T12 boasts an impressive list of alumni

Toronto Mets and Junior National Team grad Landon Leach (Pickering, Ont.), who was selected in the second round (37th overall) by the Minnesota Twins in this year's MLB draft, is one of a long list of Tournament 12 alumni that have been drafted by major league clubs. Photo: Eddie Michels.

Toronto Mets and Junior National Team grad Landon Leach (Pickering, Ont.), who was selected in the second round (37th overall) by the Minnesota Twins in this year's MLB draft, is one of a long list of Tournament 12 alumni that have been drafted by major league clubs. Photo: Eddie Michels.

By Adam Morissette

Baseball Canada

It’s hard to believe that this year’s edition of Tournament 12 represented the fifth consecutive year that 160 of the top high baseball players in Canada have assembled under the Rogers Centre roof to strut their stuff for curious onlookers.

As each year passes, the alumni list grows with graduates moving onto the pro ranks or to schools scattered throughout the United States and Canada. It is clear that Tournament 12 features a who’s who of Canadian high school baseball and an event that is circled on scouts’ calendars each September.

Two names familiar with Tournament 12 regulars for the past four years were absent from this year’s event as Ontario natives Adam Hall (London) and Cooper Davis (Mississauga) have moved on to professional and college baseball, respectively. As 14 year-olds in 2013, Hall and Davis displayed their elite talents at the inaugural edition of Tournament 12, playing against competition as much as five years their senior. Their performance that year left scouts and evaluators eagerly anticipating the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

In 2016, the fourth and final Tournament 12 appearance for Hall, he was named MVP after leading Ontario Black to the title going 8-for-18 over six games with eight steals and six RBI.

For Hall and Davis, their draft dreams came true in June with Hall hearing his name called on day one going in the second round (60th overall) to the Baltimore Orioles while Davis went in the 25th round to his hometown Toronto Blue Jays. Hall signed and has since started his professional career while Davis chose the college route and is attending one of the most prestigious programs in all of Division 1 baseball, Vanderbilt University.

The honour of being the top Canadian selected in the 2016 draft however went to right-handed pitcher Landon Leach. The Minnesota Twins used the first pick in the second round to select the Pickering, Ontario native. A converted catcher, the radar guns were out in full force at Rogers Centre last September as Leach made his Tournament 12 debut with Ontario Green. Armed with a mid 90’s fastball and a slider to go with it, Leach was immediately targeted as a Day 1 draft choice and rode that wave through his senior spring up until draft day.

In total, 14 of 23 Tournament 12 graduates heard their names called in the 2017 MLB Draft including seven of the top ten Canadians selected.

At the very first Tournament 12, big league scouts were already very familiar with Toronto native Gareth Morgan who walked into Rogers Centre on workout day and peppered the second deck with loud home runs during batting practice. The following June, the Seattle Mariners took the slugger 74th overall in the MLB First-Year Player Draft making Morgan the first Tournament 12 participant to be drafted after playing in the event.

In total, eight T12 grads from the inaugural 2013 event went on to be selected in the 2014 draft. However, there was one T12 grad to ink a professional contract before those from the 2014 draft and that player was Saint John, New Brunswick’s Andrew Case. While pitching for Maritimes Grey at T12, Case was literally unhittable as he tossed the first no-hitter in T12 history in a 4-0 semi-final victory over Québec Blue that saw him strikeout 13. Toronto Blue Jays Canadian Scout Jamie Lehman took notice and inked the Prairie Baseball Academy product shortly after his Maritimes squad became the first ever champions in Tournament 12 history. Case, in his fourth season in the Blue Jays’ organization, spent 2017 between double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo, and is ticketed to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League featuring some of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Zach Pop of nearby Brampton was one of the more highly touted pitching prospects to participate in the 2013 edition of Tournament 12 with a bevy of scouts taking up space behind home plate to watch the right-hander throw. Pop was the second Canadian high school pitcher to get taken in the ’14 draft when the Blue Jays used their 23rd round selection on him. Pop opted to attend the University of Kentucky and is currently in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.

With the inaugural T12 in the books, scouts and college evaluators were eagerly anticipating the 2014 event as one of the most talented groups of Canadian high schoolers was shaping up for the 2015 draft.

As much as evaluators were looking forward to Morgan’s power display during batting practice in 2013, there was equal anticipation for a rising high school senior from just down the road in Mississauga. Josh Naylor sent ball after ball into the empty seats beyond the right field fence further solidifying his case to be a first rounder in 2015.

Naylor’s arrival at T12 in 2014 was delayed as he along with the rest of the members of Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team were stuck in Mexico, following the 18U Pan American Championships, due to Hurricane Odile. When he finally did arrive, the then 17 year-old began a path towards the 2015 MLB Draft that saw the Miami Marlins make the first baseman the highest drafted Canadian position player ever with the 12th overall selection.

Naylor was the first of two T12 grads to go in the first round as Calgary’s Mike Soroka, who toed the rubber for Alberta Red in 2013 and 2014, went 28th overall to the Atlanta Braves. Both 20 year-olds represented Canada at this year’s Future’s Game in Miami and are fast tracking through the minor leagues.

Day two of the draft saw three T12 grads go off the board led by Oakville’s Miles Gordon who was nabbed by the Cincinnati Reds in the fourth round before Demi Orimoloye, who played in the 2013 and 2014 editions of T12, went later in the fourth to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Blue Jays then used their tenth round selection to draft Owen Spiwak (Mississauga, Ont.) who was part of a class of 13 former T12 participants to be selected in the draft that saw nine of them ink professional contracts.

Two more players that made names for themselves in 2014 were selected in the latter rounds of the draft and chose to go the school route to further their baseball careers. Eric Senior, who was named Tournament 12 MVP in 2014 after hitting .529 (9-for-17) with three doubles, three runs driven in and five runs scored, was taken by the Oakland Athletics in the 23rd round before honouring his commitment to powerhouse Midland (TX) Junior College for the 2015 season. He has since been drafted (2017) and signed with the Washington Nationals. The 2014 event was also used as a coming out of sorts for Tristan Pompey who used the event to land a spot with the Junior National Team program and later, a commitment to the University of Kentucky. Pompey was a Baseball America Third-Team All-American after a blistering sophomore campaign and is a highly touted prospect for the 2018 MLB Draft.

From eight T12 grads selected in the 2014 MLB draft, to 13 in 2015, the 2016 draft rolled around and the upward swing continued with 16 former participants taken during the three-day event.

A three-time Tournament 12 participant, dating back to the inaugural event in 2013 when he was just 15 years old, Toronto’s Andy Yerzy was the first grad taken last June as the Arizona Diamondbacks selected the catcher in the second round, 52nd overall.

Perhaps no team has fared better in T12 than teams from Québec who have appeared in three championship contests to date and have one title (2014) to show for. A strong Québec presence was also felt at the 2016 MLB Draft, and although they didn’t all appear in the event at the same time, four T12 grads from La Belle Province were among those selected.

Headlining the foursome was Laval’s Charles LeBlanc, a T12 participant from 2013, who went to the University of Pittsburgh and made an immediate impact with the Panthers. Winning the starting shortstop job as a freshman, LeBlanc followed a solid first season at Pitt with a blistering sophomore campaign where he was among the top hitters in all of NCAA Division 1 baseball. The Texas Rangers nabbed the draft-eligible sophomore in the fourth round and made him a part of their organization shortly thereafter. Two of LeBlanc’s teammates from 2013, Abraham Toro-Hernandez and Louis Philippe Pelletier, took their games to Seminole State College in Oklahoma and terrorized pitchers combining to hit 44 home runs and ranked among conference leaders in the major offensive categories. The Houston Astros liked what they saw and used a fifth round selection on Toro-Hernandez before taking Pelletier in the 20th round. William Sierra was taken by the New York Mets in the 28th round and will be draft-eligible again next year.

With the fifth edition of Tournament 12 upon us, and if the first four tourneys are any indication, there will be plenty of new names to read about in these pages for years to come.

Draft   Player                         TeamRound

*2014 Gareth Morgan          SEA     CBB

2014   Ben Onyshko             MIL     16

2014   Mitch Robinson         MIA     22

2014   Robert Byckowski     CIN      22

2014   Zach Pop                    TOR     23

*2014 Kurtis Horne              NYM    31

2014   Austen Swift               OAK     35

2014   LP Pelletier                SD       38

Total: 8 (2 signed)


*2015 Josh Naylor                MIA     1

*2015 Mike Soroka               ATL     1

*2015 Miles Gordon             CIN      4

*2015 Demi Orimoloye        MIL     4

*2015 Owen Spiwak             TOR     10

*2015 JD Williams                CIN      17

*2015 Isaac Anesty               CIN      18

*2015 Darren Shred                        CIN      22

2015   Eric Senior                 OAK     23

2015   Jackson Wark                        NYM    30

2015   Tristan Pompey         MIN     31

2015   Will McAffer               CIN      32

*2015             Ben Pelletier              PHI      34

Total: 13 (9 signed)


*2016 Andy Yerzy                ARI      2

*2016 Charles LeBlanc        TEX     4

*2016 Jordan Balazovic       MIN     5

*2016 Abraham Toro-HernandezHOU 5

*2016 Jake Polancic              ARI      11

2016   Clayton Keyes            TOR     17

*2016 LP Pelletier                HOU    20

*2016 Luke Van Rycheghem ARI    23

*2016 Matt Jones                  MIN     28

2016   William Sierra            NYM    28

2016   Tyler Duncan             SEA     30

2016   Tristan Clarke            WSH    30

2016   Josh Burgmann         STL     30

*2016 Austin Shields            PIT      33

2016   Jake Wilson                BOS     39

2016   Carter Loewen          TOR     40

Total: 16 (9 signed)


*2017 Landon Leach                        MIN     2

*2017 Adam Hall                   BAL     2

*2017 Zach Pop                    LAD     7

*2017 Jonathan Lacroix       HOU    12

*2017 Eric Senior                 WSH    13

2017 Clayton Keyes              ARI      15

2017 Cade Smith                   MIN     16

*2017 Tanner Kirwer           TOR     20

2017 Jason Willow                BAL     24

2017 Cooper Davis               TOR     25

2017 Dondrae Bremner      CIN      31

2017 Trei Cruz                      HOU    35

2017 Edouard Julien                        PHI      37

2017 Rhys Cratty                  DET     40

Total: 14 (6 signed)