2012 Valley League Top 10 Prospects
Harrisonburg beat Winchester three games to one in the best-of-five championship series to capture its 12th Lineweaver Cup—its first since 2000. The Turks won the final game 5-3, erasing an early 2-0 deficit with a two-run homer from Ryan Lee and taking the lead for good an inning later. Shawn O'Neill (La Salle) pitched into the sixth to earn the win, and Chris Pike (Fordham) allowed just two hits over 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief while striking out five to pick up the save.
Harrisonburg and Winchester were two of the Valley's three best teams during the regular season, as Winchester won the North Division with a 36-16 record, while Harrisonburg finished second in the South at 34-18, just behind Waynesboro (34-15).
1. Chad Kuhl, rhp, New Market, (Jr., Delaware)
Kuhl showed average to above-average velocity this summer with his four-seam fastball, working in the 90-93 range. His fastball is sometimes flat and straight, and he'll need to improve that pitch to enhance his draft potential next June. Kuhl employs a short, quick delivery and a three-quarters slot. His second pitch is a 79-82 curve with late 11-to-5 break. He also shows an 82-84 changeup with below-average depth. Kuhl's control for New Market was greatly improved over his spring season for Delaware, when he went 5-5, 4.42 with 64 strikeouts and 36 walks in 77 innings. In 41 Valley innings, he went 4-0, 1.11 with 39 strikeouts and 17 walks, holding hitters to a .167 average.
2. Jake McWhirter, lhp, Front Royal (Jr., Tennessee Tech)
After going 0-4, 13.19 during a spring season to forget at Tennessee Tech, McWhirter had success as a relief pitcher in Valley competition. In 42 innings over 21 appearances, he went 2-4, 2.57 with 59 strikeouts and 15 walks, holding hitters to a .216 average. Thrown from a high three-quarters slot, his fastball sits in the 88-91 range with two-plane sinking action. He also has very good feel for a 77-81 changeup, helping him keep hitters off balance. He needs to be more consistent in repeating his delivery, but he has an ideal pitcher's frame at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds.
3. Julian Ridings, of, Waynesboro (Jr., Western Carolina)
Ridings blossomed into a quality everyday player for the Catamounts this spring, hitting .331/.353/.450 with 12 stolen bases. He built on that momentum this summer, leading the Valley with a .419 average and ranking in the league's top four in on-base percentage (.454), slugging (.657), runs (45), hits (72), stolen bases (15) and triples (three). A 6-foot-1, 170-pound lefthanded hitter, Ridings hit seven home runs this summer, but he projects as more of a gap-to-gap hitter than a slugger. He excels at putting the ball in play and making use of his solid speed. He'll need to become more patient in order to become a table-setter at the next level (he posted a 5-27 BB-K mark this summer). He bunts often and hit into only one double play in 332 at-bats over his spring and summer seasons. He has good range in center field.
4. Janson Carr, rhp, Winchester (Jr., Southern Arkansas)
Carr had an uneven season for the Division II Muleriders this spring, splitting time between starting and relieving and going 5-3, 4.79 with 45 strikeouts and 16 walks in 68 innings. He turned a corner as a starter in the Valley League, going 6-2, 3.00 with a sterling 69-8 strikeout-walk mark in 60 innings. His four-seam fastball is an average offering in the 87-92 range, and he throws it with minimal effort from a mid-three-quarters slot. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder excelled at painting the corners this summer, and his extension makes his fastball appear to have more velocity. His second pitch is a decent 79-80 slider, and he mixes in a 74-76 curve with 11-to-5 action. Both offspeed pitches could use more bite.
5. Jimmy Yezzo, if, Winchester (Jr., Delaware)
Yezzo hit .200 as a reserve during his freshman year in 2011, then broke out as a sophomore at Delaware, hitting .358/.401/.567 with eight homers and 46 RBIs. He built on that momentum by lighting up the Valley League, leading the circuit in home runs (16), RBIs (62), doubles (21) and hits (79). He finished with a .362/.401/.679 slash line. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Yezzo has a short, uncomplicated swing from the left side. He stands upright and hits with a slightly open stance. His hands are above the shoulder and he'll drive pitches to the left side of the field if the ball is on the outside third of the plate. A below-average runner, he projects as a corner infielder, and he might have enough power and hitting ability to mash his way through pro ball.
6. Trey Cochran-Gill, rhp, Harrisonburg (So., Auburn)
Cochran-Gill is still a work in progress, but he has the athleticism and stuff to carve out a future in pro ball. An all-state defensive back at Tallassee (Ala.) High, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Cochran-Gill arrived at Auburn as a two-way talent but worked exclusively as a pitcher during his freshman year, going 5-2, 3.67 in a swing role. He was solid as a starter in the Valley, going 6-0, 3.62 with 48 strikeouts and 31 walks in 60 innings. Pitching from a three-quarters slot, his arm is loose and quick. He showed average-to-plus fastball velocity in the 90-94 range, though he drops his front shoulder and overthrows at times, making the pitch flatten out. He throws a 79-80 slider with sharp break away from righthanded hitters, and he has some feel for a changeup. Cochran-Gill's three-pitch mix could make him an effective starter for Auburn, but he profiles as a reliever in pro ball because of his size and lack of premium stuff.
7. Josh Bullock, rhp, Waynesboro (Jr., Nebraska-Omaha)
Bullock's summer in the Valley was a total reversal of his spring season, when he went 0-4, 6.12 for a Mavericks program competing in Division I for the first time. He worked only in relief for the Generals, racking up a league-leading 10 saves while posting a 1.64 ERA and a sparkling 29-5 strikeout-walk mark in 22 innings. His prime offering is an 86-90 fastball thrown from a low three-quarters slot. His lanky 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame and funky delivery make the ball difficult to see, and his fastball has above-average movement. Bullock's go-to secondary pitch is a sharp 77-79 curve that breaks down and away from righthanded hitters. He works quickly from his set position, rushing hitters to get set in the box.
8. Seth Lucio, rhp, Waynesboro (So., Tennessee Tech)
At 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, Lucio has a smallish build but a very quick arm. His feature pitch is a 90-93 mph fastball that runs in on righthanded hitters. His second offering is a 79-80 slider that needs tightening, and he sometimes leaves it up in the zone. After going 3-2, 6.84 in 49 innings as a freshman this spring, Lucio posted much better numbers in the Valley. He finished fifth in the Valley with 56 strikeouts while issuing 18 walks in 52 innings. His WHIP dropped from 1.85 this spring to 1.34 this summer, and his ERA fell to 3.27. He also proved that he can hold down a starting job, though his size almost certainly tickets him for a bullpen role at the next level.
9. Shay Maltese, rhp, Haymarket (Sr., Cal State Stanislaus)
After a mediocre spring at D-II Cal State Stanislaus, Maltese was simply dominant in relief for Haymarket. In 20 innings over 14 appearances, he went 2-1, 0.44 with five saves and a 40-6 strikeout-walk mark. Pitching from a mid-three-quarters slot, Maltese attacks the zone with a 90-93 mph fastball with late life. His second pitch is an 81-83 slider with sharp, late break away from righties. He repeats his simple delivery well and has a smooth arm action. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has good makeup for the closer role, maintaining his composure and focus in pressure situations.
10. Leo Rojas, 2b, Winchester (So., Alabama State)
The 5-foot-7, 155-pound Rojas is built in the same mold as Virginia alumnus Keith Werman, a 5-7, 150-pound infielder who signed as a free agent with Seattle after the 2012 college season. The differences are that Werman bats lefthanded and played at national power Virginia, while Rojas bats righthanded and plays against weaker competition in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The other difference is that Rojas is stronger than Werman; Rojas has already worked plenty in the weight room and hit seven homers and 14 doubles in 213 at-bats this summer. He handled the bat well for Winchester, hitting .357 and leading the Valley with 59 runs, while ranking second with 76 hits. He's more quick than speedy but is still an average runner down the line. Defensively, he sometimes loses concentration and tries to make the flashy play, but that tendency should go away as he matures. His slick infield actions and surprising strength at the plate give him a chance to play pro ball, though he'll have to prove himself at every level because of his size.