This is one of the most impressive groups of elite players to be chosen as finalists for State Player of the Year we’ve ever had and have ever encountered in more than 100 years of research. Five of the nine finalists were chosen among the first 41 in last week’s MLB Draft.
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Congratulations to these nine players, who have been chosen today as a finalist to be the 2014 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year. This honor is the only one that dates back more than 100 years and includes those such as Mike Moustakas, Eric Chavez, Derrek Lee, Darryl Strawberry, Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount, Don Drysdale, Frank Robinson, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and many more. All of this year’s finalists listed below in alphabetical order. The winner will be announced on Monday, June 23.
Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego)
When you’re the first player chosen in the MLB Draft and just the third prep pitcher ever to be selected in that position, it’s kind of obvious you’ll at least be a finalist for State Player of the Year. Aiken, who is likely to sign soon with the Houston Astros, went 7-0 for the Dons and struck out 111 batters in 59.2 innings. He also had a 1.06 ERA. He had a no decision when Cathedral Catholic lost in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division playoffs two days before the draft but he nonetheless struck out 14 batters in six innings. Brady also used his bat for Cathedral Catholic (25-6). He hit .295 with two homers and 16 RBI.
Griffin Canning (Santa Margarita, Rancho SM)
The final prep performance for Canning was uncanny. Playing at Dodger Stadium in the CIF Southern Section Division I final, the UCLA-bound Canning pitched a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in leading the Eagles past Foothill of Tustin 3-1. For the season, facing tough opponents each time out in the Trinity League, Griffin went 10-3 with a 1.27 ERA and had 123 strikeouts in 88 innings. He wasn’t one of the team’s top hitters, but was in the lineup every day and had a .242 average including six doubles, one homer and nine RBI.
Joe DeMers (College Park, Pleasant Hill)
Despite being a junior and being considered among this insane group of seniors, DeMers does indeed merit this type of consideration. He was a hitting and pitching star for a College Park team that won the CIF North Coast Section Division II title and ended with the No. 2 overall state ranking. The Washington commit and already highly-regarded for the 2015 MLB Draft, DeMers hit a two-run homer and pitched five-hitter in his team’s section final. He ended with a .371 batting average with three homers and 32 RBI. He also had a 12-2 pitching mark with 94 strikeouts in 86 innings and a 0.65 ERA. We first saw his competitive drive as a starting sophomore basketball player for College Park when it played in the CIF Division II state final in 2013.
Jack Flaherty (Harvard-Westlake, North Hollywood)
Another obvious finalist, Flaherty just happens to be the Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year from last season when as a junior his clutch hitting and big-time pitching led Harvard-Westlake to the CIFSS D1 title and No. 1 state ranking. This year, Flaherty continued to be unbeaten on the mound. He went 10-0 with 125 strikeouts in 78 innings and had a 0.63 ERA. He also won his last 23 decisions dating back to his sophomore season. At the plate, Flaherty batted .280 with two homers and 18 RBI. He was the No. 34 pick in the first round of the MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals and probably will forgo his scholarship to North Carolina. He also already has been chosen the Gatorade State Player of the Year.
Jacob Gatewood (Clovis)
Wow, the big-time talents just continue to click off the tongue. At 6-5 and 200 pounds, Gatewood to us compares athletically to Giancarlo Stanton when he was known as Mike at Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks and to Darryl Strawberry when he played baseball and basketball at Los Angeles Crenshaw. Gatewood led Clovis to the state’s No. 1 ranking in 2014 as a shortstop and power hitting threat. He batted .395 for the season with five homers and 23 walks. He’s also the Clovis school record holder for career homers. At the draft, Gatewood went at No. 41 of the first round to the Milwaukee Brewers. He also has a scholarship to USC.
John Gavin (St. Francis, Mountain View)
This 6-foot-5, 240-pound lefty was the San Jose Mercury News Player of the Year as a junior and probably will repeat. Playing in the rugged West Catholic Athletic League, Gavin posted 26 career wins and had a 0.98 career ERA. He led St. Francis to the CCS Open Division title as a junior and to a 26-5 record as a senior. For the season, Gavin had an 8-1 record with a 0.71 ERA and whiffed 100 batters in 78.2 innings. Two of his top outings were one-hitters against Elk Grove and Valley Christian of San Jose. Gavin will play next at Cal State Fullerton.
Derek Hill (Elk Grove)
Regarded as the top defensive outfielder in last week’s MLB Draft, Hill was tabbed at No. 23 in the first round by the Detroit Tigers and early this week has signed with the team. Tigers’ brass compare him to Torii Hunter. Hill was dazzling on the bases and at the plate for the 26-6 Thundering Herd as well. He batted .500 with 11 doubles, nine triples, 29 steals and had 30 RBI.
Alex Jackson (Rancho Bernardo, San Diego)
The second California high schooler to be chosen in last week’s MLB Draft – at No. 6 overall by the Seattle Mariners – was Jackson. He’s been widely ranked as the top high school hitter in the nation and it’s been that way since he led the state with 17 homers as a sophomore. He could have been State Player of the Year last season as a junior, but Harvard-Westlake’s Jack Flaherty just did too much for his championship team. This season, Jackson hit .400 with 11 homers and 31 RBI despite getting very little to swing at. For his career, he tied the CIF San Diego Section record with 47 homers (also ties for No. 2 in state history) and had 156 runs with 127 RBI. The only bummer for him really is that his Rancho Bernardo team fell short and did not win the section’s Open Division title. The Broncos still ended 30-5.
Matt Trask (Davis)
Since Elk Grove’s Derek Hill was deemed a finalist, it only made sense to elevate Trask into that category as well since his pitching and hitting were essential in Davis beating Elk Grove and then winning the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title. Trask, who is headed to UCLA, came back from a sore elbow from early in the season and ended at 6-1 on the mound with a 1.46 ERA. He had a no-hitter in a playoff game against Rocklin and a one-hitter after the first inning in another big win against St. Mary’s of Stockton. As a batter, Trask shined with a .352 average with 11 doubles and 27 RBI.