Borealis 2022 Draft Class Aims to Fill Gaps

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Updated: October 7, 2015

aurora_storialis 2by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

Is PEBA's second repeat champ in the cards for Aurora?

Will Aurora regret the picks they gave up for Negrete?

June 7, 2022: Aurora, Colorado – The Planetary Extreme Baseball Alliance held their annual amateur draft this weekend, and for the Aurora Borealis, the organization looked to fill gaps and add to organizational depth at positions of need. The draft becomes a test for the organization’s new alignment: GM and now-manager Will Topham and new Assistant GM Daisuke Yamashita. We shall also learn a little about the new owner of the Borealis, Michael Topham, Jr, who’s reportedly already more concerned about the bottom-line – described as an ecomonizer and as viewing profit as a priority – a far cry from his father’s perspective.

Aurora has had an interesting year since the past draft. Despite the obvious (another title), the club saw the continuation of past draftees making significant contributions to the parent club. The team, somewhat uncharacteristically, traded away their top four picks – only to pick up Okinawa’s #1 pick (4th overall), Rio Grande’s top two selections, Lupin’s #2 (3rd in the round) and Marseille’s #3 (4th in the round), as well as possessing a compensation sandwich pick for the loss of Scott Vinson to Crystal Lake. They then traded away the Okinawa pick to Reno in the Negrete deal and traded the RGV #2 pick (from the Norman/Dickson deal) to Okinawa. Phew…

So, the end result is Aurora had the 10th selection in the first round (RGV’s), a comp pick, the 3rd pick in the second round and the 4th pick in the 3rd, and no 4th. The rest of Aurora’s picks remained untouched.

So what did Aurora get for all the wheeling and dealing?

Castro comes with big expectations to be ready when/if Negrete bolts.

Take a look at the Borealis system and it’s no secret the team is thin behind the plate. The loss of Vinson and the 2020 trade of Gálvez in the Barker deal, handcuffed the Borealis so that GM/Manager Will Topham vigerously pursued Jesus Negrete and surprisingly dealt the 4th selection in the draft. Still facing a system with no real stand-out, Aurora used the 10th selection in the draft to take C Manny Castro from Arizona State University. Castro is a high contact guy – some may call him a bad-ball hitter as he’s shown some questionable pitch selection, yet still he manage to hit .307 and .361 his Junior and Senior years – the only two years he played in Tempe. He’s been lauded by coaches and teammates, alike, for the work he puts into the game – the pitching staff in particular point to his ability to call a game. It’s believed that Castro is considering a return to college for another season, after being named to the USCBA All-Star team. Should Manny sign, it’s a possibility he will begin the year at San Luis Rio Colorado. “We are pleased to have been able to land Manny” Topham said, “We were pretty certain from Day 1, when the eligible player list was published, that we were going to draft him – even at the 4-spot, so we are, needlessly to say, pleased.”

How Lando didn’t land in Amsterdam is a mystery. Recovery from the UCL injury is paramount.

Last season’s draft, one that didn’t see Aurora pick until the middle of the 2nd round, saw the Borealis draft five starting pitchers over the span of picks #55-#80, in an attempt to stock a system desperate to find another home-grown arm to join Arturo Jiménez. This year, with their sandwich pick they took Dutch international Lando Lagerveld out of the University of Houston. Lando sat out his Freshman year, and split time between the starting rotation and the bullpen in a rough Sophomore season. He had a standout Junior (2021) year as Lagerveld posted a 3.27 ERA with a 4:1 K:BB ratio. The scouts suggest that Lando has pretty good stuff and at times shows excellent control of his five-pitch arsenal – a collection of pitches that Borealis Pitching Coach Thomas Williams suggests will be reduced to better focus on the remaining pitches. He brings a better than average fastball at upwards of 98 mph and already has an accomplished, pretty nasty, change. Bright, hard-working, and a strong leader (as teammates freely spoke to) – what’s not to like? The ulnar nerve problem suffered in his first start of his Senior year, back in February, which has had him on the shelf for three-and-a-half months – and another 7 weeks still to come. “Lando is a big, strong guy, and he was the top rated pitcher on our score board before the draft. Well worth the gamble” Topham said to the press after announcing the pick.

Jones is a project, who Aurora hopes pans out better than Parsons did.

With the 3rd pick in the second round, Aurora targeted their next major concern – flexible infield help. Bring in University of Arizona 3B Bill Jones. An excellent defender at 3B – “Almost as good as they get” as Topham said. The 4-year honor student in Viral Cybernautics is competent at second and has “Been known to tinker at short” when asked about his experiences in the infield. An All-Star in 2020, Jones likely would have played in all possible games his team played during his 4-years, if not for a broken kneecap his junior year. For his career, Jones hit .342 with more walks than strikeouts. Bill commited just 4 errors in 450+ innings at 3B, but early reports are Jones is eager to start taking balls at short to enhance his value to the organization. If there is a weak part to his game, he’s been described as ‘absolutely lost’ on the bases.

Heath reminds many in the organization of Paul Carlisle.

One position that has been a strength for Aurora over the past few years has been the outfield, where currently all five outfielders on the active roster are former top round draftees (three #1’s, one supplemental and a #2), as well as there being a number of young, talented guys in the minors who are chomping at the bit. But when the chance to draft a speedy, rangy, excellent CF with a career .327 average and .522 SLG comes along – you draft the guy. That guy would be UAB’s Nick Heath who was taken with the 4th pick in round #3. An All-Star this past season, Nick sprays the ball around with surprising power – he built his .592 SLG this year around 17-2B and 9 HR in 54 games. Scout’s are impressed with his speed and baserunning skills, even if his college coaches didn’t utilize that aspect of his game much. Like his fellow draftees, Aurora has drafted a bright, hard-working young man whose teammates speak quite highly of as a team player, and in keeping with Aurora tradition – Heath is yet another left-handed hitting outfielder.

With no selection in the 4th round, Aurora sat idly for nearly 100 selections before their pick in the 30th slot of round 5 came along and SP Hugh Jones of Arizona was selected. Jones has the qualities that Aurora looks for – you’ve heard them before, but he is seen as more a project than anything else. In three seasons with the Lutes, he saw action in just 24 games – 13 of which were this year, where he was 5-4 with a 3.03 ERA in 13 starts. The tall, lanky right-hander was particularly tough on right-handed batters and might possibly find himself in the ‘pen should that trend continue in his professional career. Coaches speak to his excellent mechanics, and praise his strength on the mound, though they view his three-pitch repertoire as being ‘pedestrian’. For now, Jones will begin his career – should he sign, at Mokule’ia.

Aurora used their 6th round pick (#203 overall) on the only other OF they drafted: Arturo Vega, an 18-year old from Winter Springs High School. Vega is a right-handed outfielder with pretty good defensive skills that need a little polishing – as one would expect from a high school kid. He’s got good speed and moves around the bases as well as anyone. The scout’s say he’s got some power, and when he connects, drives the ball. Their big concern is patience at the plate – they say he see’s the ball well, but gets anxious at times and swings at bad pitches. Vega’s offensive skill set mimics that of the other Short-A outfielders in the Aurora system. He’ll be given a shot right away to prove himself with the Oceanic and earn playing time as the team awaits Heath’s signing (which is expected any day).

In the 7th round, teenage left-handed reliever Dan Davis, of Palm Beach Gardens, was the choice in an attempt to ‘balance out our draft a bit’ as Yamashita said after the selection. Davis is viewed more as a project-type whose innate intelligence and easy, openness with his teammates give the team hope that there is growth to be had. Primarily a fastball-curveball type, he was used somewhat sparingly in relief over his 4-year high school career. He did sport a 3.94 career ERA and a 1.17 WHIP (0.84 his Senior year). His stuff is not over-powering (mid-80’s), but he does an excellent job of holding runners on and his pitching fundementals are viewed as ‘solid’. He was used as a closer at times, earning 16 saves during his career and, as a result, will begin the season with Mokule’ia as a set-up man to Dave Forrest.

Shortstop José Franco was the 8th round selection for the Borealis – a man who was an 11th round pick for Yuma last year, but failed to sign and returned to UAB for a 5th year under the unique eligibility clauses of the USCBA. Franco lacks power and has but a poor-to-average eye, but he drives the ball to the gaps well – when making contact, has excellent base-stealing instincts – even if his speed and overall baserunning instincts are a tad shaky. His best year was his junior year where he hit .311 with a best .456 SLG. What Aurora likes most about Franco is his ability to play solid defense around the horn – particularly up the middle. Franco started every game UAB played the past three seasons and that streak will continue – for now, at Mokule’ia as he’s been installed as the starter, but he will get regular breaks, killing his personal streak, as Aurora is want to give ample playing time to guys at SA.

Aurora selected another project-type, high school pitcher, with the 9th pick, Bob Cummins, who is best known for playing for Chatsworth High’s 3 championship teams over his four-year high school career (they lost in the finals his Sophomore year). Needless to say, he brings some experience to the park. He has a broad collection of pitches that the coaches see him struggle controlling, but feel that his excellent mechanics may allow him to be a pin-point pitcher. The leftie is strong and holds runners well. He projects out to be a future starter, but for now will get the bulk of his work in the ‘pen.

The Borealis finished out their 15 rounds of selections with the following players – all scheduled to play in Hawaii. I’ve provided you with a highlight for each to help you get to know them.

10. 3B Carlos TorresMichigan. Bright, a leader, excellent defender who needs work on the throw to second. Hit .302 with 9 HR this past year

11. C Brendon MurphyLouisville. Has decent offensive skill set. Not so much defensively. If he passes Castro on the depth chart, Aurora’s in trouble.

12. 2B Will SharpCincinnati. Excellent defender, slightly above-average offensively. Career .263 hitter, though hit .306 Senior year. Pretty good base runner. Not expected to pan out.

13. SP Terry Bane – Cincinnati. Fun Fact: Terry is a second cousin of the GM’s mother – the second year in a row Aurora drafted a relative of the management (OF Joe Harris with the 96th selection). Out-spoken (in a positive way), large repertoire of pitches, solid on the mound, but needs help to become nasty. Will begin the year in Oceanic rotation.

14. SP Nate BeardMinnesota. ‘Scorpion’ looks like Bane, minus the large collection of pitch options – strictly a fastball-curveball guy. Will begin the year in Oceanic rotation, but likely to end up in relief.

15. 2B Rodrigo ChávezNotre Dame. Defensive skills are solid – especially at 2B, but offensive set? Meh. Fast, but a train wreck on the bases. Brains and heart alone won’t get this guy far.

So there you have the Borealis Class of 2022. I’d grade this class a solid B at the moment, with the expectation that Castro Lagerveld and Heath being the likely suspects to don Aurora Blue in the future.