This is the first of a seven part series unveiling the 2012 Perfect Game High School National Top 50 Rankings.
Preseason High School coverage overview
February 14: Team No. 5 - Mater Dei
February 15: Team No. 4 - Gulliver Prep
February 16: Team No. 3 - Bishop Gorman
February 17: Team No. 2 - Harvard-Westlake
February 20: Team No. 1 - Tampa Jesuit, entire National Top 50
6. Carroll Tigers (Corpus Christi, TX)
Texas 5A Region IV District 28
Head Coach: Lee Yeager (12 years)
2011 Result: 34-7 (State Semis)
Key Losses: C Joseph Gonzales
Top Players (with college commitment): OF/RHP Courtney Hawkins (Texas), 1B/RHP O'Shea Dumes (TAMU-Corpus Christi), MIF Trey Rodriguez (San Jacinto CC), OF/RHP Chris Cano (TAMU-Corpus Christi), C/RHP Mike Cantu (Class of 2014)
A strong senior core leads the Tigers into a season with monumental expectations. After the group which is led by the massively built and massively talented Courtney Hawkins, a potential first round pick in the upcoming draft. The Tigers won a 5A state title as sophomores in 2010 they have had a target on their back ever since. In 2011 they made a run to the State Tournament at Dell Diamond, losing to Lubbock Coronado in the semifinals. That loss surely left a bad taste in the mouths of this talented group, which should make them all the more dangerous.
This year they open the season as the top ranked team in the state of Texas, a traditional baseball hotbed. The competition in Texas 5A is always extremely tough and the team that enters the season as the favorite on paper rarely comes out on top, but this Tigers squad could be the exception.
Hawkins is arguably the top right handed power hitter in the high school ranks this year, and has been nearly unhittable for the Tigers in his high school career to this point. Hawkins' fastball has been as high as 92 at PG events inthe past, and he's thrown 91 from the outfield during workouts. His speed is also impressive, having posted a 6.62 60 yard dash time, making him a very strong defensive center fielder at the high school level.
Hawkins teams with O'Shea Dumes for a power packed 3-4 duo of power hitters in the middle of the lineup and on the mound. Slick fielding shortstop Trey Rodriguez is a high level defender up the middle and combines with Hawkins to help round out the Tigers impressive defense. They return their top three pitchers from last year (Dumes, Cano, Hawkins) and they should have no problem scoring runs.
2014 grad Mike Cantu saw limited time as a freshman last year but will take over the catching duties as a sophomore and will be counted on to give the Tigers an additional run producer in the lineup in addition to contributing on the mound.
7. Spanish Fork Dons (Spanish Fork, UT)
Utah 3A Region 12
Head Coach: Jim "Shoe" Nelson (31 years)
2011 Result: 29-3 (4A State Champions)
Key Losses: C Jarret Jarvis (BYU), RHP/1B James Lengal (BYU), OF Travis Still (Utah Football)
Top Players (with college commitment): RHP/1B Kayden Porter (North Carolina), RHP/SS Hayden Nielsen (BYU), RHP/3B Brady Corless (Classof 2013), OF/RHP Andy Perkins (Utah Valley), RHP/OF Bennett Bradford (Class of 2014)
The Dons entered the 2011 season at the No. 7 ranked team in the nation, and they did not disappoint. Big expectations have become the norm in recent years for Spanish Fork, which has won three consecutive state championships and five of the past six. The end of the Dons dynasty doesn't appear to be on the horizon, as their enviable pitching depth makes them an overwhelming favorite again in 2012.
With a move down in division to Division 3A for the 2012 season the Dons look to be even more dominant this season. In 2011 they entered and won the strongest tournament in the nation, the Big League Dugout National Invitationalin Phoenix, AZ. In the championship game the Dons knocked off another southwestern dynasty, fending off the now seven time Nevada 4A State Champions Bishop Gorman. This year the Dons will again test their mettle against elite out of state competition as they head to Los Angeles in April for the Hardball 9 National Classic.
Spanish Fork's top prospect is RHP/1B Kayden Porter, a big and imposing two-way star who has signed to play for another national powerhouse at the college level: North Carolina. Porter sits in the low 90s as a starter and can run it up into the mid 90s out of the bullpen, while also hitting for tremendous power as a first basemen. Expect to see Porter start at first base and hit in the middle of the order while coming out of the bullpen as a relief ace for most of the season. As a junior in 2011 Porter hit .570/.632/1.209 with 14 Home Runs, 33 Runs and 50 RBI while posting a 9-1 record on the mound with a 2.14 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 59 innings.
The starting rotation will be fronted by Hayden Nielsen, an upper 80s righty who pounds the zone and has racked up an 18-1 record in his high school careerto this point. Junior righty Brady Corless will play a large role on the mound, having reportedly been up to 92 with his fastball in the past and going 5-0 as a sophomore in 2011. 2014 RHP/OF Bennett Bradford is a young player to watch for the Dons, having reportedly sat 84-88 in the past while also playing a good center field.
The key for the Dons in 2012 will be scoring runs, though they won't need many. Their offense may not be as strong as it was in 2011 but it should be good enough for their strong pitching staff, especially with the increased importance of pitching this year with the move to BBCOR bats.
8.Parkview Panthers (Lilburn, GA)
Georgia Region 8-AAAAA
Head Coach: Chan Brown (8th year)
2011Result: 29-10 (State Champion)
Key Losses: 3B/RHP Zach Reinstein (Gordon CC), RHP Brooks Davis (Piedmont College), IF Travis Naraine (North Georgia)
Top Players (with college commitment): 1B/RHP Matt Olson (Vanderbilt), MIF Edwin Arias, RHP/OF Jesse Foster (Chattahoochee Valley CC), MIF Jack Esmonde (Georgia), OF Josh Hart (Georgia Tech)
The 2011 Panthers had big expectations with a talented roster of juniors and sophomores that led them to being ranked #25 in Perfect Game’s first National High School rankings in late February. There were some growing pains for the young team as they struggled through a tough early season schedule. After eight games they sat just 3-5 and a state championship seemed a pipe dream. But the team responded, stringing together eleven straight wins and riding that momentum all the way to the AAAA championship, sweeping Luella in the quarterfinals before taking down Colquitt County and then Hillgrove to take the title, the programs 4thoverall and third since 2001.
The 2012 Panthers are even more highly touted than the 2011 with 12 players returning from the championship team. They are deep and talented on the mound and at the plate. RHP/1B Matt Olson is one of the top players in the state and is a left-handed bat with big power as well as a hard-throwing right-hander who has been up to 89 mph in previous PG events. A second ace is RHP Jesse Foster, a lean, athletic righty with mid 80s velocity. RHPs Jack Esmonde and Ryan Blanton also figure to throw quality innings this year. A young arm to watch is LHP Mac Marshall a sophomore already committed to Georgia and was up to 87 mph last summer.
The Panther offense may be even better than the pitching with Olson again leading the way. OF Josh Hart has been a standout at many PG events with East Cobb program and has a top level overall tools package with speed being his biggest calling card. Esmonde looks to hold down 3rd base and be one of the top hitters, and the keystone combination of SS Edwin Arias and 2B Jeff Ronpirin (committed to join Foster at Chattahoochee Valley CC next year) might be the best in the state. C Jarrett Freeland is another top player, a Georgia commit with a big 6’6, 205 pound frame and a power left-handed bat.
A tough schedule again lies ahead with non-Region games against Cartersville, Lassiter, Marist, and Columbus before taking on the likes of Lucas Sims and Brookwood and Austin Meadows and Grayson twice each in regional games. The Panthers will face their toughest test when they travel north to Cary, NC in late March. for the National High School Invitational featuring 16 of the top teams from around the country.
With impressive depth on the mound and at the plate the Panthers are the favorite to take home their second straight AAAAA title and stake their claim as the best team in Georgia.
9. American Heritage Patriots (Plantation, FL)
Florida 5A District 16
Head Coach: Bruce Aven (1st year)
2011 Result: 20-9 (lost Regional Semifinal)
Key Losses: C Brandon Sedell (Florida), RHP Jimmy Nesselt (East Tennessee State)
Top Players (with college commitment): IF Esteban Puerta (Florida Atlantic), RHP Alex Seibold (Florida International), SS Brandon Lopez (Miami), LHP Brandon Diaz (Stetson), RHP Domenick Mancini (Florida Atlantic)
The top players section of the American Heritage preview seems like could go on for days. The Patriots have one of the deepest teams in the nation with nine players already committed to Division One schools. Former MLB outfielder Bruce Aven takes over the program from Todd Fitzgerald and hopes to keep the winning tradition alive and earn another trip to the state tournament.
A deep, experienced pitching staff looks to lead the way. Seibold and Diaz will be a tough right/lefty combination at the top of the rotation. Seibold has been upto 88 mph and had a 2.07 ERA last season, Diaz is an upper 80s lefty with pitchability. RHP Domenick Mancini, a transfer from Cypress Bay has been up to 90 mph in the past, and junior RHP Shaun Anderson, a Florida commit, is another big hard thrower (89 at PG Junior National in June).
The offense is just as highly touted as Esteban Puerta is one of the best hitters in the state, hitting 13 homeruns a year ago and is a versatile defender who can play multiple positions. SS Brandon Lopez is the Patriots leader, a slick fielder who also was a top hitter last year with a .456 average. OF Gabriel Aurrecoechea (FAU commit) is an underrated player with athleticism, a very good present hit tool from the left side to go along with 6.44 speed and 89 mph velocity from the outfield. Junior OF Brandon Diaz, an FIU commit (not to be confused with his senior LHP namesake) is yet another highly ranked prospect.
And if the returning Patriots weren’t enough, they have added two transfers 3B Danny Zardon and C Zach Collins from nearby Flanagan HS. Both juniors, Zardon is an LSU commit and is a highly ranked hitter who has also shown mid 80s velocity on the mound and Collins stock has skyrocketed over the last 12 months, earning MVP honors at the16u WWBA with one of the most dominant five day hitting performances in recent PG history. He is currently ranked #6in the 2013 class and is committed to Miami.
A few more Patriot names to stash away are sophomore OF Kevin Williams who stood out at December’s National Underclass Main Event showing athleticism and running a 6.65, LHP Dallas Perez who showed loose arm action at that same event, 2B Brandon Vicens, an exciting young player with speed and lots of potential at the plate, and RHP David Villar, a freshman who has already touched 85 mph.
Heritage will have to fight through the always unforgiving Miami area schedule that is as loaded as ever in 2012. They already have a solid win under their belts, a pre-season 7-0 victory over 2011 PG National Champion Archbishop McCarthy. Anything less than a state championship will be a disappointment for this loaded team.
10. George Washington Trojans (Bronx, NY)
PSAL Manhattan A Conference
Head Coach: Steve Mandl (28th year)
2011 Result: 22-1 (PSAL Champion)
Key Losses: RHP Yael Regalado, RHP Jariel Cedeno
Top Players (with college commitment): C Nelson Rodriguez (Central Arizona CC), OF Fernelys Sanchez (Central Arizona CC), SS Randy Rodriguez, OF Alexis Torres, RHP Kevin Torres
2011 was a trying year for the Trojans as the suspension of longtime coach Steve Mandl for illegal recruiting dominated early season headlines.The legendary coach, who won over 900 games in his 27 years , coaching future major leaguers Alex Arias, Angel Salome, Henry Villar, and, most notably, Manny Ramirez, was suspended on February 15th for one year with assistant Nick Carbone taking over the helm for the season.
If there was any fall out from the Mandl suspension the team didn’t show it, rolling to an undefeated record through PSAL play with their lone loss coming 1-0 to NYSAISAA champ Poly Prep. The Trojans beat Lehman in the semifinals before taking down Tottenville in the PSAL championship with ace RHP Yael Regalado picking up the win.
The 2012 team returns eight starters including two of the top prospects in the 2012 class, C Nelson Rodriguez and OF Fernelys Sanchez. Rodriguez, a 2011 PG All-American, is a big, strong catching prospect with strength and power as his calling card. Rodriguez has light-tower raw power and great arm strength (82 on pops during 2011 PG National). Sanchez has long been a scout favorite with a long, lean athletic body, great OF actions, arm strength and sixty yard dash time (clocked as low as 6.27). Sanchez has started to put it together at the plate, showing lots of bat speed and power from both sides of the plate during the 2012 World Showcase in January.
SS Randy Rodriguez had the tough task of taking over the SS position from Mike Antonio (now playing in Kansas City Royals system) a year ago and responded well, earning NY Post All-Manhattan honors. Other position players Mandl will count on will be Randy’s double play partner Henry Rodriguez, OF Alexis Torres, and IF Marvin Campos, a Parkland College commit.
The biggest task for the Trojans will be replacing RHP Yael Regalado, one of the best pitcher’s in the state a year ago. Those who will combine to replace him will be RHP Kevin Torres, who went 11-0 with a 0.64 ERA a year ago, LHP Reynaldo Hernandez (8-0, 0.49 ERA), whom PG has clocked at the mid 80s in the past and RHP Edwin Corniel, who has been up to 88.
A typically tough New York City schedule will test the Trojans but they are heavy favorites to win their 28th conference title in 29 years, a remarkable feat. They will be tested by Carroll (TX), Parkview (GA), and American Heritage (FL) when they travel to Cary, NC in March for the National High School Invitational.
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