From March 28-31, the USA Baseball National High School Invitational will be held in Cary, N.C. The event is presented by Baseball America and the Town of Cary and will feature some of the top teams and players in the country. They will compete in a 16-team, single-elimination championship tournament though all teams will be guaranteed to play four games. Of the 16 teams, 12 are eligible for state tournament play—California has section championships and New York City has a city championship—and there are a total of 36 state titles in the schools' histories. Four of the teams have a Baseball America National Championship as well.
Not only will the tournament present a high level of competition and have a strong effect on national rankings, but the level of talent is likely to bring in dozens of area scouts, crosscheckers and scouting directors.
“We're thrilled with the quality of teams that we were able to commit to this inaugural event," USA Baseball Director of Development Rick Riccobono said. "The talent and history of the participants is truly consistent with the mission of the program: To bring together our nation’s most accomplished high school baseball teams in one championship tournament.”
Listed in alphabetical order below is the tournament field with a short capsule on each team as well as a chart with the top 25 2012 and 2013 prospects that will be at the event.
American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
The Patriots have been a mainstay in the state playoffs and national rankings since finishing on top in 2008 with players like Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer and 2012 draft prospect Deven Marrero, now at Arizona State. Under the direction of former major league outfielder Bruce Aven, the Patriots are loaded with a lineup of Division I players. Nine are committed to D-I programs, including four pitchers. Righthander Alex Seibold (Florida International) and lefthander Brandon Diaz (Stetson) will anchor the staff in 2012. Seibold went 7-1, 2.19 in 48 innings in 2011 with 57 strikeouts and only seven walks. Diaz, just a junior, saw limited action on the mound last season, but mixes his pitches well and hit .456 with six home runs. On offense, the Patriots will be led by senior shortstop Brandon Lopez and junior catcher Zach Collins. Collins is verbally committed to Miami and was big part of USA Baseball's 16U gold medal team in the Pan Am Championships this summer. He was named MVP of the tournament and transfered to American Heritage this fall after hitting .369 for Flanagan High (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) in the spring. The Patriots best 2012 draft prospect right now is Lopez. He ranks No. 79 on the High School Top 100 and is committed to Miami. A shortstop with a strong arm and good actions, Lopez hit .462 with five home runs last year.
|NHSI Top 25 Prospects|
|1. Lucas Giolito, rhp, Harvard-Westlake|
|2. Max Fried, lhp, Harvard-Westlake|
|3. Joey Gallo, 3b/rhp, Bishop Gorman|
|4. Courtney Hawkins, of/rhp, Carroll|
|5. Lucas Sims, rhp, Brookwood|
|6. Jeremy Martinez, c, Mater Dei*|
|7. Fernelys Sanchez, of, Washington|
|8. Brandon Lopez, ss/rhp, American Heritage|
|9. Ryan Burr, rhp, Highlands Ranch|
|10. Ty Moore, of, Mater Dei|
|11. Matt Goodson, of, Oxford|
|12. Matt Olson, 1b, Parkview|
|13. Josh Hart, of, Parkview*|
|14. J.T. Phillips, ss, Columbus|
|15. Nelson Rodriguez, c/1b, Washington|
|16. Adrian Marin, ss, Gulliver Prep|
|17. Arden Pabst, c, Harvard-Westlake*|
|18. Chris Chinea, c, Gulliver Prep|
|19. Zach Collins, c, American Heritage*|
|20. Eric Neitzel, 3b, Gulliver Prep|
|21. Kyle Carter, of/lhp, Columbus|
|22. Tucker Simpson, rhp/1b, Oxford|
|23. Alex Seibold, rhp, American Heritage|
|24. Brandon Diaz, lhp, American Heritage*|
|25. Ivan Pelaez, lhp, Gulliver Prep|
|*2013 Class Member|
Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas
Winners of six straight Nevada 4-A state titles and the 2009 National Champions, the Gaels have earned the reputation of reloading rather than rebuilding. They will be led by third baseman/righthander Joey Gallo, a second team Baseball America High School All-America in 2011, Team USA 18U member and No. 12 on the High School Top 100. Gallo crushed the competition last spring with a .471 average and 25 home runs. He has limited experience on the mound, but head coach Nick Day will likely find a way to utilize his raw stuff that includes a fastball that can reach 95 mph. Aside from Gallo, Bishop Gorman returns over 35 additional home runs. Cody Roper returns as the ace of the pitching staff after going 9-0, 1.42 in 2011. He also hit .422 with 10 home runs. Gallo (Louisiana State) and Roper (Nevada-Las Vegas) are among five seniors committed to Division I programs. Outfielder Johnny Sewald (Arizona State) had 43 stolen bases while hitting .405. Middle infielder Justin Jones (UNLV) and outfielder Tommy Field (Chicago-Illinois) round out the players that have committed.
Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga.
The Broncos have been furious competitors in Georgia in recent years, making the state playoffs 10 times. In the last seven years, under the direction of Rick Howard, Brookwood has made it to the state tournament every year finishing in the first round three times, quarterfinals once and semifinals twice with a state title coming in 2008. There will certainly be some holes to fill with 14 seniors graduating—eight of which went on to play in college while two signed pro contracts—but there is a nucleus of players returning that got significant playing time in 2011. That group is led by one of the best pitchers in the country, Lucas Sims. A power-armed righthander committed to Clemson, Sims is ranked No. 16 in the 2012 high school class and sits 90-92 with his fastball, but has shown 93-95 in short stints. He also works with an 83-84 mph changeup and power curveball in the mid 70s. Sims is the clear ace and should see an increase in innings this season after throwing 32 last year and going 4-1, 2.38 with 52 strikeouts. He also can provide some offense after hitting .429 in 84 at-bats last season. The Broncos also return starters in catcher Clint Carr, infielder Mike Gouge and righthander Allen Tokarz. Carr hit .375 with two home runs in 45 at-bats while Gouge also hit .378, but in 90 at-bats. Tokarz went 4-2, 1.46 in 34 innings.
Carroll HS, Corpus Christi, Texas
Head coach Lee Yeager said it best: "The future is now for the Tigers." Carroll shocked Texas baseball by winning the largest classification (5-A) state title in 2010 with a lineup that contained seven sophomores. The Tigers began 2011 as the No. 1 team in the country and eventually lost in the state semifinals with a freshman, eight juniors and a senior in the lineup. The champion sophomores are now seniors and led by Texas signee Courtney Hawkins. A four-year starter as a righthander and outfielder, Hawkins is No. 15 among the Top 100 High School Prospects. Righthander Oshea Dumes was a clutch arm in 2010 and joins Chris Cano as a four-year starter and signee to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Josh Cruz will man third base for Carroll as a two-time all-state selection. The only loss from the 2010 team is at catcher, but Yeager is confident their DH from last season, sophomore Michael Cantu, will be able to step into that role.
Columbus (Ga.) HS
With 10 state titles in its history, Columbus has one of the top programs in the country. Riding back-to-back state titles in 2010-2011, the Blue Devils lost four starters to graduation, but have a group of players returning that all have significant experience. Outfielder/lefthander Kyle Carter, a Georgia signee, will serve as the team's ace and big bat. He hit .467 with 22 home runs in 2011 and held a 9-4, 2.33 record. Shortstop J.T. Phillips is also committed to Georgia and will anchor a strong left side of the infield that has Josh Lester at third base. Phillips hit just .283 last season but had eight home runs and a 2.45 ERA with three saves in 26 innings of work. Spencer Draws is also an infielder and adds to the Blue Devils' D-I list with his commitment to the Air Force Academy He hit .366 with four home runs. Head coach Bobby Howard says experience is this team's biggest strength and winning championships is nothing new to this group. Besides the two state titles, Carter, Phillips, Lester and outfielder Ryan Lang have a world championship, winning the 2006 Little League World Series.
Gulliver Prep, Miami
Actually nicknamed the Raiders, the running joke is that Gulliver Prep will be called the Hurricanes in 2012, thanks to its senior class that has four players committed to play at Miami—shortstop Adrian Marin, third baseman Eric Neitzel, outfielder Ricky Eusebio and lefthander Ivan Pelaez. Catcher Chris Chinea is the black sheep of the group with his commitment to Louisiana State. Marin is a smooth-fielding shortstop with a strong arm while Neitzel will start at the hot corner for the fifth straight year. Chinea hit over .500 in each of his first three season with Gulliver and was on Team USA's 16U National Team with Marin and Pelaez in 2010, winning a gold medal. Head coach Javy Rodriguez is glad to have Eusebio roaming center field again after he missed most of 2011 due to injury.
Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.
The Wolverines are quickly gaining notoriety with a major league alum in Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch, as well as Stanford outfielder Austin Wilson. After winning their first league championship in school history, the Wolverines were boasting a strong squad with the top pitching prospect in the 2012 class in righthander Lucas Giolito, as well as a couple of talented underclassmen—2013 catcher Arden Pabst and 2014 righthander/utility Jack Flaherty. But Harvard-Westlake benefited from a Southern California school's decision to cut its athletic program and announced in August that Max Fried, the No. 7 high school prospect in the 2012 class, would enroll and join the rotation for the 2012 campaign. Harvard-Westlake was sure to get plenty of attention with Giolito pitching, but now the Wolverines have arguably the best high school rotation in the country. Giolito is a physical monster, standing at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds. He works with a 92-95 mph fastball and tight, low-80s curveball. Fried has long arms with a free and easy delivery that delivers fastballs in the 88-92 range and a sharp, mid-70s breaking ball. Both are committed to UCLA. Pabst was a member of the gold medal-winning Team USA 16U Team in 2011 and was the offensive leader for Harvard-Westlake, hitting .430 with 30 RBIs last spring. Flaherty will be a prized college recruit soon and went 6-2, 2.51 in 47 innings while hitting .355. He will play an up-the-middle position when not pitching next spring.
Highlands Ranch (Colo.) HS
Having reached the state playoffs the last five years, Highlands Ranch is primed to compete in Colorado with eight starters returning to a team that lost in the 5-A semifinals in 2011. Leading the way will be righthander Ryan Burr, an Arizona State signee and No. 83 on the Top 100. He has an ideal frame at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and throws a low-90s fastball, low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. He went 8-1, 2.69 with 104 strikeouts in 57 innings in 2011. His batterymate is Adam Gauthier, an all-state honorable mention and Dartmouth signee. Shortstop Tony Audino also received an honorable mention and is receiving some D-I offers.The rest of the returning starters all have at least two years of varsity experience.
Lee County HS, Sanford, N.C.
The host of the 2012 USA Baseball National High School Invitational, Lee County last won a state title in 2001. While they don't have marquee players, the Yellow Jackets pride themselves on fundamentals thanks to Charlie Spivey, the head coach since 1984. Spivey has been a regular among Team USA coaching staffs and was the pitching coach for the 2011 16U National Team. He returns three key players in Alex Furl, Nick Durazo and Chase Arrington. All three participate in the North Carolina State Games. Furl is a four-year starter, two-time all-conference selection and the team's leading hitter.
Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana, Calif.
Conference rivals with Lutheran High, Mater Dei returns seven starters from a team that finished 24-6 and won the Trinity League title—arguably one of the most competitive conferences in the country. Ty Moore, ranked No. 85 on the Top 100, will be a two-way threat for the Monarchs, serving as the team's ace and one of its top hitters. The 2011 Orange County Player of the Year, Moore is committed to UCLA and a draft prospect for 2012. He has a stocky frame and makes consistent contact at the plate thanks to a quick bat. He hit .510 with 37 RBIs while going 10-2, 3.16 last spring. Moore and catcher Jeremy Martinez give Mater Dei a strong one-two punch on offense. Martinez is a 2013 prospect and committed to Southern California. He hits to all fields and had a strong showing this summer to make the Team USA 18U National Team. In addition to Moore's 75 innings, the Monarchs return 56 innings and six wins between Ryan Barr and Davis Tominaga.
Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS
Just like Mater Dei, Orange Lutheran is familiar with stiff competition as members of the Trinity League. With three players already committed to D-I schools and a few more being recruited, the Lancers are equipped to make a run. Art Moran-Vidrio is a lefthander/outfielder who will be a four-year starter. Over the last three seasons he has sparkling 0.97 ERA. Brent Wheatley is a righthander/first baseman committed to USC who went 6-3, 1.47 in 2011 while hitting .311. The Lancers' utility man, Conner Sullivan, is committed to Duke and hit .366 with eight stolen bases last season. The Lancers also have some underclassmen to watch with outfielder Jason Martin returning to the field after missing most of 2011 with an injury. One of the best athletes on the field will be outfielder Josh Morgan, a sophomore that also missed some time last spring.
Oxford (Ala.) HS
With three players committed to Alabama or Florida and a couple more expected to play at smaller Division I schools, the Yellow Jackets look to be one of the top teams in the Yellowhammer State. They will be led by a group of seniors they refer to as "The Core Four". Tucker Simpson (Florida) is an imposing figure at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, and gives Oxford a two-way threat. He provides a big bat having hit over .400 as the cleanup hitter the last two seasons, but is best on the mound where he throws an 88-91 mph fastball with good downward angle. He also mixes in a mid-70s curveball and low-80s changeup. Outfielder Matthew Goodson (Alabama) should be the offensive spark for Oxford, using his speed and strength. He hit 22 home runs and 12 doubles as a junior, but also shows above-average speed. Jackson Stephens (Alabama) is another strong two-way player. He can handle the bat while working with a high-80s fastball, low-70s curve and high-70s changeup on the mound. Righthander Zach Lovvorn (Samford) gives the Yellow Jackets a legitimate third starter. He has been under the radar with Simpson and Stephens on the mound, but has topped out at 91 before.
Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga.
The Panthers began 2011 as the No. 13 team in the country, but an extremely tough schedule contributed to them sliding out of the Top 25 early in the season. They returned to finish at No. 18 after claiming the 5-A state title. In the team's championship lineup were four sophomores, four juniors and one senior position player. With the only other loss being a lefthanded reliever, Parkview will be very strong in 2012. Leading the way will be Matt Olson, a senior first baseman/righthander that hit .426 with 17 home runs while going 8-3, 3.65 last season, and Josh Hart, an outfielder that coaches rave about. Hart hit .449 with 53 runs scored in 2011. He is committed to Georgia Tech while Olson chose Vanderbilt. Joining them as D-I signees are sophomore lefthander Mac Marshall, senior utility player Jack Esmonde and junior catcher/righthander Jarrett Freeland. All three are committed to Georgia.
Russell County HS, Seale, Ala.
The Warriors have a history of success, winning a national title in 2005 and producing professionals like Colby and Cory Rasmus and Kasey Kiker. The program is still led by the Rasmuses' father, Tony, and return a strong group for the 2012 season after going 34-10. Seven starters return on offense along with the entire pitching staff that made it to the 5-A state semi-finals before being eliminated. Righthander Ray Castillo went 10-1, 2.01 in 66 innings with 115 strikeouts last season. He is committed to Alabama and ran his fastball into the low 90s on the showcase circuit this summer. Catcher Chandler Durham will attend Gulf Coast CC after trying to build on a junior season in which he hit .390 with seven home runs. Castillo won all-state honors in 2011 as did righthander Jesse Nelson. Nelson provides a two-way threat as he hit .412 as a sophomore while going 10-1, 2.40 in 58 innings with 71 strikeouts.
Sarasota (Fla.) HS
A storied program with eight state titles and the 1994 national championship, Sarasota is a consistent participant in the Florida playoffs. The Sailors return 12 letter winners from a squad that won a district title in 2011 and lost to eventual 6-A champion Alonso High of Tampa in the regional quarterfinals. Of those 12, five position players and two pitchers were regulars in the lineup. Senior Danny Mars led the team in hitting with a .436 average last season while driving in 31 runs. Sarasota also has two junior D-I recruits in Dylan White and Jason Sierra. White is committed to Miami while Sierra is still considering his options. White is considered a pitching prospect for the 2013 draft, but he will be unavailable in the spring after undergoing labrum surgery in 2011. However, he will be available to hit.
Washington HS, New York
Best known for being the alma mater of Manny Ramirez, Washington has had a long run of success in the Public School Athletic League of New York City. The Trojans return 18 players that help bring in a 22-0 record in the PSAL and city championship. The most notable players on Washington's roster are Fernelys Sanchez and Nelson Rodriguez. Sanchez is a fleet-footed center field prospect that has run a 6.4-second 60-yard dash. He is ranked No. 58 on the Top 100 and committed to Oklahoma, but may head to Central Arizona first. Rodriguez is on the Team USA 18U team and provides a big bat. While scouts don't think he'll stay at catcher at the next level, they don't question his power. He has a large frame and can punish baseballs.
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