In the constellation of stars that is the Long Island high school baseball scene this season, not all of those who burn brightest are in the senior class.
There is a wave of talented players coming right behind them, ones who already have attracted the interest of and offers from elite collegiate programs, ones who stand a chance to hear their names called in the 2020 MLB first-year player draft.
Here are a few who are sure to impress this season and whose names you’ll be hearing for a while:
Massapequa, SS/RHP, Jr.
The Chiefs have 15 players back off a team that won the state Class AA championship and closed the 2018 season with a 17-game winning streak, but has multiple players in new positions for the coming season. That includes the elite 6-2 junior moving from his natural position of third base to shortstop. Massapequa coach Tom Sheedy also said the season’s blueprint calls for Castagnozzi, who is committed to North Carolina, to play in the field every game and to avoid using him as a pitcher.
“We’d like to try to get to where we want to go without him pitching,” Sheedy said. “North Carolina would want him to play third base — which is really what he will be — and could want him to pitch. We’d prefer not to put him at any risk.”
Castagnozzi hit .385 with four home runs last season and will hit No. 3 or No. 4 in the Chiefs’ order. During the offseason, he has filled out and focused on driving pitches and Sheedy said “I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits 10 home runs this year.” A year ago he seemed to be in the middle of every Chiefs rally.
The move to shortstop is geared toward Massapequa putting its best defensive team in the field. Castagnozzi has the rifle arm that top third basemen need and is an adroit fielder. “Watch him in the field and you’ll see serious ‘webgem’ material,” Sheedy explained. He also has tremendous leadership qualities that make him an ideal choice to run the infield.
St. Dominic, P/OF, Jr.
The starting centerfielder and the ace of the pitching staff, Hidalgo’s superior athleticism shows through no matter where he is on the diamond. On the mound, one sees it in the fluid delivery that brings a sneaky quick fastball and late-breaking vertical slider. In the outfield, there are few balls hit in the air that he can’t track down. Baserunners try to take the extra base at their own peril.
“He is one of the most impressive — if not the most impressive — outfielder you will see,” Bayhawks coach Bryan Anderson said. “He can go get a fly ball like no one and he’s got an absolute hose of an arm, a real bazooka. He could be the best overall athlete in the Catholic league.”
Already committed to St. John’s, Hidalgo will look to build on a sparkling sophomore season. He was 5-1 on the mound with a 0.83 ERA and 50 strikeouts as he earned the designation CHSAA Pitcher of the Year. At the plate he batted .300 with 26 RBIs. Newsday selected him to its all-Long Island second team.
Hidalgo will hit either second or cleanup for St. Dominic this season with the goal of hitting for an even higher average. He thrived by being an aggressive hitter last season but could see a more-refined approach from pitchers this time around. He explained that to be the priority as the Red Storm will employ him only as an outfielder.
“I am working on staying back a little more,” he said. “As a sophomore I was a little homer-happy. I want to stay up the gaps more this year.”
St. Dominic, 1B, Soph.
If you like a hitter with incredible bat speed, look no further. St. Dominic 6-3 first baseman made such an impression with a freshman season where — still largely unpolished — he hit .300 with 27 RBIs as St. Dominic won the CHSAA regular season title and reached the postseason title game. Lane has landed a scholarship offer from and committed to Notre Dame.
“It’s rare — really rare — that a freshman even makes the varsity team,” Anderson said, “and this kid was all-league as a freshman. It tells you something.”
Anderson said that Lane has “the most-impressive bat speed of any 10th grader I’ve seen” and has spent the offseason refining himself to become more complete. “I want to be a gap-to-gap hitter,” Lane said. “Another key thing for me is the outside pitch: I wanted to get better taking it the other way.”
In early workouts and scrimmages, Anderson said he already is seeing Lane understands how he will be pitched and is cutting down on the popups and foul balls. “You can see he’s better at hitting breaking stuff,” he said. “His plate discipline is improved.”
Lane played both corner infield spots last season and now becomes the primary first baseman. He’s worked on improving his defense and said “I have a better understanding of situations through the work I did in the summer. I am not going to feel rushed and will be more comfortable.”
The plan is for Lane to bat third in the Bayhawks’ order because of his ability to hit for power. “There are players who people talk about as power hitters and then there is the real thing,” Anderson said. “Sean is the real thing.”
Sayville, SS/RHP, Jr.
The cat was out of the bag early on Golden Flashes shortstop Murtha. He’d played second base as just an eighth grader and batted over.300 and then followed that up with a freshman season where he hit 10 home runs. “You could see it almost immediately that he was made for the game,” Sayville coach Joe Esposito said. “He’s got every tool a great baseball player needs: from the powerful arm to the speed and range to high level of contact and hitting for power.”
Last season Murtha batted .414 with six homers, 24 RBIs and 12 steals, earning him a spot on Newsday’s All-Long Island second team.. And Esposito said he now has filled out to 6-foot and 190 pounds, even better to apply those tools. He will bat second in Sayville order and, Esposito said “he’s got a short, compact and powerful swing that gets him to the ball quick — and he hits it hard.”
Others have noticed as well. Murtha, the only Newsday All-Long Island selection as a freshman, has committed to play on scholarship at Notre Dame.
When Murtha isn’t manning shortstop he is toeing the rubber and the righthander is powerful there, too. He his fastball would be tough on its own, but he combines it with a curveball that has an impressive 12-to-6 break. For this season, he is adding a changeup that could make him even more confounding. A year ago he was 5-3 with a 2.13 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 61 innings.
“We’re spoiled with a player like him that’s so talented and also such a ‘team’ guy,’” Esposito said. “He’s the kind of player a coach is grateful to have once or twice in a career.”
Farmingdale, RHP, Jr.
Dalers coach Frank Tassielli didn’t know the kind of pitcher Rosner would be until he was pressed to pitch the righty in his freshman season. The kid delivered a 10-strikeout performance and became destined to fill the top spot in the Farmingdale rotation from that point on. “Now he’s the guy who’s out there on the mound with an attitude of ‘just give me a couple runs and we’ll get a win.' ”
Tassielli said his fastball clocks in the high 80s, he throws a “devastating” slider at about 82 and throws a 78-mph changeup with accuracy. The slider is the out pitch, starting mid plate and diving away from righthanded hitters.
Farmingdale went 11-8 last season and Rosner was tough to beat. He went 5-2 with 1.89 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and fanned 72 in 49 innings. “One of the best things about him is the way he is so even-keeled on the mound — it’s contagious for our team when he’s pitching,” Tassielli said. “Whatever the situation we’re in, he’s got a handle on it.”
Rosner’s recruiting picture is still taking shape with solid Division I interest.
Stony Brook, RHP, Jr.
The fastball that hits 90 is reason enough to take notice, however Bears coach Dustin Mones saw the 6-foot Wozny blossom into a complete pitcher last season. The righthander’s slider had been something discussed and worked on, but when he started deploying it in games, it was a turning point. “You start with a guy who is a very aggressive pitcher to begin with and then you add this fall-off-the-table slider and he’s really messing with the other teams’ hitters,” Mones said.
Stony Brook played in the public school league last season and Wozny went 5-1 with a save and a 1.50 ERA. He posted a stunning 121 strikeouts in 59 innings. It was no wonder that among his many interested schools, Wozny opted for Connecticut.
Stony Brook is moving to the PSAA for this season as part of its transition to becoming an independent that would play a more regional and national schedule and the Bears' new league is in for an eyeful.
“If there’s one thing that sets him apart, it’s the will to win,” Mones said. “It’s not just a thing bubbling under the surface, you can see it and feel it.”
When he wasn’t pitching, Wozny saw time at both corner infield positions and could again play significant innings at first base this season. At the plate, he batted .419 with three home runs and 35 RBIs in 20 games last season. Mones said that UConn could experiment with him playing the field in addition to his pitching.