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Left-hander Widell projected as CAC's top MLB draft pick

Big game for Widell-"It's just baseball"
Big game for Widell-"It's just baseball"

Left-hander Widell projected as CAC's top MLB draft pick

  • By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Pinal Central Casa Grande Dispatch 

SIGNAL PEAK — The list of Central Arizona College players selected in the Major League Baseball draft began in 1972, when catcher John Green was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the second round of the January secondary phase.

Although the draft has undergone several changes since then, churning out professional prospects has been a hallmark for the CAC program. Baseball-reference.com lists 143 players drafted directly from Central (the school's baseball website says that number is 153), and that group is certain to grow this week.

Left-handed pitcher Ryley Widell likely will go in the fifth round, "give or take," CAC coach Anthony Gilich said. Infielder Pikai Duque-Winchester is projected to be taken somewhere in rounds 10-15 and right-handed pitcher Peyton Remy has a good chance of being selected in rounds 10-20, Gilich said.

Other possible draftees include utility player Matt Kroon, along with right-handed pitchers Grant Townsend, Sati Santa Cruz and Bradley Gonzales.

This year's draft begins Monday with rounds 1-2. Rounds 3-10 are Tuesday, and the proceedings conclude Wednesday with rounds 11-40.

A total of 29 players have been selected directly from CAC in the last eight years — including four in 2016 and five in 2010 and 2011 — with 17 signing professional contracts, according to the school's website.

Gilich said Central's draft history "is one of the big selling points" for the program. "We do a better job than most (junior colleges) of getting people drafted."

Widell posted an 8-2 record with a 1.98 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) for the Vaqueros in 2017. He struck out 115 and walked 39 in 95 2/3 innings.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Widell was phenomenal in the postseason, pitching 24 2/3 innings without allowing a run. He went 3-0 with 28 strikeouts and six walks as the Vaqueros fell one win shy of advancing to the NJCAA World Series.

The changeup was Widell's go-to pitch and he "grades out very well" with the scouts in that regard, Gilich said.

Another upside for Widell is his frame.

"He's got huge, broad shoulders," Gilich said, and should have no problem adding some pounds to enhance his fastball, which currently ranges from 88-92 mph.

Widell's breaking ball "is still developing," Gilich said, a big reason why he probably won't be taken in the earliest rounds.

Duque-Winchester, who was previously drafted in 2015 by the Tampa Bay Rays, led CAC in batting (.360), doubles (19) and triples (7). His three home runs tied for the team lead, and his 43 RBIs ranked second behind Jake Vander Wal's 44.

"Everybody loves his bat," Gilich said. "The question is, what position do you play him at? He had a great year at second base for us" (six errors on 218 chances)," but if he goes pro, Duque-Winchester (5-10, 185) could wind up playing third base or the outfield.

Remy (6-3, 185) went 4-6 with a 3.28 ERA in 17 games (14 starts) with 90 strikeouts and 39 walks in 85 innings.

"His competitiveness is off the charts," Gilich said. "He throws 93 (mph) but the scouts think he can throw harder as he gets stronger."

Statistics confirm Townsend, a 6-foot, 190-pound right-hander, was CAC's most effective and consistent pitcher. He went 11-2 with a 1.79 ERA in 21 games, with five complete games in 15 starts. Townsend struck out 119 and walked 24 in 100 2/3 innings.

"He put up great numbers and he has great stuff," Gilich said.

But scouts need to convince the front office decision-makers that Townsend has the "capacity for growth down the road," Gilich said.

Santa Cruz (6-3, 225) and Gonzales (6-0, 230) are considered draft prospects because both are big guys who can throw 96 mph.

Matt Kroon and/or Jake Vander Wal could be drafted. Kroon (6-1, 205) started 39 of CAC's 65 games in 2017, batting .266 with 20 RBIs, nine extra-base hits (three doubles, four triples, two homers) and eight stolen bases.

"He has so much athleticism," Gilich said. "If he figures out his swing, he could be a utility player in the bigs because he can play every position" in the infield and the outfield.

Kroon previously was drafted in 2015 by the Cincinnati Reds, as was right-handed pitcher Will McAffer (6-2, 205), who went 6-3 with a 5.20 ERA, 52 strikeouts and 34 walks in 62 1/3 innings.

Vander Wal (5-11, 180) had a strong freshman season, but is considered a draft long shot, Gilich said. Vander Wal batted .323 with 18 extra-base hits (12 doubles, four triples, two home runs).

Gilich said former CAC outfielder Ernie De La Trinidad "has a real chance" to be drafted. De La Trinidad played for UNLV in 2017, batting .361 with 30 RBIs and 21 extra-base hits (nine doubles, five triples, seven homers).

The signing deadline for drafted players is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 15.

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