As part of a four-part series Perfect Game will highlight the top 10 storylines from the 2012 MLB Draft (Patrick Ebert), from Perfect Game's Showcases and Tournament events as well as those from both College (Kendall Rogers) and High School (Todd Gold) Baseball.
The 2012 Perfect Game tournament and showcase seasons will conclude with the PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event, Dec. 28-30. The year proved to be one of PG’s best, both in terms of the talent level on the field and the record number of participants at events staged from Puerto Rico to Washington State, and dozens of points in between.
The 38-event 2012 showcase schedule started and finished in Fort Myers, Fla., for the 11th straight year. The 42-event PG tournament schedule began last January in Phoenix and concluded with the 15th annual PG WWBA World Championship in late October in Jupiter, Fla., while Hurricane Sandy churned menacingly out in the Atlantic Ocean.
What follows is a 2012 Year in Review, featuring 10 of the top stories to come out of the past year’s PG tournaments and showcases:
No. 10: 1st-timers Houston Banditos, Team Georgia win 17u, 16u WWBA National Championships
The Perfect Game WWBA 2013 Grads or 17u National Championship and WWBA 2014 Grads or 16u National Championship ran back-to-back June 6-20, and together brought 502 teams to countless playing fields in the northern Atlanta suburbs, most notably the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga.
When what seemed like a month’s worth of rain finally subsided, the Tomball, Texas-based Houston Banditos Black had claimed their first WWBA 17u National Championship. The Alpharetta, Ga.-based Team Georgia 16u Blue took home championship gold at the WWBA 16u National Championship, its first WWBA title.
Led by tournament Most Valuable Pitcher Bryce Welborn, the 16th-seeded Banditos (11-1) blanked the No. 30 Alabama Seminoles 17u, 4-0, in the championship game of the WWBA 17u National Championship.
Welborn, a Texas Tech signee from The Woodlands, Texas, pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball in the rain-shortened championship game, and 9 2/3 scoreless innings of five-hit ball at the tournament. This was a star-studded Banditos roster that included Perfect Game All-Americans Nick Banks, Kacy Clemens and Kohl Stewart, and top 2014s like Stone Garrett and Justin Twine.
The Seminoles’ Keegan Thompson, an Auburn signee from Cullman, Ala., ranked the No. 28 national prospect in the 2013 class, was named the MV Player. Thompson hit .500 (17-for-34) with two home runs, 13 RBI and 13 runs in 12 games. He also pitched 11 2/3 innings and struck out 18.
Team Georgia 16u Blue (10-1-1) went into the playoffs as the No. 28 seed but posted upset after upset, including a 1-0 win over the No. 3-seeded South Charlotte Panthers in the championship game. Right-hander Patrick Stone, a 2013 from Decatur, Ga., pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout in the title game. He was named the tournament’s MV Pitcher after throwing 13 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and walking none while striking out six.
Team Georgia’s Jack Thompson, a 2014 from Milton, Ga., was named MV Player after 12 games in which he was 12-for-43 (.364) with five home runs, 22 RBI and 11 runs scored. His OPS was an eye-popping 1.401.
No. 9: Excitement surrounds inaugural PG World Series’ events
Perfect Game unveiled its inaugural World Series events in 2012, four elite age-group tournaments that brought together the best teams in the country for ultra-competitive five- or six-day extravaganzas. These were exclusive gatherings, with Perfect Game officials inviting only the best of the best from all four corners of the country.
The premier 17u Perfect Game World Series was played July 24-28 at the Peoria (Ariz.) Sports Complex, the spring training home of the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. Each of the 16 powerhouse teams invited to the event played seven pool-play games that produced a representative final-four of Team Northwest (Seattle, Wash.) vs. the South Florida Elite Squad (Miami), and the ABD Bulldogs (San Bernardino, Calif.) vs. the East Cobb Braves (Marietta, Ga.). The Squad ultimately beat the Braves, 7-5, in the highly anticipated championship game.
"This has been just an awesome experience," Zack Collins, the tournament MVP from the Elite Squad, said after the title game. "We came in knowing that we had one tournament left that we needed to win, and we came in here and won it. It's definitely a grind out here; it's hot and with two games a day, but we grinded it out and we ended up winning it.”
The PG World Series caravan moved to the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga., July 31 through Aug. 5 for the playing of the 14u, 15u and 16u tournaments. The 14u PGWS, with 12 teams, was won by the East Cobb Astros from Marietta; the 16-team 15u PGWS title was won by Gravel Baseball out of Chicago; and the 16-team 16u PGWS championship went to the Florida Burn from Sarasota, Fla.
"It was a terrific experience facing top-notch competition every day,” Burn head coach and former big-league pitcher Mark Guthrie said. "I know everybody's been saying this all along, but this shows you a lot about your own kids – things that we might not have even known about our own kids. They really played tough baseball; they are tough kids and they earned every out that they got out here."
No. 8: Inaugural PG Caribbean Showcase a huge hit
The first – and most certainly not the last – Perfect Game Caribbean Showcase was staged at Roberto Clemente Stadium in Carolina, Puerto Rico, and proved to be successful beyond anyone’s expectations. The event drew 137 participants – nearly twice as many as were initially expected – including all of the top Puerto Rican prospects in the classes of 2013, ’14 and ’15.
PG national director of scouting David Rawnsley reported that 55 players ran a sub 7-second 60-yard dash and 15 ran it under 6.65 seconds. Twelve prospects threw 90 mph or harder from the outfield and seven topped the 90 mph mark throwing across the infield. Seventeen catchers popped 2.01 seconds or less.
“The only event on the Perfect Game showcase calendar where you expect that type of across-the-board position athleticism is at the National Showcase and perhaps the World Showcase,” Rawnsley wrote. “In fact, there were a number of players who ran in the 6.8 range and threw 90 mph from their position who weren’t included in the immediate post-showcase Top Prospect List. That’s unheard of at a regional showcase.”
PG All-American shortstop Jan Alexis Hernandez, a projected first-round selection in the 2013 MLB amateur draft, was ranked the event’s top prospect in the class of 2013. Shortstop/outfielder Johneshwy Fargas and outfielder Jacob Cordero Kuilan were identified as the two “biggest revelations” of the showcase by PG’s Rawnsley.
No. 7: Big summer at the plate for East Cobb’s Michael Chavis
Michael Chavis from Marietta, Ga., the No. 4-ranked third baseman in the 2014 class and a junior at Sprayberry High School, enjoyed a phenomenal summer at the plate while playing for the East Cobb Braves in five PG tournaments.
In those five tournaments – the 17u/18u PG-EC Invitational; the 16u PG BCS Finals in Fort Myers, Fla.; the PG WWBA 2013 Grads or 17u National Championship in Marietta; the PG WWBA 2014 Grads or 16u National Championship, also in Marietta; and finally at the 17u Perfect Game World Series in Peoria, Ariz. – Chavis hit a combined .452 (33-for-73) with seven doubles, four triples, six home runs, 28 RBI and 35 runs scored.
Thanks to 15 walks, he posted a .545 OBP and managed to hit at least one homer in all five tourneys. He was named to the all-tournament team at four of those events and was also named to the Louisville Slugger MLB Prime Nine select honor squad at the 17u PG World Series, joining an elite group that included 2012 PG All-Americans Zack Collins, A.J. Puk and Justin Williams. He was the only 2014 on the MLB Prime Nine team.
"I think I had a pretty solid summer," Chavis said in late August. "I mainly just played to have fun and enjoy the game and that's when I play my best. As long as I'm having fun, that's when I feel like I'm doing my job."
He continued to tear it up at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in early October when he hit .500 (11-for-22) with two doubles, two triples, one home run, eight RBI and eight runs, with a .522 OBP, .909 SLG and 1.431 OPS while helping the Braves to a third-place finish. He was once again named to the all-tournament team.
Chavis’ season of sizzle came to an end at the PG WWBA World Championship in late October. Playing for East Cobb Baseball – which won the championship – Chavis went 3-for-16 (.188) with a double, an RBI and three runs.
PG All-American Dominic Smith, playing primarily with Yak Baseball West-GBG, enjoyed one of the better summers at the plate among the top 2013 prospects. In 16 games played at the PG WWBA World Championship, PG WWBA 17u National Championship, the PG National Showcase and the PG All-American Classic, Smith was 23-for-43 (.469) with five doubles, a triple, two home runs, 19 RBI and 15 runs. His final “slash” numbers were .469/.571/.735.
No. 6: Workhorse right-hander Tyler Danish excels for Chet Lemon’s Juice
Valrico, Fla., righty and University of Florida signee Tyler Danish proved to be the “Iron Man of the Mound” at four PG WWBA tournaments in 2012, including two of the most prestigious events within a two-week stretch in late October.
Pitching in his second straight PG season for Chet Lemon’s Juice, Danish – a 6-foot, 170-pound right-hander whose fastball reached 94 mph this summer – was good all year but perhaps saved his best while leading Chet’s to a runner-up finish at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in late October.
Danish, ranked the nation’s No. 26 overall prospect and No. 1 right-handed pitcher in Florida in the high school class of 2013, made four appearances in four days and picked up a pair of wins. He worked 13 1/3 innings and gave up six hits and three earned runs (1.57 ERA) while striking out 20 and walking four. He was named the PG WWBA World Championship MV Pitcher.
"It's a great experience down here. I've played with this team for two years; we're like family," Danish said after accepting his award. "Compared to last year's experience down here when we didn't even make it out of our pool, none of us will forget this. We were so close, and just seeing us lose the last game that we'll ever play here is rough, but it was a fun experience for sure."
Danish was previously named to all-tournament teams at three other PG WWBA tournaments: the 18u PG WWBA East Memorial Day Classic in Fort Myers in late May; the PG WWBA 2013 Grads or 17u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., in early July; and the PG WWBA Florida Qualifier in Fort Myers in mid-October, all while pitching for the Juice.
He made three appearances at the East Memorial Day Classic, gave up two earned runs on five hits in 13 innings (1.08 ERA), struck out 13 and walked four.
At the WWBA 17u National Championship, he pitched nine innings over three appearances, and allowed just one earned run (0.78 ERA) while striking out 11 and walking six. He pitched nine shutout innings allowing three hits and striking out seven in a couple of appearances at the WWBA Florida Qualifier.
Danish pitched in nine PG WWBA tournaments the last two years. He was also the MV Pitcher at the 2011 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship.
"I wouldn't be where I am right now without Perfect Game and I just want to tell everyone (at PG) I appreciate everything that they've done for me," he said in October. "They've made me better by who we played and all the kids we've played against. I've become so much better as a pitcher than I was two years ago before I started Perfect Game."
No. 5: Teams flying East Cobb banner win seven PG championships
With seven championships, five runner-ups and seven third-place finishes, teams playing under the expansive East Cobb Baseball umbrella posted 19 podium (top-three) finishes at a combined 14 Perfect Game tournaments in 2012.
The most prestigious championship was captured by East Cobb Baseball at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in late October. The East Cobb Astros 15u won the PG WWBA 15u National Championship and the 15u PG BCS Finals national championships in a two-week stretch in July in Marietta, Ga., and Fort Myers.
It was the second straight year the East Cobb Astros 15u won both PG 15u national championships.
"We try to take guys who compete very well and who are athletic and play very good defense," head coach Dennis Jordan said after his squad won the 15u PG BCS Finals title. "It is two different groups but they're a lot alike; they never quit playing, they play hard and that's our philosophy – we come every day to play as hard as we possibly can.”
Led by a tournament Most Valuable Player performance from Wesley Jones and an eye-popping championship game performance from Travis Demeritte, East Cobb Baseball won the title at the 15th annual PG WWBA World Championship. It was the first WWBA World Championship for the elite East Cobb organization since the East Cobb Astros won it in 2005.
East Cobb Baseball, with PG All-Americans Demeritte and Josh Hart on the roster, entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed and whipped No. 4 Chet Lemon’s Juice, 8-2, in the title game. Demeritte wrapped up a brilliant four-year PG tournament and showcase career by going 3-for-3 with a double and four RBI in the championship game as ECB plowed through the stellar 85-team field with an 8-0 record.
Jones, who picked up the win as ECB’s starting pitcher in the championship game, was 11-for-21 (.524) with four doubles, 10 RBI and four runs scored with a OBP of 542, SLG of .714 and OPS of 1.256.
"It's been a pretty good ride," said Jones, a University of Georgia recruit. "We played a lot of tough teams and we had good pitchers that came along with it, and we did a great job with that.”
It was ECB's pitching that led it to the championship. Over eight games, 12 pitchers combined to work 56 innings, and gave up 29 hits and five earned runs (0.62) while striking out 59.
Three members of this team – South Carolina signee Demeritte, Georgia Tech recruit Keenan Innis and Clemson signee Dalton Ewing – were on the East Cobb Braves 17u team that won the 18u PG BCS Finals, and seven were on the Braves’ team that finished second at the inaugural 17u PG World Series.
Other PG tournament titles this year came from the East Cobb Braves 12u (12u PG BCS Finals); East Cobb Astros 14u (14u PG World Series); and East Cobb Yankees 18u (PG WWBA 18u National Championship).
No. 4: Florida Burn wins three elite PG tournaments
A group of high-profile prospects from in and around the Sarasota, Fla., area – the core underclassmen from Venice Senior High School – were brought together by former big-leaguers Mark Guthrie and Craig Faulkner to form the Florida Burn organization two years ago. The Burn wasted little time in becoming the sensation of the 2012 PG tournament season.
The run of podium finishes started with a runner-up finish at the 16u PG WWBA East Memorial Day Classic in late May and kept rolling with a third-place showing at the 16u PG BCS finals in Fort Myers in early July. It was after that tournament Coach Guthrie and a group led by his son, top 2014 shortstop prospect Dalton Guthrie, decided just reaching the podium wasn’t enough. They wanted the top spot.
The team responded by winning the inaugural 16u Perfect Game World Series in Marietta, Ga., in early August. Next up was a second PG national championship at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship at jetBlue Park in early October, followed immediately by a title at the PG WWBA Florida Qualifier at jetBlue one week later.
The Florida Qualifier championship earned the team a paid invitation to the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 25-29, where the Burn advanced out of pool-play only to lose a first-round playoff game.
Eleven players – including Dalton Guthrie, a Florida commit ranked No. 87 nationally in the class of 2014 – played on all three championship teams. Among the others were right-hander Chris Hopkins (2014, Deland, Fla.), the MV Pitcher at the 16u PG World Series; catcher/utility Kyle Gilbert (2014, Lake Mary, Fla.), MV Player at the PG WWBA Underclass World Championship; and catcher Michael Rivera (2014, Venice, Fla.), MV Player at the PG WWBA Florida Qualifier.
Left-hander Zeke Pietrzyk, who was not on the Burn’s 16u PGWS roster, was named the MV Pitcher at the Underclass World. Gilbert and Pietrzyk have committed to Florida Gulf Coast and Rivera to Florida.
“This is the first time it’s happened for me and my teammates, and all I can say is it’s a real good feeling,” Rivera said of winning the multiple championships. “I knew we had the players that weren’t selfish and they’re all scrappy players, and we played as a team. Whenever you play as a team you can always win, no matter what.”
With the core of this multi-championship team returning, the Burn will have to be considered one of the premier 17u teams in the country in 2013. Coach Guthrie likes what he’ll be bringing to the table.
“We don’t have 90 mph throwers but we have (pitchers) that miss bats,” he said. “We have guys that know how to pitch; we have guys that get outs outside of the strike zone. We have hitters that don’t strike out and we have hitters that hit the ball out of the park. Our lineup up and down gives you tough outs … and for us coaches it’s fun to watch.”
No. 3: Carlos Correa, Puerto Rican prospects have big impact on PG World Showcase
Before the start of the season-opening 2012 Perfect Game World Showcase Jan.7-8 in Fort Myers, PG President Jerry Ford made this observation: “I think this is the best Puerto Rican draft class in decades.”
Right on cue, more than a dozen of the top Puerto Rican prospects from the class of 2012 converged on Terry Park, and when PG national scouting director David Rawnsley compiled his list of top prospects from the event, three of the top four and four of the top seven were Puerto Ricans.
The group was led by top-ranked shortstop Carlos Correa, whose performance Rawnsley described as “one of the best ever seen at a Perfect Game showcase, or any other for that matter.” The highlight was his record-setting 97 mph throw across the infield; the Houston Astros made Correa the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Puerto Rican right-hander Edwin Diaz was named the event’s No. 2 top prospect and catcher Bryan De La Rosa came in at No. 4 (Corpus Christi, Texas, catcher Wyatt Mathisen squeezed in between Diaz and De La Rosa at No. 3). Puerto Rican right-hander Jose Orlando Berrios was ranked No. 7.
Diaz was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the third round, De La Rosa was a third-round pick of the Atlanta Braves and Berrios was a first-round compensation pick by the Minnesota Twins. Mathisen went to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second round.
No. 2: Perfect Game National Showcase maintains blockbuster status
The Perfect Game National Showcase, the standard-bearer for every other showcase event in all of amateur baseball, invited just more than 300 of the top prospects from the high school class of 2013 to the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis for its 12th annual performance, and the event proceeded to make history.
Perfect Game partnered with the eCoach Sports Network and iHigh to provide free of charge a live Internet stream of the National’s entire five-day run. The live broadcasts gave family and friends that remained at home an opportunity to watch those close to them perform with their peers on a national stage. And, while there were more than 300 scouts in attendance each day of the event, the live stream gave those who could not attend the opportunity to tune in and observe the elite prospects perform.
They were able to view some truly remarkable performances. Left-hander and PG All-American Robert Kaminsky from Engelwood Cliffs, N.J., provided the biggest highlight from the hill when he used a 94 mph fastball and a mind-bending upper-70s curveball to strikeout all seven batters he faced in the Showcase’s 10th game.
PG scouting coordinator Todd Gold, speaking of Kaminsky’s outing, noted that “This is the kind of stage where players go from being good prospects to very high level prospects, and he just did that.”
Kaminsky said just pitching in front of so many scouts enabled him to reach his maximum potential: “It gets you hyped up. It’s easy to perform in these situations because you don’t have to amp yourself up. It’s just an awesome experience.”
Cavan Biggio, a PG All-American from Houston and the son of likely first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio, was one of the event’s hitting stars. He hit a long, three-run blast over the right field wall in Texas Orange’s first game at the event, doubled in the second game and drilled an opposite field run-scoring double to left-center in the event’s last at-bat.
“This has been a great opportunity (for Cavan),” Craig Biggio said. “(We teach him that) you have to work hard, practice hard and try to be the best possible player you can be. He’s seen this … and he know what it takes to get to the big league level.”
Perfect Game was also able to help a pair of talented young prospects from the Dominican Republic to the National Showcase for the first time. Then 16-year-old Richard Urena and 15-year-old Leury Vargas were at the event with Dominican Prospect League founder and president Brian Mejia and managed to perform quite capably on the huge stage.
"I thank God for allowing me to be here and giving me the opportunity to be a part of the PG National," Urena said in Spanish while Mejia translated it to English. "I'm happy to be watching the better players in the United States and to be a part of all of it."
No. 1: PG All-American Classic celebrates 10th year; Clint Frazier wins Jackie Robinson Award
The Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings celebrated its 10th birthday with its fourth straight appearance at the San Diego Padres’ PETCO Park.
A crowd of 7,638 fans – the fourth straight year the game has drawn more than 7,600 – and a national television audience watching on the CBS Sports Network saw the West top the East, 7-6. The outcome gave West a 5-4-1 series advantage dating back to the inaugural game in 2003.
West outfielder Ryan Boldt from Red Wing, Minn., a University of Nebraska signee, went 2-for-3 with a triple and was named Most Valuable Player.
"This was just a dream come true," Boldt said after the game. "It was just a great opportunity to be able to come out and play with all these great players. It was a lot of fun down here, first of all, and you've got to have fun at these kinds of events. Hanging out with the guys has just really been a good time."
Seventeen of the 18 pitchers that worked during the game reached 90 mph with their fastballs. West right-hander Kohl Stewart, committed to Texas A&M for both baseball and football, topped-out at an event-high 95 mph, and the East right-handers Chris Oakley (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.) and Brett Morales (Tampa, Fla.) each reached 94 mph. East slugger Justin Williams (Houma, La.) won the Rawlings Home Run Challenge.
The teams were coached by already legendary high school hall of fame coaches: the East’s Clyde Metcalf from Sarasota (Fla.) High School and the West’s Marc Johnson from Cherry Creek (Colo.) High School.
"In coaching, you always look for that new experience and this is the first time I've experienced something like this," Metcalf said the day of the game. "To be able to be around kids like this – and that's what it's about is these young men – it really makes you feel good about what you're doing. It puts a stamp on what you're trying to do and it's been a thrill for me to be here; it's something that I'll never forget."
Clint Frazier, an exciting five-tool prospect out of Loganville, Ga., and a standout for Georgia-based Team Elite, jumped to the top of the PG 2013 prospect rankings after an electrifying performance at the PG National Showcase in mid-June. Frazier ran a 6.46-second 60-yard dash and threw 98 mph from the outfield in addition to finishing as runner-up in the Rawlings Home Run Challenge.
Frazier ultimately received the PG Jackie Robinson Player of the Year Award at the annual All-American Classic Awards Banquet. He remains the No. 1-ranked 2013 prospect going into this senior season at Loganville, Ga., and is ranked as the No. 8 overall prospect (college or high school) in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft class.
"Hours and hours and hours of practice and getting up and working out early in the morning to try to beat the competition," Frazier said of the key to his success. "Not being complacent about where I am and wanting to get better every single day, and giving all the glory to my coaches, my family and my friends."
First baseman Dominic Smith (from Los Angeles), left-hander Robert Kaminsky (Englewood Cliffs, N.Y.), outfielder Justin Williams (Houma, La.), catcher Zack Collins (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and infielder Cavan Biggio (Houston) joined Frazier as finalists for the award.
In other annual awards presented at the Awards Banquet the night before the Classic, Smith was named the New Balance Prospect of the Year; Biggio received the EvoShield SWAG Award; Kaminsky was awarded Baseball America Pitcher of the Year honors; shortstop Oscar Mercado (Tampa, Fla.) received the Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year Award; and infielder Jan Hernandez (San Lorenzo, P.R.) was given the coveted Perfect Game Nick Adenhart Award.