By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Right-hander Zach Pop was either the top prospect or the No. 2 man in the Northwoods League this summer.
After pitching for the St. Cloud Rox he was ranked second of the best 40 players by the Perfect Game Scouting Service in the Northwoods.
However, the No. 1 man -- RHP Alex Hermeling has signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers -- leaving Pop (Brampton, Ont.) the top unsigned prospect.
This summer Pop made nine starts for St. Cloud and went 5-2 with a 2.55 ERA. He walked 15 and struck out 40 in 49 1/3 innings.
He now returns to pitch for the University of Kentucky Wildcats for his sophomore season.
Last spring at he was 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 11 games making two starts. Showing a projectable 6-foot-4 frame he walked nine and struck out seven in 16 innings.
Pop was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team and coach Greg Hamilton as well as pitched for the Toronto Mets (coach Ryan McBride) and the Ontario Blue Jays (coach Dan Bleiwas).
Top 40 Prospects
RK Player POS B-T HT WT Hometown ST 2016 School YR Class Last Drafted
1 Alex Hermeling RHP R-R 6-5 230 Northbrook IL SIGNED/Dodgers Dodgers ‘11 (43)
2 Zach Pop RHP R-R 6-4 215 Brampton ON Kentucky SO 2017 Blue Jays ‘14 (23)
Pitching for the most dominant staff in the Northwoods League, the St. Cloud Rox – who lost in the championship series to league champion Kenosha Kingfish – Pop’s arm strength stood out. He is the type of pitcher who makes throwing hard look easy, routinely peaking at 94-95 mph before settling down in the 88-92 range while doing a nice job hitting the corners with the pitch. He also threw a low- to mid-80s slider on his way to going 5-2 with a 2.55 ERA in nine starts, with a 40-to-15 strikeout-to walk ratio in 49 1/3 innings. Pop figures to see more time on the mound for Kentucky as a sophmore after tossing 16 innings as a freshman and could be in the mix for the early rounds of the 2017 draft.