Aumont Highlights Canadian Crop
first time the light went on for righthander Phillippe Aumont was at
the East Coast Showcase last August. A coach came into the clubhouse at
the showcase in Wilmington, N.C., and said it was "nice to have a
first-rounder on our team."
"I asked, who?" Aumont said.
Teammates Cam Gray and Colin Buckborough, who played with Aumont on Canada's national youth team, looked at him.
"It's not me, is it?" Aumont said. "Everyone told me I'd get drafted. I had no idea how high until that day."
Aumont's name figures to be up in lights June 7. He is the 6-foot-7 tip
of a large iceberg of hard-throwing high schoolers residing in
America's attic. No less than 11 high schoolers were clocked at 90 mph
"Unheard of," said one veteran Canadian scout. "The most I've seen in my 35 years. Usually there are three or four."
next-best prospect is righthander Kyle Lotzkar, of Tsawwassen, B.C.,
and he too is expected to go in the first two rounds. Other
high-velocity arms on Canada's west coast include Evan Hildenbrandt of
Abbotsford, Mitch Hodge of Vancouver, and Travis Nevashonoff of
Ontario's 90-plus club consists of Scarborough's
Leslie Williams, Brampton's Kyle Benoit, North York's Geoff Burke,
Buckborough of Niagara Falls, and Toronto's Gray. In Quebec, Guillaume
Leduc has hit 90 in addition to Aumont.
Aumont impressed at
Wilmington and in other showcase events last summer, and again at
Disney's Wide World of Sports in April with Team Canada. His most
impressive outing may have come in Cuba prior to last summer's World
Junior Championship, when he threw six scoreless against Cuba.
Lazaro Valle, a former Cuban star, said, "That kid is a major league pitcher. He is mucho bueno."
threw at 93-95 mph this spring. "I saw Adam Loewen and Jeff Francis
their first March outings in Florida," said one scout. "Aumont was
better than either that day."
Scouts love the fact he has a mean
streak as well. "He's as competitive as anyone as I've been around,"
said Les McTavish, former national team pitching coach.
while Aumont was on the radar last summer, Lotzkar popped up this
spring, gaining attention on his club team's Arizona trip. He pitches
for coach Doug Mathieson, who runs the Langley Blaze travel team and
whose son Scott reached the big leagues with the Phillies (but is
Lotzkar worked four scoreless, fanning
seven against Cochise (Ariz.) Junior College, and pitched three
innings, striking out three against a Mariners extended spring team.
"It's been fun," Lotzkar said. "The pressure is mounting. I appreciate the tension. I'll look back on it as an exciting time."
has heard from B.C. natives Jeff Francis, who now pitches for the
Rockies, former Rangers closer Jeff Zimmerman and Mariners farmhand
"Watching Loewen and Francis get drafted motivated me; it helped put B.C. on the map," Lotzkar said.
said he has heard from scouts with nearly every major league team. "The
scout from Oakland said they haven't been up here in three years,"
In addition to a strong crop of talent, the good
news for Canucks is that they no longer need the type of work visa that
had been scarce in recent years, so that will not deter teams from
selecting Canadian players.
The bad news is that clubs will no
longer have 50 weeks to look at draft-and-follows with the new signing
deadline of Aug. 15. Athletics righthander Rich Harden and Dodgers
catcher Russell Martin are two recent examples of prominent Canadian
draft-and-follows who eventually signed out of American junior colleges.
"It's really going to hurt," said one scout. "Scouts liked to draft Canadians and then keep an eye on them at a junior college."—BOB ELLIOTT