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Summer Collegiate : : Rankings
Southern Collegiate League: Top 10 Prospects
       
Published: Monday, October 19, 2009

COMPILED BY ALLAN SIMPSON
In Association with League Managers and Scouts

Official League Website: www.scbl.org

Little changed in the Southern Collegiate League from 2008 to 2009 as the Tennessee Thunder posted the best regular-season record and breezed through the playoffs for the second year in a row. The biggest difference may have been in the Thunder itself as it transitioned from an older, more experienced team with few legitimate prospects to a younger, more prospect-oriented team this summer.

The Thunder repeated as champions despite losing the services of Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg, a South African-born first baseman by way of Florida’s Nova Southeastern University and a 16th-round draft pick in June of the Atlanta Braves, and second baseman D.J. Fitzgerald, a 22nd-round pick of the Chicago Cubs from Tennessee’s Dyersburg State JC, on the eve of the 2009 season.

Spanjer-Furstenburg, who went on to earn Rookie-level Appalachian League player-of-the-year honors (and played several games in Johnson City, home of the Thunder, in the process) would almost certainly have been the league’s top power prospect and Fitzgerald the fastest base runner had they remained with the Thunder. The loss of the pair was more than offset by big seasons enjoyed by third baseman Sam Eberle, who led the league in homers, and the sterling relief tandem of Sean Albury and Jason Trivette, who saved 12 games between them.

With the early departure of Spanjer-Furstenburg and Fitzgerald, the distinction of best overall prospect fell to Lake Norman outfielder Brian Litwin, who still must prove his superior athletic ability can translate to baseball, and Albury, an ex-outfielder who thoroughly dominated the league this summer as a pitcher.

FAST FACTS
Year League Established: 1999.
States Represented in League: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee.
Level of Competition (1-to-4 Scale, 1 being highest): 4.
No. of Teams in League: 7.
Regular-Season Champion: Tennessee Tornado.
Post-Season Champion: Tennessee Tornado.
Teams, PG Crosschecker Summer 25/Final Ranking: None.
No. 1 Prospect, 2008: Anthony Sosnoskie, c, Lake Norman Copperheads (Virginia Tech; played in Cape Cod League in 2009).
First 2008 Player Selected, 2009 Draft: Teddy Fallon, rhp, Carolina Thunder (USC Upstate; Pirates/43rd round).

Most Valuable Player:
Zeke Blanton, dh, Morganton Aggies.
Most Outstanding Pitcher: Adam Beach, rhp, Carolina Stingers.
Top Prospect (as selected by league): None selected.

BATTING LEADERS
Batting Average: Zeke Blanton, dh, Morganton Aggies (.415).
Slugging Percentage: Samson Williams, of, Morganton Aggies (.619).
On-Base Average: Zeke Blanton, dh, Morgantpon Aggies (.482).
Home Runs: Sam Eberle, 3b, Tennessee Tornado (7).
RBIs: Samson Williams, of, Morganton Aggies (34).
Stolen Bases: Zeke Blanton, dh, Morganton Aggies; Fabian Harper, ss, Tennessee Thunder (18).

PITCHING LEADERS
Wins: Kevin Bratcher, rhp, Morganton Aggies; Wes McIntyre, rhp, Spartanburg Blue Eagles (6).
ERA: Adam Beach, rhp, Carolina Stingers (1.36).
Saves: Jason Trivette, rhp, Tennessee Thunder (9).
Strikeouts: Wes McIntyre, rhp, Spartanburg Blue Eagles (65).
Opponent Batting Average: Sean Albury, rhp, Tennessee Thunder (.127).

BEST TOOLS
Best Hitter: Sam Eberle, 3b, Tennessee Tornado.
Best Power: Joaquin Valdes, 3b, Carolina Stingers.
Fastest Base Runner: Shane Brown, of, Lake Norman Copperheads.
Best Defensive Player: Brian Litwin, of, Lake Norman Copperheads.
Best Velocity: Sean Albury, rhp, Tennessee Tornado.
Best Breaking Ball: Sean Albury, rthp, Tennessee Tornado.

TOP 10 PROSPECTS

  PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

1.

Brian Litwin

OF

Lake Norman Copperheads R-R 6-4 210 So. Duke
SCOUTING REPORT There wasn't a player in the Southern Collegiate League this summer that could match Litwin's athleticism and raw tools. His speed (6.5 in the 60), raw power, defensive ability and arm strength all graded above-average. But the key for Litwin, a 24th-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008, lies in his development as a hitter. That may be a challenge as he batted just .195 with six RBIs in 21 games as a freshman at Duke, and continued to struggle this summer with Lake Norman. He batted .231-2-30 and struck out 42 times in 130 at-bats. Litwin has an aggressive, explosive approach to hitting but the holes in his swing were routinely exposed. He also stole just six bases for the Copperheads as his speed was largely negated because of his simple inability to reach base consistently. Litwin hit well over .400 in both his final two years at a North Carolina high school, and he could blossom as a prospect if he can come close to hitting the ball like he did then.
 
PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

2.

Sean Albury

RHP

Tennessee Tornado R-R 5-11 185 Jr. Nova Southeastern
SCOUTING REPORT No pitcher dominated the Southern Collegiate League quite like Albury, who struck out 53 in 29 innings and limited opposing hitters to a .127 average. He began the season in a set-up role for Tennessee, but eventually took over as the closer for Jason Trivette, who led the SCL with nine saves. Albury saved three games himself, while going 1-3, 1.57 in 19 relief appearances. He was used as a closer as a sophomore at NAIA Nova Southeastern, where he went 1-4, 6.97 with six saves and 34 strikeouts in 21 innings. Albury's dominance this summer stemmed from two dominant pitches: a fastball that ranged from 89 to 93 mph and a hammer curveball in the mid-70s. Pitching is still relatively new to Albury as he was primarily an outfielder when he grew up in the Bahamas, and even when he enrolled in college. Because of his small frame and lack of a third pitch, there is little doubt that Albury will remain in a relief role.
 
PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

3.

Kyle Teague

RHP

Lake Norman Copperheads R-R 6-0 170 So. Oakland
SCOUTING REPORT Teague did an about-face this summer, going 4-2, 2.50 with 19 walks and 52 strikeouts in 50 innings for Lake Norman after posting a sour 2-4, 9.21 record, with 114 base runners (89 hits, 25 walks) and 40 strikeouts in 58 innings as a freshman at Oakland. His fastball was mainly in the 87-89 mph range, but there appears to be more velocity in his loose, wiry frame. To be successful this summer, Teague's challenge was to keep his fastball low in the strike zone, and he generally did so with a combination of sound mechanics, and the sink and arm-side run he produced with his two-seam fastball. His breaking ball was an adequate second pitch, but he struggled with the consistency of his changeup.
 
PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

4.

Samson Williams

OF

Morganton Aggies R-R 6-0 200 Sr. St. Andrews Presbyterian (N.C.
SCOUTING REPORT The Atlanta Braves saw potential in Williams in 2006, when they drafted him in the 36th round out of a North Carolina high school, but he has never quite materialized into a legitimate prospect-either in two years at Louisburg (N.C.) CC, or last spring on a 9-39 team at Division II St. Andrews Presbyterian. But the powerfully-built Williams continued to show glimpses of his raw talent this summer in the Southern Collegiate League while hitting .319-6-34. He led the league in RBIs, and drew attention for his speed (6.8 in the 60), defense and raw power, though those tools were negated somewhat because of the holes in his swing and his continued inability to make consistent contact. He struck out 39 times in 113 at-bats for the Aggies and typically had trouble with breaking balls, and any balls above his hands.
 
PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

5.

Sam Eberle

3B

Tennessee Tornado R-R 6-1 220 So. Jacksonville State
SCOUTING REPORT Eberle led the Southern Collegiate League with seven homers, while hitting .310 with 28 RBIs, and his success was a carryover from a fine freshman season at Jacksonville State, where he hit .311-11-46. His power was to all fields, and stemmed equally from a good approach at the plate, quick hands and the natural strength in his powerful frame. He's an adequate defender at third base, but doesn't have the speed to be a base stealer.
 
PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

6.

Jake Peeling

RHP

Tennessee Tornado R-R 6-4 200 So. Virginia Tech
SCOUTING REPORT Peeling worked just two innings as a freshman for Virginia Tech and then had labrum surgery that summer that sidelined him all of the 2009 college season. He worked his way back slowly this summer for Tennessee, pitching just 21 innings in 12 relief appearances, but was impressive in his limited action. Though he didn't win a game or tally even a save for the Tornado, he walked eight, allowed 14 hits and struck out 31. His 88-90 mph fastball and slider were solid pitches, and he promises to add velocity and improve the command of his fastball as he re-acclimates himself fully into a regular routine next spring.
 
PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

7.

Joaquin Valdes

3B

Carolina Stingers R-R 6-5 210 Sr. Barry (Fla.)
SCOUTING REPORT At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Valdes is an imposing presence in the batter's box and looks the part of a power hitter. He flashed excellent raw power to all fields this summer, when he was locked in, but slugged only three homers for the Stingers because he was still rusty from a broken hand sustained early in his senior year at Florida's Palm Beach Atlantic that caused him to miss the rest of the 2009 season. He rebounded to hit .361 with 29 RBIs for the Stingers. Valdes led Palm Beach Atlantic, a Florida-based Division II school, in homers in 2008 and was hitting .333-1-7 after nine games last spring, when he was sidelined. The big knock on Valdes is his lack of speed and he'll likely end up at first base, though he has the arm strength to play on the left side and has done a commendable job defensively at third. Valdes received a red-shirt for his disabling injury last spring, and has transferred to Florida's Barry University as a fifth-year senior for the 2010 season. By leaving Palm Beach Atlantic, it has cost him a chance to play for Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who was recently announced as the school's new head coach.
 
PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

8.

Clark Labitan

RHP

Lake Norman Copperheads R-R 5-9 175 So. Virginia Tech
SCOUTING REPORT Few Division I schools have had a greater presence in the Southern Collegiate League than Virginia Tech, and Labitan represents the second Hokies player on this list. A year ago, Tech catcher Anthony Sosnoskie was the league's No. 1-ranked prospect. Though he's a little on the small side to be considered a true prospect, Labitan won four games as a college freshman, and went a solid 4-2, 2.93 with 13 walks and 60 strikeouts in 43 innings this summer for Lake Norman. He threw three pitches for strikes, including a fastball that topped out at 90 mph. But Labitan's success came more from the deception he created by coming from three different arm slots-ranging from over the top to submarine. His slider from a low angle was his most effective pitch.
 
PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

9.

Shane Brown

OF

Lake Norman Copperheads L-L 5-11 150 So. UNC Charlotte
SCOUTING REPORT Brown may never have another accomplishment to top his first official collegiate at-bat earlier this spring at Charlotte, when he hit an inside-the-park grand slam as a pinch-hitter. That turned out to be his only home run of the spring, but he built nicely off that accomplishment by hitting .355-1-25 as a red-shirt freshman for the 49ers, and followed with a .361-0-11 summer season playing just down the road in Lake Norman. In a combined 238 at-bats, Brown demonstrated his superior strike-zone judgment by walking 38 times vs. 30 strikeouts. Brown is the prototypical pesky little leadoff hitter. Not only is he tough to strike out, but he puts the ball in play consistently and is a terror on the bases with his 6.4-second speed. He was successful on 24 of 28 stolen-base attempts between his spring and summer seasons. Brown has a tendency to be injury-prone with his aggressive style. He missed his true freshman year at Charlotte with an injury and was shut down this summer with three weeks remaining when he dislocated his shoulder.
 
PLAYER

POS.

TEAM B-T HT WT YR 2010 SCHOOL

10.

Brad Hook

1B/LHP

Morganton Aggies L-L 6-1 215 So. South Alabama
SCOUTING REPORT Hook's power potential has yet to evolve, but scouts continue to insist it's there because of the fast, strong, fluid swing he produces from the left side. After hitting .341-1-8 in 44 at-bats in the spring at South Alabama, Hook failed to go deep even once in 136 at-bats this summer for Morganton, though hit a respectable .294 with 30 RBIs. His in-game power should develop as he learns to loft balls and jerk them to the pull side more consistently. It's been a little slow evolving as Hook was better known for his left arm than his bat in high school. He was a four-year starting quarterback in Indiana and also gained more notoriety as a lefthanded pitcher than a power-hitting first baseman. But his best future tool is his bat and it's no coincidence that he plays at South Alabama, which has established a trend of recruiting Indiana-raised lefthanded power hitters, including Adam Lind of the Toronto Blue Jays and Jeff Cunningham, who hammered 22 homers in 2007 on his way to being a seventh-round draft pick. Scouts see much of the same upside in Hook's bat, but will need to be patient as it develops.