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Summer Collegiate : : Story
Jayhawk League Prospect Reports
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012

Official League Website
Jayhawk League top 20 prospects (list)
Perfect Game Summer Collegiate top prospect coverage

The Wichita-based National Baseball Congress staged its 78
th
 annual World Series this summer, and perhaps more than ever became a showcase for Jayhawk League teams. Five of the league’s six teams wangled an invitation to the 32-team event, and all five managed to finish among the top 10 entrants although none advanced to the championship game.

The regular-season champion Hays Larks made the most-spirited run towards a 10
th
 title overall for the Jayhawk League since its formation in 1976, running off six straight wins after an opening-round loss before finishing third. Among its victims in the double-elimination event were the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters, who went on to win their second straight NBC title.

It’s unclear whether the admirable showing of Hays and the remaining Jayhawk teams spoke more to the strength of those clubs, their traditional “home-field advantage” or an increasingly watered-down NBC field, but the talent that played in the league this summer appeared to be as strong as in any season in recent memory.

Hays, which has never won an NBC title but finished second four times (most recently as 2007), boasted the top prospect in the Jayhawk League for the second straight season. This year, that player was Nebraska rising sophomore outfielder Austin Darby; a year ago, it was another outfielder Aaron Cornell, who was in the process of transferring from Eastern Oklahoma JC to Oklahoma State. Cornell played sparingly last spring for the Cowboys and the fact that he ranks only No. 13 on the accompanying list of this year’s Top 20 Prospects, in a return engagement to the league, points to the upgrade in talent from 2011.

No more an authority than Hays manager Frank Leo, who has coached the Larks off and on since 1975 (including continuously since 1994), says the position talent in the league was superior to what it has been in recent years, but there may not have been the depth of pitching.

The Dodge City A’s, coached by former big leaguer Phil Stephenson (younger brother of Wichita State coaching legend Gene Stephenson), were responsible for much of the league’s surge in talent, contributing three of the top five prospects. The A’s had been a perennial doormat since joining the league in 2007, but finished second to Hays and a representative seventh in the NBC World Series.

FAST FACTS

Year League Established:
1976.
States Represented in League: Kansas.
No. of Teams in League: 6 (6 in 2011).
Regular-Season Champion: Hays Larks (23-11; 35-13 overall).
Post-Season Champion: NONE. Dodge City A’s, El Dorado Broncos, Hays Larks, Haysville Heat and Liberal Bee Jays represented league in National Baseball Congress World Series, Wichita, Kan.
Teams, PG CrossChecker Summer 50/Final Ranking: No. 32 Hays Larks; No. 48 Dodge City A’s.
No. 1 Prospect, 2011 (per PG CrossChecker): Aaron Cornell, of, Hays Larks (Oklahoma State; returned to Hays in 2012).
First 2011 Player Selected, 2012 Draft: Zeb Sneed, rhp, Haysville Heat (Northwest Nazarene, Idaho; drafted by Royals/12th round).

BATTING LEADERS (League games only)

Batting Average:
Taylor Drake, 3b, Dodge City A’s (.421).
Home Runs: Zair Koeiman, 2b, Hays Larks; Ryan Busboom, 1b, Hays Larks (7).
RBIs: Taylor Drake, 3b, Dodge City A’s (35).

PITCHING LEADERS (League games only)

Wins:
Justin Ziegler, rhp, Hays Larks (5).
ERA: Blake Johnston, rhp, Hays Larks (1.13).
Strikeouts: Justin Ziegler, rhp, Hays Larks (47).

BEST TOOLS

Best Athlete:
Tim Anderson, ss/of, Dodge City A’s
Best Hitter: Austin Darby, of, Hays Larks
Best Power: Taylor Drake, 3b/1b, Dodge City A’s
Fastest Base Runner: Tim Anderson, ss/of, Dodge City A’s
Best Defensive Player: Tyler Baker, c, Liberal Beejays
Best Velocity: Colton Reavis, rhp, Hays Larks
Best Breaking Ball: Derek Thompson, lhp, Derby Twins
Best Command: Derek Thompson, lhp, Derby Twins

TOP 20 PROSPECTS

1. AUSTIN DARBY, of, Hays Larks (Nebraska/SO in 2013)
SCOUTING PROFILE: Not only has the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Darby earned the distinction of being the Jayhawk League’s top prospect, but he was also selected the league’s player of the year after hitting .393-7-47 overall with 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts for league champion Hays. Darby is surprisingly polished considering his age and Colorado upbringing, and gave a strong indication of his athleticism and blossoming talent by hitting .324-2-15 as a first-year player last spring at Nebraska that earned him Big 10 all-freshman honors. He simply built off that performance during the summer, customarily hitting in the 4-hole for Hays. Not only is he a run producer with easy and significant raw power potential from the left side, but showcases above-average speed on the bases. He has a compact stroke, sound idea of the strike zone and solid overall approach to hitting, but just needs to curb his tendency to chase pitches and swing-and-miss at an unacceptable rate. That should come with experience and enable him to become a complete offensive player. Darby has all the other ingredients to evolve into a legitimate five-tool talent as he is a sound defender in right field and can handle center field in a pinch, though a slightly below-average arm, the one shortcoming in his game, may ultimately relegate him to left field.


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