2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
The question was asked last fall.
And it was asked again in early March:
Who will be the top high school Canadian selected in the June draft?
OF Demi Orimoloye (Orleans, Ont.) of the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians and 1B Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) of the Ontario Blue Jays have been getting the majority of the pre-draft plaudits.
But who will be first?
Naylor or Orimoloye?
Orimoloye or Naylor?
As Howard Starkman, former crack P.R. boss of the Toronto Blue Jays used to announce at the old Exhibition Stadium “Attention media … attention media … we have a change to the lineup …”
It looks like we have a third horse in the race.
And he’s a stud.
RHP Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) had the best week of anyone with the Canadian Junior National Team in Florida … as he came out of the gate at 94 MPH in his first start against big leaguers with the Toronto Blue Jays, was 94 against Atlanta Braves minor leaguers and he was 94 against Tampa Bay Rays minor leaguers in a big-league setting of Tropicana Field.
Not a bad week in Florida.
And Wednesday he pitched two scoreless against the Arizona Diamondbacks class-A team for Doug Mathieson’s Langley Blaze at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Az. His fastball was clocked at 90-93 MPH, sat at 90-91 with a clean smooth delivery and a plus breaking ball.
So how good is Soroka?
“He might be the best high school pitcher from Canada since Adam Loewen in 2002?” said one veteran scout.
OK, Loewen went fourth over-all, that’s shooting a tad high … let’s get down to earth. He’s the best right-handed high school pitcher since …
“Aumont, Soroka is plenty good, but he’s not in Aumont’s league,” said another.
“Evan Rutckyj (2010) or Quantrill,” said another.
Soroka “popped” as scouts like to say in Florida. Problem is not enough guys pop. Popped is the same as blossomed or reached the next level. As Martha Stewart would say “it’s a good thing.” From Dempster, who pitched 16 years in the majors to Quantrill, in his second year with the Stanford Cardinal covers a lot of ground. Each and every name is a favorable comparison.
“The thing is everyone knew he had a 94 MPH in him, it was just no one had seen it before,” said a scout. “The best I’d seen him was 89-91. He does everything right: holds runners, doesn’t panic and has four pitches.”
One scout compared Soroka’s pre-draft situation to Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.) … as a high schooler in that “Kellogg had an idea of how much he wanted to give up his scholarship … when teams didn’t agree, he went to school.”
Soroka has signed a letter of intent to pitch for the California Bears this fall.
Capping a great Canuck weekend Kellogg pitched a complete game three hitter to beat the Oregon Ducks 2-1. It was a battle of former Canadian Baseball Network Players of the Year, as the 2013 winner Kelloggpicked up the win, while Phil Craig-St. Louis (Gatineau, Que.), the 2014 CBN Player of the Year, had two hits and knocked in Oregon’s lone run.
Although the late charge by Soroka has been impressive, Naylor is now on top of our Canadian Baseball Network draft list.
Before the juniors played their first game of the spring tour against an all-star team from Puerto Rico at the Walter Fuller complex in St. Petersburg, Fla. we asked 11 scouts who would be the top Canuck.
Orimoloye or Naylor?
The final count was 5-5 with one “I’ll he happy to take either.”
Orimoloye was ranked 16th by the Perfect Game Scouting Service among the top 500 high schoolers in North America, while Naylor was 33rd two months ago.
Orimoloye is ranked 39th on BA’s top 50 list of high school and college players.
Naylor made the Baseball America All-American high school first team. Orimoloye earned second team honors. Both were named to the PG All-American high school first team.
After the final game Sunday we asked 20 scouting directors and scouts the question … a new question:
Who goes first on an alphabetical list of Naylor, Orimoloye and Soroka?
Naylor had 13 first place votes, despite only playing five games before being felled by a pulled hamstring.
Orimoloye had six first-place votes as he had 10 hits — tied for second on the team with Peter Hutzal (Calgary, Alta.) four behind Kobe Hyland (Spruce Grove, Alta.).
And Soroka had one.
Yet the man with the most second-place votes was Soroka, with nine, compared to six by Naylor and five by Orimoloye.
Yes, there is a new horse in the race after Soroka pitched
_ Two innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, retiring Dalton Pompey on a fly ball, allowing a single to Menenori Kawaski, getting Russell Martin on a fly ball and striking out Matt Hague in the first. Chris Colabello and Maicer Izturis singled to opened the second. Devon Travis reached on an error and after a walk to Anthony Alford, Roemon Fields reached on an error. He then struck out Pompey which should have been the final out of the inning. Next Kawasaki and Martin each singled and Hague doubled. Colabello flew out to knock in a run and Hague was thrown out at third. So he allowed six hits and seven runs — one earned — walking one and striking out a pair.
_ Three innings allowing an unearned run as he gave up four hits while striking out three against Atlanta Braves minor leaguers.
_ Two scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Trop after the club did a run-through for its home opener with anthems, pre-game introductions and all that jazz. He allowed only one hit, registering a strikeout, Rays 2014 first rounder Casey Gillaspie. The year before Soroka was in grade 11 and Gillaspie was a senior for the Wichita State Shockers. The Rays gave him a $2,035,500 US signing bonus.
_ Two scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks minor leaguers in Scottsdale.
So in four outings Soroka pitched nine innings against pros allowing one earned runs and fanning six.
“It’s easier to find a power arm than a power left-handed bat,” said one scout. “Nailor is like Brett Lawrie at the plate. He has no fear whatsoever. He punishes the ball.”
Could there be three, two or one Canadian who will get first-round consideration June 8?