By: Michael Marcantonini, Broadcaster
After spending every day at Palm Springs Stadium for nearly two weeks now, I’ve had the chance to see a lot of talented baseball players grinding for the chance to sign a contract in professional baseball.
Here are ten players who have specifically impressed me through the first half of the 2018 California Winter League season.
Haydon Mahe-Liessmann – OF, Palm Springs Power
Mahe-Liessmann has been one of the most underrated players in the CWL through almost two weeks of play. A lot of that has to do with a handful of his teammates also having strong seasons so far, but he should be right up in the conversation with the others. Through six games, Mahe-Liessmann is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with two doubles, two RBI and five runs scored and went 4-for-4 against the Rush on January 27. He’s a solid left-handed bat and a good defender in center field.
Louis Cohen – RHP, Alberta Grizzly
Cohen struggled a bit in his first start of the winter season, but he’s been dominant ever since. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 14 innings pitched, and leads the CWL with 23 strikeouts. Through four appearances, he’s also only walked five batters. Cohen can dial up his fastball when needed and has a nasty breaking ball that has kept hitters off balance at the plate. He’s been able to use both his fastball and curveball as out pitches.
Zach Nehrir – OF, Palm Springs Chill
Nehrir is off to a blistering hot start and he’s easily been the Chill’s best player in the early part of the CWL season. The former Arizona Diamondbacks minor-leaguer holds a .526 BA (10-for-19) with one home run, 5 RBI and six runs scored. The outfielder went 4-for-4 on January 31 against the Bombers with three singles, a double and three runs, and made a diving catch in right field to end the game, flashing his skill and potential as a defender.
Will Marshall – RHP, Washington Blue Sox
Marshall is an underrated bullpen arm here at the CWL. Through four appearances, the University of Dallas grad holds a sparkling 1.82 ERA through 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. He also has two saves for the American division-leading Blue Sox. Standing at 5’4”, Marshall doesn’t let his height play as a disadvantage, and has a great mindset on the mound. He has a solid fastball and great curveball with a sharp break to compliment it.
Christopher Mangus – 2B, Alberta Grizzly
Mangus isn’t your typical second baseman when it comes to his bat, and he’s proved that so far. His .529 batting average (9-for-17) is the third-highest mark in CWL and he’s showcasing some serious gap power with a double and a triple so far. Mangus has been an important piece in the middle of the Grizzly order so far.
Raul Shah – 2B, Toronto Rush
Shah is hitting only .226 BA (7-for-31) with one double and one triple through ten games, but he’s in the lineup every day for a reason. The Johns Hopkins product is a scrappy hitter, and in the field he can really pick it at second base. Shah has good range and a strong arm, and recently signed a deal with the Traverse City Beach Bums of the Frontier League.
Joseph Costello – RHP, Washington Blue Sox
Costello wasted no time impressing coaches and scouts at the CWL, pitching five no-hit innings with nine strikeouts on Opening Day. He’s 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA and has allowed only seven hits in 16 innings. Costello has worked five innings or more in each of his three starts and has 22 strikeouts (2nd-most in CWL) to just one walk. The right-hander has plus velocity on his fastball and has consistently overpowered hitters with that pitch. Costello recent signed with the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League.
Skylar Mercado – SS, British Columbia Bombers
Mercado has been a top standout so far in CWL play hitting at a .407 clip (11-for-27) with eight RBI, three doubles and one triple in ten games. The shortstop also has three multi-hit games, one five-RBI game and he’s drawn five walks. He has sneaky pop in his bat and hits the ball hard almost every time up at the plate with the ability to drive the ball into the gaps. Mercado caught the eye of Bombers manager Chris Newell, who signed him to the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers of the United Shore Baseball League.
David Meade – RHP, Manitoba North Stars
Meade is part of a deep pitching staff on the North Stars roster and has cemented himself as a go-to option for manager Boots Day. He’s 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA and one save in 12.1 innings. But the two numbers that stand out the most are his 17 strikeouts to only six hits allowed over six appearances. Meade can blow away hitters with his fastball, which is why he’s been a late-inning force for the North Stars. Meade signed to play for the Schaumburg Boomers of the Frontier League.
Connor Arcobasso – OF, Oregon Lumberjacks
Arcobasso has been arguably the most consistent player for the Jacks, hitting .333 (7-for-21), with one double and two triples in 10 games. He’s a spark plug in the leadoff spot when he’s there and he really sets the tone for the rest of the lineup behind him. Arcobosso has three multi-hit games so far in the winter league on top of playing great defense in center field.
*Stats final through games played on Tuesday, February 6