Draft : : State Preview
Thursday, May 24, 2012

State Preview: Montana

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Perfect Game

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 scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players as ranked in Perfect Game's state-by-state scouting lists.


Contributing: Allan Simpson

Montana State-by-State List
2011 Montana Overview

Montana Overview:
Treasure State Offers Wealth of Riches for Second Year in a Row

Last year, Montana produced two draft picks, including outfielder Ben Roberts in the seventh round. While that take would be slim pickings for most states, it was a banner year by Montana’s modest drafts standards as that state had previously produced only four picks in the first 10 rounds, and no one higher than the 41st
 round since 1998. Moreover, the state didn’t produce a draft pick of any kind from 2008-10.

If 2011 was a noteworthy draft for Montana, this year could be exceptional as there is a strong chance that as many as three players will be selected, including the possibility of two more in the top 10 rounds in outfielder Justin Black and lefthander Caleb Frare. Righthander Andrew Sopko is not expected to be far behind.

In addition to its remote location, Montana is one of two states in the country without a formal high-school baseball program, making it difficult for players to get noticed. Typically, the state’s best talent is scouted playing in American Legion competition, though the top prospects are getting seen at national-level events on an increasing basis.

Black (Nebraska), Frare (Utah) and Sopko (Gonzaga) all have significant Division I options, and scouts will need to be mindful of their signability as both of last year’s Montana draft picks, Roberts and lefthander Joe Pistorese (White Sox, 44th
 round), ended up in college at Washington State.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Many of Montana’s unique factors were discussed by Roberts, Black and Frare in Perfect Game's 2012 High School Northwest Regional feature
Northern Exposure.)

Montana in a nutshell:

STRENGTH:
High-school talent.
WEAKNESS: Depth.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 5.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Montana Connection:
Gabe Weidenaar, of, Oklahoma State University (Attended high school in Bozeman).
Top 2013 Prospect: Raymond Schnur, if, Capital HS, Helena.
Top 2014 Prospect: Conner Linebarger, if, Bozeman HS.

HIGHEST DRAFT PICKS

Draft History:
Les Rohr, lhp, West HS, Billings (1965, Mets/1st round, 2nd pick).
2006 Draft: None selected.
2007 Draft: Tyler Gilder, rhp, Butte HS (Phillies/41st round).
2008 Draft: None selected.
2009 Draft: None selected.
2010 Draft: None selected.
2011 Draft: Ben Roberts, of, Sentinel HS, Missoula (Diamondbacks/7th round).

2011 DRAFT OVERVIEW

High School Players Drafted/Signed:
2/0.

TOP PROSPECTS, GROUPS ONE and TWO

GROUP ONE
(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)?

None

GROUP TWO
(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)?

1. JUSTIN BLACK, of, West HS, Billings
Despite the lack of high-school baseball in Montana, Black has managed to get his share of exposure at national-level events, including the World Wood Bat Association fall championship last October in Jupiter, Fla., and this spring in Arizona, while traveling to Arizona with the Langley Blaze, a prominent travel team from British Columbia. Black has obvious athleticism in his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame, with speed being his best tool. He has good instincts in center field and consistently takes good routes with the ability to cover a lot of ground. At the plate, he employs a confident approach with a simple, compact and quick swing capable of smoking line drives to all parts of the field. There isn't much over-the-fence power in his swing at this point, but that could change as he continues to add strength. In American Legion competition a year ago, Black hit .435 with 86 RBIs.

2. CALEB FRARE, lhp, Custer County District HS, Miles City
Like Justin Black (No. 1), Frare has had to take it upon himself to travel to prominent national showcase and tournament events to get the necessary exposure from the scouting community. He joined Black and righthander Andrew Sopko, the other top high-school prospects in Montana, in Jupiter, Fla., on the Northwest Scout Team last October at the World Wood Bat Association fall championship. He was also scheduled to travel with the Langley (B.C.) Blaze in March to Arizona before coming down with mononucleosis. That illness sapped Frare's strength in the early part of the spring, but he generally has shown the ability to maintain his upper-80s velocity with a loose arm action, while touching 90-91 mph. He also throws a sweeping curve and is working to develop his changeup. Frare has committed to play in college at Utah, but could edge into the top 10 rounds of the draft if he is considered signable.

PROSPECT TO WATCH

ANDREW SOPKO, rhp, Loyola Sacred Heart HS, Missoula
Sopko ranks third in Montana as a prospect for this year’s draft behind Justin Black (No. 1) and Caleb Frare (No.2), but has advanced pitching skills and intriguing upside in his lean 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame. He typically works in the mid- to upper-80s now with his fastball, but has a live, loose and easy arm, and could see a spike in velocity in the next 2-3 years as he continues to add strength. Sopko throws on a downhill plane, and already shows good feel for a hard-spinning, low- to mid-70s curve, and a changeup. He has committed to play in college for Gonzaga, and could be a name to watch three years from now if the draft doesn’t work out in June.

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