There’s one rather obvious leading candidate from Northern California, but we are listing five from Southern California, including two catchers and two from the CIF San Diego Section. Check back on this site at the end of next week to see who will be added to a list of previous Mr. Baseball state honorees that goes back more than 100 years.
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Choosing finalists for the annual Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year requires waiting for the MLB Draft, but how much does the draft impact who eventually gets the nod?
Go through the writeups for this year’s six finalists and judge yourself:
(All listed in alphabetical order)
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Chris Betts (Wilson, Long Beach)
Was there a better prep catcher in the nation? Maybe not, although you could argue that there may be one from just down the coast (see below).
Betts had a great season for the Bruins, who lost in the second round of the CIF Southern Section D1 playoffs but that loss was to eventual champion Huntington Beach. He batted .473 with eight homers and 29 RBI.
In last week’s MLB Draft, Betts was the 52nd choice overall and went in the second round to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Joe DeMers (College Park, Pleasant Hill)
An athlete we first saw on the hardwood as a member of College Park’s basketball team in the CIF Division II state final, DeMers completed a memorable prep career in leading the Falcons to the CIF North Coast Section D1 title, a 26-4 record and State Team of the Year honors.
On the mound, DeMers dazzled with a 13-1 record, 0.51 ERA, three no-hitters, one perfect game and 103 strikeouts in 96 innings. At the plate, he was almost as dazzling with a .447 average, six homers and 44 RBI.
After his junior season, DeMers was first team all-state and was the State Junior of the Year. He’s already been chosen as the Gatorade State Player of the Year but was not selected in the recent MLB Draft. He will be going to the University of Washington and you never know how that fact and signability comes into play with some players in the draft.
Drew Finley (Rancho Bernardo, San Diego)
It almost seems like it would be sacrilegious not to have a Rancho Bernardo player considered as a State Player of the Year finalist, especially after a season in which the Broncos won the CIF San Diego Section Open Division title.
Finley was the team’s power pitcher and was one of the best in the nation. Pumped up from an early outing in which he struck out 20 batters in seven innings, Finley finished 11-1 with a 0.81 ERA and struck out 131 batters.
In the recent MLB Draft, Finley was the first high school player tabbed by the New York Yankees. They picked him at No. 93 in the third round. He also has a scholarship to USC.
Lucas Herbert (San Clemente)
He’s the second catcher among this group and like Long Beach Wilson’s Chris Betts is one of the best in the nation. Herbert also was nearly chosen as high as Betts in the MLB Draft – at No. 54 in the second round compared to No. 52 – and led a team that won the National High School Invitational title over Joe DeMers and College Park in the final.
Herbert, who already has been named as the Orange County Register’s Player of the Year (over anybody from CIFSS D1 champ Huntington Beach), batted .417 on 50 hits and cracked eight homers. The Atlanta Braves’ draft pick also had to step up his leadership role when San Clemente ace pitcher Kolby Allard missed the season with a back injury.
Peter Lambert (San Dimas)
Although Lambert’s chances to win the state honor took a hit because of San Dimas’ upset loss to Walnut in the CIFSS D3 semifinals, he still did plenty to perhaps still get it.
If the Saints had not lost in that game (Lambert won in the quarterfinals) and had finished 33-0, Lambert also would have perhaps finished 14-0 and as the leader of a team with the second-best record in state history. Still, Lambert ended 13-0 with a 0.34 ERA including two playoff shutouts for a team that went 31-1.
Lambert, who already has been named the L.A. Times Player of the Year, is a UCLA recruit who also was the No. 44 pick overall by the Colorado Rockies in the recent MLB Draft. Other than San Clemente’s Kolby Allard (who did not pitch for his high school team this season), no California prep pitcher was selected higher.
Tyler Nevin (Poway)
It was a great season for Nevin, the son of former MLB No. 1 overall draft pick Phil Nevin (who is now managing the AAA level Reno Aces).
Coming back from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him all of his junior season, Tyler shined with a .409 batting average, seven homers and 22 RBI. He also scored 41 runs, hit 13 doubles and was walked 28 times. He also led the Titans to the CIF San Diego Section Division I championship.
On MLB Draft day, Nevin heard his name called at No. 38 overall in the supplemental round (after the first but before the second) by the Colorado Rockies. Since he had such a strong season and no one else who played at a California high school this year was picked higher in the draft, it only made sense to make Nevin one of this year’s finalists as well.