SportStars Magazine

Cal-Hi Sports’ Mr. Baseball 2017—Hagen Danner

Huntington Beach Pitcher/Catcher’s Dominance With Arm And Bat Gave Him Edge Among Truly Elite Class •

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story previously ran at CalHiSports.com. Visit the site to see the all-time list of Mr. Baseball honorees.

Story By MARK TENNIS | Photos Courtesy of USA BASEBALL

There are years in which Southern California high school baseball players have been prevalent in the annual Major League Baseball draft of amateur free agents — and then there is 2017. It was the baseball equivalent of 1975 in boys basketball or 1948 in football, which are perhaps the best two years for talent in those sports in state history.

There were as many as six or seven high schoolers in the region who were all mentioned as possible first-round picks during the season, and when the actual draft took place two weeks ago it was a 1-2 punch at the top for Royce Lewis of JSerra-San Juan Capistrano to the Minnesota Twins and Hunter Greene from Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks to the Cincinnati Reds.

One of those other players — Hagen Danner of Huntington Beach — didn’t get chosen until the second round (61st overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays.

But there’s a lot more to deciding on Mr. Baseball than just the MLB Draft. Because Danner had such an impressive season as both a pitcher and a hitter, and had a clear edge in local consensus, the recent Huntington Beach grad was the choice to be named 2017 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports.

Danner became the 10th from Orange County to get onto the all-time state player of the year list, which dates back to 1899. Among those he joins are all-time MLB Hall of Fame legend Walter Johnson of Fullerton (1905) along with those chosen in a four year stretch from 2009 to 2012.

USA Baseball 18U games against the University of Houston and San Jacinto College, Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2016, in Houston, Texas.

In the history of the Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year honor, all of the previous No. 1 overall MLB draft picks, including Tim Foli (Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks) in 1968, Jeff Burroughs (Wilson-Long Beach) in 1969 and Darryl Strawberry (Crenshaw-L.A.) in 1980, are also Mr. Baseball club members. The only exception is that 2002 No. 1 pick Delmon Young (Camarillo) was named State Player of the Year when he was a junior. When Young was a senior, Ian Stewart (La Quinta-Westminster) got the nod.

Last year, Mickey Moniak of La Costa Canyon-Carlsbad) earned the Mr. Baseball selection after he was the first pick overall by the Philadelphia Phillies.

While it was extremely difficult not to similarly list Lewis for this season since he’s been Player of the Year in the Trinity League (probably the best top-to-bottom league in the state) for three straight years in addition to being the 2016 State Junior of the Year, the precedent that favors Danner is local consensus. That’s the piece of the puzzle in which the selections of those local media members who’ve seen all of these players more than anyone is taken into account. Danner was named the L.A. Times Player of the Year, the Orange County Register Player of the Year and the SoCal Sidelines Player of the Year.

Danner wasn’t even the highest MLB draft pick from his own team at Huntington Beach. The Oilers’ third baseman/pitcher Nick Pratto went No. 14 overall to the Kansas City Royals. But again, based on what happened on the diamond this season, it has to be Danner.

In leading Huntington Beach to the state’s final No. 4 ranking (28-5), Danner tied for the state lead in reported home runs with 12. He also batted .350 and drove in 40 runs. The state lead in home runs is based on the fact that no one in the MaxPreps database is shown with more than 11 homers, although schools other than Huntington Beach may not have reported their stats. One of those others is Eastlake-Chula Vista, which had Grant Holman also with 12. Holman was named the 2017 State Junior of the Year. Danner’s 12 homers also broke the previous school record of 11 that was held by MLB catcher Hank Conger.

As a pitcher, Danner was equally sensational, finishing 11-1 with a 1.22 ERA. He also struck out 92 batters in 631/3 innings and only gave up 34 hits.

“In every single big game, Hagen played not good but great,” Huntington Beach head coach Benji Medure told the Orange County Register. “Every time he was on the big stage he was great.”

USA Baseball 18U games against the University of Houston and San Jacinto College, Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2016, in Houston, Texas.

Perhaps his most impressive performances were when the Oilers won the Boras Classic tourney overall title, defeating NorCal representative Bellarmine-San Jose. In the SoCal bracket of the event, Danner smashed three homers and got one of the pitching wins. Against Bellarmine, Danner took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a 4-1 win before the Bells put together three hits and scratched out a run.

Heading into the CIF Southern Section Div. I playoffs, Huntington Beach was at No. 1 in the state and was the top seed. The Oilers, however, lost in the quarterfinals 4-1 to El Dorado-Placentia.

“No regrets in four years,” Danner told the L.A. Times of his high school experience. “I had a blast. I played with my best friends and a great coaching staff. It’s been awesome.”

Eventual champion El Toro also had a Mr. Baseball finalist in 12-1 pitcher Jake Jackson, but for Jackson to have been a more serious contender to the other three he would have had to have had solid hitting totals in addition to the pitching. The same goes for Lewis as well, who didn’t have the two-way combination. Greene might have had that combination, had Notre Dame not shut him down as a pitcher by mid-April.

Danner signed a contract with the Blue Jays and will forgo his scholarship to UCLA. His signing bonus, according to multiple media reports, was worth approximately $1.5 million, which is well above the No. 61 slotted value of $1,043,200. The plan by Toronto’s coaches are to turn Danner into an elite level catcher.

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