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Scouting Every Player From USA's 18U National Team Training Camp

Carson Messina (Bill Mitchell)
Carson Messina (Bill Mitchell)

After winning a gold medal at the U-18 World Cup in Florida in September, the USA Baseball 18U National Team is going for another gold in Mexico this month.

At the U-18 World Cup Americas Qualifier underway now in Mexico in Cabo San Lucas and La Paz through Nov. 13, the U.S. team is a mix of 2023 players who weren't on the previous 18U National Team, several of the top 2024 players in the country and two of the top talents in the 2025 class.

To prepare for the tournament, the U.S. team held its training camp in Arizona, with games against Hamilton High (the 6A state champion in 2022) and GateWay CC. Below are reports on every player on the team, including video from the team's training camp.

2023 HITTERS

Campbell Smithwick, 2023 C, Mississippi

This tournament comes at a great time for Smithwick, who is one of the best catchers available in the 2023 draft but also missed almost all the big events of the summer after getting hurt at MLB's PDP League in early July. He returned for the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. last month and now has another opportunity to show himself in front of a lot of scouts who missed him this summer.

Born July 3, 2005, Smithwick won't turn 18 until just before the expected 2023 draft date. For perspective, of the 12 players in the 2024 class on the roster, Smithwick is younger than five of them and born the same month and year as three others, so he would fit comfortably in the 2024 class based on his age. Smithwick was on base in three of his six plate appearances, with a walk and two singles, including a line drive roped to center field. The Mississippi commit is 6 feet, 195 pounds with a loose, fluid swing from the left side and a patient approach, working deep counts and consistently putting together quality at-bats. He has occasional over-the-fence power that has been ticking up, though his strength at the plate leans more to his on-base ability. Behind the plate, Smithwick is quick and agile, blocking balls well and showing his fearlessness by running into the fence to catch a foul ball by the third base dugout. He also has a high baseball IQ and all the intangibles that managers and a pitching staff love to have in a catcher.

Casey Borba, 2023 3B, California

A Texas commit, Borba has a chance to be an impact hitter in the middle of the Longhorns' lineup quickly as an offensive-minded third baseman with a profile along the lines of former Cardinal Allen Craig. Borba is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and showed off his righthanded power on multiple occasions. In the first game, he turned on a belt-high fastball up in the zone for a home run to left field. That came one at-bat after he took a 1-2 fastball on the outer third at the top of the zone for a double into the right-center field gap. The next day, he hit a ball that would have been a home run in most parks, but with 365 feet down the line each way, the left fielder was able to run it down for the out. Borba gets his swing started with a deep leg kick and can get pull-happy at times, but he's at his best when he's staying through the ball and using right-center field. Like Craig, who began his pro career at third base but ended up playing mostly first base and corner outfield in the majors, Borba has a chance to play third base but could also end up at first base or the outfield corners.

Roman Martin, 2023 SS, California

Martin got most of the reps at shortstop in training camp and looked comfortable at the position. The UCLA commit is a below-average runner, but he is athletic with good body control at shortstop. He got good reads off the bat, moved his feet well and took good routes to the ball with the arm strength for shortstop. After a big summer in 2021 heading into his junior year when he showed a disciplined approach with a high contact rate, Martin showed more swing and miss this summer with a righthanded swing that can get him out front early, leading to some offensive struggles. At training camp, Martin went 3-for-8 with three singles (one line drive to left field, two groundballs to center) and got on base a fourth time on a hit by pitch. A strong tournament in Mexico and a big spring at the plate would help Martin rebound some of his draft stock.

Macon Winslow, 2023 C, North Carolina

Winslow split catching duties with Smithwick so he didn't get too many at-bats, but he went 2-for-4 with a hit by pitch, a strikeout and a double. One of his outs was a line drive right at the third baseman, while his double came on a first-pitch fastball that he drove to the left-center field warning track. Winslow projects to stick behind the plate, where he has a strong arm that he didn't get to show off in games here, though at Jupiter last month he had multiple pop times of 2.0 seconds and one at 1.90 seconds. Prep catching is a tough demographic—in 2022 just five of them signed out of the draft, the same as 2021—so with a Duke commit, there's a good chance Winslow could make it to campus.

Nazzan Zanetello, 2023 SS, Missouri

At the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. last month, Zanetello went 3-for-8 with a double, a walk and no strikeouts after standing out as one of the top performers earlier that week at the Minority Baseball Prospects All-American Game. Zanetello didn't have the same success at training camp, going 0-for-5 with a walk, a hit by pitch and three strikeouts. See Zanetello on the right day and there's a lot to like, with an athletic, well-proportioned frame (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) with significant physical upside. He should play somewhere in the middle of the field, whether it's at shortstop or center field, with good reads off the bat in the outfield and a plus arm. An Arkansas commit, Zanetello is on the younger end of the 2023 class as well, turning 18 in May.

UNDERCLASS HITTERS

Derek Curiel, 2024 OF, California

Curiel played one game, but he left early due to a shoulder injury and will miss the tournament, with 2024 outfielder Michael Torres replacing him on the roster. Even with just a couple of at-bats and a workout day, Curiel still stood out. He worked ahead to a 2-1 count, then got a 91 mph fastball up on the inner third that he turned on, keeping his hands short to the ball with a tight, efficient swing from the left side to pull a double into the right-center field gap. At 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Curiel is a polished player who makes everything look crisp and clean, both at the plate and with his easy, gliding actions in center field. He's a high-contact hitter with good plate coverage, manipulating the barrel effectively to go with where the ball is pitched and use the whole field. He's committed to Louisiana State.

P.J. Morlando, 2024 OF/1B, South Carolina

Morlando has the best lefthanded power in the 2024 class, is in the conversation for the most raw power of any 2024 hitter and is arguably the most complete hitter for that year in terms of on-base skills and power. Morlando obliterated balls during batting practice, generating easy, explosive power with his bat speed and strength in his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. The way Morlando is able to produce that power is especially impressive. There aren't many moving parts to his swing, with a simple lower-half load and quiet hands, and he keeps his head locked in with a clean, fluid path through the hitting zone. It helps him track pitches well with a good eye for the zone, something he showed here, going 1-for-3 with two walks. Morlando is a Mississippi State commit.

Ty Southisene, 2024 SS, Nevada

Southisene got on base four times in his eight plate appearances with a single, two walks and a hit by pitch. His pure contact skills are among the best in the 2024 class, with little swing and miss to his game. Southisene takes an aggressive swing with a big leg kick from the right side, but he's a line-drive hitter without much power, and at 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, his offensive game will probably always center around his contact and on-base skills rather than extra-base damage. With 2023 shortstops Roman Martin and Nazzan Zanetello on the team, Southisene played second base here and showed some of the best defensive actions in the 2024 class. He has soft hands, nimble footwork and a nose for the ball, with smooth double play turns and comfort throwing from different angles. He's a Tennessee commit.

Daniel Arambula, 2024 INF, California

Arambula was a big arrow-up player throughout the 2024 summer, performing well at the plate with a mix of hitting ability and power. With a compact build at 6 feet, 190 pounds, Arambula has a simple, quick swing from the right side and uses his hands well, staying behind the ball to drive it with ease to all fields and deep gap shots to both alleys. An LSU commit, Arambula is an offensive-minded infielder who plays all over the dirt, with second or third base probably his best fit in pro ball.

Talan Bell, 2024 OF/LHP, Florida

A Florida State commit, Bell is a two-way player who had some dominant outings on the mound this fall and his future in pro ball could be on the mound, though he didn't pitch during training camp. A 5-foot-11, 165-pound lefty, Bell bars his arm at times in his swing, but he drove balls with surprising carry for his size in BP, then in the game drove a ball down in the zone for an opposite-field double. Bell isn't a burner runner, but he's athletic with good body control and arm strength that he showed playing left field here.

Noah Franco, 2025 OF/LHP, California

Franco is one of the top players in the 2025 class both as an outfielder and a pitcher, though he didn't pitch during training camp. He has a great frame for a young pitcher at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds with broad shoulders, a high waist and lots of strength projection remaining. That same physical projection holds true for him as a hitter, with a lefthanded swing geared to lift the ball and opposite-field power that he showed with a hard-luck out that the center fielder ran down just in front of the warning track in left-center field. Franco was hit by a pitch three times, which limited his offensive opportunities, but the Mississippi State commit was able to show off his arm on a single hit to him in right field where he threw out the runner at home with an on-target throw to end the inning, then again to end the seventh inning to erase the runner trying to advance to third base.

PITCHERS

Before we get into the reports, keep in mind that November is not the ideal time to evaluate pitchers. Even with older college draft picks, it's pretty common (or was, back when the draft was earlier and short-season leagues existed) to see many of them look run down in August compared to how they looked back when they started the season in February. If you go across town to an Arizona Fall League game, you can see the same thing. With a pitching staff that's all high school juniors and sophomores, it's no surprise to see velocity readings down from their normal numbers when pitchers are at full strength. That's just context to keep in mind where fatigue in the short term can mask a player's true talent level.

Carson Messina, 2024 RHP, South Carolina

Messina made a loud impression last month at Jupiter, pitching at 91-94 mph and hitting 96 multiple times. At 18U National Team training camp, his velocity wasn't as hot—mostly 89-92 mph—but he carved up hitters with mostly his fastball, striking out five of the seven batters he faced with no walks and one hit allowed. The South Carolina commit threw his fastball for 28 of his 33 pitches, with lively arm-side run and eight whiffs on that pitch. Messina has a power curveball that he only threw a couple of times here, flashing sharp bite, but they didn't land for strikes. He also threw a few changeups to try to surprise hitters early in the count, including two first-pitch changeups with a swing and miss on one of them. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Messina has a strong, physically mature build for 16. He flies open early in his delivery but it didn't impede his control here, with 23 of those 28 fastballs for strikes.

Matthew Champion, 2024 RHP/INF, California

Champion only threw one inning, striking out two of the four batters he faced, and in just 12 pitches he elicited seven swings and misses. Champion, who has touched 91 mph before, was 84-88 mph here. It was his 76-78 mph changeup that befuddled hitters, generating empty swings all four times he threw it (twice to a lefty, twice to a righty) as he kept the pitch down and it tumbled underneath barrels. Listed at 6 feet, 175 pounds, Champion also threw two curveballs at 75-76 mph, getting one swinging strike, but his changeup was the separator for him here and has a chance to be plus. He's an LSU commit and a two-way player, though he only took BP here and didn't hit in games.

Masson Brassfield, 2024 LHP, California

Brassfield is one of the elite pitchers for 2024, an athletic lefty with lots of space left to fill out (6-foot-4, 185 pounds) and a fastball up to 93 mph. He had to pitch without his usual velocity here, bumping 89 mph and working in the mid-to-upper 80s. He walked three and give up a run in two innings, but he didn't allow a hit and he struck out five of the nine batters he faced. His slider is one of the best among 2024 pitchers and the quality was on display here, with low-80s velocity and late tilt that helped Brassfield miss bats against lefties and righties even without his best fastball. He's committed to Texas Christian.

Stunner Gonzales, 2024 RHP

Sometimes you see a hitter go 0-for-5 or a pitcher leave having given up more runs than innings pitched and still come away impressed. That was the case with Gonzales, who had some control trouble as he walked two and allowed four hits to the 11 batters he faced, but the raw stuff and physical projection still pointed toward an arrow-up pitching prospect. Gonzales is an extremely projectable 6-foot-7, 190 pounds and just turned 16 in August, meaning he will be 17 on the expected 2024 draft date and is one of the youngest players in the 2024 class. He touched 92 mph, pitched at 88-91 and should have mid-90s or better velocity in his future with room to pack on another 40-plus pounds. Gonzales paired his fastball with a 73-77 mph curveball that he snapped off with sharp break at times, using it for two swinging strikeouts. Gonzales has long arms and legs that he will have to learn to synchronize in his delivery to throw more consistent strikes, but his stuff is already good for his age and has a chance to take another big jump in the coming years. He's an LSU commit.

Austin Nye, 2024 RHP, California

Nye is a Vanderbilt commit and one of the elite pitching prospects for 2024. He touched 93 mph last month at Jupiter, though here he pitched at 86-89 mph, making his fastball more hittable as he allowed two runs on three hits over two innings. Nye didn't walk anyone and he struck out three, flashing three quality offspeed pitches between his curveball, slider and changeup. He finished his outing with a swinging strikeout on a big-breaking curve, with his most impressive pitch a changeup that badly fooled a lefthanded hitter with lots of separation off his fastball and fading action for the swinging strikeout.

Cade Townsend, 2024 RHP, California

At Jupiter last month, Townsend struck out nine with no walks or runs in five innings as he pitched at 88-93 mph. At training camp with the 18U National Team, the Mississippi commit pitched at 88-90 mph and didn't throw strikes with the same frequency, leaving his inning with one run allowed on two hits, a walk and a hit batter. Townsend has a quick arm and should gain velocity as he fills out his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame. The separator for him is an innate feel to spin, which he shows on a curveball with tight rotation and good depth. Townsend also flashed a couple of promising sliders during warmups. He was often working from behind in the count, so he didn't throw it in-game, but his ability to manipulate spin on either of his breaking pitches should allow his slider to become a bigger weapon for him with more reps.

Ford Thompson, 2024 LHP, Georgia

Thompson is one of the top lefties in the 2024 class, reaching 91 mph this summer with advanced pitchability for a 16-year-old. The Georgia commit didn't have his best velocity here, pitching at 84-88 mph, but he was able to scatter two hits and a walk to avoid any runs while striking out two in his two innings. Thompson only threw one breaking ball, relying more on his changeup to change speeds, using it once in a 2-1 count to catch a righthanded hitter off balance and ground into an inning-ending double play.

Mavrick Rizy, 2024 RHP, Massachusetts

Rizy was coming off a great outing in Jupiter, where he touched 93 mph and struck out five with one walk in three shutout innings. He wasn't as sharp here, giving up four hits, two walks, a hit batter and a run in two innings without any strikeouts. Rizy is built like Marlins 2005 first-round pick Chris Volstad at 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, and like Volstad, he throws without much effort in his delivery. Rizy's command of his fastball and curveball weren't as crisp as usual, leading to more balls in play against him, but the Connecticut commit looks like one of the top prep arms in the Northeast for 2024.

Vaughn Neckar, 2025 RHP, California

At 15, Neckar is the youngest player on the team, but he's already 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. While other pitchers understandably didn't have their best velocity here, that wasn't the case for Neckar, who touched 93 mph. Neckar sat at 88-92 mph as he struck out four of the seven hitters he faced with one walk and no hits in two scoreless innings. Neckar pitches with compact arm action and mostly relied on his lively fastball, attacking a righthanded-heavy lineup up and inside to get eight swings and misses on 29 fastballs. When Neckar changed speeds, he mostly went to a 75-77 mph curveball. It showed hard break, good shape and depth to miss bats two of the six times he threw it, including one in a 3-2 count. Neckar is committed to LSU.

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