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17u PG World Series Breakdown
Monday, July 23, 2012
16 of the top travel clubs in the country will be kicking off play late Tuesday afternoon in Peoria, Ariz.at the inaugural 17u Perfect Game World Series. The level of talent that will take the field at the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners minor league complex has impressed even the Perfect Game staff that is organizing the event.
The 17u World Series is realistically the last team event that many of these top prospects will play in this summer, and scouts place high value on seeing potential draftees play in a balance of showcases and competitive team tournaments. Many of the players in Peoria will go from Arizona to Syracuse, N.Y. for the East Coast Professional Showcase August 1-4, to be followed quickly thereafter by the Area Code Games back on the West Coast in Long Beach, Calif. August 5-10. Then at least 18 of the players at the 17u World Series will make their way to San Diego for the 2012 Perfect Game All American Classic presented by Rawlings on August 12.
In looking at who might be the favorite this week, by far the most important consideration is pitching depth. The 16-team field is broken down into two eight team pools, and each team will play seven games in four days under the hot Arizona sun (although all games will be played in the mornings and evenings, with no mid-afternoon games), before the top two teams in each pool will face off the morning of July 28 in the playoffs. The final two teams will eventually play nine games in five days.
Here’s a look at how one scout handicaps the field, including a player to pay careful attention to from each team.
The Banditos are fresh from winning the WWBA 17u National Championship in Marietta two weeks ago and have been aggressively adding pitching depth to their roster for this event, including New York RHP/SS Matt Vogel. The outfield is especially strong and athletic with Darryn Sheppard, Stone Garrett, Walker Pennington and two-way standout Perfect Game All-American Nicholas Banks. Banks is joined by two other two-way prospects Kacy Clemens (another All-American) and Jake Jarvis.
Player to Watch: RHP Kohl Stewart. A Texas A&M football quarterback recruit and yet another PG All-American on the Banditos roster, Stewart hasn’t pitched much on the national scene this summer due to a minor back injury and football practice and is currently playing in the Texas 7-on-7 State Football Championships. But Banditos manager Ray DeLeon promises that Stewart and his mid-90s fastball will be in Arizona to take his start.
East Cobb Braves
The core of the Braves team just won the 18u BCS Finals in Fort Myers, Florida, so they are at the top of their games. Pitching depth has rarely been a problem with Kevin Baldwin’s teams over the years, and their first four starting pitchers, Clinton Hollon, Kevin Davis, Robert Tyler and two-way prospect Travis DeMerritte, are all Perfect Game All-Americans. DeMerritte and leadoff hitter Josh Hart will key the offense along with 18u BCS MVP OF Keenan Innis (son of former big leaguer, Jeff Innis).
Player to Watch: RHP Clinton Hollon. Hollon hasn’t been hitting the 96-97 mph range he did last summer and fall, but has really improved his off-speed offerings and pitchability, and his current 90-94 mph velocity is still plenty firm enough. A dominant low pitch early outing could set him to come back strong in the playoffs.
This event could be an opportunity for Nor Cal to make a strong statement to the teams from the Southeast that they still have the same caliber talent, and the pre-PG World Series talk is that they are going full effort to take home the title.
Player to Watch: OF Ryan Kirby. OF Kort Peterson and SS Brett Binning have better physical tools, but Kirby is a dominant left handed hitter with big power and the ability to hit top level stuff. If he has a great tournament, he could carry this team.
San Gabriel Valley Arsenal
Coach Mike Viera’s team might be a bit on the young side, with three top 2014 prospects, 3B/RHP Jack Flaherty, SS/RHP Jacob Gatewood and OF Scott Hurst, among their top players. But the pitching staff looks deep and there are plenty of two-way players who can eat up innings on the mound as well.
Player to Watch: 3B/RHP Jack Flaherty. Flaherty, who as a teammate of 2012 first rounders Lucas Giolito and Max Fried at Harvard Westlake High School is very well known to scouts, doesn’t look like a 2014 prospect at 6-foot-4, 200-pounds, and he doesn't play like one either.
The Arsenal are the classic team that always outperforms the sum of their parts and generally finish “in the money” at virtually every major WWBA or BCS tournament. Pitching depth will be a key, just as it is with every team, as the Arsenal's top pitcher, LHP Robert Kaminsky, the top ranked pitching prospect in the 2013 class, isn't expected to throw, but may suit up and play center for the Arsenal.
Player to Watch: C Matt Thaiss. Should Kaminsky take the mound everyone will certainly be watching, but Thaiss, with his advanced defense and strong bat, will make more of an impact on the Arsenal’s chances as a whole.
The Prospects chances were diminished at the last minute when Perfect Game All-American Trey Ball, one of the top two-way players in the country, was unable to make the trip.
Player to Watch: IF/RHP Dylan Manwaring. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Manwaring has a strong right-handed bat that should produce runs in the middle of the Prospects batting order, especially if he is hitting next to 1B Joe Dudek. He might have a higher ceiling on the mound though, with a fastball that gets into the low-90s.
Mountain West has a solid set of starting pitchers who have performed well in WWBA/BCS events in the past. Scoring runs could be the key to their success.
Player to Watch: RHP Tyler Thorne. Thorne, a Stanford signee, won’t light up the radar guns with 90-plus mph fastballs but he has outstanding feel and command of three different breaking balls, which is a recipe for instant success at this level. He’ll start Mountain West’s first game.
Player to Watch: IF Nate Mondou. Mondou has a very good left handed bat with some power and should be in the center, along with teammate OF Ian Hamilton, of most everything that Team Northwest does offensively.
Marucci is a true national team, with players from all four time zones and a list of college commitments that reads like a who’s who of the top college programs in the country. They will have the depth to endure the schedule and the offensive fire power to give their pitchers a couple of breaks with high scoring efforts. The middle of the field stands out with catchers Jon Denney and Andrew Dunlap, middle infielder Blake Hennessey and centerfielder Matt McPhearson.
Player to Watch: RF Justin Williams. Williams has been heating up all summer and will enter Arizona looking to establish himself as the top hitter in the 2013 class, especially with Georgia OF Clint Frazier and California 1B Dominic Smith not participating. He has the tools to accomplish that.
The Canes have what is likely the deepest roster at the event and probably have the pitching to play three games a day instead of just two. They lack the All-American star power in their starting lineup that some of the other teams have, but scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem.
Player to Watch: OF Jake Fraley. It might be more fun to watch 6-foot-6, 225-pound 2014 first baseman Justin Bellinger swing the bat and maybe lose a ball or three, but Fraley has established himself as one of the best pure hitters in the 2013 class and should impact every game with his smooth left handed swing.
South Florida Elite
Perfect Game staff members asked about a sleeper team to take home the title almost unanimously picked South Florida as their choice. With the likes of C Zach Collins, OF William Abreu, IF Danny Zardon, 1B Nick Longhi and OF Brandon Diaz in their lineup, the Elite are not going to be outscored in a slugfest. Where the pitching depth comes from is another matter.
Player to Watch: C Zach Collins. Collins has put on some of the most impressive hitting displays in WWBA history at past events and is one of the elite power hitters in the country. Scouts will also be watching how he handles the South Florida pitching staff.
San Diego Show
The Show have seemingly cornered the marked on big and projectable left handed pitchers with Perfect Game All-Americans Ian Clarkin and Stephen Gonzalves. It's uncertain if those two will make the trip, but one of the top arms from the 2014 class, fellow lefty Brady Aiken, will be. All three players have good bats as well.
Player to Watch: 2014 catcher Alex Jackson is one of the more prolific power hitters in the country and perhaps the top catcher in the 2014 class.
The “host” Arizona team might be one of the most entertaining teams in the field as they are loaded with position prospects and top level athletes in the middle of the field, not to mention multiple sons of former big league players (1B Cody Bellinger, SS Riley Unroe, IF Brantley Bell, RHP Jesus Daal). It doesn’t realistically look like they have enough pitching to contend, but it won’t be for lack of talent. The team will be a scout magnet.
Player to Watch: 1B/LHP Cody Bellinger. Bellinger looks like a younger and more slender version of top Marlins prospect Christian Yelich at the plate with his strong left handed swing and will have an impact on the tournament as an upper-80s left handed pitcher as well. Father Clay was a second round pick in 1989 who spent 11 years in the minors before his big league debut.
The ABD Bulldogs don’t have the star power that marked their teams a few years ago when they were winning multiple national championships, but they still have a very talented team and will play with the confidence that they can beat anyone.
Player to Watch: IF Elliott Barzilli. Barzilli is taking the highly unusual path of committing to Georgia Tech despite being a Southern California product but he is without a doubt a national level talent. He was one of the top performers at the recent USA Baseball Tournament of Stars.
Player to Watch: C Karl Ellison. The group of catchers in the Class of 2013 is outstanding, which means that players like Ellison can be overlooked when in other years they might have been Perfect Game All-Americans. Ellison is a standout on both sides of the ball and has been hitting with big power this summer.
Player to Watch: IF Skyler Bean. Bean is the younger brother of the St. Louis Cardinals 2012 supplemental first-round pick C Steven Bean, and is a talented prospect in his own right. He’s a different type athlete than his brother at 5-foot-9, 165-pounds, but is quick and athletic and was one of the top offensive performers at the WWBA 17U National Championships earlier in the month.
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