Similar to last year, I’m going to create an all-summer team full of performers that I had the chance to see at least once this summer. I wasn’t able to see Team USA play in any fashion this year like I did last year, so none of their participants will show up below. From the Cape League all-star game to a few notable high school games and my coverage of the Northwoods League, I got to see some pretty impressive talent.
If I had the chance to assemble my own team from the players that I saw, this is how my team would shake out...
Catcher: Bryce Harper
Let’s start with one of the most obvious selections. As noted in previous feature stories here at PG Crosschecker, Harper may not have had a huge day at the plate at the Aflac All-American Classic, but it’s easy to recognize his talent and he did look incredibly impressive behind the plate. He threw out a pair of baserunners, one on a pickoff (at second base) and one on a stolen base attempt, both while showing off his cannon for an arm. He’s a left-handed slugging catcher with the ability to handle a pitching staff far beyond what one would expect from a 16-year old, and can shut down opposing team’s running game without breaking a sweat.
I would take Wake Forest’s Mike Murray next. He’s not the physical specimen that Harper is, but he’s a true gamer who looks as though he was born to catch.
First Base: Harold Riggins
I saw Riggins hit what looked like a routine fly ball to left field this summer that had so much loft to it that it carried over the left field fence for a home run. I had heard about his prodigious power potential prior to seeing him in person, and it doesn’t take long for you to see it, even before he swings the bat. Riggins has done a great job conditioning his body and getting himself in better shape, and while he still has to work on toning down his swing, as he is rather susceptible to breaking pitches, he hasn’t had much experience so far during his college career heading into his sophomore season.
Cape MVP Kyle Roller needs to be mentioned as well.
Second Base: Zach Alvord
I noted last week that Alvord stood out to me for his current physical strength and solid collection of tools. He’s the type of player that is a joy to watch on the field, because he is so polished in all facets of the game. His approach sets him apart at the plate, with a keen and patient eye coupled with a quick and powerful stroke. He shows good present day strength with plenty of room to add more, and in addition to his bat and glove, he has pretty good foot speed and arm strength. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Alvord vault up prospect lists between now and next June.
Honorable mention to Georgia Tech’s Derek Dietrich, who has played shortstop almost exclusively during his college career, but likely is going to have to slide to either second or third at some point during his career.
Third Base: Zack Cox
Arguably the best pure hitter eligible for the 2010 draft as a draft-eligible sophomore, Cox followed up a strong finish to his freshman year at Arkansas with an impressive summer on the Cape. He also pitches for the Razorbacks, although I haven’t seen anyone suggest that he’s a pitcher at the next level. With a pure, left-handed stroke and an approach tailored to hard contact up the middle and to left field, hitters like Cox always seem to have a better chance to succeed at the professional level.
Third base offers an embarrassment of riches for the 2010 draft, as several other players were in the mix including Kris Bryant, Yordy Cabrera, Nick Castellanos, Garin Cecchini and Jedd Gyorko.
Shortstop: Tony Wolters
Even if I had seen Team USA play, I’m guessing Wolters would have given Christian Colon a run for his money when trying to decide which talent I’d take to be my starting shortstop. The two are actually very similar players, and Colon’s success may cause scouts to make sure they do what it takes to not to let Wolters slip away to the University of San Diego.
A lot of the shortstops that I did see play seem likely to end up at other positions, but fellow San Diego recruit Marcus Littlewood offers one of the slicker gloves you’ll find.
Outfield: Brian Ragira, Todd Cunningham, Zach Cone
Ragira was one of the most impressive five-tool talents that I saw, Cunningham was one of the most polished all-around players and Cone was one of the bigger, pleasant surprises. Ragira is my favorite from the usual collection of tools galore from the high schoolers, and offers a really exciting combination of size, speed and power. Cunningham has one of the cleanest strokes from both sides of the plate I have ever seen in a while, and continues to excel at each and every level he challenges himself with. Cone is quite simply an exciting, yet somewhat raw athlete that could very well be a name to watch the next few years if his game continues to come together as it did this summer.
My second team would consist of Josh Sale, Trey Griffin and Austin Wilson from left to right.
Designated Hitter: Nick Castellanos
I decided to choose one of the extra third basemen as listed above to fill the DH spot. Castellanos gets the nod because I really liked the way he swung the bat, and feel he is the best bet to become an impact player at the highest of levels. He has very good bat speed and extension to his swing, reminding me of some of the best, natural run producers the big-league game has to offer. While he has enough athleticism to handle the hot corner long-term, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Castellanos playing a less demanding defensive position down the road as he fills out his already large frame.
Starting Pitchers: Jameson Taillon, Chris Sale, Jack Armstrong
I’ll take Taillon over any pitcher I saw this summer, who is going to become a very, very high pick in next June’s draft. Sale was named the Cape’s pitcher of the year with an outstanding summer that also helped propel him to the top of follow lists for next spring. Armstrong helped remind me why I liked him so much coming out of high school, and that was before he was buzzing his heater in the mid-to-upper 90s.
Robert Aviles, Dylan Covey and Andrew Cole would be the next three arms I would choose.
Closer: DeAndre Smelter
I fully recognize that Smelter doesn’t close for his high school team, and he isn’t about to be developed as one when he begins his professional career, but he sure pitched like a dominant late-inning reliever in San Diego at the Aflac game. He’s got the size, stuff and electric arm to thrive in such a role, although is repertoire is deep enough for him to succeed as a starter as well.
Peter Tago may have tossed three frames in the Aflac game, but he reminded me of a live-armed stopper in the mold of Carlos Marmol. The fastball isn’t quite the same, yet, but few players at his age throw as hard as consistently.
Utility: Kaleb Cowart
This spot was made for Cowart, who as noted in last week’s column put on an absolutely dazzling performance with his inning of work for the East squad. I’m fairly confident that it won’t be long until scouts no longer consider him a true two-way talent, instead preferring his arm exclusively over his bat. His stuff just looked far too easy for an arm like that to go to waste.
Yordy Cabrera, Stetson Allie and Alex Hassan (who ended up signing with the Red Sox before the signing deadline) deserve mention well.
The thoughts and opinions listed here do not necessarily reflect those of Perfect Game USA. Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and Brewerfan.net, and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.