The top 50 teams are selected through a poll of representatives from the Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) and Baseball America. The committee gives heavy weight to coaches and programs that have historically been successful, and you’ll find many of the top preseason teams to be perennial powers. As the season gets into full swing, Baseball America will publish the top 25 teams every two weeks. Here are thumbnail looks at the top 10, written by Hudson Belinsky:
1. Stoneman Douglas
In 2016, Douglas went 27-2 and won Florida’s 9-A state championship en route to being named Baseball America’s High School Team of the Year. In 2017, the Eagles will play with a target on their backs, and they’ll have to overcome the losses of several key contributors, including 2016 draft picks Jesus Luzardo and Colton Welker.
Coach Todd Fitz-Gerald has been at the helm for two national champions; he was also the head coach when American Heritage High won it in 2008. Fitz-Gerald brings back a talented group, including four high-profile Division I recruits. Douglas should be strong up the middle, with talented seniors at catcher (Chad McDaniel) and shortstop (David Vasquez) leading the charge on both sides of the ball. Senior lefthander Brandon Kaminer, a Miami commit, will look to repeat a stellar junior campaign when he went 12-0, 1.36, striking out 94 batters in 87.2 innings.
Douglas’s schedule is rugged, with matchups against many of the top programs in Florida. The Eagles face No. 3 Archbishop McCarthy in a tournament on Feb. 14, before going on to face Flanagan, Calvary Christian and American Heritage later in the season. If their veteran players do what they’re capable of, and some underclassmen step forward, the Eagles should once again contend for a national championship.
Coming off a 30-1 season and a championship in California’s CIF Central Section, Buchanan brings back an outstanding group again in 2017. Shortstop Jamal O’Guinn, a Southern California commit, is an explosive athlete who will provide power in the middle of the lineup. He’s joined by fellow senior sluggers Quentin Selma (California) and Zach Presno (Fresno State).
On the mound, coach Tom Donald will look for uncommitted senior righthander Hunter Reinke to repeat his performance from 2016, when he was the Central Section pitcher of the year. The Bears lose All-American Grant Gambrell but return many of their key players from last year’s squad.
3. Archbishop McCarthy
McCarthy returns arguably the most talented group of players in the country, headlined by top draft prospects Alex Toral and Joe Perez. Toral, a second team All-American, is considered one of the nation’s top power hitters, and Perez, a third-team All-American, shows plus power potential and his fastball has been up to 97 mph off the mound. The Mavericks have 13 players who already have college commitments.
While there is no denying the talent on head coach Rich Bielski’s squad, McCarthy will also play arguably the toughest schedule in the nation. They’ll play in a preseason tournament against Stoneman Douglas, and they’ll also play in the National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C. Bielski and the Mavericks will certainly have their hands full as they pursue their seventh state championship in the past eight seasons.
The 2014 national champions appear poised for another strong season. Under head coach Glenn Cecchini, the Buccaneers will look to lock up their fourth consecutive 5-A Louisiana state championship in 2017, and their 10th since 1998.
Barbe will be led by a pair of senior pitchers. Their best prospect is lefthander Adam Goree, a McNeese State recruit with an upper-80s fastball. Goree went 8-1, 1.17 as a junior and was named to the New Orleans Times Picayune’s all-state team. He’ll team up with righthander Slate Fuller, who went 7-1, 0.77 in 2016. Junior Antonio Gauthier should be an offensive force for the Buccaneers.
The Huskies have five Arizona state championships since 2003, and capped off an outstanding 2016 campaign with a victory over rival powerhouse Mountain Ridge. Head coach Mike Woods has many of his top players back in 2017, including first baseman Nick Brueser, a Stanford commit who batted .442 with nine home runs as a junior.
On the mound, Hamilton will look to Cole Bellinger, the son of major leaguer Clay and brother of Dodgers prospect Cody, to step forward after the graduation of ace Zane Strand. Aptly named senior shortstop Drew Swift, an Arizona State recruit, is among the nation’s best defensive players and will look to repeat an impressive season in which he batted .404.
Hamilton’s schedule will be challenging; they’ll face many of the top teams in Arizona and will also play in the National High School Invitational in March.
6. Dallas Jesuit
The defending Texas 6-A state champions will have to endure the loss of lefthander/outfielder Kyle Muller to the draft. Muller, now a Braves prospect, went 9-0, 0.33 and hit 15 home runs for the Rangers in 2016.
Dallas Jesuit will now turn to another promising lefthander, Jacob Palisch. Palisch went 11-1, 0.83 last season, and he’s the heir apparent as ace. Palisch will team up with senior righthander Heath Vankirk to give head coach Brian Jones a strong 1-2 punch at the front of the rotation.
7. South Hills
Few teams can match the depth that head coach Darren Murphy has at South Hills this season. The reigning California Division 2 Southern Section champions have five Division I recruits coming back after going 26-7 in 2016.
The Huskies’ pitching staff will be as tough as any in the nation. Junior righthander Brandon Dieter, a Stanford commit, will team up with lefthander Karlos Morales (Long Beach State) and righthanders John Dearth (Pepperdine) and Andres Alvares to shut down opponents. Shortstop Jacob Amaya, a two-time participant at USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars, will patrol the left side of the infield with third baseman Jacob Dominguez.
South Hills will play a challenging schedule as the third top 10 team in the National High School Invitational followed by matchups against powerhouse programs Bishop Gorman HS (Nevada) and Mater Dei HS (California).
After a 32-4 season and a Georgia 6-A state championship, Walton is poised for another run in one of the nation’s most competitive regions. Head coach Shane Amos brings back several contributors from last year’s team, including star outfielders Jason Rooks and Michael Guldberg.
Junior lefthander Luke Bartnicki is among the best prospects in the 2018 class. Appalachian State recruit Jason Avers will handle the staff behind the plate. Rooks will provide power in the middle of the lineup, and Guldberg is a plus runner who should play a key role as a table setter.
The Raiders lost shortstop Carter Kieboom and righthander Zac Kristofak, but they are deep enough to once again compete for state and national honors. A strong schedule features matchups against several of Georgia’s state powers.
After a 33-2 season in 2016, Oklahoma’s reigning 3-A state champions will have to overcome the loss of two-way star Peyton Battenfield (now at Oklahoma State), but they bring back most of their lineup from last year.
Senior Braden Beasley will look to build off an impressive junior season in which he posted a 1.66 ERA in 33.2 innings and batted .354. Senior Dylan Hight will provide power in the middle of the lineup, and junior Kade Keith should be a significant on-base threat after batting .394 as a sophomore.
10. De La Salle
Fresh off a 25-3 season in 2016, the Spartans will have to overcome the losses of Nicholas Sparks and Armani Smith, but they have a strong core of players returning.
Junior Trace Tammaro led De La Salle with five home runs last season. He’ll team up with seniors Gabe Giosso and Ryan Cole to form a potent offense. On the mound, head coach David Jeans will look to Oregon recruit Cullen Kafka to replace some senior contributors from last year’s team.
|PRESEASON HIGH SCHOOL TOP 50|
|1||Stoneman Douglas HS, Parkland, Fla.||27-2||1|
|2||Buchanan HS, Clovis, Calif.||30-1||2|
|3||Archbishop McCarthy HS, SW Ranches, Fla.||29-2||3|
|4||Barbe HS, St. Charles, La.||35-6||10|
|5||Hamilton HS, Chandler, Ariz.||27-7||14|
|6||Dallas Jesuit HS||36-8||17|
|7||South Hills HS, West Covina, Calif.||26-7||NR|
|8||Walton HS, Marietta, Ga.||32-4||5|
|9||Verdigris HS, Clairemore, Okla.||33-2||NR|
|10||De La Salle HS, Concord, Calif.||36-8||12|
|11||Carlsbad (N.M). HS||25-6||33|
|12||Bryant (Ark.) HS||28-2||6|
|13||Parkview HS, Lilburn, GA||18-10||NR|
|14||El Toro HS, Lake Forest, Calif.||25-6||NR|
|15||College Station (Texas) HS||25-13||NR|
|16||Jackson HS, Masillon, Ohio||30-1||NR|
|17||Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS||22-9||NR|
|18||Cherokee Trail HS, Aurora, Colo.||22-5||24|
|19||Malvern (Pa.) Prep HS||29-6||NR|
|20||Shawnee Mssn. E. HS, Prairie Village, Kan.||21-4||25|
|21||Merritt Island (Fla.) HS||22-8||NR|
|22||Oxford (Miss.) HS||28-8||19|
|23||Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego||25-9||NR|
|24||Basic HS, Henderson, Nev.||36-4||5|
|25||Decatur (Ala.) HS||33-11||NR|
|26||Mason (Ohio) HS||22-8||NR|
|27||Teurlings Catholic HS, Lafayette, La.||35-4||22|
|28||Norcross (Ga.) HS||27-8||NR|
|29||Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego||24-10||NR|
|30||Riverdale Baptist HS, Upper Marlboro, Md.||32-3||38|
|31||Brother Rice HS, Chicago||35-4||NR|
|32||Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS||18-11||NR|
|33||Tottenville HS, Staten Island, N.Y.||23-2||NR|
|34||Deer Creek HS, Edmond, Okla.||31-9||NR|
|35||Millard West HS, Omaha, Neb.||28-6||NR|
|36||Pope HS, Marietta, Ga.||28-6||28|
|37||Basha HS, Chandler, Ariz.||24-6||NR|
|38||Redondo Union HS, Redondo Beach, Calif.||31-2||13|
|39||JSerra Catholic HS, SJ Capistrano, Calif.||27-7||39|
|40||St. Francis HS, Mountain View, Calif.||27-8||23|
|41||Houston (Miss.) HS||31-4||NR|
|42||Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.||25-9||NR|
|43||Tampa Jesuit HS||24-6||NR|
|44||St. Xavier HS, Louisville||28-12||NR|
|45||Christian Brothers HS, Memphis||33-9||NR|
|46||Catholic HS, Little Rock, Ark.||22-7||NR|
|47||American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.||19-5||NR|
|48||Rocky Mountain HS, Fort Collins, Colo.||18-8||NR|
|49||Amity HS, Woodbridge, Conn.||21-1||NR|
|50||Hanover HS, Mechanicsville, Va.||23-1||NR|