Prep Baseball Report

PBR Ontario's Top Stories For The Year 2016: A Look Back At The 1st Annual ProCase

By Chris Kemlo and PBR Staff
PBR Ontario Director of Scouting

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PBR Ontario's Top Stories For The Year 2016: A Look Back At The 1st Annual ProCase

It was May 4th in Toronto, weather is unpredictable, fields can be in poor condition depending on how mother nature felt the previous five months earlier, and players very easily may not be where they need to be, as in some cases teams have only been outside playing organized baseball as little as one week in advance.

Thankfully, none of the above applied to our 1st annual ProCase, designed for the top pro prospects in the province as the weather, field conditions, and most importantly the talent, were all above and beyond this Wednesday in early May.

The ProCase came together once I had heard that the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau would no longer be conducting their pro day workout, something that has taken place every May in Toronto, ever since I can remember. It feels like yesterday I was attending the workout as a high school senior, and not so long ago helping run the workout as a scout with the bureau. Once it was confirmed that it was no longer taking place, it seemed only fitting that this was our opportunity at PBR Ontario to give back to the players and provide them their day in front of eyes from Major League Baseball organizations. No fees, no strings attached, your typical workout combine followed by 9 innings of high end, quality baseball. Andy YerzyIt very easily could've been the most talent you will see on one field, at one time, from high school players in Ontario all year. Not to mention, some pretty legit PBR ProCase shirts with swag bags and an Oppotaco t-shirt for all participants.

There were 22 MLB organizations that were represented at Dan Lang Field in Scarborough on May 4th, with all six of Ontario’s high school draft selections in attendance, along with younger prospects who now headline the 2017 draft for Ontario in Landon Leach, Cooper Davis, and Dondrae Bremner, as well top 2018 national prospect Noah Naylor.

Of the six selections, two teams doubled up and drafted two Ontario players as the Minnesota Twins took a pair of arms in the likes of Ontario Blue Jays 6-foot-4 right-hander Jordan Balazovic, and 6-foot-4 left-hander Matt Jones of the Toronto Mets while the Arizona Diamondbacks went the route in big, strong, physical left-handed bats that can thump in the likes of catcher Andy Yerzy of the Mets and Luke Van Rycheghem from OBJ. Yerzy was the first high school player taken in Canada, with the 52nd overall selection in the second round. The other two selections were a pair of teammates from the Great Lake Canadians in 6-foot-6 right-hander Austin Shields and outfielder Jake Wilson. Shields ended up signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates while Wilson decided against the thought of professional baseball with the Boston Red Sox and fulfilling his commitment to Bowling Green State University.

We also had some of the top young talent with young 2019 prospect Jaden Brown, who had one of the most impressive at-bats during game action as he was right on a couple 90 mph fastballs, just missing and fouling them back as a 14 year old. Top ranked 2018 prospects in Ben Abram and outfielder Denzel Clarke were in attendance that day as well, and along with the mentioned Naylor, giving all pro scouts a chance to see this year’s draft crop and what is also upcoming in the future.

Matt BrashThe game in itself was full of everything; big defensive plays, extra base hits and homeruns, guys who can steal bases stole bases, and usually the way these big events go, pitching lead the way as the talent on the mound was very impressive and fun to watch. Our starters were Balazovic and Shields, both going two innings of work while each had to work out of some trouble but were able to show why they were considered two of the top arms in the country. Guys like Jones had a fantastic inning of work, striking out five of the six hitters he faced. Right-handers Rj Freure, a University of Pittsburgh commit and Niagara commit Matt Brash both had clean innings of work with 90 mph fastballs and both curveballs that finished off hitters when they were ahead in the count.

The lone homerun of the day went to Van Rycheghem as he took an 86 mph fastball to left-centre. Yerzy ended up 2-3 with two hard hit doubles, one to straight away centre that was almost caught by Clarke and the other in the right-centre gap. Although being the young guy, Naylor was a standout on the day, turning on an inside 90 mph fastball early on with ease and little effort, and then showing off his arm nailing a runner trying to steal third base. The highlights of game action were as long as my sons list to Santa, but one of the coolest lines of the day had to be the last inning pitched from 2019 grad Stephen Kinal. The young right had four of the top left-handed hitters due up in the country with Davis, Brad Aldred, Ryan Rijo, and Van Rycheghem. His line from the four hitters could be compared to the old Gordie Howe Hat Trick as he used to score a goal, get an assist, and then get into a fight all in one game, which when any player accomplishes this now it is referred to the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Well all Kinal did was almost die from a line drive base hit up the middle, then break a bat on a slow ground ball out, he proceeded to drill the next guy, and then strike out the final hitter he faced. We all got a kick out of that line from the young 14 year old right-hander.

Looking back on the first ProCase, it was something I personally always wanted to be apart of in someway or another. Being able to give the players the day they deserved in front of as many scouts possible, a big thank you to PBR staff members in other states who helped get the word out to their area scouts. The amount of talent we had at Dan Lang Field that day, along with the number of professional scouts and organizations represented was amazing to see. It’s a big sign of where we are headed as a province, and a showing of the players talents, along all the hard work and dedication they put into the sport of baseball.

We are already planning our 2nd annual ProCase, which looks to be May.10 as we wait to receive our confirmation for field times in the new year.

With players in the province like Leach, Naylor, Adam Hall, Davis, Bremner, Noah Skirrow, and new arms like Cerantola, Gollert, Holmes, and English, we expect this year to be bigger and better, with hopes of getting every major league club in attendance at our ProCase.