Northwoods League Best Hitters Part One

Since doing team reviews will take up too much time and will end up being irrelevant, I decided that I would just do a “Top Prospect” list for both batters and pitchers. In this post we will look at the best batters in the Northwest League. These posts are not rankings, just a big list of players you should be following. I might do a couple of these posts per position, we’ll see. Also, the year that I listed(ex.So,Jr) are from the prior season and not the upcoming season.

3B Alex Howard(Jr.-Arkansas St)-Battle Creek Bombers

Howard caught my eye for the first time when I saw that he attended the New Mexico Military Institute, which sounds like a bootcamp rather than a school with a baseball team. He transferred to Arkansas St where he started 53 games and hit .273. This season with the Bombers, he has hit .379 with 4 homers and 8 stolen bases. He does have 7 errors this season which is concerning, but his bat has made up for it. Howard wasn’t drafted this year, but look for him to be a quality senior sign in the 2018 draft.

1B/3B Ryan Stekl(Jr.-Canisius College)-Wisconsin Rapids Rafters

Stekl has had an excellent season so far with the Rafters, batting .340/.376/.451 with 3 homers. He has had experience with collegiate summer ball, when he played for the Winnipesaukee Muskrats of the New England Collegiate League(not to be confused with the Cape Cod League). With the Muskrats he slashed .298/.356/.447 with 6 homers and a 25 K/13 BB ratio. Stekl is a 3 year starter at Canisius where he’s slashed .294/.375/.396. Here is another solid senior sign for next years draft, make sure to put him on your follow list.

3B/OF Stevie Mangrum(So.-Virginia Tech)-Wisconsin Woodchucks

Stevie Mangrum is an outfielder/third baseman who has already hit 11 homeruns this season while batting .329/.411/.609. Mangrum also has had 6 stolen bases which is a bit surprising since he has average speed and did not have a stolen base last season for the Hokies. This is Mangrum’s second season with the Woodchucks; in his first season he batted .308 with 7 homers. It will be interesting to see if Mangrum gets drafted this season, he only started in 8 games last year for the Hokies but he had a solid season batting .284/.376/.527 3HR 32 K/10BB

OF Marcus Still(Jr.-New Mexico St)-Willmar Stingers

Still is leading the league in stolen bases by a considerable margin with 27 stolen bases in 37 games. Speed is Still’s best attribute, but he does have some pop in his bat. His K/BB rate is very impressive at 20/15 with 139 at bats. Still is slashing .266/.364/.374 and is a player to watch for this upcoming year. He did get drafted in the 31st round by the Blue Jays in 2016, but got passed over this year.

3B Ryan Mantle(So.-Jefferson CC/Creighton)-La Crosse Loggers

Mantle has had a crazy journey in college ball, going from Missouri State to Jefferson CC and is committed to playing at Creighton next year. Mantle leads the league in walks(39) and has had more walks than strikeouts(37). He has only hit .200 this year, but his OBP is .400 and his SLG is .336 and has hit 3 home runs. Look for him to have a better second half, he hit .370 with 11 homers at Jefferson CC. Definitely keep tabs on him for the draft next year, it will be interesting to see what happens with him.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed this, and make sure to add all of these players to your watch lists for the 2018 draft. I’ll make another part to this and then I’ll do a couple parts for pitchers too. For all the Cape Cod League fans, expect something like this for the Cape Cod League next week.

Looking Back on the 2017 JUCO Review Players

Here is my follow up of sorts to the three players that I highlighted in my JUCO review series. For that segment, I did writeups for Brendon Little, Nate Pearson, and Andrew Bechtold.

We will start off with Andrew Bechtold, the Maryland commit who played one season before transferring to Chipola CC. He was taken in the 5th round by the Minnesota Twins, who had an interesting draft strategy to say the least. Yes they were able to save money by taking Lewis, but it’s hard justifying not selecting Greene there. Anyway, Bechtold signed for 600 grand, which was over slot value of 378,700. SB Nation compared Andrew Bechtold to Travis Blankenhorn, who ranks seventh on the top prospect lists for the Twins. I am not a Twins expert so someone will have to tell me if this makes sense. By looking at Blankenhorn stats, I would say this is a good comparison. Blankenhorn has struggled at 3rd with 12 errors already, so they have worked him out at second too. I wonder if this will end up happening with Bechtold.

Nate Pearson is the second player I want to look at. He was drafted by the Blue Jays 28th overall and signed with a 2,452,900 bonus, slightly above the 2.3 million dollar slot value. He slipped a bit, BA had him going 18th and 20th by MLB.com. The Blue Jays went into a different direction by selecting a majority of college players this time around. Pearson is probably going to start out as a starter, but it is not a guarantee that he will stay a starter.

Last off is Brendon Little from the State College of Florida. He was drafted 27th overall by the Chicago Cubs and signed for 2.2 million, which is a 100 grand under slot. The Cubs are looking to add some more pitching in their farm system, and they did it with Little. In the write up, I said that Little has a strong character and teams were valuing that more, and I had the Cubs in mind when writing that. Pretty cool that he ended up getting drafted there. Interesting that he signed for under slot value, he must have been set on not going back to college.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed this update, and if you have not read my original posts on these players, please check them out.

Green Bay Bullfrogs (Northwoods League) Team Review

So I got so excited to do this Northwoods League series that I decided to write up a quick review of the Green Bay Bullfrogs. Normally I would do this alphabetically, but the Bullfrogs have a special place in my heart. Ok, that’s not entirely true, but they are the only team that I have a connection to. The Bullfrogs are the only team that I have seen live in the Northwoods League, and I got a foul ball there. I was like 10 at the time, and that was the first ball that I ever caught from a baseball game. I still have that program, and the team roster included Scott Schebler, who is having a nice season for the Reds. But enough reminiscing, let’s talk about how they are doing.

The Bullfrogs currently sit last in the South division with a 1-6 record in the second half. They were not much better in the first half, going 12-23. The only place they are leading in is that infielder Ben Hart leads the league in errors, which is something that he probably is not too proud of. Obviously that is not very good, but they still have some talent on this roster.Scottsdale CC turned Mississippi State recruit Alex Pener is hitting well, going .288/.432/.432 with 3 home runs, and has been their best player. Aaron Pleschner(So.-San Jose St.), Brad Hamilton(Jr.-Kent State), and Troy Johnson(Fr.-Gonzaga), have all been good too and are players I will be watching. Look out for Alonzo Jones from Vanderbilt to get some more playing time, he’s hitting .323 with a couple homers, 4 doubles and 2 triples. He had a disappointing season last year which was capped with him getting suspended indefinitely from the program. But he is a former Freshman All-American who is one of the fastest players in the country(he ran a 6.1 60 yard dash at a 2014 PG event).

The pitching staff is nothing special, but there is a few gems in the rough. Connor Wollersheim(So.-Kent State) has put up a 2.42 ERA with 42 K/16 BB in 42.2 innings so far, making him one of the best pitchers in the league. Definitely keep an eye on him for the 2018 draft, I certainly will. Jonathan Pendergast(So.-Pepperdine) and Nick Parr(So.-Oakland) have over a strikeout per inning which is always encouraging, although Parr has over half a walk per inning and Pendergast is just under. These three plus Brett Fulk(So.-Lenior Rhyne) are pitchers to look out for.

Hopefully you all enjoyed this and learned a little more about the team. I am not sure if I will be able to do all of this for every team because I want to do the Cape Cod league as well and want to keep these stats relevant, but we’ll see. Thanks for reading.

Update

Well it has almost been a month since my last post, which is depressing. I started this site as something to do with my free time, but this past month has been a whirlwind. I’ve had a hectic baseball schedule along with some band practices and its been a lot. Plus I was recently on vacation to DC, and I got to see a bunch of baseball on the way. Sadly, my Mets got slaughtered by the Nats on the 4th, which seems to be usual every time I see them play in person. Also got to see an Altoona Curve game, a Columbus Clippers game, and an Akron Rubberducks game. Altoona has one of the nicest minor league stadiums I have ever seen, really impressive.

Enough about me though, I wanted to talk about what I have planned for the rest of the year. I want to do updates on the collegiate leagues such as the Cape Cod and the Northwoods leagues. These leagues always interest me, and nobody seems to do much reporting on them so hopefully I can fill a hole. Also, I want to do some follow up to the guys that I already wrote about. Besides that, I can’t really think of anything else that is original for me to write about. I’ll figure it out though, don’t worry.

I am also thinking about starting up a Twitter account so I can try to publicize this some more, but I am going to hold off until I prove to myself that I can stick to a schedule. This comes from someone that does not even have a personal Twitter, so we’ll see how that goes. Also need to figure out Google Analytics so I can see how everything is being viewed. This is more of a personal interest thing obviously because I know full well that I am getting about 2 views a post. Still, it’s pretty awesome that 2 people even read, because none of my friends know anything about college baseball.

Thanks for reading, and have a great rest of your night.

 

Thoughts Before the MLB Draft

Sorry for the long time between the last posts and this one, just been really busy. I did get a chance to watch some of the Super Regionals, and this year’s Super Regionals has been nuts so far. With the rain delays and the extra inning games, and the rain delayed extra inning games, there has been a lot going on. Unfortunately, my upset pick was wrong, even though Davidson and Texas A&M gave us two of the most exciting games this season. The rest of my picks have seemed to go well so far, and I am excited who wins the Florida Wake Forest game.

Anyways, we have a big night tonight! The draft starts at 7 EST on MLB network for those who are able to watch. I am just going to give my short thoughts on just some of the stories I find interesting.

Obviously, the big question is whether or not Luke Heimlich will be drafted tonight. With the trend going on right now about teams valuing character just as much as talent, I doubt that he will be taken. This leaves an opportunity for any team looking to get a bargain, but will that team be willing to accept the harsh criticism that understandably be thrown at that team? This is just an awful situation, but if Joe Mixon can get drafted, I think Heimlich will be able to as well.

The player that I thought was going to be the biggest “character issues” player before the Heimlich dilemma was Houston lefty Seth Romero. Unlike Heimlich, I do believe Romero will be taken tonight, but he will definitely not be a first rounder or even a compensatory pick in my opinion. Two suspensions in fourteen months is not a good look. Houston did not announce what the second suspension was for, the first was a drug suspension so it might have been another drug suspension we do not know. The team that picks him will get a steal; he is a top 20 prospect who apparently can’t stay out of trouble. Hopefully they will figure it out.

As far as who I think the Twins will pick, I am guessing they will take Vanderbilt pitcher Kyle Wright. Baseball America says that they will be taking McKay, my guess it that they are running out of headlines and want something fresh. However, if they do take McKay, props to them.Hunter Greene is the best player in this draft, but I do not think that the Twins will offer him the signing bonus that he wants. That is not to say Wright is a bad pick though, he has lots of upside even as a college player. Since there is no generational talent, it will be fun to see who they end up picking.

That will wrap up my thoughts, have fun watching the draft everyone.

Response to the Luke Heimlich Situation

After seeing all of this news come out about Heimlich, I thought I should throw my two cents in, especially since I just wrote about him yesterday. This a post I thought I would never make, but here we are I guess. This obviously was not pre planned, I am just writing.

I think everyone’s first reaction, and rightly so, is that sex related crimes should have a zero tolerance policy.  Taking advantage of someone sexually is just one of those things that is impossible to be forgiven in our society, similarly to murder.

There is a few issues with this article that just came up at oregonlive.com that are a bit questionable to me, regarding the circumstances of how he got to Oregon State. Let me make this clear, I am in no way denying that this happen, so if someone miraculously reads this, don’t get all pissed off. Also, I thought this was a well written article, so my hat is off to the author there, Mr. Danny Moran. This is a huge story, and they could not have written a classier article. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Ms. Stacia Glenn’s article, but who am I to judge. I just wish we would veer away from the shock headlines.

My question stems from the fact that nobody inside of the baseball program knew about this and that it was never discussed. The article states that Oregon State does not require potential student-athletes to disclose any felony charges, however they do know if the student-athlete is a sex offender. Based on that knowledge, I can assume that the Oregon State baseball program knew about this problem with Heimlich, and they allowed this. Let’s look at this in the context of the time however; Heimlich was not a bonafide prospect. He was undrafted, and spent his first season out of the bullpen. Now I cannot say for certain of course, but if there was major character red flags that they had in interviews they had with him, I doubt they would have allowed him to play, simply because his talent at the time was not worth the headaches. Now I am not saying that if you are good enough at a sport, you should be able to get away with anything, but it was not like he was a first round pick out of high school and wanted to come play. However, if the athletic program did not know, that is a gross negligence that needs to be addressed.

So what is my reaction? First off, if the coach and/or athletic director did not know about this, they should be fired immediately. That is a major mistake that cannot be forgiven, but I truly doubt that is the case. Maybe I am naive. So lets just assume that they did if fact know about this, and they still decided to have him on the team. Personally, I just cannot condone letting a know child molester on the team, no matter how great of a person he has become since the incident. I think I am able to forgive him, since I believe that not forgiving him means that we are abandoning all hope, which is something that we should never do. But remember, Oregon State is giving a scholarship to a known child molester, as well as publicity on and off campus that being part of a sports team receives. I just disagree that you should give this guy an opportunity when there was probably numerous other people who could have gotten this spot that did not make these mistakes. We can forgive this person without putting him in the spotlight and I think that would be the responsible thing to do.

I guess we will leave it at that. This was a really hard post to make, because I can see both sides and it was just hard to articulate my point when there is just so many factors here. It is really unfortunate that this event occurred, especially since we are only a day away from Super Regionals starting. Personally, I do not have any kids, so my viewpoint is limited and it is way easier for me to say that we should attempt to forgive him for his actions. If I ever do have kids, my viewpoint probably will change, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I just hope that everyone comes out of this alright, and that people can learn from Heimlich’s mistakes. Have a nice day everyone.

Here is a link to the original story, although I am sure you have seen it already.

http://www.oregonlive.com/beavers/index.ssf/2017/06/luke_heimlich_sex_crime_surfac.html#incart

Also, what a shit article from Mr. Anthony Barstow, author who works for one of the top three worst papers in America. Can’t believe I still get mad at this stuff, but wow is it bad.

http://nypost.com/2017/06/08/the-star-of-college-baseballs-best-team-is-a-child-molester/

Super Regionals Part Two

College Station Super Regional (Texas A&M vs. Davidson)

Here is the Cinderella series of the entire tournament, Texas A&M vs. Davidson. Davidson has never reached the NCAA tournament before, yet they have been playing like they have been here before. They knocked off number 2 North Carolina and top 10 prospect J.B Bukauskas, and have had stellar pitching. The offense is concern for Davidson, but nobody has predicted this from Davidson. Texas A&M were on and off this season; they lost 6 of 7 going into the regionals, so it will be hard to tell which team will show up. Since I have to have an upset, I’m taking Davidson, just because I do not know what Texas A&M team will show up.

Louisville Super Regional (Louisville vs. Kentucky)

I am interested in seeing this one because it features Louisville, the only team remaining that I have seen live. Louisville has an excellent pitching staff lead by two way star Brendan McKay, and the feature the best bullpen in college baseball. They also have an excellent lineup lead by McKay(.356 and 17 home runs) and Drew Ellis(.362 and 17 home runs).This is also interesting because Kentucky is making their first ever Super Regional appearance. They have one of the highest scoring offenses, with top 50 prospect Evan White having a great season(.368/.450/.627). This is a tough series, but I believe Louisville will win in 3.

Fort Worth Super Regional (TCU vs. Missouri State)

TCU has been able to hit the ball well, even without star Luke Baker, and they scored 29 runs in the their regional. Evan Skoug is one of the best power bats in the country with 18 home runs, even if his BB/K ratio is scary. TCU’s hitting is scary however, their pitching, with the exception Jared Janczak, is a bit rough. Missouri State had a tough time scoring runs in the regional, but they were picked up by their excellent pitching staff. They went 18-3 in conference play this season, but they only played one non conference team that made it to the NCAA tournament. I am not sure what to make of this series, but I am going to take TCU based on their lineup and their strength of schedule.

Gainesville Super Regional (Florida vs. Wake Forest)

Florida has a premier pitching staff with starters Alex Faedo, Jackson Kowar, and Brady Singer, and Michael Byrne as the closer. Florida has never won the College World Series, so it will be interesting to see if they can. Their do not score many runs, but their pitching staff is able to carry them. Wake Forest is the opposite; they have the ninth best runs per game(7.9) in the entire country. Along with that, they also have hit the most home runs in the country and they average close to two per game.Their pitching staff does not match the batting, but I think it is good enough for the offense to carry them. I am picking Wake Forest in this series, their offense is so dominant, but this should be a fun series to watch.

Thanks for reading this, and have fun watching the Super Regionals.

Super Regionals Picks Part One

Thought we would take a break from the prospect profiles and give some predictions for the Super Regionals, which start tomorrow. I will split this into two parts, since it would be a very large post if I didn’t.

Corvallis Super Regional(Oregon State vs. Vanderbilt)

Number one ranked Oregon State is taking on a Vanderbilt team that struggled this year, despite having potential number one pick Kyle Wright and top 15 draft prospect Jeren Kendall. On the other hand, Oregon State had a 52-4 record lead by ace Luke Heimlich, who I wrote about yesterday. Even though Vandy had a difficult season, they were able to knock off Clemson in their own regional convincingly. Even though they have done well in the postseason, I can’t bet against Oregon State, who had an incredible season and rolled through Yale and Holy Cross, and I have them winning in 3.

Long Beach Super Regional (Long Beach State vs. CSU Fullerton)

I am excited to watch this series, if only for the Long Beach State jerseys. LBS has not made the College World Series since 1998, and it will be a fun series to watch. They have an incredible pitching staff, with Dave Smith leading the way, and they have the sixth best ERA. In the season series, the Dirtbags shut them out twice and have only allowed 2.7 runs per game. However, CSU Fullerton has had a great season too, with a great pitching staff of their own as well. Anything can happen in a three game series, but I have Long Beach State taking this and making their first CWS appearance in 19 years.

Tallahassee Super Regional (Florida State vs. Sam Houston State)

Florida State has had a rough season this year, who started off the season well but then completely dropped out of the rankings. After losing their first game in their regional, they managed to win four straight and advance to the Super Regional. On the other side, Sam Houston State is a Cinderella story along with Davidson, and they have never made the Super Regionals before. To get here, they needed to upset previous runner up Arizona and number five seed Texas Tech. The Bearkats certainly have the hot hand, but if Florida State reaches their potential, they will win this series since they have much more talent. However, do not be surprised if Sam Houston State wins, since Florida State has been super streaky. I predict Florida State in 3 though.

Baton Rouge Super Regional (LSU vs. Mississippi State)

Mississippi State might have the most dominant player in the super regionals in Brent Rooker. He has been an absolute stud for the Bulldogs, but he has carried this team that does not feature a particularly impressive pitching staff or lineup. LSU has three stud pitchers in Alex Lange, Eric Walker and Jared Poche’. With the exception of Walker, they have not lived up to expectations in the postseason. They also have a great lineup, with top power threat Greg Deichmann leading the way. I have LSU sweeping this series, even though Mississippi State has had a good season.

Luke Heimlich(Oregon State) Report

There is two days left before the start of the Oregon State and Vanderbilt Super Regional, which is arguably the most exciting matchup of the Super Regionals this year. Today we will be discussing Luke Heimlich, a 6’1” lefty who has had a breakout season this year for the Beavers and is projected as a late first round pick. Being the ace on the number one ranked team in the nation will get you a lot of attention, and Heimlich has pitched well under the stress. Heimlich will have a tough matchup against Vanderbilt and it will be interesting to see how this series will go.

Going undrafted out of high school, Heimlich has gotten better every year he has played with the Beavers. In his freshman year, Heimlich came out of the bullpen, making 29 appearances for a total of 52.1 innings and 35/17(2.05) K/BB ratio and a 3.61 ERA. He was a swingman his sophomore year, he made 11 starts and improved both his ERA(3.53) and his K/BB(63/25) in 86.2 innings. This season so far, he has put in a near flawless season with a 0.76 ERA and has a 9.76 K/9 and an excellent 1.68 BB/9. His control has been outstanding, and he has been able to strikeout hitters even without outstanding velocity. Since he does not have overpowering stuff, it is critical that he has good control, and it is obvious that he does. His control over all of his pitches makes me believe that he will have success at the next level.

One of his many bright spots is his offspeed pitches. Both his changeup and his curveball are plus pitches and he has been able to use them effectively. Heimlich’s curveball has sweeping movement and does not have much late break to it, which might be a detractor based on how you view it. Personally, since he has good control of it, the lack of a late break does not bother me as much but it will be interesting to see. His changeup has been considered better by many scouts; it sits in the high 70’s low 80’s with lots of downward movement to it. They are both great pitches and it is hard to tell which is better.

His fastball has not reached the same levels that his offspeed offering have. The pitch is in the low 90’s and does not have much movement to it. Heimlich has been successful with it because of his plus control, but the pitch is not very intimidating. I do not see him being able to increase the velocity significantly, but I think he might be able to develop some more movement on the pitch. In my opinion, I think that his fastball has the potential to be a slightly above average pitch, but nothing too dominant.

My forecast for Heimlich is that he has a ceiling to grow into a middle of the rotation pitcher. He already has great control overall all of his pitches, as well as having two plus offspeed pitches, which is rare for a college pitcher. The one concern is his fastball, but as long as he is able to have the same level of control of his pitches in the pros as he is in college, I think he will be fine even without an overpowering fastball. He was slated to go in the 3rd or 4th round at the start of the year, but I would be surprised if he is still on the board after pick 40.

THE JUCO REVIEW: ANDREW BECHTOLD(CHIPOLA JC)

Well seeing as I got my first view ever today, thought I would have to make another post to celebrate it. And the reader was from Alaska, a state that does not have much baseball going on, so I was extra excited. So to whomever that was, thank you for stopping by and hopefully you read again.

Now onto the important stuff. Our next write up is on Andrew Bechtold, the one of the best JUCO hitters in the draft this year. Bechtold originally went to play for Maryland, where he hit an unimpressive .218 and committed 11 errors. He is now playing for Chipola Junior College in Florida and has committed to LSU next year, should he not sign. He was originally drafted by the Rangers in the 37th round of the 2014 draft, but obviously did not sign. Bechtold has played both 3rd and shortstop, so it will be interesting to see what position he gets drafted to play.

Bechtold is an interesting prospect. He struggled mightily in his first year of college ball after having a tough transition going from shortstop to third base. The main concern with Bechtold is that his fielding will not catch up with his bat, which is pretty impressive. As previously stated, Bechtold had 11 errors in his first season with the Terrapins, but we can chalk that up to a position change and inexperience. However, he had another uninspiring year in the field, committing 11 errors and finishing with an ugly .896 fielding percentage at Chipola. Errors can be subjective of course, but its is still concerning, especially at the JUCO level. However, he does have a strong arm which makes up for his fielding deficiencies somewhat. If Bechtold wants to have any success at the next level, he will have to prove that he is not a liability in the field. I wonder if he might end up transitioning to first, but that might just be me overreacting.

Now it is not all doom and gloom with Bechtold, he is the one of the highest touted JUCO hitters after all. This season, he put up an impressive .419/.523/.676 slash line while hitting 12 home runs in 210 at bats. He also had more walks(49) than strikeouts(44) which is always impressive, although the website does not say how many were intentional. Either way, the plate discipline is impressive, and I think it will translate at the next level.

Finding video of Bechtold was hard, but I was able to find a clip from MLB draft countdown, so shout out to them I guess. From what I saw, I was very impressed with how compact his swing was. He has a slightly open stance, and there is no hitches or loops in his swing. He is very mechanically sound, and I think he will be a good hitter in the pros.

The ceiling for Bechtold is that he is an everyday third baseman who hits around .250 with 15 home runs and is able to get on base. This might be a bit of a stretch though for two reasons. The first is obviously the fielding; I am a bit skeptical that it will turn around. The second is that he did not hit for much power this season, even at a low level. That’s the trick with JUCO players, they do not play against the stiffest competition so it is hard to get a good read. My projection is that he will end up being a solid bench bat for a team in the majors. Look to see him drafted between rounds 3-6.