PBR Ontario's Top Stories For The Year 2016: CPBL Shines in Inaugural Season

By A;exis Brudnicki and PBR Staff
PBR Ontario Director Lead Writer

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PBR Ontario's Top Stories For The Year 2016: CPBL Shines in Inaugural Season

In its inaugural season, the Canadian Premier Baseball League made a huge splash on the Ontario baseball scene, dominating the province at the amateur level in college commitments, draft picks, prospects, and members of the Canadian Junior National Team.

Beginning in April, the Fieldhouse Pirates, Great Lake Canadians, Ontario Blue Jays, Ontario Nationals, Team Ontario and Toronto Mets programs joined forces in the CPBL and fielded a total of nine teams at the 18U level to expand and improve the level of the game on home soil north of the border.

The newly-formed league allowed each program and every team a chance to play more games locally, building the competition in Ontario. The circuit enticed a large number of area scouts and recruiters, providing highly-anticipated matchups each weekend among some of the country’s top players. Of the members of Team Canada who hailed from Ontario, just two were representatives of teams other than those in the CPBL throughout the year.

“I thought the league was really good, especially in its first year,” said Sean Travers, director of player development for the Ontario Blue Jays. “We only got to play the Great Lake Canadians four times, so playing the teams that we regularly play, I really like the fact that we actually got to compete for something in the end.

“I thought the league had an awesome first year, and there are definitely improvements we can make going forward to make this league even better. The league is already better than what we came from, but next year and the year after we’ll just keep getting better. There are baseball guys leading it and I would think they’ll make good baseball decisions.”

Andy YerzyIn June, 12 Canadian high schoolers were selected in the draft, six of them hailing from Ontario, and every one of those players out of the CPBL. Toronto Mets catcher Andrew Yerzy was the first one off the board, selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second round, 52nd overall, and eventually signing for $1,214,100 before heading off to spend his season between the Arizona League and the Pioneer League.

Ontario Blue Jays righty Jordan Balazovic was taken in the fifth round, 153rd overall, by the Minnesota Twins, eventually signing for $515,000 and spending his first professional season with the Gulf Coast League Twins, posting a 1.97 ERA over eight games and 32 innings before turning 18 years old.

OBJ catcher Luke Van Rycheghem was chosen by the Diamondbacks in the 23rd round and spent his first pro season in the AZL after signing for $100,000. Mets southpaw Matt Jones was taken by Minnesota, and the 28th-round selection shared his rookie season with Balazovic in the GCL after he signed for $70,000.

Jake WilsonGreat Lake Canadians right-hander Austin Shields was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in the 33rd round and got in just over six innings of work in the GCL after signing for $205,000 just before the deadline. His GLC teammate and outfielder Jake Wilson was taken in the 39th round by the Boston Red Sox, and opted to fulfill his commitment to Bowling Green State University.

In September, the Toronto Blue Jays-hosted Tournament 12 offered an example of just how bright the future is for the league as well, with CPBL players dominating its Ontario and Futures rosters, supplying the vast majority of talent from the area. Of the event’s total of just over 160 players from across the country, 52 spent the season in the CPBL with the Blue Jays, Canadians, Mets and Nationals, along with four of the tournament’s coaches.

“It’s a great sign of what our league has accomplished in such a short time,” said Kyle Fillier, 16U field manager for the Toronto Mets. “We are confident that we have the best players, coaches, and teams in the province. This is a testament to the league, and we will continue to showcase the best players to the most scouts and colleges.”

The highly touted and scouted tournament saw an Ontario team finish on top, with a roster that included 17 CPBL players and two coaches earning the championship victory. Canada’s top prospect heading into the upcoming draft, GLC shortstop Adam Hall, was named Tournament MVP after helping his squad to that win and dominating throughout the event.

Dondrae BremnerHeading toward June, many of the top high school players hailing from the Great White North will be playing in the CPBL before looking to the draft. Hall, committed to the Texas A&M Aggies, ranks first among PBR Ontario’s Top 100 high schoolers and 15th overall. Coming in at No. 2 and 21st overall, Texas commit and right-handed hurler Landon Leach is a product of the Mets, as is No. 3 Dondrae Bremner, an infielder committed to Cincinnati.

Going down the PBR Ontario Top 100 list, No. 4 Cooper Davis is an outfielder in the OBJ program committed to Vanderbilt and in the fifth spot, Noah Skirrow, a righty committed to Liberty, plays for the Canadians.

Among PBR’s top 10, every player hails from one of the CPBL programs, with 66 of the top 100 Ontarians participating in the circuit in its first year. Just under 40 players from the league are also committed to a number of different American colleges with various scholarship opportunities for 2017.

“The CPBL was great in its first year,” said Mike Steed, director of pitching and college placement for the OBJ program. “There were no hiccups, nothing like that. From a competitive standpoint, it forced my guys to come out and compete every day. You really couldn’t take any innings off, which we look for, especially for their development and moving on with our 18s going into college. It pushed them to compete every day.”