In a memorable finish that left a lasting impression on the fans at Nat Bailey Stadium, the Vancouver Canadians prevailed over the Tri-City Dust Devils in the Northwest League championship series to give the C’s their first-ever title.
The Dust Devils are still looking for their first NWL championship, but every year brings new hope. This year is no different, especially with six of their top 15 picks — including third-round catcher Tom Murphy and fourth-round closer Seth Willoughby — from the 2012 draft already in camp. That doesn’t even include the five former top-10 selections — including pitcher Peter Tago, a first-round supplemental pick from 2010 — out of extended spring training.
The Dust Devils roster includes a pair of prostpects out of Washington State — third baseman Matt Argyropoulos and outfielder Derek Jones, an eighth-round pick in the 2012 draft.
But Tri-City isn’t the only team with high hopes. Here’s a quick look at the seven remaining NWL teams:
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Manager Mark Johnson returns to Boise and already has good news before the season begins. Former Cubs first-round pick Hayden Simpson, a fireballing right-hander, will be on the roster. Simpson will be joined by Shawon Dunston Jr., son of former Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston, and Rock Shoulders, a first baseman with maybe the best name in minor league baseball.
The Indians get a taste of local flavor as the Rangers sent Gonzaga outfielder Royce Bolinger to Spokane to begin his professional career. Tim Hulett Jr. is back as manager and has a total of 12 players (so far) from the 2012 MLB draft — five from within the first 10 rounds.
Some of the top prospects heading to Avista Stadium are: pitcher Alec Asher from Polk State College, outfielder Preston Beck of the University of Texas-Arlington and second baseman Cam Schiller from Oral Roberts University.
If you have wanted to see a Bears game at County Stadium, do it now. Barring an unforeseen miracle, this is expected to be the team’s final season in Yakima, as the Hillsboro (Ore.) city council approved an offer to lure the team to a new $13.4 million, 4,500-seat stadium.
But the Bears, managed by Audo Vicente, can go out swinging with a solid pitching staff led by former fifth-rounder Cody Wheeler.
Eugene Emeralds(San Diego Padres)
PK Park has been a little busy lately, with the University of Oregon recently making a strong run at the Super Regionals. Now that the Ducks’ season is over, it’s time for the Emeralds to shine with Pat Murphy returning for his second season in Eugene.
The Padres assigned their eighth-round pick, outfielder Brian Adams, to the Ems, who will also receive 10th-round infielder Stephen Carmon.
The Mariners put a lot of trust in the lower levels, and a lot of talent is being banked in Everett this year under first-year skipper Rob Mummau.
The AquaSox, who won the 2010 NWL title, is sending four of its top-ten picks to make their debut at Memorial Stadium. Among them is fourth-rounder Patrick Kivlehan, fifth-rounder Christopher Taylor and ninth-rounder Jamodrick McGruder. Most notable to area fans is seventh-rounder Taylor Ard, a first baseman out of Washington State.
The highest-profile name in a Volcanoes uniform this year may be Tom Trebelhorn, a former major league skipper who managed the Tri-City Posse for two seasons back in the late 1990s. There’s never a shortage of talent out of Salem-Keizer, and Trebelhorn always seems to get the most out of his players — S-K won the 2009 title over the Dust Devils for its third title in four seasons.
Clayton McCullough steps into a good situation in Vancouver. The first-year manager will benefit from a Blue Jays system that drafts well (see 2011 NWL title) and teaches the game the right way.
The C’s are excited to receiver Kellen Sweeney, a second-rounder from 2010, and Drew Permison, a 42nd rounder in 2011 who led the NWL in saves.