USA Baseball Announces 2018 20-Man 18U National Team Roster
USA Baseball on Tuesday night announced the 20-man roster for the 18U National Team that will compete in the COPABE U-18 Pan-American Championship.
The announcement comes after USA Baseball completed its National Team Trials Tuesday night and includes five National Team alumni who will join 15 other prospects as the 18U team attempts to win a fifth straight Pan-American Championships.
"We're really excited to announce these 20 players,” said 18U National Team Director Matt Blood in a release from USA Baseball. “It's been a long process and a long year. They have worked really hard to get here. It was hard to see some of those other guys go, but we are down to 20 now and we love our group and we feel good about the guys we have.”
The full roster can be seen below:
- Drew Romo*
- Riley Cornelio
- Sammy Faltine
- Ryan Hawks
- Jared Kelley*
- Jack Leiter
- Brennan Malone
- Jacob Meador
- Max Rajcic* (also listed as an INF)
- Timmy Manning*
- Avery Short
*Denotes members of the 2020 draft class.
"To hear your name called to be on the U.S. National Team is an incredible honor,” said National Team Manager Jack Leggett, in a release.
“These kids have worked extremely hard. I am excited and proud to have the opportunity to coach them and challenge ourselves against international competition. These kids have been preparing for this for a long period of time, and I think we will be well prepared.”
The COPABE U-18 Pan-American Championships begin on Friday, Nov. 23 in Santiago, Panama.
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Baseball America caught up with 18U National Team Director Matt Blood Tuesday night to discuss the 18U team in greater detail:
Baseball America: What stands out right away are the number of underclass players on the team. Can you speak to the talent those players bring to the table?
Matt Blood: It’s exciting. It’s an indication as to how strong the 2020 class is. These guys are on the team because they belong on the team. Some of them actually have a decent amount of international experience. Crow-Armstrong and Cruz both played in the Pan-Am games last year on the 15Us and (Morales) played (as a) 12U. All of the guys were at our 17U National Team Development this year—so were a lot of the 2019 guys. It’s a young group, but it’s a group that has experience. It’s not a raw young group. It’s a group that knows how to play.
The older kids are good too. This is a talented team, it’s a little different than the teams I’ve had in the past but we have a chance to be very offensive. We’re solid defensively and we felt like we needed to take more pitching this year than we ever have because of the way the schedule lines up and the time of year we’re playing.
BA: Given the number of pitchers (10) you have, how important was versatility when deciding on the position players?
MB: It's very important. Abrams can play outfield and infield and he will do that. He will play second base, shortstop and center. Volpe can play all over the infield, Faltine can play every position except catcher. Crews can catch and play outfield and Callihan can play just about every position on the dirt...
There is a lot of versatility… Even Morales can play every position on the dirt except for catcher. That played a big role in these decisions—20 is tough, and we’re going to have to play seven games in a row against pretty much the seven best teams.
BA: Last year the 18U team had such a strong pitching group it might be unfair to compare them, but what are your thoughts on the arms for this year's group?
MB: It’s just a different group than last year. It’s a little different style. I am really excited about these arms. These guys compete, they have stuff. I expect them to go out and have a lot of success.
BA: The infield appears to be a strength of this team.
MB: Our infield and our outfield, because Abrams is both. He’s elite at both. He can be an above-average outfielder and above-average middle infielder. For us that gives us some flexibility. We can go in the outfield with Carroll and Crow-Armstrong and Abrams and we have three center fielders. Just like we did last year. Three legit center fielders in left, center and right.
Or we can put him in the dirt... We can move him around and figure it out but between Abrams, Witt, Volpe and Morales. We feel like we have guys who can handle every infield position there.
BA: With the amount of positional flexibility you have there, how do you determine who actually plays where on a day-to-day basis?
MB: It’s going to come down to who catches. We’re not going to move guys around just to move them around. We’re going to play them where the fit is best for the team. If Romo is back there (behind the plate) we have to figure out who’s going to be on the bench as a utility guy. We really only have two bench guys because we brought nine pitchers (who only pitch). We have a few two-way guys as well… If Faltine is going to be our super utility bench guy…
BA: Would you say Faltine is going to have a role similar to what Brandon Dieter had last year?
MB: Absolutely. That’s who he is and he’s a great kid and can handle whatever role he’s given like a pro.
If Romo is not catching, either Cruz or Callihan will have to. If Cruz is catching then Abrams has to be in the outfield and then that means you have Volpe, Witt and Morales in the infield with either Greene or Callihan playing playing first base and the other DHing. If Romo is catching we have more flexibility (in what we do defensively).
BA: While you have three guys who can get behind the plate, what does it say about Romo's ability to be the only pure catcher listed on the roster as an underclassman?
MB: It speaks a lot to his ability and hard work this year. I mean, he wasn’t even invited to the Tournament of Stars. We brought him to Trials late and our National Team program. He’s gotten better and better and better. When we brought him to Florida we weren’t really sure. We knew he was an underclassman and wanted him to get the experience. He showed up in phenomenal shape and has great energy behind the plate...
We feel good about the way he handles the pitchers and can receive and throw—he’s also been good offensively and put together good, competitive at-bats.
BA: How have you seen the team come together through the trials process and get into baseball shape during a time in the year when players usually don't have to worry about that?
MB: This point in the year is a challenge. It really is. Especially for the pitchers. I was really happy with the shape that our guys showed up in. And they have been coming together well. We have a lot of really good players on this team, makeup wise. I think they are starting to understand what it means to play for Team USA, and that this is not your typical showcase or travel ball team.
This means a lot to the whole country and just to the legacy of baseball in the United States. That’s something they are coming to grips with and I think when they get to Panama and they see they are in another country, and other teams have different names on their jerseys—those feelings and that understanding will be heightened.