Summer Collegiate : : Story
Monday, September 19, 2011

West Coast Lg. prospect reports

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Oregon State

Official League Website

League Strength: ***

West Coast League top 35 prospects (list)

The West Coast League has made a rapid rise up the nation’s hierarchy of summer college leagues in its seven-year existence, but the simple fact of the matter is that it has essentially been the impact of two teams that has engineered the league’s ascent.

The Corvallis Knights and Wenatchee AppleSox have dominated the league from the outset. Between them, they have won six of seven league championships. Corvallis won its second title this year, while Wenatchee won back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006, and again in 2009-10. The Knights have won all five Western Division titles since the league split into divisions in 2007, while the Apple Sox have captured the last four Eastern Division crowns after a second-place finish in the first year of division play.

Neither club has ever come close to having a losing season. Corvallis is a combined 216-96 (.692 winning percentage) over the league’s seven-year existence while Wenatchee is a cumulative 204-107 (a .656 record). The Knights track record of success even dates back to 2005-06 when the franchise operated in the Portland suburb of Aloha, Ore., and was known then as the Aloha Knights before it relocated downstate to Corvallis, coincidentally the home of Oregon State, which was in the midst of recording back-to-back College World Series titles. The Knights play their home games at Goss Stadium, home of the Beavers.

Wenatchee, located in the heart of Washington’s apple-growing country in the central part of the state, has no tie-in to a major college. But it has been coached throughout its tenure in the league by Ed Knaggs, the head baseball coach at local Wenatchee High School. Knaggs just concluded his 11
th year with the AppleSox as he coached the team for four years before the West Coast League was formed.

Wenatchee looked like it was headed for a third straight league title this season as it burst out to a 25-5 start and climbed to No. 3 nationally in PG CrossChecker’s ranking of the nation’s top summer league clubs. But the AppleSox faded in the second half to finish at 39-15 overall, and were abruptly bounced in two straight games in the WCL playoffs.

About the time Wenatchee started to fade, Corvallis began to get hot and went 22-5 down the stretch to go 37-17 overall. The Knights used that momentum to win four of five playoffs games and capture their first league title since 2008. Though the Knights dominated the league during the regular season with a deep, talented pitching staff, they blitzed upstart Walla Walla in the final, winning convincingly 11-4 and 14-3.

While Wenatchee faltered down the stretch, it still set a league record for wins, topping the mark of 38 that Corvallis had set in 2009, although the AppleSox achieved the feat in the league’s newly-expanded 54-game schedule. Had the AppleSox maintained their early pace, they would have been in position to top their own league record for highest winning percentage of .806, which they set while going 29-7 in 2006.

Not unexpectedly, Corvallis and Wenatchee dominate the accompanying list of the league’s top 35 prospects, with 16 selections between them.

For the second time in three years, the No. 1 prospect comes from Corvallis and is a high-school player bound for Oregon State. This year, that player is Oregon prep lefthander Jace Fry, a ninth-round pick of the Oakland A’s in this year’s draft. Two years ago, it was California prep catcher Andrew Susac, who was selected in the second round in June by the San Francisco Giants after two seasons with the Beavers.

Recent high-school graduates were prominent throughout the WCL this season, and Fry and Cowlitz shortstop Mitch Walding, the most-elite prospects, ranked 1-2. Whereas Fry rejected an offer from the A’s to fulfill his college commitment to Oregon State, Walding signed a late-minute, $800,000 deal with the Philadelphia Phillies as that team’s fifth-round selection, in the process bypassing a chance to play in college at Oregon.


Year League Established:
States Represented in League: British Columbia, Oregon, Washington.
No. of Teams in League: 9.
Regular-Season Champion (best overall record): Wenatchee AppleSox.
Post-Season Champion: Corvallis Knights.
Teams, PG CrossChecker Summer 50/Final Ranking: No. 6 Corvallis Knights, No. 11 Wenatchee AppleSox.
No. 1 Prospect, 2010 (per PG CrossChecker): Stefan Sabol, c/of, Cowlitz Black Bears (Oregon; played in Cape Cod League in 2011).
First 2010 Player Selected, 2011 Draft: Jeff Ames, rhp, Wenatchee AppleSox (Lower Columbia, Wash., JC/Rays, supplemental 1st round).

Most Valuable Player:
Alex Stanford, 2b, Walla Walla Sweets.
Most Outstanding Pitcher: Owen Jones, rhp, Wenatchee AppleSox.
Top Prospect (as selected by league): None selected.

BATTING LEADERS (League games only)

Batting Average:
Payden Cawley Lamb, of, Wenatchee AppleSox (.350).
Slugging Percentage: Adam Nelubowich, 3b, Wenatchee AppleSox (.490).
On-Base Average: Ryan Barnes, of, Wenatchee AppleSox (.439).
Home Runs: Adam Nelubowich, 3b, Wenatchee AppleSox (8).
RBIs: Adam Nelubowich, 3b, Wenatchee AppleSox (36).
Stolen Bases: Justin Maffei, of, Bend Elks (21).

PITCHING LEADERS (League games only)

Owen Jones, rhp, Wenatchee AppleSox (7).
ERA: Ryan Richardson, rhp, Walla Walla Sweets (1.53).
Saves: Matt Cartwright, lhp, Kitsap Blue Jackets (10).
Strikeouts: Owen Jones, rhp, Wenatchee AppleSox (78).


Best Athlete:
Royce Bolinger, of, Bend Elks.
Best Hitter: Breland Almadova, of, Wenatchee AppleSox.
Best Power: Adam Nelubowich, 3b, Wenatchee AppleSox.
Fastest Base Runner: Breland Almadova, of, Wenatchee AppleSox.
Best Defensive Player: Mitch Walding, ss, Cowlitz Black Bears.
Best Velocity: Nick Palewicz, rhp, Bellingham Bells.
Best Breaking Ball: Jimmy Sherfy, rhp, Corvallis Knights.
Best Command: Alex Phillips, lhp, Wenatchee AppleSox.


1. JACE FRY, lhp, Corvallis Knights (Oregon State/FR in 2012)
SCOUTING PROFILE: Fry surged to the top of Oregon’s high-school crop for the 2011 draft with a breakout senior year at Southridge High, going 10-0, 1.42 with 18 walks and 92 strikeouts in 59 innings. Had he been less committed to pursuing a college career at Oregon State, he might have been tabbed as early as the third or fourth rounds of this year’s draft, but slipped to Oakland in the ninth round. Fry’s impressive spring season, along with his unflappable nature gave OSU coaches the confidence that he could hold his own in the West Coast League this summer. By placing him at Corvallis, they could monitor his every step and Fry blossomed in a faster, more competitive environment. His fastball was typically in the 88-91 mph range as a high-school senior, but he jacked up the velocity on the pitch to a steady 90-94 on the summer, while even touching 95-96 early in the season. His slider was a second dominant pitch, and he also worked in a curve and changeup, though his curve was more of a get-me-over offering designed to give hitters a different look while his change remains a work in progress. An extremely confident young pitcher, Fry showed no hesitation in challenging older hitters and posted an impressive 2-1, 1.41 record on the summer with 15 walks and 33 strikeouts in 38 innings. Fry gets good movement on his fastball and deception in his delivery from his low three-quarters arm slot, and though he’s not overly physical in his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame, his quick left arm, ability to command three pitches and competitor demeanor more than make up for any physical shortcoming. Oakland officials made a last-ditch effort to sign Fry at the mid-August deadline, but his taste of success on the Oregon State campus only strengthened his resolve to honor his commitment to the Beavers.

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