Adam Loewen

Major League Baseball

Jeff Francis

Major League Baseball

Phillipe Aumont

(Bill Vaughan/SportsPix, LLC)

Orlando, Florida – There's ADAM LOEWEN, there's JEFF FRANCIS and now there's PHILLIPPE AUMONT.

The hard-throwing pitcher from Gatineau, Quebec, became the third highest Canadian-born player ever selected in baseball’s annual draft, going 11th overall to the SEATTLE MARINERS on Thursday 07 June 2007.

Adam Loewen was taken at No. 4 by the BALTIMORE ORIOLES in 2002 and Francis was snagged five spots later by the COLORADO ROCKIES in what many scouts consider the best single crop of players ever produced in Canada.

Aumont and fellow right-hander KYLE LOTZKER of Tsawwassen, B.C., who was taken 53rd overall by the CINCINNATI REDS, headline a group that some feel is similar in talent to the 2002 field.

“I was pretty surprised and excited at the same time,” Aumont said during a conference call. “I was thinking about the team I would go to and it's an honour for me to be with the Seattle Mariners.’

The draft was also a big one for the TORONTO BLUE JAYS who had seven of the first 88 picks, including two first-rounders. At 16, they selected shortstop / third baseman KEVIN AHRENS out of Memorial High School in Houston, Texas and at 21, they grabbed University of Tennessee catcher J.P. ARENCIBIA. Both had been on the club's radar screen since the start of the season.

“We liked both of those players a lot," said Scouting Director JON LALONDE.” We hoped they both could be factors for us that we wouldn't have our pockets picked, so to speak. We thought they were both good players and we thought we got them in good spots.”

Aumont was one of the top high school pitchers available in the draft and it's easy to understand why.

The 18-year-old owns an imposing six-foot-seven, 225-pound frame and owns a fastball that regularly hits 96 m.p.h., with good movement. He has a slider that may become an above-average pitch for him and changeup that's a work in progress.

The Mariners had him among three pitchers they hoped to select and were thrilled to call his name. Aumont was in Orlando from where the draft was televised for the first time and posed with MLB Commissioner BUD SELIG after accepting his Mariners cap and jersey.

“As it got closer, we all started looking around at each other in there thinking, ‘Wow, we may have a chance,’” said Ms Scouting Director BOB FONTAINE. “When you look at this kid and you see how big and strong he is and how big and strong he will get, you can’t help but get excited.”

Aumont made his name with the Les Ailes du Quebec and the national junior team, on which he and Lotzkar were teammates during the fall instructional league and spring training camp. Lotzkar, 17, is a six-foot-three, 180-pounder who can hit 94 with his fastball. He’s been playing for the Langley Blaze of the B.C. premier league under coach DOUG MATHIESON, the father of injured PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES pitcher SCOTT  MATHIESON.

The BLUE JAYS are very excited about the offensive upside possessed by their two first-rounders and they had seen both players hit with wood bats, an important indicator for them. Ahrens, 18, hit .426 with 10 homers, 41 RBIs and 32 runs scored in his senior season while Arencibia, 21, finished his college career with a .330 average, 33 homers, 165 RBIs and 230 hits.

“We just think (Ahrens) has all the indicators for future offensive success,” said Lalonde. “(Arencibia) is a player, in all honesty, if he had the year we expected, I don't think he gets to 16, let alone 21.”

Lalonde feels Ahrens, a switch-hitter, projects as a third baseman long-term although he hopes to remain at shortstop. He’s signed a letter of intent to attend Texas A&M but neither side expects that to be an issue.

“I've always dreamed about playing pro ball and this decision about playing pro ball is kind of hard to miss,” Ahrens said on a conference call. “Right now, I'm leaning toward signing ... I'm really looking forward to playing.”

Arencibia’s defence behind the plate has been criticized in some quarters but Lalonde blamed an injury for that. He was hampered by a gludial-medial strain, a muscle in the upper part of the behind, early in the season and was left playing catch-up.

“I admit, I didn't play that well (early in the season), but I've always been a guy who's been a very solid catcher," said Arencibia. “When I see that stuff, you almost just have to ignore it because at the end of the day, I look at myself in the mirror and I know what I'm capable of doing. So when I see that stuff, it honestly just makes me want to work harder and prove to them that I am a catcher.”

For all the players, getting selected was the culmination of years of hard work. “I'm living a dream right now,” said Arencibia. “Words can't express how excited me and my family are.”


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