Summer Collegiate : : Story
Friday, September 23, 2011

Coastal Plain prospect reports

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Perfect Game

Official League Website

League Strength: ****

Coastal Plain League top 50 prospects (list)

All season long, the opportunistic Edenton Steamers found a way to win on their way to posting an impressive 44-11 record, capturing both half-season titles in the Coastal Plain League’s North Division and climbing to the No. 1 spot in PG CrossChecker’s weekly ranking of the nation’s top summer-league clubs.

It seemed like destiny was in their corner, as well, when the Steamers pulled out two improbable extra-inning wins against Peninsula in the opening round of the league playoffs, and beat Gastonia 1-0 in 11 innings in the opening game of the best-of-3 Petitt Cup championship series.

A CPL title and an apparent unofficial national championship was clearly in Edenton’s grasp as it needed to win just one of two games at home on the final night of the season against underdog Gastonia to close the deal.

But a dream season for the Steamers came crashing down with a pair of tight losses to Gastonia, which struggled to even qualify for post-season play with a 29-26 record and was stretched to the limit in all three playoff series. In sudden fashion, the clock struck midnight on the overachieving Steamers.

Edenton’s Cinderella-like run to an elusive title was the defining storyline in the Coastal Plain League this summer, but there were plenty of other moments that stood out, both literally and figuratively, in the case of the league’s two top players.

Morehead City’s 6-foot-4, 270-pound slugger Chase McDonald narrowly missed winning a triple crown on his way to earning league player-of-the-year honors. A previously-unheralded freshman from East Carolina, McDonald led the league in batting (.403) and RBIs (51), and became just the second player in league history to crack the .400 barrier. He also tied the league record for RBIs.

Gastonia’s 6-foot-6, 250-pound lefthander Michael Heesch, meanwhile, was selected the league’s pitcher of the year after taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and earning the win as the Grizzlies blanked Edenton, 2-0, in the clinching game of the CPL playoffs. That effort pushed Heesch’s overall record on the summer to 9-0, 2.08 with 79 strikeouts in 82 innings. He had three wins and 23 scoreless innings in post-season play.

As dominant as Edenton was as a team, and McDonald and Heesch were as individual players, they were all upstaged on the accompanying list of the league’s top 50 prospects.

No Steamers players are ranked in the top 18, and the soft-tossing Heesch wasn’t ranked at all. McDonald landed at No. 4, but was upstaged by the first baseman who started opposite him in the league all-star game, Peninsula’s Jake Cave, who didn’t come close to matching the numbers that McDonald produced.

Cave was judged the No. 1 prospect in the league, even as he hit just .326-1-16 for the Pilots. But Cave’s professional upside became apparent to even the most casual observer shortly after the season when he received an $825,000 bonus from the New York Yankees. Though he was that team’s sixth-round pick in this year’s draft, he received the second-highest bonus paid out by the Yankees.

The sweet-swinging Cave also gained notoriety for becoming the first high-school talent ever to play in the CPL as the league relaxed its eligibility rules to permit the inclusion of recent high-school graduates, though no more than two per team. Peninsula was the only team to take advantage of the amendment, and its roster included Virginia’s two best high-school prospects for the 2011 draft, Cave and righthander Deshorn Lake.

Cave, a significant two-way talent throughout his high-school career, actually saw little time at first base for the Pilots, despite his all-star selection at that position. He was used much more extensively in the outfield. He also saw limited duty on the mound, and his emergence as the No. 1 talent in the league marked the third straight year that a two-way talent from Peninsula held that distinction.

Clemson lefthander/outfielder Will Lamb was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the CPL in both 2009 and 2010 on his way to being drafted in the second round by the Texas Rangers in this year’s draft. Another former Peninsula player with two-way credentials, Kes Carter, upstaged Lamb by becoming the first player from the CPL’s 2010 class to be drafted. He went in the supplemental first round to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Led by Lamb (No. 1) and Carter (No. 3), the top three players on last year’s list of top Coastal Plain League prospects were the first three players from the league to be drafted this year. Fayetteville righthander Carter Capps, ranked No. 2, was a supplemental third-round pick of the Seattle Mariners.


Year League Established:
States Represented in League: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia.
No. of Teams in League: 15.
Regular-Season Champion (best overall record): Edenton Steamers.
Post-Season Champion: Gastonia Grizzlies.
Teams, PG CrossChecker Summer 50/Final Ranking: No. 7 Edenton Steamers, No. 35 Fayetteville SwampDogs, No. 46 Forest City Owls.
No. 1 Prospect, 2010 (per PG CrossChecker): Will Lamb, lhp/of, Peninsula Pilots (Clemson; Rangers/2nd round).
First 2010 Player Selected, 2011 Draft: Kes Carter, of, Peninsula Pilots (Western Kentucky; Rays/supplemental 1st round).

Player of the Year:
Chase McDonald, 1b, Morehead City Marlins.
Pitcher of the Year: Michael Heesch, lhp, Gastonia Grizzlies.
Top Prospect (as selected by league): None selected.

BATTING LEADERS (League games only)

Batting Average:
Chase McDonald, 1b, Morehead City Marlins (.403).
Slugging Percentage: Chase McDonald, 1b, Morehead City Marlins (.663).
On-Base Average: Chase McDonald, 1b, Morehead City Marlins (.469).
Home Runs: Ryan Mathews, of, Wilson Tobs (15).
RBIs: Chase McDonald, 1b, Morehead City Marlins (51).
Stolen Bases: Ryan Brenner, of, Edenton Steamers (35).

PITCHING LEADERS (League games only)

Derek Brooks, rhp, Fayeytteville SwampDogs (7).
ERA: Matt Campbell, rhp, Florence RedWolves (1.19).
Saves: Derek Epps, rhp, Gastonia Grizzlies (13).
Strikeouts: Brice Riverbark, lhp, Wilson Tobs (81).


Best Athlete:
Adam Matthews, of, Florence RedWolves.
Best Hitter: Jake Cave, of, Peninsula Pilots.
Best Power: Daniel Aldrich, of, Wilmington Sharks.
Fastest Base Runner: Adam Matthews, of, Florence RedWolves.
Best Defensive Player: Tim Saunders, ss, Edenton Steamers.
Best Velocity: Patrick Scoggin, rhp, Peninsula Pilots.
Best Breaking Ball: Shawn Armstrong, rhp, Morehead City Marlins.
Best Command: Brooks Fiala, rhp, Edenton Steamers.


1. JAKE CAVE, of/lhp, Peninsula Pilots (SIGNED/Yankees)
SCOUTING PROFILE: Cave was acknowledged as the best talent in Virginia’s 2011 prep crop pretty much throughout his career at Hampton’s Kecoughtan High, and the only real debate was whether he had more upside as a hitter or pitcher. Though he lasted until the sixth round of this year’s draft, that stemmed more from the uncertainty surrounding his commitment to Louisiana State, not indecision on the part of big-league clubs on his future role. The New York Yankees targeted Cave from the start as a hitter and though they couldn’t sign him right away because his bonus would be significantly out of line from the slot recommendations of the commissioner’s office, they endorsed his playing in the Coastal Plain League for the summer—believing the competition would be equal, or better, than what he would face in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. The only request the Yankees made of the Peninsula coaching staff was that they not use Cave in a regular role as a pitcher, even though his fastball was a steady 92-94 mph during the spring. Cave hit a robust .621 as a high-school senior, and scored high marks this summer for his lightning-quick hands, powerful lefthanded swing and mature approach to hitting. Though his power wasn’t evident in games, he showed it in BP and drove balls hard to all fields. Cave still has mechanical flaws in his swing and his power should evolve as they are corrected. In particular, scouts noted that his bat didn’t stay in the hitting zone long enough, and yet he still made consistent, hard contact, which inferred an extremely keen sense of timing. Cave also needs work on hitting breaking balls from lefthanders and changeups from righthanders after striking out at a frequent rate (39 times in 138 at-bats). He is capable of playing center field and is expected to start his pro career there, though his speed is not ideal for the position. In all likelihood, he’ll end up right field, where his powerful arm would be an asset. Cave also pitched on rare occasion this summer, and walked nine while striking out 14 in 12 innings. His fastball peaked at 94. Scouts praise his intense, competitive approach and genuine love for the game, and his out-style was graphically on display in his first game in the Yankees farm system, when he hurt his knee taking out the catcher on a play at the plate, and missed the rest of the season.

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