Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Look at the Van Cs

Logan Warmoth - Clutchlings Photo

  People in the eastern half of the country may not know it, but the country's most successful baseball franchise of the decade has been based on the West Coast.
   The Short Season Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League captured three consecutive league championships (and just missed on a 4th) from 2011-13, and have consistently been among the leaders in attendance, leading the loop for the third season in a row in setting a NWL record by attracting over 239 000 fans this year (an average of 6 303 per game).  And after capturing the first half division title, they are off to the playoffs again this week.

   A fan who was visiting the Lower Mainland and area last week stopped by to catch a couple of games, and came away impressed, which had been the case on his previous visits.  The C's home of Nat Bailey Stadium is located minutes away from downtown Vancouver in an otherwise quiet mid-town neighbourhood.  The Nat, which hosts the University of British Columbia Thnuderbirds in the spring, was built in 1951, and the stadium does show its age.  The Canadians have made a number of improvements and upgrades to the stadium, but the concrete grandstand from 1st to 3rd is still the hub of the park.  Comfortable field level chairs grace the lower half of the stadium, but good old fashioned hard-backed benches are found in the upper level.  Several pillars make for partially obstructed views, and the setting sun down the 1st Base line can make for steamy conditions in the upper reaches along the 3rd Base line in the early innings.  Family friendly entertainment can be found down the LF line, and a new seating area just beyond the LF wall opened last year.  If you're booking more than two tickets, be sure to do so months in advance.  The Nat is also only a short walk away from Vancouver's Sky Train, which may pale a bit in comparison to Toronto's subway system, but is a quick way to get around the city.

   Northwest League rosters are populated by college players taken in the recent June draft, as well as a sprinkling of players who have worked their way up from the lower levels.   The Blue Jays like to have Vancouver as a stop along the way to a major league career for their top prospects - players have an incredible home atmosphere to play in, plus it gives them a taste of living in Canada, learning to deal with issues such as the currency, and going through Customs on road trips.   Several high draft picks from this past June, including SS Logan Warmoth, P Nate Pearson, and C Riley Adams were sent to the Pacific Northwest this year.

   Warmoth is a player the Blue Jays have been following for several years, and Amateur Scouting Director Steve Sanders said the club was thrilled that he was still available when their turn to pick in the 1st round came up.  Unlike many drafted Short Stops, Warmoth is projected to stay at the position. While he didn't have a whole lot of balls hit to him in the games I saw him in, he shows good footwork and reactions to the ball.  He did skip a throw to 1st that bounced down the RF line on a throw from the hole that he may have been better advised to have eaten the ball on.  At the plate, Warmoth has a balanced set up, and an excellent approach.  He barreled up several balls over the series I took in. Smart on the bases, and the possessor of high make up and baseball IQ, he looks every bit an MLBer in the making.fpdde

  Adams, Toronto's 3rd round choice, had a reputation as a bat-first Catcher coming out of San Diego U.  At 6'4", he's somewhat big for the position, but he is athletic (Adams has a Black Belt in Karate), and presents a low target.  His work last week in terms of blocking and handling Pitchers appears to be at least adequate, but his framing needs a bit of work.  He showed a rifle arm in cutting down a runner, but his arm has been described as inconsistent. He will no doubt be going to Catching Finishing School with Roving Catching Instructor Ken Huckaby at Instructs later this month.  At the plate, Adams shows a good approach, and uses the whole field.  He posted a good .305/.374/.438 line in the Northwest League this summer.  Although he needs some work with his receiving skills, Adams too profiles as a major leaguer one day.

Riley Adams - Clutchlings Photo

  We detailed Pearson in a previous post.  After fanning 10 over 4 innings in the C's first playoff game against Spokane, he further cemented his status as a rising Pitching prospect.

   The C's had a solid group of next level prospects as well - guys who may not profile as Major Leaguers just yet, but are worth following.  9th rounder LHP Zach Logue and 10th round RHP Justin Dillon formed an effective piggyback duo over the last half of the season.  White Rock, BC native Brayden Bouchey was very strong out of the C's pen.  He topped out at 90-91, but the 6"6" righty has a funky, over-the-top delivery that can be tough on right handed hitters. LHP Travis Bergen, who has missed considerable time since being drafted in the 7th round in 2015, was lights out in relief, sitting 92, but with excellent fastball command and secondaries.  If he were to stay healthy and perhaps add a tick or two of velo, he could move quickly next year.

Brayden Bouchey - Clutchlings Photo

  1B Kacy Clemens, son of Hall of Famer Roger, showed good defensive skills at 1st, but his bat speed seem to be wanting.  Vancouver press box regulars suggested that he's worn out after his first pro season, which is not unusual for a college player; between college and the pros, he's played over 120 games this year.

  CF Reggie Pruitt is among the fastest players in the system, and covers a tremendous amount of ground in the outfield.  He's progressed at the plate, but his strike zone judgement is still in need of further development - a 26% K rate won't cut it for a player with his game-changing speed.  His offensive numbers were better in the second half, so maybe he's on an upward trajectory.

Reggie Pruitt - Clutchlings Photo

   The C's swept Spokane, and face the Cubs' Eugene affiliate in the Best of Five League finals.  The series starts in Eugene this weekend, then shifts to Vancouver for the remainder of the series.



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