2012 PGCBL Top 10 Prospects
Amsterdam swept the best-of-three Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship series against Glens Falls to capture its fifth championship in 10 years since moving to the Rug City. The Mohawks were the best team from the start of the season, winning a franchise-record 39 games. The sweep also marked head coach Keith Griffin's third league championship in four years with Amsterdam. Chandler Shepherd came out of the bullpen on three days' rest to rack up 10 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings to secure the title.
1. Chandler Shepherd, rhp, Amsterdam (So., Kentucky)
A five-sport varsity letterman at Lawrence County High, Shepherd was the top high school prospect in the state of Kentucky entering the 2011 draft. As a sophomore in 2009, the righthander tossed a state-record 46 consecutive scoreless innings, but had Tommy John surgery and missed his entire junior year. The White Sox took a flier on him in the 41st round in 2011, but Shepherd honored his school commitment and split time as a midweek starter and long reliever for the nationally ranked Wildcats. He went 3-1, 3.83 in 56 innings and burst onto the scene after shutting out No. 9 Arkansas and top-ranked Louisiana State in a pair of three-plus-inning relief outings. Shepherd has further impressed this summer—leading the league in wins (seven), ERA (1.31) and opponents' batting average (.154) while striking out 50 and walking 12 in 55 innings for the league champs. At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Shepherd has all the ingredients scouts look for in a pitcher—quality stuff, a smooth delivery, and projection. Shepherd commands a 91-93 mph fastball with running life and also mixes in an above-average breaking ball, though his changeup is a work in progress.
2. Rocky McCord, rhp, Amsterdam (So., Auburn)
A decorated prep pitcher who led Spanish Fort (Ala.) High to back-to-back 5A state titles, McCord was a 39th-round selection by the Twins in 2011 but had a strong commitment to Auburn. In his freshman year for the Tigers this past season, he appeared in 10 games—mostly out of the bullpen—and held his own in college baseball's premier conference, posting a 4.58 ERA. This summer, McCord went 4-0, 1.71 with 50 strikeouts to 16 walks in 47 innings for the league champions. He allowed just 29 hits and didn't surrender any long balls. At 6-foot, 155 pounds, McCord has an ultra-lean frame. Although he showed the stamina to pitch deep into games this summer, he must add strength in order to survive a full season's work. Managers liked his demeanor on the mound, as he worked quickly and confidently, attacking hitters from the first pitch. He has a live, whip-like arm and gets plenty of sinking movement on an 88-92 mph fastball. He also throws a slider that continues to develop well—one scout said it has plus potential. While McCord isn't a max-effort pitcher, he does have a funky delivery that makes him deceptive. Right now, he just needs to gain more consistency with his mechanics and continue to develop his changeup, which he's shown a feel for and also has above-average potential. He should get more chances to start next season for Auburn.
3. Zach Remillard, 3b, Albany (Fr., Coastal Carolina)
The way Remillard hit this summer for the Dutchmen, nobody would have known he had yet to play in a collegiate game. Selected by the Astros in the 38th round this past June out of LaSalle Institute (Troy, N.Y.), Remillard played alongside his brother, Will (a catcher), this summer and joins him at Coastal Carolina. It was Zach who stole the spotlight this summer. He was third in the league with a .369 batting average and fifth with a .539 slugging-percentage. Undersized at 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Remillard can obviously hit and also features a strong arm at the hot corner, but currently lacks the footwork and quickness needed to stick there and might be better suited for second base or a corner outfield position down the road. However, he has a great work ethic and could make the necessary improvements.
4. James Yacabonis, rhp, Elmira (Jr., St. Joseph's)
Not a stranger to Perfect Game events, Yacabonis has burst onto the prospect scene this summer thanks to increased velocity. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder pitched out of the bullpen in his first two years at St. Joseph's, getting limited innings and struggling mightily with his control. He pitched out of the bullpen this summer for Elmira, making 20 appearances and going 2-2, 3.27 with 33 strikeouts and 17 walks in 22 innings. While his control has yet to take a step forward, Yacabonis' fastball sat at 92-93 mph and bumped 95-96 at times. He'll also spin a low-70s curveball that has potential, but it doesn't fool enough hitters and is a bit loopy more often than not. There is some effort in his delivery, which leads to an inability to find the zone at times. His arm strength might get Yacabonis drafted next June if his velocity holds up and he continues to add strength.
5. Chris Cruz, of, Mohawk Valley (Jr., Cornell)
Cruz had the Ivy League program buzzing after hammering a two-run, walk-off home run in the 11th inning of the decisive game three of the league championship series, giving the Big Red its first title since 1997. Cruz also finished the spring with 12 home runs—a school record. This summer, Cruz picked up where he left off as a run producer. He tied for the league lead in home runs (eight) second slugging (.569) and finished third in RBIs (40). Also listed as a lefthanded pitcher for Cornell, Cruz has plus arm strength for a corner outfield position, though one scout thinks he's a "tweener" in that his swing and power won't translate at the next level. His bat will have to carry him as a prospect, but he is worth a follow.
6. Morgan Phillips, of, Albany (So., College of Charleston)
Selected by the Reds in the 17th round in 2011 as a shortstop out of New York City's Douglas Academy, Phillips did not see game action in his freshman year for Charleston. He has an intriguing multi-tool package, but he's still extremely raw as a righthanded hitter. He hit just .236/.303/.339 in 127 at-bats this summer and led the league with 48 strikeouts. At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Phillips has plus speed, plus arm strength and plus raw power. But he hasn't figured out how to use those quality raw tools yet. His upside is obvious, and he has at least another two years to translate them into production before entering the draft again.
7. Zach Lucas, ss, Oneonta (So., Louisville)
As a true freshman, Lucas was the starting shortstop job for the nationally
ranked Cardinals. Undrafted despite being the Gatorade Kentucky player of the year, Lucas held his own both offensively and defensively and showed considerable improvement this summer for the Outlaws. He hit .266/.331/.455 with a team-high four home runs and was also 9-for-11 in steals. He's certainly polished for his age and knows how to make adjustments against better competition. Lucas is a good athlete who handles shortstop ably at the collegiate level, but he's an average runner at best and may need to switch to third base unless he improves his first step.
8. Ben Mordini, rhp, Oneonta (Jr., Utah)
Selected by the Rockies in the 41st round in 2010 out of Cherry Creek High
(Greenwood Village, Colo.), Mordini moved into a starting role for the Utes after pitching out of the bullpen his freshman year. He struggled in eight starts, going 0-5, 10.80 with 20 strikeouts to 22 walks in 23 innings. Back in the pen this summer, Mordini's control did not take a step forward like he would have hoped, as he walked 24 in just 13 innings. But here's the kicker: he allowed just one hit (a single) to the 43 batters he faced. Mordini has a well-proportioned, 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame and attacks hitters with a solid three-pitch mix. His fastball ranges from 88-91 mph, but it's his curveball that's the difference-maker. It's a true swing-and-miss pitch, an absolute knee-buckler according to one scout, who also said his overall command is not far away. Depending on how that progresses this fall, he should get the chance to start again next spring.
9. Taylor Martin, rhp, Amsterdam (So., Kentucky)
Another young, talented Wildcat arm, Martin was selected by the Rockies in the 41st round in 2011 out of Lexington, Ky. He appeared in six games as a freshman last year, giving up one run in four innings while striking out three and walking one. This summer, Martin went 3-2, 3.71 with 49 strikeouts to 19 walks in 51 innings and was second in the league with 19 strikeouts looking. Mostly a thrower back in high school, Martin has learned quickly under UK coach Gary Henderson's tutelage. He has a great pitcher's frame at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, and has plenty of projection remaining. He's athletic and has a good idea how to set hitters up. He locates an 87-90 mph fastball very well for his age and mixes in a quality, sharp breaking ball. His biggest need right now is to just continue developing a changeup, which he's shown some feel for, but the pitch lags behind his other two offerings. He's a big-time competitor and received good marks for his makeup.
10. Ross Kivett, 2b, Glens Falls (Jr., Kansas State)
Undrafted out of St. Edward High (Lakewood, Ohio), Kivett was also a standout hockey player in his prep years and brought that same hard-nosed mentality to the diamond. He's been the Wildcats' leadoff hitter since his freshman year and started every game as a sophomore, hitting .286/.395/.375 with 25 steals in 29 tries. This summer, Kivett led the PGCBL in batting (.401), on-base percentage (.497) and steals (37-for-42), was third in slugging (.566) and fourth in runs (41). He also struck out just nine times in 174 at-bats (5.1 percent). He's a catalyst at the top of the order and flashed solid-average defensive tools and tremendous instincts. At 6-foot, 200 pounds, Kivett is maxed out physically; one manager said, "What he is now is most likely what he's going to be in five years."