World Championship: Pool Breakdown
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note: This annual WWBA World Championship preview reflects only the
writer’s thoughts and not necessarily those of any other Perfect
of the 85 teams that are in Jupiter, Fla., this week for the WWBA
World Championship are worthy of it, as it is the most difficult and
exclusive travel team tournament in the baseball world. There are
literally hundreds of teams from across the country who would love to
be here to play in front of the hundreds and hundreds of professional
scouts and college coaches who will be closely following every pitch
and every swing. It is the task of the Perfect Game staff during the
year to narrow this huge national field down to 85 teams and
eventually get the top teams and the top players to Jupiter.
this writer’s job to go over the rosters and put together his
thoughts on who the top teams are. I’ve been to every WWBA World
Championship dating back to 2001 (when there were no golf carts) and
have seen some amazing performances and expect to see more this year.
It is always a memorable event, even without last year’s 50-plus
mph winds from super-storm Sandy.
seeing teams such as Cangelosi Baseball, the Orange County Boxers and
Central Florida PG Royal reach the Championship Game in the last five
years, everyone knows that literally every one of the 85 teams has a
chance before the tournament starts.
when the first pitch is thrown Thursday morning, the following teams
have a better chance making it to that game.
are listed in alphabetical order within each grouping.
Commits/roster numbers based on rosters as of Monday, October 21.
Scout Team/FTB Chandler
hard to find a weakness in the Cardinals Scout Team roster, starting
with five Perfect Game All-Americans in shortstop and right handed
pitcher Nick Gordon, catcher Alex Jackson, righthanded
pitchers Cobi Johnson and Sean Reid-Foley and lefthander David Peterson. But the depth builds up behind those
standouts. Infielder Forrest Wall and first baseman Jeremy
Vasquez are two of the elite hitters in the country. When Gordon
and fellow shortstop Milton Ramos are paired in the middle
infield it is probably the top possible defensive middle infield at
this level of baseball. Catcher J.J. Schwarz, who will back
up Jackson, is an All-American quality prospect. The only potential
weak spot on the roster is coach Jered Goodwin’s likely dependence
on junior pitchers at some point in pool play in righthanders Joseph
Arce and Jordan Gubelman and lefties Michael Zimmerman
and Juan Hillman. But with a 15-man deep pitching staff, not
including the hard throwing Gordon, there will always be relief close
by. Perhaps Marlins rookie sensation Jose Fernandez will drop in to
watch his former team play.
first thing that stands out about the Canes roster is that all 22
players have college commitments. And then you look at the schools
on the commitment list and it is even more impressive: South
Carolina (7), North Carolina (3), Virginia (2), Florida (2), UCLA,
Clemson, etc. But the most important part of the Canes roster is
that their pitching staff is arguably the most talented collection of
arms in Jupiter. PG All-American righthander Grant Holmes
has the potential to be the Fernandez/Rick Porcello/Shelby Miller
pitching star of event, the pitching prospect who stamps his name on
the 2013 high school pitching class. Behind him is fellow PG All-American righthander Brandan Murray, Oklahoma’s Braden
Webb, California’s Grant Hockin and a diverse group
of talented pitchers. The Canes even have an everyday closer in low- to mid-90s righthander Jeff Harding. PG 17u World Series
MVP third baseman Charlie Cody, PG All-American first baseman
Justin Bellinger and a standout catcher duo of Hunter
Taylor and Justin Morris will lead coach Jeff Petty’s
(Garciaparra Baseball Group) has seemingly emerged as the top
organization from California over the past year and brings a very
strong roster across the country to Florida, including three Perfect
Game All-Americans in third baseman Sean Bouchard, outfielder
Trenton Kemp and outfield/first baseman D.J. Peters.
The three most important players on the team might not have “PG
All-American” on their resume, however. Lefthanded
pitcher and outfielder Quinn Brodey and junior lefthandeder and first baseman Kyle Hatton are a pair of the most
talented two-way prospects in the country, while shortstop Josh
Morgan has played at a very high level both offensively and
defensively this fall. Big righthanded pitcher Tylor Megill
will be a big attraction for scouts regardless of which game
coach Mike Garciaparra decides to start him.
easy to look at the Marucci roster and wonder how all the talented
2015s that coach Chad Raley has assembled will react to the
Jupiter pressure. Center fielder Jahmai Jones, infielder Nick
Shumpert and lefthanded pitcher Justin Hooper are all top
10 talents in the 2015 class, while outfielder Seth Beer is
the No. 2 prospect in the 2016 class. But when you look at
the senior talent on the roster, that worry quickly disappears. PG All-American infielder Greg Deichmann and outfielders Justin
Smith and Marcus Wilson will anchor the lineup, with
tested veterans such as catcher Handsome Monica and infielder
Tristan Hildebrandt in support. The pitching staff is very
deep, led by senior righthanders Keith Weisenberg, Alex
Lange, Branden Kelliher and Mitch Hart.
Scorpions/Mets Scout Team
Game’s Jeff Dahn recently named 2013 “The Year of the Scorpion,” which seemed fitting given all the rings and
hardware the organization has taken home from Perfect Game
tournaments in the past five months. Could the WWBA World
Championship be the crowning achievement for coach Matt Gerber’s
team? The team’s strength is its depth and looking down the roster
any of at least a dozen players could end up being the Scorpions star
for the championship. PG All-American outfielder Carl Chester
and the versatile Adam Haseley bring outstanding speed to the
top of the lineup and shortstop Tate Blackman, as well as a pair of
precocious juniors -- infielder Brendan Rodgers and WWBA Underclass World
Championship MVP catcher Nick Fortes -- will have plenty of run
producing opportunities. WWBA 17u National Championship Most Valuable Pitcher and PG
All-American Foster Griffin is shut down for the fall, but their 13-man staff has been
tested at top tournaments and deep into the playoffs consistently since
Memorial Day weekend. Righthander Andrew Karp has been
outstanding all year on the mound, while southpaw Carson Sands
can shut down any lineup in the tournament if he’s on his game.
playoff run potential
can always be assured that coach Andy Partin’s teams will come to
Jupiter with a deep pitching staff of hurlers who pound the strike
zone and an equally talented and sound group of fielders who will
make the other team beat them. That has always been a successful
formula for a deep run into the playoffs. The key to the Dirtbags
overall chances may rest on the broad shoulders of one player however: PG All-American outfielder and first baseman Braxton
Davidson. If the talented lefthanded hitter steps up and posts
MVP type numbers, the Dirtbags will score enough runs to handle the elite level teams.
Banditos have been relatively quiet this year but you can be sure
that coach Ray DeLeon has his players ready for Jupiter. The offense
will be led by PG All-American outfielder Stone Garrett and
athletic shortstop Justin Twine, but the real key to the
Banditos will be the impressive number of two-way players who should
contribute across the board, including Jake Jarvis, Brigham Hill,
Corbin Martin, Patrick Mathis and Ricardo Salinas. A pair of
2015 righthanders, Jarod Bayless and Ryan Cole
McKay, have been very impressive in WWBA tournaments this fall
and could give the deep rotation a big boost.
Redskins and their Ohio-based brethren, the Ohio Warhawks, have a
similar roster philosophy heading into Jupiter it seems -- load up on
talented pitchers and hope the offense takes care of itself. Midland
only has ten primary position players listed on the roster, and one
them, Perfect Game All-American Zack Shannon, is regarded by
many scouts as a better pitching prospect than position prospect.
Outfielders Lane Thomas and Keenan Eaton, along with
top 2015 catcher Lucas Herbert, will play key roles along with
Shannon in seeing that the Redskins score enough runs to support the
talented and deep staff.
Warhawks rarely lack star power and this year's team is no different. Whatever game lefthanded pitcher Kodi Medieros
pitches may be the most heavily scouted contest of the event,
especially considering it will occur during the Friday afternoon contest against Chandler
Baseball. Top 2015 righthander Nolan Kingham also has potential first-round ability. Coach Ron Slusher’s team also has eviable depth on
the pitching staff well beyond the stars, with 18 primary pitchers on
the roster to go with some talented secondary pitchers. The
questions for the Warhawks will remain the same as they do every year
though: Who is going to drive in the runs and can they avoiding
losing the annual pool play game they always seem to drop? Answer
the those two questions and the pitching is there for a deep playoff
Florida Elite Squad
was tempting to place coach Richie Palmer’s team in the top
group, and that will likely occur next year given the Elite
Squad’s roster dominated with an impressive collection of players from the high school classes of 2015 and 2016. Third baseman and righthanded pitcher
Christian Demby, outfielder Danny Reyes, shortstop
Jonathan India, catcher Dominic DiCaprio, shortstop
Zack Kone, all juniors, along with sophomore righthander Anthony Molina, are all names that fans will be
hearing about for years to come. Their success will ride on the shoulders of
the seniors, including two-way talents Michael Mediavilla and
Brian Gonzalez, infielder Kirvin Moesquit and catcher
Spencer Levine. Pitching depth
could pose a problem if the Elite Squad makes a deep run into the
Blue Jays are long on star-power on their 33 player roster, with PG All-American righthander Touki Toussaint and his
high school teammate, catcher Benito Santiago, along with
slugging outfielder Luke Bonfield, leading the way.
Outfielder Raphael Ramirez, righthander Kevin
Steen and shortstop Dale Burdick will also be very popular
players with the scouting community. How the Blue Jays young
pitchers perform will likely determine if they are up to a long
brings a very deep lineup of position players to Jupiter, especially
big power hitters who can change a game with one swing of the bat.
First baseman J.J. Matijevic and third baseman Max
Ponzurick -- both Pennsylvania natives -- catcher/third baseman
Blake Wiggins and shortstop Shane Benes will drive in
runs if players such 2015 outfielder Chris Botsoe, infielder
Ryan Lillard and outfielder Andrew Shaps get on base
in front of them. The question mark will be the pitching staff, both
in terms of depth and having one standout who can take care of the
Ohio Warhawks in the Pool D matchup.
appears to be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the defending WWBA
World Champions, as the strength of the team lies in its 2015 class,
most notably outfield phenom Daz Cameron. Lefthanded pitcher and first baseman Max Wotell, catcher Joey Bart,
shortstop Jalen Miller and slugging outfielder Isaiah
Gilliam, all of whom are also from the 2015 class, will all contribute to East Cobb’s efforts. That isn’t
to discount the presence of PG All-American outfielder Kel Johnson,
one of the rare players with the ability to take over the course of
the tournament if he gets hot at the plate. For East Cobb to get
deep into the playoffs, however, a number of pitchers are going to
have to step up.
Elite might very well have been among the tournament favorites if a pair of PG All-Americans -- Michael Gettys, the top ranked player in the
2014 class, and Dylan Cease -- had chosen to play. The Elite
still have a very formidable pitching staff, however, featuring righthanders Spencer Adams, Nick Niedert, A.J. Moore
and Clarke Schmidt along with hard throwing southpaw Willie
Rios. That type of pitching depth could guarantee a playoff spot
by itself. Not having Gettys in the middle of the lineup may be too
much for the Team Elite offense to overcome, however.
Scout Team Yankees
problems for the Texas Scout Team to overcome are summarized in the
numbers above; an 18 player roster with only eight primary pitchers.
That is nothing new for coach Randy Taylor, as he prefers that to
better showcase his very talented players. Multi-talented lefthanded pitcher and outfielder Alex Verdugo, and a pair of strong
armed Texas righthanders, Garrett Fulenchek and Turner
Larkins, will get huge attention from the scouting community when
they are on the field. A pair of top 10 juniors, righthander Beau Burrows and slugging first basman/outfielder,
Ryan Johnson, will be making their debuts on the big stage as
sleep on them
Burn, like the Houston Banditos above, have been relatively quiet
this summer and fall after filling up a case of rings in 2012. Many
of last year’s WWBA Underclass World Championship team are still around
and will be looking for a fitting conclusion to their Perfect Game
careers, including shortstop Dalton Guthrie, catcher/third
baseman Michael Rivera, outfielder/righthanded pitcher
Brandon Elmy and talented utility/athlete prospect Ryan
Panthers biggest obstacle may be just escaping Pool M, which has
three very viable playoff teams with East Cobb Baseball and Syracuse Sports Zone. In a format that
rewards teams with versatile players, the Panthers have two of the
best and most accomplished two-way talents in the event in lefthanded pitcher and first baseman Alex Destino and jack-of-all-trades Ryder Ryan, who could see time at catcher and third
base in addition to making a start on the mound.
EvoShield is nominally the second of the two teams in the field from
the EvoShield organization but history shows that doesn’t always
mean they won’t surpass the primary team. The roster is loaded
with 2015 talent, including righthanders Cody Morris and Matthew
McGarry, outfielder Danny Blair, infielder Logan Tolbert and first
baseman Desmond Lindsey, along with enough senior pitching to keep
them in every game. Interestingly, Pool Q also contains Orlando PG
Purple, the Orlando Scorpions second team.
Blue Jays Scout Team
Blue Jays will be an entertaining to watch offensively and there will
be plenty of attention on PG All-American shortstop Jacob Gatewood. Along with Gatewood and
his prodigious power, outfielder Kevin Bryant, catcher Tim
Susnara and junior catcher Michael Hickman all have the
type of talent to lead the Blue Jays into the playoffs. As with many
scout organized teams, pitching depth is a potential issue. Hard
throwing righthander Erik Manoah and towering 6-foot-9 righty Stetson
Woods will be two interesting prospects to watch on the mound.
Arsenal have a deep roster with 17 college commitments and 11
pitchers, including PG All-American lefthander Devin Smeltzer.
They will also be a fun team to watch, with high energy underclassman
such as shortstop John Aiello, lefthanded pitcher and outfielder
Joseph Baran and hard throwing sophomore Tyler Mondile.
A statistical oddity on the Arsenal roster: There are five primary
catchers among the 14 position players.
that know how to win
are a number of teams that are veterans to the competition in Jupiter
and always seem to do well, even when their rosters might not always
match up with other teams. It would be no surprise whatsoever if a
couple of these teams made an impact on the playoffs.
Dodgers/Rockies Scout Team