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Prep teammates project as high Draft picks

Prep teammates project as high Draft picks

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Prep teammates project as high Draft picks
It's just two weeks from the beginning of the biggest spring of their young lives, but Lucas Giolito and Max Fried are counting on each other to both attract and deflect attention.

The two youngsters, teammates at prep power Harvard Westlake and prospective high picks in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, popped up at the sixth annual Southern California Invitational showcase on Saturday, where they discussed what it's like to play together for their senior season.

"It's been pretty crazy, but I've been handling it pretty well," said Giolito, tabbed by many analysts as a candidate for the top pick of the Draft. "The summer was really fun, and then obviously with Max transferring to Harvard Westlake, that was big news. It was a really good feeling for me, for the coaches and for the whole team to have him in our program has been pretty huge so far."

Fried and Giolito have known each other since their junior year, when they met each other at a tryout for the 2011 Area Code games. Fried was a student at Montclair Prep then, but some unforeseen circumstances sent him looking for a new school for his senior season.

"I found out that my school had shut down all its athletic programs over the summer, so we were scrambling for a new school for me and my younger brother," Fried said. "It took a lot longer than I thought to pick a school. But knowing Lucas and being such a competitor -- being one of the best pitchers in the country and being able to be a part of that team -- was really a blessing."

Indeed it is, and not just for Fried. Harvard Westlake is now regarded as perhaps the top high school baseball team in the country, and Baseball America opined last summer that Giolito and Fried could wind up as the highest-drafted pair of prep teammates in recent history.

You only have to go back a decade to find a fitting precedent, when Cypress Falls High School in Houston, Texas, had Scott Kazmir and Clint Everts both go in the top 15 picks of the Draft. Both Giolito and Fried have committed to UCLA, but they say that's not really on their minds.

"I'm not thinking about that right now," Fried said of choosing between college baseball and the pro Draft. "I'm just sort of getting ready for the season. ... I'm really just focused on winning."

"Most of the focus is on pitching well for our high school team," added Giolito. "We've got high expectations at Harvard Westlake this year, and right now I'm more focusing on that."

And that may be the case, but it's also difficult to ignore the writing on the wall. Both Giolito and Fried performed in front of legions of talent evaluators at Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., on Saturday, and they'll have eyes on them for the foreseeable future.

Fried, a southpaw pitcher, also plays the outfield for Harvard Westlake. The left-hander works in the low 90s with his fastball, and he said he's worked to get a better feel for both his curveball and his changeup over the last few months in preparation for his final high school season.

"I'm a lot stronger. More consistent with my delivery," Fried said. "I'm not the one to be the center of attention, so having Lucas divert it a bit is really nice. But I try not to get too caught up in all of the publicity and all of that stuff. I just try to get better every day and work hard."

Giolito, a right-hander, is 6-foot-6 and weighs 225 pounds, and his powerful fastball regularly reaches 95 mph. Giolito said he's been working on better integrating his changeup into his fastball-curveball mix, and he hopes to get 10-to-12 starts during Harvard Westlake's season.

Both Giolito and Fried could follow the path blazed by Gerrit Cole, who was a first-round draftee as a high school student in 2008 and decided to attend UCLA anyway. Cole spent three eventful seasons in college, and he improved his Draft stock enough to go first overall in 2011.

And while that's fine to keep in the back of your mind, Giolito doesn't want to focus on it. He just wants to live in the moment, to savor the sensation of being young and on top of the world.

"It's more a thing you just take in stride," he said of the publicity. "It's cool to hear, but when it gets down to it, you have to focus mostly on getting your work in and getting better every day."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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