Rain washed out many early-season high school baseball games the last few weeks, but that has not dampened professional scouts' enthusiasm about several top prospects in the Southland.
Pitchers Matt Harrington of Palmdale and Mike Davern of Brea Olinda are rated as the nation's fourth- and eighth-best high school prospects, respectively, by Baseball America magazine.
Pitcher Jamie Shields of Newhall Hart, pitcher/first baseman Michael Stodolka of Corona Centennial and Woodland Hills El Camino Real shortstop Conor Jackson are also among the top 35.
Those are only some of the players that are expected to have an impact on the 2000 season.
Some of the teams to watch:
FOUNTAIN VALLEY (1999 record: 16-10)--Everything begins with pitching for the Barons. Fountain Valley has six pitchers whose fastballs have been clocked at faster than 85 mph.
Justin Fortugno, Matt Clanton and Justin Azze lead the staff.
Third baseman Casey Janssen, and outfielders Seb Gonzalez and Josh Bartusick are key players along with shortstop John Clark, a transfer from Ocean View.
NEWHALL HART (1999 record: 27-4)--The Indians lost to City Section power Chatsworth last week, but they are expected to defend their Southern Section Division II title.
Shields is recovering from a back injury. When he is healthy, he and junior Eric Posthumus give the Indians a formidable 1-2 punch on the mound.
Catcher Brandon Montemayor has signed with Clemson. Outfielder Marke Horvat is also a top player for the Indians.
PLACENTIA EL DORADO (1999 record: 26-5)--Senior pitcher Justin Angevine, who was 9-2 last season, and third baseman Brett Marro lead the Golden Hawks, the defending Southern Section Division III champion.
Pitcher Brian Hoff was 4-0 with a 1.17 ERA last season.
TEMECULA VALLEY (1999 record: 21-6)--The Golden Bears have turned out several productive college players the last few years and this season will apparently be no exception.
Third baseman Kyle Boyer, first baseman/pitcher Cole Hilt, shortstop David Garcia and pitcher Derrick Merrell all have signed with Cal State Fullerton.
Garcia's brother, Tony, is the starting shortstop for Pepperdine.
LONG BEACH MILLIKAN (1999 record: 21-6)--Shortstop Preston Griffin, a four-year starter, leads a team that also features ace Sam Fernley and center fielder Bill Saul.
Second baseman Matt Beard and third baseman Matt Anderson are other standouts for a team that must negotiate a Moore League schedule that includes 1999 Division I finalist Long Beach Wilson and young but talented Lakewood.
LONG BEACH WILSON (1999 record: 26-5)--The Bruins lost to Riverside Arlington in the Southern Section Division I final last year and they have the talent to make a return trip to the championship game.
Joey Pace, who has signed with Long Beach State, is the top pitcher and hitter.
Juniors Steve Papazian and Taylor Draper and senior David Burcham will also pitch.
Todd Marshall moves from second base to shortstop, making way for Chris Weems.
RIALTO (1999 record: 22-4)--Pitchers Josh Whitesell, Ricky Nolasco and Casey Mutter are back after combining for 21 victories last season during the Knights' run to the Southern Section Division I semifinals.
Jose Rodriguez batted .400 and Luis Robles is a solid catcher.
Third baseman Amauricio Duran and outfielder Chris West are talented newcomers.
SANTA ANA MATER DEI (1999 record: 21-7)--The Monarchs lost a lot when Coach Bob Ickes retired and shortstop Pat Manning graduated and signed with the Atlanta Braves.
Burt Call is the new coach, taking over a team coming off a semifinal loss to Arlington in the Southern Section Division I semifinals.
Catcher Josh Hansen batted .438 with 12 homers and second baseman Mike Harris hit .384 last season.
Brandon Espinosa is a top pitcher for the Monarchs.
WOODLAND HILLS EL CAMINO REAL (1999 record: 20-7)--The Conquistadores, with highly regarded shortstop Conor Jackson, are trying to win their third City Section title in four years. Josh Deneau anchors a pitching staff that also includes Chris Gallo, Greg Acheatel and Nick Gomez.
WESTLAKE (1999 record: 19-6)--The Warriors lost Kevin Howard, but there is still plenty of talent.
Pitcher Jesse Kozlowski, first baseman Tyler Adamczyk, shortstop Jeff Dragicevich, catcher Michael Nickeas and outfielder Cory Taillon form a solid foundation for success.