Elliott: Naylor, Abram, Rhodes, Clarke others set for Jupiter

 C-INF Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) is one of many Canucks competing in the annual Perfect Game World Wood Bat tournament in Jupiter, Fla. He's rated 22nd in North America among high schoolers. 

C-INF Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) is one of many Canucks competing in the annual Perfect Game World Wood Bat tournament in Jupiter, Fla. He's rated 22nd in North America among high schoolers. 

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

The best high school talent in North America will be in one place starting Thursday.

Included among the 88-team field in the annual Perfect Game World Wood Bat World Championship which takes place at Roger Dean Complex in Jupiter, Fla.

The teams will play three pool play games in the first three days. Then, 22 pool winners and 10 wild card teams will advance to a 32-team single-elimination bracket. The championship will be played on Monday, Oct. 23.

The Ontario Blue Jays are entered as usual with possible first rounder C-INF Noah Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.).
 
The Arizona Diamondbacks Langley Blaze are back as usual with 14 Canadians on their roster.

The Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team has three Ontario players.

OF Denzel Clarke (Pickering, Ont.) is with the Rawlings National Scout Team.

And RHP David Rhodes (White Rock, BC) will be with the Louisiana Knights.

Meanwhile moving amongst the spring training homes of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins and their 13 diamonds will be between 250 to 400 scouts plus recruiters. 

 It's standing room only behind a diamond in Jupiter as scouts and recruiters check out a high schooler. 

It's standing room only behind a diamond in Jupiter as scouts and recruiters check out a high schooler. 

Only four fields are lit, so the other nine are going strong during the daylight hours with the scouts evaluating those entering the June draft and international free agents eligible to be signed after July 1. 

A number of careers began at this Jupiter event. 

The Canucks on the Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team include Ontario Terriers RHP Ben Abram (Georgetown, Ont.) and Toronto Mets RHP Thomas Murphy (Whitby, Ont.). Great Lake Canadians RHP Eric Cerantola (Oakville, Ont.) was supposed to go but did not do to injury.

Langley has four Canadian Junior National Team players: RHP Tate Dearing (Surrey, B.C.), INF-OF Cesar Valero (Calgary, Alta.), RHP Zachery McQuaid (Oshawa, Ont.) and 1B Ryan Magdic (Beamsville, Ont.) of the Ontario Royals.

 OF Jayden Knight. Photo: Tyler King.

OF Jayden Knight. Photo: Tyler King.

The B.C. boys are led by 6-foot-4, 210-pounder CF Jayden Knight (Langley, B.C.), who runs a 6.45 60 and in the draft mix for next June, along with C Kayden Beauregard (Abbotsford, BC), OF Travis McDougall (Abbotsford, BC) RHP Jared Anderson (Victoria, B.C.), 1B Joshua Marchese (Burnaby, BC), Colby Ring (Langley, BC)  and C Jayden Wakeham (Victoria, B.C.). 

The other Canucks with Langley are C Spencer Todd (Windsor, Ont.), RHP Ryan Capuano(Toronto, Ont.), RHP Shane Laforest (Belle River, Ont.) and CF Noah London (Whitby, Ont.).

The Arizona Diamondbacks Langley Blaze are coached by Diamondbacks scout Doug Mathieson, who founded the Blaze and was the Canadian Baseball Network Scout of the Year in 2016, Jamie Bodaly and George Halim. Former major leaguer Armando Rios will also help coach and is bringing five players with him from Puerto Rico.

Also on the roster are 6-foot-5 RHP Wyatt Wendell, son of former major leaguer Turk Wendell, 6-foot-7 RHP Duncan Hall out of Ohio, whose fastball has been clocked at 93 MPH, the 6-foot-6 Trevin Hope, from Lynden, Wash, on the border near Langley and Jorge Oleaga from Florida, who played summer in Ohio. He's 5’9, throws in the low 90s and has touched 95.

The Blaze open play Thursday morning in their annual exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays ... but it is for bragging rights as the best elite program in the country. Later that day the Blaze play the Coastal Prospects.

On Friday they face the Cincinnati Reds Scout Team and Polk College. Next is Team Elite Prime on Saturday.

The Ontario Blue Jays, coached by Mike Steed, Eddie Largy and Mark Kinal, played the Florida Southwestern College Bucs in Fort Myers on Tuesday. And whether permitting they would face off against the Florida Atlantic Owls.

Also attracting attention besides Naylor on the 36-man roster will be RHP Evan Chenier (Georgetown, Ont.), RHP Kyle Lev (Mississauga, Ont.), LHP Caden Griffin (Nepean, Ont.), RHP Stephen Kinal (Terra Cotta, Ont.), C-1B Blake Buckle (Milton, Ont.), TJ Schofield (Brampton, Ont.), INF Jaden Brown (Mississauga, Ont.), RHP Jared Evans (Bowmanville, Ont.) and OF Dasan Brown (Oakville, Ont.).

On Thursday tourney play begins against the Houston Astros Scout Team and Banditos Black the next day.

And the pool round ups of the perspective teams with Canadians from the good folks at Perfect Game:


Pool B
Team Top Pos. Player RK Class Top Pitcher RK Class Location
Banditos Black Andres Antonini 500 2018 Victor Mederos 3 2020 Tomball, TX
Cangelosi Sparks Sam Jones 500 2018 Evan Tenuta 500 2018 Lockport, IL
Houston Astros Scout Team/Elite Squad Triston Casas 23 2018 Cole Winn 58 2018 Pembroke Pines, FL
Ontario Blue Jays Noah Naylor 22 2018 Jared Evans T1000 2018 Toronto, ON
 

Projected Pool Winner: Houston Astros Scout Team/Elite Squad:

Boasting one of the most impressive rosters of the entire event, the Houston Astros Scout Team/Elite Squad have a legitimate chance to walk away with the championship. The roster is loaded with talent including two PG All-Americans in Triston Casas and Blaze Alexander and many other Division I committed seniors including Cory Acton, Henry Anthony Vilar, Michael Montes De Oca, Roberto Pena and Adrian Del Castillo. The bats will be loud for them throughout the weekend and the pitching staff will likely dictate how far they make it during the week. Cole Winn, Juan J. Teixeira and Brendan Bell lead the way, and look for Winn’s start to impress as he has been one of the hotter names in terms of early 2018 draft stock. After failing to advance past the first round a year ago, look for the Elite Squad to be hungry and ready to compete this year and it starts with a talented pool. 

Dark Horse: Cangelosi Sparks
With 10 Division I commits on their roster, don’t overlook the potential of the Cangelosi Sparks as their depth throughout the lineup stands out to make some noise in Pool B. The Illinois-based team has players committed to a number of schools throughout the Midwest, and their roster shows a theme that plays well during this time of the year: a lot of talented high school seniors who have played together for a long time. Position players like Sam Jones and Chase Stanke should lead the way offensively while Evan Tenuta and Trey Ricko should see a lot of time on the mound. The scout teams will garner attention with the sheer talent but there is something to be said about a team who has been playing together all season, and the Cangelosi Sparks certainly are one of those squads. 

What To Watch For: Elite Squad Infield
The quality of the position players on the roster was touched on in the earlier paragraph, however it cannot be overstated how dangerous this team’s infield can be both offensively and defensively. Blaze Alexander highlights the defensive potential with quick-twitch athleticism and the best recorded arm strength of the class, registering 99 mph across at the PG National Showcase in June, which was a new event record. Triston Casas has made remarkable jumps athletically this summer leading some scouts to think that he can either stick at third base or be an above average defender at first. You will almost assuredly see Cory Acton either at third or second base, and the Florida commit has some of the best barrel skills in the class with the ability to come up with big hits. Roberto Pena, Henry Anthony Vilar, and underclassman Chandler Freeman will also see time around the infield, however none of them has the offensive potential that Casas does. After hammering baseballs all summer long and winning the MVP for USA Baseball, Casas has some of, if not the best power in the entire class that plays to all fields. 

– Vincent Cervino

Pool K
Team Top Pos. Player RK Class Top Pitcher RK Class Location

D-BAT Caeden Trenkle 348 2019 Chase Van Dyk 500 2018 Rowlett, TX
East Cobb Astros Brennan Milone 142 2019 Blake Money 183 2020 Marietta, GA
Mountain West Slammers Justin Olson 304 2018 Jack Baird 500 2018 Denver, CO
Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team Robby Martin 155 2018 Chase Costello 132 2018 Toronto, ON

Projected Pool Winner:  Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team
A true “scout-team” in that it’s composed of players from coast-to-coast, from California to New Hampshire, up to Canada and down to Puerto Rico, the WWBA World Championship will be the first time this squad gets together. How they mesh, like with any scout team, is key for the Blue Jays’ success, as they certainly have the talent to compete. A pair of SEC commits in Chase Costello (LSU) and Eric Cerantola (Mississippi State) can both run their fastballs into the low-90s and Costello does so with feel for a couple of secondary pitches, making him a viable option to go up against the pool’s toughest opponent to give his team a good chance to win. Among the bats to follow, Florida State commit Robby Martin is ranked the highest thanks to his present skill-set and left-handed swing which projects extremely well as he fills out his athletic 6-foot-3 frame.

Dark Horse:  Mountain West Slammers
The Slammers are made up entirely of 2018’s from the state of Colorado, and as they usually do, they possess a dangerous commodity in that they have a deep roster full of big-bodied pitchers that can throw strikes and keep their offenCe in games. A pair of Pepperdine recruits, Jack Baird and Luke Ziegler, personify this idea the best, with projectable 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-3 frames, respectively, that know how to use their size to power downhill while commanding the lower third of the strike zone. Justin Olson is the most exciting player on the roster, a strongly built left-handed hitter who has already committed to Kentucky thanks to his blossoming power at the plate and his knack for hitting the ball hard to all fields.

What To Watch For: Last Man Standing
This pool is sure to be fairly competitive, as it wouldn’t be surprising to see the winner emerge with one loss, a tie, or possibly even both once bracket play arrives on Sunday. The East Cobb program is expected to be young, full of 2019’s and 2020’s, but there will still be talent for them to be a threat, while D-BAT and the Slammers both have plenty of experience playing with one another as a team, not to mention the experience playing together at high-level tournament events. How the Blue Jays gel in a short period of time could be the biggest key to them having success, as they have the most depth and versatility among the players that make up their roster.

– Jheremy Brown

Pool N
Team Top Pos. Player RK Class Top Pitcher RK Class Location

Dodgers Scout Team/Team Citius Jack Herman 73 2018 Jack Carey 167 2018 Los Angeles, CA
FTB 55 Tucci John Rodriguez 312 2018 Hamilton Martinez 168 2019 Orlando, FL
Louisiana Knights Drew Bianco 236 2018 Sean Burke 500 2018 Baton Rouge, LA
PRBAHS Jeremy Rivera T1000 2018 Ian Ortiz T1000 2017 Caguas, PR
 

Projected Pool Winner: Louisiana Knights

The Louisiana Knights boast a supremely talented roster and head into Jupiter with top billing in Pool N. The roster is home to 14 Division I commits, including five Louisiana State recruits: Drew Bianco, Gavin Dugas, Thomas Wilhite, Will Ripoll and Cole Henry. The Knights are very senior heavy, a roster trait that normally plays very well at this time of year, with only two underclassmen in Wilhite and standout 2020 graduate Kellum Clark. The offence should be a talented one featuring Bianco, who hit over .350 with two home runs during the 17u WWBA National Championship, and Clark, who hit .444 with one home run last week in Fort Myers. The pitching staff will be a bit of a question mark but will feature multiple arms ranked within the top 500 of the rankings, including Wilhite (425), David Rhodes (371) and Henry (112), who has, perhaps, the most to gain from a strong performance in this tournament. 

Dark Horse: Dodgers Scout Team/Team Citius
If there is a team in this pool who has the star talent to match the Louisiana Knights it is the Dodgers Scout Team/Team Citius. They boast two of the most consistent hitters over the course of the summer in Maryland commit Jack Herman and Vanderbilt commit Justyn-Henry Malloy. Herman batted over .450 combined between the 17u WWBA National Championship and the PG World Series while Malloy showed some of the best raw pop in the class at the National Showcase. The depth is strong with six players ranked at 500 and six more ranked higher than that, including one of the highest-ranked 2019s in Isaac Nunez (28) who shows some of the best glove work in the class. The team has a number of impact players and the pitching will need to keep the team in games long enough for them to score some runs. 

What To Watch For: Cole Henry
One of the biggest enigmas in terms of the 2018 draft class is the 112th-ranked prospect, Cole Henry. He has been making some buzz around draft circles all summer long and impressed at the East Coast Pro, with reports that he has touched 95-96 mph recently, and sure seems to be one of the premier arms out of the state of Alabama. The Louisiana State commit has the chance to make a lot of good impressions during Jupiter as this will be his last chance to show that he can perform against the best amateur talent with wood bats and look for Henry to get the ball during the biggest game of pool play. 

– Vincent Cervino

 

Pool P
 
Team Top Pos. Player RK Class Top Pitcher RK Class Location

Ohio Warhawks Hueston Morrill 178 2018 Alberto Gonzalez 245 2018 Fairborn, OH
Rawlings National Scout Team Max Marusak 74 2018 Blake Adams 42 2019 Merrick, NY
South Charlotte Panthers 2018 Xavier Bussey 26 2019 Owen White 102 2018 Charlotte, NC
SWFL Nation Connor Berry 500 2018 Cole Beverlin 500 2018 Fort Myers, FL

Projected Pool Winner: Rawlings National Scout Team
The Rawlings National Scout Team has an interesting collection of talent, with eight players from Arkansas on the 26-man roster, five from California and four each from Texas and New York. Add in a player from Hawaii and another from Ontario and you have a truly eclectic group. Of the 26 rostered players 22 have commitments to D-I programs, and it’s the up-the-middle infield combination of Mateo Gil and Sean Guilbe that will be one of the team’s primary keys to success. The big bats of Max Marusak and Wade Elliott will be tasked with driving Gil and Guilbe home. In addition, they have four pitchers from the class of 2018 that are ranked within the top 230 players, and another, Blake Adams, who is ranked 42nd in the class of 2019 and can already dial it up into the low-90s.

Dark Horse:  South Charlotte Panthers 2018
Although their time in the playoffs at the 17u WWBA National Championship was cut short, losing to a powerful Team Elite squad in the first round, it proves that they have the talent to compete on a national level. All but one player on their roster is from North Carolina (Dallas Callahan, who is from South Carolina), and of their 12 committed players three are to South Carolina and two are to UNC. Owen White is their highest ranked player from the class of 2018 and shines on the mound, at the plate and defensively up the middle of the infield. He and fellow righthander Trey Tujetsch gives the team a pair of live-arms to go along with potential five-tool outfielder Xavier Bussey. White, Tujetsch and Bussey are all South Carolina commits.

What To Watch For: Rawlings National vs. South Charlotte Matchup
While the Ohio Warhawks and SWFL are both long-time Jupiter participants, each fully capable of making some noise, the pool likely comes down to the winner of the matchup between the Rawlings National Scout Team and the South Charlotte Panthers. That matchup could see the Panthers’ Owen White squaring off against pitchability lefthander Patrick Wicklander, who has plenty of big game experience at Perfect Game tournament events as evidenced by his 12 All-Tournament Team selections. White has five of his own, including one from Jupiter last year.

– Patrick Ebert

 

Pool U
Team Top Pos. Player RK Class Top Pitcher RK Class Location

Coastal Prospects Ryan Smith T500 2018 Nick Love T500 2018 Yulee, FL
DBacks Langley Blaze Cesar Valero 342 2019 Duncan Hall T500 2019 Vancouver, BC
Reds Midwest Scout Team Bayden Root 165 2018 Mac Horvath 4 2020 Hartford, WI
Team Elite Prime Will Banfield 4 2018 Ethan Smith 62 2018 Winder, GA

Projected Pool Winner: Team Elite Prime
A year ago, Team Elite Prime fell just shy of winning the whole thing, falling to the Dirtbags in the championship game. This year, they’re pool favorites again and are a pretty good pick to win the whole thing. They’re missing their top two arms in all-world right-handers Ethan Hankins and Kumar Rocker, but don’t be fooled by that – this team is absolutely loaded once again. Perfect Game All-American and the highest-ranked prospect in attendance Will Banfield is back behind the plate, and he’ll be joined in the middle of the order by fellow PG All-American Parker Meadows as well as big-time power threat Ryder Green. On the mound, Ethan Smith leads the way as the powerful righthander is coming off a fantastic summer on the circuit. Justin Wrobleski, Nolan Crisp, Chance Huff and a whole host of other arms make up what is sure to be a formidable pitching staff as well. Can Team Elite finish the job this year? We’re all anxious to get to Jupiter and find out. 

Dark Horse: Reds Midwest Scout Team
Perennially one of the best clubs in the Midwest, the Reds Midwest Scout Team is often picked by the PG scouting staff as one of their favorite teams to watch in this event. They certainly bring an intriguing mix of players to this event, perhaps even led by a sophomore in Mac Horvath, the fourth-ranked player in the class of 2020. They’re deep pretty much everywhere, and it wouldn’t be surprising if several of these players end up doing a great deal to help their prospect stock over the course of the weekend. Michigan State commit Zaid Walker has generated a good amount of scout buzz over the course of the last six months while Bayden Root is a legitimate two-way talent who has performed at a high level at numerous Perfect Game events and will be a key cog both on the mound and with the bat.  

What To Watch For: Will Banfield’s Offence
Long lauded as one of the best prep defensive catchers of the past several years, Will Banfield comes to Jupiter as the highest-ranked 2018 prospect in attendance at No. 4 overall. Scouts have had zero concerns with him from a defensive perspective, as he combines tools of the highest caliber along with excellent athleticism behind the plate to form prodigious defensive abilities. So, while scouts will undoubtedly be bearing down on Banfield as they have all summer, basic logic dictates that they’ll be focusing most heavily on the young backstop’s offensive performance. He has legitimate plus raw power from the right side, and he will go an awful long way towards solidifying himself towards the top of the draft class if he continues to put that power on display on a stage such as this. 

– Brian Sakowski