After five days of trials, USA Baseball has chosen its 18U National Team 20-man roster to defend last year’s gold medal at the 2013 18U World Cup in Taichung, Taiwan.
Using a different format than last year, the initial 40-man roster was divided into two squads for five days of games, which were held at some of California’s best baseball venues, including Dodger Stadium, Long Beach State’s Blair Field and the University of San Diego’s Fowler Park. Instead of having a series of smaller roster cuts, the 20-man rosters remained intact throughout the five days of games, which prepared them for the smaller international roster limits.
USA played against a scout team Friday and will leave for Taichung later Friday night. Head coach Rob Cooper, a veteran of two college national teams, has learned a tactic for adjusting to the 15-hour time difference.
“Part of the reason is that we are leaving when we are is we are trying to keep them up to have their bodies adjust,” Cooper said.
The team will play three exhibition games against Chinese Taipei (as Taiwan is called in international play) beginning Aug. 26 before the World Cup commences on Aug. 30. The medal round competition will begin Sept. 8.
With the smaller roster limits, positional versatility is critical. Six players are listed just as hitters and seven are listed exclusively as pitchers, with the other seven all being two-way players.
The full roster is below and has a description of every player. Coach Cooper discussed how the specific players performed over the trials or how they will be used internationally.
Brady Aiken, lhp, Cathedral Catholic High, San Diego
“The guy can really pitch. He has really good pitchability and is super competitive. He can just repeat pitches and location. The two times he pitched, he pitched with conviction to make the team.”
The 6-foot-3, 207-pound UCLA commit has an athletic build and fastball that can touch 93 to compliment a curveball and changeup that have above-average potential.
Bryson Brigman, 2b/ss/of, Valley Christian High, San Jose
“He already has a gold medal and some experience that you are fortunate to have. I am excited to have that leadership on the club.”
A smooth and athletic 5-foot-10, 176-pound San Diego recruit, Brigman has plus speed, bat speed and a steady glove. He was one of two underclassmen on last year’s gold medal winning team.
Joe DeMers, rhp, College Park, Martinez, Calif.
“He has USA experience. He can start or relieve and brings a lot of different things to the table.”
A strong-bodied 6-foot, 209-pound rising junior committed to Washington, DeMers has fastball capable of hitting 92 mph and shows feel for two offspeed offerings.
Alex Destino, rhp/of, North Buncombe High, Weaverville, N.C
“We felt like he was one of the most consistent guys offensively and he did a good job on the mound. I expect him to help with his offense and pitching.”
A strong 6-foot-2, 217-pound two-way player with a fastball that can touch 92 from a deceptive delivery, Destino has feel for a 76-78 mph breaking ball with three-quarter tilt and low-80s changeup. At the plate, the South Carolina commit has good power to his pull side.
Jack Flaherty, 3b/rhp, Harvard-Westlake High, Studio City, Calif
“He is a super athlete and can really play. He is also going to help us on the mound and at the plate.”
Flaherty has an athletic 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame, above-average speed and arm and some present feel to hit. A North Carolina commit who bypassed an opportunity to play in the Under Armour game to play for Team USA, Flaherty has gap power that should increase as he fills his frame.
Marvin Gorgas, rhp/3b/2b, East Hampton (Conn.) High
“I saw him last summer at the 17U national training development program, and I think he has gotten better and better. He can play third or short if we need it. And he can pitch. He has a breaking ball that can be a swing-and-miss pitch out of the bullpen.”
The Connecticut commit showed low-90s fastball that touched 93 mph at Tournament of Stars to go with a 77-79 mph breaking ball. He has athleticism, defensive aptitude and a quick stroke.
Adam Haseley, of/lhp, The First Academy, Windermere, Fla.
“He is a very versatile guy. He can help us on the mound and in the outfield. He has one of the best approaches on our team.”
A plus runner committed to Virginia, the 6-foot, 180-pound Haseley has a compact stroke and sound approach. He is capable of low-90s velocity and has a high-70s breaking ball.
Scott Hurst, of, Bishop Amat, Glendora, Calif.
“Everybody knows that he can hit but I don’t think he gets enough credit for his defense. He will be big help to us defensively. He can really repeat his swing. The thing we talk about as coaches is we very rarely see him take bad swings.”
Hurst has plus speed and one of the best outfield arms in the country to go with a smooth swing and feel for hitting. The Cal State Fullerton commit has the athleticism to handle second base as well.
Kel Johnson, of, Home schooled, Palmetto, Ga.
A Georgia Tech commit, Johnson finished second in the MLB Junior Select Home Run Derby with 13 home runs at Citi Field during the All-Star Game festivities.
Johnson made the team despite missing time after a foul ball at Goodwin Field hit his sister Summer in the head, hospitalizing her and leaving her with skull fractures and bleeding in her brain as well as damage in one of her eyes. She has made sufficient improvement to return home to Georgia, and Johnson returned to the field to earn a spot on the team.
Trace Loehr, 2b/ss, Putnam High, Milwaukie, Ore.
“The best way to describe him is a middle infielder that plays like his hair is on fire. He can run. He can hit. He plays good defense and has serious leadership qualities.”
Loehr, an Oregon State commit, has quickness, arm strength and good body control. He has a physical 5-foot-10, 176-pound build and a good lefthanded swing.
Mac Marshall, lhp, Parkview High, Liburn, Ga.
“I had never seen him before. This was the first time but he is very competitive and has an ability to repeat pitches. He will be a very tough left-on-left matchup.”
The athletic 6-foot, 187-pound Louisiana State commit has a fastball that has been up to 94 mph this summer. He has feel for a changeup and breaking ball.
Keaton McKinney, rhp/1b, Ankeny (Iowa) High
“He is another guy that is going help us on the mound and at the plate. He really swung the bat well for us. He has a good approach.”
McKinney has a strong, durable 6-foot-4, 223-pound build and a fastball that can sit in the low-90s with sink. His changeup is one of the best in the class.
Jacob Nix, rhp, Los Alamitos (Calif.) High
“He was one of the guys that the second time he threw he really maintained velocity, and he has three pitches he can throw for strikes.”
With a physical build at 6-foot-4, 205-pounds, Nix has an easy delivery and sat 90-93 mph, touching 94 at Tournament of Stars. His 71-75 mph breaking ball has two-plane break and he has a mid-80s changeup.
Luis Ortiz, rhp, Sanger (Calif.) High
“He is a back end of the game type of guy for us. He is going to be a late-inning guy.”
One of the most consistent high school pitchers this summer, Ortiz often sits 91-94 mph with his fastball, touching 95. The Fresno State commit has one of the best sliders in the class.
Jakson Reetz, c/of/rhp, Norris High, Hickman, Neb.
“This week he has done it all. He has played the outfield. He has pitched. He has played third base. The guy plays with a lot of energy and plays hard.”
Reetz has as much versatility as any player in the class, capable of touching 93 mph with his fastball and using that arm strength behind the plate. He has hit well in games throughout the summer, winning the Perfect Game All-American Classic MVP.
Michael Rivera, c, Venice Senior (Fla.) High
“He is versatile. He can play third and first and catch. He can really hit. If you look over his career, the guy wins. He is a winner and you need that mindset on this team.”
A Florida commit, Rivera has an unconventional setup at the plate but showed the ability to square up good pitching at Tournament of Stars with a compact stroke.
J.J. Schwarz, c, Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High
“He will be a solid defender for us. He didn’t do anything out here to slow him down offensively. He has a great hands behind the plate, which will be big in this sort of a tournament.”
Schwarz was a hitting standout at East Coast Pro, showing power from his 6-foot-1, 193-pound frame.
Justus Sheffield, lhp, Tullahoma (Tenn.) High
“The biggest thing for me is that he is super competitive. He was on a mission to make the team. He did a great job. The biggest thing that stood out is that the likes to compete.”
The 5-foot-10, 196-pound Sheffield has polish and feel for three pitches, a fastball up to 94, changeup and breaking ball that both have above-average potential.
Lane Thomas, of, Bearden High, Knoxville, Tenn.
“Lane had a great Tournament of Stars and played his tail off for us. He will see time in center and left. We are excited to see what he can do.”
Thomas, who is 5-foot-11, 175-pounds and committed to Tennessee, has plus speed, an average arm and natural strength.
Cole Tucker, ss/3b/2b, Mountain Pointe High, Phoenix
“Cole brings a lot of different things to the table. He has defensive flexibility and can play short, third or second. He gives us a lot of versatility. He has great energy and enthusiasm for the game.”
The versatile and switch-hitting Tucker has some quickness, arm strength and a long, rangy build at 6-foot-3, 180-pounds. An Arizona commit, Tucker has a line-drive approach.