NorCal Baseball: 25 Best, 25 Yrs

Our top 25 from the last 25 years in Northern California baseball would feature a nifty double-play combo of Brandon Crawford and Dustin Pedrioia. Jimmy Rollins might have to replace Crawford, however, since he has been an MVP (same as Pedroia). Photos: Pinterest.com.

Our top 25 from the last 25 years in Northern California baseball would feature a nifty double-play combo of Brandon Crawford and Dustin Pedrioia. Jimmy Rollins might have to replace Crawford, however, since he has been an MVP (same as Pedroia). Photos: Pinterest.com.


For a feature we did last month for our partners at SportStars Magazine (it was their idea), the task was to choose the 25 best high school baseball players from the last 25 years for Northern California. It ended up that nine of the 25 have World Series rings.

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The best 25 players from the last 25 years has a nice ring to it. And for Northern California high school baseball, some of those best players happen to have plenty of rings attached to their names too.

Those from Northern California who’ve graduated since the 1991 season and who’ve collected World Series rings includes nine of the 25 who’ve been selected for this historical honors squad – Andrew Susac, C.C. Sabathia, Dontrelle Willis, Pat Burrell, Brandon Crawford, Daniel Descalso, Xavier Nady, Dustin Pedroia and Jimmy Rollins.

For the purposes of this feature, players from the CIF Central Coast Section, CIF North Coast Section, CIF Sac-Joaquin Section plus Oakland, San Francisco and the CIF Northern Section were eligible, although only one from San Francisco was chosen. SportStars doesn’t cover the CIF Central Section so when we do a SoCal version of this feature, we’ll look to include those players there.

Although most players went on to star in the major leagues, all of those written up also were at least all-state honorees as high school players. For a region as strong as Northern California has been and continues to be in baseball, it’s the best of both worlds.

Andrew Susac of Carmichael Jesuit was all-state underclass in 2008. His future S.F. Giants' teammate, Matt Duffy of Lakewood, also was selected to that team. Photo: jesuithighschool.org.

Andrew Susac of Carmichael Jesuit was all-state underclass in 2008. His future S.F. Giants’ teammate, Matt Duffy of Lakewood, also was selected to that team. Photo: jesuithighschool.org.


CATCHERS

Charlie Cutler (Lowell, San Francisco) 2005
He’s the only one of the 25 who just had to be on this team just for what he did as a high schooler. He set state records for career hits (219) with a career batting average of .573. He also set state records for career RBIs (219) and career runs scored (197).

Max Stassi (Yuba City) 2009
After getting into the state record book with 15 homers as a junior in 2008, Stassi gained all-state honors in 2009. He made his MLB debut for the Houston Astros in 2013 and was on their roster last season as well.

Andrew Susac (Jesuit, Carmichael) 2009
He was regarded as a top catching prospect prior to his junior year for the Marauders and was all-state as a senior. Susac is one of two players on this NorCal 25-year team who earned a World Series ring with the 2014 San Francisco Giants.

PITCHERS

David Hernandez (Elk Grove) 2003
There arguably could have been several more Elk Grove players on this list, but Hernandez is the only one so far who’s had a more than solid MLB career. The all-state pitcher from 2003 has been a reliable set-up man for six years. He’ll be with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016.

C.C. Sabathia was a basketball and football standout at Vallejo right along with baseball. Photo: Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library

C.C. Sabathia was a basketball and football standout at Vallejo right along with baseball. Photo: Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library


J.P. Howell (Jesuit, Carmichael) 2001
The L.A. Dodgers’ set-up man in the bullpen the last few years wasn’t just on the 2001 all-state team. Howell actually was the 2001 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year. He went 10-0 that season on the mound with an ERA so low (0.09) that it’s in the state record book.

Tyson Ross (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) 2005
Both Tyson and brother Joe could have been on this squad. Like Tyson, Joe’s been in the major leagues as a pitcher as well, but not as long and Tyson had the slightly better high school career.

C.C. Sabathia (Vallejo) 1998
Not just a power pitcher for the Apaches, Sabathia was the 1997-98 Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Year for what he did as well in football and basketball. He later became one of the top pitchers in baseball, recently for the New York Yankees.

Robert Stephenson (Alhambra, Martinez) 2011
Widely reported with a 98 mph fastball, Stephenson struck out 142 batters with an 8-2 record in his senior season and was a first-round pick by the Reds. He’s now projected to be a future starting pitcher for the rebuilding Reds, possibly sometime in the 2016 season.

Dontrelle Willis (Encinal. Alameda) 2000
The 2003 National League Rookie of the Year once won 22 games as an MLB pitcher for the Florida Marlins. He shined at Encinal as a senior with a 12-1 record on the mound with a 0.83 ERA.

FIRST BASEMAN

Nick Johnson (McClatchy, Sacramento) 1996
We actually don’t know for sure if Nick played first base for the Lions, but he was on the 1996 all-state team as an infielder and that was his position as a pro. He was in the majors for 10 seasons and had a lifetime batting average of .268.

INFIELDERS

Pat Burrell (Bellarmine Prep, San Jose) 1995
Before going to leftfield with the Philadelphia Phillies, Burrell played third base for the Bells. He once hit 37 homers in an MLB season and hit 11 during his senior year at Bellarmine. Burrell also played for two World Series champions and was the No. 1 pick overall in the 1998 MLB Draft coming out of the University of Miami.

Brandon Crawford (Foothill, Pleasanton) 2005
In addition to being an all-state infielder for the Falcons, Crawford also still goes down as one of the best receivers to ever play for longtime Foothill football coach Matt Sweeney. Crawford is now, of course, one of the top shortstops in baseball and has helped the San Francisco Giants win two World Series crowns.

Multiple MLB All-Star Jimmy Rollins fields a grounder for Encinal of Alameda during his high school years. He was Cal-Hi Sports Medium Schools State Player of the Year in 1996. Photo: FromPo.com.

Multiple MLB All-Star Jimmy Rollins fields a grounder for Encinal of Alameda during his high school years. He was Cal-Hi Sports Medium Schools State Player of the Year in 1996. Photo: FromPo.com.


Dan Descalso (St. Francis, Mountain View) 2004
He’s known as an MLB infielder these days with the Colorado Rockies and was on the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2011 world championship team. Descalso also pitched for the Lancers, which is why in 2004 he was the West Catholic Athletic League MVP and was multi-purpose on the all-state team.

Geoff Jenkins (Cordova-Rancho Cordova) 1992
Younger brother of Brett Jenkins (set state record with 68 hits in 1988, a total later broken), Geoff was an all-state standout for legendary former Cordova coach Guy Anderson as well. He later enjoyed a 10-year MLB career.

Xavier Nady (Salinas) 1997
In high school, Nady was the CCS Player of the Year with 12 homers and a .619 batting average in 1997. He later became an All-American at Cal and had a 10-year MLB career, earning World Series rings with the Yankees (2009) and Giants (2012).

Dustin Pedroia (Woodland) 2001
One of several no-brainer picks for this team, Pedroia earned all-state honors for the Wolves after not striking out once in his senior season. He debuted as the Boston Red Sox second baseman in 2007 and since then has been American League MVP once, an All-Star four times and has a chance to have a career batting average above .300.

Jimmy Rollins (Encinal, Alameda) 1996
The MVP of the National League in 2007 for the Philadelphia Phillies and a perennial all-star, Rollins has to be considered one of the greatest ever from NorCal. At Encinal, he posted totals still among NorCal’s best ever with 177 career hits, 154 career runs and 125 career RBIs.

Brett Wallace (Justin-Siena, Napa) 2005
At Justin-Siena, Wallace led teams that set the NorCal record for longest win streak that still stands at 42 games. He also hit 32 career homers. He played last season for the San Diego Padres and recently signed another one-year deal with that club.

OUTFIELDERS

Eric Byrnes (St. Francis, Mountain View) 1994
Since his MLB career ended – one that spanned 10 seasons with the A’s, Rockies, Orioles, Diamondbacks and Mariners – Byrnes has become a popular analyst on the MLB Network. Just as he was in the pros, Byrnes was an exceptional defensive outfielder for the Lancers.

Yes, we did pick Dodgers' sensation Joc Pederson as a first-team all-state player after his senior season at Palo Alto. Photo: StudentSports.com.

Yes, we did pick Dodgers’ sensation Joc Pederson as a first-team all-state player after his senior season at Palo Alto. Photo: StudentSports.com.


Mark Canha (Bellarmine, San Jose) 2007
One reason the Bells were the State Team of the Year in 2006 at 34-4 and won the CCS Division I title was the play of Canha, a junior on that squad. The first team all-state outfielder for 2007 has gone on to become a regular contributor with the Oakland Athletics.

Derrek Lee (El Camino, Sacramento) 1993
A recent inductee to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame and the 1993 State Player of the Year, Lee had 154 hits and 129 RBIs for his prep career. Both totals are in the state record book. He also was a first-round MLB draft pick and also enjoyed a successful MLB career with the Marlins and Cubs.

Joc Pederson (Palo Alto) 2010
It only took Pederson five years to go from leading off for the Vikings to playing in the MLB All-Star Game representing the L.A. Dodgers. He led Paly to a 29-4 record in earning first team all-state honors in 2010. He batted .515, scored 53 runs and stole 22 bases. His power hitting has mostly developed later.

MULTI-PURPOSE (HITTING/PITCHING)

Joe DeMers (College Park, Pleasant Hill) 2015
We made a conscious effort to include State Players of the Year on this team and have included DeMers even though his POY season was just last spring. He led College Park to State Team of the Year honors with a 13-1 record on the mound (0.51 ERA) and he batted .447 with six homers and 44 RBI.

Stephen Piscotty (Amador Valley, Pleasanton) 2009
One of the top rookies in the major leagues last season, Piscotty batted .305 last season after being called up to play for the St. Louis Cardinals in July. He was MVP of the East Bay Athletic League for the Dons and pitched as well as played shortstop.

Tyler Robertson (Bella Vista, Fair Oaks) 2006
He’s pitched in the major leagues for the Minnesota Twins but in high school he hit, fielded and pitched and was the 2006 State Player of the Year. He struck out 143 batters in 74 innings that season with a 0.74 ERA and had a .434 batting average with 20 RBIs.
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20 Who Just Missed The Cut

P Mark Appel (Monte Vista, Danville) 2009
P Paul Blackburn (Heritage, Brentwood) 2012
OF/P Jason Codiroli (Archbishop Mitty) 2005
P Kevin Eichhorn (Aptos) 2008
MP J.D. Davis (Elk Grove) 2012
P Dan Denham (Deer Valley, Antioch) 2001
MP Ryan Drese (Bishop O’Dowd) 1994
P Chris Gruler (Liberty, Brentwood) 2002
OF Derek Hill (Elk Grove) 2014
C Trevor Howell (Pacific Grove) 2002
C John Jaso (McKinleyville) 1999
P/MP Chuck Lofgren (Serra, San Mateo) 2003
INF Aaron Miles (Antioch) 1995
1B Luke Quaccia (Oakdale) 1993
P/MP Greg Reynolds (Terra Nova, Pacifica) 2003
INF James Roberts (Archbishop Mitty)
C Jake Rodriguez (Elk Grove) 2010
P Joe Ross (Bishop O’Dowd) 2011
1B Rowdy Tellez (Elk Grove) 2013
OF Randy Winn (San Ramon Valley) 1992

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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2 Comments

  1. NorCalSportsFan
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Brandon Crawford played QB his senior year at Foothill – Pleasanton under Sweeney. He was a WR his Junior year and moved to QB as a senior. I always thought if he was a little taller, he would have made a good college QB. He had a nice spin on his ball, strong armed and very accurate.

  2. Eric
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Bobby hill?! Pirates and Cubs from Leland high school

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