2011 Coastal Plain League Top 10 Prospects List
Edenton dominated the regular season with a 44-11 mark and reached the championship series, but Gastonia swept a doubleheader to beat the Steamers in the best-of-three championship round to win the Pettit Cup as league champion. It's the Grizzlies' first title since joining the league in 2002. Lefthander Michael Heesch (South Carolina-Beaufort) carried a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings in the clincher and struck out nine to lead Gastonia to a 2-0 victory. Including his playoff starts, the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder went 9-0, 2.08 with 79 strikeouts in 82 innings.
1. Jake Cave, 1b/lhp, Peninsula (SIGNED: Yankees)
Cave and Peninsula teammate Deshorn Lake were the first high school seniors to make their way into the Coastal Plain League. Cave had the better season, is the better prospect at this stage and wound up signing with the Yankees for $800,000, the second-highest bonus in New York's draft class. Some scouts liked Cave better out of high school as a pitcher, and he threw 12 innings this summer, striking out 14 but walking nine while touching 94 mph. However, the former Louisiana State signee was drafted for his bat, and his .326/.423/.442 line was impressive no matter how young he is. He ranked 11th in batting in the CPL thanks to his athleticism, bat speed and solid approach. Cave struck out a fair amount (28 percent of his at-bats), but he isn't afraid to go deep in counts and has the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs. He runs well enough to play an outfield corner and has the arm strength for right field. Cave has room to fill out his 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame, and doing so would help his plus raw power translate into more home runs.
2. Shawn Armstrong, rhp, Morehead City (SIGNED: Indians)
The league all-star game in Fayetteville, N.C., disappointed scouts, as just two pitchers broke 90 mph. Armstrong was one of the league's power arms that didn't put on a big show for scouts, but the redshirt sophomore had a consistent summer for Morehead City, going 6-2, 2.82 and giving up only one home run in 54 innings. His 68 strikeouts ranked second in the league during the regular season. Armstrong's main swing-and-miss weapon is a low-80s slider that rates as an average big league pitch. He also throws a decent curveball. Strong-armed and strong-bodied at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Armstrong also has a fastball that touches 94 mph and sits in the 90-92 range. Armstrong had labrum surgery as a prep senior and took a medical redshirt in 2009 after re-injuring the shoulder, but it didn't require surgery. Armstrong signed at the deadline for $325,000, equivalent to a third-round slot bonus.
3. Ryan Mathews, of, Wilson (Sr., N.C. State)
Mathews badly needed the playing time he got this summer, when he started 49 games for Wilson. He's toolsy and physical at 6-foot-3, 194 pounds, yet has not been drafted despite being eligible four times. An Orlando prep product, Mathews was a high school teammate at Boone High with Florida State stalwart Stuart Tapley and was recruited to play at Florida by Pat McMahon but got a release when McMahon was fired in the summer of 2007. He spent his freshman year at Western Carolina, batting .297/.335/.474 as a regular for the Catamounts. He transferred to Santa Fe (Fla.) CC in 2009, helping lead the Saints to the NJCAA World Series with teammate Keon Broxton (now with the Diamondbacks). Mathews then transferred to N.C. State, missing the 2010 season with an appendectomy and subsequent rib-cage injury. As a redshirt junior, he played sparingly, going 3-for-25. Mathews led the CPL in home runs with 15, yet scouts say his best tool is his plus speed. He projects as a fourth outfielder at the pro level, as he has average arm strength and the athleticism to play all three outfield spots. Mathews' biggest issues are his iffy instincts and modest bat speed. Scouts like Mathews' athletic ability but want to see him translate it to games on a more consistent basis. Offensively, they grade him with below-average power, despite his summer home run binge. "The reason guys like Mathews and (Chase) McDonald hit so many home runs . . . is there was just not a lot of velocity in the league," one area scout said. "They took advantage of a lot of 84-87 mph fastballs."
4. Zack Smith, 1b/of, Columbia (So., Erskine, S.C.)
Smith wound up fifth in the league in batting at .354/.377/.570, and his aggressive approach put him near the top of the league leaderboard in several categories. He ranked second in doubles (15) and third in home runs (11), and his 127 total bases set a new league record. Smith was the freshman of the year in the Division II Carolinas Conference in the spring after hitting .379, and he continues to impress with his offense. He doesn't walk often but has a feel for hitting, good natural timing and solid raw power. Listed as a second baseman on Erskine's roster, Smith lacks the athleticism to stay in the middle infield, and his future defensive position limits his pro future. A righthanded hitter, he's likely limited to first base or left field long-term. "I'm not sure what position he will play," one league coach said of the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, "but that kid can flat-out hit."
5. Chase McDonald, 1b, Morehead City (So., East Carolina)
CPL coaches voted McDonald the league's top offensive player, and his numbers tell the story. The 6-foot-4, 259-pounder became the second player in league history to bat .400 and tied the CPL's RBIs mark (51) while batting .403/.469/.663 to win the slash-stats triple crown. His 13 homers ranked second, and with his size, McDonald's game as a pro will have to stem from his bat and his power. League coaches liked how he used the whole field, hung in against offspeed stuff and showed good footwork around the first-base bag. He's also fairly patient and generally swings at strikes; he walked more than he struck out in East Carolina's Conference USA games and had a strong 22-27 BB-K ratio in CPL play. One coach said McDonald was "a little stiff," and that's the tag he'll always have to fight as a righthanded-hitting first baseman with modest athleticism. Scouts are concerned whether he'll have the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs.
6. Daniel Aldrich, of, Wilmington (So., College of Charleston)
Aldrich had a modest summer that left scouts and coaches with more questions than answers. He hit just .253/.304/.381 and hit just four home runs for the Sharks, and led the league with 61 strikeouts in 194 at-bats. Aldrich makes the list this high for his power and profile, and less for his production. He tied for third in Division I in the spring with 22 home runs, and he won both the CPL home run derby as well as the national one at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. His father Charlie played at South Carolina and is a hitting coach, and his son has developed a powerful swing, using his hips and flashing a classic power hitter's high finish. Power is his calling card, and being a lefthanded hitter helps his profile. He takes a big hack, though, and isn't selective. His production was particularly disappointing considering the big offensive year the CPL had as a whole. Aldrich isn't a great athlete, has a poor throwing arm and spent a lot of time at DH in Charleston, and one scout said, "He's still looking for a place to play." Still, his power will get him plenty of looks as a redshirt sophomore this spring.
7. Joe Wendle, 2b, Edenton (Sr., West Chester, Pa.)
A preseason Division II All-American, Wendle proceeded to hit .346 with just three strikeouts in an injury-plagued, 136 at-bat spring. He made up for lost time in the summer, helping to lead Edenton to the league's best record. A lefthanded bat, he set the league's hits record with 81 while batting .377/.448/.507, with more walks (24) than strikeouts (14). Petersburg coach Bob Smith called Wendle the "hardest player in our league" to get out and the "straw that stirs the drink" for the Steamers. His hitting ability, level stroke and plate approach, plus his profile, help. He's not a quick-twitch athlete but is an average runner (6.8 seconds over 60 yards) and has solid hands and enough arm strength for second base. He's shown aptitude with wood, having hit .311 in the NECBL last summer, and adds a grinder mentality.
8. Joe Sclafani, ss, Morehead City (Sr., Dartmouth)
Scouts weren't impressed by the league's middle infielders, but coaches consistently chose Wendle and Sclafani as the best the CPL had to offer. Sclafani has an attractive profile as a switch-hitter who plays with energy, has offensive polish and has solid-average tools. Wendle gets the edge because of his better bat. A Floridian, Sclafani had a big freshman year but has leveled out somewhat since then. He had a strong summer, hitting .375/.466/.569 with more walks than strikeouts. He ranked third in the league in hitting, second in OBP and fourth in slugging. Sclafani is an average runner if not a tick below and fits better at second base as a pro. He has a solid-average arm but doesn't do anything above-average defensively. He's a gap hitter with a contact-oriented swing and decent strength.
9. Adam Engel, of, Florence (So., Louisville)
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound Engel was one of the league's better athletes. A former high school football quarterback who turned down a Wisconsin football scholarship, he was one of the league's faster runners and ran a 6.78-second 60 at the league all-star game. He's run consistent 6.6s in the past, and his speed plays. He swiped 19 bags this summer after stealing 16 in 23 tries during the spring for the Cardinals. Engel's bat is somewhat raw and his swing can be choppy, but he still hit .283/.358/.355 over the summer. He has strength but hasn't produced much power to this point, with just seven extra-base hits this summer. His best tool other than his above-average speed is his strong throwing arm, so he could be an asset defensively as he becomes more acclimated to center field. Playing the outfield as a freshman was his first time not playing the infield, and his lack of experience shows at times.
10. Deshorn Lake, rhp, Peninsula (Fr., East Carolina)
Lake didn't impress league coaches with his results, going 2-2, 7.89 for Peninsula. The league's youngest pitcher, he's not just young but inexperienced against high-level competition. He's originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands, then played his high school baseball against Cave in Virginia's Tidewater region. Despite his struggles, Lake showed as much raw arm strength as anyone in the league, sitting in the 90-93 mph range and touching 94 regularly. He hit 95 mph in the spring. Lake's command issues were evident in the spring and reared their head all summer as he walked (16) more than he struck out (14). His best outing of the season was his victory against Edenton, when he threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings and gave up just three hits. Lake has a long arm swing in the back, which makes it hard for him to repeat his release point. It's especially true with his raw breaking ball and changeup.