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Tournaments : : Story
Talent galore at 17u PG Series
Jeff Dahn        
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2012

PEORIA, Ariz. - They are 16 of the best 17u baseball teams in the country, and represent every region in the nation. And after the tournament's 60th game is played Saturday morning at the Peoria Sports Complex, one of the 16 will be able say emphatically that it is, indeed, the best of the best.

The first 17u Perfect Game World Series will kick off with eight games Tuesday (July 24) night at the Peoria Sports Complex and continues with 16 games a day through Friday. The semifinals and championship games will be played Saturday morning, with all the action at the spring training home of the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.

The teams involved in this prestigious event are the ABD Bulldogs, based in San Bernardino, Calif.; Arizona Elite (Phoenix); Baseball U (West Branch, N.J.); the Dallas Patriots (Richardson, Texas); the East Cobb Braves (Marietta, Ga.), The EvoShield Canes (Fredericksburg, Va.); the Houston Banditos (Houston, Texas) and the Indiana Prospects (Indianapolis).

Also, Marucci Elite (Baton Rouge, La.); Mountain West '13 (South Jordan, Utah); NorCal Baseball (Manteca, Calif.); San Diego Show (San Diego); SGV Arsenal (West Covina, Calif.); the South Florida Elite Squad (Miami); Team Northwest (Puyallup, Wash.) and the Tri-State Arsenal (Vorhees, N.J.).

The 16 teams have been separated into two eight-team pools and each will play seven pool games between Tuesday and Friday. The top-two teams from each pool will advance to Saturday's semifinals.

For this year's inaugural event, Perfect Game tournament directors and scouts selected the 16 teams based on their performances at PG national tournaments in the past and the expectations for each in 2012. Beginning in 2013, teams will be given the opportunity to qualify for the PG World Series through a series of qualifying tournaments that will be held throughout the country.

The 14u, 15u and 16u Perfect Game World Series will be held July 31 through Aug. 5 in Marietta, Ga.

One of the more intriguing teams at what will be an intensely scouted tournament is the hometown Arizona Elite, a collection of the top prospects in the state of Arizona from the high school classes of 2013 and 2014. The roster is stocked with sons of former big-leaguers, including Cody Bellinger (son of Clay), Riley Unroe (Tim) and Brantley Bell (Jay).

Dustin Peterson, also on the Arizona Elite's roster, is the younger brother of the University of New Mexico's D.J. Peterson. It's likely both will be high-round MLB draft picks in 2013, reminiscent of Phoenix brothers C.J. and Kevin Cron in the 2011 draft.

Bellinger, Unroe, Bell and Peterson are all ranked among the top 120 national prospects in the class of 2013. The Arizona Elite will be coached by Micah Franklin from the Diamondbacks Scout Team and Ryan McKinnley from the Angels Scout Team.

Franklin is a scout in the big-league Arizona Diamondbacks organization and is looking forward to the PG World Series.

"I've scouted a lot of Perfect Game events and there is always a real good showing of talent," he said. "I think this Arizona group will definitely be competitive. They have the advantages of the weather, the facilities and playing the year around, but I think they're a little behind in playing against this kind of talent versus some of the other kids (from across the country)."

The East Cobb Braves will roll into the 17u Perfect Game World Series after just winning their third straight PG 18u BCS Finals national championship in Fort Myers, Fla., last week.

"Five or six of our better players have been with Team USA and they will be re-joining us out there," Braves head coach Kevin Baldwin said last week. "It's a first-year event, and going to the West Coast is always cool for the East Coast kids. We're excited to see where we stand up against the best competition in the country."

An event like the 17u Perfect Game World Series gives everyone a chance to see the very best teams from the four corners and the middle of the country in one place over the course of five days. And it becomes more and more evident every year that no one state holds a patent on producing the nation's top prospects.

"There is talent everywhere in the country; you just never know where it's going to be," Arizona Elite's Franklin said. "I would say that maybe Arizona kids don't really understand this type of stage yet. It's not that they're not ready for this type of stage, they're just a little behind the big-time elite club teams. They're more focused on playing for their high schools - and I don't want to put down the high schools, they do a great job - but they don't play at that elite level every game."

Thirty-six of the top 100 2013 prospects are expected for the Series and 133 of the top 500. Additionally, 15 of the top 100 2014 prospects are also expected to be in attendance. More than 115 of the prospects have already committed to colleges, most of them to NCAA Division I schools.

The 10th Annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings, the nation's premier all-star game for incoming high school seniors, will be played Aug. 12 at PETCO Park in San Diego, and this year features 48 of the top prospects in the 2013 class. At least 18 of them are expected to be performing this week at the 17u PG World Series, providing the MLB scouting community an early look.

The East Cobb Braves are expected to have five PG All-Americans available, including Kevin Davis, Josh Hart, Clinton Hollon, Robert Tyler and Travis Demeritte. 

The Houston Banditos will feature All-Americans Kacy Clemens (Roger's son), Nick Banks and Texas A&M football recruit Kohl Stewart, who is projected as a likely MLB first-round draft pick in June. The San Diego Show features All-Americans Stephen Gonsalves, Ian Clarkin and Gosuke Katoh.

An event like this is a scout's dream.

"Any time you can get the top talent pool in one sport where (the scouts aren't) chasing (prospects) from state to state and you're going from Field 5 to Field 4 or Field 6 to Field 3, it makes it much, much easier to scout," Franklin said. "Obviously, as a scout, that's where you want to be; in one place where you can see them all."
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