When it comes to college baseball the NAIA is often the forgotten middle child. The players don’t suit up in the familiar uniforms of glamorous programs whose emblems are emblazoned on man cave walls, tow-hitches and hooded pullovers across the country. If quizzed many people could easily name Florida State’s team mascot or identify the color burnt orange with Texas. However NAIA programs’ appeal is often far more localized. The schools often have a direction or theological theme in their name and, aside from hardcore alumni, don’t have roaring support.
Instead of sporting their school’s gear their support is limited to a Facebook like or Twitter follow. On the other end of the spectrum NAIA colleges also lack the quaintness of being at the NCAA D-III level where the programs are the smallest of the small and the play is “pure” as scholarships are non-existent are professional aspirations are rare.
Followers of college baseball know that the NAIA provides a happy mix of the two. Just because someone plays for an NAIA school doesn’t mean they couldn’t cut it at a D-I program. There are some extremely talented players on their rosters and every year dozens of them are selected in the MLB draft. Ben Zorbist, a three-time All Star and important part of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series success, played three seasons at unassuming Olivet Nazarene. His time there was integral into developing into the player he is today.
A player may choose to go the NAIA route because the school provides an academic environment more in line with their nonathletic aspirations. Perhaps the location suits someone better or there is a connection with a coach who’s able to give them more individualize attention. There are a number of reasons to why the NAIA may be the way to go. Scouts know this and have NAIA coaches’ names and numbers stored in their phone as travel backroads looking for new talent. That’s why there is some very, very good baseball being played on NAIA diamonds across the country.
Following are the preseason picks to be the top NAIA teams and individual performers for the upcoming season. You may not know their names or follow the teams, but baseball is baseball. Take in a game near you. You may be watching a future major leaguer.
2017 Perfect Game NAIA Preseason Top 25 Teams
|3||1||Lewis-Clark State Warriors||ID||52-8|
|4||16||St. Thomas Bobcats||FL||38-22|
|5||13||Missouri Baptist Spartans||MO||44-14|
|7||4||Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs||TN||50-15|
|8||24||Northwestern Ohio Racers||OH||40-14|
|11||12||The Master’s Mustangs||CA||42-19|
|12||5||Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies||GA||57-6|
|13||NR||Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles||OK||41-23|
|14||23||Wayland Baptist Pioneers||TX||45-17|
|15||NR||Middle Georgia State Knights||GA||39-18|
|18||NR||William Carey Crusaders||MS||40-21|
|19||11||USC Beaufort Sand Sharks||SC||44-14|
|20||NR||Oklahoma City Stars||OK||38-19|
|22||NR||Central Baptist Mustangs||AL||45-16|
|23||NR||Texas Wesleyan Rams||TX||39-19|
25. Taylor Trojans, Crossroads League
Taylor’s lineup isn’t going to knock the cover off the ball, but the pitching staff does a good job making sure their opponents don’t either. Last season Trojan hurlers limited their opposition to a .247 batting average and 3.24 ERA, both of which placed them within the top 20 in the nation. This year almost the entire staff is back for another go-round so their dainty numbers could get even more minuscule. Luke Hunter earned nine wins last season and had a 2.58 ERA while striking out 81 in 80 1/3 innings and his compadre Jordan Crabb had similar numbers to a lesser degree. The big knock against Taylor is their level of competition. They play in the Crossroads League, which isn’t exactly a murderers’ row of opposition, and their lopsided 0-2 showing in the national tournament opening round doesn’t do much to demonstrate they’re more than a regional power. Nevertheless, the Trojans have some decent non-conference matchups against the ilk of Bryan, Lindsey Wilson and Madonna, so they’ll be able to show their mettle or move over for most proven competition.
24. Jamestown Jimmies, North Star Athletic Association
Jamestown is in a similar boat as Taylor in that they compile impressive numbers, but don’t have many signature opponents on their schedule who truly test them. On paper the Jimmies look like they’re going to be good. Damn good in fact with almost every single offensive starter back on the attack including All-American slugger Landon Uetz who batted .377 with 15 home runs. Another important part of Jamestown’s winning ways will be their catcher Quinn Irey who hit a lofty.377 himself and is said to have sharpened his skills over the summer. As for pitching, big things are expected from Jerome Byndloss, one of three Jimmie recruits from Olympic College in Washington, and so far he hasn’t disappointed with three wins already under his belt thanks to fall ball. Ultimately, even if they are undefeated, how good the Jimmies really are won’t be determined until April when they welcome Bellevue into town for a four-game series.
23. Texas Wesleyan Rams, Sooner Athletic Conference
The Rams’ roster may be one of the most fundamentally sound clubs in the NAIA. The team can hit, pitch, field and run with the best of them. Offensively, Casey Moses has a freakish ability to put the bat on the ball as he only struck out four times in 188 plate appearances. That keen eye and bat control enabled him to top the team with a .372 batting average. Joining him on the Rams attack will be JUCO outfielders Kiki Menendez and Julio Ibarra, who will roam the outfield grass with holdover Alex Gudac who hit .350 with eight triples. On the mound Alex Lopez will be looking to repeat his 1.91 ERA over 61 1/3 innings, but the pitcher to really keep an eye on is Stephen Yancey who has the ability to really baffle batters. The intangible asset for Texas Wesleyan is that they feature a player named Dusty Cloud in their bullpen which is a really, really sweet handle for a hurler.
22. Central Baptist Mustangs, American Midwest Conference
Central Baptist features one of NAIA’s most dangerous long ball threats in Jalin Lawson who homered 23 times last season for the Mustangs. He’ll be back along with five other everyday players for what should be an experienced and explosive lineup. On the mound both the starting staff and bullpen should be improved. Top arm Brian Moreno struck out 116 batters last season and earned 11 wins. He’d be a great go-to pitcher to have in a must-win game. Overall CBC coaches believe this year’s team has the potential to exceed last year’s club and what will make the difference is strong senior leadership.
21. Southeastern Fire, The Sun Conference
The Fire had flickered around the outskirts of the top 25 the last couple of seasons but never could quite made the move into the elite; this season however, could be something special. There’s a new coaching staff and culture on campus thanks to the introduction of Head Coach Adrian and his coaching staff. Dinkel took his Sterling team to the NAIA World Series two of the last four seasons and he brought some of his best Warrior players with him. Kade Wagner was 12-3 with a 1.97 ERA while pitching under Dinkel’s direction and Gerald Ceballos batted .386 with 25 doubles and 11 home runs while playing in Kansas. They will merge with three all conference performers and a national gold glove second baseman to make SEU an immediate dark horse title contender. Another important newcomer is Marvin Malone who put up beastly numbers at Colby Community College. The pitching staff could use a bit of a resurrection, but Nate Harmon, who fanned 72 in 55 1/3 innings, is a starting good building block.
20. Oklahoma City Stars, Sooner Athletic Conference
OCU’s 38 wins last seasons would be a boon for many schools, but were disappointing by Stars’ standards. The offense was as expected, bashing the ball at a .567 team slugging clip as they were second in the nation in batting average and eighth in home runs per game. Nevertheless, the pitching lacked that je ne sais quoi which makes good teams great. The starting nine should be just as formidable this season as Jared Baker, Joe Lytle and Cory Linn are all potential All-Americans, with Baker being the most talented of the bunch. Last season he finished in the top 15 in doubles, slugging percentage and total bases. If Matt Young can return to his 2015 form, when he fanned 91 batters in 77 1/3 innings, look for City to return to their traditional place in the top 10.
19. USC Beaufort Sand Sharks, The Sun Conference
USCB was a bit of a surprise last season as they entered the year unranked but finished just outside the top 10. Whether or not they are able to duplicate last year’s success is a big question mark. Many of the same talented players are back, but there quite a few new faces in the locker room as well, including that of the head coach Jeremy Christian, whose upstart Point team eliminated the Sharks from the postseason last spring. Softening the blow of uncertainty will be the return of one of NAIA’s most dynamic players, Thomas Estopare. Estopare was unjustly left off preseason All-American honors after batting .419 last season with 23 doubles, five triples and 17 steals in 18 attempts. On top of that he wears jersey No. 99 so that alone tells you he’s something special. Justin Kortessis, who also contributes at the plate, is the top returning pitcher. He’ll get some assistance on the mound from incoming transfer and vagabond, Wade Arduini, who has also spent time at College of Charleston, Winthrop and USC Lancaster.
18. William Carey Crusaders, Southern States Athletic Conference
The Crusaders have a balanced offensive attack with apt batsmen up and down the lineup. No hitter stands out as a prototypical slugger, but each can deliver a timely hit or advance a runner to keep every game within reach. The most dangerous of the Hattiesburg hitters are Adrian Brown and James Land. Brown, a speedy center fielder, hit .382 and successfully stole 29 bases in 32 attempts. Land is an atypical second baseman who has plenty of pop and topped last year’s club in home runs and RBI. A slight concern for Carey is the lack of a true No. 1 or shutdown closer. The Crusaders don’t have a dominant shutdown hurler for a must needed win or out; although Lane Fazende, who appeared in 19 games last season with a 3.07 ERA, or incoming pitcher Conner McWilliams, may step into that role.
17. Tabor Bluejays, Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference
The Bluejays will be without NAIA Player of the Year, Manny DeLeon, but fortunately, like the Rohirrim Riders at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, reinforcements are on the way. Transfers Jordan Harris and Jagger Harjo are expected to contribute immediately. Harris, who came to Tabor via Missouri State, is a unique athlete with the ability to be a factor at the plate or on the mound. Meanwhile former Emporia State Hornet Jagger Harjo will drive both opposing batters and spell checkers crazy all season long. Colton Flax and A.J. Shaw are the top two returners on offense. An increase in their output would help pitchers such as Tommy Sleva and Manuel Reyes transition from the bullpen to starting roles to fill voids left by seniors.
16. York Panthers, Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference
The Panthers will score plenty of runs as they did last season when they led the NAIA, but how well they keep their opposition from crossing the plate will ultimately determine their success. Tim Emory, who topped the team in ERA at 3.54 and won nine games, returns, but the drop off in performance, at least statistically, is sharp after him. If York is going to contend both regionally and nationally they’ll have to improve on the 5.59 team ERA from last season. Luckily they have preseason All-American Billy Johnson back who hit .360 with 12 homers and 32 stolen bases to give the staff a bit of a cushion. It’s of note to point out that Johnson either bravely crowds the plate or opposing pitchers don’t care for him as he was beaned 26 times last season.
15. Middle Georgia State Knights, Southern States Athletic Conference
It’s difficult to determine if the Knights’ batting, baserunning or pitching will be the team’s strong point this season because each looks extremely good on paper (and their defense ain’t nothing to shake a stick at either). The offense should eclipse 500 runs with an upperclass offense spearheaded by Andy Mocahbee, who hit .372 with 22 doubles and 12 home runs to amass a hearty .710 slugging percentage. MGA has an unquestioned ace on the mound in Chris Rich. Last season he finished third in the nation with 13 wins and went the distance in seven of his 16 starts. The Knights made only a brief appearance at the end of the Perfect Game rankings last season, but should find themselves deeply entrenched in the top half for the top 25 throughout this season.
14. Wayland Baptist Pioneers, Sooner Athletic Conference
Wayland returns the majority of last year’s free-swinging team which achieved their best season in school history and finished in the top 10 nationally in slugging percentage and in the top 20 in batting average, doubles, triples, home runs per game and RBI. On a team chock full of offensive goodness Gregg Veneklasen stands above the rest. Last season he led the team with a .406 average and had 37 extra-base hits. Veneklasen is a deserved preseason All-American and his teammates Ernesto Lizardi, Alex Mumm and Austin Davis are potential candidates for end-of-the-year accolades as well. The pitching staff was already in good shape with two regular starters back in the rotation, but some strong freshmen recruits give it some extra oomph and future prosperity.
13. Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles, Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference
Last season was a bit of a letdown for Head Coach Matt Parker who had high expectations for his Eagles headed into the year. The optimistic outlook was shared here as OKWU was positioned fourth in the preseason rankings. The disappointing results from last season aren’t expected to carry over into 2017. Parker’s pitching is perhaps the best and deepest pitching staff he’s had at the Eagles’ helm. A pair of pitching transfers, Zach Johnson and Tyler Shumpert, are anticipated to impress after joining the team from Edmonds CC and Baylor respectively. Offensively the Eagles should easily reach the 500 run plateau for the fifth time in six seasons as all three players who hit double-digit homers will be back, punctuated by preseason All-American Trevor Achenbach. Joining them in the everyday lineup will be Western Oklahoma State transfer Chris Acosta-Tapia, who is a prime professional prospect. Newly signed shortstop Rodolfo Oleta will combine with Scott Weaver to give OKWU an enviable infield defense.
12. Georgia Gwinnett Grizzlies, Association of Independent Institutions
With a 57-6 record GGC has now averaged over 53 wins the past three seasons. While the Grizzlies have steamrolled to unprecedented success in the regular season, postseason glory has so far eluded their claws. Reaching 57 wins once again seems a bit optimistic, as several key players at the plate and on the mound won’t be back, but if the final victory comes in tandem with a dogpile at the NAIA World Series, it won’t make a bit of a difference. The straw that stirs the Grizzly drink is Marcus McCorkle. He hit .402 with 33 stolen bases and has the ability to change the direction of a game each time he step in the batter’s box. Neither Brady Hamilton nor Trevor Bradley finished last season over .300, but Head Coach Brad Stromdahl has them pegged as future pro prospects if they develop as anticipated. While Hamilton is expected to pack a punch in the heart of the GGC order, Bradley’s best bet at success may be on the mound. He is a multitalented player who made a dozen appearances on the mound with 52 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings with a 1.91 ERA. He and Nikolay Uherek are the team’s top pitching returners.
11. The Master’s Mustangs, Golden State Athletic Conference
The Mustangs have the bulk of last year’s team back in the dugout, unfortunately however the few players that won’t be back are some of their biggest statistical performers from last season. Nevertheless, the absence of the boffo numbers guys shouldn’t be too much of an issue because the players back in the dugout are far from being slouches. Seven players who tallied at least 90 at-bats return and five of them batted over .300 while providing solid defense. Michael Sexton wields the most mighty bat as he hit 17 home runs last season to finish in the top 20 nationally while stroking a solid .319. Aaron Shackelford, whose father and brother both played for the Mustangs, impressed as a freshman and could have a breakout year with his potential to reach double-digits in doubles, triples and home runs. Jason Karkenny threw 121 2/3 innings last season while limiting batters to 105 hits with 102 K’s. He’ll have to hold the fort while the rest of the rotation develops if TMC is to compete for a conference title and another trip to Lewiston.
10. Faulkner Eagles, Southern States Athletic Conference
The Eagles finished two wins shy of taking the title in 2015 and were two runs away from winning the whole enchilada last spring; nevertheless, taking that final step this season will not be easy. Graduations and transfers took a big bite out of Eagles’ lineup, but Faulkner being Faulkner, they’ll still be formidable thanks to an influx of transfers. Transfer Tyler Tungate pitched 119 innings with 99 strikeouts at Golden West College and Dustin Hagy had been drafted by the Baltimore Orioles before enrolling at Charleston Southern. They’ll join established starter Ivan Pelaez in the rotation to present closer Austin Moreland plenty of save opportunities. Offensively it’s a boon for Head Coach Patrick McCarthy to have T.J. Condon back behind the plate. The Southern States All Conference catcher slugged .713 and will be in the heart of the lineup once again. It’ll be his job to drive in two-time Texas Ranger draftee, transfer Tra’Mayne Holmes.
9. Westmont Warriors, Golden State Athletics Conference
The Warriors’ pitching staff makes them the team to beat in the Golden State. Daniel Butler is one of the top pitchers in the NAIA and went 12-1 last season with a 1.93 ERA. Back with him on the mound will be Westmont’s No. 2 arm from last season, David Gaydos, who earned eight wins himself. The duo pitched a combined 204 2/3 innings last season, which astonishingly accounted for 43 percent of the team’s workload. This season they’ll share duties with transfer Matt Harman who nearly enjoyed a national championship at Arizona. The trio should combine to give Head Coach Robert Ruiz a Cerberus-esque three-headed pitching beast. Offensively Westmont isn’t the most imposing club but is far from being a pushover. Brody Weiss, the son of the former North Carolina star, American League Rookie of the Year and Colorado Rockies manager, has joined the team. His natural ability and experience growing up around professional dugouts will make him a welcome addition.
8. Northwestern Ohio Racers, Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference
The Racers will have an explosive offense with a blend of established players and new talent, which will make watching them as captivating as Catherine Zeta-Jones’ laser scene in Entrapment. Kyle Fisher, who hit .364 with double-digit triples and 20 stolen bases, will rejoin a much-improved Jonathan Rodriguez in welcoming transfer Junior Gomez, MLB re-draft Jack Barrie and redshirt Rafael Lozada to the UNOH lineup. Nevertheless, Head Coach Kory Hartman believes starting pitching will be the team’s strength. Damon Proctor was credited with nine wins and earned a 2.17 ERA last season. He’ll be partnered with Kyle Thomas who is the team’s top pro prospect. In fall ball the tandem has already combined to wins in five of their six starts. Austin Gridley, whose fastball has been approaching the mid-90s, is penciled in to be the closer in the spring.
7. Tennessee Wesleyan Bulldogs, Appalachian Athletic Conference
The Bulldogs will be missing some major cogs from last season’s juggernaut club, which advanced deep into the NAIA World Series, but still have the machinery for another run to Lewiston. Established leadoff hitter Pedro Barrios will pair with transfer Colin Ridout to lead the TWC attack. Barrios rapped out 90 hits last season and is one of the division’s top second basemen. Ridout arrived at Wesleyan despite initially preparing to take his talents to the D-I level. On the mound Tyler Thornton will be poised to take over the top starter role after holding the opposition to a .217 average last season over 15 games. He’ll be pushed for top dog by newcomers Aaron Ford and Erich Knab who are looking to make Athens the launching pad for professional careers.
6. Freed-Hardeman Lions, American Midwest Conference
The Lions lost several players from a 41-win team, but brought in a tremendously talented recruiting class that has pushed their solid core of returners to achieve more in 2017. Brandon Guske, who earned 11 wins last season with triple-digit strikeouts, and D-I transfer Riley Echols, should be two of the top arms in the conference and have unquestioned All-American potential. Despite finishing third in stolen bases last season FHU has reportedly increased their overall speed, partially due to the addition of Jeff Ancog, a standout center fielder from Ohlone College in California. Ancog will team with established starters Houston Looser and Joseph Leatherwood to give the Lions solid defense up the middle.
5. Missouri Baptist Spartans, American Midwest Conference
The Spartans have depth both on the mound and positionally which could be the recipe for a very special season. Last year’s starting rotation is back on campus along with closer Brandon Nunn, who appeared in 25 games and led the team in saves. To fortify the staff Head Coach Eddie Uschold usurped Mike Syrett from Georgetown College where he pitched 61 innings and made 10 starts. The ambitious offense, which was second in the nation in stolen bases, has a handful of potential All-Americans, highlighted by returners Tim Hergert and Culver Plant, along with Longwood transfer Drew Kitson, who has returned to St. Louis to finish his college career. Few teams, if any, will cross the plate more than MBU.
4. St. Thomas Bobcats, The Sun Conference
St. Thomas Head Coach Jorge Perez believed this year’s edition of Bobcat baseball could be the most talented team he’s ever had. That’s quite the statement considering STU was the national runner-up in 2015 and started last season as Perfect Game’s preseason No. 1 team. The team’s primary potency is their deep pitching staff. The bulk of last year’s pitching staff will be back along with Chris Rodriguez, who missed last season but went 5-0 with 12 saves in ’15. The club added a pair of potential aces in Kenny Roder, who fanned 51 in 43 2/3 innings last season for Oklahoma City, and Orlando Rodriguez, who dominated at Broward College. The offense admittedly isn’t quite as overwhelming but still has enough gusto to be dangerous. The addition of transfer David Palenzuela from Faulkner and Randy Olivia via FAU will go a long a way in shoring up the everyday lineup.
3. Lewis-Clark State College Warriors, Frontier Conference
Ben Franklin famously wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and Lewis-Clark State baseball competing for the NAIA title.” This statement is as true today as it was when it was penned centuries ago by the famous polymath. The perennial power will be poised once again to add more hardware to their trophy case with another roster ready to challenge for the title. Micah Brown and J.J. Robinson, who had a combined 72 extra-base hits, will be joined by Brock Ephran, a transfer slugger from Yavapai College, to pace the offense. The pitching staff returns Kevin Harmann, who topped the team in wins and innings last season, and welcome Gage Burland, a Gonzaga transfer who was selected in the 26th round by the New York Yankees last June.
2. Bellevue Bruins, North Star Athletic Association
As the preseason rankings were being determined Bellevue had at one time been penciled in for the top spot in the rankings before ultimately being named the second school in the top 25. The Bruins boast dual aces in Ben McKendall and Todd Nicks who together amassed 23 wins, 220 strikeouts and nine complete games while holding opposition to a batting average near the Mendoza Line. Proven pitching prowess drops off quite a bit after those two, but finding new talent typically isn’t a concern for Head Coach Duane Monlux’s staff, which generates quality pitchers like Taylor Swift creates ex-boyfriends. The offense can provide plenty of pop with their top two offensive threats from last year, Joe Moran and Derik Bontempo, who hit a combined .426 back on the Omaha suburb campus.
1. Keiser Seahawks, The Sun Conference
Head Coach Jeremy Kennedy’s club features a dangerous offense, void of any exhaust port exploits which could lead to its downfall. Eight everyday batters return who acquired at least 100 at-bats and hit over .300 from last year’s squad, highlighted by two-time All-American über slugger Keivan Berges, who has mashed 36 home runs, compiled 153 RBI and batted .382 over the past two seasons. The pitching staff has the aptitude and ability to step up on the rare occasion the offense isn’t clicking on all cylinders. Kyle Keatts, who led the team with nine wins last season while throwing nearly 100 innings, will be joined by Ariel Burgos Garcia, who was beastly at Northern Oklahoma Coulee where he struck out 104 batters while only walking 14, and Miguel Castellanos,who transferred from Faulkner where he appeared in 26 games last season, finishing with a team-low 1.56 ERA and 44 K’s in 34 2/3 innings. Big things are also expected of incoming sophomore Francisco Arias who impressed in limited action at Miami Dade College.
2017 NAIA Top 20 Prospects
|1||Gage Burland||RHP||JR||R-R||6-2||215||Lewis-Clark State||Otis Orchards||WA|
|2||James Castiglione||RHP||JR||R-R||6-2||195||Lawrence Tech||Fenton||MI|
|3||Erich Knab||RHP||SO||R-R||6-4||180||Tennessee Wesleyan||Myrtle Beach||SC|
|4||Francisco Arias||RHP||SO||R-R||6-4||225||Keiser University||Santo Domingo||DR|
|5||Kevin Connolly||OF||SR||R-R||6-1||208||Cumberland University||Omaha||NE|
|6||Stephen Yancey||RHP||JR||L-R||6-1||175||Texas Wesleyan||North Richland Hills||TX|
|7||Ariel Burgos-Garcia||RHP||JR||R-R||6-0||185||Keiser University||Santo Domingo||DR|
|8||Brady Hamilton||1B/OF||JR||S-L||6-4||246||Georgia Gwinett College||Columbus||GA|
|9||Riley Echols||RHP||SR||R-R||6-4||205||Freed-Hardeman University||Collierville||TN|
|10||Andy Mocahbee||C/1B||SR||R-R||6-0||190||Middle Georgia State||Calhoun||GA|
|11||Orlando Rodriguez||RHP||JR||R-R||6-0||196||St. Thomas University||Havana||CB|
|12||Aaron Ford||LHP||JR||L-R||5-11||180||Tennessee Wesleyan||Houston||TX|
|13||Justin Kortessis||1B/RHP||SR||R-R||5-11||190||USCB||Fort White||FL|
|14||Brandon Sandoval||OF/2B||SR||R-R||6-1||180||Vanguard University||Fallbrook||CA|
|15||Austin Gridley||LHP||JR||L-L||6-1||215||U of Northwestern Ohio||Fairfield||IA|
|16||Justin Morhardt||C||JR||S-R||6-3||220||Bryan College||Winsted||CT|
|17||Daniel Garmendia||RHP||JR||R-R||6-3||200||Keiser University||Miami||FL|
|18||Trevor Achenbach||SS||SR||R-R||5-11||180||Oklahoma Wesleyan||Billings||MT|
|19||Jared Baker||OF||SR||L-L||6-1||205||Oklahoma City University||Edmond||OK|
|20||Brandon Guske||RHP||SR||R-R||6-3||187||Freed-Hardeman University||Spring Hill||TN|
Gage Burland, ranked by PG as the No. 140 player overall in the class of 2014 coming out of East Valley High School in Washington, spent the first two years of his collegiate career at Gonzaga before transferring to Lewis-Clark State, where he’s now the No. 1 NAIA prospect for the 2017 season. He’s been drafted twice, both times in the 26th round, coincidentally, first by the Orioles in 2014 and then again last June by the Yankees. Burland impressed over the summer in the Alaska League, widely-regarded as one of the best summer collegiate leagues. He was named the No. 10 prospect in the league, and following the season our own Mike Rooney had this to say about Burland’s performance and profile:
Burland could be a case of a pitcher who struggles to perform in college but pitches in the big leagues someday. He has a huge arm and off-the-charts movement on everything he throws. That is a blessing and a curse obviously, but the potential here is a swing-and-miss reliever at the highest level. This summer Burland averaged both a walk and a strikeout per inning, as per usual, but he did manage to minimize damage and pitched to a very impressive 1.04 ERA. Burland will touch 96 mph with his fastball and as he leaves Gonzaga for Lewis-Clark State in Idaho, his career strikeouts per nine innings of 11.9 certainly makes him an attractive prospect.
Originally appeared on Perfect Game website: https://www.perfectgame.org/Articles/View.aspx?article=13463