Cape Cod League Top 30 Prospects

Power arms dominate top of Cape prospect heap




Outside of USA Baseball's college national team, the Cape Cod League remains the most prospect-rich environment in summer baseball. Roughly one in six active major leaguers played on the Cape, and that figure has held steady for a while. In the 2007 draft, seven first-rounders and 14 supplemental first-rounders were Cape alumni.

This summer, the Cape hitters combined to bat .245/.333/.341 while pitchers posted a collective 3.54 ERA. Those numbers represented an explosion of offense, as they were easily the highest this decade. Despite the upswing in scoring, pitchers continued to stand out most, claiming seven of the spots on our Cape Top 10 Prospects list.

Four of the top eight prospects pitched for the Falmouth Commodores, who had the deepest staff in recent memory. Falmouth had the top overall prospect (Missouri righthander Aaron Crow), the top freshman pitching prospect (Missouri righty Kyle Gibson), the top lefty pitching prospect (Eastern Kentucky's Christian Friedrich) and the top relief pitching prospect (Louisiana Tech's Luke Burnett). Commodores righthanders Shooter Hunt (Tulane), Aaron Shafer (Wichita State), Kyle Weiland (Notre Dame) and Brett Graffy (Notre Dame) also impressed managers and scouts.

Falmouth rode its pitching to the Cape finals, where it was swept in two games by Yarmouth-Dennis. Yarmouth-Dennis, which won its second straight title and third in four years, had the league's deepest lineup, led by shortstops Gordon Beckham (Georgia) and Grant Green (Southern California) and catchers Buster Posey (Florida State) and Jason Castro (Stanford). None of them cracked the Top 10, where the lone Red Sox representative is righthander Scott Green (Kentucky).

1. Aaron Crow, rhp, Falmouth (Jr., Missouri)

Crow wasn't a complete unknown as a Kansas high school senior, but he wasn't a priority for pro teams either because his fastball velocity was 84-86 mph. That has changed quickly in two years, and he sat at 93-96 mph throughout the summer and touched 98 while winning the Cape's ERA title (0.67) and Robert A. McNeese award as the top pro prospect, voted on by scouts.

"I'll bet if the draft was tomorrow," a National League scouting director said, "Crow would go No. 1."

Crow doesn't just light up radar guns. He keeps the ball down and pitches to both sides of the plate. He backs up his fastball with a good slider and an effective changeup.

The lone question with Crow is his durability, as he's not big (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) and there's some effort to his delivery. His mechanics aren't violent, however, as he generates his velocity with arm speed and athleticism.

2. Yonder Alonso, 1b, Brewster (Jr., Miami)

Alonso was the consensus choice as the Cape's top all-around hitter. He had the best approach in the league, and it was tested when the Whitecaps lost all of their other power threats to injuries and early departures. Alonso remained patient and continued to use the whole field, finishing with league highs in walks (36) and on-base percentage (.468) while hitting .338.

"He's more than a power bat," a second NL scouting director said. "He's a hitter with power, so that's all the better. He's pretty advanced."

Alonso has a loose, compact stroke and excellent balance, and most of his current power comes in the form of line drives to the gaps. He should become more of a home run threat once he turns on and lifts more pitches. He's a below-average athlete who could work harder on his conditioning and defense, and even then he probably still will be limited to first base.

3. Kyle Gibson, rhp, Falmouth (So., Missouri)

Gibson was Missouri's go-to reliever as a freshman, so it was no surprise he was able to handle Cape hitters despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the league. He finished second to Tigers and Commodores teammate Crow in ERA at 1.17, and established himself as a potential early first-round pick for 2009.

Gibson was the most projectable pitcher on the Cape. At 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, he's far from a finished product. He has an easy delivery and throws all three of his pitches on a steep, downhill plane. His fastball presently is more notable for its command than for its velocity (88-92 mph), and he mixes it well with a solid slider and changeup.

"He has outstanding pitchability, and makeup off the charts," Falmouth manager Jeff Trundy said. "He really knows how to pitch and go after hitters. And he's still a rail. He'll easily add 20-30 pounds and be throwing 95-96 in time."

4. Christian Friedrich, lhp, Falmouth (Jr., Eastern Kentucky)

Friedrich has made even greater strides than Crow after pitching in the low 80s as an Illinois high school senior. Unrecruited by colleges in his home state, he saw his fastball spike into the low 90s as soon as he arrived at Eastern Kentucky.

Friedrich now pitches with a solid-average fastball, but it's his over-the-top curveball that devastates hitters. He was untouchable when it was on, as he showed by striking out Posey, Castro and Beckham in order to finish his final inning of the summer. A strong 6-foot-3, 210-pounder with a clean delivery, he needs to improve the command of his souped-up heater.

"He's the closest to the big leagues of anyone in this league," Chatham manager John Schiffner said. "That 12-6 curveball is just deadly. It's like Rich Hill's--you just can't hit it. And his 89-92 is fine, especially with that curveball."

5. Robert Stock, c, Cotuit (So., Southern California)

Stock is believed to be the youngest player in the Cape League's college era, which began in 1963. He might have been a first-round pick in June had he not given up his final year of high school to enter college early, and he won't turn 18 until November.

As expected, Stock showed more upside than polish. He's still learning to make adjustments at the plate (he hit .228 with five walks in 135 plate appearances), needs to refine his all-around catching skills and wore down by the end of the summer. But it's impossible not to notice his big lefthanded power potential and his arm strength, the best among the league's catchers.

"That kid has a great future," Trundy said. "He swings the bat well and he has a great arm behind the plate. He's also an extremely cerebral kid. He didn't look 17 years old. I was so amazed at how well he handled himself."

6. Scott Green, rhp, Yarmouth-Dennis (Jr., Kentucky)

Green pitched more innings on the Cape (40) than he has in the last two seasons at Kentucky (18), where he missed all of 2006 following Tommy John surgery. A draft-eligible sophomore taken in the 15th round by Boston in June, he turned down an $800,000 offer from the Red Sox at the end of the summer. An American League scouting director predicted Green would make more money next June as a first-round pick.

Green has a classic pitcher's body at 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, and his delivery makes him tough to hit. He throws from a lower three-quarters slot and a crossfire angle, hiding the ball from hitters and adding cutting action to his fastball. He spent the summer pitching at 88-91 mph but should work in the mid-90s as he regains all of his strength. His slider is a solid complementary pitch.

7. Dennis Raben, of, Orleans (Jr., Miami)

The Cape's two best hitting prospects for the 2008 draft are college teammates. Raben isn't as pure a hitter as Alonso, but he has more raw power--in fact, more than anyone in the league. He tied for the league lead with 35 RBIs despite playing in the toughest hitter's park, touched Crow for one of the two homers he allowed all summer and hit a three-run bomb off Friedrich in the all-star game.

"He was on the map for us before the summer, but he wasn't a premium guy," the second NL scouting director said. "Now he's a premium guy."

Raben's power will have to carry him. He strikes out a lot (44 times in as many games), though he did hit .298. He has some arm strength but is an average defender at best in right field.

8. Luke Burnett, rhp, Falmouth (Jr., Louisiana Tech)

Burnett was a starter at Louisiana Tech but pitched out of the bullpen for the loaded Commodores. That's likely his future in pro ball, as he's a 6-foot-8, 260-pound intimidator with a fastball that sits at 96 mph and tops out at 98. He struck out 41 hitters in 24 innings.

Burnett impressed managers more than scouts. The scouts liked him, but had questions about the lack of fluidness in his delivery, his secondary pitches and his command. Managers liked his splitter and slider more than scouts did.

"I know the scouts point to his arm action, but it's fine," Cotuit's Mike Roberts said. "I thought he was the top pitcher on the Cape, just a monster. He's much further along than Andrew Brackman was up here last year."

Brackman signed with the Yankees as a first-round pick, receiving a major league contract worth a guaranteed $4.55 million and as much as $13 million.

9. Ryan Perry, rhp, Orleans (Jr., Arizona)

Perry had a 6.35 ERA at Arizona in the spring, when he missed time after breaking his arm in a motorcycle accident. He wouldn't have pitched on the Cape if the Wildcats hadn't scratched fellow righty Jason Stoffel. They sent Perry along with this scouting report: "On his bad days, he'll still throw 92 mph."

Perry didn't have many bad days, as he sat at 94-96 mph all summer and at 97-98 mph during the all-star game. Scouts liked his looser arm action and potential to repeat his delivery more than Burnett's, and they preferred his slider to Burnett's breaking stuff. But Burnett was harder to hit, in part because Perry's fastball is fairly straight.

10. Andy Oliver, lhp, Wareham (So., Oklahoma State)

After losing to Yarmouth-Dennis in the 2006 finals, the Gatemen encored with a 15-29 record, the Cape's worst record this summer. Wareham's lone bright spot was a trio of promising lefties, with Oliver distinguishing himself more than Jeremy Bleich (Stanford) and Wade Miley (Southeastern Louisiana).

Oliver's stuff rates just a tick behind Friedrich's. Similarly built at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, he doesn't have as much power to his curveball, but it's still a good breaking ball, and he has an 88-92 mph fastball. Oliver has a better changeup and commands his pitches better than Friedrich does. Managers and scouts also praised his mound presence.

11. Shooter Hunt, rhp, Falmouth (Jr., Tulane)

Hunt was Falmouth's least effective starter (2-2, 4.71) and wasn't as impressive as he was in 2006, when he topped the league in strikeouts and ranked ninth on our Cape Top 30. His arsenal was still impressive, as he threw a lively low-90s fastball and a hard breaking ball out of the same arm slot. The difference this summer was that he didn't seem to trust his stuff and fell behind in the count too often.

12. Gordon Beckham, ss/2b, Yarmouth-Dennis (Jr., Georgia)

Beckham led the league in homers (nine) and tied Raben for the RBI crown (35). He benefited from playing in the friendliest hitter's park on the Cape and won't be a huge power threat in pro ball, but he does have strong wrists and plenty of bat speed. A quality athlete who's a slightly above-average runner and a solid defender at shortstop, he'll need to tone down his approach offensively (he can get pull happy) and defensively (he tries to do too much at times).

13. Conor Gillaspie, 3b, Falmouth (Jr., Wichita State)

Gillaspie was one of the biggest surprises in the Cape, winning the MVP award to go with the batting (.345) and slugging titles (.673). He might have been the most intense player in the league as well, always working on improving his game. He has limited range but good hands and an average arm at third base.

Scouts were divided on his future potential. A second AL scouting director said, "He was the best hitter on the Cape for me, in terms of average. He squared up more balls consistently than anyone. I think he'll really hit for average." But others were skeptical if his bat was really as good as the numbers suggest, particularly in terms of power.

14. Alex White, rhp, Chatham (So., North Carolina)

Pitching in a swing role after arriving late from the College World Series, White showed why he's considered one of the top pitching prospects for the 2009 draft. He worked with a heavy 91-94 mph fastball and a potential plus slider, and he's still very projectable at 6-foot-3 and 186 pounds. His biggest need is to stay on top of his pitches so they run down rather than sideways out of the strike zone.

15. James Darnell, 3b, Hyannis (Jr., South Carolina)

In his second year with Hyannis, Darnell's batting average didn't change much (rising from .246 to .250) but his home run production quadrupled from two to eight. That total didn't include an opposite-field blast in the all-star game, and his power and strong arm have some scouting directors thinking that he could sneak into the first round of the 2008 draft. He has a long swing with some holes, so he may never hit for a high average.

16. Allan Dykstra, 1b, Chatham (Jr., Wake Forest)

Dykstra also was back for his second stint on the Cape, and though his home run total dropped from seven to five, he was more impressive this time around. He improved his batting average 76 points to .308 and started hitting the ball to the opposite field with authority. He's a huge (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) lefthanded hitter with lots of raw strength and lift in his swing. His bat will have to carry him because he's limited to first base.

17. Buster Posey, c, Yarmouth-Dennis (Jr., Florida State)

Posey ranked 23rd on this list last year as an offensive-minded shortstop, then moved to catcher after returning to Florida State. Scouts and managers were impressed at how quickly he made the transition, as he looked good throwing, receiving and blocking. More athletic than most backstops, Posey has a contact-oriented bat, but there are some questions about how much long-term power he'll have.

18. Grant Green, if, Yarmouth-Dennis (So., Southern California)

The only freshman position player on this list, Green normally plays shortstop but spent time all over the infield in deference to Beckham at Yarmouth-Dennis. Green was one of three Cape players to reach double figures in extra-base hits (12) and steals (11). At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, he's lanky for a shortstop but can get the job done there.

"He's really made strides," the second NL scouting director said. "In high school, I thought he needed strength and wasn't sure he was a shortstop. Now I think he can stay there, and his bat has really come on."

19. Reese Havens, ss, Cotuit (Jr., South Carolina)

In his first two seasons with the Gamecocks, Havens hit a soft .266--which is exactly what he did in 2006 with Cotuit. It looked like more of the same when he hit .234 with just two doubles in his first 13 games this summer, but he finally made some adjustments, using his hands and his lower half more and hitting the ball where it was pitched. Havens finished at .314/.371/.487, and Roberts said he's never seen a player improve that much over two months in his 30 years of coaching.

Havens, who ranked 16th on the Cape Top 30 last year, would have placed higher in 2007 if scouts thought he had a chance to stay at shortstop. He has plenty of arm but not enough range, which will prompt a move to third base or possibly catcher.

20. Aaron Shafer, rhp, Falmouth (Jr., Wichita State)

Shafer was reinforcing his status as one of the top pitching prospects for the 2008 draft with a strong spring, then came down with a sore elbow that sidelined him for a month. After skipping the Cape because of back problems in 2006, he made it up this summer and was effective but at less than his best.

Shafer's command wasn't as sharp as usual and he worked mostly at 88-91 mph rather than at his accustomed 91-94 mph, though his fastball continued to get on hitters quickly because his delivery is so effortless. His changeup was his best pitch with Falmouth, and his curveball remains his No. 3 option.

21. Brett Jacobson, rhp, Harwich (Jr., Vanderbilt)

Jacobson turned in one of the most dominant performances of the summer, whiffing 15 in six innings at foggy Orleans on July 31. He might have won the league strikeout crown if a sore elbow hadn't limited him to two brief relief appearances the rest of the way.

Jacobson is capable of touching the mid-90s with his fastball, but he's most effective when he sits in the low 90s and keeps the ball down in the zone. His size (6-foot-6, 205 pounds) also can be intimidating, and he'll flash a nasty slider and an effective changeup. Nevertheless, he gets hit harder (.290, compared to the league average of .245) than someone with his package should.

22. D.J. Mitchell, rhp, Bourne (Jr., Clemson)

Bourne recruited Mitchell as a speedy center fielder before he emerged as more of a pitcher during the spring and again during the summer, leading the Cape with 58 strikeouts in 49 innings. He's not big (6-foot-1, 170 pounds), his stuff was pretty average (starting with an 88-89 mph fastball) and he's still figuring out command and the other nuances of pitching. However, he had the most electric movement in the league, and his quick arm lends deception to his delivery, leading to plenty of swings and misses.

23. Jason Castro, 1b/c/of, Yarmouth-Dennis (Jr., Stanford)

Castro batted just .167 with one homer in 42 games for Stanford during the spring, so his .341 average and four homers were a pleasant surprise for Yarmouth-Dennis. He showed a pretty lefthanded swing and one of the best approaches in the Cape. He didn't catch much because he tweaked his arm early in the summer, though Red Sox manager Scott Pickler insists that Castro can handle the defensive responsibilities behind the plate.

24. Brad Boxberger, rhp, Orleans (So., Southern California)

Southern California's best starter as a freshman, Boxberger also was one of the most polished first-year pitchers on the Cape. He limited opponents to a .155 average by mixing up a low-90s fastball, quality changeup and solid breaking ball. The only negative was that he left early with a tender elbow.

25. Brandon Crawford, ss, Orleans (Jr., UCLA)

One of the most gifted athletes in the 2008 college draft class, Crawford was the biggest disappointment on the Cape this summer. His five-tool ability was still evident, especially his speed and throwing arm, but it didn't translate well to the field. He needs to adjust his long, loopy swing and his approach after hitting .189 with 45 strikeouts, and he also could play with more energy. His 13 errors topped league shortstops.

26. Shane Peterson, 1b/of, Hyannis (Jr., Long Beach State)

Peterson was one of the better pure hitters in the league, consistently squaring balls on the barrel while ranking fourth in batting (.338) and walking (25) nearly as often as he struck out (27). He hit just one homer because his approach currently centers on hitting line drives from gap to gap, but Hyannis manager Greg King predicts Peterson will have more power in pro ball than Matt Mangini, who won the 2006 Cape batting title for Hyannis and went to Seattle as a supplemental first-rounder in June. Peterson played mostly first base for the Mets but has more than enough speed and arm strength to be a full-time right fielder in pro ball.

27. David Adams, 2b/ss, Falmouth (Jr., Virginia)

Adams batted just .213 and made five errors in 15 games at shortstop, but he relaxed once Oregon State's Joey Wong arrived late from the College World Series and allowed Adams to slide over to second base. Adams batted .352 afterward and led the league with 14 doubles, though scouts say his swing doesn't have enough lift or leverage and question his future power. He was the Cape's only true prospect at second base, which will be his position in pro ball, though he also booted nine balls in 26 games there and topped the league with 14 errors overall.

28. Kyle Weiland, rhp, Falmouth (Jr., Notre Dame)

Weiland fell and broke his collarbone at Notre Dame last December, and he never got untracked during the spring. He was back on top of his game with Falmouth, allowing just one run in his final 18 regular-season innings and topping out at 95 mph with his fastball. Weiland sat in the low 90s and showed a good curveball, though he battled some inconsistency with his command.

29. Jeremy Bleich, lhp, Wareham (Jr., Stanford)

Bleich was the best freshman lefthander on the Cape a year ago, and after a rough spring at Stanford, he again displayed polish beyond his years with Wareham. One of three talented Gatemen southpaws along with Andy Oliver and Wade Miley (Southeastern Louisiana), Bleich has the best pitchability and best changeup of the trio. He commands his 88-91 mph fastball very well and does a good job of mixing in his curveball.

30. Dan Brewer, of/if, Hyannis (Jr., Bradley)

A shortstop at Bradley, Brewer played five positions for Hyannis and found a home in right field. He's an athlete with power, slightly above-average speed and arm strength. He can get overaggressive, which could limit his ability to hit for average down the road.