Postseason recap: Like Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League and Thomasville in the Coastal Plain League, Vermont went back-to-back with its second straight New England Collegiate Baseball League title. With 3,432 fans in Montpelier on hand, the Mountaineers got a complete-game one-hitter from Mike Gaggioli (Georgetown), as the lefthander struck out 12 and took a no-hitter into the seventh. Gaggioli struck out 20 in two playoff victories.
1. Steve Strasburg, rhp, Torrington (So., San Diego State)
Strasburg was the hardest thrower in the NECBL this summer, sitting at 92-94 mph with his fastball and regularly touching 96. Strasburg, who closed for Torrington after filling the same role at San Diego State, also relied on his secondary pitches in key situations. Strasburg, who was also recruited by Ivy League schools out of high school, throws an average to plus 84 mph slider and an improving 84 mph circle changeup that he throws with good arm action. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Strasburg has a fluid delivery, and although he does have long arms, coaches in the league generally liked his arm action. After posting a 1.29 ERA with 25 strikeouts and one walk in 14 innings for Torrington, Strasburg accepted an invitation to join Team USA, for whom he struck out four batters in five innings.
2. Kyle Bellows, ss, Holyoke (So., San Jose State)
Bellows was one of the best hitters in the league, and he plays a premium defensive position. He hit .341/.441/.511 for Holyoke in a ballpark that’s difficult on power hitters after hitting .343/.418/.479 as a freshman at San Jose State. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder hits for average and power, and projects to do so at the next level also as he continues to mature physically. Bellows is a very good athlete with tremendous instincts and baseball savvy, but he is not a fast runner–he covers 60 yards in 7.1 seconds and he had only one stolen base in one attempt. He projects more as a third baseman than a shortstop at the next level, although he fields his position well and has a plus arm in terms of strength and accuracy.
3. A.J. Pollock, of/if, Vermont (So., Notre Dame)
Pollock played nearly every defensive position this summer, and he played all of them ably. Some coaches called him the best defensive outfielder in the league, while others said he was one of the best defenders at second base. He’s an excellent athlete with good speed (a 6.5-second 60 time and 13 steals in 14 attempts) who can already hit for average. Pollock does not hit for much power right now, but he can hit the ball into the gaps with a line-drive swing, and he figures to add strength to his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame. Pollock has excellent instincts and controls the strike zone very well. He hit .348/.419/.481 this summer and led Notre Dame with a .372 batting average in the spring.
4. Justin Gutsie, rhp, Vermont (Jr., St. John’s)
Gutsie throws his fastball anywhere from 90-96 mph, but his signature pitch is a devastating slider. His fastball is flat, but his 80-84 mph slider has tremendous break. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound righthander pitched 18 innings in relief for Vermont, recording 25 strikeouts, five walks and a 2.50 ERA after throwing just 16 innings at St. John’s in the spring. Gutsie would rank even higher on the list were it not for health and interrelated mechanical concerns. Some coaches believe Gutsie does not use the lower half of his body well, instead relying more on his very quick arm to carry the load. He also had a stress reaction in his upper arm (humerus) that healed with rest and did not require surgery.
5. Alex Curry, rhp, Vermont (So., Cypress, Calif., CC)
The White Sox drafted Curry in the 32nd round in 2006 out of high school, but they elected not to sign him after his first year at Cypress, where Curry logged 130 innings, 105 strikeouts, 32 walks and a 2.29 ERA in one of the better junior college conferences in the country. Curry made four starts for Vermont, striking out 24 and walking four with a 1.88 ERA in 24 innings. Curry pitches in the high 80s, topping out at 92 mph. He gets hitters out by using a five-pitch mix, and he has confidence in all of his pitches. His curveball and changeup are both very good pitches, with his curve a little ahead of his change. He also throws a splitter and a show-me slider.
6. Ryan Lavarnway, c, Manchester (Jr., Yale)
Lavarnway was difficult for some coaches and scouts to evaluate because pitchers rarely gave him anything good to hit. After leading the nation in batting average with a .467/.531/.873 line at Yale, Lavarnway hit .313/.462/.478 in the NECBL. Lavarnway is big and strong at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds with good power and a nice lefthanded swing. He doesn’t move very well, and coaches in the league were in disagreement over whether Lavarnway has the defensive skills to stay behind the plate at the next level, which would significantly affect his value. His power numbers weren’t outstanding this summer, but Manchester is a difficult park to hit the ball out of because of its size and the lake that prevents the ball from carrying.
7. Drew Poulk, of, Newport (So., North Carolina)
Poulk had just 99 at-bats for Newport, but he made the most of them, hitting .354/.417/.535 after hitting .275/.375/.488 in 80 at-bats for the Tar Heels in the spring. Poulk had some of the best raw power in the league, and the ball flies off his bat. Poulk can punish fastballs, but he struggles with breaking balls and needs to work on his pitch selection. Poulk has good bat speed, although his swing got a little long and slow toward the end of the summer when his back was hurting him. Poulk also needs to improve his defense, as he is currently confined to left field, where his defense even at that position is below average at best.
8. Dean Weaver, rhp, Keene (So., Georgia)
Weaver made seven starts for the Swamp Bats, striking out 40 in 40 innings, with eight walks and a 2.90 ERA. The 6-foot-3 righthander throws a low-90s fastball with heavy action, and hitters had a difficult time hitting anything in the air against him. His slider is also a very good pitch, and he throws everything with good mechanics. Weaver did not have a great freshman year at Georgia on the surface based on his 6.09 ERA, but his peripheral numbers (27 strikeouts and 10 walks in 31 innings) were good, and he didn’t allow any of the seven runners he inherited in relief to score. With a good sophomore year at Georgia, Weaver could easily make his No. 8 ranking look conservative.
9. Scott Savastano, ss, Pittsfield (Jr., Franklin Pierce, N.H.)
Cleveland drafted Savastano as a draft-eligible sophomore in June in the 28th round. He hit .397/.461/.569 as a freshman, but this season scouts didn’t get a great look at him because he injured his thumb early in the spring. He hit .348/.388/.467 in 92 at-bats for Pittsfield this summer. The ball jumps off his bat and he has a very good swing, and once his thumb is fully healed, his power should return as well. He is aggressive, but he also controls the strike zone well. Savastano does not have the defensive skills to play shortstop professionally, but he has a good arm and may have a future at third base. Savastano is also a good runner who stole 20 bases in 24 attempts as a freshman. With a strong showing next spring, Savastano has a chance to shoot up teams’ draft boards.
10. Brian Michael Kemp, of, Sanford (So., St. John’s)
Kemp fell just shy of a .400 batting average, and finished hitting .398/.441/.481. Kemp handles the bat well, but he relies mostly on his tremendous speed to get a variety of hits that most players cannot beat out on infield choppers. He has been clocked in the 60-yard dash in the range of 6.2 to 6.4 seconds, and he led the NECBL with 32 stolen bases in 35 attempts. Kemp has plus-plus speed, but he doesn’t have classic running form, as he runs at a 45-degree angle. His speed gives him great range in center field, although his arm is below-average. He has great instincts, good bunting skills and is a smart player who coaches love being around. However, Kemp currently doesn’t have much along the lines of secondary skills. He doesn’t draw walks and he doesn’t hit for power, nor does he project for more power with his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame. His potential would greatly increase if he showed more patience at the plate.