05/12/08 10:16 AM ET
Urban Youth alum Gose, Hicks eye Draft
Young Californians hoping live arms, big bats take them far
By Mike Scarr / MLB.com
Both are regulars at the Urban Youth Baseball Academy here and are projected as possible first-rounders in next month's First-Year Player Draft.
And the similarities don't stop there.
Both are pitchers that can bring heat but possess strong offensive skills and possibly even better defensive skills in the outfield.
In football, this type of player is simply listed as an athlete.
"They're both hybrid players -- they're both gifted athletes that have very good arms," said Academy director Darrell Miller. "These guys are bona fide blue-chip athletes."
Gose is a senior at Bellflower (Calif.) High School, while Hicks is a senior at Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif., and both have been coming to the academy since it opened two years ago.
From the left side, Gose's fastball has been clocked as high as 97 mph on the radar gun, but lives in the 94-96 mph range. The right-handed Hicks also lives in the mid-90s, giving most scouts reason to look at them as pitchers, but each would prefer to be an everyday player.
"I want to play the outfield," Hicks said. "I like to hit and I love to play the outfield and go get it."
Gose is just as adamant.
"I work hard on hitting every day," Gose said. "I've been doing that the last two years and my hitting has really come along, so I want to keep that up. I don't want to throw that all away after working for the last two years."
Miller identifies both players as jewels in the academy crown. While he takes even greater pride in the vocational aspects of the academy, through programs that include mentoring, coaching and umpiring, Miller is quick to realize the benefit of having players that can take it to the next level.
In Gose and Hicks, Miller believes there is potential to make it to the Major Leagues.
"Both have plus, plus, plus arms -- they both have 75-80 arms, the highest rating on the scale," Miller said. "They throw 90-plus on the mound with decent curveballs and decent changeups. They're different because a lot of teams like them as pitchers, and these guys really would like to play their position as well."
Gose also excels at track and ran the 100 and 200 meters, and the 4x100 and 4x400 relays for Bellflower. He played football as a sophomore, but gave it up to concentrate solely on baseball.
Miller said the only aspect that has yet to develop in Gose is power, but at 6-feet and 180 pounds, he is expected to fill out. Gose said he looks to pattern his game more around his speed.
"Juan Pierre is my favorite player -- I like his work ethic. I see myself in him more, maybe Carl Crawford -- that's my next favorite player," said Gose, who swings from the left side. "I have a better arm than Pierre, but he is a bit faster -- but I see the speed aspect. He's played center field, running balls down and finding ways to get on base, whether it's bunting or putting the ball in play and making the defense make a play."
The switch-hitting Hicks, whose father, Joe, was drafted and played in the Minors, is gifted on the golf course and came to baseball just prior to his teens. He hit .487 at Wilson this year with 21 RBIs and posted a .637 on-base percentage to go with an .885 slugging percentage.
Miller said Hicks shows power from both sides of the plate.
"I've got some power, but I try to hit the ball to all fields and use my speed to my advantage," said Hicks, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds.
Gose had tendinitis in his right shoulder from logging a lot of innings earlier in the season, but said he's healthy now.
Both said they'll sign a pro contract if they're drafted in the first or the second rounds, but college is a distinct possibility if they fall to the lower rounds. Gose has signed a letter of intent at the University of Arizona while Hicks has signed a letter of intent at USC.
College ball is nice, but the big leagues is where the aspirations lie for both young prospects.
"The ultimate goal is play in the Major Leagues," Gose said. "I don't think about anything else."
"My dream is to play in the big leagues," Hicks said.
Miller said they teach the fundamentals of the game at the academy and equally, if not more important, he said they teach the fundamentals of life. But he was quick to add he doesn't get involved in the aspects of the Draft, but simply tries to guide his charges toward making the right decision.
"These guys have serious tools, they just need time," Miller said. "Patience and time, especially with those kinds of tools and especially with the bat. We encourage them to talk to their families and come up with a game plan so when the day comes, they're not confused. But we also convey that to the scouts so they know what your story is, and that way there is communication and there is solid understanding and [they can] let the Draft dictate what happens."
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.