Prep Baseball Report

PBR Ontario's Top Stories For The Year 2016: Ontario 2016 MLB Draft Selections

By Chris Kemlo and PBR Staff
PBR Ontario Director of Scouting

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PBR Ontario's Top Stories For The Year 2016: Ontario 2016 MLB Draft Selections

This past summer, six high school players from Ontario had a lifelong dream come true as they heard a Major League Baseball organization call their names as one of the selections in the MLB June amateur draft. The percentages are slim for anyone to be in such a position, and for five of the six to sign pro contracts and begin their professional careers is something even more amazing.

In my mind, the MLB amateur draft is the most unpredictable draft of any of the four major sports. So many things come into the equation over the three day event, whether it be slot money, college commitment, high school or college preference, what position to draft player as, etc, etc... and those are just a few.

This years crop of Ontario positional prospects was headlined by catcher Andy Yerzy, who ended up going in the second round (52nd Overall) to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The other position players to be selected were Luke Van Rycheghem, who went to Arizona as well in the 23rd round (689th Overall) and outfielder Jake Wilson who went to Boston Red Sox in the 39th round (1168th Overall).

On the mound, three high school arms from the province were selected and signed this June, with Jordan Balazovic going off the board first with a fifth round selection (153rd Overall) from the Minnesota Twins. Next was left-hander Matt Jones, again of the Twins in the 28th round (843rd Overall), followed by Austin Shields who went to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 33rd round (1005th Overall).

All six players were apart of our first annual ProCase this past May in Scarborough, which saw over 20 major league organizations represented. Needless to say the day was an overwhelming success, with the top prospects this province had to offer, all in one place.

We take a look at each player who was selected in this years draft, where they finished off last season, and what the future could possibly hold for them this year and beyond.

Andy YerzyAndy Yerzy
Drafted: Arizona Diamondbacks, 2nd round, 52nd overall (Signed)
Club Team: Toronto Mets
Position: Catcher
Committed: Notre Dame
Report: Yerzy was the first high school Canadian taken this year, and the second canuck drafted behind right-handed Cal Quantrill out of Stanford University. Yerzy’s biggest tool was the power he has from the left side of the plate, with the Diamondbacks taking him so high they obviously believe Yerzy will have an opportunity to stay behind the plate, or at least give him the time to prove that he can handle the load. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame gives Yerzy the physical strengths to handle staying behind the dish, and the catcher did a good job getting his body ready for what was a long year of games and travel with the Junior National Team, Toronto Mets, and then in his first taste of professional baseball. With his swing from the left side, you see the power and it’s pretty easy power at that. Yerzy showed that power at the All-Star game in Cincinnati where he won the home run contest in 2015, not only showing his pop, but the ability to be unfazed by the moment and his surroundings. Yerzy began his first year with two stops in rookie ball with the Missoula Osprey and the Arizona Rookie League. Over that span he hit a combined .216 with one homerun and 16 RBI’s. While he had some adjustments to make behind the plate, the young prospect looks to be ready for a strong campaign in 2017, whether that is in full season ball or another year in short season, Yerzy will be ready for what comes his way.

Jordan BalazovicJordan Balazovic
Drafted: Minnesota Twins, 5th round, 153rd overall (Signed)
Club Team: Ontario Blue Jays
Position: Right-Handed Pitcher
Committed: Auburn
Report: Balazovic has always had a lot of success in Ontario, whether it was with his club team the Ontario Blue Jays, or on the international stage with Canada’s Junior National Team, the numbers and performances were all very similar. Long and lean at 6-foot-4, 180-pounds, the young righty will see noticeable changes to his frame over the next few years as he enters his early 20’s. Already equipped with a low 90’s fastball, you imagine the velocity gains will come as Jordy has a repeatable delivery with a loose, clean arm that comes from a ¾ arm slot with run on his ball. At times, his best off-speed was his changeup, it works well from his arm slot, and he would battle at times with the breaking ball for consistency. That said, the improvement and process over Balazovic’s time with his off speed really came along way, and you saw the feel he would have at times with the pitch, showing proper rotation, and even messed around with slider at times. His first stint this summer was in the Gulf Coast League with the Twins and was a successful one. In 6 starts and 8 appearances, Jordy was 2-1 with a 1.97 ERA. In 32 innings, he gave up 26 hits, walked 5 while punching out 16. Those numbers seem very familiar for Balazovic, something that has become regularity back home.

Luke Van RycheghemLuke Van Rycheghem
Drafted: Arizona Diamondbacks, 23rd round, 689th overall (Signed)
Club Team: Ontario Blue Jays
Position: Catcher/First Base
Committed: Stetson
Report: One of the more powerful and dangerous hitters in the province last year was Van Rycheghem. The left-handed hitting catcher, which seemed like a motto in 2016 with Luke and Yerzy, (along with other guys like Fascia, Wright, and Mendham) was big and strong with the ability to hit the ball out the park from the left side. Van Rycheghem’s swing showed the bat speed, with some natural lift and pop that you do not see all the time from high school hitters. Arizona selected Luke in the 23rd round, and when the draft was live, they also asked for him to be listed as a first baseman over the call on the internet. This wasn’t the biggest shock, and you can see that the club most likely wants Luke to feel comfortable, and put his focus on the bat early in his career. The upside, strength, feel, I believe is all there for Van Rycheghem. He was one of the more consistent hitters in his league the last two years, and always had that ability to make pitchers pay when they made mistakes to him. Luke was in the Arizona fall league in his pro debut and over 31 at-bats, he hit .226 with two extra base hits. The now former Ontario Blue Jay will look to build on his start his winter and look to head back to Arizona, ready to compete in 2017.

Matt JonesMatt Jones
Drafted: Minnesota Twins, 28th round, 843rd overall (Signed)
Club Team: Toronto Mets
Position: Left-Handed Pitcher
Committed: Montevallo
Report: Jones came out with a strong spring in 2016, and caught the attention of scouts as his fastball, weight, and strength all bumped up the right way. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound lefty always had pitchability and a curveball to go along with a delivery that was deceptive and tough to pick the ball up. Over a few events in 2016, one being the ProCase where Jones was unhittable in his inning of work at 86-88 and solid changeup, Jones was able to grab attention of some scouts, and the Twins made him their second arm out of Ontario with their pick in the 28th round. Jones was able to work a deal with the Twins to sign and begin his professional career, and the lefty spent his first year in the Gulf Coast League getting his feet wet. The left-hander went to instructs as well, and was the youngest player in camp. Jones is waiting for his report date to spring training in 2017, and he continues to grow and get stronger, and continue to improve on his craft, looking forward to showing what he can do in 2017 as his first full year of professional baseball.

Austin ShieldsAustin Shields
Drafted: Pittsburgh Pirates, 33rd round, 1005th overall (Signed)
Club Team: Great Lake Canadians
Position: Right-Handed Pitcher
Committed: British Columbia
Report: Shields came out of the gates on a mission, throwing up 94’s on the radar guns in March. The big 6-foot-6 righty changed his body, and his fastball. Shields was always a big workhorse type guy on the mound, but he leaned and toned up his body, and was able to add velocity to his fastball that separated him from everyone else basically in the country. Yes Shields would struggle at times with command, but the righty has limited innings under his belt with a very fresh arm that throws 94 mph with a low 80’s slider that shows upside as he snapped off many that would jump out the hand and bite late down in the zone. Shields profiles and fits well into what professional players look like, he will continue to improve and could easily be a high 90’s type guy with his fastball down the road as he gets stronger and with more innings under his belt could be a sleeper down the road in Pittsburgh as a 33rd round pick with Pittsburgh. As always, it will be fun to watch.

Jake WilsonJake Wilson
Drafted: Boston Red Sox, 39th round, 1168 overall (Did Not Sign)
Club Team: Great Lake Canadians
Position: Outfield
Committed: Bowling Green State University
Report: As a 39th round selection of the Boston Red Sox, Wilson forgoed a chance to sign with the american league east team and follow through with his commitment with Bowling Green State University. For what it’s worth, I doubt that Wilson won’t have another opportunity at professional baseball. An extremely athletic outfielder with a plus arm and above average runner that will only be quicker as he moves through the college ranks. Wilson was a stand out for his Great Lake Canadians team, and was a key piece offensively with his left-handed bat and ability to get on base or come up with a clutch hit. A terrific defender who played centre with a right-fielder's arm, Wilson can be a lockdown defender who can hit at the top or in the middle of the order. As the only Ontario player selected not to sign, Wilson looks to be part of an Ontario class who will be knocking on Major League Baseball’s door in the next 2-3 years once their time is done at school and in the classroom.

A Look Ahead to the 2017 Draft

As we head into the new year of 2017, a new draft, and a new set of prospects to analyze, there is one thing that I still believe will be the same this year, as it was last year, and all the others that have come before, and that is the MLB draft is the most unpredictable draft in sports.

We look forward to seeing this year's group of pro prospects for the upcoming 2017 draft in June, and as always, PBR Ontario will have full coverage leading up to it.

With that said, it was a fantastic year for Ontario high school baseball players and Major League Baseball. With the 6 that were selected this year, 8 the previous year, and a total of 27 players selected from Ontario over the last 4 years, it is safe to say the province is producing some talent and headed in the right direction with all the young high school prospects to come.