(Photo credit to NCAA.com, photo of Mets’ prospect David Peterson can be viewed here)
The leaves are starting to change and the rain clouds have been forming above Eugene, Oregon. This sudden shift in weather can only mean one thing, fall is upon us and college baseball teams around the country are getting their first looks at their 2018 squads. Thanks to the turf at PK Park, rain will not be an issue as a combination of the playing surface and state-of-the-art athletic facilities will keep the Ducks dry and in top form as they prepare for the season ahead. Many questions will need to be answered before the new season. The Ducks had seven players transfer away from the program with a few of them being big contributors to their 2017 success. In addition, their ace David Peterson and starting catcher Tim Susnara have moved on to the minor leagues for the New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks, respectively. Will their star closer Kenyon Yovan make a move into the rotation? Will Matt Mercer continue his stellar performance from the Cape Cod League and dominate PAC-12 hitters? These questions will have to wait to be answered, but for now we can take a look at the most promising incoming freshman and transfers who will impact the club in 2018.
Cullen Kafka: 6’4″, 185lb, RHP – (Walnut Creek, CA)
I had the privilege of watching Cullen pitch this summer during my internship with the Yakima Valley Pippins. Cullen pitched well at times and showed good potential. His big frame will allow him to fill into his body once he hits a collegiate weight room and trains with the other college pitchers. He left the Pippins halfway through their season due to what I heard to be arm problems. If that was the case, I hope it is something he can fix in time for the upcoming spring. I look for Cullen to be predominantly a reliever in Coach Horton’s bullpen during his first season of college baseball.
Jonny DeLuca: 5’11″, 180lb, OF – (Agoura Hills, CA)
Ranked the fifth best outfielder in the state of California, DeLuca was also a part of the Yakima Pippins this summer. To say I was impressed is an understatement. What he did against some of the top Division I players in the Northwest was exhilarating. Usually hitting at the top of the lineup, DeLuca got on base with ease and then used his speed to swipe bags and move into scoring position. In fact, he set his high school’s record for stolen bases with 26 his senior season. His glove will also make a solid addition to the Duck outfield where I believe he has the chance to fight for a starting position. I cannot wait to see what this kid does at the next level.
Hunter Breault: 6’2″, 200lb, RHP – (Kapolei, HI)
Ranked the number one player in the state of Hawaii, Hunter Breault will bring electricity to PK park. The young flamethrower is already topping out at 93 mph according to Perfect Game, and I cannot wait to see where the ceiling is at for this kid. Considered the 67th best right-handed pitcher in the country, I do believe he has the potential to be a part of the starting rotation his sophomore season and beyond. For his first year, I think he will stay in the bullpen, and if Kenyon Yovan does in fact move to the rotation, Hunter could find himself competing for the closer role.
Peyton Fuller: 6’3″, 170lb, RHP – (Ashland, OR)
Like Hunter Breault, Peyton Fuller is also the number one right-handed pitcher in his state. Thankfully, he decided to stay home and go to school in-state. He is another with a tall, skinny build as we see so much from these high school pitchers, leaving the future for them hopeful, but uncertain. Perfect Game has his fastball charted at 89 mph, but I’d expect a boost in that number as he enters a proper training program.
Kolby Somers: 6’0″, 194lb, LHP – (Hillsboro, OR)
Selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 38th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Kolby elected to stay home and go to the University of Oregon instead of trying his hand at the minors. His pro chances are not going anywhere as this lefty is already sitting at 89 mph. Going to college will only increase his draft stock as he gains velocity on his fastball and builds body strength. An effective lefty could be what Oregon needs this spring as their rotation was absent of lefties a season ago. Like many other freshman, I think Coach Horton will want him to start his career in the bullpen.
Taylor Adams: 6’3″, 190lb, OF – (Lacey, WA)
Transferring from Tacoma Community College, Taylor was the 6th ranked outfielder in the state of Washington for the 2015 class. I’m sure a lot has changed for him since then and if these changes have been positive, I think he has a good chance to fight for a starting spot in the Duck outfield for 2018. With only one returning starter in Taylor Travess, the Ducks will have holes to fill and Taylor Adams could be that guy to step up and take a spot.
More details about the Oregon Ducks Baseball program can be found on their website, GoDucks.com.