ERIC SONDHEIMER

Southland is brimming with top baseball prospects

Bellflower's Gose, who has a 95-mph fastball but wants to play outfield in the majors, is part of group trying to improve its stock with the June draft approaching.

Anthony Gose of Bellflower is a left-handed pitcher who can throw a fastball 95 mph. There are major league teams that have paid million-dollar signing bonuses to teenagers with similar skills.

Before the season started, he was listed by Baseball America as the 24th-best draft prospect in the nation.

And yet, Gose has made it perfectly clear what he thinks about pitching.

"If I didn't have to do it again, I wouldn't even miss it," he said.

Gose, 6 feet and 190 pounds, is convinced he can make the jump to the major leagues as an outfielder, and that's what he keeps telling scouts interested in selecting him in June's amateur draft.

He's one of more than half a dozen Southland prospects vying to become high draft picks, pending final evaluations by scouts and player personnel over the next six weeks.

While Gose has exceptional speed and a strong arm -- "Any ball hit into the outfield you believe he's going to catch it," Bellflower Coach Keith Tripp said. "He's got an absolute cannon for an arm." -- he has never finished a high school season hitting .400 or better.

Proving he can hit at a high level is the one obstacle Gose is determined to overcome.

He has become nearly a daily regular at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, where he works on hitting fundamentals -- pitch selection, when to be aggressive in the count, transferring his body weight and hitting through the ball.

Gose's improvement is evident this season; he is hitting .439 with 26 walks and 24 stolen bases.

"I've made a lot of progress over the last three, four years with my hitting," he said. "I've worked so hard I don't want to throw it away just for the draft. I want to keep it going. I'm going to stick with it.

"My favorite player is Juan Pierre, and I feel I can do everything he can do, if not better."

But Gose, who has signed with Arizona, can be dominant on the mound. Some say he's crazy for not giving pitching a try at the next level.

"Pitchers pitch once every four games," he said. "I want to be an everyday player. I'm just being up front with all the teams. I want to play in the outfield.

"And if I fail, I can always go back to pitching."

Gose has agreed to keep pitching in high school for the good of his team. He was put on the mound as a sophomore when Bellflower was in need of pitching for a tournament game. He proceeded to strike out 14.

"He didn't want to pitch," Tripp said.

Now, Gose has made it clear that he doesn't want to be only a pitcher.

"I know I can make it as an outfielder," he said. "Things will turn around this year. I've learned a lot. My approach has changed."

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