Elijah Cabell, Joseph Gray, Ryder Green, Jarred Kelenic, Connor Scott, Michael Siani, Alek Thomas
Kelenic, who was the MVP of the the Pan American Championship and homered in the gold medal game, was also at the selection show, and talked about what being on the team meant to him, as he is a favorite to make the team for a second year.
“I think the biggest thing was just being around such a great group of guys,” he said. “But at the same time we’re all competing for the same goal . . . It really betters you, not only as a person, but as a player.”
Siani was also on the team last year, and has the tools to impact the game in a variety of ways according to Blood, but particularly with the glove.
“He’s an outstanding defender,” Blood said. “Instincts, speed, route and his arm is as good as any arm you’re going to see in the outfield . . . it’s a 70 or better.”
There are a number of other exciting outfielders in this group, including Gray’s toolsy profile, Cabell’s power and arm strength, and Scott’s smooth stroke out of the lefthanded batter’s box. Thomas can be an impact center fielder and has a strong background in baseball, while also translating skills to the diamond that he learned on the gridiron.
Slade Cecconi, Chandler Champlain, Jonathan Childress, Mason Denaburg, J.T. Ginn, Ethan Hankins, Adam Kloffenstein, Matthew Liberatore, Landon Marceaux, Joseph Menefee, Jack Perkins, Kumar Rocker, Davis Sharpe, Lenny Torres, Mike Vasil, Ryan Weathers, Cole Wilcox
On paper, the strength of the 18U team seems to be on the mound, regardless of how the coaching staff decides to filter it down to a final eight-man staff–one of the bigger challenges of finalizing the roster.
While acknowledging the difficulty of the task, pitching coach Meinhold noted that it wouldn’t be a challenge for the wrong reasons. “It’s a fun one because there are so many talented players.”
Start with Hankins and Rocker, travel ball teammates on Team Elite and two of the top arms in the 2018 draft class, both of whom excelled during the Tournament of Stars.
“(Hankins) is a great athlete,” Blood said. “He loves to play outfield whenever he’s not pitching in high school . . . For a kid that tall to have command of his fastball at this age is impressive . . . He’s another one of these tough kids who you trust when he’s on the mound.”
Another pitcher with huge stuff who hasn’t been as highly praised as Hankins and Rocker–but who could easily be trending in that direction–is J.T. Ginn, who averaged the highest fastball velocity during TOS.
“With J.T. he came in and, startling would be the word,” Meinhold said. “We brought him back in later in the week and he had even better stuff (than his first appearance).”
In addition to pitchers with impressive numbers on the radar gun, the U.S. coaching staff has the luxury of deciding between others who have an advanced feel for pitching, most notably LSU commit Landon Marceaux.
“Landon’s a true pitcher,” Blood said. “He’s got five or six pitches, which is kind of crazy to say but he throws them all for strikes . . . He’s a very reliable guy. We’re excited to have him too.”
Denaburg has the added value of being a catcher as well as a righthander pitcher, who can get into the mid 90s with regularity. Having essentially a third catcher as a member of the pitching staff would be a great depth option for Team USA.
Blood and the coaching staff will continue to monitor the 40 players invited to trials (as well as the 80 TOS participants, as injuries and other issues could allow players to get late invites or team spots) over the next several weeks before winnowing down the final roster and getting the team adjusted to a system that will try and afford the team as much success as possible.
“I think you have to do it rather quickly, obviously,” Stankiewicz said of the two-week window to prepare for the World Cup. “You have to be careful that you don’t overcoach so to speak . . . We’ll get after them pretty good and we’ll challenge them to see how they react in those moments to make sure we got the right guys.”
For Meinhold, the challenge will be to try and evaluate the best arms, while simultaneously preparing each of the pitchers to be ready to throw when Sept. 1 rolls around.
“I’ve just got to make sure we’re in a good spot with them,” Meinhold said. “We’ve got to get ready for the tournament, so I can’t go crazy with them and cook them too hard (during trials).”
The players will workout at the University of Minnesota, which should help players get used to the cold weather they can expect from Thunder Bay in September. The Twins will host the players for a game at Target Field on their first day, before the 40 players will split into two teams of 20, get to know the other players if they haven’t already, learn about the coaches and the system that will be implemented, and most importantly show why they should make the final team.
“Congratulations,” Blood said to the 40 players invited. “We need you to come to Minnesota 100 percent and ready to make this team. That is very, very important.”
|William Banfield V
|Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park
|Pembroke Pines, Fla./American Heritage
|Oviedo, Fla./Trinity Prep
|Coto De Caza, Calif./Santa Margarita
|Adrian Del Castillo
|Merritt Island, Fla./Merritt Island
|Covina, Calif./South Hills
|Brooksville, Fla./Nature Coast Technical
|Glendale, Ariz./Sandra Day O’Conner
|Knoxville, Tenn./Knoxville Christian
|Cumming, Ga./Forsyth Central
|Mobile, Ala./St. Lukes Episcopal
|Waukesha, Wis./Waukesha West
|Peoria, Ariz./Mountain Ridge
|Anthony McNair Seigler
|Richmond, Texas/George Ranch
|La Mirada, Calif./St. John Bosco
|Watkinsville, Ga./North Oconee
|Tampa, Fla./H.B. Plant
|Dacula, Ga./Mill Creek
|Glenside, Pa./William Penn Charter
|Chicago/Chicago Mount Carmel
|Wellesley, Mass./Boston College
|Henderson, Nev./Bishop Gorman
|Bobby Witt Jr.
|Colleyville, Texas/Colleyville Heritage
|Queen Creek, Ariz./Basha