NHSI Preview: Crystal Ball

With the USA Baseball National High School Invitational, presented by Baseball America, set to start Wednesday morning, why not share our thoughts and predictions going into the tournament? Conor Glassey and I answered three general questions about the event: What about this year’s event are you anticipating the most? Who is your pick to be a star or breakout player? What are your championship predictions?

Anticipation

Rode: Apart from just being pumped and jacked about the event overall, I’m really excited about seeing some new players that I’ve only heard about through contacts and following teams’ progress this season. At the top of that list has to be Chris Andritsos, a corner infielder and righthander for The Woodlands (Texas) High. He has 11 home runs and 33 RBIs in just 17 games. The Highlanders’ head coach, Ron Eastman, told me about him over the winter and now the hype has only swelled from his fast start. He’s just a sophomore so it’ll be interesting to see how he does on the national stage, though Houston-area baseball is excellent. I’m sure he’ll be up to the task.

Glassey: I’m really looking forward to everything. With so many of the top teams in the country in the same place at the same time, it’s always an electric atmosphere. The games are exciting, the prospect matchups are exciting and it’s always fun to see players you haven’t seen before. If I have to get more specific, I’m excited to see top 2013 draft prospects such as (but not limited to) outfielder Austin Meadows from Grayson High in Loganville, Ga., righthander Jordan Sheffield from Tullahoma (Tenn.) High, and catchers Chris Okey from Eustis (Fla.) High, Nick Ciuffo from Lexington (S.C.) High and Jeremy Martinez from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. I’m also looking forward to seeing top players for future drafts like Andritsos and righthander/shortstop Dylan Cease from Milton (Ga.) High.

Star Player

Chris Okey

Chris Okey (Photo by Larry Goren)

Rode: Draft experts and fans were familiar with Courtney Hawkins before last year’s NHSI, but I don’t think anybody could have predicted him boosting his stock the way he did in 2012. With that being said, because of the 2012 NHSI, most people know the name Ryan McMahon. A sweet-swinging third baseman, McMahon put his name on the prospect map during Mater Dei High’s (Santa Ana, Calif.) run through the tournament. McMahon has been swinging a hot bat the last week or so and with his experience from last year’s event, I think he will run his name up draft boards before the weekend is over.

Glassey: The player who I think could really break out at this event is catcher Chris Okey from Eustis (Fla.) High. Okey already has some helium this spring and a big event against key pitchers in front of nearly 100 scouts could elevate his draft status even further. I’m a big fan of his athleticism, leadership and short, line-drive swing.

Predictions

Rode: Where’s the Baseball America bracket pool for this one, Will Lingo? I bet mine would be much better than what my March Madness one looks like now. Pitching is extremely important for tournaments as four games in four days will test a team’s depth. At the same time, running into a hot lineup can render any staff irrelevant. San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High has five Division I arms on its staff and I think that will get them to the finals, but I’ll take The Woodlands as the 2013 NHSI Champions since they seem to have a potent lineup that is cruising right now.

Glassey: Since it’s March Madness and all, I’ll give you my projected final four—Cathedral Catholic, Eustis, Mater Dei and The Woodlands. For the championship game, I’m going with another California showdown and sticking with the defending champions, Mater Dei, to outlast Cathedral Catholic’s deep roster of talented pitchers. With their experience, star power, and potent lineup, it’s hard to bet against the Monarchs.