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Sati Santa Cruz and his 90 miles-per-hour fastball could show up in the big leagues soon

The website BaseballReference.com provides a nifty search option that allows you to look up how many players from a certain high school have played in the major leagues over the years.

Type in "Canyon del Oro" and you'll see that five guys from there have made it to the bigs—including active players Shelley Duncan, Scott Hairston and Ian Kinsler—and that Sabino has produced two major leaguers and Tucson High has been the alma mater of seven.

All told, about 32 local high school standouts have reached The Show, a pretty darn good tally.

Sahuarita High School has never produced a major leaguer, though it's getting close with 2007 graduate Manny Barreda likely to start this season with the Yankees' Triple-A team and 2008 alum Chapo Delgado a candidate for the St. Louis Cardinals' top farm club.

And if neither of those guys pans out, there's a good chance someone still playing at Sahuarita will be in the big leagues not long from now. His name is Sati Santa Cruz, and he might be the most promising pro prospect from Southern Arizona in a decade.

Sure, there are other guys in town that major league scouts are following and charting their every throw, swing and step. Sahuaro's Alex Verdugo comes to mind, and there are plenty of others.

I figured Santa Cruz, a right-handed pitcher, was just the next one down the pike when I heard his name mentioned as a top prospect, a University of Arizona commit and an invitee to a national prep showcase game at Chicago's Wrigley Field in August.

But when I realized that all of this was being said about a junior, I thought there might be something more to this kid and I had to see for myself.

I live close to Sahuarita High School, so it wasn't hard for me to swing by and chat up Santa Cruz, his head coach and his assistant coach, who also happens to be his dad.

If not for his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame, I probably wouldn't have been able to pick Santa Cruz out of the crowd of players huddled around coach Sam Gelardi before practice. Nothing about him screamed "big-time prospect," and he certainly wasn't trying to draw attention to himself.

Actually, he says, that's kind of by design.

"I really try not to pay attention to any of that," he said, referring to, well ... the attention he's getting. "There are things my dad tells me, and I usually didn't know about them. What matters to me is staying humble."

Santa Cruz learned about his invite to the Under Armour All-America Game, which will feature more than 30 of the nation's top juniors, after his dad kept texting him during school one day in January.

"The text said 'Call me ASAP,'" he recalls, and he thought that meant he was in trouble. "I didn't want to call him back, but finally he called me and told me about getting invited. I couldn't believe it."

Getting picked for that game is a big deal. According to Baseball America, of the 171 draft-eligible players who participated in the first five editions of the showcase, 151 have been selected by big-league teams. That includes more than 40 who went in the first round.

It helps that Santa Cruz has a connection to one of the most wired-in scouts in Arizona, former Sahuarita coach Brian Huey. Huey, who led the Mustangs to a state title in 2005, is now a scout for the Yankees.

But there's more to Santa Cruz than him knowing the right people, according to Gelardi.

"Guys who can throw 90-plus (mph) consistently, scouts find out about that," he said.

Santa Cruz's fastball has been clocked at between 88 and 92 mph this season, and he has struck out 29 batters in 17 1/3 innings. Last year, he fanned 77 in 44 2/3 innings.

Velocity has always seemed to be there for Santa Cruz, who started throwing fast as a 10-year-old in Little League, said his father, who also is named Sati. (It's short for Saturnino, a family name.)

"He threw really hard, but you didn't know where it was going," his dad said. "One of his (high school) teammates, Jacob Teso, used to play with him in Little League, and he was afraid to hit against him."

But even with as live an arm as Santa Cruz has, it's only been in the past two years or so that he's really become serious about baseball as more than just a game. He also wrestled for Sahuarita, and he has the skills to be a state champion, but the demands of pitching require a singular focus.

However, a lot could still happen between now and June 2015, when he's eligible for the draft. His commitment to the UA isn't binding until he signs later this year, and even then he would probably go to college only if he isn't drafted high enough to warrant forgoing his amateur status.

There's also the fact that we're talking about a 16-year-old kid, one who might easily stray from the path if his coaches weren't helping him with his self-described goal of staying humble.

"We just have to work hard to keep him focused," Gelardi said. "He has so much upside."

BaseballReference.com also can tell you how many kids from a high school were drafted by big-league teams, only to wash out in the minors or never sign with a team. That number is far greater than the number of players who make it to the majors. But something tells me Santa Cruz won't be part of that group.

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