It can sometimes get a little cold in Canada, making hockey the sport of choice for many Canadians. There are a few oddballs from the north that ignore the call of the stick and puck and find the bat and ball the more attractive options. Dalton Pompey was the number two pick on this list last year and he graduated to the major leagues. There were three Canadians selected in the first two rounds of the major league draft last year and they have found their names on the current list, as well as a player that should have been selected earlier in the draft. They were able to squeeze onto the list because of off years by players who made the list last year. Out with the old and in with the new.
This is one of the more impressive top ten lists myworld has put together for Canada. Normally, we have to scramble to find a player from Canada to fill the list three or four to make the top ten and it is usually a journeyman player who has no hope for a major league career. This year we had at least 15 players to chose from when making this top ten, but we picked the ten we felt the most worthy.
1. Josh Naylor OF (Marlins) - Many thought the Marlins had reached when they selected Josh in the first round. Miami liked his power. At 6′0″ he does not remind you too much of Giancarlo Stanton until he sends balls into orbit far over the outfield fences. Josh was drafted with the 12th overall pick, making him the highest drafted Canadian position player, surpassing Brett Lawrie who was drafted with the 16th pick. Josh played for Team Canada in the 18U tournament, leading all players with 15 hits and clubbing three homeruns. His speed precludes too much time spent in the outfield so expect him to settle at first base. For a power hitter he showed a good ability to make contact, hitting .327 with just 11 whiffs in 25 games. He’s still three or four years from the major leagues, so it will take time before he finds himself in the same lineup as Giancarlo, but once he arrives the duo could put on a pretty impressive batting practice display.
2. Jameson Taillon RHP (Pirates) - After the Pirates selected Taillon with the second pick in the 2010 draft many said they preferred him over the first pick, Bryce Harper. Harper has won an MVP. Injuries have prevented Taillon from making his major league debut. Tommy John surgery and a hernia forced Taillon to miss two seasons in a row. Prior to the injuries his fastball could hit the high 90s and he had a nice break to the curveball. Tommy John can lesson the break on the curveball and tame the velocity readings on the fastball. The last time he played in 2012 he got six starts in AAA. After missing two years the Pirates may start him slow at Altoona and have him progress his way to the major leagues. If he does well a September callup would not be a surprise, depending on his innings count. The Pirates will keep a close eye on his work load. Jameson pitched for Canada in the 2013 WBC, his eligibility coming from his parents birth in Canada.
3. Tyler O’Neil OF (Mariners) - The California League has inflated many a players batting stats. Tyler jumped out into the scene with a nice 32 homer output for Bakersfield, 19 more homeruns than he hit his previous year. The red flag for his season should be the .260 average and his 29/137 walk to whiff ratio. The 32 homeruns is pretty impressive when you consider he missed a couple weeks of the season to play for Canada in the Pan Am games, his three homeruns contributing to the gold medal in their win over the United States. In addition to the power Tyler also stole 16 bases in 21 attempts. He is not a burner on the bases but he has enough speed to cover ground in the outfield and a strong enough arm to fit in right field. Expect a promotion to AA this year with his production a good measuring stick of his future performance with the Mariners.
4. Demi Orimaloye OF (Brewers) - Demi could be the steal of the draft. Born in Nigeria if myworld had enough African players to make a top ten list he would be on top with Gift Ngoepe a close second. Because there is no African list Demi will have to settle for fourth on the Canadian list. Demi has five tool potential. His bat generates easy power, he has the speed to cover ground in centerfield and an arm that would not discourage a shift to right field. At 6′4″ with an athletic frame all he needs to do is learn to make better contact. A 3/19 walk to whiff ratio is evidence of his impatience at the plate, though he hit .292 with six homeruns in 33 games, stealing 19 bases. Demi also played for the 18U Canadian team but he did not make an impact like Naylor. Next year he should make his debut in a full season league.
5. Mike Soroka RHP (Braves) - The Braves made Soroka a first round pick in 2015. Unlike many United States pitchers drafted in the first round who can hit the radar guns consistently in the mid-90s, Soroka is not as overpowering, working in the low 90s. What makes the pitch so effective is the command he has for hitting the corners and forcing weak contact. At 6′4″ he also has a large frame that gives him an intimidating delivery when his arms come down towards the plate. In his rookie league debut he was able to start 9 games, limiting the opposition to a .246 average and striking out 9.8 hitters per nine innings. Next year he should start the season in Low A.
6. Gareth Morgan OF (Mariners) - Gareth was a second round pick in the 2014 draft. A year behind Tyler he could one day share the same outfield with him, giving the Mariners two Canadians in their outfield. At 6′4″ Gareth has an intimidating presence at the plate. If pitchers spied his batting practice homeruns they would avoid giving him any pitches to hit. The batting practice clouts have not transferred to the field yet with his swing and miss struggles restricting his power potential. The last two years have been spent in short season where he has hit .194 with a .329 slugging percentage and 162 whiffs in 100 games. Not fleet afoot, Gareth will be restricted to a corner outfield. The Mariners may want to challenge him and give him a shot in a full season league. If he struggles they can always demote him to short season, but at this point in his game he needs at bats to improve his ability to make contact.
7. Nick Pivetta RHP (Phillies) - Nick was drafted in the fourth round by the Nationals in the 2013 draft. The Phillies were more than happy to depart with Jonathan Papelbon to acquire Pivetta. At 6′5′ he could probably put on a pretty good choke hold on any player. His fastball can hit the mid-90s but Nick has little clue what part of the plate the ball will cross, if it is even in the strike zone, walking close to six hitters per nine innings pitched. Last year he struggled in AA, both at Harrisburg and Reading with ERAs over 7.20 in ten starts. The opposition hit him at an average close to .300. The Phillies will probably have him return to AA, perhaps moving him to the bullpen to see if that adds a few ticks to his fastball velocity. He does have the repertoire to start with a curve, slider and change, but if he can’t find the plate the bullpen would be his best address.
8. Tom Robson RHP (Blue Jays) - Tom was a fourth round pick in 2011. Tommy John surgery has prevented him from rising up the farm system, with Low A his highest affiliation. He has a fastball/change combination but lacks a breaking pitch to survive in the starting rotation. Though he has been a starter in his minor league career the most innings he has thrown in one year is the 64 innings he threw his first year. The two seasons he has pitched in Low A the opposition has raked him for a .300 plus clip. He also has had issues finding the plate walking between four and five hitters per nine innings. If he fails to develop a breaking pitch expect a move to the bullpen. A third season in Low A is probably best for his development, allowing him to have some success before seeing High A.
9. Jeff Degano LHP (Yankees) - The Yankees drafted Jeff in the second round of the 2015 draft. His ability to throw lefthanded with the radar guns reading his fastball in the mid-90s perhaps inflated his draft position. Lefthanders in the New York Penn League did not find him that difficult to hit, raking him for a .333 average, but in limited at bats. Jeff did miss two seasons of college ball as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. At 24 years of age to begin the 2016 season expect the Yankees to challenge him with a stint in Low A.
10. Kellin Deglan C (Rangers) - A number of bad years from four players led to three of them dropping from this list. Kellin remained at the tenth position despite a .236 average in the California League. What keeps him here is his ability to hit the ball over the fence (13 homeruns). Two years ago he broke the Australia League record for homeruns in a season with 16. He also made the roster for the Canadian Premier 12 and Pan Am team. The Rangers traded Jorge Alfaro to the Phillies and have no one in their system including the major league roster that they can call a premier catcher. So the opportunity is there if Kellin can improve on his defense and his ability to throw out baserunners.
2015 top ten Canadian prospects