Seasons are slowly, but surely, getting underway for varsity teams around the country. Florida schools are several games in, while Texas kicked things off last week and Georgia and California are up next. As we pointed out a couple weeks ago, there are plenty of big tournaments and games to keep an eye on throughout the spring. Two of those matchups happen this weekend at the 2013 LaGrange Invitational Tournament in Georgia. Hosted by LaGrange High, this event attracts schools from the immediate region, but has been known to get a few to travel a little further.
At this year's event, it's worth watching how Crisp County High (Cordele, Ga.), Cullman (Ala.) High, Russell County High (Seale, Ala.) and Grayson High (Loganville, Ga.) make out. Grayson begins the season as the No. 9 team in the Baseball America/National High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 25, and the Rams have the country's top draft prospect in Austin Meadows, a sweet-swinging outfielder with at least plus speed and power.
Crisp County features righthander Robert Tyler, the No. 98 high school player. Tyler has a skinny, projectable frame at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, and he can run his fastball into his low 90s, though his arm action and lack of secondary stuff gives scouts pause right now. Cullman High features one of the state's best athletes in righthander Keegan Thompson (No. 43), who can pitch with an average to plus fastball and flash a good curveball. Cullman is scheduled to play Grayson on March 1 so keep your fingers crossed for a Meadows-Thompson duel. Crisp County will face Russell County on March 2, which could see Tyler face outfielder Anfernee Grier (No. 88). Grier has excellent bat speed and a plus arm. [...] Continue Reading »
The Woodlands (Texas) High started the season as the No. 10 in the Baseball America/National High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 25 and the Highlanders are proving themselves worthy so far. They're off to a 5-0 start and two of their pitchers have already thrown no-hitters this season. Righthander Carter Hope, who is committed to Oklahoma State, took the hill for the first time in his high school career last week and no-hit Klein Collins High (Spring, Texas), a perennial power in the Houston area. Hope pitched a complete game, striking out nine and walking just one.
Against Houston's Clear Lake High on Feb. 26, lefty Ryan Burnett, a Texas Christian recruit, fired a no-hitter of his own.
"Burnett threw a great first game last week," head coach Ron Eastman said. "Then he came back tonight and was pretty lights out. He was so dominant, he was just throwing fastballs the last three innings. He had good command of his curveball. He's a great young man. He's watched (Bryan) Brickhouse and Kevin (McCanna) and he's just really dialed in and focused right now. Those three guys feed off of each other. They want to try to one-up each other." [...] Continue Reading »
The International Baseball Federation announced Sunday that the 2013 18-and-under World Cup will be held Aug. 30 to Sept. 8 in Taichung, Taiwan. This will be Taiwan's third time hosting the World Cup—formerly known as the IBAF Junior AAA/18U World Championships—with the last time coming in 2004 when Cuba defeated Japan in the gold medal game.
Team USA won the gold medal in the 2012 18U World Championships by beating Canada. Shortstop Christian Arroyo (Hernando HS, Brooksville, Fla.) was named the tournament MVP while catcher Reese McGuire (Kentwood HS, Covington, Wash.) won USA Baseball's Dick Case player of the year award.
IBAF has contacted national federations with eligible teams and asked them to confirm their participation by March 11.
Catcher Iolana Akau (St. Louis School, Honolulu) chipped a bone at the bottom of his right thumb diving into second base, his coach confirmed. The injury happened Feb. 16 toward the end of a preseason game while Akau was stealing second.
"He's been in a soft cast," St. Louis head coach George Gusman said. "He's going to see the orthopedic guy today and is expected to be put in a hard cast."
Gusman said Akau went to the emergency room after the game and X-rays revealed the chip. The doctor there gave a timetable of four to six weeks for it to heal. St. Louis only plays a schedule of 12 games so Akau isn't expected to be back for the regular season. St. Louis was in its sixth preseason game when the injury occurred.
"It's going to hurt us significantly," Gusman said. "Nobody will run when he's back there. He's been throwing guys out that are too far off first base. That's all going to change for us. He's been hitting the ball very well."
One of two Hawaii preps in the High School Top 100, Akau was ranked 97th and is committed to Hawaii. He is listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, and stands out for his defense. He is quick and agile with good blocking and receiving skills. His arm is above average. He has a compact swing from the right side and scouts also like his leadership skills. Akau's Waipio Little League team (Waipahu, Hawaii) beat Mexico in the 2008 Little League World Series.
See Also: 2013 College Games To Watch
By most accounts, the 2013 draft class is down in talent overall, but that doesn't mean there aren't top players and matchups to closely watch. It's become an annual tradition to sift through the high school schedules we have and point out the top games to watch, whether they feature two draft prospects going head to head or two teams ranked in the Preseason Top 25. We've also included some notable tournaments that feature top teams or players.
As a disclaimer, please remember that we're talking about high school baseball, which is more easily altered by the elements and pitching rotations aren't exactly set in stone. Nothing mentioned below is guaranteed, but if we had a Baseball America G5, these are some likely spots we would take it. Numbers in the parenthesis indicate a player's rank in the High School Top 100.
Boras Baseball Classic, March 25-28 (North); April 2-5 (South); April 13 (Championship)
In its first year, the Boras Baseball Classic is a unique event in that it pays schools to participate—rather than the other way around—and it could serve as a mythical championship for a state without a state tournament. California breaks its postseasons up into sections that are based on regions and each region has handful of levels, with Division I being the highest. The Boras Classic will consist of two 16-team tournaments—a Northern California bracket and Southern California bracket. Each champion will then face off in one game on April 13 at Pacifica University.
The NorCal bracket includes Elk Grove High, Yuba City High and Pleasant Grove High (Elk Grove). Elk Grove has two Top 100 Prospects in first baseman Rowdy Tellez (No. 16) and infielder/catcher Dom Nunez (No. 54). The Thundering Herd didn't make the Preseason Top 25, but are strong candidates to make an appearance during the season. Yuba City has righthander Chandler Eden, the No. 99 high school prospect, while Pleasant Grove has outfielder Josh Adams, the No. 63 prospect.
In the SoCal bracket, JSerra High (San Juan Capistrano), Lakewood High and Mater Dei High (Santa Ana) will have the most attention. Lakewood and JSerra each have a Top 100 Prospect in shortstop J.P. Crawford (No. 5) and outfielder Dane McFarland (No. 73) respectively. Mater Dei checked in at No. 8 in the preseason rankings and have catcher Jeremy Martinez (No. 31) and third baseman Ryan McMahon (No. 66). [...] Continue Reading »
Just like Pod 1 of the USA Baseball National High School Invitational, Pod 3 has a matchup that should get scouts excited. The first game has Tullahoma (Tenn.) High, the preseason No. 22 team, facing No. 8 Mater Dei—the defending NHSI champs. Tullahoma's ace is Jordan Sheffield, the No. 7 high school prospect and would have to face big bats in catcher Jeremy Martinez (No. 31) and third baseman Ryan McMahon (No. 66).
The second game has Lexington (S.C.) High going up against Miami's Florida Christian. Lexington went 10-15 in 2011, but veteran coach Brian Hucks took over and immediately turned things around. The Wildcats went 27-4 last season and are the state's top team heading into 2013. The offense is led by catcher Nick Ciuffo, a South Carolina recruit and the No. 19 high school prospect. Florida Christian is a consistent contender in South Florida and has lefty Christian Pelaez as the staff ace. A Louisiana State recruit, Pelaez is known for his pitchability. [...] Continue Reading »
Pod 1 of the USA Baseball National High School Invitational features San Diego's Cathedral Catholic High against Grayson High (Loganville, Ga.) and Venice (Fla.) High against Memphis' Christian Brothers High. The first matchup pits the preseason Nos. 3 and 9 teams against each other and should be a highlight for scouts. Teams are likely to send their aces out in the first round so it's possible we could see lefthander Stephen Gonsalves take the hill for Cathedral Catholic, setting up an excellent showdown between him and outfielder Austin Meadows, the top prospect for the 2013 draft.
The second game has a defending state champ in Venice and perennial contender in Christian Brothers. Venice returns six starters from last year's team, including outfielder Nick Longhi, the No. 69 high school prospect. Christian Brothers has 10 state titles and two junior pitchers committed to Division I programs—John Wesley Ray (Ole Miss) and Corey Herndon (Arkansas). [...] Continue Reading »
The 2013 USA Baseball National High School Invitational is set for March 27-30 in Cary, N.C. Sixteen teams are vying for the championship in a single-elimination tournament. Each team is guaranteed four games, but they must win to keep advancing in the winners' bracket.
The 2012 NHSI marked the event's inaugural run and certainly didn't disappoint. Exciting baseball was seen over the four days and the championship was decided in extra innings on a walk-off single. The Baseball America Top 25 rankings saw a great deal of movement with upsets and dominating runs and the draft even felt some effect with players like outfielder Courtney Hawkins having a breakout performance. Hawkins hit a home run and pitched a shutout in a 1-0 win over Miami's Gulliver Prep for Carroll High (Corpus Christi, Texas). He then became the 13th overall pick and reached high Class A for the White Sox in the summer.
This year's field looks to be just as good, if not better. Nine teams were ranked in the Preseason Top 25 and nine players from the High School Top 100 will be on the field playing. San Diego's Cathedral Catholic could be considered the favorite to win simply on its preseason No. 3 ranking, but the Dons also have five Division I arms on the roster and pitching is key to surviving four straight days of top competition. However, Mater Dei can't be counted out given most of their pitching and offense is back from their run last season.
If you follow our high school coverage closely, you may have noticed that our rankings stopped at 25 this year. Rather than simply presenting teams next to a number in the 26-50 range, we will make note of teams outside the rankings that are worth keeping an eye on. To kick off the season, we have eight teams to highlight—one from each district the ranking committee represents.
The Baseball America/National High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 25 is voted on by a ranking committee that is made up of eight district representatives, two at-large members and two committee co-chairs. The eight districts are New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Upper Midwest, Midwest, Southern, Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast.
These eight teams aren't necessarily the next eight in order. They are simply an unranked team from their region worth watching.
New England: Grand Street Campus HS, New York
The Wolves won New York City's Public School Athletic League Division A championship in 2012, beating Washington High, and have six key players back for this season. Ralphy McDonald is a plus runner that has stolen 93 bases over the last two seasons. He plays center field and is committed to Louisiana State-Eunice JC. Middle infielder Elijah Rodriguez's father, Frank, was a second-round pick of the Red Sox in 1990 and spent seven seasons in the big leagues. The younger Rodriguez is committed to Howard (Texas) JC. Junior righthander Alex Cuas will be the staff ace and throws in the upper 80s. Grand Street Campus has produced a few prospects recently. Righthander Dellin Betances signed with the Yankees in the eighth round in 2006 for $1 million and outfielder Williams Jerez was Boston's second-round pick in 2011 and he signed for six figures. Shortstop Jose Cuas, Alex's older brother, was a 40th-round pick of the Blue Jays last year, but he didn't sign and now plays for Maryland. [...] Continue Reading »
USA Baseball has named catcher Reese McGuire from Kentwood High in Covington, Wash., its 2012 Dick Case player of the year. McGuire played on USA’s 18-and-under team that defeated Canada to win gold medals at the IBAF 18U World Championship in Seoul, South Korea in September.
“Our entire national team roster from that summer are vetted and the performances are each in their own unique,” 18U director Brant Ust said. “But we felt as an organization that Reese leading the 18U to gold like he did, not only statistically, but with his presence and and intangibles make him the pick for this award.”
During his time with the USA Baseball 18U team this summer, McGuire hit .400/.522/.514 with four doubles and 11 RBIs over 35 at-bats. He led the team in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, hits, RBIs and walks. Not only that, but McGuire did so while shuffling between catcher, third base, first base, left field and designated hitter.
“In terms of on-the-field, baseball-wise, he was capable of playing multiple positions for us,” 18U head coach Scott Brosius said. “He was very good defensively as a catcher, but can also play third base and can play the outfield. Being able to move like that and have that versatility was huge for us. And just beyond that, he really just epitomized the type of attitude and the type of player that we needed and wanted to have on the team—very tough, very hard working, didn’t say a whole lot, just really went about his business and had that blue-collar type of mentality that we needed to have.”
McGuire will be presented with the award at a school assembly on Feb. 5. Previous winners of the award include Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and righthander Stephen Strasburg, Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak and Cubs outfield prospect Albert Almora.
“My dad and I looked at all the names of the winners in past years and there’s a lot of big league names and what not,” McGuire said. “So it’s a huge honor, not only to be chosen from my team, but the whole USA organization. I’m just really thankful and blessed to have represented my country so well. That was our number one goal, to win gold, that’s all we were there for. So this is exciting and I’m definitely proud and humbled by it.”
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