USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars, presented by Major League Baseball, starts Wednesday at the National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. It matches up some of the country’s best high school talent, playing for USA Baseball or one of its national member organizations, and serves as the first step in the selection of the 18U National Team.
Baseball America produced the program for the event, which features team capsules and rosters, as well as a look at the top prospects in the event. You can view it on your Web browser or other device here. Or if you’d like it on your iPhone or iPad, you can download it free from Baseball America’s app in the App Store. Here’s one of the stories from the program, ranking the top 10 players to play in the event since 2000.
CARY, N.C.–USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars has done more than just help select players for our nation’s 18-and-under national team. It has helped launch the careers of many players on their path to the major leagues.
For some, it’s a chance to play in front of more major league scouts and college recruiters than they ever imagined. For others, it’s an affirmation that they belong in the same conversation as the other top players in the country. And for some, it’s a humbling experience that shows them just how much work they have to do to take their career in the direction they want to go.
We combed through the 21st century rosters of TOS past to find the top alumni, and judged them based on what they have done since they played in the Tournament of Stars, not what they did in the event.
1. Buster Posey: 2004, USA White
Posey pitched and played shortstop back in high school and turned down the Angels in the 50th round of the 2005 draft to attend Florida State. He was Baseball America’s College Player of the Year and the Golden Spikes Award winner in 2008, then went on to an already storied big league career with the Giants, helping them win the 2010 and 2012 World Series championships. He was National League Rookie of the Year in 2010, NL MVP in 2012 and won his first batting championship last season as well.
2. Joe Mauer: 2000, USA Grey
Mauer starred for USA Baseball national teams from 1998-2000, including a .559 average during the 2000 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta, where he played first base. The U.S. won the silver medal, and Mauer went on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft by his hometown Minnesota Twins. He’s won three batting titles since then, was the 2009 American League MVP and carried a .323 big league batting average into the 2013 season.
3. Clayton Kershaw: 2005, AABC
Kershaw was part of a 2005 AABC roster that also included current Athletics lefthander Brett Anderson and Angels catcher Hank Conger. He wound up being picked seventh overall in the 2006 draft out of a Texas high school and reached the major leagues barely two years later. He’s already won one Cy Young Award, as well as two ERA titles and one strikeouts crown.
4. Andrew McCutchen: 2004, Dixie
McCutchen earned a spot on the 2004 18U national team, though he went just 2-for-15 on the team with five walks. It was a star-studded team that included Justin Upton, Posey and future Mets teammates Ike Davis and Jonathan Niese. McCutchen has made his mark with the Pirates, leading the NL in hits in 2012 while earning his first Gold Glove and making his second All-Star Game.
5. Zack Greinke: 2001, NABF
Greinke couldn’t quite crack a stout 2001 18U roster that included fellow Clemson recruit Jeff Francouer. Neither ended up on campus and Greinke has gone on to have the better big league career as a pitcher, though he was an outstanding amateur hitter. Now with the Dodgers, his fourth big league organization. Greinke won the Cy Young Award in the American League in 2009 while leading the AL in ERA (2.16) and is closing in on 100 career victories.
6. Bryce Harper: 2009, American Legion
Harper brought more media attention to the TOS than any player. He was coming off his sophomore high school season and had just been named Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year the week he arrived, and he was on his way to enrolling early in junior college so he could enter the 2010 draft. He became the first overall pick in 2010 and reached the major leagues with the Nationals in 2012. Despite the pressure of expectations, Harper lived up to the hype to earn NL Rookie of the Year honors and help lead the Nats to their first playoff spot.
7. Mike Trout: 2008, AABC
Trout was a raw, relatively unknown New Jersey product when he came to the Tournament of Stars and didn’t make the 18U roster. He committed to East Carolina but burst on the scene as a prep senior with improved physicality to go with his top-notch speed. He had a season for the ages in 2012 with the Angels, winning Baseball America’s Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards concurrently, the first player to do so. He led the majors with 49 stolen bases and 129 runs.
8. Justin Upton: 2004, RBI
Upton’s brother B.J. played in the TOS in 2001 and went second overall in the draft in 2002. Justin Upton one-upped his brother, going No. 1 overall in 2005, and now has become teammates with his big brother on the Atlanta Braves. Justin Upton hit 31 homers in 2011 en route to his second All-Star berth and got off to a torrid start in 2013 with his new club.
9. Austin Jackson: 2004, RBI
Jackson teamed with Upton on the ‘04 RBI roster, but Jackson was thought by many to be more of a basketball recruit, as he’d signed a scholarship to play point guard at Georgia Tech. Jackson’s baseball talent was too much to ignore and the Yankees drafted him and signed him out of high school. Traded to the Tigers in the Curtis Granderson deal, he’s become a playmaking ballhawk in center field and hit .300 for the first time in 2012 while leading the AL in triples for the second straight season.
10. Manny Machado: 2009, AABC
Machado played with current Orioles teammate Kevin Gausman in the 2009 TOS on the AABC roster, and forged a friendship with Harper during the TOS and with the 18U national team, which won Pan Am gold that summer. Machado and Harper now are big league rivals in the Baltimore-Washington area, as Machado hit seven homers in an abbreviated rookie season to help push the Orioles to their first playoff (and winning) season since 1997.