In the weeks leading
up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview
of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as
well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the
state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as
well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.
Canada State-by-State List
First-Rounder This Year, But Canada Should Still Impact Early Rounds
With its wide expanse,
tricky demographics, cold climate and unconventional training
centers, Canada is not an easy territory to scout. Most of the
quality baseball talent is concentrated in British Columbia in the
west, most of the quantity in Ontario in the east. But the two
provinces are three time zones apart.
Canada has almost no
formal high-school or college programs, such as exist south of the
border, to develop its talent, and has had to resort to alternative
means to give its best young talent the experience and exposure
necessary to eventually flourish in professional baseball. Canada’s
junior-national team and several powerful travel teams have taken the
lead in both those areas.
For scouts, it has
often become most practical to evaluate Canada’s elite high-school
talent while facing professional competition.
And it was in that
environment, in Arizona, that B.C. products Brett Lawrie and Kellin
Deglan put the wheels in motion to become first-round draft picks in
two of the last three drafts. Lawrie was taken by the Milwaukee
Brewers with the 16th overall pick in 2008 (he has since
been acquired by the home-nation team, the Toronto Blue Jays), while
Deglan went 22nd overall to the Texas Rangers a year ago.
Since Greg Hamilton,
Baseball Canada’s director of national teams, began taking Canada’s
junior club to Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Florida in
1999, to play minor leaguers in spring training and extended spring
training, and instructional league in the fall, Canadian
high-schoolers have received more than their share of exposure
against quality competition. It has been a case of taking talent to
where all the scouts are.
junior-national team makes three annual trips abroad, in the fall and
early spring to Florida, and late spring to the Dominican Republic.
In each case, it usually plays against first- and second-year pros.
The dividends have been
Despite a grassroots
development system that is radically different in many ways than that
in the United States, Canada has factored into the first round in
each of the last four drafts. In addition to Lawrie and Deglan,
Quebec righthander Phillippe Aumont was a first-round pick of the
Seattle Mariners in 2007, and University of Kentucky lefthander James
Paxton, a Ladner, B.C., product, was a supplemental first-rounder in
The biggest payoff has
come at the major-league level, and Canada is having a greater impact
on Major League Baseball than at any time in its modest history. In
just the last five years, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin
Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), in 2006, and Cincinnati Reds first
baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ontario), in 2010, have earned league
baseball almost a complete non-factor in Canada, the best Canadian
talent typically plays on elite-level travel teams like the Langley
Blaze in B.C., and the Ontario Blue Jays. Both those teams play
upwards of 60-80 game a year, on both sides or the border.
While Canada will not
have a first-rounder in the draft for the first time in five years,
it should still produce a steady diet of talent with as many as 6-8
players in the first 10 rounds. By most accounts, the nation’s top
three prospects are righthanders Thomas Robson and Vaughn Covington,
and third baseman Dustin Houle.
coincidentally, are from B.C., and the balance of power in Canada’s
2011 draft crop clearly has a western flavor to it. Over the next two
years, there should be a pronounced shift to the eastern half of the
country as Ontario is unusually deep in 2012 and 2013 talent, while
B.C. should be relatively thin.
That look to the future
doesn’t even speak to 2014, when possibly the best Canadian talent
to come along in years, outfielder Gareth Morgan, who turned 15 in
April, should bring a steady procession of scouts to Ontario. Though
just a freshman at a Toronto high school, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound
Morgan is the only player from either the 2013 or 2014 draft classes
to play this spring on Canada’s national junior team. Not only does
Morgan have impressive size for his age, but he already has
above-average power and arm strength.
For this year’s
draft, only Robson is given a realistic shot of going in the top
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound
Ladner, B.C., product pretty much cemented himself as Canada’s best
2011 draft with his performance at last year’s World Junior
Championship in Thunder Bay, Ontario, when he started against
eventual gold medalist Cuba and locked horns with ace Cuban
lefthander Omar Luis. Robson left a scoreless game after six innings,
only for Cuba to go on to win 3-0.
After Luis defeated the
United States 3-2 in a critical quarter-final game in the playoff
round, handing a talented American squad its only loss of the
tournament but also eliminating it from medal contention, Robson took
on Cuba again in a semi-final contest, with a medal at stake. He
pitched well again in the early innings, before the powerful Cuban
squad finally solved Robson.
Not only did Robson
handle that charged-up environment extremely well for a 17-year-old,
but he commanded three pitches on both occasions against Cuba. His
fastball was a steady 91-92 mph.
Robson’s fastball was
generally in the 88-90 mph range, touching 91, for Team Canada on its
trips this spring to Florida and the Dominican Republic, though
reached 93 in Arizona in March, while pitching for the Blaze. With
natural development, scouts expect Robson to reach the mid-90s in
Houle, a player of
native Canadian descent from Penticton, B.C., who moved to the
Vancouver suburb of Langley in order to further his baseball
development, has emerged as a solid No. 2 pick behind Robson, his
Blaze teammate. He doesn’t turn 18 until November, making him one
of the younger players in this year’s draft.
Houle made huge strides
this spring at the plate, generating significant bat speed with a
short, compact swing, and putting balls into play with authority. He
has easy defensive actions at third base, but may end up as a catcher
in the long run.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound
Covington is something of a wild card in this draft as he underwent
Tommy John surgery last September and has been unable to pitch since.
Scouts say he may have the best arm and greatest upside of any
Canadian pitcher in the 2011 class, Robson included. Before he was
hurt, Covington’s fastball was an easy 90-92 mph, touching 93-94
last summer. He generated excellent sink on the pitch, along with a
tight rotation on his curve.
Covington has begun
playing light catch again, but may not see a mound again until
September. As a result, it might be a significant gamble for a team
to consider drafting him in the top 5-8 rounds. But Covington is
considered very signable and may benefit in the short term from the
no-rush environment in pro ball, where development is encouraged.
After those three
players, the talent thins out, though several more prospects could
still work their way into the top 10 rounds.
Janisse should be the first player drafted from Ontario, although he
has drawn mixed reviews this spring. The 6-foot-5 Janisse has a big,
projectable frame with a clean arm action, and has added 4-5 mph in
velocity in the last year. Though his fastball still registers only
90, he should add more velocity as he progresses.
Scammell, who has grown up in a frigid climate in Edmonton, is
understandably very raw in his development, but has excellent
lefthanded power potential in his 6-5, 210-pound frame. None of his
other tools stand out, so teams would have to bet almost entirely on
In Quebec, where
students normally graduate from high school at age 16, two recent
graduates enrolled in local junior colleges, righthander Jesen
Dygestile-Therrien (Ahuntsic College) and third baseman Jonathan
Jones (Vanier College), have created a stir. Since neither of their
junior colleges fields a baseball team, both players have developed
their skills with the Montreal-based Academie du Baseball Canada,
while also playing for Canada’s junior-national team.
drafted a year ago by the New York Mets (36th round) as a
17-year-old, though never was offered a contract. He has since made
significant strides with his easy, effortless delivery. His fastball
is mostly in the 88-90 mph range and his command inconsistent, but
scouts recognize plenty of upside in his arm and 6-foot-2, 190-pound
frame, and Dygestile-Therrien should significantly improve his draft
position this year.
The 6-foot-3 Jones is a
relative newcomer as a draftable prospect, and made his presence felt
with his powerful bat. Though he plays third base and probably has
the arm strength to remain there, the rest of Jones’ tools are
fringy or below-average, and he likely will end up at first base.
B.C. is the one
province that has structured intercollegiate programs of any
consequence, with the University of British Columbia playing a
full-blown NAIA schedule against U.S. competition, while nearby
Douglas College is a member of the Northwest Athletic Association of
Community Colleges. Both those schools have candidates in the middle
rounds, notably Douglas power-hitting outfielder Chandler McLaren.
Noticeably missing from
this year’s Canadian draft pool are some high-profile players
attending U.S. colleges. Paxton, then at Kentucky, was the 37th
overall pick in 2009, though ended up not signing with the Blue Jays.
His University of Kentucky teammate Chris Bisson, along with Connors
State (Okla.) JC outfielder Marcus Knecht, were both taken in the top
four rounds a year ago.
This year, the
highest-ranked Canadians enrolled in U.S. colleges are Northeastern
University righthander Leslie Williams and Cameron (Okla.) University
outfielder Chase Larsson.
often-curious and unconventional development patterns that Canadians
take in their pursuit of a career in professional baseball, Williams
and Larsson were heavily-scouted players out of Canadian high schools
but literally fell off the map when they left for schools in the U.S.
In Larsson’s case, he
was a 16th-round pick of the Kansas City Royals out of a
Vancouver high school way back in 2006. He played baseball as a
freshman at Odessa (Texas) Junior College, but was barely heard from
again before suddenly resurfacing this year at Division II Cameron,
where he had a breakout year, leading all Division II hitters in
homers (29), RBIs (84) and slugging (1.000).
Williams, a Toronto
native, played baseball for four years at Northeastern, initially as
a talented two-way player. He eventually gave up playing in the field
in order to fulfill his potential as a pitcher, but it wasn’t until
this year, as a senior, when Williams’ game finally started to
blossom. With an increase in velocity, along with better command of
his other pitches, he went 5-6, 3.98 with 18 walks and 77 strikeouts
in 95 innings. In his first three seasons at Northeastern, Williams
was a combined 5-12, 4.56.
Some of the other
Canadians playing at U.S. colleges who will get a shot, probably in
the middle rounds, are Franklin Pierce (N.H.) College righthander
Ryan Thompson; Yavapai (Ariz.) JC righthander Zak Miller and Oregon
State third baseman Carter Bell. All have western Canadian
Thompson, a Calgary
product who pitched sparingly in two seasons at Connecticut before
transferring to Franklin Pierce, had a breakout season at the
Division II school, going 11-1, 1.23, with a fastball that touched 94
mph. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Miller, a transfer from New Mexico who
is committed to play at Arizona State next year, has an ideal
pitcher’s frame and flashed a low-90s fastball and plus slider this
Bell was an unsigned
22nd-round pick in 2008 out of a Courtenay, B.C., high
school when he enrolled at Oregon State, but his career has been much
slower to evolve than expected, and his 2011 season was interrupted
by injuries (quad, sore finger). He hit just .299-1-22 for the
Beavers. Where he eventually plays in the field in pro ball is a
continuing concern as he doesn’t have the range to play shortstop
or the raw power for third.
With a new short-season
Class A affiliate in Vancouver (Northwest) this year, the Blue Jays
are expected to put more emphasis than ever on drafting Canadian
talent to stock that club with home-grown players.
The Jays are Canada’s
only remaining big-league team, and drafted nine Canadians in 2009,
though got burned when both Paxton and second-rounder Jake
Eliopoulos, two of their first three picks, didn’t sign.
Undeterred, the Jays selected seven more Canadians a year ago.
lefthander from Newmarket, Ontario, remains unsigned, and his career
has been on a downward spiral since he inexplicably turned down
Toronto’s substantial six-figure bonus offer two years ago.
He never lasted at two
Florida junior colleges, rejected a 15th-round offer in
the 2010 draft, and spent most of this spring back home, throwing
bullpens, until he joined a Michigan-based semi-pro team, the Detroit
Jet Box, late in the spring. In his first start for that club,
Eliopoulos worked two innings and walked 10. His fastball, which was
in the low- to mid-90s at the prime of his career, barely cracked the
Canada in a
(1-to-5 scale): 3.
BEST COLLEGE TEAM:
TEAM: Douglas (B.C.)
BEST CLUB TEAM:
Langley Blaze (B.C.).
PROSPECT ON THE
RISE: Dustin Houle, 3b, Langley (B.C.) HS. Houle transferred high
schools so he could play baseball on a regular basis with the Langley
Blaze, Canada’s top travel team, and his game has taken off,
especially at the plate.
PROSPECT ON THE
DECLINE: Jake Eliopoulos, lhp, Newmarket, Ontario. A second-round
pick of his hometown team, the Toronto Blue Jays, just two years ago,
Eliopoulos ill-advisedly chose not to sign, and his career has
unraveled since. He didn’t even play for a college team this year,
and his fastball had lost nearly 10 mph when he made his spring debut
late in for a Michigan-based semi-pro team.
WILD CARD: Vaughn
Covington, rhp, Killarney HS, Vancouver, B.C. The 6-foot-4,
210-pound Covington may have more upside than any Canadian pitcher in
this year’s draft, but he underwent Tommy John surgery last
September and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the better part of a year.
He may be too much of a risk for a team to pop him in the first 5-6
PROSPECT, Canada Connection: Leslie Williams, rhp, Northeastern
University (attended high school in Scarborough, Ontario).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT:
Ryan Kellogg, lhp, Henry Street HS, Whitby, Ontario.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT:
HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS
Adam Loewen, lhp, Fraser Valley Christian HS, Surrey, B.C. (2002,
Orioles/1st round, 4th pick).
2006 Draft: Kyle
Orr, 1b, Lambrick Park HS, Victoria, B.C. (Dodgers/4th round).
Phillippe Aumont, rhp, Ecole Du Versant HS, Gatineau, Quebec
(Mariners/1st round, 11th pick).
2008 Draft: Brett
Lawrie, ss, Brookswood HS, Langley, B.C. (Brewers/1st round, 16th
2009 Draft: James
Paxton, lhp, U. of Kentucky (Blue Jays/1st round/37th
Kellin Deglin, c, Mountain HS, Langley, B.C. (Rangers/1st round, 20th pick).
Best Hitter: Dustin
Houle, 3b, Langley (B.C.) HS.
Best Power: Jonathan
Jones, 3b, Vanier (Quebec) College.
Best Speed: No
Justin Atkinson, ss, North Surrey (B.C.) HS.
Thomas Robson, rhp, Delta HS, Ladner, B.C.
Best Breaking Stuff:
Thomas Robson, rhp, Delta HS, Ladner, B.C.
GROUPS ONE and TWO
ONE (Projected ELITE-Round Draft /
THOMAS ROBSON, rhp, Delta HS, Ladner, B.C. / Langley Blaze, Team
Unquestioned ace of
Canada JR team; commands 3 pitches, FB 88-90/T-93, will throw harder
when fills out.
TWO (Projected HIGH-Round Draft /
DUSTIN HOULE, 3b, Langley (B.C.) HS / Langley Blaze, Team Canada
huge strides with bat; ++ bat speed, puts ball in play with
authority; all skills for 3B, catcher in future.
VAUGHN COVINGTON, rhp, Killarney HS, Vancouver, B.C. / Vancouver
since September with TJ surgery; + projectable arm/frame (6-4/210),
FB 90-92, + rotation on CU.
JESEN DYGESTILE-THERRIEN, rhp, Ahuntsic (Quebec) JC (Fr.) / ABC
Academy, Team Canada
Mets 2010 draft, just
turned 18; lean/projectable build (6-2/190), quick arm, 88-90 FB,
chance for 3 pitches.
SKYLAR JANISSE, rhp, St. Thomas/Villanova HS, Maidstone, Ont. /
Windsor Selects, Team Canada
Ontario prospect; inconsistent spring, but 6-5/205, easy/clean arm
action, 90 FB now, more velo in tank.
CORY SCAMMEL, of, St. Francis Xavier HS, Edmonton / Edmonton
Cardinals, Team Canada
strong (6-5/210), intriguing power potential, ball jumps off bat;
rest of game/tools very unpolished.
JONATHAN JONES, 3b, Vanier (Quebec) College (Fr.) / ABC Academy
of Quebec’s ABC academy, late bloomer; ++ power, made big strides
at plate; 3B now, 1B in works.
JUSTIN ATKINSON, ss, North Surrey (B.C.) HS / Langley Blaze, Team
polished player in Canada, ++ actions, bat/power potential; tweener,
lacks speed for SS, power for 3B.
JUSTIN MARRA, c, Michael Power HS, Toronto / Ontario Blue Jays, Team
to put it all together, flashes bat/defensive skills; has short swing
to hit, lacks + arm, but + release.