Draft : : State Preview
Friday, May 27, 2011

State Preview: Washington

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Washington State

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.

Washington State-by-State List

Washington Overview:
Trio of Lefthanders Lead Impressive Crop of Washington Pitching Prospects

How much do the Tampa Bay Rays like Washington high-school baseball players?

Obviously, quite a bit if the 2010 draft is any indication. Washington had three premium prep players a year ago and the Rays quickly scooped up all three of them—Bishop Blanchet High outfielder Josh Sale in the first round, Central Kitsap outfielder Drew Vettleson in the supplemental first round and Highland High middle infielder Ryan Brett in the third round.

The Rays could make an even bigger statement this year of their affinity for Washington state talent as they own 10 of the first 60 selections in the draft. But it may depend on their preference for position players or pitchers. If they want to make another run on hitters, then they may be barking up the wrong tree.

Like last year, Washington has plenty of legitimate candidates for the early rounds, but almost every top prospect this time around is a pitcher. In fact, the first nine names listed below are all pitchers, if two-way prospect Dylan Davis is included at that position.

Lefthanded pitching, especially, is in plentiful supply as the state’s three best prospects overall—Adam Conley of Washington State, Blake Snell of Shorewood High and Ryan Carpenter of Gonzaga—all throw from that side. The lefthanded theme is particularly evident throughout the Pacific Northwest this year as two of Oregon’s top three prospects fall in that demographic.

Though two of the top three prospects in Washington are college players, the strength of this year’s draft class is clearly at the high-school level. A talented Shorewood High team alone has three potential picks in the top 10 rounds, led by Snell, who has emerged as the dominant prep arm in the state. Through his first 56 innings this spring, Snell was 8-0, 1.00 with 118 strikeouts. In his most-dominant outing of the season, he threw a two-hit shutout against Oak Harbor High, walking none and striking out 19.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Snell has seen a significant spike in his velocity, up to 94 mph, along with improved command of the pitch and a better breaking ball. His changeup has always been considered a solid third pitch.

As dominant as Snell has been on the mound for Shorewood High, he’s really been no more dominant than his teammate, 6-foot-4, 225-pound first baseman Trevor Mitsui, has been at the plate. Mitsui has mashed the ball at a lethal .712 clip with 13 homers through 24 games. He had also drawn 42 walks (many of them intentional), and struck out just once.

For all the progress that Snell, in particular, and even Mitsui have made as a prospect this spring, one of their pitching mates, projectable 6-foot-5 righthander Kevin Moriarty, may have made more. Moriarty, Shorewood’s No. 3 starter, doesn’t have the dazzling results (3-0, 1.43, 29 IP/43 SO) to show for it, but his fastball has been up to 93, and his breaking stuff ranks with any pitcher in the state.

Together, Snell, Mitsui and Moriarty led Shorewood High to 22 wins in its first 24 games, and a spot in the state 3-A semi-finals. Snell and Mitsui are both committed to Washington, but Snell’s obligation is considered much more tentative than Mitsui’s, which should pave the way for him to be the first prep player drafted.

Redmond High also has a pair of high-end prospects in Davis and outfielder Michael Conforto, but there is less buzz among Northwest scouts on them because both have college offers from Oregon State, and appear to be among the most-unsignable players in the elite group of Washington prospects. They may end up becoming little more than courtesy picks in the later rounds.

Davis is a significant two-way talent, and would continue to go both ways in college, but scouts are divided whether he has a higher upside at the plate, or on the mound. He has made greater strides as a hitter (.427-10-35) as he has had ongoing difficulty throwing strikes consistently with his mid-90s fastball, and scouts question his overall feel for pitching. Davis walked 54 in 47 innings, while going 7-2, 3.40.

The power-hitting Conforto was scouted mostly for his bat this spring, but opened some eyes as a possible pitching prospect as he had considerably more success on the mound than even the more-established Davis did. As Redmond High’s closer, Conforto posted four saves while striking out 26 in 12 innings. He didn’t allow a run gave up just one hit.

Projectable Newport High righthander Kole Wiper may be the most-established prep pitcher in Washington, and he only solidified his status this spring as a potential third- to fourth-rounder with a low-90s fastball and solid breaking ball.

While Wiper and most of the state’s other top high-school players were on the radar of scouts before the start of the 2011 season, two previously-unknown players, Skyview High righthander Kody Watts and Edmonds-Woodway High catcher/first baseman Austin Jones, made big strides this spring,

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Watts was actually held in higher regard for his skills as a quarterback, especially with a fastball only at 86-88 mph last summer. He then missed most of the football season last fall with a knee injury, however, and when he came out this spring throwing up to 93-94 mph, his stock as a baseball prospect quickly took off. He has surged up draft lists. Another late bloomer has been Jones, whose impressive raw power from the left-hand side attracted significant attention.

Almost all of the best high-school talent in Washington is concentrated in the western half of the state, especially in and around Seattle. Conley and Carpenter, meanwhile, do most of their work in the extreme eastern portion of the state, and drew heavy scouting traffic all spring. Despite their lofty draft rankings, neither has been consistently dominant at various stages of the season, and they have drawn mixed reviews. In the process, the draft stock of both appears to have slipped marginally.

The 6-foot Conley has been primarily a reliever to this point in his career, but was stretched out this spring as a starter. While he didn’t flash the mid-90s velocity as a starter that he routinely did in a closing role, Conley may have become a more complete pitcher as he was forced to use all his pitches. His fastball, both a four-seamer up to 95 and a two-seamer with excellent sinking action, is still his best pitch, and he has excellent command of it. He still profiles as a closer in the long run, though, as his highly-competitive approach and somewhat violent delivery seem better-suited for the role.

The 6-foot-5 Carpenter has an ideal pitcher’s frame and has flashed a fastball as high as 97 mph in the past, but his velocity was often as low as the high-80s this spring, causing some scouts to have second thoughts on his true draft value. Carpenter’s fastball has resided mostly in the 88-92 mph range, and yet like Conley may have benefitted by becoming a more complete pitcher. He sacrificed velocity for better, more polished off-speed stuff.

After Conley and Carpenter, there is a significant drop in the Washington college talent. WSU outfielder Derek Jones may have done the most to help himself by consistently showcasing his raw power against some of the better power arms in the Pac-10 Conference, often in front of large numbers of scouts. Cougars first baseman Taylor Ard (.326-8-51) posted better overall numbers than Jones (.274-8-30), but never really heated up at the plate until near the end of the season.

Senior righthander Cody Martin (2-1, 0.91, 11 SV, 49 IP/60) had a fine season as Gonzaga’s closer, but as a mid-sized righthander with an average fastball he may become only a moderately-higher pick this year than he was a year ago (Twins/20th round).

The University of Washington fell out of favor as a baseball presence in the state after the departure of future two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum in 2006. The Huskies appeared to be making impressive strides in re-tooling the program with a new coaching staff in place for 2010, but much of that momentum was lost this year when the team was hit with a couple of crippling injuries to potential mid-round draft picks (OF Caleb Brown, broken femur; RHP Tyson Schmitt, broken leg), and a notable academic suspension (RHP Andrew Kittredge) to one of the team’s best arms.

Righthander Aaron West, though, proved a pleasant surprise after missing the 2010 season with Tommy John surgery, and could conceivably forge his way into the top 10 rounds. The Huskies were only 17-34 entering the final weekend of the 2011 season, and dead last in the Pac-10 at 6-18, just ahead of the Cougars (24-27, 8-16 in Pac-10).

Washington junior colleges rarely get their due nationally, mainly because they are not affiliated with the National Junior College Athletic Association, but they continue to pump out their share of draftable talent, with both 6-foot-5, 210-pound Lower Columbia righthander Jeff Ames and 6-foot, 160-pound Green River righthander Cody Hebner candidates to go in the top 10 rounds.

Though the pitchers differ greatly in physical stature, both are capable of running their fastballs into the mid-90s (Ames has peaked at 97). The two also had remarkably similar records as starters this spring (Ames was 6-1, 2.34, 73 IP/20 BB/86 SO; Hebner was 6-1, 1.62, 74 IP/28 BB/88 SO), but profile as relievers in pro ball.

Because of its somewhat remote location, tucked away in the Northwest corner of the country, Washington is rarely thought of as one of the nation’s best talent-producing states.

But Washington high schools are credited with producing 298 draft picks in the seven-year period from 2004-10. That kind of production puts the state in elite company. Only California (1,951), Florida (1,160), Texas (1,047) and Georgia (452), all prominent Sun-Belt states, can claim a distinct advantage. Overall, Washington ranks seventh among all states as a talent producer.

This year’s high-profile high-school crop should only add to that impressive total.

Washington in a Nutshell:

High-end high-school talent.
WEAKNESS: College talent.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 4.

BEST HIGH-SCHOOL TEAM: Shorewood HS, Shoreline.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Kody Watts, rhp, Skyview HS, Vancouver.
Better known as a quarterback until injuring a knee playing football last fall, Watts made a meteoric rise up draft boards this spring when he committed to baseball and his fastball jumped from 86-88 mph to 90-94. His slider also became a dominant second pitch.

PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Spencer O’Neil, of, Southridge HS, Kennewick.
As a junior, O’Neil might have been Washington’s best high-school prospect in the 2011 draft class. But he is still growing into his lean, 6-foot-4 frame, and his power potential never evolved as expected this spring. Having been passed by a number of his peers, O’Neil is destined now to play in college at Oregon and could emerge as legitimate prospect for the 2014 draft.

WILD CARD: Dylan Davis, rhp/of, Redmond HS.
Davis has excellent two-way potential, but scouts remain as divided as ever on whether his greater upside is on the mound or at the plate. With a 95-mph fastball, Davis is very intriguing as a pitching prospect, but he has a long way to go to improve his control after walking 54 in 47 innings. Another complicating factor in establishing Davis’ draft worth is a strong commitment to play in college at Oregon State.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Washington Connection:
Cal Towey, of, Baylor (attended high school in Bellevue).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Dylan LaVelle, 3b/rhp, Lake Stevens HS, Everett.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Dustin Driver, rhp, Wenatchee HS.

Draft History: Mike Lentz, lhp, Juanita HS, Kirkland (1975, Padres/1st round, 2nd pick).
2006 Draft: Tim Lincecum, rhp, U. of Washington (Giants/1st round, 10th pick).
2007 Draft: Clay Mortensen, rhp, Gonzaga U. (Cardinals/1st round, 36th pick).
2008 Draft: Christian Scholl, rhp, Green River CC (Angels/8th round).
2009 Draft: Kyrell Hudson, of, Evergreen HS, Vancouver (Phillies/3rd round).
2010 Draft: Josh Sale, of, Bishop Blanchet HS, Seattle (Rays/1st round, 17th pick).

Best Hitter: Trevor Mitsui, 1b/3b, Shorewood HS, Shoreline.
Best Power: Derek Jones, of, Washington State University.
Best Speed: Dylan Davis, of/rhp, Redmond HS.
Best Defender: Michael Conforto, if/of, Redmond HS.
Best Velocity: Jeff Ames, rhp, Lower Columbia JC.
Best Breaking Stuff: Kevin Moriarty, rhp, Shorewood HS, Shoreline.


(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. ADAM CONLEY, lhp, Washington State University (Jr.)
Used as starter to become a complete pitcher, but stuff/makeup better suited to close; + command of 95 FB.
2. BLAKE SNELL, lhp, Shorewood HS, Shoreline
Lanky 6-4/190 LHP; + downhill angle, 89-91 FB/T-94, OK SL, CH best off-speed; 8-0, 1.00, 56 IP/118 K’s.
3. RYAN CARPENTER, lhp, Gonzaga University (Jr.)
Impressive-looking LHP (6-5/230), dominant arm; ++ when on his game, struggles with mechanics, FB velo.
4. JEFF AMES, rhp, Lower Columbia JC (So.)
Physical RHP, loose/power arm; FB routinely at 95-97 when used in short role, power SL solid No. 2 pitch.
5. COLE WIPER, rhp, Newport HS, Bellevue
6-3/190 frame, fast/compact arm; 89-92 FB, but straight; +sharp/nasty SL at 83, also has big downer 78 CU.

(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

6. KODY WATTS, rhp, Skyview HS, Vancouver
Top QB before 2010 knee injury, blossomed on mound with 89-93 FB, power CU, split CH; has high ceiling.
7. KEVIN MORIARTY, rhp, Shorewood HS, Shoreline
Projectable 6-5/175, long arm action; 87-90 FB/T-92, raw off-speed, No. 3 starter on ++ HS team (3-0, 1.43).
8. DYLAN DAVIS, of/rhp, Redmond HS
2-way prospect; + bat (.427-10-35), ++ OF arm, 6.8 in 60; FB at 96, limited feel for pitching (47 IP/54 BB).
9. CODY HEBNER, rhp, Green River JC (So.)
Big arm in thin/wiry frame; very competitive, attacks zone with 91-93 FB/T-96, + SL/CH; profiles reliever.
10. MICHAEL CONFORTO, if/of, Redmond HS
+ strong at 6-1/200, LH bat with big swing, ball jumps, but doesn’t square up enough; + versatile in field.
11. DEREK JONES, of, Washington State University (Jr.)
Strong/athletic frame; + power to all fields, even with new college bats; LF type, average speed, fringe arm.
12. SPENCER O’NEIL, of, Southridge HS, Kennewick
Smooth/easy LH swing, projects + hit/+ power, just not strong enough yet; Oregon signee, high 2014 draft.
13. TREVOR MITSUI, 1b/3b, Shorewood HS, Shoreline
Powerful RH bat, + swing mechanics, overpowers balls, + 2011 season (.712-13-26, 42 BB/1 SO); 1B or 3B.
14. AUSTIN JONES, 1b, Edmonds-Woodway HS, Edmonds
Late bloomer; big raw power attracted wave of scouts; position is uncertain, C in HS, 1B/OF at next level.

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