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Rivets add pair of top draft prospects

LOVES PARK, Ill. – Two of Baseball America magazine’s top prospects for the major-league draft plan to spend the summer in the Stateline.

 

The Rockford Rivets announced Wednesday that they have signed Louisiana State University freshmen Zach Watson and Rankin Woley. Watson, a middle infielder, and Woley, a catcher, were both among Baseball America’s Top 500 prospects for last season’s draft, as high-school seniors.

 

Watson was the magazine’s seventh-rated prospect in the state of Louisiana. Watson hit 31 career home runs as a four-year starter at West Ouachita High School in West Monroe. Last season, he hit .481 with 10 home runs, struck out just eight times and stole 28 bases. Watson was an All-State pick for the third time.

 

Watson also brings versatility. He closed games for West Ouachita as a high-school senior and made occasional outfield appearances throughout his prep career. He may play some outfield for the Tigers, and likely will get some starts in center field for the Rivets, Rockford manager Brian Smith said.

 

“I am excited to have an athlete like Zach on the roster this year,” Smith said. “The LSU coaching staff loves the potential in this kid. They told me that he was probably the fastest player in the state of Louisiana and a gamechanger on the basepaths. Zach's skill set will work well and create flexibility with our lineup. Anytime you can add a game changer, you take it.”

 

In what Baseball America stated was a “banner year” for prep talent in Georgia, Woley was rated the state’s seventh-best catcher. Last season, he hit 10 home runs and had a .578 on-base percentage for Atlanta-based The Westminster Schools, which won the state title. After his senior campaign, Woley was named state 3-A Player of the Year.

LSU freshmen Rankin Woley was the No. 7 catcher out of the state of Georgia last season.

 “We are really excited to bring in a kid of Rankin's caliber,” Smith said. “He was a Louisville Slugger All-American and USA Today All-USA selection as a senior in high school. Having a catcher who can provide some offensive firepower is a luxury that not many teams have. His bat and overall athleticism will help him find a way into the lineup on a regular basis. LSU expects him to make an impact this spring. We are bringing in two quality student-athletes from a Top 5 baseball program, can't get any better than that.”

 

As a prep, in addition to catcher, Woley also pitched, played infield – and football. He won a football state title as a two-way starter at quarterback and safety.

 

Baseball America included draft-eligible players from both college and high school in its pre-draft rankings. In the 2016 MLB Draft, five first-round picks and one-sixth of all selections had NWL experience.

 

The Rivets’ season begins May 30 at Kalamazoo. The home opener is at 6:35 p.m. June 2 against the Wisconsin Woodchucks. The Rivets are offering a $50 four-game pack that includes a replica Rivets jersey, tickets to four select games and all-you-can-eat food (burgers, brats, hot dogs, grilled chicken, popcorn and fountain soda) for the following dates: Friday, June 2; Saturday, June 24; Friday, July 14; Friday, July 28. The four-pack can be purchased only by calling the Rivets at 815.240.4159 or in person at the Rivets Stadium box office. There are a limited number of jerseys available, so don’t wait to order this four-pack.

 

The Rockford Rivets are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League, which will play its 24th season of summer collegiate baseball in 2017. The Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, 160 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals), two-time World Champion Ben Zobrist (Chicago Cubs) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox), Jordan Zimmermann (Detroit Tigers), Curtis Granderson (New York Mets) and Lucas Duda (Mets). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website, NorthwoodsLeague.com.