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Summer Collegiate : : Story
Alaska League prospect reports
Published: Thursday, August 25, 2011

Official League Website

League Strength: ***

Alaska League top 25 prospects (list)

The measuring sticks to gauge the Alaska League’s impact on summer baseball have traditionally been the league’s performance at the annual National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., and the number of future big leaguers produced.

On those counts, no other existing summer league has as enviable a track record. Alaska League teams have won the NBC World Series 16 times through the years, and finished second on 17 occasions. In six different tournaments, the championship game has pitted two Alaska teams.

It’s been 10 years now, though, since the last Alaska team won an NBC title, and this year’s Kenai Peninsula Oilers became just the third Alaska club in the decade to even play in the title match. The Oilers, NBC champions in 1977 and 1993-94, fell 1-0 to the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters to finish second.

The Alaska Goldpanners, the Alaska League’s flagship franchise, has won a record six NBC championships through the years and produced the staggering total of 198 future big leaguers—a total no amateur team in history can come close to matching. In 1983 alone, the Goldpanners boasted 14 players who went on to play Major League Baseball, among them future first-rounders Barry Bonds, Shane Mack, Joe Magrane and Oddibe McDowell.

But the Goldpanners’ procession of future major leaguers has slowed to a trickle in recent years and the club didn’t even play a formal Alaska League schedule this summer for the first time, citing financial reasons. Instead, the team played a three-week exhibition schedule that centered on the 105
th renewal of its showpiece event, the annual Midnight Sun Game, but otherwise spent most of the 2011 season on the road. It is unclear whether the team will return to the league in 2012, or in what form.

The Goldpanners may be the most-storied team in summer-baseball history, but their downslide in recent years has been somewhat symbolic of the direction of the entire Alaska League, which lost its place as the nation’s premier summer league in the mid-80s to the Cape Cod League. The Cape’s decisions to recruit more aggressively on a national scale while implementing a switch from aluminum to wood bats was critical in it moving past the Alaska League, and the gap has only continued to widen.

With a lack of central leadership and a tendency to live off its reputation, the Alaska League has since been surpassed by several other, more progressive summer leagues. Whether it can arrest its downward spiral in 2012, and beyond, will depend to a significant degree on the future direction of the Fairbanks-based Goldpanners, though not having that team in the league this summer resulted in much-less travel as the other teams are concentrated in and around Anchorage.

The decision of the Goldpanners, who began operating in 1960, to withdraw from the Alaska League for the 2011 season cast a pall over the league initially, but the Oilers provided a positive spin with their inspired play throughout the season.

They easily won the league title on their way to a gallant run at the NBC tournament. Moreover, the Oilers produced more than their share of the league’s best potential major-league prospects with a total of 11 players on the accompanying list of 25, though they were upstaged by the Anchorage Glacier Pilots, who boast the top two.

FAST FACTS

Year League Established:
1974 (reunited 1998).
States Represented in League: Alaska.
No. of Teams in League: 6 (Alaska Goldpanners took a leave of absence in 2011).
Regular-Season Champion: Kenai Peninsula Oilers.
Post-Season Champion: NONE. Kenai Peninsula Oilers represented league in National Baseball Congress World Series, Wichita, Kan.
Teams, PG CrossChecker Summer 50/Final Ranking: No. 10 Mat-Su Miners, No. 45 Mat-Su Miners.
No. 1 Prospect, 2010 (per PG CrossChecker): Stephen Piscotty, of, Kenai Peninsula Oilers (Stanford; played in Cape Cod League in 2011).
First 2010 Player Selected, 2011 Draft: Tyler Grimes, ss, Kenai Peninsula Oilers (Wichita State; drafted by Twins/5th round).

Player of the Year:
Mike Miller, ss, Kenai Peninsula Oilers.
Top Prospect (as selected by league): Aaron Judge, of, Anchorage Glacier Pilots.

BATTING LEADERS (League games only)

Batting Average:
Mike Miller, ss, Kenai Peninsula Oilers (.364).
Home Runs: Cael Brockmeyer, c/1b, Anchorage Glacier Pilots; Troy Channing, 1b, Kenai Peninsula Oilers; Patrick Wisdom, 3b, Kenai Peninsula Oilers (4).
RBIs: Patrick Wisdom, 3b, Kenai Peninsula Oilers (26).
Stolen Bases: Dominic Francia, of, Mat-Su Miners (20).

PITCHING LEADERS (League games only)

Wins:
Jordan Mills, lhp, Kenai Peninsula Oilers (5).
ERA: Mark Anderson, lhp, Mat-Su Miners (1.03).
Saves: Tyler Bayless, rhp, Anchorage Glacier Pilots (8).
Strikeouts: Charlie Gillies, rhp, AIA Fire (50).

BEST TOOLS

Best Athlete:
Spencer Judge, of, Anchorage Glacier Pilots.
Best Hitter: Mike Miller, ss, Kenai Peninsula Oilers.
Best Power: Patrick Wisdom, 3b, Kenai Peninsula Oilers.
Fastest Base Runner: Keenyn Walker, of, Anchorage Glacier Pilots.
Best Defensive Player: Keenyn Walker, of, Anchorage Glacier Pilots.
Best Velocity: Kyle Finnegan, rhp, Anchorage Bucs.
Best Breaking Ball: Trevor Bayless, rhp, Anchorage Glacier Pilots.
Best Command: Jon Maciel, rhp, Kenai Peninsula Oilers.

TOP 25 PROSPECTS

1. AARON JUDGE, of, Anchorage Glacier Pilots (Fresno State/SO in 2012)
SCOUTING PROFILE: At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Judge is an impressive physical specimen. He also oozes athleticism as he was a three-sport star at a California high school, with Division I offers in football and basketball, and was actually more hotly-pursued by scouts in the 2010 draft as a pitching prospect. Power may ultimately become Judge’s best tool as he routinely put on an impressive show in batting practice this summer and hit balls over the light towers in the Alaska League’s Home Run Derby, but it has not translated yet into games. He failed to go deep even once on the season for the Glacier Pilots, while hitting .289. Even as Judge led Fresno State in hitting as a freshman (.359), he homered just twice. His approach at the plate is geared to drive balls to the opposite field, and he’ll need work on his swing mechanics in order to pull balls more consistently to fully tap into his raw power. The rest of Judge’s game is solid. He has a powerful arm in right field and though not a burner, he is a faster runner than he looks, enabling him to cover plenty of ground in the outfield and be an asset on the bases. If his power develops over the next two years, as expected, Judge will be a legitimate candidate for the first round in the 2013 draft.


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