Prospect of the Week

Chris Kemlo
PBR Ontario Scouting Director

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Ontario Insider: Prospect of the Week

Week 7

Blake Buckle C / 1B / Craig Kielburger, ON / 2019

Team: Ontario Blue Jays / Team Canada

Prospect Update: We were able to see Buckle late February and he has cleaned up his body, adding strength and beginning to fill out at 6-foot-2, 195-pounds, down 10-pounds from the last time we updated Buckle in the middle of summer 2017. The left-handed bat is the present most impressive tool from Buckle, as he gets himself in a good position to hit and creates good torque with his hips and lower half while he shows barrel control and a natural uphill path in his swing. Has shown power to his pull side for quite some time now, I believe he will be able to tap into more of that power in games this year while still producing lots of hard contact and having a feel for the zone what to be aggressive with.

2018 Projection: This year may give us a good indication whether Buckle will stick behind the plate or make the move to first. It is not out of the question for him to get reps at both spots with the National Team this March in Florida, and he quite possibly could see the same time with his club team the Ontario Blue Jays as well. We all know Buckle has juice in his bat and can launch balls to right field with ease, the bigger question is where does he play? He will be one of the better hitters in the province and I think there could be a power increase this summer as the strong hands and wrists, along with his natural swing from the left side will be key components to the offensive production coming from the uncommitted 2019’s bat.

Week 6

Evan Chenier RHP / Christ the King, ON / 2018

Team: Ontario Blue Jays

Prospect Update: Chenier has added size and strength, and now stands a stocky 6-foot-5, 215-pounds with a noticeably stronger upper and lower half. The work in the weight room and on the mound has translated well for Evan, as last fall was more of a feel guy who lacked the drive and explosiveness, sitting mid 80’s with his fastball and hovering around the high school average barrier. This past Wednesday, Chenier opened eyes as he worked 88-91 with arm side action on his heater, staying in the zone and working with some downward angle. The delivery has slightly more tempo and rhythm, creating good energy and direction to the plate while the arm is clean and gets out front from ¾ slot. Was good to see the life out the hand with movement down in the zone, the breaking ball showed more of a slider and kind of backed up on him a little bit, he did throw a really good one where he was on top and stayed with it all the way through at 80 mph with some late tilt, the changeup was average but worked out of same slot. It was a really good night for the righty and the hard work is paying off for the uncommitted senior

2018 Projection: Chenier looks to play a key role this year with his club team the Ontario Blue Jays, and will be a guy they can count on to eat up innings and pound the zone. The body needs to be maintained as he has done a very good job incorporating strength and size which has helped add velocity to his fastball and looks to be a presence on the mound at 6-foot-5. Currently uncommitted, it doesn’t seem to stand that way for long after the early performance this past Wednesday. With the feel and actions of Chenier, we should expect to see a breakout year where he becomes one of the more dominant arms in the province with his uptick in velocity and keeping the same feel and pitchability he had prior to 2018. A guy college coaches need to jump on and do so quickly.

Week 5

Keegan Pulford-Thorpe LHP / OF / Newmarket, ON / 2019

Team: Toronto Mets

Prospect Update: Thorpe is coming off what some might say a breakout season that saw him play for Ontario at the Future Games, and then later in the fall be named to the Canadian Junior National Team. Some can argue that they expected that path to take place as well as Thorpe has always been one of the better arms in his class with loose, easy arm and a good feel and presence for the game. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound left-hander looks noticeably stronger at the moment with added muscle and size to his frame, and that extra strength should be able to add velocity to his fastball as he typically worked in the 83-85 range during the 2017 season. As we continue to get closer to March break where Thorpe will be suited up for the Junior National Team, bullpens will start to increase and we look forward to seeing where the winter workouts put him in line for the start of games in 2018.

2018 Projection: Thorpe is going to look to establish himself as the top pitcher in his class and quite possibly  the country, while making a run at the number 1 spot in the Ontario rankings in the very near future. A big fan of the actions, the way his arm works, and his ability to spin the baseball, it’s easy to project that more velocity is in his future with the low effort he currently works at. A former hockey standout where he was the captain of his team, the makeup, frame, and stuff are all there as we head into the 2018 season for him to grab National attention. Look for Thorpe to continue to raise his stock and velocity, while everything else continues to sharpen. High end D1 player who has the opportunity for pro looks,  Thorpe has a chance to establish himself as one of the top arms in the country this year and compete for a spot on the National Team that will need to qualify this summer for the World Championships.

Week 4

David Walling OF / St. Joan of Arc, ON / 2018

Team: Ontario Royals

Prospect Update: We saw Walling in late January this year at a small workout up north in Barrie and the body, which has always been an intriguing place to start when speaking about Walling looked strong and athletic at 6-foot-3, 195-pounds with muscle and high tapered waist. The outfielder took part in batting practice where the strength was there as he was able to barrel up a few baseballs during his two rounds that produced loud and hard contact, but the consistency just isn’t there yet and you want to see a few changes with Walling and his approach. Defensively he moves fairly decent and can improve the footwork and approach to balls in the outfield, the arm has some length but is clean and the strength definitely helps him get past the rawness aspect and play the game and succeed.

2018 Projection: Walling, currently an uncommitted senior is looking to put together some consistency to his game as we enter spring training in Ontario and push towards opening day, typically late April, early May is when that occurs here. With the ability in him to be a solid college player, this certainly won’t come easy and the amount of reps and extra work Walling needs is not of a small feat. That said, the athleticism, speed, strength, and frame are all there and if a junior college or small program is willing to be patient and really work with Walling, it could be one of the big sleeper pickups of the year. With a lot of players in Ontario also re-classifying or taking the “victory lap”, this could be beneficial for the outfielder from the Ontario Royals and turn himself into a 2019 graduate. Either way we are excited and anxious to see how the winter has paid off for Walling in 2018.

Week 3

Noah Case 3B / 2B / Richview CI, ON / 2019

Team: Etobicoke Rangers

Prospect Update: Case had a coming out party this year as the 5-foot-10, 185-pounds third baseman continued to swing a hot bat throughout the entire year which saw him be selected to the Ontario Future Games Team in Indianapolis as well show his clutch attributes at T12 with a big time double to straight away centre with the bases loaded down late in the game. Case is known for his ability to swing the bat with strength to all fields while the bat stays in the zone with some natural lift in his finish. Case drives the ball and produces lots of hard contact, shows he can manipulate the barrel in the zone with more projectable power to come in the future as he adds strength to his frame. The hit tool is present and while there is room for him to improve as a defender, the actions suggest he will be just fine either at third base or second, and make the routine plays.

2018 Projection: Case will suit up for the Etobicoke Rangers 18u team this year in the EBLO as junior and will immediately step into the middle of the lineup for them. He gets rolling in March for a week of ball in Ft. Pierce Florida and then will get started once we are outside in early May for the start of the Ontario season. Case will play third base and he shows good feel with his hands and will look to improve his first step quickness as well increase his arm strength across the diamond. Also has the ability to provide innings at second base as well. Expect for him to be one of the top hitters not only in the EBLO, but throughout the province this year and should have an opportunity to be an early commitment if the right opportunity presents itself. A definite follow leading into the 2018 season.

Week 2

Griffin Hassall RHP / Bill Crothers, ON / 2018

Team: Great Lake Canadians & Canadian Junior National Team  

Prospect Update: Hassall is one of the most polished Canadian pitchers in the 2018 class and the highest ranked uncommitted pitcher in Ontario (4th ranked pitcher, 7th Overall). At 6’3” he has a big body that will be able to add strength as he matures. Hassall displays good athleticism on the mound, a good feel for pitching and a high compete level. He has a pretty loose delivery without stress points and a consistent landing. Stays on line very well and has some deception in delivery with a high leading shoulder. His fastball sits at 85 mph with good command and has been up to 87 mph. More velocity is in the tank and should come with added strength. Very effective at keeping the ball down and missing barrels. Curveball displays tight rotation with hard break. Change up is effective with fade from the same arm slot. Both pitches have the desired qualities to get swings and misses.  

2018 Projection: Hassall will once again be a key member of his Great Lake Canadians team and the Canadian Junior National Team. With the JNT, he will face pro competition this spring, which has really helped his development as a pitcher over the last two seasons. This showed at the World Championships in Thunder Bay this past summer as Hassall took the mound in a must win game versus Nicaragua, something that you can’t really get anywhere and on a stage like that in your home country soil. There is projectablity in all aspects of his game and combined with an advance feel for pitching, he would be an asset for any school that signs him.

Week 1

Diego Dominguez RHP / St. Joan of Arc, ON / 2018

Team: Ontario Blue Jays

Prospect Update: Dominguez is a 5-foot-11, 165-pound right-hander that features a loose and whippy arm from a clean ¾ slot. Dominguez has been up to 88 mph with his heater this past summer and usually works in the 83-86 range during game action. The delivery works with room to iron out his lower half to become more involved. He repeats well and shows feel for his breaking ball with 11/5 shape and downward action. Creates good separation in velocity between his changeup and fastball with some running action to his arm side.

2018 Projection: As we will see Dominguez middle February this year, look for him to of added some size and strength to his frame and see his fastball velocity more consistent in the upper-80s. The arm has life and comes out his hand clean with room to add more polish to his secondary stuff. It’s an athletic body and delivery, and Dominguez can be used in many roles on his Ontario Blue Jays staff, the same as he did last year working out the pen and starting games. The uncommitted senior has plenty of upside with his quick arm and in one of the top arms in the 2018 class still on the board. Look for Diego to come out firing this spring and be a top recruit for many schools moving forward as they look to firm up their 2108 recruiting classes.