2018 Alaska Baseball League Top Prospects
Postseason Recap: There is a dynasty brewing in Palmer, Alaska, as the Mat-Su Miners won their third straight Alaska Baseball League championship, sweeping the Anchorage Bucs in the best-of-three “Top of The World Series”. After sneaking out a 1-0 victory in the first game of the series behind a dominant performance from starter Asa Lacy (Texas A&M) and a fourth-inning home run from slugger Spencer Henson (Oral Roberts), the Miners left no doubt in Game 2, racing to a 5-0 lead after the first inning and cruising to a 7-1 victory. The championship was also the third straight for Miners head coach Ben Taylor, whose team has made Palmer a very difficult place to play.
1. Asa Lacy, LHP, Mat-Su, (So., Texas A&M)
The pipeline from College Station to Palmer continues to pay dividends for the Miners, as Lacy was a unanimous choice among scouts and coaches for the top spot. Used primarily as a reliever for the Aggies, Lacy figures to find a spot in the weekend rotation next season thanks to a riding fastball that sits 93-94 mph and plus secondary offerings. Lacy hangs his hat on his ability to command his fastball, curveball and changeup and consistently threw all three pitches for strikes. His changeup is his best offspeed pitch and his ability to mix his fastball and his changeup in any count allowed him to strike out 47 hitters in just 33.2 innings this summer. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, there is some projectability left in his frame, and some felt he can still add some velocity down the road, but most coaches felt he was plenty physical already. His delivery is easy, clean and repeatable, and he already has a strong feel for pitching despite limited collegiate experience. He is still a little bit erratic with his fastball command but more than one evaluator said that once he tightened up that command, he had the potential to be a first-round draft pick when he is eligible in 2020.
2. Bryce Tassin, RHP, Mat-Su, (R-Jr., Southeastern Louisiana)
Last year, it was then-Lions’ closer Josh Green who made this list after dominating ABL hitters. This summer, it was Tassin’s turn to represent Southeastern Louisiana, and he did exactly that. Tassin’s best weapon is his heavy fastball, which sits 92-94 mph but was regularly touching 96 mph by the end of the summer. But he also has a changeup that has plus potential down the road and a curveball that some coaches actually liked better than the changeup. Despite a three-pitch mix, a simple delivery and a solid 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame, Tassin profiles best at the back end of a bullpen because of his mentality. He is not afraid to challenge hitters, and he throws so many strikes that some coaches thought he could be more effective if he kept his fastball off the plate more. He dominated the ABL this summer, allowing two earned runs in his first appearance of the summer and then blanking opponents for the rest of the season, saving 10 games and striking out 26 hitters in 22 innings along the way. He still needs to learn to pitch off his breaking ball more and he doesn’t have the same ceiling as some of pitchers below him, but there is little doubt he can be effective at the pro level.
3. Tevin Murray, LHP, Peninsula, Rutgers (Jr., Rutgers)
Standing 6-foot-6, Murray strikes an imposing figure on the mound and thanks to impressive arm speed and sharp slider, his repertoire can be pretty imposing, as well. Murray was among the league leaders in strikeouts this summer, piling up 48 in just 33.2 innings pitched. While the Oilers used him almost exclusively as a starter, most expect him to transition to bullpen at the next level because of his max-effort delivery and two-pitch mix. The fastball will carry Murray at the next level. It was 91-93 mph this summer, but almost everyone agreed that his arm speed and size indicated there is easy potential to add velocity down the road. He also is able to both cut and run his fastball depending on the hitter. Command is the biggest question with Murray as he walked 21 hitters this summer and his slider can get flat when he isn’t on his game, but his physicality and arm speed project well to the pro game.
4. Ian Churchill, LHP, Mat-Su, (So., Santa Barbara City College)
Just a rising sophomore at SBCC, Churchill earned a Shawn Estes comparison from one coach who was impressed with his polish and offspeed pitches. With a fastball that sits 89-91 mph, Churchill isn’t going to overpower opposing hitters. But he can command all three of his offerings for strikes and mixes them well to keep hitters off balance. Churchill struck out 44 batters in 40.2 innings pitched this summer but perhaps his most impressive stat was that he walked just nine hitters, best in the league for someone with his workload. There is still room to grow into his 6-foot-2 and 190-pound frame, so he may add some velocity down the road, but his feel for pitching and ability to generate swings and misses without electric stuff is what impressed evaluators the most. He will spend another season at Santa Barbara City College but Miners’ coach Ben Taylor said Churchill was seeing interest from Division-I programs across the country after his coming-out party this summer.
5. Spencer Henson, 1B, Mat-Su, (Oral Roberts, Jr.)
After nearly making this list last summer as a pitcher, Henson broke out with the bat in the fall, winning the Triple Crown for the Summit League, and now he is viewed primarily as an offensive prospect. The lazy assumption is to see Henson’s 6-foot-2 and 240-pound frame and assume that he is just another bad-bodied first baseman. But scouts and coaches agreed that he is surprisingly athletic for a player his size, which is why he ranks so highly on this list. Make no mistake, his bat will be what helps him advance as a pro. He has plus raw power, incredible bat speed, a great understanding of the strike zone and great bat control that allows him to spray the ball to all fields with authority. He led the circuit in home runs (7) and was generally considered the toughest out in the league. Most think he will be a first baseman at the next level, but Taylor mentioned that he could play some third base in a pinch and other coaches said they would give him a shot to play a corner outfield spot because of that athleticism and arm strength. He will need to watch his body and try to stay athletic so he doesn’t become a bat-only prospect, but his future is bright.
6. Jared Reklaitis, RHP, Chugiak, Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Sr.)
Reklaitis led the circuit in strikeouts this summer with 53, and he was also a workhorse for the Chinooks, throwing more than 60 innings and finishing with a 2.67 ERA. Somewhat of an under-the-radar prospect thanks to the fact that he plays his college ball in Wisconsin, Reklaitis is a physical (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) pitcher with a fastball that sits 90-92 mph, a decent slider and an improving changeup. He is more advanced than most of the pitchers in the league and understands how to work opposing hitters and command all three pitches. Most coaches thought he was maxed out physically, so he doesn’t have a ton of projectability, but considering all three pitches are considered average or better, he should get a shot at the next level. He does struggle with walks and his fastball is hittable when he isn’t commanding it and he doesn’t have the same ceiling as some of the pitchers ahead of him. But most agreed that he deserved a shot in pro ball.
7. Jonathan Guardado, RHP, Mat-Su, Arizona (So.)
A former football prospect and a catcher in high school, Guardado is still relatively new to pitching, but based on his summer numbers, he is starting to get the hang of it. The rising sophomore struck out 34 hitters in 44 innings and showed impressive command for someone still learning the position. His secondary pitches lag well behind his fastball, which is common for developing pitchers, but he has the arm strength (90-93 mph fastball) and the size (6-foot-3 and 200 pounds) to develop into a consistent starter at the next level. Some thought his ceiling was as high as any pitcher in the league outside of Lacy and his athleticism allows him to repeat his delivery with some consistency. His offspeed pitches will need to get better if he is going to get hitters out at the pro level, but he has plenty of time to make those improvements.
8. J.C. Correa, 2B/3B, Anchorage, Lamar (Jr.)
The younger brother of Astros’ star Carlos Correa, J.C. is developing into an impressive prospect in his own right. His best tool is definitely his bat. He has incredible feel for the barrel, an advanced understanding of the strike zone and a willingness to drive the ball the other way. Coaches remarked that he was more difficult to get out as the season progressed and they were impressed with his in-game adjustments at the plate. He doesn’t have a lot of power, but he can go gap-to-gap with ease and has the ability to add more pop down the road. The questions start with his body and his defense. He doesn’t have a “bad” body per se, but most coaches called it “soft” and said he would be wise to add muscle tone and bulk as he continues his career. There was also plenty of disagreement on where he profiles best defensively. Some thought he could handle third base if he improves his body and range while others thought he would be locked at second base and is just average at that position. Scouts will be keen to watch how he plays now that he is finally at the Division 1 level, and if he can improve his body and his defense, his bat will definitely play as a pro.
9. Adam Seminaris, LHP, Anchorage, Long Beach State (So.)
What Seminaris lacks in projectability (6-foot, 180 pounds) and velocity (fastball was 86-88 mph all summer), he makes up for in polish and pitching IQ. He only struck out 35 hitters in 47 innings for the Bucs this summer, but he also led the circuit in ERA (0.38) and allowed just three earned runs across seven starts. He has a smooth and easy delivery from the left side, which is part of the reason why he is able to throw so many strikes. His strike-throwing is what helped him stand out this summer but many coaches were impressed with his feel for his curveball and really liked that he had the confidence to throw his changeup to both righthanded and lefthanded hitters in any count. His fastball has good sink and even though his arm speed is a tad slow, the ball comes out late, making it deceptive to opposing hitters. If coaches were picking a pitcher to go through a lineup today, Seminaris would rank up there with anyone else in the league. His relatively low ceiling is what keeps him from being ranked higher on this list.
10. Drew Swift, SS, Mat-Su, Arizona State (So.)
Swift is a somewhat controversial inclusion on this list because evaluators are split on whether he will ever be able to hit. After slashing .201/.321/.535 in 54 starts with the Sun Devils as a freshman, Swift hit just .207/.275/.522 with the Miners this summer. However, there is a reason he started almost every game for Arizona State and then again this summer for Mat-Su, and that is because he is a plus defender and runner. Coaches raved about his first step, his footwork, his fielding mechanics and his incredibly quick release. His impressive speed gives him plenty of range to stick at the position at the next level and helped him steal 14 bags for the Miners, as well. At 6-foot-1 and 150 pounds, some coaches thought that his feel for hitting would develop as he added strength and size, but the good news for Swift is that because he is so good defensively, he will be given plenty of leeway to figure it out at the plate.