Alaska League Top 10 Prospects
The top talents from Alaska's summer league
The Anchorage Glacier Pilots were awarded the Alaska League title in a very anticlimactic fashion. Anchorage had 11 games rained out, meaning it ended up playing five fewer games than the second-place Mat-Su Miners. League officials awarded Anchorage the title before the season was over based on a mathematical tiebreaker. Strangely, they did so despite the fact that a red-hot Mat-Su team was still technically capable of winning the pennant. "My guys are dejected. They're bumming," Miners general manager Pete Christopher told the Anchorage Daily News.
One scout who covered the Alaska League was disappointed by what he saw there, which is becoming more common. The Alaska League has dropped back to the pack over the past decade, less able than the Cape Cod League to fight off the erosion of talent due to the proliferation of summer college leagues. The addition of more leagues in the West, such as the West Coast Collegiate League, has eaten into Alaska's talent base. Mat-Su and Anchorage had the league's two top teams and provide the first five players on this list.
1. Steve Fischback, rhp, Mat-Su (Jr., Cal Poly)
Fischback emerged as a weekend starter for Cal Poly this summer and was one of the Alaska League's top starters for the Miners, the league's winningest team. In four league starts over 28 innings, Fischback struck out 30, using a 92-93 mph fastball and above-average hard slider that at times reached 87 mph. His curveball also is at least an average pitch, giving him a chance to start; otherwise he profiles as a reliever in the Brad Lidge mold. His arm action and delivery are clean and easy, however, so he should be able to remain a starter. He'll need to gain more feel for an offspeed pitch such as a changeup, and he made progress with a cutter, which may suffice.
2. Garrett Richards, rhp, Mat-Su (Jr., Oklahoma)
Richards pitched in the Cape Cod League after his freshman season, when he had been Oklahoma's closer, but he started in Alaska for Mat-Su, which had the league's most talented pitching staff. Richards still has control issues and profiles better as a reliever, as he walked 13 in 26 innings this summer. However, Richards' stuff is undeniable. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and reached as high as 98, according to league managers, and his hard slider showed bite even up to 87 mph. Richards also has shown a power curveball and changeup with some ability, though his slider stood out in Alaska. He's athletic enough at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds that he should be able to rein in his delivery some and trade some velocity (which he has to spare) for command.
3. Joey Terdoslavich, 1b/3b, Glacier Pilots (So., Long Beach State)
Terdoslavich was a 35th-round pick out of high school and was a highly regarded recruit as a potential catcher/first baseman. He primarily was a DH for the Miami Hurricanes this spring and didn't play as much later in the season, though he hit near .300. He was the Glacier Pilots' top hitter this summer, hitting five homers (second in the Alaska League) and batting .366. He played primarily first base this summer and didn't play it particularly well, with seven errors in 29 games, and while league coaches and scouts like his bat, Terdoslavich's defense and lack of position makes projecting him as a pro player difficult. Scouts who like him think he can play third base thanks to solid arm strength, and if it all comes together, he'll have enough offensive ability to hold down a corner spot. He transferred to Long Beach State during the summer.
4. Kyle Jensen, of, Mat-Su (Jr., St. Mary's)
Jensen has physical size and strength that stood out in Alaska at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds; he used his strength to hit four home runs, second in Alaska. He also has established a track record of hitting, having led the West Coast Conference with a .421 average this spring. He led off the Mat-Su for much of the season and hit .265 with a .382 on-base percentage, but he's better suited to hit lower in the order. Jensen has above-average raw power, uses the whole field and has some arm strength, as he pitched as a freshman in college. He runs well enough for an outfield corner spot and profiles better in left field than in right. While Jensen has power, some detractors consider his swing too long and too geared for metal bats.
5. Antwonie Hubbard, rhp, Glacier Pilots (R-So., Oklahoma)
Hubbard will be a draft-eligible sophomore in 2009, and with a strong season he could vault himself into single-digit round consideration. He's physical at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and he has arm strength, consistently reaching 92 mph with his fastball. He more regularly sits in the average range at 89-91 with good tailing movement, and if he learns to harness his fastball to throw more consistent strikes, it should be an above-average pitch due to its combination of movement and velocity. Hubbard has a quick arm and can spin both a curveball and slider, which lack consistency. He competes well and had strong stuff throughout the summer, racking up 10 strikeouts in just 4 2/3 innings in an NBC World Series loss that turned out to be his last outing.
6. Nick Ciolli, of, Goldpanners (Jr., Indiana State)
Ciolli has been an all-league performer twice for the Goldpanners, returning to Fairbanks after his 2007 summer was cut short by a shoulder injury. He hit .348 this season with 10 stolen bases. He finished the summer playing in the NBC World Series with the Glacier Pilots. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Ciolli does a lot of things well but doesn't stand out in any tool. He has a strong, short swing from the left side with average speed and a fringe-average arm. He's a fairly savvy baserunner and hitter, as he uses the whole field. He needs to learn which pitches he can turn on and pull to exploit his raw power potential. He profiles best for left field, so his future power production will determine if he can be an everyday corner outfielder or if he profiles better as an extra outfielder.
7. Brint Hardy, of, Athletes In Action (Sr., Alabama-Birmingham)
Hardy's college career began at Birmingham-Southern, and he followed coach Brian Shoop to Alabama-Birmingham when the B-SC program was demoted to Division III. Hardy went undrafted as a junior this June, as scouts have trouble settling on a defined position for him, and some doubt his bat. But he has his supporters, including one scout who considered him the best position player in Alaska this year. Hardy's a 60 runner who is an efficient basestealer at the college level, and he thrived in Alaska, leading the league in batting (.410), runs (28), hits (50) and steals (25) while tying for third with three homers. Hardy's power will be to the gaps as a pro, and he'd have more value if he can play center field. One coach wondered if Hardy could handle plus velocity. He flashes an average arm and has even played some catcher in the past. His athleticism and ability to get on base enough to use his speed stood out in a thin Alaska League hitter's crop.
8. Kawika Emsley-Pai, c, Oilers (So., Lewis-Clark State, Idaho)
Emsley-Pai played at Jackson High in Washington state with top Blue Jays prospect Travis Snider and attended Texas briefly but got little playing time. He's transferring to Lewis-Clark State, the NAIA powerhouse, and his detractors believe it will do him good. Emsley-Pai has acquired a reputation among Northwest scouts for not living up to his billing, but he has athletic ability behind the plate and an average arm. He'll have to work harder to be an average receiver. Offensively, he shows raw power and a solid stroke from the left side, but his rust showed at times this summer, and he needs to have a more consistent approach.
9. Seth Harvey, rhp, Oilers (Jr., Washington State)
Harvey has struggled for the better part of two seasons at Washington State, posting a 7.45 career ERA in 30 appearances, but he may have turned a corner in the Alaska League. Like several other pitchers on this list, Harvey has a shorter frame at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, and he has arm strength. He was the league's hardest thrower consistently, showing a fastball that was 92-94 mph at times, including in the league's scout day. He racked up six saves in seven chances and proved durable while sharing closing duties with Erik Draxton for the Oilers. Harvey's slider is his second-best pitch and has average potential. He profiles as a setup man.
10. Joe Gardner, rhp, Oilers (Jr., UC Santa Barbara)
Gardner essentially was auditioning in Alaska for his new pitching coach, as he's transferring from Ohlone (Calif.) JC to UCSB. Gauchos pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Tom Myers managed the Oilers this summer, and Gardner shined, going 6-0, 0.92 and limiting opponents to a .191 average. Gardner has a lean, projectable 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame and solid-average present velocity at 89-92 mph. He pitches down in the zone with his fastball, a two-seam sinker, and gets a lot of groundballs when he's at his best. His slurvy slider and should improve if he can tighten it up, which would make him a classic sinker/slider, back-of-the-rotation pitcher. He's still working on developing a changeup, which has potential as his arm works well.