Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to watch several of the area’s better high school players in game situations. Evaluating high school players — who feature plenty of projection, limited polish, and developing physical frames — is very different than looking at college or minor league prospects. In most cases, it’s clear which aspects of the game these players need to work on, but for obvious reasons it’s also much more difficult to project their ultimate pro potential. Still, there are plenty of preps from the Seattle area who figure to get drafted, and I wanted to highlight a few of the region’s better talents. This isn’t a comprehensive list of every top prospect in the Northwest — I have a job, unfortunately — but rather an opportunity for me to share my thoughts on some of the best players I’ve seen recently.
Stuart Fairchild, OF/3B, Seattle Prep
Arguably the top high school player in the state of Washington, Fairchild is a bat first prospect. I’ve seen him in center field and at third base, and he’s unlikely to be a plus defender at either. He’s more interesting as a third basemen — I don’t think he’ll have the speed for center down the line — but while he displayed quick hands at the hot corner, he looked uncomfortable calibrating throws across the diamond. I would imagine that he ends up in left or first base when all is said and done, but he’s not a plodder, and it looks like he’ll have some time before he shifts too far down the defensive spectrum.
Where he plays won’t matter if his bat can develop. In the three games I’ve seen him, he’s showed a good eye at the plate, never expanding the zone (though most of his at-bats have come against inferior arms). Thick forearms help him generate tremendous bat speed for a player his age, and I’ve seen him use a short load and a compact swing to hit a couple of baseballs very, very hard.
My biggest concern about Fairchild is that I haven’t seen him square up a fastball yet. He roped a couple of off speed pitches from Lakeside’s Andrew Summerville — more on him later — but I was disappointed that he didn’t get to see more fastballs. In the games I’ve watched Fairchild, he hasn’t barreled a heater, and he wasn’t exactly facing major league arms in any of his bats.
I have no doubt that he can — and has — crushed a number of high school fastballs this spring. My concern, after seeing him miss so many relatively hittable pitches against mediocre competition, is that he’ll be overwhelmed by a sudden and dramatic uptick in velocity. One scout pegs him as an easy top ten round talent, but he’s well behind even the youngest kids I saw in Everett last year, and I wonder if he’d benefit more from going to college, where he’d be able to adjust to better pitching at a gradual and more natural progression.
Andrew Sommerville, LHP, Lakeside High School
One of the top prep lefty pitchers in the Northwest, Sommerville impressed me with his unflappability and mechanics. He works with a slow delivery, lifting his left leg tight against his chest before extending his left arm and driving toward the plate. He gets long leg extension, and repeats a fairly difficult delivery fluidly. He throws a fastball, a changeup, and a curve, and for the most part, does a good job of keeping his arm speed consistent.
His fastball sat 83-86 mph and his curve was about 70-72. I didn’t see many changeups, but the one I saw on the gun was 75 MPH.
The curve was an inconsistent delivery for him. Often as not, it backed up on him, and he had trouble burying the pitch out of trouble spots. He hung a couple, most notably a fifth inning pitch to Fairchild that the righty smacked for an opposite field double. It’s a little too loose for my tastes right now, but if he can develop a tighter curve in college — and if he gains a couple of ticks on his fastball — he’ll be an intriguing arm in a couple of years.
Finally, Sommerville earned a quick mention for his poise on the mound. It can’t be fun giving up two extra base hits against a talent like Fairchild — their head to head duel attracted roughly two dozen scouts — or to surrender a lead while chasing a very much up in the air playoff berth, but Sommerville was cool and calm throughout his start. Nothing seemed to faze him, and his poise is a big positive in high leverage situations.
Tyler McDowell, LHP/OF, Puyallup High School
I got to see McDowell when Puyallup played at Safeco Field a few weeks back. At 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, he’s already a physical presence, and at one point in the game, he unleashed a throw from right field that would have made Dustin Ackley blush.
McDowell pitches as well, and he is planning on playing both ways at Washington State next year. I’m particularly intrigued to see how his bat develops: I liked his setup and approach when I saw him, and I specifically made a note of how he was able to keep his hands back to fight off a tough curve. I’d have liked to have seen him get his legs into his swing a little more — it was mostly upper body — because at his size, he should be able to do some damage with the bat. Based on his size, athleticism, and — from what I saw — a decent approach, I think he’s a sleeper.
Carson Breshears, SS — Mt. Si High School
Breshears, a University of Oregon commit, looks like the real deal at shortstop. He has good range — he made a dazzling backhand grab and a strong throw across the diamond from deep in the six-hole when I saw him — and a powerful, accurate arm. He sets up well defensively and his hands suggest he won’t have any problems making routine plays.
At the plate, I saw him go 0-3 with two strikeouts. He has good bat speed and an athletic setup, but he chased a couple of pitches up and out of the zone, and I’m not sure how much power he’ll have against better competition. He’s athletic and has a good glove, and I’m interested to see how he develops as a hitter in college. If everything goes well, he could be a name to watch out of the Northwest in 2017.