CHEHALIS – The scene at W.F. West High baseball games when Mitch Gueller pitches has become, well, like a zoo, says coach Tom Zuber.
For the past couple months, pro scouts have descended on Bearcats games with radar guns to watch the senior pitch.
“It’s funny to watch,” Zuber said. “Mitch will go down to the bullpen to warm up and it’s like you’re at Woodland Park Zoo. (The scouts) all follow and peer through the fence, like they’re watching an orangutan or something.”
The scouts need all the information they can scrounge, even if some comes from the bullpen, because Gueller is a potential first-round Major League Baseball draft pick.
Some baseball scouts predict Gueller, a right-hander with a nasty two-seam fastball and a biting slider, will be one of the first 50 players taken next month in the 2012 Major League Baseball draft.
Gueller’s rapid ascension to the top of draft boards has surprised him in some ways.
“It was a surprise to me that other people are noticing,” The News Tribune’s 2012 All-Area Baseball Player of the Year said. “It’s kind of crazy to think about. I always thought that it could happen, I just never thought that it would.”
Gueller said pro scouts began noticing him at the Area Code Games in August. The games attract the top prep players from around the country and Gueller, who’s also an athletic outfielder, was outstanding.
“That’s when I got on the radar,” he said, “and they’ve been in contact with me since.”
Around spring break, his draft stock soared.
About 30 scouts were in attendance for a double-header against Centralia High. And they were sticking around, returning for more games. That’s when Gueller realized he had to start thinking hard about forgoing college – he signed a letter of intent in the fall to play at Washington State University – and consider signing a pro contract.
Gueller said his parents, Jason and Carrie, have rounded up as much information as possible to aid in making the decision. Younger brother Tanner, a sophomore at W.F. West, pitches in, too.
“My brother is one of my biggest fans,” Gueller said. “He’s always Googling my name and he’ll show me things people have written.”
Tanner found a nugget written May 8 by ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law, a former Toronto Blue Jays front office member, who pegged Gueller was the 39th best prospect in the draft.
Gueller says most scouts have told him his future is as a pitcher. That doesn’t surprise Zuber.
“He’s got a really good fastball, (the) two-seamer really tails in on right-handed batters,” Zuber said. “A hard slider that bites down. The fastball really moves. In fact, umpires have commented on the movement on his fastball.”
Some think that Gueller’s superior athleticism – he was an all-league quarterback in football and a forward in basketball – will put him in the outfield.
If Gueller goes to WSU, he said he plans to pitch and play in the field. Cougars coach Donnie Marbut won’t disagree.
“In our opinion, Mitch is the best two-way threat in the Northwest,” Marbut said in a press release touting WSU’s signing class. “He has a chance to be an everyday outfielder as well as an everyday pitcher. I have no problem calling him the best athlete in this class or we have ever signed.”
Gueller said he hasn’t determined how high he needs to be drafted to skip college. Whatever he decides, figure it will be an informed decision – Gueller carries a 3.96 GPA.
One thing Gueller knows for sure. There’s a good chance he’ll be absent from school on June 4., the first day of the draft.
“I might be sick,” he joked.
2012 ALL-AREA BASEBALL TEAM
Player of the Year: Mitch Gueller, P/OF, W.F. West, senior
Potential first-round draft pick dominates on the mound, in the field and at the plate
Coach of the Year: Casey Adcox, Sumner
Kept team together through rough regular season to reach state semifinals for first time in school history
Position / Player / Grade / School
Catcher: Reese McGuire / junior / Kentwood
Two-time All-Area pick will play in national all-star game at Wrigley Field in August
INF / Cabe Reiten / senior / Olympia
Narrows League 4A MVP, Gonzaga signee is one of slickest fielders in the state
INF / Ryan Tydingco / senior / Timberline
Narrows 3A MVP powered Blazers to state quarterfinals
INF / Brock Carpenter / junior / Fife
Led team to state, hitting .388 with eight home runs, 36 RBI
INF / Michael Sexton / junior / Rogers
Hit .413 with 12 extra-base hits; committed to UW
INF Cash McGuire / senior / Kentwood
Nice fielder with pop at the plate; will play at Seattle U.
OF / Landon Cray / senior / Chimacum
Two-time All-Area selection is a four-time Nisqually League MVP
OF Andrew Pullin / senior / Centralia
Elbow injury kept him from pitching, still excelled in the field, at the plate
OF Connor Cloyd / senior / Tahoma
Leadoff hitter had hits in all but two games, slugged nearly .700
DH Joe Wainhouse / sophomore / Kentridge
Clubbed seven home runs, totaled 33 RBI and batted .540
P Matt Becker / senior / Puyallup
SPSL South MVP will play at Western Nevada College
P Matt Bower / senior /Beamer
UW commit threw four complete games, led Titans to state semifinals
P Michael Rucker / senior / Auburn Riverside
Gonzaga-signee held batters to .164 average, struck out 70, walked 20 in 59.1 innings
P John Bodenhamer / senior / Tahoma
SPSL North MVP also hit cleanup, will play at Puget Sound
P Heath Dempsey / senior / Rogers
Rams ace threw a no-hitter, posted sub-1.00 ERA
P Taylor Jones / senior / Kentwood
Gonzaga signee is half of the Conks’ dominant 1-2 starting pitcher combo
Best of the Rest
Catcher: Logan Ice, Rogers, junior; Austin McConnell, Chimacum, senior.
Pitcher: Steven Cabrera, Franklin Pierce, senior; Nick Gagliardi, Gig Harbor, junior; Skyler Genger, Kentwood, senior; Alex Hardy, Emerald Ridge, junior; Nate Potterf, Bonney Lake, senior; Alex Weymiller, Peninsula, junior.
Infielders: Rick Ahlf, Timberline, senior; Cole Johnson, White River, junior; Nate Mondou, Charles Wright, junior; Joel Moore, Orting, senior; Mike Nelson, South Kitsap, senior; Evan Peterson, Puyallup, senior; Quinn Rawson, Puyallup, sophomore; Vince Sablan, South Kitsap, senior; Brandon Santos, Graham-Kapowsin, senior.
Outfielders: Lawyer Braun, Beamer, sophomore; Tyler Carlson, Enumclaw, senior; Joey Crunkilton, Puyallup, senior; Jeff Nelson, Rogers, senior.
Designated hitter: Steven Sonnenfeld, Jefferson, firstname.lastname@example.org