By Allan Simpson
October 22, 2002
With a lineup featuring projected first-round picks Lastings Milledge and Delmon Young, a team sponsored by Baseball America will open the annual Perfect Game/Baseball America World Wood Bat Association championship in Jupiter, Fla., on Friday as the pre-tournament favorite.
In addition to Milledge and Young, the No. 1 and 2 prep players in the Class of 2003, the BA squad will feature righthander Jeff Allison, the top-ranked pitcher for next year as well. The top three prospects in the 2004 draft class are also on the BA team.
“On raw talent, that will be the team to beat,” tournament director Jerry Ford said. “But you never know sometimes how a group of individuals will play together.”
Two years ago, an all-star team representing Baseball America won the event; last year, the BA team never got on track and didn’t even advance out of pool play. Young played on both teams.
The upstart Miami Sluggers, a team composed entirely of Miami area high school players, won the 2001 championship, proving you can win a national scale event without a loaded roster.
Seventy-two teams of top high school players from throughout the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will converge on Jupiter. The event should also attract upwards of 500 scouts and college recruiters.
This year’s field is the strongest ever and it is expected that as many as 250 of the top 300 high school juniors and seniors will participate in the event, which will also include some of the traditional features of a showcase, such as timed 60-yard dashes.
“Our main purpose is to showcase the players,” Ford said, “but it also gives scouts and recruiters an opportunity to see them in a competitive environment. I’d be surprised if any other event has ever attracted the depth of high school talent we’ll have here.”
The tournament will be played at the joint spring training complexes of the Marlins and Cardinals, which will allow as many as 13 games to be played at one time. The first games Friday begin at 8:30 a.m.
Teams will be broken into 18 four-team pools, with the 36 top teams advancing to single-elimination bracket play on Sunday that will lead to a championship game on Monday.
Here’s an early look at how the top teams shape up. Player rankings are based on Prospects Plus rankings of the top players in the draft classes of 2003, 2004 and 2005:
1. BASEBALL AMERICA. Baseball America was crowned champions in 2000; last year, a loaded BA team did not make the final 32-team field. On paper, BA looks like the favorite again with 12 of the top 35 ranked seniors in the country. The team features an outfield of Milledge (FL), Young (CA) and No. 10-ranked (Ryan Sweeney/IA). Infielders include No. 30-ranked Lance Zawadzki(MA), No. 17-ranked Ian Stewart (CA) and No. 2-ranked (2004)Matt Bush (CA), with No. 3-ranked (2004) Jared Kubin (VA) expected to garner most of the playing time at first base. Doing the catching will be No. 51-ranked Justin Brashear (LA) and No. 76-ranked Brian Opdyke (AZ). The pitching staff is outstanding, too, with the No.5-ranked Allison, top-ranked ’04 Jason Corder (CA), No. 49-ranked Anthony Whittington (WV), No. 25-rankedQuentin Andes (NM), No. 28-ranked Chris Perez (FL), No. 9-ranked Andrew Miller (FL) and No. 7-ranked Jared Hughes (CA).
2. TEAM FLORIDA USA. Last year's runner-up team is loaded again. This year's club is led by nationally-ranked players like No. 18 Phillip Stringer (TX), Daniel Perales (CA), Asher Demme(VA), No. 13 Chad Billingsley (OH), No. 95 Darin Downs (FL), No. 22 Jarrod Saltalamacchia (FL), Matt Moses (VA), No. 42Eddy Rodriguez (FL), No. 8 ’04 Homer Bailey (TX), No. 118Sean Watson (FL), No. 34 Ian Kennedy (CA), No. 74 Dylan Gonzalez (FL) and Pete Taraskevich (FL).
3. OHIO WARHAWKS. The perennial power Warhawks have put together a talented lineup that includes nationally-ranked players such as No.43 Donald Veal (AZ), No.48 David Winfree (VA),Andy Knox (FL), Matt Antonelli (MA), No.79 Adam Davis (FL),Chris Johnson (FL), No.14 ’04 Josh Copeland (GA), No.7 ’04Mike Rozier (GA), No.11 ’04 Brian Futral (GA), Brendan Murphy (TN) and Jacob Stevens (FL).
4. ALL-STAR BASEBALL ACADEMY (Pa.). This team has done well in the tournament in the past and is led by top ranked prospects like No.4 Chris Lubanski (PA), No.8 Jay Sborz (VA),Billy Muldowney (PA), Bill Konecny (PA) and Adrian Santiago(DE). Also top underclassmen No.1 ’05 Justin Upton (VA), No.6 ’04 Nick Adenhart (MD) and Kevin Marrie (MD) will show their talent. The rest of the squad includes top talent from the Northeast.
5. EAST COBB (Ga.) BRAVES. East Cobb's older team is always a threat to win it all. The Braves are led by nationally-ranked prospects like No.66 Whit Robbins, No.28 C.J. Bressoud, Matt Eckardt, No.46 Kyle Muschara, Paul Vasquez and other top level ’03s. Underclassmen include No.44 ’04 John Mark Owings, Brad Hocking and the Crisp brothers–Adam and Andrew from South Carolina.
6. EAST COBB (Ga.) ASTROS. This team features all underclassmen, but is special. The Astros won the AAU and Continental Amateur Baseball Association (CABA) 16-year-old national titles during the summer and won the PG/BA World Wood Bat Association Underclassmen championship earlier this month in Fort Myers. They have a strong supply of high-caliber pitching and they can hit. Led by nationally-ranked underclassmen like No.4 ’04Chris Nelson, No.66 ’04 Brad Emaus, No.2 ’05 Miers Quigley,No.72 ’04 Ryan Schwartz, No.57 ’04 Dexter Fowler, No.9 ’04John Michael Vidic, No.95 ’04 Brad Feltes, No.59 ’04 Josh Clendenin–all local products–and No. 18 ’04 Jay Rainville (RI), this team will be tough to beat.
7. HOUSTON KYLE CHAPMAN. The traditional Texas power is ready to compete with many nationally-ranked players, led by Josh Rodriguez, No.70 Mark Krampitz, Jeff Mandel, Cory VanAllen, Brett Lawler and Phillip Allen.
8. AUSTIN (Texas) BASEBALL CLUB. Nationally-ranked players to keep a close eye on include No.88 Travis Schlichting, No.68 John Danks, No. 49 Matt Nachreiner.
9. RIVERSIDE (Calif.) ABD BULLDOGS. The Bulldogs always seem to be in the championship hunt at national tournaments and are led by a host of nationally-ranked players from California and a few top prospects from other parts of the country. No.33 Michael Rogers (OK), No.77 Xavier Paul (LA) and top underclassmen like No.9 ’05 Chris Dominguez (FL), No.15 ’04 James Parr (NM),No.100 ’04 Mark Wyner (CT) are among the non-California players. No.98 Zech Zinicola, Steven Wright, Michael Joyce andJosh Satin are 2003 local players to watch, while Joe Spiers and No.47 Greg Burns are a couple ’04s to keep an eye on.
10. HOUSTON HEAT. The Heat go deep in pitching with outstanding arms like No.80 Doug Frame, No.55 Austin Creps, Justin O'Bannon, Josh Ruffin and Brad Depoy, and top ’04s No. 29 Kenn Kasparek and No.27 Tyler Kersten. No.160 Josh Stinson is a highly-ranked catcher.
11. CALIFORNIA BLAZE. The Blaze looks primed to make its mark. It is led by top senior prospects like No.71 Adam Jones (CA), No.114 John Peabody (CA), No.141 D.J. Lewis (CA) and No.65 ’04 Brad Chalk (SC), among others. The pitching staff is led by No.50 Jim West (AZ) and No.5 ’04 Chuck Lofgren.
12. LOUISIANA DEVIL RAYS. A lot of talent is featured on this team and it will be tough to beat. Highly-ranked players nationally are local products Josh Rainwater, Brandon Belcher, Wade LaBlanc, Steven Broschofsky and Cody Poche, among others. Top-ranked ’04s include Javier Guerra (TX), C.J. Blue (TX) andMichael Hollander (LA).
OTHERS TO WATCH:
Dulin’s (Tenn.) Dodgers, which won the 17 and 18 national AAU championships this summer and have the talent to do well in Jupiter again this year . . . Midland (Ohio) Redskins, a perennial national power in Connie Mack Baseball who have stockpiled talent from all over the country . . . Bama Bombers, who have assembled nearly every top high school prospect in Alabama, including highly ranked No. 58 Derik Olvey . . . Virginia White Sox Scout Team, with a lot of the top Virginia prospects, including lefty Alex Smith . . .Hitters Baseball (Wis.), led by top-ranked pitcher Daryl Maday and other talented prospects from Illinois and Wisconsin . . . Columbia (Texas) Angels, with several top Texas prospects . . . Arlington (Texas) A's, with big lefty William Blackmon and several star Texas players . . . Bayside (N.Y.) Yankees, always a threat as they load up for this tournament and produce as many draft picks each year as anyone . . . Hoosier Bat (Ind.), who feature out-of-state productsJordan Belcher (GA) and Mike Bartley (VA) . . . Florida Crush,winners of the Florida regional, are loaded with talent and a deep staff with 90-plus mph arms . . . Tampa Tornadoes, who have No.3-ranked Ryan Harvey, No.21-ranked Andy D'Alessio, No. 70-ranked Scott Leffler and several noteworthy pitchers on their roster, including No.62 Michael Wagner . . . Puerto Rico Raiders, with all the top prospects from Puerto Rico . . . South Bay (Calif.) Sharks, which feature top-ranked California players such as Chris Valaika, Joe Persichina, Brandon Buxbaum and Case Dahlen from the ’03 class and Andy Beal from ’04 . . . Pinellas (Fla.) Phillies, A talented team from the Tampa Bay area . . . On Deck (N.C.), which features the three best ’03 pitchers from North Carolina–No.32 Daniel Bard, No.47 Ryan Marion and Robert Woodard . . . Gulf Coast (Fla.) Yellow Jackets have highly-ranked pitchers like No.21 Scott Maine and No.45 Chris Worster . . . Rijo (Wash.) Athletics features a lot of top talent from the Pacific Northwest, notably Ian Gac . . . Team Ontario, with Michael Cart as a player to watch, and the Ontario Blue Jays, with speedy outfielder Kern Watts.