Pasadena, CA – A glance down the dimly lit high school hallway shows the light bouncing off plaques hanging near the baseball trophy case. The Pasadena Revolution logo painted on the adjacent wall is fading. Upon closer examination, it’s easy to understand why these stood out.
SP Alfredo Hogan, Class of 2018.
SS Ken Hill, Class of 2022.
1B Duane Kowing, Class of 2024.
Hogan was one of the league’s best up and coming young starters, but after tearing his labrum he’s been moved to the bullpen for Manchester. At 26 years old there’s always a chance he could build his arm back up, but at this point he’s one of the league’s best young relievers which has plenty of value in itself. He’s the gem of the Pasadena Revolution baseball program.
Ken Hill was one of the best shortstops in the country during his time in Pasadena, and that reputation made him the 32nd overall pick in the 2022 draft. He’s currently the starting shortstop for San Diego’s AA team, and could make his CBL debut in the near future.
Kowing was the sixth overall pick in the 2024 draft by Minneapolis, before being traded to the Austin Bats in the Bryan Dobzanski blockbuster. As a 20-year-old starting in AA, he should make his debut in the near future as well.
These players are of note as today marks the annual CBL amateur draft, and Pasadena has two pitching prospects that are widely expected to be drafted in the top 50 picks. Joe Nacarato, a 6’5 pitcher who’s already dealt with Tommy John Surgery, and Lou Schoenwetter, a 6’2 right handed pitcher with no injury history.
The young prospects have plenty of guidance for a day like today thanks in large part to Pasadena’s current manager, former Major League utility man Denny Hocking. Hocking was a 52nd round pick by the Minnesota Twins, so he waited much longer on draft day than either of his current players will.
“Joe [Nacarato] was a potential number one pick prior to his injury,” Hocking says. “He was a dominant starter as a 15-year-old sophomore, but we could really only use him out of the bullpen since he was still coming back from the Tommy John.”
Nacarato missed the second half of his sophomore season and all of his junior season, before throwing 26 innings out of Pasadena’s bullpen as he continued to strengthen his arm day by day.
“Some teams think they can stretch him out enough over the next few years that he’s still a starter in their eyes; I know a few other teams think he’s going to be a reliever for his whole career,” CBL draft expert Cim Jallis says. “It’ll be interesting to see where he goes in the draft today.”
Those around the program every day couldn’t believe how hard Nacarato worked to come back from his surgery. During his junior season, when he didn’t play in a game, he was voted a captain by his teammates. His leadership and poise were always on display, even when he was injured.
…With the 16th pick, the Richardson City Blood Raven select RF Lou Smiley…
Joe and Lou glance at their phones, as their anxiety increases with each passing pick.
If Joe Nacarato was a potential number one pick as a sophomore, Lou Schoenwetter was about as far from that as possible. He didn’t even pitch on the varsity team until his junior season, a full year later, once Hocking was hired as the team’s new manager.
“I don’t want to speak bad about anyone that was here before me, but how that kid didn’t pitch at all as a sophomore is beyond me,” Hocking insists. “All I know is when I got here, he was obviously our best pitcher, and it wasn’t close since Joe was rehabbing.”
Over his two varsity seasons, Schoenwetter has proven to be one of the country’s best high school starters. He went 9-2 with a 1.90 ERA, and 147 strikeouts in 123 innings while walking just 24 batters. With a solid frame and a fastball that can touch 93, it’s no surprise scouts have been flocking to each of his starts this season.
…With the 17th pick, the Manchester Marauders select SS Cal Ripken III…
More glances at their phones. Friends and family begin to start the “Don’t worry” speeches. Anxiety levels continue to rise.
Schoenwetter isn’t the kind of leader Nacarato is, but he’s a much safer choice to be a starter at the next level. With no injury history and three capable pitches, he projects as a future mid rotation starter with some upside.
“Lou was great for us. I don’t think he’s got the dominant stuff of some other draft prospects, but he just knows how to pitch,” Hocking says. “He’s going to surprise a lot of scouts that might not think he’s as good as he is.”
…With the 18th pick, the Vancouver Canadiens select SP Rick Sanchez…Wubba Lubba Dub Dub…
Joe’s phone lights up. A 612 area code is calling. “That’s Minneapolis,” Hocking tells Nacarato. “I played there for a decade, trust me, 612 is Minneapolis.”
…With the 19th pick, the Minneapolis Millers select P Joe Nacarato…
The gymnasium-turned-party-room erupts with applause. Joe is all smiles. He hugs his family, coach Hocking and Lou. Minneapolis was one of the teams that felt they could at least try Nacarato as a starter early in his career, so that makes Joe and his representatives happy. He wants to be a starter as well.
While Lou’s anxiety had momentarily disappeared thanks to his genuine happiness for Joe, each pick was making it worse and worse.
…With the 20th pick, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers select RF Bob Russell…
Georgia Tech fans are watching with great interest as well, as both Nacarato and Schoenwetter are committed there for the fall semester. With Nacarato being drafted in the first round it’s very likely he’ll now sign with Minneapolis. If Schoenwetter is drafted soon as well, Georgia Tech will likely lose their top two recruits.
…With the 21st pick, the Austin Bats select SS Clint Helgren…
…With the 22nd pick, the Colorado Gold Sox select 3B Kevin Johnson…
Lou begins pacing, his friends and family’s worried faces after each pick driving him crazy. Finally, his phone begins buzzing, and a huge smile crosses his face as he hears the good news.
…With the 23rd pick, the Richardson City Blood Raven select SP Lou Schoenwetter…
“Let’s $%&^ing GO!!” Joe Nacarato mobs Schoenwetter as they celebrate being drafted just four picks apart.
“Only way that would’ve been better is if we went to the same team,” Schoenwetter says. “But RC is the best franchise in the league, of course I’m happy.”
Both players could sign quickly and begin their professional careers in the near future, so be sure to follow them through their journey to the big leagues. Best of luck gentleman!