The player many baseball observers consider to be Utah's top returning high school pitcher next season won't be returning to high school.
Brady Corless, a 17-year-old from Spanish Fork who was on The Tribune's first team all-state for baseball, has dropped out of school and will enroll at Salt Lake Community College in the fall after he passes his GED tests.
It's been a shocker to the Spanish Fork baseball team, but Corless says the move is an effort to better prepare himself for next year's Major League Baseball Draft. He was concerned that his development had stunted in high school.
"At SLCC, I feel like I'm going to get better," Corless said. "The way I see it, I've got a chance to make a dream become a reality fast. This will get me to the show faster."
No one's questioning that Corless has potential to be drafted. He's been pitching in the low 90s this summer, and sports a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a slider and a change-up in his arsenal. As one of Spanish Fork's top starters last season, he went 7-2 with a 1.97 ERA and 96 strikeouts.
But at least his old high school coach is questioning the path Corless is taking to try to make his big league dreams a reality. Coach Jim Nelson said he took offense to the notion that he couldn't prepare Corless for the draft.
"I disagree with it, and a lot of the baseball people I've talked to have disagreed with it," Nelson said. "But kids make these decisions and you can't really do much about it. I just hope he's the one making the decision and no one is making it for him."
A number of high profile baseball players have passed through Spanish Fork. In 2010, pitcher Adam Duke was drafted in the 16th round by Boston, but went on to play at Oregon State. First baseman and pitcher Kayden Porter was widely seen as the best major league prospect in the state this past season, but went undrafted after making it clear to scouts he was headed to the University of North Carolina to play in college.
Corless let Nelson know his intentions in the first week of June. Since then, he's been playing with the Utah Bucks travel squad, and made the Area Code Team for the Cincinnati Reds and performed well at the Perfect Game All-American Showcase.
He added that his siblings have all graduated early, and it's considered normal in his family. And he believes SLCC is the program that will help him build stock for next June.
"They've got a good training program and they're going to tune my mechanics," Corless said. "I've seen what [Coach David Nelson] can do with pitchers. I think this is the smart move."
Corless is planning to sign a letter of intent in July, pending his test results. He acknowledged many of his school friends have been surprised by the news, but he hasn't second-guessed himself.
Nelson said Corless' Dons teammates haven't been thrilled about the decision, but that Spanish Fork would move on without the player who likely would've anchored the rotation.
"You can't worry about what you don't have," Nelson said. "We've had good teams for a long time. We'll still be around next year."