The Pacific Northwest has established itself as a bit of an underrated area for baseball in recent years. In the past three drafts, 12 players from the states of Washington and Oregon have been selected in the top 100, eight from Washington, four from Oregon. Eight of those 12 were high school players, which is where the area does most of its damage.
The class of 2013 is once against fairly strong, especially considering the hurdle that is the region's weather. The top prospect is Reese McGuire from Kentwood (Wash.) High School, a left-handed hitting catcher who first jumped onto my radar at the Area Code Games tryouts between his sophomore and junior years. At the time he was barely 150 pounds or so, but displayed a solid line-drive swing and some raw, yet projectable, tools behind the plate.
McGuire has since bulked up at least 30 pounds and stands 6-foot-1. The questions coming into the spring, however, centered on his receiving and the upside in his bat. McGuire has improved in all areas behind the dish, including a consistent display of softer but stronger hands, and he's grown into an aggressive-throwing backstop with leadership skills.
The arms is easily plus, at least a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he's progressed in terms of accuracy, particularly on pickoff throws, which he often makes from his knees to all three bases.
I question the bat more than anything else. I've seen him five times this season -- about 20 plate appearances -- and he's squared up just two pitches, and he's been thrown strikes in most of his trips to the plate, getting intentionally walked just twice. He does show a good eye, patience and a sound swing, though at times he'll get his hands started late and the swing could be shorter, especially considering he's not a power hitter by trade.
He hasn't faced much quality pitching, which makes it more concerning that he hasn't hit the ball hard with consistency. He will hit the ball the other way and to center field and it appears he likes to let the ball travel deep, which is generally a positive.
At present, McGuire is an above-average runner, but speed is not likely to be a part of his game in pro ball. He's committed to San Diego, but he's a first-round talent and almost certain to sign. He's looked the part of a late first-round pick for me, but it only takes one club to like him a lot more than that and he could be gone in the top half of the round, with Minnesota at No. 4 the highest I've heard.
Wenatchee High School right-hander Dustin Driver started the season as a potential Day 1 selection, thanks to a low-90s fastball that has touched 94 mph, and a strong physical presence. Last Friday, Driver sat 89-92 mph and hit 93 a half-dozen times, but his command was spotty and his overall control was inconsistent.
Driver, who throws from a high arm slot, showed two breaking balls. One, a 70-73 mph curveball with some depth and downer break that he threw for a few called strikes. He also threw a slider in the 78-80 mph range, but the pitch was well below average and the break was short. He may have problems developing a useful slider with his arm slot, but the curveball showed a lot more promise, anyway.
His changeup showed good sink on occasion, but is still in its early stages, even relative to the average high school pitching prospect. He did battle with control problems in the fifth inning versus a lineup he could have mowed down with all fastballs, but kept the ball in the lower quadrant for the most part.
Driver's biggest asset is his arm speed, which remained consistent with all four pitches, and his arm works well. He lacks projection, however, at about 6-foot-1 and 200-plus pounds, and is about as filled out as one would like him to be. He has short arms, but stays on top well -- partially due to the arm angle he employs naturally -- but he also repeats a delivery in which he uses his legs very effectively. He's aptly named, driving toward the plate with power and speed.
I've heard Driver's name attached to the first round still, but in terms of pure talent the consensus points toward the second- or third-round range at best. He's committed to UCLA, which has a recent track record of working with pitchers of a shorter stature -- Trevor Bauer ('11), Adam Plutko ('13) -- but without a lot of upside Driver may be better off signing now.
Utah commit and Rocky Mountain High School's Mason Smith, the top prospect in Idaho, may have passed Driver on enough draft boards to be the second prep prospect from the region to be selected after McGuire. Smith has shown scouts plus power this spring and is a decent athlete, though he profiles as a corner outfielder. He throws well and has good present strength.
Smith, a right-handed batter, is receiving grades between the second and fourth rounds, but he's strong and could generate better game power with some adjustments to his swing and more experience versus good pitching, suggesting college could improve his stock in three years.