Photo: Georgia Tech

Great Lakes prospect reports

Summer Collegiate : : Story
Allan Simpson        
Published: Saturday, September 10, 2011

Official League Website

League Strength: ***

Great Lakes League top 30 prospects (list)

With eight of its 10 teams located in Ohio, the Great Lakes League has a decided Buckeye State flavor. An
d that home-state feel is further emphasized with the number of players with Ohio connections.

Of the 30 top prospects that played in the league this season, as ranked on the accompanying list, 19 attended Ohio high schools. Three others came from Ohio colleges.

Though the Great Lakes League may have more of a regional makeup to it than any of the nation’s other upper-tier summer leagues, the league’s top prospect in each of the last four years has come from colleges in Georgia, Florida, Indiana and Virginia. This year’s top-rated player, Hamilton Joe’s righthander Dusty Isaacs, is from Georgia Tech, though is a product of a local high-school program. But last year’s No. 1 prospect, Jacksonville outfielder Adam Brett Walker, had no local connection.

Walker, who led the league in home runs and slugging, moved on to the Cape Cod League this summer, and was actually upstaged in the process by another significant power threat from the 2010 GLL prospect class, Georgia Southern outfielder Victor Roache. He led the nation’s Division I ranks with 30 home runs in the spring before nearly winning a Triple Crown this summer on the Cape.

Roache ranked only No. 9 among Great Lakes League prospects a year ago, but his true talent was difficult to gauge as he played in only 13 games, mostly at DH, because of a bad case of shin splints. His massive raw power potential was readily evident, but he struggled in adapting to wood in his short stint in the league.

Last year’s GLL list was noteworthy because of its inclusion of Walker and Roache, both potential first-round picks in the 2012 draft, but also because seven players in the top 30 are repeat performers this year.

Among them is Lake Erie outfielder Alex Johnson, who was selected the league’s official top pro prospect this summer and was generally acknowledged as the league’s best athlete. He was ranked No. 5 on this list a year ago and dropped to No. 6 this season.

Johnson has unmistakable tools, but went undrafted in June after his junior year at Cleveland State as scouts raised significant questions whether he’ll ever make it in pro ball because of an unconventional swing that locks out his left arm and makes him very vulnerable to high-velocity pitching. He was on fire in the first half of the GLL season, hitting upwards of .450, but opposing teams began to figure out where he was vulnerable and he went into a significant tailspin in the second half. With his unorthodox swing, it only exacerbated his slump and there’s debate whether his quirky swing mechanics may even be correctable.

With Cleveland State abandoning its baseball program following the 2011 season, Johnson will have access to fresh instruction at his new school, Miami of Ohio, and it will be interesting to track Johnson’s progress next spring to assess whether he has made enough strides with the bat to win over dubious area scouts, though as a senior his time is running out. He will be eligible at Miami immediately.

The Lima Locos, meanwhile, won their third title in league history, beating the Southern Ohio Copperheads in the final of the league’s six-team post-season tournament. But the Locos are not heavily represented on the list of the league’s best prospects with only one player in the top 20.

Overall, pitching dominated the league this summer. Not only are the top four prospects pitchers, but most of the better hitters in the league are either rising seniors or profile out as senior signs.

FAST FACTS

Year League Established:
1986.
States Represented in League: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio.
No. of Teams in League: 10.
Regular-Season Champion (best overall record): Southern Ohio Copperheads.
Post-Season Champion: Lima Locos.
Teams, PG CrossChecker Summer 50/Final Ranking: No. 15 Lima Locos; No. 26 Southern Ohio Copperheads.
No. 1 Prospect, 2010 (per PG CrossChecker): Adam Brett Walker, of, Licking County Settlers (Jacksonville; played in Cape Cod League in 2011).
First 2010 Player Selected, 2011 Draft: Tyler Mills, rhp, Lima Locos (Michigan; Mariners/9th round).

Player of the Year:
Mark Lapikas, 1b, Stark County Terriers.
Pitcher of the Year: Alex Radon, rhp, Lake Erie Monarchs.
Top Position Prospect (as selected by league): Alex Johnson, of, Licking County Settlers.
Top Pitching Prospect/LHP: Tyler Alexander, Hamilton Joe’s.
Top Pitching Prospect/RHP: Zac Isler, Cincinnati Steam.

BATTING LEADERS (League games only)

Batting Average:
Tyler Grogg, of, Southern Ohio Copperheads (.379).
Slugging Percentage: Mark Lapikas, 1b, Stark County Terriers (.633).
On-Base Average: Tyler Grogg, of, Southern Ohio Copperheads; Mark Lapikas, 1b, Stark County Terriers (.467).
Home Runs: Kevin Bower, 1b, Cincinnati Steam; Mark Lapikas, 1b, Stark County Terriers (6).
RBIs: Mark Lapikas, 1b, Stark County Terriers (31).
Stolen Bases: Alex Johnson, of, Licking County Terriers (20).

PITCHING LEADERS (League games only)

Wins:
Three tied at 5.
ERA: Alex Radon, rhp, Lake Erie Monarchs (0.81).
Saves: Zach Isler, rhp, Cincinnati Steam (8).
Strikeouts: Chuck Ghysels, rhp, Hamilton Joe’s (62).

BEST TOOLS

Best Athlete:
Alex Johnson, of, Lake Erie Monarchs.
Best Hitter: J.T. Riddle, ss/of, Lexington Hustlers.
Best Power: Kevin Bower, 1b, Cincinnati Steam.
Fastest Base Runner: Mark Elwell, of, Cincinnati Steam.
Best Defensive Player: Alex Johnson, of, Lake Erie Monarchs.
Best Velocity: Chuck Ghysels, rhp, Hamilton Joe’s.
Best Breaking Ball: Dusty Isaacs, rhp, Hamilton Joe’s; Zach Sterling, rhp, Lima Locos.
Best Command: Alex Radon, rhp, Lake Erie Monarchs.

TOP 30 PROSPECTS

1. DUSTY ISAACS, rhp, Hamilton Joe’s (Georgia Tech/SO in 2012)
SCOUTING PROFILE: With one of the best starting rotations in the nation last spring, Georgia Tech had no room for a promising freshman arm from Ohio, so Isaacs worked in the Yellow Jackets bullpen. He pitched admirably in a set-up role, going 1-1, 2.72 with 13 walks and 40 strikeouts in 36 innings, spread over 25 appearances. Isaacs got his chance to start this summer, and blossomed by going 5-1, 2.44 with 50 strikeouts in 44 innings. Sixteen of those strikeouts came in a league individual game record-breaking performance on July 8, even as he was lifted in the final inning. His slider was generally his best pitch on the summer, and was unusually sharp and crisp in that outing. Isaacs generally threw four pitches for strikes, and his fastball peaked out at 94 mph, though was more typically in the low-90s, but also dipped into the low-80s on occasion late in the season. It was consistently in the low-90s with late life at the league all-star game, where he fanned all three batters he faced. With his four-pitch arsenal and command of the strike zone, Isaacs was the most polished pitcher in the league and has safely been penciled in as a starter at Georgia Tech as a sophomore. His smallish 6-foot frame may be an impediment as he advances, but scouts will also be quick to see a quick arm and easy, balanced delivery, along with all his other attributes.


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