March 24, 2006
If Baseball America’s evaluation of the top-10 prospects of all 30 Major League Baseball clubs is any indication, the future of Canadian Baseball is promising as six canucks made the top prospects list for their respective clubs.
Leading the list and rated No. 2 (the top pitcher) by Baseball America in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization is left-handed pitcher Adam Loewen, Canada’s highest-ever draft pick. Loewen, who was selected fourth overall in the 2002 MLB draft also received the largest signing bonus and major league contract ever handed out by the Baltimore Orioles to an amateur player.
If those numbers don’t emphasize the confidence the Orioles have in Adam Loewen, his statistics on the field will certainly reinforce the belief that the Surrey, B.C. native will likely play in the Major Leagues in the near future. Loewen won seven of his last 10 starts in 2005 in addition to picking up a win in relief in his last appearance of the season with the High-A Frederick Keys. He finished the season 10-8 with a 4.12 ERA and struck out 146 batters in 142 innings of work. The 6’5”, 215 pound lefty also lead the 2005 Arizona Fall League with a 1.67 ERA.
Although his up-side was well known within baseball circles, Loewen’s name wasn’t exactly a household name until he shut down a powerful American line-up at the World Baseball Classic, setting the tone defensively to pace Canada to a 8-6 upset of the U.S. where he threw 3.2 scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and three walks.
Loewen is expected to begin the season at Double-A Bowie.
HISTORY: Selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2002 MLB draft - Signed May 26, 2003.
Of the six Canadians on Baseball America’s list, Dodgers’ catcher Russell Martin (Ranked No. 4 and the top catcher in the Dodgers’ system) will likely be the first to play in the Major Leagues. Martin, who many expected to be a late-season call-up to the Majors last season, opted to make his case for a spot on the Dodgers’ 2006 big league roster rather than playing in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
His decision may very well prove to be a wise career move. Thus far, Martin is batting .357 with one homerun, eight RBIs, five runs scored and only three strikeouts in 13 spring training games. Those numbers, paired with an hamstring injury suffered by projected opening day catcher Dioner Navaro on March 15, may very well translate into Martin’s first spot on a Major League roster.
The more experienced Sandy Alomar Junior is expected to get the start over Martin (should Navaro not be healthy enough to play) on opening day. However, having had seven knee surgeries over his 18-year Major League career, you would think that Alomar would need a rest sooner or later, opening the door for Martin to take to the field for the first time.
HISTORY: Selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round of the 2002 MLB amateur draft - Signed June 13, 2002.
At No. 2 on the San Diego Padres’ prospects list is Scarborough, Ontario native George Kottaras. Kottaras, who projects to be an offense-oriented catcher, is one of three Canadian backstops in the Padres’ Organization. He and Pierre-Luc Laforest (Hull, Qué.) are both currently listed on the Padres’ 40-man roster as back-ups to Doug Mirabelli and Mike Piazza.
Kottaras played his first full professional season is 2005, splitting time between Hi-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A Mobile, batting .299 with 11 homeruns, 36 doubles and 65 RBIs. It is his offensive production that scouts believe will vault Kottaras into a starting position at the big league level by the end of the 2007 season.
HISTORY: Selected by Padres in the 20th round of the 2002 draft; signed May 26, 2003.
The Philadelphia Phillies’ No. 4 prospect, Scott Mathieson, has been making waves since being drafted in 2002. Off the field, Mathieson is quiet and mild-mannered. On the field, he’s a tenacious competitor and an extremely hard worker. Since being drafted, Mathieson has gained over 30 pounds of muscle and has added 12 MPH to his fastball in addition to developing solid second and third pitches.
Despite not having pitched beyond Single-A, Mathieson proved he can throw at a high level, finishing second in the 2005 Arizona Fall League for strikeouts, fanning 36 batters in 26 innings of work. Mathieson also threw a hitless eighth inning setting up Canada’s upset of the United States at the World Baseball Classic.
Mathieson will likely begin the 2006 season at Double-A Reading.
HISTORY: Selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 17th round of the 2002 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft - Signed July 3, 2002.
The only Canadian who isn’t either a pitcher or a catcher to make it to his organization’s top-10 list is first baseman Joey Votto (Toronto, Ontario).
At No. 9 in the Cincinnati Reds’ system, Votto is a catcher-turned-first baseman who can hit the ball a mile. The top first-base prospect in the organization, Votto walked 90 times in 2004 showing he can also be patient at the plate.
The 22 year-old had a coming out party in his first two international tournaments with Baseball Canada’s national senior team in 2005, earning all-star honours at both the 2005 World Cup in the Netherlands and the 2005 CONCEBE Baseball Regional Olympic Qualifier in Phoenix, Arizona.
Votto will likely begin the 2006 season at Double-A Chattanooga.
HISTORY: Selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the second round of the 2002 MLB amateur draft - Signed June 5, 2002.
The final Canadian to make the top-10 list is the only one to belong to Canada’s lone Major League Baseball organization, the Toronto Blue Jays. At No. 10 on the Blue Jays’ list is the hard-throwing Vince Perkins (Saanichton, B.C.).
Perkins’ premiere pitch, a heaving sinking fastball is already a major-league pitch. As he continues to improve on his second and third pitches, the 24-year old will work his way up the Jays’ system.
Perkins will likely begin the season at Double-A New Hampshire and might get called up to Triple-A Syracuse.
HISTORY: Selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2000 MLB entry draft; Signed May 24, 2001.