Scouting the G-Men (Gaviglio and Gagnon) and More
Living within walking distance of Blair Field, the home ballpark of the Long Beach State Dirtbags and the venue for many area high school teams, allows me the opportunity to witness a number of prospects every year. I have attended almost every Friday night home game that Long Beach State has played since Jered Weaver's sophomore year in 2003. Along the way, I have seen Weaver, Troy Tulowitzki, and Evan Longoria countless times plus several other notable first-round draft picks, including a matchup of Tim Lincecum vs. Ian Kennedy at USC in 2006, Bryce Harper at the Area Code Games in 2008, and Stephen Strasburg at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy's Collegiate Baseball Tournament in Compton.
Last night, I was at Blair Field once again to see one of the best college pitching performances in the history of the park. While Oregon State's Sam Gaviglio is not a prospect in the class of Weaver, Lincecum, or Strasburg, the junior righthander nonetheless pitched one of the most impeccable games in the 50-plus years of this facility as the Beavers (14-3) defeated the Dirtbags (9-8), 4-0, in the opener of a three-game series between these two West Coast schools. Gaviglio (Guh-VEE-leo) threw seven perfect innings and allowed just one baserunner (a lead-off single in the eighth) in a complete-game shutout. He struck out the first four, nine of the first ten, and a career-high 14 overall while facing just 28 batters and throwing only 99 pitches.
Gaviglio (4-0, 0.00 ERA) has now pitched 38 consecutive scoreless innings, just nine short of the single-season record of 47 by Todd Helton of Tennessee in 1994. Vermont's George Plender holds the NCAA record with 63 innings, accomplished over the 1954 and 1955 seasons. Gaviglio gave up two unearned runs in the first inning in a season-opening win over Gonzaga while outdueling the highly regarded Ryan Carpenter, threw a CG SHO against Connecticut (holding likely first rounder George Springer to an 0-for-3 with a SO) in his second start, held Hartford scoreless for six innings in his third outing, and whitewashed New Mexico State for eight prior to shutting out Long Beach State. He has allowed 14 hits and four walks while striking out 40 in 38 2/3 IP.
At 6-1 and 195 pounds, Gaviglio is the same listed height and weight as Kennedy when the latter was pitching for the Trojans from 2004-2006. The two RHP also share the fact that both rely on pitchability more than pure stuff. Gaviglio's fastball is a little light (mostly 86-88 with a high of 90) as compared to Kennedy's (89-91 when I scouted him during his college days), but his command and ability to throw strikes to both sides of the plate with all three pitches (FB-CB-CH) and at any time in the count rivals the pitcher who was recently named to start on opening day for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gaviglio's breaking ball ranged from 78-82 and his changeup 77-81.
Gaviglio, who turns 21 in May, was a 40th-round selection in 2008 by Tampa Bay after being named the 5A Pitcher of the Year in Oregon while leading Ashland to the state championship. He chose the Beavers over the Rays and went 10-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 55 SO/9 BB in 62 2/3 IP during his freshman season. He regressed as a sophomore, going 3-4 with a 5.60 ERA and 45 SO/23 BB in an identical number of innings.
The dozen or so professional scouts (plus ESPN's Keith Law) sitting behind home plate a few rows in front of my brother and me were seemingly more interested in the opposing pitcher on Friday night. Andrew Gagnon, a 6-4/195 righthanded junior, had his first rough outing of the year, giving up six hits, four walks, and four runs in five innings. However, Gagnon (GAN-yawn) has faced much stiffer competition than Gaviglio thus far, with all five starts against ranked teams (Cal State Fullerton, Arizona, Oregon, Rice, and Oregon State). He retired Owls third baseman Anthony Rendon, a potential first pick in the 2011 draft, all three times (fly out to RF, groundout to 2B, and a line out to SS) when they hooked up a week ago Friday at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Gagnon, who gave up back-to-back home runs to OSU's Andrew Susac and Danny Hayes in the top of the first inning, saw his ERA rise from 1.30 to 1.91. He has allowed 25 hits and 13 walks while striking out 31 in 37 2/3 innings in 2011. Gagnon took over the role of the Friday night starter as a sophomore and moved up draft boards when he led the Cape Cod league with five wins while posting a 2.10 ERA and 43 K's in 38 2/3 IP. He was the Eastern Division starting pitcher for the Cape All-Star Game at Fenway Park and got the side out in order in his only inning of work. Gagnon throws an 89-92 mph fastball (with it comfortably sitting at 91), an 84-87 slider, and a low-80s change. His fastball is a bit straight and prone to getting turned around when left up in the zone. (Here is a video of Gagnon vs. Oregon on 3/4/11).
Susac (Suu-SACK) is a draft-eligible sophomore. At 6-1/205, the catcher has a pro body with a strong arm, quick pop times, and raw power at the plate. The home run he slugged cleared the wall in left-center field with lots of room to spare, a blast that was easily over 400 feet. He hit a hard groundball single between short and third in his next at-bat and drew a walk in the ninth. Susac (.453/.563/.811), riding a 13-game hitting streak, is 24-for-53 on the season with 7 2B, 4 HR, 14 BB, and 11 SO.
Baseball America ranked Susac, who turns 21 on Tuesday, as its No. 5 prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer when he hit .290 with five homers and the 23rd top college prospect for the 2011 draft. He was selected in the 16th round of the 2009 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies but did not sign. I wouldn't be surprised at all if a team took him in the first round in June.
Two weeks ago, I was on hand to see Oregon's Tyler Anderson also strike out 14 Dirtbags. The 21-year-old lefthander worked eight scoreless innings, throwing 77 strikes out of 112 pitches. After beating San Diego today, Anderson is now 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 52 SO/14 BB in 37 1/3 IP.
The 6-4, 215 pounder, who was drafted in the 50th round by the Minnesota Twins in 2008, was rated the 16th-best college prospect by Baseball America prior to the season. His fastball, which sat at 89-92 the night I saw him pitch against the Dirtbags, plays up due to a deceptive motion that includes a little quirk with the ball behind his back. The combination of a slightly across-the-body delivery and a slider with reasonable tilt wreaks havoc on LHB. Anderson can also handle RHB owing to a plus changeup with fade that ranks as his best pitch. Lastly, he displayed a strong move to first base, picking off two runners that evening. (Here is a video of Anderson vs. Long Beach State on 3/4/11.)