Compiled by Aaron Fitt and John Manuel
Back in the 1990s, Baseball America’s summer college prospect lists were limited to the Cape Cod League and the Alaska League, the two oldest and most established summer leagues. Our lists went to 10 and had a line of skinny with each player. The Alaska list was still tough to do because the league used metal bats, while the Cape used wood.
There were a couple of new leagues–the Northwoods popped up in the upper Midwest in the early ’90s, and the Coastal Plain and New England Collegiate leagues followed later in the decade–but the roster of leagues and teams remained mostly unchanged.
Now, the summer leagues are on steroids, in a manner of speaking. New leagues seem to pop up every year, so that every nook and cranny of the country has a well-organized, wood-bat summer college league. And BA’s coverage has expanded to keep up with the times, as we’ve started doing more and more prospect lists for summer leagues.
So this year, with the help of league officials, league coaches and various scouts, we ranked the top 10 prospects in 17 leagues other than the Cape Cod League, which got its usual Top 30. We present these lists in lieu of the summer All-America team, which we believe was redundant and not as useful to our readers as these prospect lists.
The Cape remains the nation’s top summer league in terms of talent, a status that is unlikely to change in the near future. As to which league is next-best, though, that answer seems to vary from year to year. In 2006, we broke it down this way, with the understanding that the Cape has no true peer in this regard:
|Not the Cape, but that’s OK.|
|Northwoods League||Marked by depth of talent both with hard throwers and athletic position players.|
|Texas Collegiate||Newish league keeps most of the top talent in the state.|
|Just a break or two away from moving up–or down–the talent meter.|
|Alaska League||Just a down year for venerable circuit.|
|Central Illinois||Freshmen dominate league top 10.|
|Coastal Plain||Drawing talent from further afield as league’s reputation grows.|
|Florida Collegiate||Starting to keep top Florida talent home more often.|
|Great Lakes||Has survived hibernation of former top franchise (Northern Ohio)|
|Jayhawk||About as old-school as it gets, but that’s not such a bad thing.|
|New England Collegiate||Excels at giving small-school talent a stage.|
|Valley||Miami influence means talent keeps coming to the Shenandoah.|
|There’s talent, but more of a breeding ground for good college players.|
|Cal Ripken Sr.|
|New York Collegiate|
|West Coast Collegiate|
|Beau Mills, Goldpanners, 3b/1b
Pitching was down in the Alaska League this summer–one coach said he could count the number of pitchers throwing 90 mph or better on his hands–and against that backdrop, Mills’ power bat stood out. Mills hit .270 with power this summer, leading the league with seven homers and 33 RBIs. Formerly a third baseman, Mills seems destined for first base, but the son of Red Sox coach Brad Mills should have the lefthanded power bat to profile there. He attended Fresno State the last two years and was an All-Freshman first-teamer in 2005, but ran into academic woes in 2006 and will transfer to Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State for 2007.
|Atlantic Collegiate League|
|Steve Gilman, Metro NY, rhp
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Gilman pitched 22 innings in 2006 due to control problems at Yale and assumed a closer role in the ACBL. He took to relief, throwing more consistent strikes with a fastball that touches 92-93 mph.
|Cal Ripken Sr. League|
|Neil Ramirez, Youse’s Orioles, rhp
A rising high school senior from Virginia Beach, Ramirez has garnered plenty of interest from major league scouts already and is committed to Georgia Tech for the 2007-2008 school year. Ramirez has a free, easy delivery that generates an explosive 90-93 mph fastball that touches 94-95 with late movement. His 73-76 mph curveball is slightly below-average right now and needs to be tightened, but pitching against players two to four years older than him, he posted a 3.38 ERA in eight innings.
|Central Illinois Collegiate League|
|Bryce Stowell, Danville, rhp
The league’s most dominant player, Stowell combined above-average athleticism, above-average stuff and a competitive streak that overwhelmed the CICL. He ranked second in the league in strikeouts (and first with 11.64 K’s per nine innings) thanks to a low-90s fastball, a power slider that was slurvy but effective and a developing changeup. A high school water polo player, Stowell has a strong 6-foot-2, 195-pound body and projects to have more velocity if he can smooth out his mechanics; he tends to over-stride. He was transferring from Pepperdine but was not granted his release, and his new school was uncertain at press time.
|Clark Griffith League|
|Adam Olbrychowski, Vienna, rhp
After striking out just 20 in 41 innings for Pepperdine this spring, Olbrychowski dominated Clark Griffith hitters, going 4-2, 1.10 with a 56-17 strikeout-walk ratio in 49 innings. His physical 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame allows him to maintain his 89-92 mph velocity late into games, and his fastball has good movement. Olbrychowski didn’t really need his secondary stuff to get hitters out this summer, but his mid-70s curveball seemed to get better as the summer progressed, and he flashed a few low-80s changeups as well.
|Coastal Plain League|
|Keon Graves, Spartanburg, 3b
An outstanding athlete with a loose, wiry frame, Graves showed flashes of brilliance at the plate and in the field. He uses his strong, quick wrists to generate good bat speed, and he figures to develop plus power as he fills out his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame. Graves, who is transferring from Coastal Carolina to Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) Junior College, is a plus runner who stole 16 bases in 17 attempts, and he has shown an ability to make dazzling plays at the hot corner thanks to his smooth actions and strong arm. Graves remains rough around the edges, but he has more upside than any other player in the league.
|Florida Collegiate Summer League|
|Jon Lucroy, Winter Park, c
Lucroy is a solid defensive catcher with arm strength who threw out 25 percent of runners this spring for Louisiana-Lafayette. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns in homers, and he hit six with wood this summer while leading the league in RBIs.
|Great Lakes League|
|J.B. Shuck, Columbus, lhp/of
Shuck was named a second-team All-Freshman selection after a big first season at Ohio State. Playing both ways, Shuck continued to excel in both areas during the summer, as he posted a 0.95 ERA and hit .364 with Columbus. Scouts are still undecided on where Shuck’s future will take him. At the plate Shuck has a short, quick stroke that makes consistent contact, yet provides little power. A quick runner, Shuck is very good in the outfield, where his arm strength plays well. On the mound, Shuck draws praise for his makeup, where the southpaw displays maturity in setting up hitters. His high-80s fastball doesn’t blaze radar guns but he has good control of the pitch. Shuck’s secondary pitches, including a developing curve, lack consistency.
|Sam Elam, Hays, lhp
Elam struck out 19 batters in 12 innings of relief as a freshman at Notre Dame and should find a starting role as a sophomore following the departures of Jeff Samardzija and Tom Thornton. He was erratic in relief, but he seemed to iron out those kinks this summer, winning the Jayhawk League pitching triple crown with a 5-0, 0.95 record and 42-7 strikeout-walk ratio in 28 innings. Elam pitched with poise and also showed big stuff: a 90-92 mph fastball that reached 95 with excellent command and clean mechanics. His curveball and changeup are workable pitches that can get better, and he already knows how to mix and vary his repertoire to attack hitters.
|Mountain Collegiate League|
|Jareck West, Laramie, of
An excellent athlete built like Kirby Puckett, West hit .409/.476/.591 with seven home runs and 51 RBIs in 176 at-bats for the MCBL champion Laramie Colts. His best tool is his plus speed that allows him to cover plenty of ground in center field, and he has a slightly above average arm. A rising senior at Delta State (Miss.), West generates good bat speed thanks to his quick hands, but he remains raw with a long swing.
|New England Collegiate League|
|Chris Friedrich, Vermont, lhp
Friedrich just knows how to pitch, coaches say, adding that his low-90s fastball has good life. He also has good command of two secondary pitches–a curveball and a changeup. Friedrich went 2-0, 1.41 this summer with a sparkling 36-5 strikeout-walk ratio in 32 innings. His feel for pitching allowed him to limit hitters to a .152 average after a Ohio Valley Conference freshman-of-the-year performance at Eastern Kentucky. He was 10-2, 1.98 this spring.
|New York Collegiate League|
|Jonathan White, Glens Falls, of
White’s arm is his weakest tool, but he is an athletic, above-average runner (6.5 seconds over 60 yards) with offensive potential. The Vanderbilt product’s season ended prematurely with a broken hand, but he was leading the league with a .365 average and was perfect on 11 stolen-base attempts.
|Jordan Zimmerman, Eau Claire, rhp
Zimmerman posted a 5-5, 2.08 record as a sophomore at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point before dominating the Northwoods League to emerge as a top-five rounds talent for 2007. The 6-foot-1 Zimmerman led the NWL with 92 strikeouts and a 1.01 ERA while allowing 42 hits and 28 walks in 80 innings of work. Zimmerman works at 89-92 mph with his fastball, and still was able to peak at 95 in the late innings while painting the corners at the knees. He has a feel for a slider and changeup, and his 70 mph looping curveball keeps hitters honest. He’s a good enough athlete that he hit seven home runs as an outfielder last spring.
|Southern Collegiate League|
|Calvin Lester, Davidson, of
Lester was a driving force behind Prairie View A&M’s high-octane offense that won the Southwestern Athletic Conference this spring, and his above-average (6.4 seconds in 60 yards) speed is his best tool. He also has range in center fielder with an average arm. Lester will never hit for much power but has a contact-oriented game with good plate discipline.
|Texas Collegiate League|
|Randy Boone, Coppell, rhp
An elbow injury limited Boone’s junior season to just 41 innings, mostly in relief. Boone assuaged any long-term concerns with his TCL performance, going 6-0, 1.09. Boone wowed opposing coaches and scouts with a mid-80s slider that is already considered major league quality. Boone’s fastball sat in the 92-94 mph range all summer, and in one complete game he hit 94 mph in the ninth inning, showing endurance he never had in three years with Texas. Boone will have to make further strides with his changeup in the fall.
|Yonder Alonso, Luray, 1b
Back spasms slowed him toward the end of the summer, but Alonso still managed to hit eight home runs and slug .556 in 99 at-bats for the Wranglers after leading Miami with 10 homers as a freshman this spring. A disciplined hitter who can wait on an offspeed pitch or turn on a fastball, Alonso’s best tool is his above-average power. He’s also a solid defensive first baseman, with soft hands and surprisingly good mobility.
|West Coast Collegiate League|
|Jared Prince, Aloha, of/lhp
Prince was a first-team All-Freshman choice after hitting .401/.492/.618 for Washington State in the spring, and he kept up his strong year by hitting .308 in the WCCBL, good for eighth in the league. Prince wore down a bit as the season went along due to his combined hitting and pitching duties, but he still maintained a line-drive approach and above-average arm. He throws in the upper 80s off the mound, but his speed and bat help profile him as a potential center or right fielder down the line.