USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team often serves as a preview of the next draft year, indicating strengths and weaknesses of the class.
|College National Team Top Prospects|
|1. Alex Faedo, rhp, Florida|
|2. J.B. Bukauskas, rhp, North Carolina|
|3. Brendan McKay, 1b/lhp, Louisville|
|4. Jeren Kendall, of, Vanderbilt|
|5. Kyle Wright, rhp, Vanderbilt|
|6. Alex Lange, rhp, Louisiana State|
|7. Tanner Houck, rhp, Missouri|
|8. Dalton Guthrie, ss, Florida|
|9. Keston Hiura, 2b, UC Irvine|
|10. Seth Beer, of, Clemson|
|11. Evan Skoug, c, Texas Christian|
|12. David Peterson, lhp, Oregon|
|13. T.J. Friedl, of, Nevada (SIGNED: Reds)|
|14. Taylor Walls, ss/2b, Florida State|
|15. Jake Burger, 3b, Missouri State|
|16. Ricky Tyler Thomas, lhp, Fresno State|
|17. K.J. Harrison, 1b/of/c, Oregon State|
|18. Tyler Johnson, rhp, South Carolina|
|19. Evan White, of/1b, Kentucky|
|20. Mike Rivera, c, Florida|
It also plays games that matter, with the bulk of this year’s schedule coming overseas. After a week of trials in Southern California, 24 of Americas top college players played three series on the road, one in Taiwan, one in Japan and the last one in Cuba, where the U.S. won for the first time.
Head coach George Horton (Oregon) was joined by a coaching staff that included two of his former players (Loyola Marymount coach Jason Gil and Nebraska pitching coach Ted Silva) as well as Dave Snow, who coached with and against Horton for most of two decades before moving into professional baseball as an evaluator and coach.
They had a roster that, like the overall college class, was stronger on the mound and defensively than it was at the plate. Aside from hitting approaches that need to improve, as is the case for many top amateur prospects, the CNT hitters had tough travel to Taiwan, where they faced an older club, plus a Japanese all-star team that featured five likely first-round picks in the Nippon Professional Baseball draft for 2017.
But the club’s starting pitching—eight of them used in tandems—allowed it to remain competitive in every game, with Louisville lefthander/first baseman Brendan McKay emerging as the top performer as a key starter and the team’s leading hitter. Team USA primarily invited rising juniors to trials, with the exception of outfielder Seth Beer and pitchers Tim Cate, a lefty, and Cole Sands, a righty, all of whom are in the 2018 draft class.
1. Alex Faedo, rhp, Florida. | | Faedo checks a lot of boxes for high picks in the draft, including potential No. 1 overall picks. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, he’s got prototypical pitchers size with a good body that isn’t close to being a finished product. He has thrived in two seasons for the Gators (19-4, 3.20, 192/37 SO/BB ratio in 166 IP), and he pitched well for Team USA, going 3-0, 0.56 with 21 strikeouts and three walks in 16 innings.
He did it by locating his fastball down and away well, working almost exclusively away from hitters with a fastball that sat at 93 mph and touched higher. He has tremendous confidence in his best pitch, an 83-85 mph slider with late tilt that earns grades ranging from 65 to 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Faedo throws strikes with both pitches, and he flashed an average changeup this summer, throwing it with good arm speed and solid life.
He’s good enough to star for Florida, but top draft picks get picked apart, and Faedo has three key areas he must improve. First, his fastball’s life, as it tends to be straight; second, his unwillingness to pitch inside (he often shook off his catcher when a fastball in was called, according to club sources); and third, the changeup, which he doesn’t use enough.