Tournaments | Story | 10/21/2015

Handicapping top Jupiter teams

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

2015 WWBA World Championship Pool Previews | Event Preview: Quick math: Jupiter + 5 = MLB

Writing a mock draft is easier than the annual Jupiter handicapping exercise. Working on class top prospect rankings is a belt-high 83 mph straight fastball by comparison. When dealing with teams and pools and schedules, trying to figure out what is likely to happen at the WWBA World Championship this week is more entertainment than anything that can be authoritative.

However, let's take a couple of basic premises to be true.

First, most of the teams competing in Jupiter realistically know that their chances of winning the championship are slender at best and their leadership is hoping to get a break or two and win their pool and reach the playoffs, along with getting premium exposure for their players from the college coaches and scouts. That is what Jupiter is about for perhaps 65 of the 85 teams competing. There have been longshots that have played in the final four on Monday and that is something to look forward to and enjoy when it happens.

Secondly, the difference between those approximately 65 teams and the 20 that are far more likely to contend is the depth of their respective pitching staffs. The reality is that to go home with the hardware, a team will have to play eight games between Thursday afternoon and Monday afternoon. That's a 96-hour window to play up to 56 innings of baseball. Imagine the Cubs, Mets, Blue Jays and Royals doing that. It isn't going to happen without a long strike-throwing pitching staff and maybe some two-way players.

That's why we emphasize pitching depth, versatile athletes and even dual strength at catcher in the evaluations below. It's simply a prerequisite to being one of the 20 or so teams that will be playing in the most heavily scouted event in baseball and thinking they have a real chance to win.

The biggest complication for the prognosticator is not knowing which high level pitchers are stretched out and able to throw 80-100 pitches and which will be more limited. Simple variables like this can make all the difference. Side conversations with coaches at any tournament frequently include summaries along the lines of "we're going to run out of pitching at this point."

The bottom line is the more quality innings you have available to you on the mound, the better chance you have of winning. That, and a hot hitter and a couple of lucky breaks or big plays, go a long way.

Teams are listed in alphabetical order within each grouping
Comments/numbers based on rosters as of Monday, October 19

Pre-Jupiter Favorites

Astros Scout Team/FTB Tucci
College Commitments: 28/32 | Primary Pitchers: 16

The FTB organization is coming off a championship at the WWBA Underclass World Championship earlier this month and will come in brimming with confidence, not to mention perhaps the deepest roster in Jupiter. Offensive firepower looks like the strength of the team and there will be redundancy at plenty of positions, especially in the infield with players such as PG All-Americans Francisco Thomas and Max Guzman as well as Bo Bichette and Delvin Perez. Although not as highly ranked, first baseman Zach Zientarski and third baseman Mason Studstill are also consistent high level performers with big righthanded power. The catching is extremely solid with All-American Herbert Iser and 2017 standout M.J. Melendez sharing the duties. The pitching staff is deep, with PG All-American Ryan Zeferjahn, rapidly improving lefty Travis Hosterman and 6-foot-9 junior southpaw Mitchell Stone likely to pitch high leverage innings during pool play and early in the playoffs. Do note the change in team name, as the former Cardinals Scout Team has changed as General Manager Charlie Gonzalez now works with the Houston Astros.

CBA Marucci
College Commitments: 22/24 | Primary Pitchers: 10

A deep run into the playoffs, let alone a championship, would mark CBA as perhaps the organization of the year in Perfect Game after their 17u WWBA National Championship this summer and their impressive sweep of the September PG/EvoShield Upper and Underclass tournaments. A trio of very talented seniors in PG All-Americans Blake Sabol and Dominic Fletcher, along with fast-rising outfielder Josh Stephen, form the core of what is actually a heavily junior-oriented team. Shortstop Nick Allen is arguably one of the most enjoyable players in the country to watch play regardless of class, while outfielder Garrett Mitchell, infielder Ben Ramirez and two-way prospect Sean Ross have huge tools. Piecing together enough quality innings from their pitching staff will be CBA's biggest challenge. But to not rank CBA among the favorites at this event would be disrespectful of what they've already accomplished in 2015.

EvoShield Canes
College Commitments: 24/25 | Primary Pitchers: 12

Given that that the Canes are looking to become the first ever Jupiter three-peat champions and have a star-studded roster that includes six Perfect Game All-Americans it would be impossible not to call EvoShield the tournament favorites. However, the Canes failed to reach the playoffs at both the WWBA 17u WWBA National Championship and the 17u PG World Series, so there is some tarnish on the armor coming in. A peerless infield in All-Americans Nicholas Quintana, Joe Rizzo and Grant Bodison will be a primary strength of the team, although the outfield of Avery Tuck, Khalil Lee and Seth Beer is almost on par with the infield. 2014 Most Valuable Player Brad Debo will share catching duties with offensive standout Brandon Martarano. The Canes only list 12 primary pitchers on their roster so they are a bit behind their competition in pitching depth but righthanders Matt Manning and Gianluca Dalatri and lefty Rian Haire are very high level performers.

GBG Marucci
College Commitments: 27/31 | Primary Pitchers: 17

GBG reached the semifinals last year in an impressive run for the West Coast based team and return a core of players who seem like they've been with the team forever, especially third baseman Spencer Steer, shortstop Will Proctor and second baseman Ben Baird, a PG All-American. This being Jupiter, GBG has brought in a number of other very talented players in Hunter Greene, perhaps the best two-way prospect in the 2017 class, slugging first baseman Christian Jones from Washington, and another top 2017 two-way talent, Daniel Cabrera of Louisiana. If All-American righthander Kevin Gowdy makes the trip and is stretched out GBG has one go-to starting pitcher, but the hallmark of this and past GBG teams is a deep staff of arms that pound the strike zone and let the team's defense handle things.

Mets Scout Team/Scorpions
College Commitments: 26/30 | Primary Pitchers: 14

The runner-up in 2014, the Scorpions have to be considered championship contenders in any event they enter every year and this tournament is no different. The pitching staff looks especially strong, with PG All-Americans Cole Ragans and Tyler Baum ready to go and D.J. Roberts and Todd Peterson joining them as talented and battled tested starters. Still, the Scorpions top pitcher this summer was righthander Tobias Myers; look for him to pitch on Sunday in the playoffs should the Scorpions reach that point. PG All-American outfielder Carlos Cortes was perhaps the top hitter in the country this summer and it is easy to imagine him putting together an MVP type of performance, while fellow All-American third baseman Drew Mendoza will also be spotlighted by scouts. As a sign that things aren't likely to change for the Scorpions in the near future, look for big contributions from 2017 infielders Christopher Seise, Brady Smith and Tim Elko as well.

Deep Playoff Run Potential

Braves Scout Team/Ohio Warhawks
College Commitments: 20/27 | Primary Pitchers: 14

Is this the year the Warhawks finally escape a critical pool play upset and make a deep playoff run? It could be looking at the roster and how it works together. PG All-American Josh Lowe is the best two-way player in the country and could be a first rounder either at third base or on the mound. Righthanders Davis Daniel, Weston Bizzle and Kyle Hurt are pitchers any team would want starting an important game, especially Bizzle, whose track record is exceptional at Perfect Game events over the last year. Lowe will lead the offense, supported by shortstop Carter Kieboom and under recognized but very talented outfielder Akil Baddoo.

Elite Squad Prime
College Commitments: 22/25 | Primary Pitchers: 13

The middle of the Elite Squad line up ranks with any team in the tournament and no opposing pitcher will look forward to running the gauntlet of first baseman Alejandro Toral, catcher Michael Amditis, shortstop Colton Welker, third baseman Rylan Thomas and catcher Zach Jackson. Where the team has come up a bit short this year is on the mound. Lefthander Jesus Luzardo is one of the best pitchers in the tournament and will be next to impossible to beat if he is on his game and able to pitch deep into a pitch count. Big performances from righthanders Anthony Molina and Gregory Veliz will be important to a deep playoff run.

Florida Burn
College Commitments: 23/29 | Primary Pitchers: 13

The Burn are built for tournaments such as Jupiter and it's no surprise that they are successful in virtually every event that features an intense schedule of games. They have a deep roster and emphasize fundamental baseball, almost to an extreme at times. The Burn also have about the largest collection of two-way talent in Jupiter, not an unimportant consideration. All-American Austin Bergner is the team's standout both on the mound and as a two-way performer, but senior Nick Long and juniors Jordon Butler and Sam Keating will also impact the tournament on both sides of the ball. Butler, a lefthander, is one pitcher that no team in Jupiter will want to face. In the end, though, if the Burn are still playing late Sunday or even Monday it will be because of a team effort.

Team Elite Prime
College Commitments: 24/25 | Primary Pitchers: 13

The first thing that stands out about Team Elite is that 17 of their players have commitments to an SEC or ACC school, so talent is not an issue. The second thing, especially having seen the team play, is that this is a seriously big and strong group of athletes. With the possible exception of 6-foot-4 PG All-American shortstop Nolan Jones, this is a team that won't rely on finesse to beat you. Righthanded slugger Cam Shephard joins Jones to form a strong middle infield, while All-American Luke Berryhill and Austin Bigger are one of the best catching tandems at the event. Watch 2017 lefthanded hitter Steven Williams carefully; he's a primary catcher who is athletic enough to play center field and is one of the strongest juniors in the country. Mid-90's righthander Zach Linginfelter heads a deep pitching staff that is stocked for a deep playoff run.

Texas Scout Team Yankees
College Commitments: 17/22 | Primary Pitchers: 11

The Yankees are a true scout team brought together just for Jupiter every year and history shows that such teams rarely play on Monday. However, history also shows that the Texas-based team almost always makes a strong playoff run and is annually one of the heaviest scouted teams in Jupiter, and neither of those two things should change in 2015. Shortstop Hudson Sanchez has high-round potential if his bat continues to shine as it did late in the summer, while fellow Texan Ulysses Cantu is one of the better two-way prospects in the country and a powerful righthanded hitter. Two talented juniors that will be heavily watched will be outfielder Cole Turney, one of best 2017 hitters in the country, and lefthander John Kodros.

The Talent's There

Houston Banditos
College Commitments: 16/22 | Primary Pitchers: 9

The Banditos are ironically in the same pool with the Dirtbags, as the two organizations are very similar in their team chemistry and their tradition of success. In two-way standout Lael Lockhart Jr. and outfielder Connor Capel, the Banditos have two of the most experienced players in the country and a pair that is likely to rise to the occasion. Shortstop Andres Sosa is also a talented and veteran performer and will be steady on defense and in the middle of the Banditos batting order. Vanderbilt commit Christopher Machamer will lead the pitching staff and it seems likely that either he or lefty Richard Gilbert will get the ball in the all important Dirtbags matchup.

Marucci Elite
College Commitments: 19/25 | Primary Pitchers: 11

Marucci's national profile hasn't been as high the past two years after winning it all in 2011, but they've clearly decided to peak for this event. The team's Louisiana roots are still evident in players such as shortstop Zach Watson and outfielder Jacob Peterson, two of the fastest players in Jupiter, plus shortstop Josh Smith, but the roster is filled with quality players from around the country. Where to play all the infielders will be a pleasant issue, with PG All-American shortstop Nonie Williams, third baseman Austin Shenton and second baseman Morgan McCullough joining Watson and Smith in the mix. Righthanders Easton McGee and Joe Fulcher will lead what looks like a deep pitching staff. Keep an eye on 6-foot-7, 245-pound righthander Alex Moore from Missouri, a late riser who is reportedly hitting the mid-90s.

Northeast Baseball
College Commitments: 22/26 | Primary Pitchers: 12

Northeast might be a misnomer for this team, as their 26-player roster hails from 16 states plus Puerto Rico. They will have to jell quickly, as their first game on Thursday is against the stacked Braves Scout Team/Ohio Warhawks, with the Warhawks tentatively scheduled to pitch their top pitchers in hopes of having them ready for a deep playoff run. Still, Northeast has the talent to pull an upset. The left side of their infield in shortstop Shane Martinez and third baseman Kevin Milam, both California natives, are battle-tested performers, while catcher Michael Rothenburg is one of the top 2017 catchers in country. Who Northeast chooses to pitch on Thursday (Andrew Belcik) and how they perform could determine everything for the team.

St. Louis Pirates/Elite Baseball Training
College Commitments: 22/30 | Primary Pitchers: 15

The melding of two very solid programs has produced a roster that has both star power and enviable depth across the board. A pair of PG All-Americans – infielder Tyler Fitzgerald and righthander Drake Fellows – provide the star power while 6-foot-3, 225-pound outfielder Jordan McFarland and 6-foot-5, 210-pound third baseman Joey Polak will provide plenty of firepower in the middle of the lineup. The Pirates/Elite are in a well balanced but winnable division, with their must-win game appearing to be the Tri-State Arsenal on Friday afternoon for a path to the playoffs and a chance to test their 15 pitcher deep staff.

Tri-State Arsenal
College Commitments: 16/26 | Primary Pitchers: 11

The Arsenal's fate will be in the hands of a star-studded core of their pitching staff. All eyes will be on the consensus top prospect in the 2016 class, lefthander Jason Groome, when he takes the mound, but fellow PG All-American Anthony Locey, Tyler Mundile and top 2017 southpaw D.L. Hall all have low- to mid-90s stuff that can dominate any team, too. The potential drawback of the team will be in that it only has nine seniors on the roster as opposed to 17 underclassmen. A pair of senior Duke commits, two-way standout Matt Mervis and lefthander Adam Laskey, should play prominent roles in any Arsenal playoff run.

Don't Sleep On Them

Chicago Scouts Association
College Commitments: 18/20 | Primary Pitchers: 9

The Upper Midwest has three teams in this final handicapping, a nice indication that talent in the area is very substantial right now. Chicago Scouts Association is especially talented in the field and up the middle with a pair of PG All-Americans, catcher Ben Rortvedt and shortstop Gavin Lux, plus catcher Sam Ferri ready to play, along with lefthanded hitting outfielder Christian Bullock. Righthander Nate Brown, a Florida commit, is scheduled to pitch against the Florida Burn on Saturday night, their major obstacle for getting out of pool play.

Dallas Tigers
College Commitments: 13/15 | Primary Pitchers: 7

One senses that the Tigers roster as listed on the PG website isn't complete in terms of numbers but one thing is for certain, it is very talented. PG All-American righthander Charles King will likely start whatever game the Tigers feel is the must-win contest to reach the playoffs, while Ray Gaither is one of the best two-way talents in the 2016 class and will make a big mark both offensively and defensively. Shortstop Ryan Vilade is one of the best position talents in the 2017 class and is an especially enjoyable player to watch because of his energy and powerful righthanded bat.

Reds Midwest Scout Team
College Commitments: 22/24 | Primary Pitchers: 12

The Reds have made deep runs at Jupiter before and the roster is again constructed for a deep run should they be able to escape a tough pool that includes CBA Marucci and perennial playoff participant Chet Lemon's Juice. Catcher Cooper Johnson is the big name prospect on the team and his defense in particular will impact the Reds' games, but it is a deep Upper Midwest pitching staff that will be the key to the team's chances.

Dallas Patriots Stout

College Commitments: 10/19 | Primary Pitchers: 7

The Patriots will have confidence on their side, as their team, with a very similar roster, finished as the runner-up in the 17u WWBA National Championship in July. They will also have a pair of Oklahoma State commits who have brought home MVP honors from WWBA championships in slugging catcher Michael Neustifter and righthanded pitcher Jonathan Heasley.

Team EvoShield
College Commitments: 20/24 | Primary Pitchers: 13

There is plenty of precedent for an organization's second team making a deep playoff run and it would surprise few if happened again, especially with the strengths of the EvoShield Canes, Orlando Scorpions, Elite Squad and FTB organizations. Team EvoShield gets the nod over the Twins Scout Team/Scorpions South, Elite Squad Louisville Slugger and FTB Mizuno as having the best chance to emerge, in large part due to a deep pitching staff and a stellar outfield that includes Edward "E.P." Reese and highly ranked juniors Jordon Adell and JeVon Ward.

Programs That Know How To Win

There are a number of teams that are veterans to the competition in Jupiter and always seem to do well, even when their rosters might not always match up with other teams. It would be no surprise whatsoever if a couple of these teams made an impact on the playoffs.

Chet Lemon's Juice
Diamond Devils
Dulin Dodgers
East Cobb Astros
East Cobb Yankees
Elite Squad Louisville Slugger
FTB Mizuno
Midland Redskins
Mountain West Slammers
Ontario Blue Jays
Richmond Braves National
SGV Arsenal
South Charlotte Panthers
Twins Scout Team/Scorpions South

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