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2019 USA Baseball College National Team Top Prospects

Image credit: Spencer Torkelson (Photo courtesy of USA Baseball)

USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team (CNT) won two of its three international series this summer, taking down Cuba in the United States before heading to Asia, where the team won a series against Chinese Taipei and lost a series against Japan—a series it has won 16 straight times on its own soil dating back 40 years. Team USA finished the summer with an 8-6 record.

Regardless of results, the CNT is always an excellent preview for next year’s draft and the strength of the college class. Of the eight draft-eligible players who ranked among the top 10 prospects on last year’s CNT, six went on to be selected in the first round of the 2019 draft.

The following reports and rankings were developed after talking with Team USA coaches and major league scouts, and represent their standing as prospects rather than their performance this summer.

1. Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State

Torkelson ranked No. 5 on this list a year ago as an underclassman, and it’s no surprise he tops the list a year later after hitting 21 home runs and posting a .359/.454/.714 slash line during his sophomore season.

Torkelson will naturally draw comparisons to 2019 No. 3 overall pick Andrew Vaughn as a right-right, slugging first baseman in the Pac-12, but Torkelson is more athletic than Vaughn and could be used in a corner outfield spot at the next level. USA’s coaching staff was impressed with Torkelson’s defense at first base and called him an above-average defender there, though he ranks in this spot for his plus hitting ability and massive raw power.

2. Austin Martin, INF/OF, Vanderbilt

There’s an argument to be made for Martin being the top player here, as his defensive profile and value is much greater than Torkelson’s. Martin played center field for Team USA and handled the position well, with plus running ability and good route running and instincts.

Martin played third base for Vanderbilt as a sophomore last spring, when he hit .432/.514/.641. He should play shortstop for the Commodores as a junior, but his ability to handle multiple premium positions only adds to his draft value, and he has some of the best pure bat speed in the class and one of the best hit tools as well. He didn’t post fantastic numbers with Team USA (.250/.321/.396), but no scouts are concerned with a 12-game sample when compared to his previous college track record.

3. Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M

Lacy posted a 2.25 ERA over 12 innings of work for Team USA while striking out nine batters, walking five and holding opposing hitters to a .220 average. Lacy tops the next pitchers on this list in stuff (compared to Reid Detmers) and track record and handendess (compared to Cole Wilcox).

A mid-90s fastball from the left side with impressive ability to spin a low-80s slider is attractive to any amatuer scout, but especially so when the lefty in question is coming off of a spring season in the SEC in which he posted a 2.13 ERA with more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings. If Lacy refines his command a bit, it’s hard to see him lasting long in next year’s draft.

4. Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville

Detmers was the best performer on Team USA’s pitching staff this summer, posting a 0.69 ERA over three starts and 13 innings with 10 strikeouts and seven walks. USA coaches praised Detmers’ presence and competitiveness on the mound, and while others may have bigger pure stuff, Detmers’ deception and pitchability allow his stuff to play up and keep hitters off-balance.

Detmers throws a fastball in the low-90s, a low- to mid-70s curveball that he lands consistently and will throw in hitter’s counts and a 78-82 mph changeup. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound lefty is coming off an ACC season in which he posted a 2.42 ERA over 89 innings with 138 strikeouts to just 20 walks.

5. Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia

The sole draft-eligible sophomore to make this list, Wilcox has less history than many players he’s ranked near at the college level. However, he was an elite prep pitcher out of high school and has perhaps the most upside of any pitcher on the team.

Wilcox is a massive, 6-foot-5, 232-pound righthander who has an easy plus fastball that’s in the mid-90s with sinking action, and the pitch is even harder out of the bullpen when he’s used in shorter stints. Wilcox has a slider that could become a plus offering to pair with his fastball, but he will have to improve his command and strike-throwing to take advantage of his pure stuff. Wilcox threw seven innings for Team USA this summer, posting a 2.57 ERA with seven strikeouts and four walks.

6. Patrick Bailey, C, North Carolina State

Bailey’s performance with Team USA (.231/.333/.308) this summer wasn’t as impressive as what he’s done in two seasons at North Carolina State with a metal bat, but scouts are still excited about his all-around profile. A switch-hitting catcher with some pop in the bat, Bailey stands out for his refined defensive ability behind the dish.

He’s a polished receiver and does a nice job handling the pitching staff, with above-average arm strength and accuracy as well. While Bailey shows off solid power in batting practice and has hit 23 home runs with the Wolfpack in two seasons, he’ll need to improve his plate discipline to make the most of his tools with a wood bat.

7. Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas

The team’s top performer, Kjerstad hit .395/.426/.651 over 14 games with Team USA and hit two home runs, three doubles and a triple. Kjerstad was already among the top hitters in the 2020 class after posting a .334/.417/.565 line with 28 home runs over two seasons with Arkansas in the SEC. He has impressive power now and still has physical projection remaining with a lean, 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame.

Coaches praised Kjerstad’s ability to hit a variety of different fastballs and breaking pitches, and they also admired his hitting in two-strike counts, which was something of a surprise for a player with his strikeout tendencies. While Kjerstad will likely never be a plus defender, he also took strides in his defensive effort in the corner outfield.

8. Alika Williams, SS, Arizona State

The starting shortstop for Team USA is always a must-know prospect, and last year Team USA shortstop Bryson Stott wound up going to the Phillies with the 14th overall pick of the draft. Williams joined Team USA with more of a defensive reputation than Stott and showed that he would have no problem handling the position at the next level.

Williams has a terrific first step and routinely uses it to put himself in a good fielding position, with active footwork and sure hands. His arm is solid, but his feet and quick exchange allow it to play up. The Arizona State product more than held his own offensively, hitting .364/.370/.545 with surprising extra-base pop despite questionable raw power, showing feel to handle a wood bat.

9. Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State

A third-team member of our college All-America teams, Foscue is an intensely competitive, 6-foot, 200-pound, offensive-oriented infielder. After hitting .348/.396/.618 during his sophomore season for Mississippi State, Foscue hit just .255/.288/.362 for Team USA this summer, but scouts are still excited about his hit tool and power potential.

Foscue has a big leg kick and a pull-heavy approach that can hurt him at times, particularly against a lot of the soft-tossing breaking ball pitchers he faced this summer, so he’ll need to refine that aspect of his game moving forward. Foscue is a solid defender at second capable of making the routine plays.

10. Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma

Cavalli threw just 2.2 innings for Team USA this summer, so he didn’t get to show his ability for an extended period of time, but he’s a big, 6-foot-4, 226-pound righthander with some of the easiest 95-98 mph velocity that you’ll see.

Cavalli will need to improve his command next spring—he walked 33 batters in 55 innings for Oklahoma as a sophomore—and in particular learn how to land his secondary offerings for strikes more consistently to keep hitters off of his fastball, but with his size, arm strength and ease of operation has a lot of raw tools to work with.

11. Nick Loftin, SS, Baylor

A super-utility player for the College National Team, Loftin could have been an extremely reliable everyday shortstop were it not for the presence of Williams. Loftin is one of the better defensive shortstops in the country and has bigger pure arm strength than Williams, with the ability to handle third base, second base and all three outfield positions, if necessary.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound infielder has solid bat-to-ball skills and hit over .300 for Baylor in the Big 12 in each of his first two seasons, before putting up a .292/.280/.583 slash line with a home run, a triple and two doubles in 11 games. There is some power that could be unlocked with Loftin in the future if he gets into his lower half more efficiently, and while he has no problem catching up to fastballs, his approach against off-speed offerings could use refinement.

12. Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota

A member of the College National Team for the second straight year after pitching for the team in 2018, Meyer has some of the best pure stuff in the class with a mid-90s fastball and a power slider in the upper-80s that at times looks more like a cut-fastball.

After serving as Minnesota’s closer as a freshman, the 6-foot, 185-pound righthander successfully transitioned to a starting role as a sophomore, and he pitched in that capacity for Team USA as well, posting a 0.69 ERA in three starts and 13 innings. Meyer struck out 10 batters to just two walks. He works quickly and throws strikes, and with one of the better breaking balls in the class, he has some upside, although evaluators wonder whether his future role will be as a starter or a reliever.

13. Jeff Criswell, RHP, Michigan

Criswell threw in three games for Team USA this summer after pitching deep into the season with Michigan in the College World Series. He looked sharp with the club even after logging 74.2 innings as perhaps the best No. 3 starter in the country behind Day 1 draft picks Tommy Henry and Karl Kauffmann.

Criswell pitches in the low-90s and shows good feel for a low- to mid-70s breaking ball while posting the lowest opposing batting average (.120) on the team. Criswell walked four batters in his 7.2 innings of work, and lowering his walk rate should be a focus for him after walking 5.29 and 4.70 batters per nine in his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively.. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound righty will have to shoulder more of the load for Michigan as a junior, but he has the talent to do so and should be one of the best pitchers in the Big 10.

14. Chris McMahon, RHP, Miami

McMahon was a standout high school product out of Pennsylvania who ran his fastball up to 95 mph and ranked as the No. 76 prospect on the BA 500. After sliding in the draft, he joined Miami, where he had a solid freshman campaign in an injury-shortened season (meniscus), but posted a 3.70 ERA in 11 starts this spring. He pitched well with Team USA this summer, posting a 2.25 ERA and striking out a team-high 15 batters.

McMahon gets into the mid-90s with his fastball, but the separator for him is a swing-and-miss changeup that some scouts say is the best in the country. It has plenty of tumble and when batters do make contact with the pitch, it’s often a weak ground ball. The changeup allows his electric fastball and fringe-average breaking ball to play up. McMahon could stand to improve his fastball command and sharpen his breaking ball next spring, but the 6-foot-2, 205-pound righty is among the best pitchers in a deep 2020 crop of college arms.

15. Burl Carraway, LHP, Dallas Baptist

A 6-foot, 173-pound lefthander, Carraway is an undersized pitcher, but he brings plenty of electricity despite his frame. He pitched with a 96-98 mph fastball early in his outings this summer with Team USA before settling down into the 93-94 mph range and paired that pitch with an upper-70s breaking ball that had depth and bite as well.

Carraway has a reliever look and pitches from the stretch, with impressive explosion off the rubber that includes some effort, leading to a few wild pitches here and there. Still, he creates uncomfortable at-bats for hitters and struck out 66 batters in 36 innings (16.35 per nine) of relief work for Dallas Baptist this spring. The path to a starting role for Carraway might be difficult, but it’s rare to find the stuff he offers from an amatuer lefthander. Carraway was used infrequently with Team USA, throwing just 4.1 innings—though he struck out seven and walked just two in that stretch.

16. Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State (Class of 2021)

A breakout player after his freshman season at Sam Houston State, where he was named the Southland Conference hitter of the year, Cowser is a high-upside outfielder with a smooth, lefthanded swing and lean, 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. A line drive, gap-to-gap hitter, Cowser has good plate coverage, but he lacks impact raw power at the moment. Coaches and evaluators believe he’ll add enough weight and strength to his frame in the future to tap into more, however, which might also come with added loft to a bat path that gets flat currently.

Cowser had no trouble with the mid-major pitching he faced as a freshman, and he looked good with Team USA against Cuba this summer but struggled against the more advanced pitching he saw in the team’s series against Taiwan and Japan. Defensively, Cowser has good instincts and solid range, giving himself a chance to play center field, but he’ll most likely move into a corner as he fills out in the future. He needs further refinement and more reps against high-quality pitching, but there’s a lot to dream on with Cowser’s overall package.

17. Alec Burleson, LHP/1B, East Carolina

Burleson wasn’t the best hitter on the College National Team, and he’s not the best pitcher either, but he does a lot of things well and his two-way versatility brought plenty of value to the club this summer. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound lefthander and first baseman hit .267/.353/.467 with one home run and tossed 10.2 relief innings while posting a 2.53 ERA.

An intense competitor, Burleson’s fastball was in the 87-90 mph range, with a mid- to upper-70s curveball that had good spin and depth, as well as a 79-82 mph changeup that he kept down in the zone well. Burleson likely has more pro potential as a hitter, where he has a solid approach with impact ability from the left side. This spring, in his second season with East Carolina, Burleson hit .369/.391/.590 with nine home runs and 21 doubles. Burleson can play first base and possibly corner outfield at the next level. While there’s no one carrying tool with him, he does a lot of things well.

18. Casey Opitz, C, Arkansas

One of the premier defensive catchers in the 2020 draft class, Team USA coaches and scouts alike raved about Opitz’s arm strength and receiving ability behind the plate this summer. Several coaches said he was one of the best-throwing catchers they’d seen in recent years, and while Opitz has obvious plus arm strength, what’s even more impressive is the consistency in which he puts the ball on the bag at second base. He’s always accurate with his throws and efficient with his footwork, while handling a pitching staff effectively, with above-average blocking skills as well. Those traits are valued more than ever at the major league level, which should allow Opitz to carve out some sort of career despite a below-average offensive profile.

Opitz doesn’t have much power to speak of, and he was the worst-performing hitter with Team USA this summer (.056/.056/.292) after posting a .257/.398/.319 slash line with Arkansas as a sophomore this spring. He does draw walks at a solid clip, but he’ll need to improve his hitting ability in a big way to profile as anything more than a backup.

19. Logan Allen, LHP, Florida International

Another two-way player, Allen only took the mound for Team USA this summer and struggled in his 10 innings, giving up 19 hits and 12 earned runs despite an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 11-to-1. A two way player at FIU, Allen posted a 3.11 ERA with 120 strikeouts to just 25 walks this spring as a sophomore, while also hitting .276/.321/.434 with three home runs and playing first base.

Where Burleson’s pro future seems brighter with the bat, Allen’s future is on the mound, despite the 10.80 ERA he walked away with this summer. Allen throws a fastball in the low-90s and pairs it with a low-80s changeup, but he struggled to turn over a lineup. Allen’s velocity also came and went within starts, and evaluators noted that while he throws strikes, he’ll need to improve the quality of those strikes and avoid putting the ball over the middle of the plate, where he surrendered a lot of hard contact.

20. Tyler Brown, RHP, Vanderbilt

A physical, 6-foot-4, 242-pound righthander, Brown joined Team USA late in the summer after a deep postseason run with Vanderbilt that ended in a College World Series championship. After throwing 35.2 innings for the Commodores, Brown wasn’t quite the same with Team USA and threw just 8.1 innings with a 7.56 ERA, 12 strikeouts and four walks.

Brown pitches with a fastball in the 92-95 mph range and showed standout strike-throwing ability in some outings. He should be one of many talented arms that scouts will flock to see once again next year in Nashville. He’s mostly a fastball-slider pitcher, and he has a changeup that he doesn’t use often because of his current role.

21. Tanner Allen, 1B/OF, Mississippi State

A 5-foot-11, 184-pound infielder/outfielder, Allen has a polished lefthanded bat and was one of the more consistent hitters for Team USA this summer, putting up a .308/.357/.359 slash line over 13 games.

Allen has impressive hand-eye coordination and does a nice job keeping the barrel through the zone, though he’ll need to improve his power production to profile as a corner player—whether that’s at first base or left field. Coaches believe he has the instincts and reads to be a fine defender in left, though he’s a below-average runner, so taking a step forward in his power production will allow him to profile at the position in the future.

He’s shown good ability to hit with wood bats and in the SEC—last spring with Mississippi State, Allen posted a .348/.432/.527 line with 32 walks and 33 strikeouts—but doesn’t offer much defensive value, putting all the pressure on his bat.

22. Luke Waddell, INF, Georgia Tech

A draft-eligible sophomore in 2019, Waddell hit .313/.429/.421 for Georgia Tech during his second season in the ACC, but he fell to the 31st round in the draft. A 5-foot-9, 176-pound infielder, Waddell has bat-to-ball skills and a solid offensive approach along with defensive ability at shortstop, third base and second base, but scouts believe he profiles best as a utility-type player without much impact ability in his bat.

Waddell performed well with Team USA over the summer, hitting .320/.380/.404 with seven walks and six strikeouts. Coaches praised Waddell’s ability to shrink the zone and draw walks on a regular basis, and he posted an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio in the ACC as well (21-to-37). Waddell has solid footwork and a reliable glove and throwing arm, and he’s also an above-average runner, though he’ll need to focus on staying in shape moving forward.

23. Nick Frasso, RHP, Loyola Marymount

A projectable, 6-foot-5, 190-pound righthander, Frasso didn’t pitch much for Team USA this summer after not feeling 100 percent following a strong start against Cuba, but he showed some solid traits when he was on the mound. With just four innings under his belt, it wasn’t a huge sample, but Frasso threw strikes out of a clean and easy delivery, using an 88-90 mph fastball with solid sinking action, which—when combined with his height and arm slot—created difficult angles for batters in the box.

Frasso has been used as a starter and reliever in his first two seasons with Loyola Marymount in the West Coast Conference, and he’s consistently performed, with a 2.94 ERA and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 107 innings in that span. Frasso will need to improve his pure stuff to become a Day 1 pick next spring, but there are a lot of traits to like and he has the frame that should allow him to add strength and increase his velocity in the future.

24. Doug Nikhazy, LHP/OF, Mississippi (Class of 2021)

The second freshman on Team USA, Nikhazy was sensational for Ole Miss during his first college season last spring, posting a 3.31 ERA and setting a freshman program record for strikeouts with 86 in 89.2 innings. Nikhazy succeeded more with advanced pitching ability than big pure stuff, as he didn’t show any plus offerings over the summer.

Nikhazy’s fastball is in the 87-91 mph range, and both of his secondaries—a mid-70s, 12-to-6 curveball and low-80s changeup—have room for improvement as well. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound lefthander wasn’t as good over the summer as he was during the spring, posting a 5.14 ERA over seven innings while striking out six batters, walking five and allowing five hits.

25. Andrew Abbott, LHP, Virginia

A 6-foot, 175-pound lefthanded reliever out of Virginia, Abbott was Team USA’s top reliever this summer and led the team with seven appearances while posting a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings. Abbott has been a solid weapon out of the bullpen for the Cavaliers in his two seasons, and he’s capable of handling multi-inning roles and pitching on back-to-back days.

This summer, he ran his fastball into the 92-93 mph range and paired that with a mid-70s curveball that he landed for strikes. The coaching staff was most impressed with his mentality and competitiveness on the mound, however, calling him a quiet assassin and raving about his moxie, demeanor and confidence pitching in big moments. Over his 91 innings with Virginia during the last two years, Abbott has struck out 132 batters while walking just 22. There’s a ceiling on where relief pitchers go in the draft, but Abbott should be one of the nation’s best next year.

26. Lucas Dunn, INF/OF, Louisville

A late addition to Team USA, Dunn joined the club after Garrett Mitchell left with an injury to provide an outfielder with some speed and versatility. He performed well in the Cape Cod League prior to coming to the national team (.328/.459/.412 with 17 stolen bases and more walks than strikeouts) and scouts love his hustle and energy on the field.

A player who stands out for his performance more than his tools, Dunn has hit over .300 in both of his first two seasons at Louisville, and while he doesn’t bring much power to the plate, he has good plate discipline and speed. His defensive versatility is perhaps is greatest attribute, as Dunn can play all three outfield positions, second base, third base and might even be able to handle shortstop in a pinch. Dunn struggled with the bat in his time with Team USA, hitting .217/.308/.261 in 10 games.

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