State Report: Oregon

Rise of state's flagship colleges improves talent production






See also: Baseball America's Complete 2010 Draft Map


THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Baseball remains on the rise in Oregon, thanks to the huge strides made by the state's two major-college programs. Oregon State is making its fifth regional appearance in the last six years, a run that also happens to include three straight trips to Omaha (2005-07) and back-to-back national titles in 2006 and '07. Oregon has also made swift progress since the return of its baseball program last season, reaching regionals this year for the first time since 1964.

Yet this spring was a bit disappointing for scouts in terms of draft talent. Most players didn't perform up to expectations, and few improved their draft stock, so teams may have difficult decisions on where to select them. The college players still dominate the talent list, however, and most of the top high school and junior college players will probably head to four-year colleges rather than pro ball.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Greg Peavey, rhp, Oregon State (National Rank: 152)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

2. Kraig Sitton, lhp, Oregon State
3. Justin LaTempa, rhp, Oregon
4. Josh Osich, lhp, Oregon State
5. Kevin Rhoderick, rhp, Oregon State
6. Ben Wetzler, lhp, Clackamas HS
7. Brandon Drury, 3b, Grants Pass HS
8. Taylor Ard, 1b, Mount Hood CC
9. Drew Gagnier, rhp, Oregon
10. Tyler Waldron, rhp, Oregon State
11. Zach Thornton, rhp, Oregon
12. Stefen Romero, 3b, Oregon State
13. Ian Kendall, rhp, Ashland HS
14. Tanner Robles, lhp, Oregon State
15. Zach Varce, rhp, Portland
16. Zach Nice, rhp, La Grande HS
17. James Nygren, rhp, Oregon State
18. Eddie Rodriguez, c, Oregon
19. Blake Keitzman, lhp, Western Oregon
20. Matt Maurer, lhp, North Medford HS
21. Jacob Pettit, lhp, Western Oregon
22. Garrett Nash, 2b, Oregon State
23. Taylor Starr, rhp, Oregon State

SCOUTING REPORTS

Greg Peavey, rhp
Oregon State

Peavey has been on the prospect radar for a long time. He played in the 2000 Little League World Series, hit 90 mph as a 14-year-old and was a member of Team USA's 16U team in 2004 and the 18U team in 2006. He was a Top 200 talent coming out of Hudson's Bay High in Vancouver, Wash., in 2007, but fell to the Yankees in the 24th round due to signability. Last year, as a draft-eligible sophomore, he went in the 32nd round to the Astros. While many of Oregon State's pitchers have spun their wheels this spring, Peavey has been the most consistent. His fastball sits in the 88-92 mph range and touches 93. He has a slider that at times shows hard, two-plane break, though it can flatten out. He doesn't throw many changeups. Peavey gets ahead of batters and struggles to put them away and gives up a lot of two-strike hits. He doesn't have a lot of deception, often leaves the ball up in the zone and struggles throwing his fastball for strikes in on righthanders. Teams that like him project him as a mid-rotation starter, but teams that don't see him as a sixth- or seventh-inning reliever. He is a Boras Corp. client, but shouldn't be a particularly tough sign this time around.

Beavers Step Back

The Oregon State pitching staff was supposed to be the highlight of the Northwest this year. Scouts joked about renting houses in Corvallis because they expected to spend much of their spring watching the Beavers. When lefthander Josh Osich had Tommy John surgery in January, though, it served as a bad omen for the season. Osich doesn't have a long track record of success, though he has shown flashes of brilliance. He was up to 97 mph last summer and could have been a first-rounder this year if healthy. Oregon State is expecting him back next year, but a team may take a gamble on his powerful lefthanded arm and try to buy him away from that idea.

Virtually all of the Beavers pitchers took a step back this season. Some scouts felt the staff almost had too much talent, allowing head coach Pat Casey to keep them on a short leash. Once the pitchers lost his trust, their appearances could become few and far between.

Such was the case with righthander Kevin Rhoderick, who entered the season as Baseball America's second-team Preseason All-America relief pitcher, as voted on by scouting directors. Rhoderick put up better numbers than last year, with a 2.93 ERA in 22 appearances covering 31 innings, but could not hold down the closer's job, compiling a career-low four saves. Some days he would pitch two or three innings of relief, while on others he would come in and pitch to one batter. Rhoderick sat in the 89-91 mph range most of the year, touching 93, though his fastball sometimes flattened out. His slider is an above-average pitch, and his changeup can get swings and misses even when it bounces three feet in front of the plate because it looks like his fastball coming out of his hand. On talent alone, Rhoderick could be a Top 200 player, but he's stubborn on the mound and has failed to make adjustments. He always tries to rear back and throw as hard as he can, disregarding finesse and attention to the running game.

Some scouts still see projection and starter potential in lefthander Kraig Sitton, a 17th-round pick of the Red Sox last year. He has an ideal frame at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds and could be the first Oregon State pitcher off the board, though there's no real consensus in that regard. Sitton has shown the same stuff he had last year: an 88-91 mph fastball and an average slider. Even if a team believes he'll ultimately be a lefthander out of the bullpen, he'll likely begin his professional career as a starter. He has a fresh arm and has thrown just 77 innings in his college career.

Lefthander Tanner Robles sat at 87-91 mph this year with heavy life. His changeup showed flashes of being an average pitch, though sometimes he pushed it and couldn't spot it for strikes. His curveball is better than it was in high school but remains inconsistent. He doesn't show the same athleticism that he had in high school, and scouts don't like his violent mechanics. His delivery is stiff with a lot of effort, and he always seemed prone to the big inning. Robles has a strong frame at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. He's competitive, but sometimes shows his emotions too much on the mound.

Righthander Tyler Waldron went from the Beavers' Friday starter to the bullpen by the end of the season. A 6-foot-2, 205-pound transfer from Pacific, Waldron has good stuff—sitting at 90-92 and spiking 95 every now and then—but he doesn't have much deception. Hitters see his stuff well, and he struggles to put them away. Waldron has tinkered with a slider but more on a curveball as his breaking pitch. He also needs to take a few ticks off his changeup. Waldron is an enigma to scouts and could go anywhere from the fifth to the 15th round.

Oregon State's best position player is third baseman Stephen Romero, and he could be the first Northwest college position player off the board. Romero doesn't have the athleticism to stay at third base, but he does have power and a good eye at the plate and was batting .326/.427/.603 this year with 13 home runs. Romero should be selected between the seventh and 10th round.

Second baseman Garrett Nash is in the second year of his Mormon mission and is draft-eligible, but it's unlikely a team will take a chance on him without seeing him back on the field.

Oregon's best draft-eligible pitcher is redshirt senior Justin LaTempa. LaTempa is a 6-foot-5, 210-pounder who will often pitch around 90-92 mph at the beginning of a game, getting to 92-94 mph in the second inning and 95-96 by the third. Scouts in California, where he went to high school and junior college, have even seen him up to 98 mph in the past. He typically sits at 91-93 mph with sink, and his cutter has turned into an 87 mph slider. His changeup shows promise in the bullpen, but he rarely uses it in games. Scouts aren't in love with his stiff arm action, but pitching coach Andrew Checketts has done a good job at smoothing his mechanics out. The biggest issues with LaTempa are his age (23) and his history of shoulder problems. Scouts see him as a reliever in pro ball.

Righthander Zack Thornton is a 6-foot-4, 210 pound senior who wears size 17 shoes and has a funky, low three-quarters arm action. Early in the year his sinking fastball sat around 90-93 mph, though later he was more 86-88. He has the best changeup and command on the Oregon staff, but his breaking ball is nothing special. Righthander Drew Gagnier is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound redshirt junior with an over-the-top delivery. His brother L.J. is a prospect in the Tigers system. Some days his fastball is 92-94 mph, while on others it's 89-91. When his curveball is on, it's a real downer pitch around 80 mph that some scouts call a splitter. He was a little tough for scouts to see this year because he was strictly used as a closer and threw just 20 innings. Both Thornton and Gagnier should go in the eighth- to 12th-round range, and both profile best as relievers.

Senior catcher Eddie Rodriguez consistently gets the bat on the ball and is a good receiver but had to work through a case of the yips this spring. He runs well for a catcher and has an average arm.

Portland righthander Zach Varce carved up the Northwoods League last summer, going 3-5, 1.93 with a league-leading 105 strikeouts and just 20 walks over 75 innings. The success carried over early in the spring with Portland, but by the end of the year he was gassed. He pitched at 90-92 mph, touching 93, at his best, but later in the year he had starts when he didn't touch 90. He's 6 feet and 190 pounds, so scouts believe his future is as a middle reliever. At his best his slider can be an above-average pitch, but not when it's down to 74 mph as it was later in the year. Scouts hope putting him in the bullpen will help him get the most out of his arm.

At smaller schools, lefthander Blake Keitzman was a 15th-round draft pick by the Mariners last year Keitzman after his velocity jumped from 84-85 to 87-90
mph, even though he was pitching on a sore knee. He chose to return to Division-II Western Oregon and held the 87-90 mph velocity all year. He also throws a slider and a changeup, and he can command all three pitches. Keitzman can vary his delivery between three different arm slots.

Another lefthander at Western Oregon could get a shot, too, after coming into the season as an unknown. Senior Jacob Pettit is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds and sat 87-89 mph this year and showed a better feel for his slider.

The state's only notable junior-college prospect is an interesting player. Mount Hood CC first baseman Taylor Ard hit .496/.581/.848 with wood last year and was the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges player of the year, but he didn't get drafted. Then he went out and batted .387/.489/.595 in 111 at-bats in the West Coast Collegiate League, winning the league batting title and ranking as the league's No. 3 prospect. He played for the Corvallis club in the West Coast League and then committed to Oregon State, but he decided not to enroll and returned to Mount Hood. He got just six at-bats this spring after breaking the hamate bone in his left wrist during preseason batting practice. Ard's raw power is his calling card, grading out as well-above-average for some scouts. Some said a few balls he hit last summer traveled nearly 500 feet. His overall hitting rates as fringe-average. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Ard has a baby face and is still maturing. A team that liked him last summer could try to make up for last year and sign him away from Washington State, his new commitment.

Oregon Prepsters Could Be Tough Signs

The best high school player in Oregon is projectable lefthander Ben Wetzler. He's 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds and has touched 90 mph this year, with an average changeup and both a slider and curveball. His talent would merit a selection in the fifth or sixth round, but he's considered a tough sign away from Oregon State and could slide.

The best high school position player is Brandon Drury, a baseball rat who has a strong, athletic 6-foot-2 build. He keeps his hands back at the plate, shows bat speed and gets good backspin on balls. While he was a high school shortstop, he has below-average speed and will have to move to third base or the outfield as a pro. He has also committed to Oregon State, but scouts believe he is more motivated to play professionally.

Righthander Zach Nice has touched 90 mph, but both his parents are educators and he is considered a tough sign away from Portland. Lefthander Matt Maurer pitched in the state championship game as a freshman but hasn't quite lived up to the early expectations. He knows how to pitch and mixes his slider and changeup in well. His fastball is a bit short now, but he could add velocity when he gives up football and basketball to focus on pitching year-round. Maurer is committed to Pepperdine.