Metropolitan Baseball Classic Poised For Big Second Year

After a very successful inaugural event in 2013, the New York Mets will again host the Metropolitan Baseball Classic from Aug. 21-24.

The eight-team tournament, including many of the premier travel teams in the country, is the brainchild of Mets’ scouting director Tommy Tanous and combines a concentration of high-end draft talent rarely found outside of the showcase circuit with an extremely competitive environment where teams have incentives to win and perform at a high level.

“It is not a showcase event. It is about who wants to win this event. It resembles the legion tournaments of old,” Tanous said. “We all come to the showcases but there is no winner at the end and that is what we are in this for. I tell every coach that comes that their No. 1 goal is to win the event. You end up seeing the best players play more because they want to win.”

Spencer Adams

Spencer Adams was just one of the 2014 draftees to attend the MBC last year (Photo by Stacy Jo Grant).

The championship game of last year’s event is a prime example, when Team Elite defeated the EvoShield Canes. Team Elite featured White Sox second-rounder Spencer Adams as its starter and had four players in the lineup who were drafted in the top 10 rounds or received top 10-round bonuses—Michael Gettys (Padres; second round), Jared Walker (Dodgers; fifth round), Montrell Marshall (Reds; 12th-$225,000 bonus) and Alex Abbott (Angels; sixth). EvoShield’s lineup had two fourth-round picks- Troy Stokes (Brewers) and DJ Burt (Royals), as well as three other top-10 round talents who decided to attend college. The Canes reached the championship game on the strength of their starting pitching that included three arms that went in the top three rounds—first-rounder Grant Holmes (Dodgers), second-rounder Grant Hockin (Indians) and fourth-rounder Blake Bivens (Rays), not to mention Derek Casey, a top-five-round talent who will attend Virginia.

The inaugural event hosted a bevy of draft talent as 50 players heard their names called in June. Ten players went in the top two rounds or received top-two round bonuses (Carson Sands), including Holmes, first-rounder Foster Griffin (Royals) and second-round picks Joe Gatto (Angels) and Mitch Keller (Pirates). In total, nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of the high school players that went in the top 10 rounds attended last year’s event.

That total doesn’t account for the rising juniors who played in the event, a group that includes seven Perfect Game All-Americans: outfielder Doak Dozier, righthanders Beau Burrows and Drew Finley, catcher Wyatt Cross, shortstops Nick Shumpert and Brendan Rodgers and infielder John Aiello.

Last year’s event was well-attended by the scouting community, with many scouting directors in attendance. The turnout is expected to be even larger this year after the bountiful crop from 2013 and this year’s talent base could exceed last year’s bonanza.

An evaluation day for scouts with batting practice and infield-outfield for all eight teams will start the event on Thursday, Aug. 21 at Hostra University. Games will begin on Friday at Hofstra and Citi Field. Saturday’s action will include four games at each location. Every game played on Sunday to determine the champion will be played in Citi Field. Each team is guaranteed at least two games in Citi Field.

Last year the event was closed to the public but tickets will be available for all four games on Sunday. Fans looking to attend can call 718-507-TIXX or visit www.Mets.com/metropolitanbaseballclassic. Follow the action on Twitter at @MetBallClassic.

Key members of the Mets have been instrumental in organizing and running the event.

“Ian Levin (baseball analytics manager) and Bryan Hayes (amateur scouting assistant) are constantly working on it and it wouldn’t happen without them,” Tanous said. “I have to give a lot of credit to (Northeast area scout) Jim Thompson and (Northeast crosschecker) Marlin McPhail who run the Northeast scout team, which came in third last year. They are constantly looking for players. It’s almost like they are running their own travel team. We wouldn’t have a successful team without Thompson and McPhail.”

In addition to a Mets scout team from the Northeast, the tournament will feature seven of the top travel teams in the country:

CBA Marucci

Kyle Molnar

Kyle Molnar

CBA Marruci attracts some of the top talent in California and is annually one of the top teams in the state. The program has three Under Armour All-Americans—righthander Luken Baker, catcher Chris Betts and righthander Kyle Molnar—and another two players who were invited to USA Baseball’s 18-and-under national team trials, shortstop Nick Madrigal and righthander Pete Lambert. Only Betts (Calif.) is expected to attend the MBC because of the 18U trials. Betts is one of the leading position players who will attend the event and one of the top prep catchers in the class, offering above-average arm strength and pull power.

Lefthander Bailey Falter (Calif.) has a mid-80s fastball that plays up with some of the best fastball extension in the class, offering a projectable body, some strike-throwing ability and feel for a changeup.

D-BAT

Perennially one of the powerhouse programs in Texas, the D-BAT had 21 players drafted in 2014, including second-round pick Garrett Fulenchek. Other notable alumni include first-rounders Billy McKinney, Jason Hursh, Steve Bean, Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley, Michael Choice and Matt Lipka.

The program offers intriguing prospects on the mound. Righthander Parker Ford (Texas) ran his fastball up to 93 at Perfect Game National. Rising junior lefthander Kyle Muller (Texas) has a big, projectable build and touched 88 with his fastball at the ACG.

Evoshield Canes

Mike Nikorak

Mike Nikorak

The Canes program focuses on players in the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic regions but has started to gain national pull over the past few years. The Canes have been a force on the national level, winning the 17U WWBA this summer with the deepest pitching staff in the country and the 18U WWBA last fall. The organization had 17 alumni taken in the 2013 draft, most notably Chad Pinder, Kyle Crockett, Matt McPhearson and Bobby Wahl. Prominent draft picks from the program include Deck McGuire, Daniel Gossett, Jake Cave and Tyler Beede.

Pitching has been the hallmark of this summer’s team with a depth of power righthanders, headlined by Ashe Russell (Ind.), Mike Nikorak (Pa.) and Cody Morris (Md.). Russell and Nikorak have both touched the mid-90s while Morris has touched 94 at multiple events with a high-spin fastball with sink and control. Righthander Hunter Parsons (Md.) teams with Morris to form one of the most talented pairs of Maryland prep righthanders in recent memory. Parsons has a low-90s fastball and control of a three-pitch mix. Noah Burkholder (Ind.) is one of the headliners from a strong class of big-bodied Indiana prep righthanders and has ran his fastball up to 91.

Outfielder Danny Blair (Fla.) is a plus runner with feel for the strike zone from the left side. Desmond Lindsay (Fla.) is a first base/outfielder with strength, bat speed and foot speed, running the 60-yard dash at East Coast Pro in 6.56 seconds.

Marucci Elite

Marucci Elite has had a national recruiting base and a track record of producing top draftees, including Rays outfield prospect Mikie Mahtook, Blue Jays outfield prospect D.J. Davis, Twins righthanded prospect Ryan Eades, Twins 2014 second-rounder Nick Burdi and Diamondbacks 2014 second-rounder Marcus Wilson.

Center field D.J. Wilson (Ohio) is a plus runner who is a catalyst at the top of the lineup. Infielder Cornelius Randolph (Ga.), who hit a home run at ECP, has a potent lefthanded bat with above-average power potential. Lefthander Hogan Harris (La.) has a fastball that has touched 93 with feel for a big-breaking curveball.

Northeast Mets

The team organized by Mets scouts has a considerable amount of draft talent this year and finished in third place last year. Middle infielder Dante Ricciardi (Mass.)—the son of special assistant to the Mets general manager, J.P.—had a game-winning hit to beat the Orlando Scorpions in the playoffs last year and returns this year. Outfielder Garrett Whitley (N.Y.) is one of the top power-speed outfielders in the class with the potential to remain in center field as a 6.65 runner in the 60-yard dash and above-average raw power. He impressed at East Coast Pro and the Area Code Games with his ability to impact the baseball in game action.

The Mets offer a depth of arms. Righthander Jason Bilous (Del.) ran his fastball up to 94 at East Coast Pro and is a rare prep prospect from Delaware. Strong-bodied 2016 lefthander Jeff Belge (N.Y.) has an easy delivery and touched 93 at ECP. Lefthander Brendon Little (Pa.) has been up to 93 with a curveball-changeup combo that show at least average potential, flashing better. Righthander Ronald Rossomando (Conn.) had a strong outing at the ACG and sat in the 88-89 with a quick arm and high-spin fastball, according to TrackMan. Infielder-righthander Wesley Rodriguez (N.Y.) has run his fastball into the low-90s with feel for a curveball.

St. Louis Mets

Previously called the St. Louis Pirates, this is one of the top programs in the Midwest with alumni such as Jake Odorizzi and Johnny Hellweg, along with 2013 draft picks Devin Williams (second round, Brewers) and Jake Brentz (11th round, Blue Jays).

The roster boats a pair of Illinois righthanders. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound Fitz Stadler has a big, projectable build and athleticism that produces sink to his fastball and extension out front on his fastball that sat in the high-80s at the ACG. Grant Sloan has an athletic build and has been up to 90 mph.

Team Elite

Team Elite is an emerging program that won the MBC last year, drawing its talent base mostly from Georgia. The program has had marquee prospects in the last two drafts; Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows in 2013 and Gettys and Dylan Cease in 2014.

Michael Gettys’ younger brother Jonathan (Ga.) is a 2016 lefthander with a fastball that sat in low-90s at ECP from an easy delivery and husky build. Outfielder Bryce Denton (Tenn.) was one of the top performers at ECP, showing bat speed and power potential. Jahmai Jones (Ga.) has a strong, physical build and pull-side power. Outfielder Isaiah Gilliam (Ga.) offers plus power from both sides of the plate.

Orlando Scorpions

Brendan Rodgers (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode).

Brendan Rodgers

Founded in 1995, the Scorpions are one of the longest-running travel baseball programs in the country, drawing most of its talent from the Sunshine State. The Scorpions’ alumni list includes Zack Greinke, Chris Sale, Jonny Venters, Jonathan Lucroy, Nick Franklin, Nick Maronde and Carson Sands.

The Scorpions boast one of the top position players in the prep class in shortstop Brendan Rodgers (Fla.), who combines an up-the-middle defensive profile with plus raw power and feel for hitting. Righthander Derek West (Fla.) has a big build at 6-foot-4, 239 pounds with a fastball up to 92.