The Best Of The Northwest

There aren't any first round picks in the Pacific Northwest this year, but there is still a deep pool of talent in one of the newest baseball hotbeds. Find out who some of the top players are as Seattle Hardball publisher Scott Sepich talks to one of the top talent evaluators in the region.

With the recent success of Oregon State's baseball program on the national stage, the Pacific Northwest has become much more of a focus for evaluators when assessing talent for the upcoming MLB draft. I spoke to Jeff McKay, the General Manager of Baseball Northwest, about some of the top players in the Northwest. McKay has been running Baseball Northwest since 1995 to help develop and showcase players in the five-state region that includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Baseball Northwest's alumni roster includes budding superstars like Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, and Tim Lincecum. McKay has recently compiled and published his 2008 pre-draft list of the top players in the region, which can be found at baseballnorthwest.com.

McKay notes that this year's crop of prospects is a little light, especially at the college level, and that he'd be surprised if any Northwest players go in the first two rounds. He identifies LHP Nick Haughian of Washington and RHP Stephen Fife of Utah (a transfer from Bellevue C.C.) as the top college prospects, and likely to be drafted in rounds 3-5. I asked McKay if either had the skill and maturity to start in high-A or AA ball, and he doubted that they would. "Command of their pitches is always the deciding factor for pitchers to be moved to high-A or AA from the draft," McKay said. "Neither would be considered that polished yet."

On the high school side, McKay has good things to say about Kelso High School (Wa.) right-hander Trevor May: "He has what scouts say are 3 average (major league average) pitches with the likely chance for each to ‘project' to be better as he matures. He's over 90 with his fastball, and at times up to 93. He has good spin, depth, and feel for the curve ball and a very advanced change-up for his age. And he pitched well this spring, and that always helps." May led Kelso to the Washington state championship game. He has signed with the University of Washington, but McKay thinks May will make the jump to pro ball if he goes in the first 10 rounds.

Baseball Northwest also projects Tigard High School (Ore.) outfielder Ty Morrison to land in rounds 3-5. Morrison has great speed and a great arm, and his hitting started catching up to his other skills in the spring. Morrison has committed to Oregon (which is starting its baseball program up next year), but may choose to go pro if chosen this high.

As far as sleepers go, McKay says it's a great year for sleepers in the high school ranks because scouts didn't have as many college players to evaluate in the Northwest. He says the top "under the radar" prospect is RHP Sam Gavigilo of Ashland High School (Ore.), who pitched his team to a state championship. He also mentioned infielder Jarek Cunningham of Mt. Spokane High School (Wa.), an Arizona State signee who played only a couple of games after knee surgery, and Eric Armstrong of Franklin Pierce High School (Wa.), who is passing up a scholarship to play quarterback at Eastern Washington to pursue a baseball career. Armstrong has committed to Washington State.

Even though there may not be many Northwest players going high in the draft, McKay says that this is a fairly deep draft for high school kids in the area. And he acknowledges that Oregon State's back-to-back NCAA championships have helped change the perception about baseball in the Pacific Northwest. "I think Oregon State does by far the best job developing talent (in the Northwest), not just winning games. They've made a big impression on evaluators about the talent level up here." But with the increased interest from scouts in players from the region, it may be the high school kids who reap the benefits most in this year's draft.


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