California Collegiate League Top 10 Prospects
The Santa Barbara Foresters continue to be the top program in the five-team league, reaching the NBC World Series semifinals after winning the event twice in the last three years. The Foresters posted the best record in CCL play this summer at 18-6.
1. Kevin Gelinas, lhp, Conejo (Jr., UC Santa Barbara)
Gelinas has been a prospect everywhere he goes, from Pepperdine to Central Arizona JC to the California Collegiate League. He ranked second on the league's prospect list last summer and gets the nod this year for his big body and power repertoire. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound southpaw pumps his fastball in the 90-94 mph range and struck out 54 in just 36 innings. He still needs to work on control (20 walks), but Gelinas profiles as a fast-moving lefthanded reliever in the Alan Embree mold at the pro level. He's transferring to UC Santa Barbara for his junior season.
2. Tyler Blandford, rhp, Santa Barbara (SIGNED: Mariners)
Blandford was a fifth-round pick of the Mariners who wound up signing at the deadline for $325,000, well above slot for the fifth round. He was a member of Oklahoma State's rotation for two seasons and showed true power stuff, dominating at times as a junior, when he held opponents to a .210 average and struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings. When he didn't sign immediately he headed to Santa Barbara and threw just five innings but struck out 12 and showed the mid-90s velocity that has interested scouts for years. He also has a low-to-mid-80s slider that gives him two potential plus pitches, making him an excellent bullpen candidate.
3. Sam Stafford, lhp, Santa Barbara (So., Texas)
Stafford was the No. 2 pitcher on his prep team and joined Klein Collins High ace Austin Dicharry at Texas. While Dicharry became a consistent reliever and spot-starter, Stafford pitched fewer than three innings for the Longhorns as a freshman, so he needed the work this summer with Santa Barbara. He wound up as the team's No. 3 starter and went 3-1, 2.74, with a team-high 62 strikeouts in 46 innings. Stafford has added velocity since his high school days as he fills out his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame. He's got room for a bit more velocity but worked in the 88-91 range this summer, touching 92. He needs to improve his fastball command and may eventually drop his slow curve in favor of his hard low-80s slider.
4. Jeremy Rathjen, of, Santa Barbara (So., Rice)
Raw and athletic, Rathjen also was valedictorian of his high school. While he lost playing time at Rice over the course of his freshman season, he gained valuable experience as a regular with the Foresters. He led the team in home runs (four) and slugging percentage (.563) while batting .323. He has raw power that will show more as he polishes up an overly aggressive, inexperienced offensive approach. Rathjen's other tools stood out among the league's position players, with a projectable 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame, above-average speed and a plus throwing arm.
5. Brandon Loy, ss, Santa Barbara (So., Texas)
Loy's steady play and excellent short game helped Texas to a national runner-up finish in the College World Series. The CCL's top defensive shortstop, Loy is steady rather than spectacular in the field, with solid range and arm strength augmented by excellent instincts and good hands. Offensively, he is an excellent bunter who led the nation with 25 sacrifice bunts in the spring. Loy's biggest drawback is power—he had just seven extra-base hits in 81 at-bats this summer and just nine in the spring with metal bats in 229 at-bats. However, he made consistent contact for Santa Barbara, leading the team in batting at .370, and is a solid-average runner.
6. Jack Marder, 2b, Conejo (Fr., Oregon)
Marder didn't sign as the Diamondbacks' 30th-round pick, and he has the potential to be an impact freshman in the Pacific-10 Conference. Primarily a second baseman, the Newbury Park (Calif.) High product led the Cal Collegiate League in batting at .378, helping lead the Oaks to the quarterfinals of the NBC World Series. Marder wasn't just a slap hitter, slugging .500 and showing some pull power. League managers also voted him the league's top defensive second baseman, as he's a quality fielder with good hands and impressive arm strength. He's not overly physical and is a fringe-average runner, getting down the line in 4.5 seconds from the right side.
7. A.J. Griffin, rhp, Santa Barbara (Sr., San Diego)
Griffin pitched for Team USA last summer and was a closer for his first two seasons at San Diego before being thrust into the rotation as a junior, when injuries decimated the Toreros' rotation. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound righthander responded well and seemed likely to be drafted in the first 10 rounds, but fell to the Phillies in the 34th round and didn't sign. The Central Illinois Collegiate League's No. 1 prospect in 2007, Griffin has a mature, pro body at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, and gets plenty of ground balls when he's at his best. His fastball sits in the 86-91 mph range, and he pounds the strike zone, walking just six while striking out 55 in 51 innings. Griffin's best secondary pitches are his slider, which is more of a groundball pitch than a swing-and-miss power slider, and his changeup, which has developed nicely as he's evolved into more of a starter.
8. Matt Leonard, lhp, Santa Barbara (Jr., Cal Poly)
Leonard was the league's top performer, throwing a no-hitter against San Luis Obispo and going 6-0, 0.47 during the summer with 44 strikeouts in 38 innings. He is two years removed from Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the 2008 season and has improved his control as he distances himself from surgery. Leonard wasn't drafted as an eligible sophomore in 2009 after going just 5-3, 7.68 last spring. He was on his game this summer, as he gave up two runs and three extra-base hits total, working off a plus changeup, an 87-90 mph fastball and a low-70s slow curve. His curveball was voted the league's best breaking pitch in a survey of managers, but his changeup is generally considered his better secondary pitch.
9. Matt Evers, lhp, Santa Barbara (Jr., Rice)
Evers has good size at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and he rivals Gelinas as a future lefty reliever. At times the Foresters extended him a bit, and he wound up using his changeup more than he had at Rice, where he relied primarily on his 88-92 mph fastball, which features impressive arm-side run and some sink, and his 82-84 mph slider. When his slider has depth it gives him a strikeout pitch, and Evers fanned 34 in 31 innings this summer. Command remains his biggest issue, both of his fastball and of his slider, as he walked 12 and doesn't work ahead of hitters enough.
10. Shuehei Fujiya, rhp, MLB Academy (Sr., Southern California)
Fujiya calls Irvine, Calif., home, and played one season at Orange Coast (Calif.) JC before transferring to Northern Iowa, where he worked as a reliever for two seasons. He didn't sign with the Padres this season after being drafted in the 18th round. With Northern Iowa dropping its baseball program after the 2009 season, Fujiya can transfer to any Division I school without sitting out, and he's on Southern California's fall roster. He should contribute immediately after showing an 88-93 mph fastball with good run, a high-70s curveball and a split-finger fastball he used for a strikeout pitch.