Thursday, May 21, 2015

HarbourCats sign seven but lose three star pitchers

As Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s deja vu all over again.” We recently learned that three more players have been forced to back off their commitment to play for Victoria this summer. This time it’s Ryan Wilson (innings quota), George Alamillo (injury) and Zander Clouse (reasons unknown) who have pulled out, bringing the total number of cancellations this off-season to a whopping 16 players. We’ll have plenty to say about this latest trend in a future blog post, but for now let’s concentrate on who will pick up the slack for the departed hurlers.

The team also announced today that they have signed one import to a full-season contract and six Canadians to 10-day contracts.

Left-hander Nick Wojtysiak is a freshman at Pepperdine University. While he has only thrown three innings this spring for the Waves and he has posted a 12.00 ERA, he put up gaudy numbers as a senior at Fountain Hills High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Wojtysiak was nearly unhittable in that magical season, as he posted a 0.32 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 44 ⅓ innings pitched. Not only did opponents hit a feeble .101 against him, but he struck out an electric 15.0 batters per nine innings. Let’s hope that Wojtysiak recovers his mojo this summer, because he has a very high ceiling.
Kenton Schroter

Kenton Schroter is a right-handed pitcher with the Vancouver Island Baseball Institute (VIBI) Mariners, a team that plays in the Canadian College Baseball Conference. Schroter, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, should return to US college baseball in 2016 after blowing out his elbow in 2013 with Cochise College in Arizona. His comeback has gone swimmingly so far, with the Nanaimo native posting a 1.49 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 89 innings pitched with the VIBI Mariners. Schroter’s 2013 numbers with Cochise College were excellent (2.87 ERA and 1.28 WHIP), so the HarbourCats may have uncovered a real pitching gem here. Keep in mind that that former HarbourCat Connor Russell posted the fourth-lowest ERA in ‘Cats history after putting up less impressive numbers than Schroter has with the Mariners.
Justin Clarkson

Third baseman Justin Clarkson is a sophomore with Midland College, a Division I junior college in Texas. Clarkson, another Nanaimo native, hit .335 with an impressive six homers and 39 RBI in 182 at-bats this spring. The left-handed slugger also showed great strike-zone judgement (17 BB and 18 K), so I’m expecting him to feel comfortable against the tough pitching in the West Coast League this summer. Don’t be surprised if he hangs around with the ‘Cats for longer than ten days. Quite frankly, I'm surprised a player of this caliber wasn't signed to a full-season contract last fall.

Brady Rogers is Alex Rogers' (fraternal) twin brother and a teammate of A-Rog’s at Trinidad State Junior College. Brady was the team's starting shortstop this spring and the left-handed hitting Nanaimo native hit .292 with a fabulous .443 on-base percentage in 96 at-bats. His breakout offensive performance was a huge step up from his freshman season with Colby (Kansas) Community College. He may play a key role in the early going with the HarbourCats, considering that the team has a dearth of experienced shortstops.
Brady Rogers

Evan Willow is a freshman catcher at McPherson College (NAIA Division II), although he can also play first base and DH. The former Victoria Mariner put up a tidy .293 / .373 / .436 slash line (BA / OBP / SLG) this spring and led his team in doubles, homers and slugging percentage. He also tied for team lead in total bases and walks. Willow was named Freshman of the Year in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and he received honourable mention for the All-Conference team at designated-hitter. It's worth noting that Willow actually dressed for the Victoria HarbourCats in the last three games of the 2013 WCL season, but he did not appear in any games. With four catchers already signed to full-season contracts, Willow is going to have to impress the ‘Cats early to stick around for any length of time.

Utility infielder Morgan Varley is a freshman at Thompson Rivers University, a rival of the VIBI Mariners in the Canadian College Baseball Conference. Varley hit .317 with no homers and 10 RBI in 63 at-bats with the Wolfpack this spring. The former Victoria Mariner played against the HarbourCats in a June 5, 2014 exhibition game and went 1-for-4 with a walk. He played shortstop than night and singled off of Alex Rogers.

Zach Diewert is a high school senior who is currently playing for the Nanaimo Pirates in the BC Premier Baseball League. The native of Chemainus is currently hitting .413 with two homers and a league-leading 26 RBI in 75 at-bats. He’s headed to Polk State (Florida) College, a Division I junior college, in the fall.

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