Tuesday, February 3, 2015

'Cats sign seven NCAA freshmen

The HarbourCats announced today that they have signed seven more collegians for the 2015 season, bringing the roster up to a total of 30 players. The new 'Cats are all freshmen, with six of the seven coming from NCAA Division I schools. In addition to inking a pair of players from Pepperdine, UC Davis and St. Mary’s College, the HarbourCat also signed a Division II player from (head coach) Graig Merritt and (pitching coach) Alec Adame’s alma mater, Chico State.
Ryan Wilson. Photo by Don Boomer.

One of our favourite signings in the new crop of players is Ryan Wilson, a left-handed starting pitcher who’ll be throwing to ex-HarbourCat Aaron Barnett at Pepperdine University this spring. Wilson was named to USA Baseball’s U17 National Team Development Program in 2013 and he graduated from Carlsbad High School in Carlsbad, California last year. In March of 2014, Wilson tossed a perfect game, needing only 73 pitches to complete his 7-inning gem against Del Norte High School. Not only did he strike out nine batters on the day, but he only issued three balls to a batter on one occasion.

In his senior year of high school, Wilson posted an impressive 1.51 ERA and 0.97 WHIP as a starter, while limiting opponents to a feeble .182 batting average. He also notched a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (75 strikeouts and 25 walks) in 74 innings on the hill.

Wilson will be joined in Victoria this summer by his Pepperdine teammate, Chase Lambert. Lambert is a slightly built third baseman with a surprising amount of pop in his bat given his size. He put up a gaudy .444 / .511 / .641 slash line in his senior year at Malibu High School, a short 12 kilometre drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from Pepperdine University. Lambert is clearly an excellent base runner, as he stole 26 bases in 23 games last season and was thrown out only once in his entire high school career. He also has a knack for controlling the strike zone -- in fact, he walked more often than he struck out in each of his last three high school seasons.
Chase Lambert.
Photo by Dick Dornan.

In his sophomore year of high school, Lambert played shortstop and was dominant as the team’s closer. In 26 ⅔ innings pitched that season, Lambert struck out an incredible 50 batters -- a ridiculous average of 16.9 K’s per nine innings. Unfortunately, Lambert blew out his arm that spring and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on July 3, 2013. This young man obviously has a lot of determination, because he returned in time for the 2014 season and repeated as the MVP of the Frontier League in his senior year. To help reduce the strain on his surgically repaired elbow, Lambert moved over to second base and gave up pitching last season.

Matt Blais and his
unorthodox delivery.
As we enter year three for HarbourCats baseball, we're starting to notice some interesting patterns in our recruits. One such insight is that Serra High School in San Mateo, California is turning out to be a factory for Victoria HarbourCat players. Not only did it produce former HarbourCat standouts Chris Lewis (2013) and Sean Watkins (2014), but now Victoria has signed Serra product Matt Blais, a right-handed pitcher who is currently a freshman at UC Davis. Blais and Watkins obviously know each other well, because the two Padres both graduated from Serra High School in 2014 (let's hope that Blais has the same fire that Watkins displayed so often last summer). In his senior year, Blais posted a miserly 1.25 ERA and 0.86 WHIP as a starting pitcher. His underlying numbers are equally impressive, as he struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings and only walked 2.1 batters per nine.

Blais played summer ball in 2014 for the Menlo Park Legends of the California Collegiate League (CCL), where he notched a 1.93 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 46 ⅔ innings pitched. He continued to show good control (2.5 BB/9) and an ability to strike out more than a batter per inning (10.2 K/9). Blais also pitched a hitless inning of relief in the CCL All-Star Game.

The second UC Davis player signed is Ryan Anderson, a 6-1, 195 lb. shortstop from Pleasanton, California. The right-handed slugger recorded an excellent .386 / .436 / .659 slash line in his senior year at Foothill High School, and he only struck out four times in 101 plate appearances. Anderson played for the Danville (California) Hoots last summer, a team comprised of the best U18 players from the eastern region of the San Francisco Bay Area. Not only did the Hoots qualify for the Connie Mack World Series this past August, but Anderson helped the team advance to the semi-finals of this prestigious tournament.
Cameron Santos

Cameron Santos is a freshman second baseman from California State University, Chico. Santos swings a powerful bat for an undersized player; he registered a robust .412 / .500 / .611 slash line in his senior year at (the unimaginatively named) California High School in San Ramon. The former shortstop displays excellent strike zone judgement, as he drew 14 walks and only went down on strikes 12 times in 85 at-bats. Santos, who went 15-for-16 in stolen base attempts in his senior year, is also a capable basestealer. Based on his high school numbers, it would appear that one of the factors that kept him from playing Division I baseball is that he is only 5-9 and 160 lbs. Thankfully the HarbourCats (and Chico State) are looking for ballplayers, not Fabio.

Jackson Thoreson
St. Mary’s College is a Division I school that plays in the West Coast Conference (WCC) along with Pepperdine and the University of San Diego. One of the two players signed from the St. Mary’s Gaels is Jackson Thoreson, a freshman catcher from San Jose. The left-handed hitting Thoreson hit a combined .290 in his high school career with three homers and 47 RBI. He appears to be a good defensive catcher and in 2014 he earned Bellarmine College Prep’s Billy Schmidt Award for positive attitude. Thoreson plans to study Kinesiology at Saint Mary's.

The HarbourCats also signed Thoreson’s new teammate at St. Mary’s, right-handed pitcher Sean O'Toole. At first glance, O'Toole put up good numbers in his senior year at Huntington Beach High School: a 4-0 record with a 2.40 ERA. However, a closer look at the underlying numbers is cause for a bit of concern, as O'Toole also posted a 1.40 WHIP, 3.9 walks per nine innings and only 6.4 strikeouts per nine.

The HarbourCats will be announcing roughly 10 more player signings, so stay tuned to the blog for further updates.

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