By Bob Elliott
We’ve never had a No. 1 and a No. 1-A when it came to the top Canadian ever heading into the June draft.
We’re 30 weeks away from the June 8-10 draft of high schoolers and collegians yet it’s as close to a dead heat as we can remember.
OF-1B Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) of the Ontario Blue Jays and Demi Orimiloye (Orleans, Ont.) of the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians are No. 1 and 1A — or 1A and No. 1 — depending upon your viewpoint.
We asked eight scouting directors and four cross checkers to pick the top Canuck after the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship at Jupiter, Fla., the final big showcase of the fall.
And when we were done the verdict was? A tie.
We had to go to another evaluator to break the tie and the leader atop the Canadian Baseball Network draft list is:
Some comments and reviews …
“I”d still go with Demi … middle of field player,” said one experienced cross checker.
“Demi scuffled, but he was the best player on the field in Long Beach,” said an AL scouting director.
“Probably Naylor, but not by a lot,” said an NL scouting director. “Demi looked to be putting pressure on himself. Miles Gordon, the outfielder, is very interesting and gaining momentum.”
“Naylor, few hit the ball as consistently hard as he does,” said one evaluator. “I think that known commodity will win out come next June despite the fact that Orimiloye has the higher ceiling.”
“People feel safer about Naylor’s bat, but less about his athleticsm,” said one of the NL’s best.
Naylor, who plays for coach Dan Bleiwas, hit .181 (2-for-11) with two homers and six RBIs while walking three times and striking out once.
Orimiloye, who plays for coach Tanner Watson, hit .167 (2-for-12) with a double, an RBI, four walks, three strikeouts and three stolen bases.
How popular was Orimiloye after hitting .642 (9-for-14) at Area Codes with a triple, homer, seven RBIs and six stolen bases? After going to Arizona and Florida in the past with the Dbacks Langley Blaze Orimiloye was all set to play for the Dbacks again.
He told it would be best for him to play with the Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team under coach Matt O’Brien … along with RHP Matt Ianni (Ottawa, Ont.) of the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians, RHP Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) of Jim Lawson’s PBF Redbirds and C Andrew Yerzy (Toronto, Ont.) of Ryan McBride’s Toronto Mets.
The Jays Scout Team played five games, the Blaze played nine, seven at the spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins.
“I could go either way right now,” said one scout, when asked either Naylor or Orimiloye. “You know if he has a good spring it’s a three-way conversation … with Soroka in it.”
Soroka registered amongst the best velocities at Perfect Game when his fastball was clocked at 92 MPH, averaging 88 MPH.
And LHP Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.) from Rob and Rich Butler’s Ontario Prospects is draft eligible at Arizona State.
One scout had a word of wisdom after OF Gareth Morgan (Toronto, Ont.) received a $2 million US signing bonus from the Seattle Mariners when he went 73rd over-all in June.
“What we now worry about Canadian kids is if they are all going to ask for Morgan money.”
RHP Jameson Taillon (The Woodlands, Tex.) who earned at $6.5 million signijng bonus from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Loewen at $3.2 million have received larger signing bonuses on the all-time Canuck bonus list for Canucks.
Closer pair of Canucks: Now you might think that the twin towers from B.C. LHP Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC) who pitched and hit homers for coaches Dennis Springenatic and Ben Gasiorowski of the Walleye Chiefs went fourth over-all in North America and LHP Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC) of Terry McKaig’s University of British Columbia Thunderbirds was chosen five picks later in 2002.
The honor of the top two Canadians being selected is shared by the top pair from the 2003 and 2005 June drafts.
_ C Chris Robinson (Dorchester, Ont.) of Mike Lumley’s London Badgers and the University of Illinois Illini and Nick Weglarz (Stevensville, Ont.) of Team Ontario were separated by four spots in the third round in 2005. Robinson went 90th over-all and Weglarz from Marc Picard’s program, 94th.
_ RHP Brooks McNiven (Vernon, BC) of UBC went 123rd over-all in the fourth round in 2003, to the San Franciso Giants, four spot ahead of 3B Jamie Romak (London, Ont.) London Badgers who went 127th to the Atlanta Braves.
The next closest would be the 1997 draft when SS Kevin Nicholson (Surrey, BC) of Stetson University went 27th over all to the San Diego Padres and OF Ntema Ndungidi (Montreal, Que.) Academie Baseball Canada was selected nine picks later by Wayne Norton of the Orioles.