USA Baseball announced its 20-man roster for the 2017 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 World Cup on Thursday night, finalizing the roster from a group of 40 players who were invited to National Team Trials in Minneapolis, Minn.
|2017 18U National Team|
|Will Banfield, C/RHP, Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga.|
|Triston Casas, 1B/RHP, American Heritage, Plantation, Fla.|
|Raynel Delgado, IF, Mater Academy, Hialeah Gardens, Fla.|
|Mason Denaburg, RHP/C, Merritt Island (Fla.) HS|
|Brandon Dieter, RHP/IF, South Hills HS, West Covina, Calif.|
|J.T. Ginn, RHP/IF, Brandon (Miss.) High|
|Nolan Gorman, IF, O'Connor HS, Phoenix|
|Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS, Cumming, Ga.|
|Jarred Kelenic, OF/LHP; Waukesha (Wisc.) West HS|
|Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS, Riverdale, Ariz.|
|Landon Marceaux, RHP, Destrehan (La.) HS|
|Anthony Seigler, C/RLHP, Cartersville (Ga.) HS|
|Joseph Menefee, LHP, George Ranch HS, Richmond, Tex.|
|Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS, Bogart, Ga.|
|Michael Siani, OF/LHP, Penn Charter HS, Philadelphia|
|Alek Thomas, OF, Mt. Carmel HS, Chicago|
|Brice Turang, IF, Santiago HS, Corona, Calif.|
|Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto (Tenn.) HS|
|Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage HS, Ringgold, Ga.|
|Carter Young, C/Util, Selah (Wash.) HS|
With the team finalized, manager Andy Stankiewicz—the head coach for Grand Canyon—can now focus on figuring out how to deploy his players in the best way possible, to try and become just the second country to win four straight gold medals in the World Cup.
18U National Team director Matt Blood, Stankiewicz and the rest of the coaching staff were responsible for finalizing the team, which has an obvious strength on the mound (in both quantity and quality), outfield defense and a myriad of players who offer much-needed versatility.
“It's the hardest part of this process,” Blood said about the roster, on MLB.com’s live selection show. “But you only get 20. It's a numbers game. 20 players in the whole country . . . It's impossible to put it into words how hard it is.
“It's just a very talented group. Some of them did every single thing that we asked them to. They performed well, they worked hard, but at the end of the day you only have 20.”
In addition to having a deeper talent pool to choose from and make the 2017 roster, the 18U team has the benefit of experience, with four players returning from last year’s 18U team that won gold medal in the 2016 COPABE Pan American Championships: Triston Casas (American Heritage, Plantation, Fla.); Jarred Kelenic (Waukesha West High, Wis.); Mike Siani (Penn Charter High, Philadelphia); and Brice Turang (Santiago High, Corona, Calif.).
For Turang, this year will still be significantly different, as an injury prevented him from playing in any games with the 2016 team.
“Last year I broke my face the day before we left,” Turang said on MLB.com. “Now I actually get to play and I'm very excited. It's baseball. Stuff happens. Got to move forward and keep going.”
Currently ranked as the top high school player in the country, Turang is a natural shortstop, but has played both middle infield positions at Tournament of Stars, National Team Trials, and a handful of events throughout the summer.
"I'll play whatever,” he said. “I'm not going to pick and choose where I play. I'm ready for both positions. I've been playing them all summer. I'm ready to win a gold with the guys behind me. Let's do it.”
While Team USA boasts a healthy dose of experience, the team also took the youngest player among the 40-man trials roster, in utility player Carter Young (Selah High, Wash.). While he is the sole member of the 2019 high school class, Young has USA experience—he was a bronze medal winner with the 15U National Team in 2016—and can play multiple infield positions and catcher.
That versatility goes a long way in helping a player make the tight roster, although Blood has said multiple times that they would not force a player onto the team simply because he was solid at both positions—a player has to be elite at at least one to make the team.
The 2017 18U team boasts a number of players who fit into this category, including the top two-way player in the class: Mason Denaburg (Merritt Island High, Fla.). Denaburg throws in the mid-90s from the mound and is also a legitimate pro prospect as a catcher with a strong bat at the plate. Denaburg is expected to primarily pitch, and serve as the team’s emergency catcher.
Brandon Dieter (South Hills High, West Covina, Calif.) can make an impact as a middle infielder, showed power during trials, and has great feel for a four-pitch mix on the mound, getting his fastball into the low 90s.
Anthony Seigler is pro prospect behind the plate, but can get on the mound and pitch effectively with both arms—a unique and valuable weapon for Stankiewicz to have at his disposal.
“It's a testament to (Blood), he did a great job compiling 40 of the country's best (players),” Stankiewicz said on the MLB.com selection show. “You look at the team that we have here. The pitching staff is power arms, and it's going to be a great lineup. Quick and fast and strong—and our job now is to build a lineup that can beat you in different facets of the game.
“Be aggressive. You think you've got first and third? You go for it. Attack the game, play with your hair on fire… I'm excited because it's finally going to be us vs. them. It's going to be fun to face a different opponent. And we really want to get after it.”