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MORE COVERAGE: List of Team USA top 20 prospects
In many ways, it wasn’t a typical summer for Team USA.
The collegiate national team is accustomed to playing a schedule that tends to occupy much of the summer. However, that wasn’t the case this summer as the squad only played 14 games and compiled a solid 11-2-1 record.
The Americans’ only losses were to the New England Collegiate League All-Stars and a single contest to Japan. Team USA actually went 3-1-1 in their series with the Japanese as the historically important series was renewed.
In addition to the shortened schedule, Team USA also lacked balance. The squad was loaded with premier prospect pitchers such as Stanford’s Mark Appel, LSU’s Kevin Gausman, Arkansas’ Ryne Stanek, Texas A&M’s Michael Wacha and, of course, Duke stud reliever Marcus Stroman, who increased his stock a great deal this summer.
Team USA lacked significant star power with its position players. Arizona State’s Deven Marrero could be the top pick in the 2012 MLB draft. But outside of him, Texas A&M’s Tyler Naquin and Cal State Fullerton’s Michael Lorenzen were the next best pure position players, and they were No’s 12 and 13 overall, respectively, on our list of the team’s top prospects.
Our detailed reports on Team USA’s top-20 prospects are unveiled.
1. Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona State (Junior in 2012)
SCOUTING PROFILE: Though it was a down year for prospect talent for Team USA and is expected to be a down year in terms of draft prospects in this junior class, Marrero most certainly is an elite talent. Marrero made significant strides for the Sun Devils last season and was one of the club’s key offensive cogs, hitting .315 with two home runs and 20 RBIs. This summer for Team USA, he batted .322 with 14 RBIs. But what makes Marrero such an intriguing prospect is his combination of tools. Marrero is a very gifted infielder and a plus runner. He has solid bat speed at the plate, while in the field he possesses solid range and has a tremendous arm. Marrero could be more consistent in the field. He had 18 errors for the Sun Devils in the spring, and also collected nine errors in just 14 games for Team USA. Marrero has a tendency to try too hard at times, but there’s no doubt he has the ability to be special at the next level. He has an uncanny ability to judge hops and also to set his feet on any throw he makes from any part of the field, and from any arm angle. Marrero began the summer with Cotuit, played for Team USA, and returned to Cotuit, where his summer was cut short due to a hand injury. Marrero already has the mentality and actions of a big leaguer.
2. Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford (Junior in 2012)
SCOUTING PROFILE: From a physical stature and tools standpoint, it simply doesn’t get better than the tallish right-hander from Stanford. Appel already has a big league type of body and his makeup is off the charts. Still, he only recorded 86 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings for Stanford this past spring, and tallied 11 strikeouts in nine innings for Team USA this summer. Appel might not yet be a premier strikeout pitcher, but that is expected to come together as his stuff becomes more refined. Appel has a relatively easy motion and has simple projection. Appel was consistently 94-97 with his fastball during the spring with Stanford, and was working hard to refine his changeup. Appel also threw a curveball in the 75 mph range in the spring. This summer, Appel was consistently in the upper 90s, even touching 99 at times. There’s no question about his overall ability, but his strikeout totals need to start matching up with his pure stuff. Still, there’s a very good chance he’s the top pick in the 2012 MLB draft.
3. Kevin Gausman, rhp, LSU (Sophomore in 2012)
SCOUTING PROFILE: Paul Mainieri and the LSU Tigers received an early Christmas present last summer when Gausman, who would’ve been drafted higher if not for signability concerns, turned down the Dodgers after getting drafted in the sixth round. With the Tigers light on starting pitching depth this past spring, Gausman was forced into the weekend rotation, where he compiled a 3.51 ERA in 89 2/3 innings. He finished the season particularly strong, striking out 86 and walking 23. This summer with Team USA, the hard-throwing right-hander started two games and had a 2.08 ERA in 8 2/3 innings. He also struck out nine and walked three. Gausman stands at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, and still is very slender. The good news is he has plenty of body to grow into in the months leading up to his draft-eligible sophomore season with the Tigers. Gausman is a very projectable right-hander that touches the mid 90s with relative ease. Gausman could refine other aspects of his pitching arsenal, but throws with a velocity and command that makes him one of the most attractive prospects from an upside standpoint.
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