State Reports: Canada




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Baseball Canada has built a strong organization as the national governing body of the sport. Canada qualified for the 2004 Olympics and qualified again in 2008, building pro national teams on the foundation of a strong amateur organization.

The top Canadian players eligible for the draft tour the U.S. and Latin America in the spring with a junior national team, playing against college teams and extended spring-training clubs, gaining valuable experience and exposure. The tour helped boost the stock of 2007 first-rounder Phillippe Aumont and second-rounder Kyle Lotzkar, and it should help vault British Columbia's Brett Lawrie into the first round this year. Lawrie ranked 37th on our Top 200 list but was on the rise as the draft approached, thanks to a devastating hitting display in the Dominican Republic in May. He heads up one of the better groups of Canadian hitters in years, and he's an anomaly in Canadian hitting history as a righthanded bat.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Brett Lawrie, IF/C, Brookswood SS, Langley, B.C. (National Rank: 37)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

2. Stosh Wawrzasek, rhp, Walnut Grove SS, Langley, B.C.
3. Carter Morrison, of, Clayton Heights SS, Surrey, B.C.
4. Michael Crouse, of, Centennial SS, Port Moody, B.C.
5. Lionel Morrill, of, Vauxhall Academy of Baseball, Edmonton
6. Marcus Knecht, of, St. Michaels College, Toronto
7. Carter Bell, ss/3b, Vanier SS, Courtenay, B.C.
8. Brad Furdal, rhp, Ancaster (Ontario) HS
9. Robert Hogue, lhp, Prairie Baseball Academy, Edmonton
10. David Walking, rhp, Wellington SS, Nanaimo, B.C.
11. Luke Wilson, of/1b, St. Thomas More Catholic SS, Hamilton, Ont.
12. Ivan Hartle, ss, Balmoral SS, North Vancouver, B.C.
13. Francois LaFreniere, rhp, Ahuntsic College SS, St. Bruno, Quebec
14. Jesse Sawyer, 3b, Prairie Baseball Academy, Edmonton
15. Ashton Florko, lhp, U. of British Columbia

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Brett Lawrie, IF/C, Brookswood SS, Langley, B.C. (National Rank: 37)

Scouts debate whether Lawrie is the best Canadian hitting prospect since Justin Morneau or Larry Walker, but he's definitely created buzz in a draft relatively short on high school bats, drawing some comparisons to Craig Biggio. If he had a more defined position, he would be a cinch first-round pick. Signed by Arizona State, Lawrie has too much present hitting ability to wind up in college. One scout compared him to Marlins slugger Dan Uggla for his strength, power and muscular, mature build, and several scouts have graded Lawrie's power as above-average if not 70 on the 20-80 scale. He's not just strong but also has a keen eye, offensive instincts, aggressiveness and quick wrists that drive the bat through the hitting zone. On a spring trip with his Canadian travel teams (Langley, B.C., Blaze and the Canadian junior national team), Lawrie went 21-for-30 against extended spring training and college teams, including 14 extra-base hits. He hit doubles off Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar in a game against the Royals' extended spring team. Several scouts summed up his offensive approach by describing him as "fearless." He's also athletic with above-average speed (6.75 seconds in the 60). Defense is Lawrie's shortcoming; he plays infield and catcher and also has seen time in the outfield, where one scout described him as "disinterested." He's shown the tools to catch, as he's built for the position at 6 feet and 200 pounds, and he has an average arm at the least. However, his bat might be too advanced for him to take the time to learn such a valuable defensive position, and some scouts doubt that he'd have the temperament to handle it anyway.

Toolsy Hitters Add Intrigue

Of late, Canada has been notable for producing highly drafted pitchers such as the Phillippe Aumont, Kyle Lotzkar, Jeff Francis and Adam Loewen. This year's draft class is stronger with hitters, starting with Brett Lawrie but also including toolsy outfielders Carter Morrison, Michael Crouse, Lionel Morrill and Marcus Knecht.

Morrison was moving up draft lists as he continued to show more present power with wood bats than any of his countrymen. He earned a spot on the junior national trials roster that went through Florida and the Dominican Republic and impressed scouts back in British Columbia this spring, hitting seven homers with wood bats. He runs and throws well enough to be drafted now, and his simple, low-maintenance swing should help him hold up in pro ball. He'd be a safer pick in the old draft-and-follow system, but his present hitting potential pushes him up the draft list.

Crouse and Morrill both have been described as potential five-tool players, if their bats develop. It's a dangerous profile but both players intrigue scouts. Morrill plays at the Vauxhall Academy in Alberta, in a town known as "the potato capital of the West" in Canada. Scouts have found their way there because Morrill, at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, has a pro body, 6.6-second speed in the 60 and at least an average arm, if not more. His loose, athletic frame glides to balls in center field and he projects as an above-average defender with experience. He has raw power offensively but a raw approach and hasn't seen much quality pitching yet. He's committed to play at the College of Southern Idaho.

Crouse, whose father Ray played in the NFL and the Canadian Football League, resembles Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young physically but lacks premium bat speed. He has made dramatic strides offensively since last year, showing improved power. A long strider, he's an average runner who is faster under way and should have the range to stay in center field, at least in the short term. His average arm could play in the corners if his bat improves enough for him to fit there.

Knecht ranks behind his outfield peers in tools but has more present hitting ability. He has excellent hands and strength in his swing, and should hit for more power with wood as he learns to use his lower half in his swing and not rely on his hands. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, he's already solid and should get stronger. A below-average runner, he fits better in left field or possibly first base.

Fellow Ontario native Luke Wilson is a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end recruit who's committed to Rice. He has a chance to help the Owls' outstanding baseball program as well as a slugging first baseman/outfielder, and he's shown distinct improvement in the last year with the junior team. He has tremendous raw power and a desire to play baseball.

Another Canadian heading to an American four-year college, infielder Carter Bell committed to Oregon State and has a chance to step right into the Beavers' lineup next year. A shortstop in high school, he has the body control and athletic ability to play the position in college. His 7.0-second speed in the 60 and below-average range likely make a move to third a necessity for pro ball, and his bat is light for the draft at a corner spot. He has a nice compact swing, however, and a decent feel for hitting.

No Aumont Or Lotzkar On Mound

Likely to be the second Canadian picked this year (not counting Canadians at U.S. colleges), righthander Stosh Wawrzasek elicited split opinions from scouts. He's the best amateur pitcher in Canada, with two solid-average pitches in a 90-92 mph fastball and slurvy breaking ball that he can throw for strikes. He'll have to improve his breaking ball to make it a strikeout pitch in pro ball. He's committed to Florida International and would fit in immediately there as a freshman thanks to his excellent mound presence and poise. Wawrzasek competes and has a durable frame at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, though he lacks projection. He pitched well in late April in front of scouts and crosscheckers in British Columbia with his club team, the Langley Blaze (Lawrie and Morrison are among his teammates), and could draw interest in the sixth- to 10th-round range.

In contrast to Wawrzasek, righty Brad Furdal has a projectable 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame and could improve his velocity and the power on his breaking ball by adding strength. He's shown the ability to spin a breaking ball and has a loose arm. His fastball reaches the upper 80s presently. He's committed to High Point, though that could change after the resignation of Panthers coach Sal Bando.

Two other Canadian pitchers to note: righthander David Walking shows present velocity, hitting 91 mph at times, but was more consistent in 2007 than he'd been in 2008; and Quebec righty Francois LaFreniere, a 17-year-old with a clean arm, pitcher's body and below-average present fastball. His curveball has shown more potential.

The top junior college player in Canada, lefthander Robert Hogue, pitches at Prairie Baseball Academy, which requires its players to take classes at Lethbridge (Alberta) CC, though LCC does not have a baseball team. Hogue sits at 86-89 mph with his fastball when he's right and has shown a true curveball in the 74-76 mph range. Teams that like him could take him after the 15th round. Teammate Jesse Sawyer has average speed and some feel for hitting and fits better as a Division I recruit. He's committed to South Dakota State.