Due to the Covid 19 pandemic the 2020 MLB Draft was shortened to only five rounds and just 160 picks, making it the toughest year to be drafted since the inception of the draft. There were some expectations this would hurt the likelihood of high school players in colder climates like the Northeast, Midwest, and Colorado, but that didn’t prevent Douglas County High School pitcher Case Williams from being selected in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies.
The freshmen that year are entering their senior season now, but the impact of seeing Williams be drafted has proven to be immeasurable as four seniors on the team are D1 college commits and could see a couple drafted this year. The two most likely to hear their name called at the draft in July are right handed pitcher Max Stanley and infielder Finley Bates. When reflecting back on the impact of seeing a teammate get drafted their freshman year Bates said, “it was super encouraging. You don’t see guys like that from Colorado going super high that often. It really put a spark in me because I realized this is a possibility. What was even more eye opening was seeing a guy like Case, with so much attention around him, being such a great teammate.”
Max Stanley is ranked as the number two prospect in the state of Colorado by Prep Baseball Report, and Prospects Live have him ranked as a top 300 player in the draft. Stanley was invited to the PG National over the summer where he got to face some of the best high school players in the country at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. When talking about that experience Stanley said, ”I was nervous, being a kid from a small town in Colorado…I really just embraced the nerves and embraced that I get to be there and I am there for a reason.” He also stated, “it was surreal because not many people get to step on that mound in a big league environment.”
Stanley is a competitor, throwing live batting practice to a handful of D1 committed players and one current minor leaguer, he refused to get off the mound after a single. Instead making the hitter step back into the box before striking him out on a curve ball leading to the hitter stepping out of the cage and stating “that’s gross.” Stanley also has a slider that has developed more into a late breaking cutter than a traditional slider, and a fastball in the low-90s with a lot of tail.
With many colleges showing great interest in having Stanley pitch for them next year, he eventually settled on committing to BYU to play his college baseball. When reflecting on how he ultimately came to that decision he knew the coaching staff and campus best fit “my needs and my faith and (it’s) where I think I will be happiest.”
Meanwhile Finley Bates is expected to be the key cog in the Douglas Country lineup and is ranked fourth in the state by Prep Baseball Report. Bates has MLB bloodlines as his dad, Jason Bates, played pro baseball for eight seasons, four coming in the big leagues where he was an infielder for the Colorado Rockies. The younger Bates is following in his dad’s footsteps as he too is an undersized middle infielder who goes balls to the wall whenever he steps on the field.
Despite his dad having played collegiately at the University of Arizona and having a desire to go there himself, a visit to San Diego State University changed that and he knew that is where he was going to commit. “In the day, day and a half I was there I fell in love with the campus, the feel…it felt right in my heart”
There is a bit of a throwback approach to Bates’ game as he is a guy who plays quality defense and one who seemingly always makes contact and isn’t just looking to pull the ball over the wall. Instead, willing to shoot the ball into the opposite field gap for a double to keep a rally alive. Even on a day where he was in the cage taking live batting practice against a handful of the best arms in the state, you look down at Bate’s feet and see he is wearing white Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Tops.
Bates and Stanley may be the two biggest names on the Douglas Country team, but they also have two other players committed to play division one baseball next year. Pitcher Hunter Gotschall is set to play for the University of Hawaii and position player Eli Athanas will be headed to Central Connecticut State in the Fall. Coach Craig Gienger also expects to see Reed McConnell, a junior uncommitted pitcher who he fittingly describes as country strong especially when you see him throw, to contribute meaningful innings for the Huskies this season. Spending some time with the team it is easy to see they are eager to get going and have a lot of confidence in what the team can accomplish this season.