Converted pitcher Kyle Smith is a name to keep an eye on in 2016 and is the first of 10 prospects detailed among the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League's top prospect reports.
Official League Website: www.pgcbl.com
Although the Amsterdam Mohawks (40-10) and Elmira Pioneers (33-17) entered the playoffs with the two best records in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, neither team advanced to the finals. In fact, it was the first year since the league's inception in 2011 that the Mohawks didn't make it to the league championship, claiming the title the three previous seasons (2012-14).
The Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs, the eventual league champions, knocked out the Mohawks in a best-of-three series to advance and face the first-year Victor RailRiders. The DiamondDawgs swept the RailRiders in the finals to claim the 2015 championship, capping a very successful summer after also hosting the league's All-Star Game in Little Falls, N.Y.
While Amsterdam didn't advance the players they recruited to play for them this past summer still represent the bulk of the league's top talent. Of the league's top 25 prospects 13 played for the Mohawks this past summer, including seven of the top 10.
Year Established: 2011
States Represented: New York
No. of Teams: 10 (9 in 2014)
Regular Season Champion (best overall record): Amsterdam Mohawks, 40-10
Post Season Champion: Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs
No. 1 Prospect, 2014: Jon Escobar, rhp, Watertown (Holy Cross)
First 2014 Player Selected, 2015 Draft: Ryan Clark, rhp, Amsterdam (UNC Greensboro; Braves/5th round)
Player of the Year: Christian Santisteban, 1b, Elmira (Manhattan College)
Pitcher of the Year: Zach Logue, lhp, Amsterdam (Kentucky); Kyano Cummings, lhp, Elmira (Siena)
Batting Average: Ryan Cox, ss, Utica (Kutztown) (.383)
Slugging Percentage: Christian Santisteban, 1b, Elmira (Manhattan) (.591)
On-Base Average: Christian Santisteban, 1b, Elmira (Manhattan) (.532)
Home Runs: Handsome Monica, c, Amsterdam (Northwest Florida CC) (9)
RBI: Troy Scocca, of, Mohawk Valley (Fairfield) (40)
Stolen Bases: Will LaRue, of, Elmira (Xavier) (26)
Wins: Zach Logue, lhp, Amsterdam (Kentucky) (7)
ERA: Justin Lewis, rhp, Elmira (Kentucky) (1.37)
Saves: Ryan Bellomo, rhp, Elmira (Siena); Chris Kemp, rhp, Victor (Indiana Southeast); Zachary Vennaro, rhp, Mohawk Valley (Monroe (N.Y.) CC) (7)
Strikeouts: Kyano Cummings, lhp, Elmira (Siena) (74)
Best Athlete: Hunter Tackett, of, Amsterdam (Northwest Florida CC)
Best Hitter: Christian Santisteban, 1b, Elmira (Manhattan)
Best Power: Handsome Monica, c, Amsterdam (Northwest Florida CC)
Fastest Base Runner: Will LaRue, of, Elmira (Xavier)
Best Defensive Player: Sean Aspinall, of, Albany (Azusa Pacific)
Best Velocity: Kyle Smith, rhp, Amsterdam (NC State)
Best Breaking Ball: Kyano Cummings, lhp, Elmira (Siena)
Best Command: Mike Messier, lhp, Utica (Bellarmine)
TOP 10 PROSPECTS
1. Kyle Davis, rhp, Amsterdam (NC State/R-SR in 2016)
A near-unanimous choice as the league's top overall prospect despite the fact that he sat out during the 2015 season after transferring to NC State and converted to pitching full-time. He began his collegiate career at Lenoir (N.C.) Community College in 2012 as a live-armed shortstop and is expected to make significant contributions out of the Wolfpack's bullpen in 2016. Smith appeared in 23 games this summer serving as the Mohawks closer, posting a 2.95 ERA with five saves in 24 1/3 innings. Although he did give up 17 base hits and walked 12 batters, he also struck out 38 thanks to a lively 90-95 mph fastball that peaked at 96 with a big breaking slider. His fastball velocity could continue to rise as he gains experience thanks to his easy delivery, clean mechanics and strong 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame, and as a result, could be an early pick in the 2016 MLB Draft.
2. Hunter Tackett, of, Amsterdam (Northwest Florida CC/SO in 2016)
Tackett was arguably the most exciting player in the league with a five-tool profile. An injury limited Tackett to just 17 games during his freshman season at Auburn, where he hit .239, before exploding during the summer, finishing among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category including average (.333), home runs (7), RBI (38) and stolen bases (22). At 6-foot-3, 185-pounds he offers defensive versatility but is at his best in the outfield where his speed and arm strength are best used. At the plate he shows a patient eye with intriguing power potential, both over-the-fence and to the gaps, when his speed allows him to stretch extra-base hits. Tackett has transferred to Northwest Florida CC making him draft-eligible next June after being taken in the 36th round of the 2014 draft by the Brewers out of high school.
3. Austin Bain, rhp, Amsterdam (Louisiana State/SO in 2016)
Bain only made one appearance in the PGCBL this summer, a dazzlnig four-inning start in early July in which he struck out nine in four innings. In that game Bain showed plenty of reason to be ranked high on this list, and may have been considered for the top spot had he logged more time in the league by sitting at 88-91 mph, peaking at 93, while throwing two refined secondary pitches, a curveball and a changeup, with the latter receiving potential plus grades. This came off of his successful freshman season at LSU in which he served as the team's Sunday starter for over a month, posting a 3.95 ERA while striking out 56 batters in 54 2/3 innings while limiting opposing hitters to a .216 average. He commands his three-pitch mix well, and figures to play an even larger part in LSU's weekend rotation this coming season.
4. Justin Lewis, rhp, Elmira (Kentucky/SO in 2016)
The success that players like Justin Lewis, Zach Logue (as detailed below) and Brad Schaenzer enjoyed in the PGCBL continues to keep the pipeline from the University of Kentucky to the league alive and well. Lewis finished tied for third in the league with five wins and led the circuit in ERA with a 1.37 mark for the East-leading Elmira Pioneers, exhibiting excellent control given his 32-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 52 2/3 innings. Lewis was a well-known prospect coming out of high school, ranked 365th in the the high school class of 2014 prior to being drafted by the Padres in the 19th round. At 6-foot-5, 190-pounds, Lewis is perfectly projectable, and given his ability to command the lower quadrants of the strike zone, it's expected his draft stock could soar leading up to 2017 if he adds a few ticks to his upper-80s fastball that currently peaks around 90 mph.
5. Michael Messier, lhp, Utica (Bellarmine/JR in 2016)
Messier and Justin Lewis share several similiarities, with Messier finishing the summer second in the league in ERA at 1.38 with a highly projectable 6-foot-6, 200-pound build and upper-80s fastball. He peaked at 91-92 mph in a shorter stint during the league's all-star game, and could add velocity as he continues to add strength. Messier moves the ball around the zone very well and is able to keep the ball off opposing batters barrels, giving up just 36 hits in 45 2/3 innings this summer while posting a 35-to-8 strikeout-to walk ratio. He should receive more time on the mound at Division II Bellarmine (Ky.) after appearing in only 11 games, with two starts, as a sophomore.
6. Handsome Monica, c, Amsterdam (Northwest Florida CC/SO in 2016)
Like Tackett, Monica has transffered to Northwest Florida CC after spending his freshman season at Arizona, making him draft-eligible next June after displaying the most raw power in the PGCBL this summer. Most of his power is to his pull side as a righthanded hitter, but when he connects the ball travels a long way. He led the league with nine bombs, adding eight doubles while hitting .250 in 34 games. There is some swing-and-miss in his game, but he does exhibit a patient approach. Although he works hard at improving his defensive skills, and has the requisite arm strength, there is some question as to whether or not he will be able to stick behind the plate. Monica is a good all-around athlete despite his hulking, 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame, and given his power he will be given every opportunity to catch.
7. Christian Santisteban, 1b, Elmira (Manhattan College/SR in 2016)
Santisteban was almost universally praised as the league's top hitter, with several coaches noting that he was the toughest out in the PGCBL, had the best swing and covered the plate extremely well. The numbers support those claims, as he finished second in the league in batting (.377) and RBI (38) and tied for fourth in home runs (6). He also walked 43 times, as compared to 33 strikeouts, in 154 at-bats. With a balanced lefthanded swing Santisteban is unusually short to the ball given his 6-foot-2, 215-pound stature, with the ability to drive the ball out of the park thanks to his strength. He's somewhat of a one-dimensional player, with several noting that his footwork around first base needed improvement, but he could be an interesting senior sign next June.
8. Kyle Dean, of, Amsterdam (Brigham Young/FR in 2016)
A member of the 2014 Perfect Game All-American Classic, Dean surprised quite a few people by committing to BYU, and came to the PGCBL looking for a tuneup before arriving on campus. Dean's size and athleticism stand out at 6-foot-2, 210-pounds, although he has yet to fully tap into his power potential. While he struggled a little to make contact this summer he more than held his own, hitting .247 while drawing 11 walks in 73 at-bats. In addition, seven of his 18 hits went for extra bases (6 doubles, 1 home run). Although he went undrafted out of high school, Dean more than looks the part, is a cerebral player that constantly looks to improve his game and could be an early pick when he's eligible again in 2018.
9. Sean Adler, lhp, Amsterdam (NC State/R-JR in 2016)
Adler, who began his career at USC before being dismised after being involved with an off-field incident, has since transferred to NC State and may be in the running for one of the team's weekend starting roles. Like Austin Bain, Adler made only one start for the Mohawks – allowing just two hits in six innings – and also like Bain, it was good enough to leave a lasting impression. Adler left early due to injury, but in his one appearance the 6-foot-2, 190-pound lefthander showed his lively low-90s fastball that he complements with an improving slider and a changeup. He is especially difficult to hit given the deception he creates from his three-quarters delivery, and was described at worse as a potential shutdown short reliever at the next level.
10. Zach Logue, lhp, Amsterdam (Kentucky/SO in 2016)
Logue and Elmira's Kyano Cummings were named co-Pitchers of the Year this summer after recording impressive numbers on the mound. Logue led the circuit in wins (7) and was tied for sixth in strikeouts (50) while posting a 2.29 ERA. He also exhibited his control of the strike zone by issuing only 12 walks in 50 innings of work, this coming off of a freshman season at Kentucky in which he posted a 5.18 ERA in 19 games, most of which came out of the bullpen. Logue is at his best working down in the zone and changing speeds between his running upper-80s fastball that peaks in the 90-91 range, improving curveball and changeup.
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