Northwest Regional Feature: Northern Exposure
This is the ninth of a ten-part series previewing all ten regions of the United States. The schedule is as follows:
1. Wildcats in the crosshairs
Last year Westview (OR) got over the hump and captured their first ever state championship after having contended in each of the previous two seasons. The Wildcats had three shutouts in last year's playoffs thanks to a formidable staff led by Sam Johnson (now at Oregon), two-way prospect Carson Kelly. With Johnson now departed and the Wildcats playing with a target on their back repeating will be a challenge. But the team that finished 2011 as the top ranked team in the Northwest Region opens 2012 in the same spot, while also landing in the top 25 nationally to open the season. With just five seniors it seems like the Wildcats will have their work cut out for them, but Kelly is the reigning Gatorade State Player of the Year, and easily the highest ranked prospect in the state and his two-way ability gives him the value of two star players.
2. Continued development of Andrew Pullin
The rise from national unknown to All-American was an interesting one for Centralia OF/RHP Andrew Pullin in 2011. He arrived at the 2011 California Underclass Showcase completely off PG's radar. His strong performance against high level players from Southern California who have the benefit of playing year round opened some eyes. On the strength of that showing Pullin earned an invite to the 2011 National Showcase.
wanted to go where there was better competition for me to play," Pullin recently told Perfect Game. "Go
where the best players are and play at the highest level possible. I
work on everything, there isn't one specific thing that I'm trying to
improve. I work hard at everything, and I have good coaching so
that's helping out a lot."
It's becoming evident that Pullin is working hard to improve all aspects of his game. Between January and June he cut two tenths of a second off of his 60 yard dash time, improved his throwing velocity by three miles an hour and showed even bigger strides with the bat. Pullin began to realize his power potential and played his way into an invite to play for the West team at the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic. He also earned an invitation to play for national powerhouse Marucci Elite at the 2011 WWBA World Championship, where he homered in the playoffs and went 2-for-3 in the championship game to help Marucci bring home their first title in Jupiter. Every time Pullin performed in front of the PG staff he was better than the previous time, if he can continue to show the same rate of development throughout the spring he may not end up setting foot on campus in Eugene.
3. Montana hotbed?
The state of Montana produced a seventh round pick last year in OF Ben Roberts (now at Washington State), and has three players who are nationally ranked in the class of 2012. Click here to read Patrick Ebert's article highlighting their journey.
4. Multi-talented Joey Martarano
Boise State may have found their next superstar quarterback in Fruitland's Joey Martarano. Of course, there is the issue of his high level baseball ability. Boise State doesn't compete in baseball at the Divison I level, and by all accoutns Martarano has the ability to excel at the Division I level of baseball. Martarano earned a spot on the Kansas City Royals northwest team at the 2011 Area Code Games following his sophomore season, but was unable to attend to a schedule conflict with his football preparation. So the ultimate question comes down to what Martarano wants to do. He'll have opportunities to play either sport at the next level, the ball is in his court.
5. Top of the Mount Si
Mount Si captured their first ever state title in 2011. While they graduated a lot of key pieces from the title winning squad in Tim Proudfoot, Dustin Breshears and Max Brown, they landed some quality transfers. 2012 will see the addition of two players from the New Zealand national team in 2013 RHP Joe Boyce and 2012 C Dewald DeKlirk, along with 2013 Util Gunnar Buhner (son of MLB veteran Jay). They will join an already strong pitching staff fronted by RHP Reese Karalus and RHP Trevor Taylor as well as OF/LHP Trevor Lane. The state of Washington looks to be up for grabs heading into 2012 but Mount Si looks (on paper) like a strong contender to defend their 3A title.
March 13 Mount Si (WA) @ Bothell (WA)
The opening day matchup pits the defending 3A champions (Mount Si) against the defending 4A champions (Bothell). Both teams lost some key players to graduation, but both open the season ranked in the top 10 in the region.
March 13 Union (WA) @ Camas (WA)
The early season matchup between two regionally ranked teams which will feature the region's top two 2012 catching prospects in Clint Coulter of Union and Austin Barr of Camas. Camas won last year's meeting comfortably, by a score of 11-3, on their way to a 25-1 season that ended with a run to the 3A state semifinals.
March 17 Roseburg (OR) @ Westview (OR)
The top ranked team in the state (and region), Westview, hosts the team with the best one-two punch on the mound in Roseburg. The Indians feature a pair of Oregon signees in RHP Jared Preistley and RHP Josh Graham, making it likely that one of them will be on the hill facing future Oregon Ducks teammate Carson Kelly.
March 23, April 12 Kentwood (WA) vs. Auburn Riverside (WA)
The league matchups between the two preseason favorites come early enough that a league title may not be on the line by that point but the outcomes will likely have an impact heading down the stretch. Kentwood C Reese McGuire is the top 2013 prospect in the state. Auburn Riverside has a strong 2013 prospect of their own in SS Austin Marty, but their best player is RHP Michael Rucker.
April 17-20 Westview (OR) vs Portland Jesuit (OR)
The top two ranked teams from the state of Oregon meet for a three game series that could go a long way in determining the Metro League championship. Jesuit hasn't finished outside the top three in the past three seasons, while Westview has won three consecutive league titles. Carson Kelly is the biggest star in this matchup, but Jesuit's 2014 LHP Christian Martinek is arguably the region's most exciting underclassman.
Northwest High School Dream Team
C Reese McGuire, Jr, Kentwood (WA)
For the second year in a row this spot is occupied by a junior as McGuire knocks 2012 MLB Draft prospect Clint Coulter of Camas Union (WA) off his spot as the catcher on the Northwest Dream Team by a slim margin. This is the strongest pair of catchers in the nation and is a difficult decision. Coulter's high level bat may prevent him from ever ending up at Arizona State. But McGuire's elite defense and high level bat give him a slight edge over the power hitting Coulter. Stanford commit Austin Barr of Camas (WA) gets lost in the shuffle because of the caliber of McGuire and Coulter, but he is yet another prospect to keep an eye on in the region.
1B CJ Gettman, Sr. Wenatchee (WA)
Gettman has been a well kept secret in the state of Washington until recently. The physically built 6-foot-4 power hitting first baseman has been hidden in the small town of Wenatchee (pop. 13,000). But thanks to high profile teammate Dustin Driver, scouts found out just what kind of power Gettman brings to the plate as a left handed hitter. He'll be a sleeper to watch this spring. Redmond (WA) RHP/1B Peter Hendron is another top level first baseman to watch.
2B Jordan Cowan, Jr. Kentlake (WA)
The diminuative Cowan may not look like a prototypical Dream Team member, but his high level middle infield defense make him the pick at second base. Cowan is a highly polished defender with smooth balanced actions and good feel for the game. Zach Lain from Wyoming is another interesting player for this spot, though he also sees time at shortstop and third.
SS Dylan LaVelle, Sr. Lake Stevens (WA) (2-time Northwest Dream Team Selection)
The Pe. Another contender is Ryne Shelton of Timberline (WA) whose plus speed and arm strength make him a high level defender with the potential to stay in the middle of the diamond long term, whether as a middle infielder or center fielder. Washington State signee Trek Stemp of Kennewick (WA) is another strong candidate for this spot.
3B Joey Martarano, Jr. Fruitland (ID)
The two sport star is not nearly as polished as a lot of the players on the Dream Team, but his physical ability is too impressive to leave him off. Some scouts believe that if he were to focus his full attention to baseball that Martarano could potentially develop into one of the top prospects in the entire region going into his senior season in 2013.
OF Andrew Pullin, Sr. Centrailia (WA) (2-time Northwest Dream Team Selection)
OF Theo Alexander, Sr. Lake Washington (WA)
OF Mitchell Gueller, Sr. WF West (WA)
The trio of Washington outfielders is an impressive one. Their ability makes each of them an obvious selection for the outfield, which hides the fact that the eastern states of the region boast unusually strong talent this year. Montana product Justin Black is a highly intriuging prospect who just misses the Dream Team as a senior, while Idaho junior Mason Smith of Rocky Mountain also misses the cut as a result. 2011 PG All-American Classic participant Andrew Pullin is arguably the top prospect in the state of Washington, with a four plus tool set that fits perfectly in right field (also a 6.88 runner). Alexander is athletic center fielder who projects to be a high level hitter and has begun to make strides towards realizing that promise. Gueller burst onto the national scene at the 2011 Area Code Games, after having been known around the region thanks to playing with current University of Washington freshman Erik Forgione at WF West High School, located in the small town of Chehalis (pop. 7,259). Gueller touched 92 mph with his fastball at the Area Code Games, but made a stronger impression with his showing in center field where he showed borderline five tool ability.
UTIL Carson Kelly, Sr. Westview (OR) (2-time Northwest Dream Team Selection)
Kelly is not only the best pitcher in the region, but he also makes a strong case for the top position prospect as well. His exceptional two-way ability has made him a staple of Team USA for the past two years. Kelly is the top prospect in the state of Oregon by a wide margin and his presence makes the Westview Wildcats the preseason favorite to repeat as state champs. Stanford commit OF/LHP Johnny Locher of Highline (WA) and 2013 grad OF/RHP Ian Hamilton of Skyview (WA) and 6-foot-7 RHP/3B Taylor Jones are also high level two-way players in the region.
P Michael Rucker, Sr. RHP, Riverside (WA)
P Dustin Driver, Jr. Wenatchie (WA)
P Caleb Frare, Sr. LHP Custer County (MT)
P Reece Karalus, Sr. RHP, Mount Si (WA)
P Brandon Mahovlich, Sr. RHP Issaquah, (WA)
The region's top pitcher also happens to be the top overall prospect, thus Carson Kelly occupies the Util spot. Strike machine Michael Rucker becomes the de facto ace as a result of his high level command. Physically built 2013 grad Dustin Driver is the lone junior to make the Dream Team's pitching staff. Montana lefty Caleb Frare has shown steady development over the past few years, especially with his curveball. Karalus, a Santa Clara commit shows as much potential as anyone in the group, though he lacks consistency at this point. Power armed righty Brandon Mahovlich locks up the final spot, leaving projectable Montana product Andrew Sopko on the outside looking in, in spite of his upside. The region features several underclassmen who have already made a strong impression. Oregon features a pair of interesting lefties in 2013 grad Brett Nielsen and 2014 grad Christian Martinek. Washington chips in another interesting young lefty in 2014 grad Andrew Summerville. Other pitchers to watch include: 2012 RHP Taylor Jones, 2013 RHP Alex Hardy, 2012 RHP Marty Lukenbach, 2014 RHP Branden Kelliher, 2014 RHP Ky Dye and 6-foot-6 2014 RHP Joe Wainehouse.
Northwest Region Best Tools
Best Hitter For Average Carson Kelly, Sr. 3B/RHP, Westview (OR)
This is a highly competitive category, with several well deserving candidates. Kelly's hit tools narrowly edges out Andrew Pullin, Dylan LaVelle and 2013 C Reese McGuire. But as he does in several other categories, Kelly stands out above his impressive group of peers. His swing features very good rhythm and tempo, even against high level pitching. His easy swing generates good bat speed and he controls the barrel very well and consistently drives the gaps with authority.
Best Hitter For Power Clint Coulter, Sr. C, Union (WA)
Another competitive category, but the physically imposing Coulter has already developed impressive power. While his power is better to the pull side, Coulter is capable of hitting the ball out of any part of the ballpark and has shown development towards becoming a complete hitter. Andrew Pullin makes a strong case in this category as well, and the well rounded Carson Kelly also merits consideration for his projectable power.
Best Baserunner Sam Brown, Sr. OF, Jackson (WA)
Brown was seen as a potential sleeper coming out of the 2011 Area Code Games. His hitting ability showed promise as did his defense, but the area where he truly stands out is on the basepaths. Not only does he run well, but his instincts and acceleration allow his speed to play up on the bases.
Best Defensive Catcher Reese McGuire, Jr. C, Kentwood (WA)
McGuire is not only the best defensive catcher in the region, he currently rates as one of the best in the entire class of 2013. His plus arm, quick fluid actions and advanced receiving ability make him a high level standout. One scout compared McGuire's defensive upside to that of Austin Hedges, the top defensive catcher of the 2011 class, whose defensive ability made him a second round pick of the Padres. Whether he reaches that level remains to be seen, but either way, McGuire is a legitimate defensive catcher.
Best Defensive Infielder Carson Kelly, Sr. 3B/RHP, Westview (OR) (2nd year in a row)
While he lacks the top end speed and range to be a high level shortstop, Kelly's quick actions, lateral agility, polished footwork and quality arm strength make him a strong defender on the hot corner. Other quality defenders include: Cabe Reiten, Trek Stemp and Tyler Campbell,
Best Defensive Outfielder Mitchell Gueller, Sr. WF West (WA)
Gueller is an above average runner (low 4.20s home to first times from the right side) who has run his fastball up to 92 mph. While he's not the fastest player in the region and doesn't have the strongest arm, he has the best all around defensive tools in the region. Combines his tools with good reads and routes to give him an edge over other strong defensive outfielders Theo Alexander and Andrew Pullin.
Best Infield Arm Carson Kelly, Sr. 3B/OF Westview (OR) (2nd year in a row)
Kelly's 90 mph throwing velocity at the 2011 National Showcase is impressive, but it's not just his raw arm strength that give him the nod in this category. His throwing accuracy and quick release combined with that strength give him a highly playable arm.
Best Outfield Arm Andrew Pullin, Sr. Centrailia (WA)
After being a runner up in both hitting categories and in the conversation in the best defensive outfielder category, Pullin finally earns top billing in the best outfield arm category. At the 2011 National showcase he uncorked a 95 mph throw from the outfield and has been above 90 with his fastball on the mound.
Best Fastball Dustin Driver, Jr. RHP, Wenatchie (WA)
Driver gets the slight edge in this category after topping out at 92 at the 2011 Area Code Games, combined with his six feet of extension it gave him the seventh shortest time from release to the plate at the event (and best among 2013 grads) at .421 seconds (.416 is MLB average). Carson Kelly and Mitchell Gueller match him with 92 mph fastballs and the tall and lanky Taylor Jones matched his .421 average time from release point to home plate at the 2011 Area Code Games thanks to his extreme extension.
Best Offspeed Stuff Carson Kelly, Sr. 3B/RHP, Westview (OR)
While Kelly's low 90s fastball is among the best in the region, its his three secondary pitches that stand above the rest in the region. His low 80s slider is a potential plus pitch, his curveball flashes good depth and at its best is a knee buckler and he also shows good feel for his changeup.
Best Command Michael Rucker, Sr. RHP, Riverside (WA)
While Rucker isn't imposing and he doesn't overpower high level hitters, he is one of the most effective hurlers in the Northwest Region. His slow paced low effort delivery not only lulls hitters to sleep, it allows him to repeat his delivery well, allowing him to pound the strike zone. On a given start his command ranges between plus and plus-plus, and he has feel for all three of his pitches. One PG scout noted that while his size and velocity may cause him to be overlooked in the 2012 draft, he predicted that Rucker will go on to dominate in college. Rucker is committed to Gonzaga.
Best Pitchability Carson Kelly, Sr. 3B/RHP, Westview (OR)
Kelly's exceptional offspeed stuff, good command and firm fastball give scouts something to ponder. While he's also the best pure hitter in the region and an excellent defensive third baseman, Kelly's ability on the mound makes it tempting to draft him as a pitcher. Kelly has always been a high level position player, but he really came into his own as a pitcher last year, adding significant sharpness to his secondary stuff and continued to develop his pitchability. With that development Kelly has become highly polished and effective and has become the best present ability pitcher in the region.
Northwest Top 25 Regional Rankings
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