An early August matchup between the Rochester Honkers and the Willmar Stingers in the Minnesota pod of the Northwoods League created an intriguing matchup between two potential first-round picks for the 2022 MLB Draft. Robert Moore of Arkansas was the primary draw for the host Honkers with Cal Poly’s Brooks Lee having the most pro potential among the Stingers.

Both played their freshman seasons in 2020 and both are switch-hitters. Moore is expected to slide over and play shortstop for his Arkansas Razorbacks in 2021 while Lee could do the same for Cal Poly after missing most of the 2020 season due to a hamstring injury suffered during the fall of 2019.

Robert Moore, SS, Arkansas

Moore, the son of Kansas City Royals General Manager Dayton Moore, has been a known commodity for quite a long time. He enrolled early at Arkansas only to have his initial season cut shot due to COVID-19. It didn’t take him long to make an impact at Arkansas, both offensively and defensively, and he should be a big part of their continued success the next two years.

He isn’t especially big at 5-foot-9 but plays well beyond his tools and makes the most of his athleticism with advanced instincts and quickness. His hand quickness, and foot quickness, especially stand out, and serve him well both offensively and defensively. At the plate he’s a switch-hitter (he swung exclusively left-handed in this look) with a short, compact swing, generally going with the pitch and hitting it where it’s pitched. It’s mostly a line drive swing plane but he can pull and loft the ball at times with a knack for barreling up the baseball consistently. In this game he had three base hits, one of which was a double, and even that pitch was hit more on a line to the opposite field.

Moore displays a keen eye at the plate and knows what he can handle as compared to what he can’t. He has always known his strengths and weaknesses and plays well within those strengths. He’s a line drive, contact-oriented hitter with quickness out of the box and around the bases that can be a stolen base threat once he reaches.

Defensively is where Moore is really special. He’s a high-energy defender that displays a creativity up the middle. He played shortstop in this game, and now that Casey Martin was drafted and signed, should play shortstop his next two years at Arkansas after playing second base to open the 2020 season. He has a strong enough arm for the position and always takes the right first step as far as defensive positioning goes. He releases the ball extremely quickly and consistently makes strong, online throws, often from unbalanced positions.

Brooks Lee, SS/3B Cal Poly

This was my first extended look at Lee and the first thing that stood out about him was his physicality. He’s very well built, at a listed 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, a size he told me prior to the game he feels most comfortable at. He isn’t especially quick, and he’s also not very fast underway, but he moves well for his size. He started this game at third base and moved over to second base later in the contest. He has played shortstop in the past and that may be his position at Cal Poly but his size may push him back to either second or third at the next level. He also didn’t have any plays to show off his arm strength in this game so it was hard to get a sense of his defensive acumen outside of his overall athletic tools/skills.

That aspect of his game may not matter because he can really impact the baseball. A switch-hitter, Lee is admittedly more natural batting left-handed and yet in his first two at-bats, batting right-handed, he hit a well-struck single and blasted a home run just to the left of straightaway center field. He also added a double later in the game batting left-handed. The hand/arm strength is obvious in his swing, as is the bat speed. It appeared as though he was jumping on early fastballs while batting right-handed and seemed more comfortable grinding through at-bats left-handed with the ability to wait back on pitches and drive them with authority to all fields.

The offensive upside as a switch-hitting infielder with the potential to play three difference position is obviously significant. He worked hard to recover from a rare hamstring injury suffered during the fall of his freshman year and managed to return to the field just before the 2020 season was cut short. His father, Larry Lee, is the head coach at Cal Poly and he has several other family members with professional baseball playing experience.

Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Washington State

Manzardo can clearly hit with an obvious understanding of the strike zone. He led Washington State in RBI as a freshman with 31 and was hitting .435-3-14 when the 2020 season came to a much-too-early finish. A left-handed hitter listed at 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, Manzardo still has room to add strength and add to his already intriguing profile.

In this game he only had one hit but it was a big one, taking a left-handed pitcher oppo to left-center for a three-run bomb that he didn’t miss. His swing path as an upward trajectory, clearly looking to loft the ball, and he has the discipline to wait for a pitch he can drive. He took a four-pitch walk in his next at-bat as the opposing team clearly didn’t forget what he did his previous time at the plate. Through 25 games he was slashing .277/.396/.506 with four doubles, five homers and 20 RBI with the power numbers ranking among the NWL’s best.

Tyler Wilber, SS, Southeast Missouri

Another player I wasn’t familiar with prior to this viewing, Wilber, like pretty much every hitter in the Willmar lineup, really stood out for his big, physical frame (6-3/200). He enjoyed a huge 2019 season for SEMO, leading the OVC in both batting (.383) and on-base percentage (.480) after beginning his college career at Long Beach City College (JUCO).

When evaluating players usually when you see a player listed at Wilber’s size you immediately dismiss them as a future shortstop. While Wilber’s size will likely move him to either third base or possibly second, he’s surprisingly light on his feet for his size with good actions at shortstop with a strong, accurate arm. Those defensive tools are also what likely kept Brooks Lee from playing the position this summer, and that size/impact at a premium position are reminiscent of former Stephen F. Austin shortstop Hunter Dozier, who also was a standout in the Northwoods League during his college days.

In this game Wilber scored four runs as he was hit twice, reached on an error and hit a moon shot of a solo home run (following Manzardo’s three-run shot) over the fence in center field off of a 91 mph fastball. Although he hasn’t hit a lot of home runs during his collegiate career that swing proved there is more than ample power with the ability to tap into it against velocity.

Jayson Newman, 1B, CSUN

Newman deserves mention for his statistical dominance in summer collegiate league action the past several years, including this summer in the Northwoods League. I selected Newman twice to Perfect Game’s Summer Collegiate All-American teams, in 2017 and 2018, both times as a utility player given his effectiveness both in the batter’s box and on the mound. In 2018 the honor came from his first stint in the Northwoods League, also with the Willmar Stingers, in which he had 10 saves and a 1.98 ERA in 22 pitching appearances (striking out 53 in 31 2/3 innings) while hitting .289-8-31.

Drey Dirksen, C, Augustana

Keep an eye on Dirksen, an interesting athlete listed at 6-foot-4, 190-pounds with long, wiry strong limbs and a strong arm from behind the plate. He hit the ball hard in two of his appearances, the first of which was a hard hit single through the left side of the infield and the second a two-run bomb that he didn’t miss. He’s a prospect worth following as he enters his sophomore year at Augustana.

Jacob Webb, RHP, Miami (Ohio)

Webb started for Willmar and is enjoying a solid summer. His command is inconsistent, but he showed the ability to miss bats with an 87-90 mph fastball that grabbed a few 91s and 92s in this game and even recorded a 93 on his 100th pitch as part of an eight-strikeout, five-inning performance. He also threw a 75-78 mph slurvy breaking ball that was good enough to miss bats when paired well with his fastball.

Jonathan Brand, RHP, Miami (Ohio)

Brand, Webb’s teammate at Miami, Ohio and with the Willmar Stingers, came on in relief of Webb and provided two scoreless/hitless frames. List at 5-foot-9, he’s obviously not very big, but for what he lacks in stature he makes up in arm strength. With an athletic build that resembles more of a second baseman, Brand came out firing low-90s fastballs, touching 94 early while mixing in a sharp 74-76 mph curveball. He drops in his curveball well; it’s not a big bender but he spins it well with a shorter yet still-sharp break to it. There’s some fiery competitiveness to his mound approach and he did a good job sequencing between his fastball and curveball to record four punchouts in his two innings of work.