Vines and C Ryan Shaw celebrate an Opening Day victory over Wenatchee.
The Walla Walla Sweets continue to be a destination for top draft prospects. That reputation has been solidified with Chris Lincoln (RHP, UC-Santa Barbara) being named the top prospect in the West Coast League (WCL) by Baseball America. The announcement was made Monday, August 28 by the WCL office. RHP Darius Vines (Yavapai CC) was also listed as a top prospect (#8).
Blessed with mid-90s velocity and three strong pitches, Lincoln's ceiling wasn't necessarily reflected in his season statistics. He did strike out 36 in 33.1 IP. An opposing manager had this to say about Lincoln's ability: "He was 91-93, touching 94," said one league manager. "He has the kind of curveball that makes righthanded hitters jump out of the box and a changeup that made our lefties miss by 8-12 inches. I think the most impressive part is how easy it looked; very smooth."
Sweets manager Frank Mutz was impressed with what he saw, and more importantly, how Lincoln developed over the course of the season.
"He was one of the most dominant pitchers in the WCL this summer," said Mutz. "Like most young pitchers, once he learns to pitch consistently to both sides of the plate, he could pitch at the big league level."
The sophomore at UC-Santa Barbara was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 13th round, opting instead to maintain his commitment to the Gauchos. Anticipate that his stock will rise as he continues to improve upon and apply what he learned in Walla Walla.
The lanky righty wasn’t the only pitcher on the Sweets staff to make the list; RHP Darius Vines (Yavapai CC) made the list as the #8 prospect. He made an impression on Sweets fans and manager Frank Mutz.
“Darius was one of the most underrated pitchers in the WCL,” said Mutz. “His goal was to develop his changeup to go with an outstanding curveball and slider, and he did that.
“For the first time in his baseball career, he only pitched. His velocity improved as the season progressed and his command of both sides of the plate turned him into a top prospect.”
Vines was a WCL All-Star, and was a 27th round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 2017 MLB Draft.
“While we are still waiting for the first former Sweet to pop on an MLB roster – and we are really close – Lincoln and Vines add their name to a long list of bright prospects that our fans will have the opportunity to say ‘I saw him at Borleske!’,” said Sweets president Zachary Fraser. “We continue focused on winning a WCL Championship and bringing the best young players in the game to Walla Walla for our fans to see.”