The Edmonton Prospects may have a big Gapp to fill in their pitching staff this season and head coach Ray Brown couldn’t be happier.
Veteran starter Noah Gapp who blossomed into the staff ace last season could hear his named called in the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft on June 12.
“We hope he gets drafted. He deserves it,” said Brown on Saturday after the Prospects held an open tryout before the team opens their 2017 Western Major Baseball League season on June 2 against the Brooks Bombers.
Gapp wouldn’t be the first Prospects player to drafted in the Major Leagues, but he’s been a big part of the organization’s growth over the past two seasons and his three summers he’s spent playing for the Prospects has played a big role in his development.
“He deserves the opportunity to go on to professional baseball. It would be good for him, our program and for young kids in Edmonton who want to play baseball.”
The six-foot-six right-handed pitcher took his big season with the Prospects last summer and propelled it into his best year in college.
As a senior at the University of Cumberland, Gapp posted a 10-4 record with a 1.94 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 111.1 innings and helped guide the Patriots to a 43-17 record and a Mid-South Conference title.
He broke three school records and was named Cumberland’s Male Athlete of the Year.
“I wanted to become that pitcher that has that presence on the mound. When I’m pitching that day, our team knows we have a good shot at winning,” said Gapp. “They can go out and play with a chip on their shoulder and be confident.”
Brown saw a major turning point in Gapp’s development last season after getting roughed up in a start against the eventual WMBL champion Swift Current Indians.
“I remember talking to him on the bus and he told me he was trying to be real fine with my pitches and I said ‘No. You’re better than those guys, your stuff is good. Challenge them and make them go get that ball’,” said Brown.
Just five days later against Swift Current, he responded with an complete game four-hit shutout, while striking out 10.
“From that point on he was unbelievable for us,” said Brown. “When he goes out on the mound, he has the attitude that nobody is going to beat him.”
Brown believes his ace pitcher could go in the late rounds of the draft. Despite his big six-foot-six frame he doesn’t throw big heat. His fastball hits in the low 90s, but he’s got great command of his pitching arsenal and he throws strikes and attacks batters.
“I think there will be some teams interested in him to give him a chance to live out his dream,” said Brown. “But if not, we’re happy to have him back here and myself and Orv (Franchuk) will do our best to try and help him earn an opportunity to play pro baseball down the road if he wants to.”
As the 2017 WMBL season arrives, Gapp will either be starting his pro career in the system of a Major League team or finishing his last season with the Prospects. Either way, whichever uniform Gapp wears this summer, he’s going to make the most of his opportunity.
“I’m hoping to take that next step in my career, but if not, this is the team (Prospects) that I’m going to lay everything on the line for,” said Gapp. “I’m a fifth-year senior who put up good numbers, but all I can do is hope my name comes up on a team’s list. It would be a dream come true and an opportunity I would grateful for.”
Gapp’s been a big part of the turnaround of the Prospects franchise that posted a franchise record 22 wins last season and a west division title before losing to Swift Current in the final.
It wasn’t that long ago, the Prospects hit rock bottom posting back-to-back six wins seasons in 2012 and 2013.
Now the Prospects are eager to build on their first division title.
“It’s been pretty cool to be part of the program here and see us getting better and growing together the last few years,” said Gapp. “We had a good year last year, but I personally feel we have some unfinished business. I want to see us get past that western division and win that championship this year.”