF Central Section Division I championship with a 13-2 win over Stockdale of Bakersfield. On the year, he went a perfect 11-0 on the mound with a 0.61 ERA while hitting .437 at the plate. He already has been named Tri-River Athletic Conference co-Player of the Year along with Trenton Kemp of Buchanan, another big-time junior prospect for next season.
Carlos Salazar (Kerman) Sr.
He’s already been named the Gatorade State Player of the Year and is one of the top pitchers from a small town in the San Joaquin Valley that we’ve ever covered. Although Kerman didn’t win its title in the CIF Central Section, Salazar went 10-2 with a 0.09 ERA and fanned 147 batters. He also had a .430 batting average with three homers and 29 RBIs. In last week’s MLB draft, he went at No. 102 overall in the third round to the Atlanta Braves. He is expected to sign and not go to Fresno State.
Dominic Smith (Serra, Gardena) Sr.
It wasn’t quite the numbers he put up in his junior season but Dominic was rarely pitched to (example: three walks in CIFSS D3 final) but still hit .493 with seven home runs and 38 runs batted in as the Cavaliers won the CIFSS Division III championship. Smith is not known for his pitching, but he did pitch 30.1 innings and went 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA while striking out 43. He also was the winning pitcher in the final game. Last week, Smith was the 11th pick overall in the MLB Draft by the New York Mets (one position just after Oaks Christian’s Phil Bickford).
Michael Strem (St. Francis, Mountain View) Sr.
His 66-pitch perfect game in a 2-0 win over Monta Vista late in the year in the CCS playoffs earned him national attention but he was already on our radar as he went 11-1 with a 1.30 ERA as one of two aces for a Lancers squad that was among the top teams in the state. On the season, he pitched 80.2 innings and struck out 79 batters with a season-best 10 strikeouts during a 1-0 win over Amador Valley. At the plate, he hit .417 with 22 runs batted in with a season-best five RBI during a 8-3 playoff win over Palo Alto in the CCS Division I semifinals. He will play next season at Boston College.
Ryan Tellez (Elk Grove) Sr.
As the Thundering Herd captured the CIF Sac Joaquin Section Division I championship it was this talented slugger leading the offense. Tellez hit .500 with nine home runs and 46 runs batted in. Setting a Sac-Joaquin Section record for career runs batted in with 176, his total also is second best all time in Northern California behind Charlie Cutler’s 203 set back in 2005 while playing at Lowell of San Francisco. In Elk Grove’s final game, an 11-2 victory over St. Mary’s of Stockton that clinched the section title, he had four hits, four RBIs, two doubles and a homer. Tellez will be headed to USC, which was known before the recent MLB draft and is why he wasn’t chosen until the 30th round.
Note: Mark Tennis contributed to this report.