Game High School Baseball Preview Index
Northwest Region: Idaho, Oregon, Washington
The torch is passed in Washington, while Oregon looks to be wide open
It could be some time before the region sees another prospect of the caliber of 2013 grad Reese McGuire. The state of Washington has produced a significant number of first round draft picks, sixth most in draft history. But McGuire's are huge shoes to fill. His team, Kentwood high school, knocked off a young upstart Puyallup squad in the Washington 4A state championship game in 2012 and entered the 2013 season ranked nationally in spite of graduating several key players. The Conquerors would ultimately fall 1-0 in the semifinals but they were formidable contenders who played the entire season with a target on their back.
This year the torch is passed from McGuire and Kentwood, to Puyallup and the state's next catching prospect, Brendan Illies. It would be unfair to compare Illies to McGuire as a catching prospect, though Illies qualifies as such in spite of being a slightly more valuable contributor on the mound at this level. But strictly in terms of their value to their respective high school teams, it could be argued that the two-way standout Illies is just as valuable. Illies hit .402 and posted a 2.38 ERA as a freshman on that state runner-up in 2012, and as he begins the second half of his high school career, Puyallup comes into the season as the region's lone representative in the National Top 50 rankings. Puyallup graduated just four players from last year's 22-3 squad, and returns every position player. They will have to replace about half of their innings on the mound from last year, but Illies was the ace of the staff and should continue to stabilize the staff both as it's ace and the catching the rest of the staff. The Vikings have a deep lineup and Quinn Rawson is arguably the top hitter in that lineup, but their greatest strength lies in it's length.While their shocking first round exit in the playoffs wasn't the end they were looking for, it was an impressive overall body of work and there's no reason to expect that they aren't capapble of putting together another highly impressive season.
While Washington has a clear-cut on-paper preseason favorite, the same cannot be said of Oregon. The 2013 champs, Sheldon, were hit hard by graduation. Runner-up Clackamas looks to be the closest thing, as they picked up a huge addition when outfielder Elliot Cary. The Oregon State commit relocated from Florida and will help make up for the graduation of two-way standout Austin Kelly. Portland Jesuit gets a huge boost as well, thanks to the return of their ace left hander Christian Martinek, as they look to bounce back from a relatively disappointing 2013 follow up to their run to the 2012 quarterfinals. Lake Oswego is traditionally one of the stronger programs in the state and that should continue to be the case this year with two-way senior Travis Sanders leading the charge. But as Southridge, the team that knocked out Lake Oswego last year, proved; games are not played on paper and how you start the season means nothing compared to how it ends. Southridge got off to a slow start and then had a rough spring break trip to the Coach Bob Invitational in Arizona, but they won six of seven to earn a berth in the state quarterfinals. Westview captured a title in 2011 thanks to the two-way exploits of then-junior and future first rounder Carson Kelly. His younger brother Parker is now a junior with good two-way ability of his own and the Wildcats are coming off a surprising first round upset in the playoffs after a strong regular season a year ago. But it looks to be wide open this year in Oregon, and while all of the above teams have a viable shot, it also wouldn't be a huge shock if none of them captured the title either in what is expected to be a wide open year.
Northwest Region High School Dream Team
Based on present tools
C - Joey Morgan, Sr., Sisters (Ore.)
Morgan brings a well rounded skill set to the table, with sound receiving ability, a strong arm and blocks well. He also pitches at times with a low-mid 80s fastball and can contribute at this level on the mound. Offensively he brings good contact ability to the table with emerging strength and developing power. Justin Hancock's ability to square offspeed stuff as well as velocity combined with his athleticism defensively makes him an interesting projection prospect at this position, but Morgan gets the nod as the more advanced present player with plenty of talent in his own right.
1B - Joe Wainhouse, Sr., Kentridge (Wash.)
Wainehouse is a huge presence at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds. He has huge strength that translates to raw power and when he connects he connects big. His large frame comes in handy defensively on handling high throws and stretching for close plays. Quinn Rawson was also considered for this spot.
MIF - Trace Loehr, Sr., Putnam (Ore.)
Loehr makes his second consecutive appearance in this spot thanks to his high level combination of quick defensive actions and quick hands at the plate. He's a high level performer with a proven track record, not only for Putnam but also with Team USA and at numerous high level showcase events.
MIF - Ethan Paul, Jr., Newport (Wash.)
A highly athletic defender with good lateral agility and aggressive actions coming to the baseball, his range to play up in spite of taking shorter strides than a taller infielder. His all around quickness translates well at the plate also with a quick left handed swing with emerging bat speed and the ability to consistently square the ball up for line drives. The junior edges out fellow 2015 grad Carson Kelly of Oregon for this spot but it was close call and Kelly's projection could eventually see him leapfrog Paul's present ability.
3B - Jackson Soto, Sr., West Albany (Ore.)
The physically imposing left handed hitter is also a high level football player and wrestler. He's less developed as a pure hitter than some of his counterparts on the dream team, but his physical strength is a huge asset and he can really drive the ball to the pullside with power and should begin to develop that power to the rest of the field as he progresses. Mitchell Gretler and Evan Haberle were also considered.
OF - Stuart Fairchild, Sr., Seattle Prep (Wash.)
The best power hitter in the region, Fairchild has continued to progress and his power has developed well since his junior season. Expect a big year from the speedy outfielder with the popeye sized forearms, as he has become one of the most offensively advanced players in the region.
OF - Elliot Cary, Sr., Clackamas (Ore.)
transfer who moved to Oregon from Florida, Cary is likely to provide a
huge boost for the Cavs after hitting .438 as a junior playing against
Florida 6A competition. Cary becomes one of the top hitters in the
region and his athleticism is an asset in the outfield as well. It's
rare for a high school team to land an impact senior like this and it is
a huge boost for a team that was one win away from capturing their
second state championship of the decade last year.
OF - Branson Trube, Sr., Mountain View (Idaho)
Ideal combination of speed and power makes him the top player in the Idaho this year. Long term projection makes him even more interesting with potential to develop power further, but already enough to make him an impact player at this level for a team that had a good season last year.
UT - Brendan Illies, Jr., RHP/C, Puyallup (Wash.)
Illies' two-way ability allows him to maintain his spot in the Dream Team's Util position for a second consecutive season as an underclassman. Fellow junior SS/RHP Parker Kelly of Oregon has been progressing and is already breathing down Illies' neck for this spot after also just missing the cut in the middle infield and being considered for the pitching staff. Illies is the best player on the best team in the region and he's a multi-talented player who provides huge value to them.
P - Branden Kelliher, RHP/SS, Sr., Lake Stevens (Wash.)
The biggest arm in the region belongs to a smaller right hander, and his development has continued to progress at a good pace ever since establishing himself as one of the top prospects in the northwest at a young age. Kelliher ran his fastball up to 94 at the WWBA World Championship in October and he pairs it with two good offspeed pitches, an upper 70s curveball with hard 12-6 break that has reached as high as 80 mph, and an advanced changeup. He's also a good shortstop at this level and is one of the best all around high school players in the region.
P - Gage Burland, RHP/OF, Sr., East Valley (Wash.)
His hard spinning curveball is
the highlight of his arsenal but his upper 80s/low 90s fastball and
quality changeup are both good pitches in their own right. He gets good
downhill plane on his pitches and has shown ability to command the ball
within the lower half of the strike zone.
P - Drew Rasmussen, RHP/3B, Sr., Mount Spokane (Wash.)
The big powerful righty has extra life on his fastball that typically works in the low 90s, allowing it to play up a bit firmer. He has a good delivery which allows him to locate the ball on both sides and backs it with a slider and changeup which both have good shape in the low 80s.
P - Matt Mercer, RHP, Jr., Timberline (Wash.)
The lone underclassman to crack the pitching staff this year, Mercer has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the region. He typically works in the upper 80s with his fastball, and has begun to scratch the 90s on occasion already, but he projects to add even more velocity as he gets stronger physically. He has a quick arm and he shows good feel for his hard spinning breaking ball.
P - Christian Martinek, LHP, Sr., Portland Jesuit (Ore.)
In a region with a severe lack of quality left handed pitching, Martinek is easily the top lefty. He's been on the radar for some time, which helps make up for the fact that he missed last season with an elbow injury. He looked healthy over the summer and a big year from him could make Jesuit a contender with he and one of the top third basemen in the region, Evan Haberle, on the same team. Others considered include: left hander Andrew Summerville, pitchability lefty Ryan Mets, sidearmer Dakody Clemmer and junior two-way player Parker Kelly.
Northwest Region Best Tools
Best Hitter For Average: Trace Loehr, Sr., MIF, Putnam (Ore.)
A line drive hitter, Loehr makes frequent contact with a quick swing from the left side. He hit .574 as a junior last year and he's likely to continue hitting over .500 at this level given his advanced bat-to-ball skills and quick twitch. Elliot Cary would have also made a good choice here as well but Loehr gets a slight edge heading into the season and any team would be thrilled to have either of them. Stuart Fairchild is also a strong candidate who was considered.
Best Hitter For Power: Stuart Fairchild, Sr., OF, Seattle Prep (Wash.)
The best all around hitter, Fairchild was considered in the Best Hitter for Average category and takes the power category. He's also a good all around athlete and is one of the best overall players in the region but power is his best tool overall. His immense hand strength and barrel whip allow him to generate more power than is normally found with 5-foot-10 high school hitters, and it shows up in game at-bats.
Best Baserunner: Trace Loehr, Sr., MIF, Putnam (Ore.)
More than just his quick acceleration and speed, Loehr is an all-around instinctual player who makes sound decisions and makes them quickly on the bases and uses his athleticism well. Runner-up: Idaho's Branson Trube.
Best Defensive Catcher: Joey Morgan, Sr., Sisters (Ore.)
This isn't the same blowout this category was a year ago when Reese McGuire lapped a pretty good field several times over, but Morgan is well rounded defensive profile is quite good and he has the ability to stay behind the plate at the next level.
Best Defensive Infielder: Trace Loehr, Sr., MIF, Putnam (Ore.)
The same quickness, athleticism and instincts that make him the choice in the Best Hitter for Average and Best Baserunner categories also make him the choice here. While he doesn't have standout arm strength to be an obvious left side of the infield candidate, he has very good defensive actions and plays with a high motor allowing him to play above his good raw physical tools.
Best Defensive Outfielder: Branson Trube, Sr., Mountain View (Idaho)
His speed gives him the best range in the region. Without an elite athlete who combines a big time arm and plus speed or a human highlight reel defender like Jack Meggs, who captured this category a year ago, Trube's strong steady play makes him the choice. Elliot Cary gets another runner-up in this category as well.
Best Infield Arm: Branden Kelliher, Sr., RHP/MIF, Lake Stevens (Wash.)
The first of several categories captured by Kelliher, even though he's not a primary position player. He sees time at shortstop for Lake Stevens and the arm strength that forces scouts to take him seriously as a right handed pitching prospect in spite of only being 5-foot-11, is a major weapon defensively from shortstop.
Best Outfield Arm: Gage Burland, Sr., RHP/OF, East Valley (Wash.)
His arm strength is the best of any outfielder in the region and will also be the reason he no longer plays there at the next level, as his future lies on the mound. He threw 96 mph from the outfield in the workout at the PG National Showcase.
Best Fastball: Branden Kelliher, RHP/SS, Sr., Lake Stevens (Wash.)
He has touched 94 mph and has begun to work in the 91-93 range of late and while he's had outings where he's missed up in the zone a lot during showcase outings, there have been several outings at high level events where he's controlled the heater well. Drew Rasmussen's heavy low 90s fastball would have also made a good choice here and it's a crowded category but Kelliher gets the edge.
Best Off-speed Stuff: Branden Kelliher, RHP/SS, Sr., Lake Stevens (Wash.)
Kelliher retains the title for best offspeed stuff as his already advanced secondary stuff from a year ago has continued to make steady progress. His curveball flashes 12-6 shape with good bite and has reached as high as 80 mph. His changeup is deceptive and has good arm side fade. There are otherr individual pitches which can make a case, such as Gage Burland's curveball and Dakody Clemmers frisbee slider, but Kelliher has the best overall combination of offspeed stuff.
Best Command: Gage Burland, RHP/OF, East Valley (Wash.)
He does a very good job of commanding the arm side of the plate with both the fastball and his curveball. The command was less consistent to the glove side in a pre-season tournament but still good there as well and he has a track record of working ahead very consistently by getting strike one on some of the bigger stages that the amateur game has to offer. He has advanced feel of his secondary stuff for a high school pitcher as well and has the best overall command in the region.
Best Pitchability: Ryan Mets, LHP, Sr., North Thurston (Wash.)
While he doesn't throw especially hard, his mid 80s fastball and mid 70s changeup play very well off of each other and he's able to throw either for a strike and mixes them very effectively. He also mixes in a pair of breaking balls, a soft deep curveball and a harder version in the mid 70s. He keeps hitters guessing and gets outs without throwing the ball by hitters.