Not since 1992 has a non-San Fernando Valley team won the City Section baseball championship. It was San Pedro, and the Pirates start out the 2020 season as the team to beat with eight returning starters, plus a key transfer, from a 27-5 team.
Shortstop Josh Duarte, pitcher Travis Connelly and outfielder Dom Porter are among the standouts. The Pirates also added outfielder Hasan Standifer from Narbonne. He’s one of the best pro prospects in the City Section.
But the Valley’s domination is a big obstacle for San Pedro, which lost to three-time defending City champion Birmingham in the opening round of last year’s playoffs and must demonstrate it has the pitching depth to win the City title. A look at other teams to watch:
2. El Camino Real. The Conquistadores start out with three returning standouts in pitcher Adam Christopher, third baseman Andy Ambriz and shortstop Dominic Carnes. Sophomore Josh Klein is showing signs of being a hitting star.
3. Birmingham. Can the Patriots pull off a four-peat? It’s entirely possible if they can shore up some defensive questions. There’s no doubt that pitcher Gavino Rosales will be an ace. Sophomore Domenik Cervantes is on his way to becoming one of the City Section’s best hitters and first baseman Erik Rivas is a clutch hitter. The big question is whether Albert Garcia can return to the pitching form of his freshman and sophomore seasons.
4. Cleveland. The Cavaliers are loaded with returnees. They should hit well and have veteran returnees at pitcher in Braden Lowe and Chris Lozano. Third baseman Alec Garcia and center fielder Adrian Gonzalez are proven standouts.
5. Granada Hills. The Highlanders showed off promising young pitchers last season in freshmen Drew Gustafson and Brandon Garfinkel. If they continue their development, beware.
6. Banning. All you need to know is that the Pilots have one of the best City Section pitchers in junior left-hander Anthony Joya. No one will want to draw the Pilots in the first round of the playoffs.
7. Kennedy. The Golden Cougars have a couple of transfers that could boost their fortunes, but much will depend on the health of standout pitcher Vincent Esparza. He’s capable of beating anyone on his best day.
8. Palisades. The Dolphins made it to the championship game at Dodger Stadium last season with exceptional pitching. Their key players have graduated, but Kyle Grassi is back after hitting .426 as a sophomore.
9. Sylmar. Pitcher-shortstop Enrique Espinoza and pitcher Andrew Jaime had some big games last season for the Spartans. Sophomore catcher Frank Garcia was All-City as a freshman. Sophomore pitcher Juan Martinez continues to develop.
10. San Fernando. The uncertainty of the availability of coach Armando Gomez has left big questions surrounding the Tigers. There were lots of quality young players on last year’s team. Outfielder Daniel Martinez played on the City Section’s championship all-star team last summer.