USA Baseball's Tournament of Stars gets underway Wednesday morning at the National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The event serves as a tryout of sorts for the 18U National Team. This year's team will travel to Cartagena, Colombia in September for the COPABE Pan Am 'AAA' Championships. There are eight teams in the tournament, represented by seven of the National Member Organizations and an at-large team, put together by USA Baseball. The organizations represented are AABC, American Legion, Babe Ruth, Dixie, NABF, PONY and RBI. Seven first-round picks in the 2011 draft participated in the 2010 Tournament of Stars: Bubba Starling, Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Tyler Beede, Joe Ross, Blake Swihart and Robert Stephenson.
Baseball America will be on-site covering the event. Here are a couple quick notes about each team's roster:
AABC: Vahn Bozoian is a long-limbed outfielder from Ayala High in Chino Hills, Calif. He has power from the right side, but his long levers lend to questions about his ability to hit. He has one of the strongest throwing arms in this draft class. . . Joey Gallo hit 25 home runs this spring, leading Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman High to a sixth-straight state title. He's no stranger to the showcase circuit, but hasn't quite lived up to expectations yet. However, he has recently taken to pitching where he shows easy velocity in the low 90s. . . David Thompson broke Prince Fielder's career home run record in Florida—during his junior year. He is a corner infielder with big power and also excels as a quarterback. . . The best arms on this team appear to be righthander Jamie Callahan from Dillon (S.C.) High and lefthander Hunter Virant from Camarillo (Calif.) High. Callahan sits 88-90 mph with a good changeup and curveball and Virant sits in the low 90s and already throws four pitches despite this being his first year on the mound.
American Legion: While several teams are semi-regional, the Legion team has players from 12 different states. Righthander Jason Carmichael from Mariner High in Cape Coral, Fla. sits in the 88-90 mph range with his fastball and has projection remaining in his 6-foot-3, 162-pound frame. The Florida recruit mixes in a low-80s changeup and 76-80 mph slider. . . Shortstop Corey Seager played for the USA Baseball 16U team last year and his brother, Kyle, is a prospect in the Mariners organization. . . The event is also a great opportunity to be seen for outfielder Justin Black from Billings, Mont. and infielder Zachary Lain from Cheyenne, Wyo.
Babe Ruth: This squad is typically loaded with talent and 2011 is no different. Albert Almora of Mater Academy in Hialeah Gardens, Fla. is arguably Mr. USA Baseball, having played on the 14U team from 2007-2008 and the 16U team from 2009-2010. He also played on the 18U squad in 2010. He passes the eye test with his lean frame and everything looks easy on the field. . . Rio Ruiz is an infielder/righthander from La Puente, Calif.'s Bishop Amat High and considered among the top 10 prospects for 2012. . . Outfielder Ty Moore is from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. and one prominent coach in Southern California recently stated that he was easily the best hitter in the state for 2012.
Dixie: Infielder Gavin Cecchini returns for his second TOS appearance, after his brother Garin played in 2009. The younger Cecchini has a lean frame and a better chance to stay at a middle infield position, though he swings from the right side. . . This team probably has the biggest collection of arms, as well, with righthander Carson Fulmer (All Saints' Academy in Lakeland, Fla.), Clate Schmidt (Allatoona High in Acworth, Ga.), and Lucas Sims (Brookwood High in Snellville, Ga.) all touching 93 mph or better.
NABF: Infielders Austin Dean and C.J. Hinojosa will make up the heart of NABF's lineup, as both show a good feel for hitting and power. Both go to Klein Collins High in Spring, Texas and both verbally committed to the home-state Longhorns. . . It's not often than big prospects hail from Oregon, but third baseman/righthander Carson Kelly is an exception. He is a good athlete that can do a little bit of everything on the field and gained experience with Team USA's 16U team last year. . . Outfielder Rhett Wiseman from Buckingham, Browne and Nichols High in Cambridge, Mass. has a muscular 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame and shows strength from the left side of the plate, as well as above-average speed on the basepaths and in center field.
PONY: A first baseman/righthander and district rival of Dillon Maples, Curt Britt has a strong frame, power from the left side and a solid three-pitch mix. . . Righthander Lucas Giolito was a sophomore teammate of outfielder Austin Wilson at Los Angeles' Harvard-Westlake High. He burst onto the scene at the 2010 Area Code Games and is among the candidates to be the No. 1 prospect in the high school class. . . Nick Williams is a live-bodied outfielder from Galveston, Texas' Ball High. He swings from the left side where he shows a sweet stroke with good power potential. Two righties on this team—Kayden Porter and Walker Weickel—already earned a spot on the trials roster after standing out at the National Team Identification Series last September. Porter has a mid-90s fastball and power curve, but also shows big power at the plate. Weickel has a 90-92 mph fastball with steep angle to the plate, thanks to his 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame. He mixes in a sharp slider and a softer curveball.
RBI: The RBI team has two interesting backstops. Blake Hickman has a very strong frame at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. He has good power potential and a strong throwing arm, but his raw in most aspects of the game. . . Darrell Miller Jr. is the nephew of former NBA star Reggie Miller. Miller Jr. stood out at the Breakthrough Series in July showing some strength in his swing and a strong arm behind the plate. This team also typically has a surprise or two, like lefthander Amir Garrett last year—a blue-chip basketball prospect that wound up showing a 96 mph fastball as a lefthander in workouts last spring.
USA Stars: Corey Oswalt is a strong-bodied infielder at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. He has good leverage to his swing that produces big power from the right side. . . Drew Ward might be the most interesting story in the event. An example of "if you're good, they'll find you" Ward is from Leedey, Okla., a sleepy town more than 100 miles west of Oklahoma City. The number of students in his class doesn't crack double digits and his parents have to travel more than 45 minutes to get to any kind of major shopping. He is old for his class, but has an athletic frame and tremendous upside with his present strength and sweet swing.
Contributing: Conor Glassey
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