2011 Northwoods League Top 20 Prospects
: The Battle Creek Bombers captured their first Northwoods League title by sweeping the Mankato MoonDogs in the best-of-three championship series. The Bombers got off to a great start in the decisive game, scoring six runs in the bottom of the first inning and never looking back, eventually winning 13-0. The offensive explosion was led by Central Michigan shortstop Jordan Dean, who led off the game with a triple and wound up going 3-for-6 with a double. Outfielder Daniel Rockett (Texas-San Antonio) hit his fourth home run in as many playoff games.
Even in what was considered a down year in the NWL, the league still has a lot of talent and several players were tough omissions from the list. Brainerd Lakes Area righthander Ray Black, who signed with the Giants for $225,000 as a seventh-round pick out of Pittsburgh, didn't have enough innings to qualify for the list. Other players who barely missed the cut include first baseman Johnny Coy (Rochester/Wichita State), second baseman/outfielder Jacob May (Green Bay/Coastal Carolina) and righthanders Ricky Knapp (Willmar/Florida Gulf Coast), Brando Tessar (La Crosse/Oregon) and Adam Cimber (Green Bay/Washington).
1. Nolan Sanburn, rhp, Battle Creek (So., Arkansas)
The Tigers drafted Sanburn as an outfielder in the 34th round of the 2010 draft out of Kokomo (Ind.) High, but it's clear that his future is on the mound. Sanburn pitched well as Arkansas' closer as a freshman and took things up a notch this summer. He can overpower hitters with a fastball that sits in the 91-94 mph range and gets as high as 98. Sanburn was used as a starter this summer to help develop his slider and changeup, and both showed improvement. The slider showed flashes of being an above-average pitch in the 81-85 mph range. Sanburn repeats his athletic delivery well and shows a lot of confidence on the mound. Sanburn, a draft-eligible sophomore this year, is slated to remain in the Razorbacks' bullpen this spring, but should get a shot to start in pro ball.
2. Andrew Knapp, c, La Crosse (So., California)
Knapp is a chip off the old block. His father Mike was also a catcher at California in 1985-86 and went on to catch professionally for 11 years. Andrew did not see much playing time for the Golden Bears this spring as a freshman, but didn't appear to have any rust to shake off this summer. Knapp posted the second-highest batting average in league history, hitting .400/.503/.548 with eight doubles and five home runs over 155 at-bats. He also walked more (31) than he struck out (27). Knapp is a switch-hitter with very simple swing mechanics from both sides of the plate. He has quick hands, a great feel for the barrel and a professional approach with the ability to make adjustments from pitch to pitch. Defensively, Knapp needs to polish up his receiving and blocking skills, but he shows plenty of arm strength. With some improvements behind the plate, Knapp should be a high pick in 2013.
3. Mitch Haniger, of, Green Bay (Jr., Cal Poly)
At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Haniger has a strong, physical frame and can do a little bit of everything on the field. He has the present strength to handle a wood bat with ease and shows a good feel for hitting, even if he comes up a tick below-average in that area as a pro. The strength shows up in his power, where he projects to hit 20-25 home runs down the road. Haniger is a good athlete and could have played football at the collegiate level, but he's an average runner who would be stretched in center field as a pro. Still, he moves well, shows good instincts on the bases and would be an asset in right field, where he profiles best because of his well above-average arm strength. Haniger shows great work ethic and is dialed in on every pitch. With a good spring, he could go even higher in the draft than Cal Poly teammate Bobby Crocker, a fourth-round pick this year by the Athletics.
4. Carlos Escobar, c, Wisconsin (Jr., Nevada)
Escobar has all the tools scouts look for from a catching prospect. He has a sturdy, 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame and shows good defensive skills behind the plate. He receives and blocks well and shows above-average arm strength and accuracy. The thing he needs to work on most is his game calling. Escobar didn't vary his pitch sequencing from pitcher to pitcher and made his pitchers work backwards too often. Escobar has a quiet setup to a sweet swing, and he stays through the ball very well. He has a pro approach at the plate and shows gap power to all fields, but he does have the strength to drive the ball out of the park. Over 197 at-bats this summer, Escobar hit .345/.433/.533 with 16 doubles and seven home runs. Escobar was a 41st-round pick by the Astros out of Chatsworth (Calif.) High in 2009, but could have pushed himself into a single-digit round with his breakout this summer.
5. Sam Selman, lhp, Mankato (Jr., Vanderbilt)
Over eight starts this summer, Selman put up nearly identical numbers to his season in the Northwoods League last year, going 2-4, 3.89 with 46 strikeouts and 29 walks over 42 innings. His 86 summer innings dwarf the 12 he's pitched over his first two seasons at Vanderbilt. If he's going to follow in the footsteps of premium Vandy lefthanders Grayson Garvin, Mike Minor and David Price, he'll need to show better command. Selman has the makings to be a high pick next June. He has a good pitcher's build at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, a live fastball in the 91-94 mph range with good arm-side run and a promising slider. He also flashed an effective changeup, but he is still showing mechanical problems that limit his ability to throw consistent strikes and command his pitches. Selman has a wrap in his arm action that can cause his arm to be late through the zone and results in balls being left up in the zone. His control gets worse as the game progresses, meaning his best fit may be in the bullpen.
6. Dan Child, rhp, La Crosse (So., Oregon State)
Child was a non-factor for Oregon State as a freshman, logging just five innings, but if he continues to pitch the way he did this summer, he could earn some high-leverage innings as a sophomore. Child has a big, durable body at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. His bread-and-butter is a power sinker that he throws in the 92-93 mph range, a pitch that starts in the middle of the plate and winds up on the back foot of a righthanded hitter. Even with the heavy life and movement, Child is able to command the pitch and throw it for strikes. He mixes in an average slider in the 81-84 mph range that plays up because it moves in the opposite direction of his sinker. He showed better feel for his changeup as the summer went on, giving him a legit weapon against lefthanded hitters. Child does have some effort to his delivery and profiles best at the back end of a bullpen.
7. Anthony Bazzani, rhp, Alexandria (Jr., Eastern Kentucky)
Bazzani did not have much success last season at Eastern Kentucky, going 1-9, 9.07 with 25 walks and 37 strikeouts over 45 innings. As a starter in school, Bazzani's fastball was in the 87-88 mph range, but he thrived in a bullpen role this summer, and the results were night and day. Coming in as a reliever, Bazzani was consistently in the low 90s with his fastball and got as high as 97 mph. He has a gangly, 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame with knees and elbows flying everywhere in a delivery that needs some smoothing out. Bazzani flies open early and throws nearly straight over the top, but he has a loose, resilient arm. The slot works well for his go-to out pitch, a very good splitter, and he also mixes in an inconsistent slider with slurvy break. In 29 games this summer, Bazzani went 4-2, 1.45 with 16 walks, 70 strikeouts and 12 saves over 50 innings.
8. Cameron Perkins, 3b, Waterloo (Jr., Purdue)
Perkins has an old-school approach at the plate—he's up there to hit. While pro teams will likely want him to show more selectivity at the plate, Perkins does have good bat control and the strength to drive pitches in any location, especially pitches down in the zone. His power is mostly to the gaps now, but he has room to fill out his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame, and more home run pop could come as he gets a little stronger. Perkins hit .344/.416/.551 with 19 doubles and 10 home runs over 247 at-bats. He moves well for his size—he's an average runner who shows good aggression on the basepaths, though he was just 13-for-19 in stolen base attempts this summer. He's solid at third base but may wind up moving to right field as a pro. Perkins is a hard worker and it's obvious that he loves the game. Opposing coaches noted that he would often pick their brain about players as they were coaching third base.
9. Phillip Ervin, of, Green Bay (So., Samford)
Hailing from Leroy (Ala.) High, a 2A school in a town of fewer than 1,000 in Southwest Alabama, Ervin was a three-sport star in high school. A torn knee ligament wiped out the end of his senior football season and most of his baseball season, yet showed enough as a DH and pitcher to rank 13th on BA's list of Alabama draft prospects as a prep senior. He was a freshman All-American this spring, hitting .371/.440/.516. The success carried over this summer, where he hit .305/.392/.523 with six doubles and six home runs over 128 at-bats and went 9-for-10 in stolen base attempts. Ervin didn't join the league until mid-June because of a minor hand injury and then pulled a hamstring his first week of action, sidelining him until July. When Ervin was on the field, he displayed four above-average—but unpolished—tools. He shows good bat speed and some strength. He doesn't always get around on quality fastballs and was a little passive on hanging breaking balls, but he did not strike out a lot. He has the tools required to be a good defender in the outfield—he's an above-average runner with a strong arm that got up to 92 mph on the mound. But he's raw out there—he gets poor reads off the bat and doesn't always throw the ball to the correct base. Ervin will play in the Cape Cod League next summer, and if he continues to progress like he did this summer, he will surely go in a single-digit round in 2013.
10. Matt Milroy, rhp, Madison (Jr., Illinois)
Milroy has a good pitcher's build at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, but he doesn't use his height to his advantage on the mound. A drop-and-drive delivery causes his fastball to flatten out. Even when it's 90-93 mph and topping out at 95, like it did this summer, it becomes hittable, and he'll need to do something to get more downward plane or movement on the pitch. A 35th-round pick by the Red Sox out of high school, Milroy does show good control and has a tight slider that he throws between 84-86 mph. He's a good athlete with a loose arm, but profiles best as a reliever because he doesn't hold the velocity on his fastball—the pitch was down in the 87-89 mph range after two innings.
11. Jonathon Crawford, rhp, Madison (So., Florida)
Crawford is an enigma. His pure stuff is right there with anybody in the league. He has an effortless fastball in the 93-94 mph range, a big 12-to-6 curveball, a sharp mid-80s mph slider and shows some feel for a changeup. But mechanical problems and lapses in focus make him frustratingly inconsistent. He had a no-hitter through five innings against Green Bay, but there were two other outings where he wasn't allowed to come back out for the second inning because he needed more than 35 pitches to get through the first. The inconsistency wasn't just outing to outing, sometimes it was pitch to pitch. He would throw a pitch eight feet up the backstop and then throw a strike at the knees, on the black. He doesn't get a lot of extension in his delivery and throws from an upright position, so it's difficult for Crawford to consistently pitch down in the zone. With so much talent at Florida, he'll be on a short leash, but he has the ingredients to be special.
12. Ty Forney, ss, Eau Claire (Sr., New Mexico State)
Forney is accustomed to hitting with wood bats, having spent two years at Yavapai (Ariz.) JC before transferring to New Mexico State last season. He's undersized at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, but has some wiry strength to his frame. He sprays line drives from gap to gap but can also poke one over the fence from time to time. Forney, whose father Jeff played six years in the Reds organization as an outfielder, hit .338/.414/.465 over 213 at-bats with 12 doubles and five home runs while also going 13-for-14 in stolen base attempts. He's a solid-average runner with good instincts on the bases. Forney's best tool, however, is his defense at shortstop. He has soft hands and fluid actions at the position, allowing him to make everything look easy. Forney can get a little too laid back on routine plays and has average arm strength.
13. Louie Lechich, of, La Crosse (So., California)
Lechich is a very good athlete who also could have played Division I football as a wide receiver. He has a physical 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, and his strength shows up at the plate. He has good hand-eye coordination and shows good bat speed and raw power. A lefthanded hitter and thrower, Lechich hit .275/.329/.436 with seven doubles and five home runs over 149 at-bats. He has the speed to play center field for now, but he could move to right if he slows down a little. Lechich also has above-average arm strength and doubles as a reliever at California. Lechich has a lot of tools and loves to play the game, but he didn't always take preparation seriously this summer.
14. Sean Dwyer, of, Willmar (So., Florida Gulf Coast)
Dwyer ranked No. 9 on this list last year as a rising freshman and returned to Willmar for a second go-around this summer, hitting .298/.392/.426 over 235 at-bats with seven doubles and seven home runs. Dwyer's value is tied into his bat. He's smart at the plate and shows above-average bat speed and smooth swing mechanics. He handles lefties well and has gap power to the opposite field, but his home run power is all pull right now. He'll be limited to a corner outfield spot as a professional and will have to gain more strength to really profile well out there, because he's a fringy defender and runner.
15. Shaun Cooper, of, Mankato (Sr., Utah)
Cooper put up ridiculous numbers this summer, but his prospect status remains murky. Cooper destroyed the league, hitting .345/.418/.674 with 14 doubles and 20 home runs—breaking the Northwoods League's previous record of 19, set by Jason Washam in 1994. Cooper also set single-season records in extra-base hits (38) and total bases (163) and went 15-for-16 in stolen base attempts. Cooper has quick wrists and showed he can hit velocity. He didn't just hit mistakes, he drove good pitches to all fields. He runs well enough to play the outfield but will be relegated to left field, where his 5-foot-10, 195-pound frame and righthanded bat really limit his profile. Cooper wasn't drafted out of high school, wasn't drafted at Pima (Ariz.) CC in 2010 and wasn't drafted last year at Utah, but he should be a senior sign next year.
16. Chase Stevens, rhp, Waterloo (Jr., Oklahoma State)
At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Stevens has a small, compact frame, but he has good athleticism, a quick arm and uses the height he has well. His fastball sits in the 89-92 mph range and tops out at 94. Stevens mixes in a tight, 76-81 mph curveball and a 78-80 mph changeup. After spending two seasons at Seminole State (Okla.) JC, Stevens transferred to Oklahoma State for his junior year this spring.
17. Tom Windle, lhp, Madison (So., Minnesota)
Windle is a good athlete who also played hockey in high school. He put up great numbers as a freshman this year at Minnesota, going 6-2, 1.52 with 35 strikeouts and 11 walks over 41 innings, and he spent a little time this summer with Team USA. Windle has a gangly 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame and some funk to his delivery. He shows a good three-pitch mix, with a fastball in the 89-92 mph range, a hard slider and a changeup in the 82-85 range. There's not a lot of separation between his pitches—everything's hard—and he pounds the strike zone, so Windle got hit harder this summer than he should. Windle is very coachable and showed good progress as the summer wore on. He started to stay tall in his delivery and not lean back so much and also started to mix his pitches better. In addition to showing more pitch feel,, Windle needs to work on holding runners more effectively. He uses a high leg kick and is often timid on throws over to first base.
18. Jordan Haseltine, lhp, La Crosse (So., San Francisco)
Haseltine is unmolded clay. He has a great frame at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds with projection for more strength remaining. Adding more strength could make him scary, as Haseltine already sits at 92 mph with his fastball and can dial it up to 95. He gets good downward plane on the pitch, but it's really his only offering to speak of—his secondary stuff can be non-existent at times. Haseltine also needs to work on the finer parts of pitching, like holding runners and fielding his position, but his upside potential is obvious.
19. Trevor Teykl, rhp, La Crosse (R-Fr., Texas)
Teykl redshirted his freshman year at Texas but didn't take long to hit his stride this summer. He pitched 22 games—mostly in relief—striking out 45 and walking 21 over 47 innings. Teykl has an extra large frame at 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds. He's not a great athlete and he's mostly on this list for his upside and projection. Teykl's fastball is in the 87-89 mph range right now and touches 90, but there's room for more there. Teykl's slider shows flashes but needs to improve to give him a legitimate out pitch.
20. Carlos Lopez, 1b, St. Cloud (Jr., Cal State Fullerton)
Lopez missed his first season at Fullerton with a torn ACL, but all he's done when healthy is hit. He batted .354/.408/.536 in 2010 and .342/.400/.481 last season. His hitting ability carried over into the NWL, where Lopez was one of the best pure hitters in the league. He has a smooth, flat stroke from the left side. His bat stays in the zone a long time and he has strong wrists and hands to generate good backspin on balls. This summer, he hit .316/.366/.439 with nine doubles and four home runs. He showed great hand-eye coordination and bat control by only striking out 17 times over 171 at-bats. He has a soft body at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds but is not the masher teams typically covet at first base or left field. Lopez, who was drafted in the 37th round in 2010 by the Tigers, has deceptive speed for his size and stole 26 bases this summer, but it's his pure hitting ability that will give him another shot at pro ball.