The AIA Fire — to be henceforth known as the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks, as of this season — are not a team to be taken lightly when it comes to the draft. With players like Kirk Nieuwenhuis rising to the big leagues and prospects like Blake Treinen hot on his heels, the ABL’s youngest team is establishing itself as a club capable of recruiting high-quality talent. Although they have still produced fewer draft picks relative to the rest of the league, I expect the Chinooks to continue trending upward, and this is a draft class that could put them on that trajectory.
I’m going to kick things off with one of my favorite players from a few years back when I first started this blog. Ryan Gebhart, who also played for the Oilers in 2010, is an outfielder to follow in this year’s draft. He’s a senior so his signability is likely good. As for his tools, he’s a plus-range outfielder with a good on-base approach at the plate. He will get on base any way he can, and he’s got a good feel for the strike zone and pitch selection. He’ll work the count until he gets something to hit. I’ve also heard nothing but good things about him, as far as his character is concerned. Since he left Alaska, Gebhart went on to play in the Jayhawk league last summer where he was ranked the #5 prospect by Perfect Game. He really seems like he deserves to go pro, so here’s to hoping he’ll land somewhere good next week.
Continuing with the Ryan theme, Ryan Mathews is another Ryan who could be a serious draft prospect. Baseball America has him pegged at #379 of their 500 draft prospects. A lot of the buzz about him has to do with his 2011 campaign in the Coastal Plains League where BA ranked him the #3 prospect, and Perfect Game ranked him #10. Of course no one remembers what he did in Alaska, but that’s OK. That’s what I’m here for. Mathews was one of the more productive hitters in the Alaska circuit in 2010; in my analysis of Runs Created for that season he ranked #15 in the ABL and 4th for AIA.
Throwing a pitcher out there, I have to say that Charlie Gillies looks like a legit prospect. The dude led the ABL — by a fairly wide margin — in both innings pitched (55.1) and strikeouts (50). He was good before he came up; I knew he’d be effective and able to shoulder a lot of innings, but he really blossomed into a serious ballplayer while he was up here in AK and just tore it up in his senior season at The Master’s College.
Taking a quick detour down memory lane, you might know that one former Alaska Baseball League product who turned pro was none other than Mark McGwire. Well I gotta say, this is Alaska, we’re too big to have only one Big Mac, so we had to come up with another. For the 2012 draft I am lobbying hard for Marshall McDonald, who like McGwire has some pop in his bat. He doesn’t go to a big school like USC so the battle for recognition may be a bit more uphill, but hey…you never know. It struck me this last season really how few players at this level can hit for power with a wood bat, so I think being capable of that is definitely an edge. Will McDonald follow in McGwire’s footsteps and be the next Big Mac? It could happen. Though hopefully with less ‘roids.
So there’s a few potential picks in case you were wondering what my thoughts were on the issue. Of course, I don’t decide who gets drafted; that’s for the GMs out there to decide! So, below, I would like to share my (hopefully) complete list of all AIA Fire alumni who will be eligible for the 2012 MLB draft. Have a look at the list and please, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
[table id=12 /]