Summer Collegiate : : Story
Thursday, October 10, 2013

Coastal Plain prospect reports

Allan Simpson        

Official League Website:
2013 Summer Collegiate Top Prospect coverage
Coastal Plain League Top Prospect list (free)

The Peninsula Pilots historically have had the most prospect-rich team in the Coastal Plain League, but until the 2013 season didn’t have a championship to show for it.

That ended for the Virginia-based club this summer as it beat the defending champion Columbia Blowfish in two straight extra-inning games in a best-of-3 final. On three previous occasions (2006, 2007 and 2009), the Pilots had lost in the championship series.

Oddly, this club may have been one of Peninsula’s least-talented in several years—if Perfect Game’s ranking of the top prospects in the CPL can be used as a measuring stick. The top prospect on this year’s club, by most accounts, was third baseman Jordan Negrini (Old Dominion), who played a pivotal role in the team’s success after going undrafted in June. He ranks no higher than fifth overall in the league, in contrast to the four-year period from 2008-11, when the Pilots boasted the league’s No. 1 prospect, and even 2012, when they had the second-best prospect. In 2010 alone, six of the top nine CPL prospects were Peninsula players, yet the team advanced no further than the semi-finals.

The depth of talent on this year’s club wasn’t quite as prevalent, either, though the Pilots won a club record 39 games (including playoffs) and still had nine players ranked among the league’s Top 60 prospects. A year ago, a 26-28 Peninsula team had a dozen players in the top 60, and didn’t win a playoff game.

Typically, the Pilots recruited aggressively in the past and while they landed their share of front-line prospects, they also invariably got burned by losing a number of key players to the draft; numerous others arrived late because of their participation with Division I teams in post-season play. But this year, the Pilots made a conscious point of scaling back their recruiting efforts, focused more on players with Virginia roots, and were justly rewarded.

A pair of local high school products, lefthander Brandon Vick and righthander Aaron Myers, both attending college at Longwood and ranked 15
th and 16th respectively on the accompanying list of the league’s top prospects, combined to pitch the Pilots to the title with a 2-1 win over Columbia in the deciding game of the 2013 season, while Negrini, a local college product, delivered the winning run in the eighth-inning on a sacrifice fly. The game was scheduled for seven innings because a rain out the previous day necessitated a possible doubleheader on the final day of the season.

Peninsula went only 14-13 in the first half of the CPL season, but caught fire in the second half, going 19-9, and entered the CPL playoffs on a roll as the No. 4 seed. They reached the final by dismantling the No. 1 seed Edenton Steamers in three games in the semi-final round, marking the third straight season that the Steamers, typically an older team with proportionately fewer high-end prospects, had posted the best record in the league, only to get bounced in the playoffs.


Year League Established:
States Represented in League: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia
No. of Teams in League: 14
Regular-Season Champion (best overall record): EAST/First Half—Edenton Steamers (20-6); Second Half—Edenton Steamers (20-5). WEST/First Half—Asheboro Copperheads (18-8); Second Half—Asheboro Copperheads (17-10)
Post-Season Champion: Peninsula Pilots
Teams, Perfect Game Summer 50/Final Ranking: No. 6 Edenton Steamers, No. 14 Peninsula Pilots; No. 28 Asheboro Copperheads; No. 34 Columbia Blowfish
No. 1 Prospect, 2012 (per PG CrossChecker): Andrew Brockett, rhp, Wilmington Sharks (Richmond/Royals, 22nd round, 2013 draft)
First 2012 Player Selected, 2013 Draft: Nate Smith, lhp, Asheboro Copperheads (Furman/Angels, 8th round)

Player of the Year:
Luke Tendler, of, Asheboro Copperheads (North Carolina A&T)
Pitcher of the Year: John Tuttle, rhp, Asheboro Copperheads (Catawba, N.C.)

BATTING LEADERS (League games only)

Batting Average:
Luke Tendler, of, Asheboro Copperheads (.351)
Slugging Percentage: Nick Thompson, 2b/of, Edenton Steamers (.594)
On-Base Average: Patrick Grady, of, Peninsula Pilots (.487)
Home Runs: Ryan Cranmer, of/3b, Edenton Steamers (12)
RBI: Josh Hampton, 3b, Edenton Steamers (42)
Stolen Bases: Hunter Burton, 2b, Gastonia Grizzlies (28)

PITCHING LEADERS (League games only)

John Tuttle, rhp, Asheboro Copperheads (9)
ERA: John Tuttle, rhp, Asheboro Copperheads (0.78)
Saves: Jake McCoy, rhp, Edenton Steamers (11)
Strikeouts: Tim Hill, lhp, Florence RedWolves (61)


Best Athlete:
Jared Foster, of, High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms
Best Hitter: Evan Stephens, of, High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms
Best Power: Chase McDonald, 1b, Morehead City Marlins
Fastest Base Runner: Kyle Brandenburg, of, High Point-Thomasville Hi Toms
Best Defensive Player: Evan Stephens, of, Asheboro Copperheads
Best Velocity: Matt Pope, rhp, Asheboro Copperheads
Best Breaking Ball: Travis Hissong, rhp, Fayetteville Swampdogs
Best Command: John Tuttle, rhp, Asheboro Copperheads


1. TYLER BOLTON, rhp, Wilmington Sharks (East Carolina/JR in 2014)
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Bolton made a sudden and dramatic emergence as a legitimate prospect this summer in the CPL, posting a 5-0, 0.87 record in eight starts for Wilmington; in 49 innings, he allowed 15 walks and struck out 49, but most impressively allowed just 24 hits, which translated to an eye-popping opponent batting average of just .137. That’s in stark contrast to a 0-2, 7.36 record in 15 innings as a sophomore at East Carolina and just three brief appearances at ECU as a freshman, along with an 2-6. 4.48 mark (55 IP, 32 BB/30 SO) in the CPL in 2012, while pitching for Wilson. Against his former team, the Tobs, he allowed just one run in three starts. A bigger, stronger Bolton featured the best combination of the liveliest arm in the league with the least amount of effort in unleashing his arsenal. His fastball was a steady 89-92 mph, peaked at 93-94 and even reached 95 on a couple of occasions at the league all-star game in his abbreviated two-inning stint as the starter for the Eastern Division squad. He also gets excellent arm-side sinking action on the pitch from a high three-quarters angle, but his arrival as a prospect coincided with his ability to command both his secondary pitches, notably his changeup, though his slider has also become a solid third offering. He excelled at attacking hitters inside, especially in getting balls under their hands. Overall, he made huge strides in his understanding of how to pitch and slowing a game to his pace, and no longer qualifies as just a hard thrower with limited pitching acumen. But it’s imperative that Bolton carries over his breakout summer showing to his junior year at ECU in order to qualify as a legitimate early-round prospect for the 2014 draft.

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