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Summer Collegiate : : Story
West Coast Lg. Prospect Reports
Allan Simpson        
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012

Official League Website
West Coast League top 30 prospects (list)
Perfect Game Summer Collegiate top prospect coverage

With the proliferation of summer college leagues at an escalating rate around the country over the last several years, it has stretched the demand for talent and clubs have looked to new horizons to find representative players to fill rosters. Graduating high-school seniors are a demographic being tapped in increasing numbers.

The West Coast League has been at the forefront of this charge, never more prominently than this year. Of the league’s top 30 prospects, a total of eight are high-school products, including the top three and six of the top 10.

Six of the eight were selected in the draft in June, including Walla Walla lefthander Hunter Virant, the No. 1-ranked prospect. He was chosen in the 11
th round by the Houston Astros, but had his mind set on attending UCLA all along, causing him to drop significantly in the draft and subsequently resist all overtures from the Astros.

Coincidentally, the lone player from the WCL’s group of eight to sign a pro contract, rather than follow through on his college commitment, was another player with UCLA ties, Cowlitz righthander Felipe Perez, ranked No. 9. Oddly, Perez was deemed to be such a lock to attend college that he was one of the two prep players among the eight to go undrafted in June, and yet still signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a non-drafted free agent. A signing bonus of $400,000 was enough to make him change his mind.

More than any other college, UCLA has made a practice of sending most of its incoming college freshmen class off to play in summer college leagues, where they face a faster level of competition, before the players even enroll in college, with the West Coast League a popular destination.

The Bruins got burned when Perez unexpectedly was lost just prior to the July 13 signing deadline, but still came out ahead when they retained the services of Virant, along with righthander James Kaprelian (No. 3) and outfielder/lefthander Ty Moore (No. 16), who gained valuable experience in the WCL and were instrumental in leading Wenatchee to its fifth league title in the league’s eight-year existence. The AppleSox also won championships in 2005-06 and 2009-10.

Virant’s appearance at the top of the prospect list marks the fourth straight season that a recent high-school graduate ranked No. 1 in the WCL. He follows in the footsteps of Corvallis catcher Andrew Susac (2009), who moved on to college at Oregon State; Cowlitz catcher Stefan Sabol (2010), who attended Oregon; and Corvallis lefthander Jace Fry (2011), who is currently at Oregon State.

Predictably, Wenatchee and Corvallis dominated the West Coast League in 2012, with Wenatchee handily winning in the Eastern Division and Corvallis in the West. The AppleSox turned the tables on the defending champions Knights in the playoffs, winning the league’s best-of-3 championship series.

The AppleSox and Knights have won seven of eight league championships between them, and neither club has ever come close to having a losing season. Corvallis is a combined 248-118 (.677 winning percentage) over the league’s eight-year existence while Wenatchee is a cumulative 241-124 (a .660 record).

Not unexpectedly, Corvallis and Wenatchee dominate the accompanying list of the league’s top 30 prospects, with six selections apiece, though Walla Walla and Cowlitz boast the top two prospects in a pair of highly-projectable young lefthanders in Virant and Cole Irvin.

FAST FACTS

Year League Established:
2005.
States Represented in League: British Columbia, Oregon, Washington.
No. of Teams in League: 9 (9 in 2011).
Regular-Season Champion (best overall record): East--Wenatchee AppleSox (37-17); West—Corvallis Knights (32-22).
Post-Season Champion: Wenatchee AppleSox.
Teams, PG CrossChecker Summer 50/Final Ranking: No. 6 Wenatchee AppleSox; No. 21 Corvallis Knights; No. 39 Bellingham Bells.
No. 1 Prospect, 2011 (per PG CrossChecker): Jace Fry, lhp, Corvallis Knights (Oregon State; did not summer ball play in 2012).
First 2011 Player Selected, 2012 Draft: Jeff Gelalich, of, Bellingham Bells (UCLA/Reds, supplemental 1st round).

Most Valuable Player:
Mitch Gunsolus, ss/3b, Wenatchee AppleSox.
Most Outstanding Pitcher: Cord Cockrell, rhp, Kelowna Falcons.

BATTING LEADERS (League games only)

Batting Average:
Will Sparks, of, Bend Elks (.392).
Slugging Percentage: Taylor Sparks, 3b/of, Wenatchee Apple Sox (.709).
On-Base Average: Parker Miles, 2b, Klamath Falls Gems (.488).
Home Runs: Taylor Sparks, 3b/of, Wenatchee AppleSox (9).
RBIs: Mitch Gunsolus, ss/3b, Wenatchee AppleSox (48).
Stolen Bases: Marc Gallegos, 2b, Corvallis Knights (21).

PITCHING LEADERS (League games only)

Wins:
Cord Cockrell, 2b, Kelowna Falcons; Brandon Marris, rhp, Kelowna Falcons (7).
ERA: Rob Dittrick, rhp, Corvallis Knights (1.10).
Saves: Tyler Kane, rhp, Wenatchee AppleSox (13).
Strikeouts: Derek Callahan, lhp, Wenatchee AppleSox (56).

BEST TOOLS

Best Athlete:
Connor Hofmann, of, Corvallis Knights
Best Hitter: Mitch Gunsolus, 3b, Wenatchee AppleSox
Best Power: Taylor Sparks, 3b/of, Wenatchee AppleSox
Fastest Base Runner: Jace Conrad, 2b, Kelowna Falcons
Best Defensive Player: Shane Zeile, 3b, Walla Walla Sweets
Best Velocity: Taylor Williams, rhp, Cowlitz Black Bears
Best Breaking Ball: James Kaprelian, rhp, Wenatchee AppleSox
Best Command: Trevor Frank, rhp, Corvallis Knights

TOP 30 PROSPECTS

1. HUNTER VIRANT, lhp, Walla Walla Sweets (UCLA/FR in 2013)
SCOUTING PROFILE: The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Virant burst onto the prospect scene a summer ago when his fastball topped out at 93 mph at two prominent Perfect Game showcase events. He subsequently earned his share of first-round discussion in the spring with his athleticism and effortless delivery, but in the end Virant’s unwavering commitment to UCLA, and resulting financial demands to buy him away from a college career, led teams to back off their pursuit of him. The Houston Astros, nonetheless, drafted him in the 11th round and reportedly offered a signing bonus of up to $1.2 million to entice him to sign, but he refused to let money stand in the way of attending UCLA. Virant provided a taste of things to come this summer at Walla Walla by going 3-2, 2.30 in nine appearances (6 starts), while walking 24 and striking out 35 in 43 innings. Had he thrown just two more innings, his .155 opponent batting average would have officially been the best in the league—by a considerable margin. Virant came to the West Coast League with heightened expectations, but his stuff wasn’t as electric as advertized with a fastball that was generally in the 87-90 mph range, topping at 91, nor was he as polished as expected. But with the projection in his lean, lively frame, his easy mechanics and impressive raw stuff—not to mention that he’s lefthanded—the sky appears to be the limit for Virant, who already has been tabbed a serious candidate to be the first college player drafted in 2015, when he becomes draft-eligible again. He is very polished considering his relative lack of innings and repetitions, and his ability to use the natural movement on his fastball and his changeup are two of his best attributes. But he has plenty of work to do over the next year or two, and much of it should occur with natural maturity as he fills out his then, wiry build. He also needs to establish and define a consistent arm slot and release point in order to repeat his delivery more consistently. Typically around three-quarters now, he has the option of going high to get a better downhill trajectory on his pitches, or low to get better running action on his fastball. Improving the command of all the pitches in his arsenal is also a goal, and that should happen as he develops the quality of his secondary stuff. He shows good spin on a low-80s slider and low-70s curve, but is still looking for a consistent release point and a better feel for the shape of the pitches. His slider is often sharp and has a chance to be an exceptional pitch, but it also can come from too low an angle and be flat, and scouts say he may want to scrap his often-loopy curve to put more focus on his slider. His change has good sink and run, and is considered a solid-average pitch. With his very savvy, competitive approach and willingness to accept instruction, scouts have little doubt that Virant will tap into most if not all of his considerable upside.


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