State Report: Upper Rockies

Idaho, Montana, Wyoming

***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Even in a traditionally desolate region, it's a down year in the Upper Rockies. Idaho normally leads the way for the region—and NAIA power Lewis-Clark State always leads Idaho—but it was a substandard year for talent both for the Warriors and the Gem State. Montana and Wyoming are barren.




1. Tyler Curtis, rhp, JC of Southern Idaho
2. Sean Halton, of, Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State
3. Tyler Barrett, lhp, JC of Southern Idaho
4. Kevin Hawk, c, Lewiston (Idaho) HS
5. Paul Martin, of, Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State
6. Tyler Chism, of, JC of Southern Idaho
7. Tommy Peale, rhp, Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State
8. Lionel Morrill, of, JC of Southern Idaho
9. Nico Lytle, rhp, Bishop Kelly HS, Boise
10. Zack Hull, lhp, Moscow (Idaho) HS


Bumper Crop Of Tylers

The top prospect in the region is at Southern Idaho, a junior college in Twin Falls. Righthander Tyler Curtis is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, with a loose arm and a fastball in the 89-91 mph range, touching 94. His secondary stuff still needs work, but his breaking ball improved from last year to this year. He used to throw a slower knuckle-curve and has since scrapped that grip for a traditional curveball. His arm speed improved and he got more aggressive with the pitch. Curtis will need to watch his conditioning, as he's already a slow-twitch guy—runners stole 25 bases in 29 attempts against him this season.

Teammate Tyler Barrett is just as big at 6-foot-3, 220-pound, but he's a lefthander. Barrett has been inconsistent with his fastball this spring, dipping as low as 86 mph but also running it up to 93. He was mostly a position player in high school and had minimal innings last year, so he's still raw on the mound. Consequently, his secondary stuff lags behind and he struggled with his control this season, walking 40 hitters over 76 innings. He has tightened up his breaking ball and showed flashes of an above-average changeup this spring.

Sophomore outfielder Tyler Chism led the team in hitting with a .398/.462/.633 line. He consistently hits the ball hard and is an average defender. While not a burner, he has good instincts on the bases and stole 22 bases in 25 attempts, even though a hamstring injury limited his attempts for three weeks of the season.

Freshman outfielder Lionel Morrill was a 24th-round draft pick by the Twins last year out of high school in Canada. At 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, he's athletic with some tools, but he still needs polish, typical of most young Canadian players. He struggled initially, hitting .268/.369/.455 for the Golden Eagles this year, and needs at least another year of seasoning.

It was a disappointing year for Lewis-Clark State, as the Warriors didn't have any big-time prospects and came up short in the NAIA World Series. The top guy is outfielder Sean Halton, a big-bodied left fielder who ran into a lot of balls and batted .379/.430/.754 with 18 home runs. But Halton's a typical senior slugger—he's big and stiff with a longer stride and a grooved swing and isn't a good defender. Senior righthander Tommy Peale has below-average stuff, but fills up the strike zone and could get a shot, as could senior outfielder Paul Martin. Martin pulls off the ball and is light offensively, but has the range needed to stick in center field.

The top high school player in Idaho is catcher Kevin Hawk. His parents live in Boise, where his mother Carolyn Holly is a television news anchor. But Hawk lives in Lewiston with his brother Colby, a pitcher for Lewis-Clark State. Hawk is a little undersized, but is a switch-hitter and a good defender. He is committed to Gonzaga and draws comparisons to the Zags' current backstop, Tyson Van Winkle. He's a vocal leader on the field and would step in as the everyday catcher for Gonzaga if Van Winkle leaves and Hawk honors his commitment.

Nico Lytle is a physical 6-foot-8 righthander who just hasn't put it all together yet. He doesn't have the big velocity you would expect of someone his size, but a team could take a chance on him because of his body. If not, he'll end up at Washington State.

Lefthander Zack Hull wasn't on anyone's radar coming into the season, but the 6-foot-3, 200 pounder has opened eyes this season. His fastball's a little light at 84-86 mph, but it has life and late movement and he keeps everything down while working both sides of the plate. The Lewis-Clark commit doesn't overpower hitters, but has a good feel for pitching.