West Coast Collegiate League Top 10 Prospects
The Corvallis Knights lost the WCCBL championship series last year, but they returned and were victorious this time around, sweeping the Wenatchee AppleSox for the trophy. Corvallis won 6-4 in 11 innings in Wenatchee and then 4-1 at home at Goss Stadium. Corvallis had the best record in the WCCBL this year at 31-11.
1. Jake Locker, of, Bellingham (Jr., Washington)
Locker is better known for being Ty Willingham's quarterback at Washington, and on Pacific-10 Conference media day this year, Locker said he was not going to play baseball again. But scouts and managers who saw him in the WCCBL believe he has a future in baseball if football doesn't work out. Locker was celebrated in high school as a pitching prospect, reaching 96 mph in the Washington state playoffs, but he's lost some flexibility due to his football training. But he's a powerful athlete with a Gabe Kapler build, well-above-average speed and off-the charts makeup. Despite two years away from baseball (he hasn't played for the Huskies), Locker showed good hands that work at the plate and a competitive approach with plus raw power. He just scratched the surface this summer, and his baseball future essentially depends on whether or not he succeeds in football. While he completed less than 50 percent of his passes as a redshirt freshman last fall, Locker also ran for nearly 1,000 yards.
2. Josh Osich, lhp, Corvallis (So., Oregon State)
Osich was the top prep player out of Idaho in 2007 but was strongly committed to Oregon State. While the Beavers had a poor season, Osich struggled at times as well, but he got untracked in the WCCBL, where he was the top prospect among full-time baseball players. Osich is big and physical at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and he's a power pitcher, befitting his size. His fastball reached as high as 98 mph this summer and sat at 92-96 mph, even as a starter. Osich doesn't command his fastball yet but he's not a one-pitch guy, either, as his curveball is a power pitch at its best. His stats bear out his dominance; he was 4-0, 1.54 with 41 strikeouts in 35 innings, ranking third in the league in ERA and ninth in strikeouts. The Beavers like lefthanded closers but are set at the back of the bullpen with fellow sophomore Kevin Rhoderick. His future role may determine Osich's future draft position, but he's a possible first-rounder for 2010.
3. Taylor Starr, rhp, Corvallis (So., Oregon State)
Another Beaver with a big-time arm, Starr wound up with 10 saves on the summer after picking up a pair in helping Corvallis win the WCCBL championship. Like Osich, Starr had some impressive radar-gun readings, hitting 94 mph in the league all-star game and sitting in the 92-94 range this summer. His fastball also has above-average movement, as his two-seamer showed arm-side run in to righthanded hitters as well as some sink. His breaking ball is sweepy and more of a slider, and he needs to command both pitches better. He projects better as a reliever currently, most likely in a setup role for the Beavers in front of All-Freshman closer Kevin Rhoderick.
4. A.J. Morris, rhp, Moses Lake (Jr., Kansas State)
Scouts and league coaches saw a steep gap between the league's top prospects in Locker, Osich, Starr and Morris, and the rest of the league's talent. After a rough spring at Kansas State (4-4, 6.04), Morris led the league in strikeouts with 57 in 53 innings. He's not physical at 6-foot-2, 176 pounds, but the rising redshirt junior performed consistently this summer, showing a quick arm, low-90s fastball and good control of his solid-average breaking ball and changeup.
5. Kraig Sitton, lhp, Spokane (R-So., Oregon State)
Another Oregon State pitcher, Sitton will be draft-eligible in 2009 as a redshirt sophomore. He has athletic bloodlines, as his cousin Charlie Sitton played basketball for the Beavers and in the NBA. Sitton was used sporadically as a reliever by Oregon State this spring and started this summer for the RiverHawks. He worked off a high-80s sinker, getting good life on his fastball down in the zone. While he gave up a lot of hits, he showed a confident mound demeanor and also struck out 32 in 32 innings. He had inconsistent bouts of wildness but generally throws strikes. He projects to add velocity and as he gains strength.
6. Drew Heid, of, Bend (Sr., Gonzaga)
Just 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Heid doesn't have a pro body and doesn't profile. However, he has one plus tool—he hits. The WCCBL's MVP set new league records for batting average (.403), hits (64), runs (39) and total bases (90). He's not physical and lacks other tools, as he's below-average or fringe-average otherwise. However, he maximizes the rest of his game; one manager used a football term, saying Heid's "motor is always running." He has a short swing and the bat speed to catch up to big fastballs.
7. Chris Vitus, rhp, Spokane (So., Lane, Ore., CC)
Vitus was one of Oregon's top prep prospects two years ago and has been drafted the last two Junes, by the Angels both times (49th round in '07, 48th in '08). He's projectable with a 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame, clean, easy arm action and low-maintenance delivery. Having relied on his fastball that was up to 92 mph in the past, Vitus didn't have as much velocity this summer but flashed a better overall feel for pitching and improved curveball. He showed improved maturity on the field and off it—the latter a crucial development—in piling up an impressive 5-0, 1.59 season. Vitus, a former Oregon Sate recruit, is going to his fourth different school in the last four years.
8. Eddie Orozco, rhp, Corvallis (So., UC Riverside)
Orozco has a pro body at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and had some needed success this summer after an 0-2, 9.76 debut this year for UC Riverside. He's competitive and doesn't give in to hitters when behind. He keeps the ball down with an upper-80s fastball that flashed some 90s, and gave up just two extra-base hits this summer en route to a 3-1, 1.75 campaign. His ERA ranked fifth in the WCCBL. He's a sinker-slider pitcher who also throws his changeup for strikes and keeps it down. Orozco has room to grow and needs to build off his strong performance next spring with the Highlanders.
9. Nick Freitas, of, Kelowna (Sr., Southern Utah)
Freitas is from Hawaii and started his college career at Miami. He wound up at Southern Utah as family ties drew him to coach David Eldridge; Eldridge's father coached Freitas' father. Despite having a big year, including 16 home runs to lead the Summit League, Freitas wasn't drafted this spring. He has plus, raw tools with above-average raw power, plus speed underway and a solid-average arm. He led the WCCBL in home runs with six and ranked third in steals with 12 in 13 attempts. Freitas strikes out too much, including 42 times in 149 at-bats this summer, but his tools make him a good senior sign for 2009.
10. Alex Burg, c, Corvallis (Sr., Washington State)
Burg was the best catch-and-throw backstop in the league, and his defensive tools are above-average. He's a soft receiver and blocks well, and he led the league throwing out opposing basestealers with a well-above-average arm. Burg hit for surprising power this summer—he had 11 doubles after hitting 12 with metal bats in his first three years of college. There's some hope he'll hit enough to be a backup catcher, but several observers think Burg will make an impact once his strong arm is moved to the mound.