2011 West Coast League Top 10 Prospects
: The Corvallis Knights swept the Walla Walla Sweets, 2-0, for their second West Coast League championship in the league's seven-year history. Both games were blowouts, as the Knights won 14-3 in the first game and 11-4 in the second game. Knights third baseman Ryan Gorton (Oregon State) was the team's driving force in the championship series, going 5-for-8 with a double, two home runs and seven RBIs over the two games.
As the West Coast League continues to grow and improve, several quality players just missed making the list, including outfielder Andrew Mendenhall (Walla Walla/Oregon), lefthander Porter Clayton (Cowlitz/Oregon), righthanders Owen Jones (Wenatchee/Portland) and Jeff Brigham (Bend/Washington), shortstop Evan Potter (Kitsap/San Diego State) and third baseman Claude Johnson (Kitsap/Arkansas State).
1. Jace Fry, lhp, Corvallis (Fr., Oregon State)
Fry turned down the Athletics in the ninth round out of Southridge High in Beaverton, Ore., and will headline a banner class for Oregon State. While not super physical at 6 feet and 175 pounds, Fry turned a corner this summer, showing an above-average fastball and a good four-pitch mix. Fry's fastball was sometimes in the 88-92 mph range and sometimes in the 92-94 mph range, topping out at 96. Throwing from a lower three-quarters arm slot, Fry's best secondary offering is his slider, and he also mixes in a solid curveball and a changeup. Fry goes right after hitters, showing the feel for pitching, makeup and competitiveness that scouts covet. He's young for his class, having just turned 18 this July, and should improve his draft status three years from now.
2. Mitchell Walding, ss, Cowlitz (SIGNED: Phillies)
Walding flew under the radar as a Northern California prep that missed a lot of the big summer events because he was also the quarterback for his high school football team, and then missed about a month of the baseball season with a stress fracture in his right foot. Still, when Walding was on the field, he was hard to ignore. He has a pro body at 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds and can do a little bit of everything. Despite his big frame, Walding is an agile defender at shortstop with good range and above-average arm strength. A lefthanded hitter, Walding has above-average bat speed and a good approach at the plate. He mostly has gap power right now, but has the frame and swing mechanics to progress to home run power in the future. He held his own in the league, hitting .245/.325/.299 with five doubles and one home run, and he got better throughout the season. The Phillies signed Walding away from his commitment to Oregon for $800,000 at the end of the summer.
3. Adrian Sampson, rhp, Bellingham (So., Bellevue, Wash., JC)
Sampson had Tommy John surgery his senior year of high school and then had minor knee surgery right before the season, so he didn't get into a good rhythm until midway through this year. The Marlins picked him in the 16th round and followed him this summer as he carved up the West Coast League, but couldn't come to an agreement. Sampson doesn't blow hitters away with his fastball—it was mostly in the 89-91 mph range this summer and topped out at 93 last spring. Northwest scouts, however, can dream on the fact that Sampson's older brother, Julian, did touch 96 mph, and maybe Adrian's fastball will improve a little bit as he gets further away from his surgery. Sampson's best pitch is his curveball, already an above-average major league pitch with sharp, late break. He also started to show improved feel for his changeup. Sampson shows very good control and command of all three pitches and has the confidence to throw any pitch in any count. Sampson will return to Bellevue (Wash.) JC for his sophomore season and should improve his draft status next June.
4. Ben Wetzler, lhp, Corvallis (So., Oregon State)
Wetzler was a highly-regarded high school prospect in 2010, but slipped to the 15th round because of his strong commitment to Oregon State. He started for the Beavers as a freshman, going 6-3, 4.66 with 50 strikeouts and 18 walks over 68 innings. Wetzler is a little more physical than Fry with an athletic, 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame, and he shows similar toughness on the mound and good leadership qualities. Wetzler's fastball is firm in the 91-93 mph range and topping out at 95. He shows good feel for his curveball, which has 1-to-7 break, and also mixes in an occasional slider. He needs to tighten up his command and continue to develop his changeup to combat righthanded hitters because right now he mostly relies on his fastball-curveball combination.
5. Spencer O'Neil, of, Cowlitz (Fr., Oregon)
A 33rd-round pick by the Yankees this year out of high school, O'Neil handled himself better than most rising freshmen in the WCL. With a baby face and plenty of room to fill out his gangly, 6-foot-4, 175-pound frame, O'Neil has a beautiful lefthanded swing and shows a good feel for hitting and some power potential—the ball really jumps off his bat. O'Neil showed the best present power of the three Cowlitz players fresh out of high school and put up the best numbers as well, hitting .271/.335/.384 with 12 doubles and two home runs. O'Neil also put on a show in the all-star game, going 3-for-4 with a double and a home run. He's a below-average runner and needs to work on getting better reads in the outfield. He has above-average arm strength but will be limited to a corner outfield spot or first base.
6. Breland Almadova, of, Wenatchee (Jr., Hawaii)
Almadova has a physical build at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds and shows quick-twitch athleticism. He's a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale and projects as a top-of-the-order threat. Almadova's speed plays on both sides of the ball. He covers a lot of ground in center field and has below-average arm strength. He's a gap hitter but shows a good feel for the barrel and can put a charge into the ball to all fields. Almadova plays hard and loves to put his speed to the test by frequently trying to bunt for a base hit. A righthanded hitter and lefthanded thrower, he's tinkered with the idea of switch-hitting and has the athleticism to make it happen. His profile would be greatly improved if he showed some aptitude for hitting from the left side. Almadova hit .328/.396/.461 with 12 doubles, three triples and two home runs over 180 at-bats this summer with 17 stolen bases in 20 attempts. He decided to leave the team early, missing out on the final few regular season games and the playoffs.
7. Adam Nelubowich, 3b/1b, Wenatchee (So., Washington State)
Nelubowich was a 14th-round pick by the Mariners out of high school in Canada in 2009. He has a short swing for a big guy and his swing mechanics earned multiple Chase Utley comparisons from league coaches. While his swing is compact and built more for line drives, he shows good strength in his hands and forearms and gets good backspin on the ball. Nelubowich led the WCL in home runs (eight) while hitting .304/.412/.490 over 204 at-bats this summer. He's primarily a pull hitter and needs to do a better job of using the entire field, but he'll be a key component to a fearsome Washington State lineup next season. Where he'll play is another question. He doesn't have the glove or footwork to stick at third base. He may get a chance to play left field, but there's a good possibility he'll be limited to first base, which takes some of the shine off his bat.
8. Billy Flamion, of, Cowlitz (Fr., Oregon)
Flamion shined on the showcase circuit the summer before his senior year of high school. He got off to a slow start at the beginning of his spring season with huge crowds of scouts in attendance and fell out of favor a bit. The slow start, combined with a firm $1 million price tag, caused him to slip to the Astros in the 25th round of the draft. They followed his progress this summer but did not sign him, and he should be an impact bat for Oregon for the next three years. Though his numbers this summer were not good, Flamion's best tool is his bat, and he has serious bat speed with power potential from the left side of the plate. He was a little banged up this summer but is an average runner when healthy. He's a good outfielder who robbed three home runs this summer, and he has a strong arm. With a compact, muscular, 6-foot-1, 195-pound build, Flamion was also a football player in high school and brings that grinder mentality onto the baseball field. He's a fearless competitor with great makeup and had to overcome serious adversity this summer after his 27-year-old host mother passed away unexpectedly.
9. Jimmie Sherfy, rhp, Corvallis (So., Oregon)
Sherfy has a lean, wiry frame—he's 6 feet tall and maybe 175 pounds soaking wet. But he does have electric stuff. His fastball sits between 92-93 mph and he'll run it up as high as 95 with good arm-side run. Nicknamed "Spicoli" after the surfer-dude character from the movie "Fast Times At Ridgemont High," Sherfy has a happy-go-lucky attitude and a bit of an unconventional presence on the mound. Sometimes he'll pitch straight over the top and other times he'll drop down to a whippy, almost-sidearm delivery to run his fastball in on a righthanded batter. He throws a hard, 85-86 mph slider that breaks horizontally but because it's so hard, he still gets a lot of swinging strikes with it. Sherfy also mixes in an average changeup, so he has the three-pitch arsenal to start at the next level, but his funkiness and slight frame profile better in the bullpen.
10. Chase Johnson, rhp, Corvallis (So., Cal Poly)
Johnson was a 26th-round pick by the Rangers out of Fallbrook (Calif.) High and put together a solid freshman season at Cal Poly, going 2-5, 3.67 with 34 strikeouts and 21 walks over 49 innings. Johnson has a tall, projectable frame at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. He worked at 90-93 mph with his sinking fastball in every outing and started to command his sharp slider better this summer. Johnson has some feel for a changeup as well, but the pitch needs to show a little more movement to be truly effective. He needs to develop a little more command, but his power stuff and upside are intriguing.