2012 Alaska League Top 10 Prospects
For the second time in five years, the Anchorage Glacier Pilots won the Alaska League title, with a league record of 26-14 (27-19 overall). The Peninsula Oilers and Anchorage Bucs finished tied for second place at 21-19. The Alaska League did not send a team to the NBC World Series this summer as the Glacier Pilots and Peninsula Oilers, last year's league champ, elected to eschew their postseason opportunities.
1. Braden Shipley, rhp, Anchorage Bucs (Jr., Nevada)
A former second-team all-Western Athletic Conference shortstop who pitched just 10 innings as a freshman, Shipley emerged as the Wolf Pack's Friday starter and won WAC pitcher of the year this season, ranking first in ERA (2.20), second in innings (98), and third in strikeouts (80). Deployed as a closer to limit his innings, Shipley dominated in 13 summer innings, striking out 22 and walking two. Shipley has a lean, angular and athletic 6-foot-2, 180-pound frame that offers some projection. He throws from a high three-quarters slot and gets good downhill plane. Scouts love his mid-90s fastball that touches 97. "He has a quick arm and the ball really explodes out of his hand," one scout said. "For a guy that hits 97 there isn't a lot of effort."
In relief, Shipley primarily relied on his 78-79 mph curveball that scouts grade as an average present pitch, but many feel his 80-83 mph changeup is a superior offering. A cousin of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jordan Shipley, Braden fields his position with the athleticism of a former shortstop and holds runners close with quick feet and a strong pickoff move.
"He is the top player in the league and it isn't even close," another scout said. "He has a chance to start and is a definite top-three-round guy for me."
2. Kyle Freeland, lhp, Anchorage Glacier Pilots (So., Evansville)
Drafted by the Phillies in the 33rd round in 2011, Freeland bypassed top-10-round money to attend Evansville, where he made 14 starts and led the team in strikeouts (70) and strikeout-walk ratio (3.2-1) as a freshman. After allowing five runs in his summer debut, Freeland threw 35 consecutive scoreless innings. He finished with a league-leading 0.72 ERA and struck out nearly a hitter per inning. His long, loose, and lanky 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame oozes projection. The Colorado high school strikeout record holder, Freeland throws from a high three-quarters slot and hides the ball well. He sits 88-90 mph and touches 91 with his fastball—average lefthander velocity, with good sink. His 76-78 mph slider received a 55 grade from a scout, and he has feel for a high-70s changeup. He presently has 40 command, but scouts are comfortable projecting at least average because of his athleticism and fluid delivery. Like Shipley, he was regarded as one of the league's top fielding pitchers. Scouts also project additional strength will increase his velocity by at least a full grade.
"The fastball is sneaky-good right now, but because he has a great body he has a chance to get stronger, and he will sit at least 90-92 when he's stronger," a scout said.
3. Nigel Nootbaar, rhp, Peninsula (So., Southern California)
Nootbaar's name adorns the USC baseball office, a tribute to Nigel's 103-year-old grandfather Herbert, but the 19-year-old with a power arsenal is making a name for himself. The righthander sits 90-94 mph and touches 95 with a fastball that has some arm-side run from a three-quarters slot. Multiple scouts said his 76-78 mph slider was the best breaking ball in the league. Nootbaar will have to improve his low-80s changeup, a well below-average pitch. His mechanics don't have any red flags, but scouts and coaches alike believe his velocity and command will improve with mechanical adjustments. With broad shoulders and a trim waist, the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder stands to add strength. In 32 summer innings, Nootbaar struck out 35 and walked 13. Some coaches believe he might be the best pure athlete in the league after he played 17 games at third base and switch-hit. With USC losing each of its top four starters from a year ago, Nootbaar will likely compete for a rotation spot after starting four games and throwing 35 innings as a freshman.
4. Trey Teakell, rhp, Anchorage Glacier Pilots (R-So., Texas Christian)
Teakell began the spring in TCU's rotation, but three poor early-season starts (8.00 ERA) banished him to the bullpen, where he flourished with a 3.25 ERA, 3.5-1 strikeout-walk ratio, and a 19 consecutive scoreless innings streak. Teakell built on that success as a starter in Alaska, striking out more than a hitter per inning with a 4.7 strikeout-walk ratio. The Texas native has a very lean and projectable 6-foot-5, 165-pound frame. His smooth mechanics and very good arm acceleration from a high three-quarters slot create good angle to the plate. Capable of touching 93 mph, Teakell's fastball comfortably sits in the low 90s with sink. Teakell throws a sharp-breaking 78-80 mph curveball and a low-80s changeup. Coaches said his command is among the best in the league, especially his feel for offspeed offerings. Some believe Teakell, a draft-eligible sophomore, has the highest upside in the league as he adds strength and mass to his projectable frame.
5. Tyler Spoon, of, Anchorage Glacier Pilots (R-Fr., Arkansas)
With an outfield loaded with draft-eligible veterans, Arkansas redshirted Spoon on its way to a top-four finish in Omaha. Spoon showed no rust returning to action, leading the league with 10 home runs and 21 extra-base hits. The righthanded hitter has good bat speed and power to all fields, hitting multiple home runs to both center and right field. Scouts project Spoon to hit 12-15 home runs in the big leagues. With a .286 average this summer, he showed some feel to hit, but his aggressive approach and susceptibility to breaking stuff away resulted in just 10 walks and 30 strikeouts in 185 plate appearances. As a 5-foot-11, 190-pound right/right player, Spoon faces a tough outfield profile. Although he played center field for Anchorage and gets good reads, his fringe-average speed will limit him to a corner, and his average arm likely pushes him to left at the next level. Multiple scouts would like to see him play second base, believing he has the quickness and athleticism to play on the dirt.
6. Ian Miller, of, Mat-Su (Jr., Wagner)
A two-year starter at Wagner, whose lone big league alumnus is Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey, Miller hit .312/.400/.380 this spring with a Northeast Conference-leading 34 steals. With a 6.35-second 60-yard dash and home-to-first times ranging from 3.95-4.05 seconds, Miller's plus-plus speed is his carrying tool. Miller led the league with 36 steals, and scouts believe he can be a center fielder at the next level. He played right field for Mat-Su next to fellow speed-merchant Bobby Boyd because of his above-average arm, which scouts said was arguably the best in the league. Although his .287/.403/.330 line this summer didn't top league leader boards, scouts liked his approach.
"He hit well and understands what his game is all about; he puts the ball on the ground and runs," one scout said. "And he has surprising juice when he turns on a ball."
Coaches believe he has good hands and contact ability, but can improve with a few mechanical adjustments because he has no hand load and a minimal stride. Power is unlikely to be a big element of his game because of his lean, wiry 6-foot, 175-pound frame. The lefthanded Miller is mentally and physically tough, playing nearly the whole season with a broken toe.
7. Jordan Luplow, of, Anchorage Glacier Pilots (So., Fresno State)
Undrafted out of high school due to a shoulder injury that sidelined him his senior year, Luplow was a key piece of Fresno State's 19th-ranked recruiting class. As a freshman, Luplow won WAC tournament MVP and led the Bulldogs in at-bats, hitting .279/.322/.362 with 21 extra-base hits and 10 steals. This summer, the righthanded-hitting Luplow raked to the tune of .286/.369/.461 with six home runs and became a favorite of many scouts for his sound approach (20 walks, 30 strikeouts), short stroke, and ability to make consistent hard contact. While he has a strong feel to hit and some present power, scouts worry his 6-foot, 180-pound build doesn't portend substantial power gains. Primarily an outfielder at Fresno, Luplow is an average runner who gets good reads and has a 55 arm, but is likely limited to left as a professional. The 18-year-old Luplow showed versatility by playing some infield, a development scouts hope to see more of.
8. Jon Maciel, rhp, Peninsula (Jr., Long Beach State)
Maciel produced a 1.25 ERA in 22 innings as a freshman followed by a 1.27 ERA in 35 innings this spring. In his second summer starting for Peninsula, Maciel's 2.14 ERA ranked fifth in the league, and he posted a 36-6 strikeout-walk mark in 46 innings. With a new workout regimen that added 14 pounds of muscle this summer, Maciel's velocity jumped a grade to 90-92 mph and hit 94. His fastball has good run and sink from his three-quarters slot. A high-70s changeup with good fade has long been Maciel's best offspeed pitch, but substantial improvement to his 80-82 mph slider with depth left scouts saying it offered average potential. Maciel hides the ball well and has strong command of all his pitches.
The ambidextrous Maciel, who can throw in the 80s lefthanded, is a very good athlete who competed in the league's home run derby and showed some of the best raw power in Alaska. With thick, strong legs and a developed upper body, Maciel's 6-foot-2, 218-pound frame offers minimal projection. Only 19, Maciel receives rave reviews for his excellent makeup and relentless work ethic, with a coach saying he is the most mentally prepared player he's ever seen.
9. Chase Compton, 1b, Anchorage Bucs (Jr., Louisiana-Lafayette)
Compton led Louisiana-Lafayette in the slash categories as a sophomore, hitting .328/.404/.456 this spring. Compton continued hitting this summer, winning Alaska League player of the year honors with a .377/.457/.638 line. The lefthanded-hitting Compton draws praise for his ability to make consistent hard contact. "Compton is the best hitter in the league; he squared up everything," a scout said.
With a discerning eye and strong plate discipline, Compton walked as many times (17) as he struck out. Although he hit only one home run this spring, Compton swatted seven round-trippers and nine doubles this summer. Scouts believe his power was among the best in Alaska. He has a strong 6-foot-2, 210-pound build, but his well-developed body offers little to no projection.
The regular first baseman at Lafayette, Compton predominately played third due to a glut of first baseman for Anchorage. Scouts' opinions diverge on Compton's future defensive position, as some believe his bat can make his below-average-to-fringy defense at third passable. Others believe his below-average quickness, speed and arm aren't adequate for first, limiting him to DH in pro ball.
10. Jordan Mills, lhp, Peninsula (Jr., St. Mary's)
Mills, who ranked fourth on this list last year, had another strong summer, throwing 45 innings with a 3.20 ERA and 37-13 strikeout-walk mark. The 6-foot-6 lefthander's fastball sits in the upper 80s and hits 92 mph. He hides the ball well from a low-three-quarters slot, generating plus movement that coaches agreed was the best in the league. His high-70s changeup, still a weapon against righties, was his favored offspeed pitch last season, but with the help of former big league pitcher Dave Stevens, Mills' short, sharp slider emerged as a weapon against both righties and lefties. The 20-year-old has a head snap and struggles to repeat his delivery (leading to five walks per nine innings at St. Mary's), with an opposing coach describing him as "effectively wild." With narrow shoulders and wide hips, the 210-pound Mills will have to improve his conditioning and do a better job toning his body. Only an average athlete, Mills must improve his fielding, but he remains an intriguing arm with upside.