2006 Alaska League Top 10 Prospects

1. Beau Mills, 3b/1b, Alaska Goldpanners (Lewis-Clark, Idaho, State)

was down in the Alaska League this summer–one coach said he could
count the number of pitchers throwing 90 mph or better on his
hands–and against that backdrop, Mills’™ power bat stood out. Mills hit
.270 with power this summer, leading the league with seven homers and
33 RBIs. Formerly a third baseman, Mills played just DH due to a
shoulder injury and seems destined for first base, but the son of Red
Sox coach Brad Mills should have the lefthanded power bat to profile
there. He attended Fresno State the last two years and was an
All-Freshman first-teamer in 2005, but ran into academic woes in 2006
and will transfer to Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State for 2007.

2. Duke Welker, rhp, Anchorage Glacier Pilots (Arkansas)

native of Washington state who was drafted in 2004, Welker is
transferring to Arkansas from Seminole State (Okla.) JC and figures to
compete in a strong staff (Nick Schmidt, Shaun Seibert among others)
for innings. He finished fourth in the league in ERA (1.46) and has
more upside than most other league pitchers, thanks to his athletic
ability, loose arm and pitcher’s frame. At 6-foot-7, 215 pounds, he
moves well and is coordinated, though he tends to lose his arm slot and
battle his control at times. Welker’s raw stuff is solid, with a
fastball sitting in the upper 80s, touching 91-92. His breaking ball
and changeup were consistently fringe-average.

3. Mark Willinsky, rhp, Mat-Su (Santa Clara)

the second-hardest thrower in the league after Casey Weathers,
Willinsky has a big (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) frame that needs to tighten
up, but the potential is there for him to develop into a power pitcher.
He threw just 13 innings this summer, striking out 16, but the coaches
who saw him liked his fastball. It sat at 90-94 mph in a relief role,
and he spotted it consistently to both sides of the plate. Willinsky
gets good run and sink on it when he throws it in the upper 80s, and as
a starter, he’s more of a sinker-slider type, showing a decent slider
with some late tilt. His circle changeup has some sink, but he’s not
consistent enough with either secondary offering, nor did he need them
in the bullpen for Mat-Su.

4. Casey Weathers, rhp, Anchorage Glacier Pilots (Vanderbilt)

unsigned 25th-round pick of the Tigers in 2006, Weathers left the
Alaska League early to fill a vacancy on Team USA, which was coached by
his college coach, Tim Corbin. Weathers dominated the league before he
left, striking out 25 in 21 innings while giving up just six singles
(the only hits he allowed). He also threw his fastball for strikes,
even when it was pushing 95-96 mph. Weathers’ eight saves ranked second
in the league even though he left early. His slider is still fringy,
due in part to his late arrival to pitching. The converted outfielder
also stands just 6 feet tall, and one scout said Weathers’ ceiling is
probably as a setup man unless his slider improves significantly.

5. Chris Wietlispach, rhp, Mat-Su (Yale)

was as hard to hit as any Alaska League pitcher and was one of the more
lively arms in a down year for pitchers. His fastball hit anywhere from
87-92 mph, depending on the day. He needs to use his fastball more to
hone his control and build more consistent velocity, because he tends
to pitch backwards. It worked in Alaska, though, as Wietlispach struck
out 45 in 44 innings. His control also needs to improve, though, as he
walked 27. That’s particularly true of his changeup, but his changeup
and curveball both can be at least major league average pitches. His
changeup has above-average life down in the zone, and one coach
compared his curveball and overall approach to that of Reds righthander
Bronson Arroyo. While Wietlispach, as a Yalie, obviously is strong
academically, he wants to play pro ball and wants to sign.

6. Xavier Scruggs, 1b/3b, Athletes In Action (UNLV)

was one of the few power hitters in the league, finishing tied for a
distant second to Mills with three home runs. He’s well over his listed
190 pounds and needs to firm up his soft body, but he’s still a
teenager and has time to mature, and he’s a hard worker. His raw power
was evident as opposing clubs frequently paused to watch his shows in
batting practice. Scruggs has bat speed and strength and needs to
simplify his approach at the plate to bring his power to games. He has
the arm strength for third base, reaching the high 80s off the mound,
but may not be nimble enough for the position, which would move him to

7. Daniel Turpen, rhp, Mat-Su (Oregon State)

helped Oregon State win the national championship with a shutout start
against Rice (6 2/3 innings), so he arrived in Alaska late and made
just four starts. Over 25 innings, he showed enough to leave observers
confident he could step into the Beavers rotation to replace the
departed Dallas Buck and Jonah Nickerson. Turpen has a low arm angle
that’s almost sidearm and will have to be a reliever at the pro level,
but he runs his fastball up to 89-91 mph. His breaking ball tends to
flatten out due to the arm angle, but it’s a solid offering when he
stays on top of it. His changeup helps him combat lefthanded hitters
despite the low angle, and coaches love his makeup.

8. Chase d’Arnaud, 3b, Anchorage Glacier Pilots (Pepperdine)

passes the eye test for scouts, as his 6-foot-2, 200-pound body looks
professional in uniform. He also passes the test defensively, as he was
the league’s best infield defender with a strong arm and good hands.
However, coaches and scouts were given pause by his bat, which may not
produce the power required by most pro clubs at third base unless he
makes some adjustments to his approach. While d’Arnaud hit .288,
second-best on the Glacier Pilots, and stole 15 bases in 16 tries, no
one projected his bat to profile that well at the pro level, citing a
long swing.

9. Blake Stauffer, util, Athletes In Action (Texas A&M)

is the jack of all trades but has mastered none. He’s a switch-hitter
who has a good swing from both sides of the plate, and his arm strength
and athletic ability make him a natural fit for either third base or
right field. He runs well enough for center (he stole 23 of 26 bases as
well), if he’s left alone there and given time to learn reads off the
bat. Stauffer’s makeup is a plus and he plays hard wherever he’s put.
The problem for him moving on is his contact-oriented swing, which
helped him hit .292 but also precludes him from hitting for much power.
His best role at the pro level will be as a utilityman.

10. Ike Davis, of, Anchorage Bucs (Arizona State)

hit below .200 and managers said he was relatively easy to pitch to, as
he was slow to adjust to two-seam fastballs and changeups fed down and
away. A two-way player, he focused on hitting only in Alaska, so he
doesn’t rank here because of his lefthanded pitching, either. He ranks
because one scout saw  enough to bank on his lefthanded swing–good bat
speed and a little bit of natural loft that should help him produce
good power down the line. Davis clearly needs at-bats and maturity,
physical and mental, but the swing is there.