Scouts will have to add another must-see event to the summer scouting calendar. The Mets are organizing a tournament called the Metropolitan Baseball Classic, an eight-team tournament that will take place in New York over Labor Day weekend.
"There's no tournaments going on during that time and it'll be a nice warmup for Jupiter," Mets scouting director Tommy Tanous said. "We want to do it first-class. It's going to be a really positive experience for the kids."
Tanous said he got the idea from talking with longtime scouting director Bob Fontaine Jr., when the two worked together in Toronto. Fontaine started the Mariner Cup when he was the Mariners’ scouting director from 2004-2008, but that event was more regional, mostly focusing on players from the Northwest and California, and died off when Fontaine left the organization. This event will be national in scale and open to the industry, though it may fall during a quiet period for college recruiting coordinators.
"I think it will be a nice event for the whole industry," Tanous said. "It's less about the showcase, where they run the 60 (yard dash) and all that, and let's have a baseball tournament to see the kids in more competition. We see them in all the showcase events; sometimes you just want to see them play baseball."
Weather permitting, every team is guaranteed four games with pool play between two groups of four teams and then a championship game, a third-place game, a fifth-place game and a seventh-place game. Each team will play at least one game at Citi Field, but games will also take place at MCU Park, the home of the Mets' short-season Brooklyn Cyclones, and at St. John's Jack Kaiser Stadium.
For the Mets, the tournament allows their staff to become more familiar with the players, and the players and their families to become more familiar with the organization. The Mets can learn more about the players' makeup and can perform various tests, if they choose, on some of 2014's top prospects.
In addition to a team from Texas and a team from New York and New England, both handpicked by Mets' scouts, the tournament will feature some of the top travel teams in the country:
The Canes program focuses on players in the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic regions but has started to gain national pull. The organization had 17 alumni taken in the 2013 draft, most notably Chad Pinder, Kyle Crockett, Matt McPhearson and Bobby Wahl. This year's top prospects include Pinder's younger brother Chase Pinder, a shortstop and center fielder from Poquoson (Va.) High committed to Clemson; power-hitting first baseman Justin Bellinger from St. Sebastian's High in Needham, Mass., committed to Vanderbilt; and sweet-swinging third baseman Charlie Cody from Great Bridge High in Chesapeake, Va., committed to Virginia.
While many newer travel teams are still waiting for their first big leaguer, NorCal boasts impressive alumni, including Jimmy Rollins, Troy Tulowitzki, Pat Burrell, Brandon Morrow, Xavier Nady, Dontrelle Willis and Brandon Crawford, to name a few. This year's team could include fireballing righthander Luis Ortiz from Sanger (Calif.) High, toolsy outfielders Casey Soltis (from Granada High in Livermore, Calif.) and Derek Hill from Elk Grove (Calif.) High, as well as some talented underclassemen.
The organization only recently started sending teams to tournaments but has already proven to be a force on the scene. While the team recruits mostly from the South, Marucci Elite has a national recruiting base, as evidenced by alumni like Rays outfield prospect Mikie Mahtook, Blue Jays outfield prospect D.J. Davis, Phillies second base prospect Andrew Pullin, Royals righthander Kyle Smith, as well as top picks in the 2013 draft like righthander Ryan Eades (second round, Twins) and outfielder Justin Williams (second round, Diamondbacks) and a top prospect for 2014, Louisville's flame-throwing righthander Nick Burdi.
Founded in 1995, the Scorpions are one of the longest-running travel baseball programs in the country. The Scorpions' alumni list includes Zack Greinke, Chris Sale, Jonny Venters, Jonathan Lucroy, Nick Franklin and Nick Maronde. The Scorpions also have many talented 2014 prospects including speedy center fielder Carl Chester and shortstop Tate Blackman from Lake Brantley High in Altamonte Springs, Fla., lefthander Carson Sands from North Florida Christian High in Tallahassee, Fla., and righthander Andrew Karp from West Orange High in Winter Garden, Fla.
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).
Team Elite is one of the emerging programs in Georgia. While the program doesn't have any big leaguers yet, it made a splash in the 2013 draft with two outfielders picked in the top 10: Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows. the program's alumni also includes minor leaguers such as Rangers outfielder Zach Cone, White Sox righthander Chris Beck and Cubs outfielder Trey Martin. The team should have premium talent again with outfielder/righthander Michael Gettys from Gainesville (Ga.) High and hard-throwing righthander Dylan Cease from Milton (Ga.) High, among others.