|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
It was shaping up as an average year for Canada, a prelude to a potentially huge crop next year when 6-foot-7 Quebec righthander Phillippe Aumont becomes eligible. One scout said Aumont projects as a first-rounder next year due to his pro body, 90-92 mph fastball and aptitude for throwing a breaking ball. He’™s the most hyped prospect since 2002 produced the two highest-drafted Canadians ever, first-rounders Adam Loewen and Jeff Francis. But the nation could end up providing one first-rounder this year in late-rising outfielder Kyle Orr, who like most top Canadian hitters is a lefthanded swinger with power.
1. Kyle Orr, of, Victoria, B.C.
2. Jonathan Waltenbury, of, Whitby, Ontario
3. Shayne Willson, 3b/rhp, South Surrey, B.C.
4. James Paxton, lhp, Delta, B.C.
5. David Francis, rhp, Mississauga, Ontario
6. Tyson Gillies, of, Kamloops, B.C.
7. Medhi Djebbar, lhp, Canada Baseball Academy, Montreal
8. Scott Webster, rhp, Coquitlam, B.C.
9. Drew Parker, rhp, Surrey, B.C.
10. Kyle Gilligan, ss, Toronto
This Orr Favors Baseball
Canada’™s top prospects are all hitters, a good thing for them in a draft short on hitters. A Kentucky signee, outfielder Kyle Orr was beginning to stir up first-round rumors in a draft shy of power bats. While his 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame seems well-suited for the mound, and while Orr has some upside as a pitcher, it’s his leverage-generating swing that teams covet. While he has relatively long arms, Orr has a real feel for hitting and generates tremendous power from the left side. Early in the spring, he was showing more power in batting practice than in game situations, struggling with strike-zone and pitch recognition, but he’d started to translate it to games more frequently as the draft approached. Orr’s tools profile him for right field. He’s a solid-average runner for now (though he’ll probably be a below-average runner down the line as he fills out) and has average arm strength. His makeup is universally praised, and one scout compared him to Rangers outfielder Brad Wilkerson as a gritty grinder. He lacks present strength and may need to go in the first round to keep him from going to college. Orr had moved in as a darkhorse to go early as the draft approached, though, so his commitment to Kentucky may not be enough to get him on campus.
Outfielder Jonathan Waltenbury gives Canada another lefthanded slugger who should be picked in the single-digit rounds, and unlike Orr he doesn’™t have a college commitment that worries scouts. He’™s committed to Connors State (Okla.) Junior College. Waltenbury has more present strength than Orr in a mature 6-foot-4, 210-pound body. He has some polish for a Canadian hitter, showing knowledge of the strike zone to go with a swing that features above-average bat speed and good extension. His swing has some loft, and he’™s shown the ability to use the entire field. His defense is a question, as is his modest athleticism. His range is limited and his arm is fringe average.
Lower British Columbia (around Surrey, B.C.) has been a Canadian hotbed for years (after all, Baseball America was founded not far away in White Rock, B.C.), and 2006 is no different, with Orr and four other members of our top 10 hailing from the region. Third baseman Shayne Wilson, who also might end up in the outfield, has plus raw power thanks to his strong (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) body and quick swing. He’s exceptionally raw at the plate, and if it doesn’t work out for him as a hitter he’s a candidate to be converted to the mound because he has shown low-90s velocity.
Lefthander James Paxton is the area’s top pitching prospect, a veteran of Canada’s youth national team and another Kentucky signee. He’s not as likely to get drafted high as a three-pitch lefty with elbow problems this spring. While an MRI revealed it was just growing pains and nothing that should affect him long-term, it may be enough to scare teams off a pitcher with an 87-88 mph fastball and good feel for his curve and changeup. Righthanders Drew Parker and Scott Webster also are considered solid prospects, particularly Webster, whose 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame and upper-80s fastball are intriguing. Parker is another Kentucky recruit who has a solid-average fastball with good movement.
Righthander David Francis was the top pitcher in the country coming into the year from a draft standpoint, and he used to touch the low 90s with his fastball when he used a smooth three-quarters arm slot. This spring his slot has moved up, becoming more of an over-the-top motion, and he has lost both velocity and movement on his heater. His curve has deep, late bite at times, and because Francis has shown arm strength and better stuff in the past, he’™s still a candidate to go in a single-digit round.