2018 Tournament Of Stars: Day 1 Standouts
CARY, N.C. — The first day of games kicked off at the 2018 Tournament of Stars Tuesday morning, kick-starting the process for selecting the 2018 Team USA U18 National Team.
A field of 80 players compete as part of four separate teams—Brave, Free, Pride and United—throughout the week. Following the Tournament of Stars, which concludes Saturday, USA Baseball will announce a 40-man 18U National Team Trials roster that will be further cut down to create the final national team roster.
While the event is obviously integral to the national team’s roster composition, it’s also one of the signature events to start the following year’s draft cycle. Just a few weeks ago, ten 2017 Tournament of Stars participants were selected in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft—a testament to the skill of the players involved.
The event is crucial for scouts as the prepare follow lists and reports on players for the 2019 draft, though there are a number of underclassmen at the event as well, including nine members of the 2020 class and one member of the 2021 draft class in California outfielder Roc Riggio.
After a pair of games, here are the standout performers from day one:
Brennan Malone | RHP | Porter Ridge HS, Indian Hills, N.C.
Committed: North Carolina
A strong-bodied, 6-foot-3, 203-pound righthander, Malone threw 3.1 innings Monday morning and showcased three impressive offerings, headlined by a fastball that sat in the 90-94 mph range throughout his entire outing Tuesday. That pitch was up to 97 mph last week in a shorter outing at Perfect Game’s National Showcase.
The fastball is a heavy offering, with arm-side run that can punish batters to either side. Malone throws from a three-quarter arm slot and worked with one of the quickest tempos of any pitcher throughout the day, with no downside to his mechanics or timing on the mound.
After the fastball, Malone also broke out a 73-76 mph curveball that ranged in shape from three-quarter breaking action to a true, 12-to-6 downer. Malone has good feel to spin the pitch, though he wasn’t consistently on top of the offering and the curve became more slurvy as his outing progressed.
Malone’s best offspeed pitch was his 83-85 mph changeup, which he throws with fastball arm speed and features impressive fading action. The pitch also seemed to play up thanks to Malone’s up-tempo pace, and he spotted the pitch effectively down in the zone.
Final line: 3.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Victor Mederos | RHP | Monsignor Pace HS, Miami
A member of the 2020 draft class, Mederos is already a physical righthander, standing 6-foot-1, 226 pounds. He took on more work than any pitcher during the day, taking the ball for four innings and showing solid strike-throwing ability as well as an intriguing fastball, curveball/slider combination.
Mederos opened up with an 89 mph fastball in his first inning on the rubber, but slowly ticked up to 94 and sat in the 90-93 mph range throughout his outing, dipping back down into the 89-92 range during his final inning. Mederos threw the pitch well to both sides of the plate and throws from a three-quarter slot with some effort and head whack during his release.
Initially, Mederos showed two distinct breaking balls, with a slider in the 78-80 mph range with tilt and a curveball that had more true, 12-to-6 shape and impressive depth in the mid-70s. During Mederos’ first two innings, the pitches had fairly clear separation, but as his outing progressed and the velocities of his secondaries ticked down, they started to blend together, with the slider loosening up with less horizontal cutting action and more natural drop.
He also started to lose feel for the release point of both of the offerings, particularly struggling to get his slider down and in the zone in his final inning. Still, when he was at his best, Mederos showed three solid offerings with a strong frame and some of the best control in a game that featured 20 total walks between six pitchers.
Final line: 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K
Coastal Carolina Commit Will Smith Dominates At Wilson Premier Classic
Smith turned in one of the best pitching performances of the tournament, striking out 12 batters over five innings.
Riley Greene | OF | Hagerty HS, Oviedo, Fla.
Greene is already talked about as one of the best pure hitters in the 2019 class, and he showed why Tuesday afternoon. He had five trips to the plate and didn’t make an out in any of those trips, with a pair of singles and three walks.
Greene has a sound idea of what he’s trying to do in the box and looks loose and in control of every at-bat—including when he gets down in the count early.
In his first at-bat, Greene barreled a 92 mph fastball from RHP Joseph Charles (The First Academy, Orlando) for a hard, ground ball single into center field. Greene’s second hit came against an 88 mph fastball from RHP Wesley Scott (Woodcrest Christian HS, Riverside, Calif.), a ground ball through the right side of the infield. Greene also showed impressive instincts on the bases and swiped second and third easily late in the game. He wasn’t challenged much in the outfield, but got caught drifting back on one deep fly ball to right field when he could have gotten under the ball for a more sure catch.
In the batter's box, Greene has a quick bat out of a slightly wide and open stance, with a small leg kick and a bit of a hitch in his load. Normally something of a red flag, Greene seems to have the quickness and instincts with the barrel to make it more of a non-issue and the results speak for themselves in a short look. He also showed some raw power to the pull side during batting practice Monday.
Greene will be a bat to keep an eye on at the top of the 2019 class this summer.
Pete Crow-Armstrong | OF | Harvard-Westlake, Studio City, Calif.
Leading off for team United during the second game Tuesday, Crow-Armstrong showed some tools on both sides of the ball.
He went 1-for-4 with a triple and a walk. His three-bagger came against an 86 mph changeup from Charles in his second at-bat. The Vanderbilt commit did an excellent job timing the firm changeup and barreled it deep into the right-center field gap, coming into third base standing up thanks to his plus speed.
The running ability made an impact in the outfield grass as well, as Crow-Armstrong had an excellent jump and ran a clean route on a deep line drive into the left-center field gap that looked like a hit off the bat.
Crow-Armstrong missed a second triple in his fourth at-bat when he hit a deep fly ball to straightaway center field that was robbed after an excellent diving catch from 2019 OF/RHP Sammy Faltine (Travis HS, Austin, Texas). The speed, hitting ability and defensive potential make Crow-Armstrong an intriguing center field prospect. His parents, Matthew Armstrong and Ashley Crow, are both actors with his mother playing a role in the 1994 film Little Big League.
Corbin Carroll | OF | Lakeside HS, Seattle
Carroll led Team Brave in hitting Tuesday, going 2-for-4 out of the nine-hole with a triple and a single. After striking out looking on a 91 mph fastball in his first at-bat, Carroll—a 5-foot-9, 161-pound outfielder out of Washington—stepped to the plate in his second at-bat and hit an 88 mph offering on a line to right-center, rounding first base in 4.44 seconds.
Carroll followed that up with a single in his third at-bat, slapping an outside pitch to center field and showing solid feel for the barrel. His fourth at-bat was a fly out, but he made solid contact yet again, with a high line drive to left field, showing the ability to go to all fields with sound contact.
The UCLA commit starts his swing with a deep, sweepback load with his front knee, but has a quick bat that gets through the zone well and led to some pop to the pull side during Monday’s batting practice.