PORT ANGELES — Grand Canyon’s Kade Mechals became the first Port Angeles Lefties player to be selected in the Major League Baseball Draft in season when he was picked in the 40th and final round by the Miami Marlins on Wednesday.
He’s the fourth Lefties player overall to be drafted. Trayson Kubo, a 2017 Lefty also was picked this season and Alex Junior and Sean Roby were drafted last year.
Mechals had an outstanding junior season for the Division I program, leading college baseball in wins with 11 to tie a school record. He also broke the school earned run-average record with a paltry 2.16 ERA and was named first-team All-Western Athletic Conference.
In his first appearance with Port Angeles this summer he picked up a win against Portland last Thursday.
“The [Marlins] are going to make a run at him,” Lefties manager Darren Westergard said. “He’ll probably end up signing with them but at least he will get three starts with us, which is nice.
“[Scott] Fairbanks, the Miami scout in the northwest, will be here to watch him and figure out what they plan on doing with him. It’s nice to have him, he led the nation in wins this season.”
Westergard is familiar with Mechals, having coached him as a sophomore transfer at Skagit Valley after Mechals transferred from Western Oregon where he earned Freshman All-American honors at the Division II level.
“He had a chip on his shoulder and he’s done really well and earned the right not to be a senior sign [a senior who signs with an MLB team],” Westergard said. “They wanted to take him in the 11th [round]. They called him and talked a little bit money wise and they weren’t too far apart. It was something that they think they can work out based on who they sign from the earlier rounds. So they took him in the 40th round to grab his rights.”
The Marlins will retain Mechals’ rights until 11:59 p.m. Aug. 15, or until he returns to Grand Canyon for his senior season.
“It’s layaway with the option to buy,” Westergard said of the process.
Westergard said Mechals and fellow pitcher Dwayne Angebrandt have become fast friends in the last week.
“When Dwayne Angebrandt came in from Cal-State Northridge, he looks 12. He walks into the locker room and I say, ‘Kade, come here for a second,’ and I tell Dwayne, ‘This guy thinks he’s got the [most testicular fortitude] of any of the pitching staff. So, we’ve either got to fight to the death here and figure it out, or you guys are one and the same and you have to work together. Kade, you have to take him under your wing and run with it, man. They introduced themselves and they’ve been like this [tight] ever since.
“Both are going to be 87 to 90 MPH, they both have three or four pitches and they just compete. They are tough pitchers.”
Westergard had to sit out a pair of games during Port Angeles’ recent road trip to Portland, penance for a string of arguments with umpires during the 2018 season.
Westergard is pleased to hear of the WCL’s new agreement with the Southern Umpires Association, which is providing umpires for most of the WCL’s U.S.-based games this season.
“From a league standpoint it’s a great move because it falls in line with the other prominent summer leagues,” Westergard said while comparing the WCL to the Cape Cod and Northwoods leagues.
“From a players’ standpoint and a coaches’ standpoint there was way too many borderline calls. It was getting hostile. They aren’t going to get every call right, we understand that, we are going to disagree and we’ll treat you respectfully. But if you are not approachable that makes it hard for everybody. And the umps should enjoy it as much for anybody.”
Players and coaches are enjoying the early-season chemistry mix with this Lefties roster.
“It’s nice because the dynamics of this team are so much different than last year,” Westergard said. “Talent-wise, from to bottom they are better. Last year, a lot of distractions with umpires and coaches, and they got off track. I’ll put it on them too, some of them weren’t here for the right reasons.”
“The ones that were here for the right reasons are back, the Baxters [Baxter Halligan], the Rosenbergs [Trevor Rosenberg], the Rusts [Ronnie Rust]. We tried to get Dico back [2018 All-Star Jason Dicochea] but his college coach, a first year coach, wanted to keep all his guys together because they didn’t have a very good season results-wise. He was supposed to come back.”
Westergard has respect for the players’ mindsets, as well.
“One of them looked at what we were going to eat and said, “I’m not going to put that in this, so we need to go get better food. I’m like, ‘Perfect, I like that.’ So they are driven in the sense that they know where they need to be and talent-wise they are better than last year’s team from top to bottom.”
Returning Lefty Ronnie Rust has noticed a change.
“What I’ve noticed is we are really pitcher-oriented compared to last year,” Rust said. “We had 50-something guys at one point last summer and a lot of them were position guys. We are really structured around our staff and it’s worked out well so far.
“It’s nice not having 50 guys on the roster, you get more reps, you get more room in the locker room and you don’t have to sleep five guys to a room [on road trips].”