Former HarbourCats lock up MLB deals

Good baseball news this pandemic spring at Wilson’s Group Stadium at Royal Athletic Park has been about as rare as a triple play.

But there was a brightener amid the cancelled 2020 West Coast League season with two former Victoria HarbourCats players signing Major League Baseball contracts.

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Both are pitchers of size with Washington State Cougars Pac-12 product A.J. Block signing with the Kansas City Royals and former Canadian junior team member Carter Loewen of Abbotsford with the San Diego Padres.

Block, a willowy six-foot-five southpaw from Bellevue, Washington, got the call for the 2017 season opener and became the fifth season starter in HarbourCats history following hometown Victoria product and now Philadelphia Phillies’ hurler Nick Pivetta in 2013, Tim Peabody from Loyola Marymount in 2014, Alex Rogers of Nanaimo in 2015 and James Kannenberg from the University of San Francisco Dons in 2016.

“Block is a physical specimen with a firm fastball while Loewen is also a big guy out of the Canadian junior team and the University of Hawaii,” said Jim Swanson, GM and managing partner of the HarbourCats.

Five WCL alumni were selected in this month’s abbreviated MLB draft. The class was led by Garrett Mitchell, a UCLA Bruins slugging outfielder who played with the Walla Walla Sweets in 2017, and who went 20th overall to the Milwaukee Brewers to make it the fourth consecutive year that a former WCL players was drafted in the first round.

The WCL is a collegiate league in which players perform through the summer after their NCAA baseball seasons.

Former Bellingham Bells’ pitcher Holden Powell went in the third round to the Washington Nationals in the 2020 MLB draft, former Kelowna and Port Angeles pitcher Kade Mechals in the fourth round to the Chicago White Sox, former Wenatchee AppleSox reliever Jeremy Wu-Yelland in the fourth round to the Boston Red Sox and former Yakima Valley Pippin pitcher Taylor Dollard in the fifth round to the Seattle Mariners.

Free-agent signing Block, meanwhile, is considered a strong prospect for pro ball and was ranked among the top-20 non-drafted NCAA players this year by Baseball America.

The six-foot-four, 240-pound Loewen hurled the Abbotsford Cardinals to the 2016 B.C. Premier League title in the development circuit, which includes the Victoria Mariners, Victoria Eagles, Parksville Royals and Nanaimo Pirates. The Yale Secondary graduate went 2-0 with the HarbourCats in 2018 with a 5.62 ERA in eight league appearances.

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