Every year the Northwoods League gathers 80 of its best players in Madison during one of its few off days. The game is a little different in that the players are selected by scouts that cover the league instead of coaches and managers. The result is two games of the best prospects (that haven’t headed home, ahem Keenan Bartlett) the Northwoods League has to offer. Instead of working my way through every player, I’ll highlight ten of the best in a follow list format.


Jordan Kozicky – Mankato MoonDogs – University of Minnesota

The Golden Gopher showed off his contact ability in BP and during the game. He possesses a short, quick stroke with average bat speed. There is some looseness to all aspects of his game but it is most prevalent in the batter’s box. There isn’t much in the way of power but as long as he takes some walks and puts the ball in play there is some upside at the dish.

Dalton Varsho – Eau Claire Express – UW- Milwaukee

The strong and stocky catcher from UWM had a tough day but he still showed the tools that have scouts adding him to their 2017 lists. At the plate he doesn’t get cheated with a big swing that can get long. He faced two lefties and didn’t look comfortable in the box either at-bat. He has average raw power from both his strength and bat speed but the key will be making enough contact to get to it. Behind the plate his hands are a little hard but he moves side-to-side well enough to not be a liability back there. He can throw as well with slightly below-average times but with some work on his feet he could get to average.

Alex McKenna – Eau Claire Express – Cal Poly

Eligible in 2018, McKenna is an athletic outfielder with enough speed to handle center at present. His swing is geared towards the middle of the field with a line-drive stroke and average bat speed. He gets his swing started with a big leg kick and some drift backwards with his hands but he’s athletic enough to make it work. On defense he shows quality routes and the ability to run balls down. The arm is a 40 but its plenty for left or center.

Connor Kopach – Kalamazoo Growlers – Southern Illinois

Kopach hasn’t gotten much attention but he was the best infielder on the field on Tuesday. His frame is slight and he needs strength but his feet work well side-to-side and his arm is a tick above average. Of all the infielders there, he is the only one with a chance to stay at short. At the plate he gets started from an even stance and his hands at his ear. The bat speed is in the 40-45 range and he is capable of putting it in play but power will never be part of his game. This is a glove first guy and if he gains some strength the bat could play.

Marty Bechina – Kenosha Kingfish – Michigan St.

The Spartan infielder plays mainly third for the Kingfish and has some bat speed. At the plate, Bechina starts with an open, upright stance with his hands at his shoulder. The swing can get a little stiff and he has a tendency to topspin the ball but he does have raw power and he showed some ability to make adjustments. At third he has slightly heavy feet and the hands are a bit stiff but he is adequate at present.


Troy Bacon – Madison Mallards – Santa Fe College

Bacon’s inclusion on this list is more than just being everyone’s favorite breakfast food because his fastball has plus velocity. He has a lean frame with a three-quarters delivery and a soft stab on the back side but he gets through it with a quick arm and some pitchability. The fastball sat 91-96 with slight arm-side run. The changeup was 79-81 with proper arm speed and some feel for the pitch. His breaking ball was slurvy and lacked true spin but he located it in the zone.

Max Green – Willmar Stingers – Pepperdine

The rising Junior flashed a 91-94 mph fastball with arm-side run from the left side. He located the pitch to the arm-side. The changeup was his best secondary offering with proper arm speed and some deception to the it. His breaking ball sat 75-79 with tilt and feel for spin. The delivery is all arms and legs and he strides closed so left-handed hitters had trouble picking the ball up out of his hand.

Luke Shilling – Madison Mallards – Illinois

We only saw a handful of pitches from Shilling but the stuff was loud. He’s got a large frame and throws from a high-three-quarters slot. The fastball sat 96-97 with arm-side run. There is effort with the fastball. His slider was 80 mph with short, vertical break and bite. He also threw one changeup at 80 mph with fade down in the zone. There have been concerns with him throwing enough strikes at Illinois but this outing gave some hope that he can do it at least in a relief role.

Kevin Yarabinec – Mankato MoonDogs – Youngstown St.

Possessing a solid pro-style frame, Yarabinec worked quickly and threw strikes from a high-three-quarters slot. He has a tendency to spin off towards first base but other than that the delivery is clean. His fastball sat 90-93 with swing and miss potential especially down in the zone. His changeup was firm at 87 with slight downward action but at this point is a work in progress. The curveball was 77-78 with 11/5 shape and he showed some feel for spin.

Cason Sherrod – La Crosse Loggers – Texas A&M

The Aggie flashed an above-average fastball with some feel for spin. He throws from a three-quarters angle and the delivery is a tad short in the back with some floppiness to the forearm but he gets through it. The fastball sits 91-94 with some heaviness to it. His breaking ball got a little slurvy but when he finished the pitch it flashed 11/5 shape and some bite. He will have to manage his strike throwing ability but the arm strength is there.

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I work for one of the NWL teams and this showcase is always interesting to me.

It comes only a couple weeks after their All-Star game, where the scouts get a look at the players with good statlines. The showcase ends up geared towards players that scouts need to see more of, and those groups don't often overlap.

A Northwoods Leaguer to keep an eye on is Daniel Amaral. His dad is Rich Amaral. Daniel has great bat speed and plays a great CF with tons of range. He needs to be more disciplined, but I think its pretty obvious his summer coaching staff doesn't actually try to help the players make adjustments. Plus he just finished his freshman year, so he has time.