COLLEGE BASEBALL: Pat Casey's Beavers sign ton of local talent
Oregon State signed its 2014 baseball recruiting class Wednesday, one insiders say is the best in program history.
Highlighting the group is a standout bunch of state-of-Oregon recruits reminiscent of the the 2004 congregate that included pitchers Dallas Buck, Jonah Nickerson and Kevin Gunderson.
"It's one of the most talented classes we've had, and may well be ranked the highest of any class," says Pat Casey, who will enter his 19th season at the OSU helm. "We're especially excited about the in-state guys. The state of Oregon's talent base is strong, and were able to get some good ones. We've had the opportunity to follow these kids for a while, and it's neat to see it come to fruition."
Oregon State's 2013 recruiting class was ranking No. 5 nationally by Baseball America.
Among the in-state signees are infielders Trace Loehr of Putnam and Jackson Soto of West Albany, outfielders Cooper Brunner of Tualatin and Elliott Cary of Clackamas and pitcher Sam Tweedt of South Salem.
Not included in that group is 6-4, 225-pound left-hander Christian Martinek of Jesuit, who will sign a letter of intent for football but also play baseball. Martinek is ranked as the No. 19 prospect nationally by MaxPreps.
Also coming in as a walk-on this year is right-hander Reza Aleaziz of Southridge, the Metro League pitcher of the year and a Class 6A all-state selection last spring. Aleaziz signed a letter-of-intent with Oregon but was given his release and will join the OSU program.
Baseball recruiting classes are always in jeopardy of being splintered by the June major league draft.
"If all our guys show up, it's a really good class based on raw ability," Casey says.
Cary -- whose father, Chuck, pitched eight years in the majors -- batted .438 at Niceville, Fla., and was named the area's "Hitter of the Year" as a junior. His family moved to Clackamas this summer in order to help Cary transition to playing with the Beavers.
"Elliott had seen us play in the (College) World Series and liked our program," Casey says. "He's a kid who we feel can come in and contribute right away. He and Trace Loehr, in particular, are guys who could have played (for any college team) in the country."
The 5-9, 175-pound Loehr, who projects as a middle infielder, was a member of the U.S. under-18 team that won the World Cup in Taiwan in September. He scored the winning run in a 3-2 final over Japan. He was 5A all-state as a junior.
"I have a ton of confidence in him being a guy who can have an immediate impact," Casey says. "He does a lot of things well."
The 6-3, 195-pound Tweedt is another player Casey feels "can come in and be a major contributor early."
Soto is a third baseman who showed well in the Area Code Games last summer.
"He showed a real strong ability to hit," Casey says.
The 6-2, 195-pound Brunner has speed and top defensive skills, Casey says. "He could be a kid who takes a little longer to develop, but we think he's going to be a player," the OSU coach says.
Also part of Oregon State's 2014 class are shortstop Christian Donahue and catcher Kainoa Harrison, the top two rated players in Hawaii; right-handed pitchers Drew Rasmussen from Spokane, Wash., and Gage Hinsz of Billings, Mont.; left-handed pitcher Ryan Mets of Olympia, Wash., and third baseman Joe Gillette of Scotts Valley, Calif.
The Beavers also have signed Grant Heyman, a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder from College of Southern Nevada who began his college career at Miami. Heyman, an 11th-round pick by Toronto in the 2012 draft, will play for CSN this spring, then have two seasons of eligibility left at OSU.
Oregon State's 2014 team is stocked with players expected to go high in the draft, including senior pitchers Ben Wetzler and Scott Schultz, junior pitcher Jace Frye and junior outfielders Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis.
"We're probably going to have a lot of holes to fill after next season," Casey says. "If we can get most of the guys we've signed on campus, we'll have a good chance to do that."
Casey liked what he saw of the newcomers to his '14 squad through the fall season, especially freshman shortstop Trevor Morrison.
"He's going to be real good," Casey says. "I know it's crazy because they're not the same type of player, but he reminds me of Jacoby Ellsbury -- and he has a better idea of how to play coming in than Jacoby did. Trevor does some things instinctively you can't teach. He has a little bit of the 'it' factor, though he's not as charismatic as Darwin (Barney) was and won't be as good a hitter as Darwin.
"Trevor is underdeveloped and not strong physically. He has to get stronger and put on some weight. But I think he'll be a big part of our program the next few years."
As for the 2014 Beavers, Casey says this: "If we can find somebody to play center field and settle on somebody behind the plate, we have a chance to be pretty darn good."