Tournaments | Story | 10/19/2016

Handicapping top Jupiter teams

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

Manny Machado talks about his experience at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.

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After watching the EvoShield Canes win their unprecedented third straight WWBA World Championship in 2015, beating their own second team in the finals, we can assume that Jeff Petty and his staff know the formula for how to win Jupiter. However, let's share again for everyone else some of basics that go into positioning a team for a shot at travel baseball's most prestigious trophy.

By far the most important factor in potentially getting to play on Monday is to have a deep pitching staff.  The two teams that compete in the finals could play 56 innings in five days, a daunting task for all but a staff that has been specifically designed for that gauntlet.  Most teams realistically are planning on throwing their best pitchers in pool play in order to perhaps get a playoff game.  Teams that are hoping to be playing on Monday may not even be planning to pitch their top hurlers until they get into the playoffs.

The importance of a deep pitching staff will be heightened this year by Perfect Game's implementation of the Major League Baseball sponsored PitchSmart initiative, which has been used in all PG tournaments in 2016.  Coaches are used to the pitch count limitations, designed to protect young arms, by this point in the year and will have to make plans that they may not have made in past years.

As far as position players are concerned, aside from the need to have two quality catchers, the most important consideration appears to be having players who have played and practiced together and are familiar with each other.  As the game speeds up and every play matters more and more, mistiming a double play feed, confusing a cut off play or missing a bunt rotation can mean the difference between moving on and a heartbreaking loss.

Two of the biggest complications to handicapping the 88-team field are not knowing what individual pitchers are stretched out to a full 85-100 pitch limit and what players are rostered but will not actually be in Jupiter for a variety of reasons.  For instance, historically few of the players who compete for the USA 18u National Team, which just won the Pan American Championship Gold Medal in Mexico less than two weeks ago, compete in Jupiter because they've already missed so much school time.

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 and/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 17

Pre-Jupiter Favorites

AZ T-Rex Rawlings

College Commitments: 11/21 | Primary Pitchers: 10       
PG All-American: 3B/1B Jacob Gonzalez

On paper T-Rex probably doesn't belong among the Pre-Jupiter favorites but paper doesn't leave the dugout, nor does it win championships like T-Rex did at the PG 17u World Series and the PG/EvoShield Upperclass National Championship.  Both those high-level events were played in T-Rex's back yard in Phoenix, of course, but the team plays with confidence and skill and coach Rex Gonzalez knows how to max out a pitching staff.  Gonzalez' nephew, slugging corner infielder Jacob Gonzalez, is the team leader but infielder Trevor Hauver won the MVP of the PG/EvoShield Championship.   First baseman Nick Brueser, outfielders Gianni Tomasi and Blake Paugh and shortstop Jake Holmes will be counted on for big offensive contributions.  Versatile two-way talent Boyd Vander Kooi and Matt Schroer will be the leaders on the pitching staff.

EvoShield Canes

College Commitments: 20/22 | Primary Pitchers: 12       
PG All-American: OF/RHP Jordan Adell

The strength of the Canes this year, aside from the confidence of their history, is that the core of the team has played together for a long time.  Infielders Jeremy Arocho, Buddy Kennedy, Ashton McGee and Tanner Morris are all very talented and versatile and the catching duo of Seth Caudell and Tyler Solomon also stands out.  Outfielder Jordan Adell, the second-ranked prospect in the 2017 class, brings the star power and will likely be asked to throw a few innings as well.  Righthanders  Samuel Carlson, USA 18u team member Hagan Danner, Trey Dillard and Chris McMahon are the top arms on the staff, with Carlson and Danner being two-way contributors, but the Canes also have proven arms such as lefty Andrew Abbott and righty Justin Willis who are strike throwers who might be ideal for early pool play games.

GBG Marucci

College Commitments: 22/27 | Primary Pitchers: 14
GBG has noticeably strengthened its roster since the late summer and early fall and comes across the country to Jupiter with a strong and deep team.  Daniel Cabrera is one of the better two-way talents in the country as a run-producing outfielder and mature lefthanded pitcher and could emerge as one of the stars of the championship if he's on his game.  Adam Kerner and junior Kameron Ojeda make up one of the best catching duos in Jupiter and will both likely be in the lineup at some position every game, while another junior, Michael Perez, heads up the middle infield.  Righthanders Blake Beers and Andres Alvarez head up a deep pitching staff that interestingly has, in addition to Cabrera, six lefthanders ready to go.

Team Elite Prime

College Commitments: 20/23 | Primary Pitchers: 11
PG All-American: C Steven Williams

After the necessity of having a deep pitching staff having a pair of quality catchers might be the next most important factor in roster building for a potential championship team in Jupiter.  Team Elite has that covered with junior Will Banfield, arguably the top catching prospect in the country, teamed up with PG All-American Steven Williams and switch-hitting slugger Golston Gillespie.  Williams will likely see plenty of outfield action when not catching, while Gillespie could see turns at first base and DH/EH.  In addition to Banfield, Team Elite also has two of the best 2018 pitchers in the country in righthanders Kumar Rocker and Ethan Hankins, with the No. 1-ranked Rocker also being a power hitting first baseman.  Infielders Ivan Johnson and Tyler Keenan, plus outfielders Pat DeMarco and Bo Majkowski, will also contribute to one of the most powerful offensive units in Jupiter.  The key, as always with Team Elite, will be in getting just enough pitching.

Twins Scout Team/Scorpions

College Commitments: 29/31 | Primary Pitchers: 12
PG All-American:  3B/1B Tim Elko

Depth is not going to be a problem for the Scorpions, as they have an incredible 29 players with college commitments, including 20 with commitments to SEC or ACC schools.  All 12 of their primary pitchers have college commitments as well.   Getting playing time for all five of the talented catchers – Bryce Boone (Florida State commit), Mason Doolittle (LSU), Calvin Greenfield (Florida), Jake Molle (UCF) and Brady Smith (Florida) – will be challenging enough.  Corner infielder Tim Elko is the offensive centerpiece of the team and will be counted on to drive in runs on a regular basis, often in the form of shortstop Christopher Seise, third baseman Raymond Gil or outfielders Reese Albert and Dalton Wingo.  Righthander Jack Leftwich was one of the top pitchers in the country by the end of the summer and will lead the deep pitching staff.

Deep Playoff Run Potential

Astros Scout Team/Elite Squad Prime
College Commitments: 21/25 | Primary Pitchers: 14       
PG All-Americans:  1B Alejandro Toral, SS Mark Vientos

Elite Squad hasn't really jelled as a team this year as they have in the past, much of that due to lack of consistency among the pitching staff, which is deep but will need to prove themselves in Jupiter.  Scoring runs should be no problem, especially if 2019 slugger Triston Casas, the leading hitter for the USA 18u National Team, is able to come up from Miami and play.  He, first baseman Alejandro Toral and shortstop Mark Vientos , along with catcher Zach Jackson, third baseman Joe Perez and infielder Jeter Downs, lead a potentially game-changing offense.

Astros Scout Team/FTB Tucci

College Commitments: 23/25 | Primary Pitchers: 9
PG All-Americans:  C M.J. Melendez, LHP Logan Allen, OF Jordan Anderson

FTB Tucci won the 17u WWBA National Championship in July but have lost two key pieces since then in head coach Jered Goodwin, now an assistant at Florida International, and PG All-American outfielder Connor Uselton, the MVP of the 17u WWBA, who is not playing in Jupiter.  In addition, two of the team’s remaining PG All-Americans, catcher M.J. Melendez and lefthander Logan Allen, were both on the USA 18u National Team and their participation is uncertain. Still, the talent runs deep, especially among position players, including outfielders Jordan Anderson and Christian Robinson, infielders Francis Villaman and Matthew Golda and catcher Jake Taylor.

Braves Scout Team/Ohio Warhawks

College Commitments: 20/26 | Primary Pitchers: 15
PG All-Americans: OF Drew Waters, OF Calvin Mitchell

The Warhawks always bring an impressive roster of players to Jupiter and this year is no exception.  As one of the ultimate "All-Star" teams every year, though, the Warhawks have often not come together as quickly as necessary and underperformed in pool play.  Is 2016 an exception?  They may have as strong an outfield as has ever been put together at his event, with PG All-Americans Calvin Mitchell and Drew Waters at the corners and 2018 standout Joe Gray Jr. in center field.  Righthander Weston Bizzle, one of the most successful tournament pitchers in recent WWBA history, is sure to throw in the Warhawks "must win" game.  There are a number of very interesting underclass pitchers on the Warhawks staff, including 2018 righthanders A.J. Stinson and Lyon Richardson, 2018 lefthander Hunter Milam and 2019 righthander Nolan Crisp, who could play key roles in any Warhawk title run.


College Commitments: 20/21 | Primary Pitchers: 11
PG All-American:  C Philip Clarke

The Dirtbags have their strongest Jupiter roster in years and have a legitimate chance to get deep into the playoffs and perhaps be still playing on Monday.  PG All-American catcher Philip Clarke is a powerful offensive player and he'll have plenty of company in the DIrtbags lineup with speedy outfielder Kier Meredith, infielder Garrett Blaylock and shortstop Cooper Swanson.  Lefty Sam Weatherly and righthanders Mason Hickman and Kyle Blendinger give the team three starters who can challenge any team in the championship.

Texas Scout Team Yankees

College Commitments: 22/23 | Primary Pitchers: 10

The Texas Scout Team Yankees are always one of the most entertaining teams to watch in Jupiter and they never fail to come up with a prospect or two from central or western Texas that is new to the prospect map.  Their front-line pitching seems to be plenty strong enough to get them out of pool play with talents such as righthanders Justin Bullock and Drew Fontenot, two-way standout Bryce Bonnin and junior Simeon Woods-Richardson leading the staff.  Outfielder Tristen Lutz is a big and very athletic player who could see his prospect stock skyrocket with a big event, while fellow outfielder Zach DeLoach is also a high-level athlete who could see time on the mound as well.

Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team

College Commitments: 13/22 | Primary Pitchers: 10
PG All-Americans: SS Brady McConnell, C Luis Campusano, OF Johnathan Rodriguez

Any time a team has three PG All-American position players, plus six senior pitchers ranked among the top 266 in the country, you know that the team has the potential to make a deep playoff run.  The normal stipulations about players assembled on a de facto All-Star team apply here.  Outfielder Johnathan Rodriguez, hard throwing right hander Wilberto Rivera and left hander Jerryell  Rivera Gonzalez are three standouts in what is increasingly looking like a very strong Puerto Rican class.  Shortstop Brady McConnell will get plenty of scout attention in addition to being perhaps the most important player on the team.

The Talent’s There

Chain National

College Commitments: 19/28 | Primary Pitchers: 11
PG All-Americans: OF Cole Brannen, LHP D.L. Hall

PG All-American Cole Brannen leads the Chain offense and is joined in the outfield by another very talented Georgian, Josh Hatcher. 2018 third baseman Brandon Howlett, one of the top junior hitters in the country, headlines a solid infield.  Fellow PG All-American D.L. Hall can be counted on for one solid outing if he's stretched out enough, but otherwise righthander A.J. Labas is the only other 2017 pitcher ranked in the PG top 500 on the Chain staff.  They will need key contributions from underclass pitchers such as Chase Wilkerson, Carter Raffield and Cameron Gray.

CBA Marucci

College Commitments: 19/20 | Primary Pitchers: 8
PG All-Americans: SS Nick Allen, SS Tyler Freeman

CBA Marucci doesn't appear to be as deep as they have been in recent years, although much like AZ T-Rex Rawlings, they are used to winning and will take that attitude onto the field.  Any team with PG All-Americans Nick Allen and Tyler Freeman in the middle infield is going to be able to both compete and entertain, and third baseman Tyler Hardman and outfielder Donta Williams offer offensive support.  Righthanders Jonathan Stroman and Roman Phansalker lead a small but talented pitching staff.

Dodgers Scout Team/East Cobb

College Commitments: 17/26 | Primary Pitchers: 10

This isn't a traditional East Cobb team but it has some East Cobb elements with some players from around the Southeast and even four players from California added as well.  It also has the whole spectrum of classes, from seven seniors ranked in the top 300 of their class, led by righthander Cody Greenhill and catcher Sam Praytor, to talented California junior outfielder Grant Burton and sophomore first baseman/lefthanded pitcher Hunter Barco.  It's a hard team to get a handle on but it is not lacking in either talent or depth.

Marlins Scout Team

College Commitments: 22/27 | Primary Pitchers: 14

All-Star teams who come together for Jupiter don't always fare well against teams who have extended experience playing together but it's hard not to respect the Marlins Scout Team's talent and depth.  Their players come from nine states, including different locales such as Hawaii, Arkansas, Iowa and New York, but they do have 13 players ranked in the top 400 in the PG 2017 class listings.  California righthanders Carlos Lomeli (82nd ranked) and Ben Fariss (84th), along with Texan Stephen Keller (207th), give the team three accomplished and talented pitchers to build from.

Padres Scout Team/Chandler World

College Commitments: 17/25 | Primary Pitchers: 10

Chandler World falls under much of the same description as the Marlins Scout Team, with similar talent and depth but talent and depth that has been assembled from across 11 states with limited playing experience together. The team is particularly strong in Puerto Rican standouts, including outfielder Heliot Ramos, righthander Jan Figueroa, catcher Jonathan Nieves and 2018 outfielder Manny Gonzalez.  Scouts eyes will be closely following third baseman Nicholas Egnatuk, a late summer sensation with the bat, and rapidly improving California lefthander Sam Glick.

Team EvoShield

College Commitments: 19/22 | Primary Pitchers: 8

Lest anyone forget, Team EvoShield were the runner-ups last year, losing to their parent EvoShield Canes and it was not the first time that an organization's younger team has reached the finals.  This year's team has 20 2018 graduates and 10 of those are ranked among the top 150 juniors in the country.  Any teams with a starting infield of Xavier Edwards, Emilio Rosas, Nicholas Northcut and Chase Sanguinetti, plus Anthony Seigler behind the plate and Nick O'Day in center filed, is going to be very competitive.  Six-foot-6 righthander Austin Becker is one of the top prospects in the 2018 class but he will need plenty of help if Team EvoShield is going to repeat its surprising 2015 run.

Don’t Sleep On Them


College Commitments: 15/18 | Primary Pitchers: 7
PG All-Americans: RHP Hans Crouse, IF Jayson Gonzalez

BPA doesn't look like it has the depth to make a deep championship run but if PG All-American Hans Crouse is in Jupiter less than two weeks after one-hitting the Cuban National Junior Team with 11 strikeouts in the Pan American Gold Medal game, then BPA has two of the best game-pitchers in the country in Crouse and lefty Jack Owen.  Another PG All-American, infielder Jayson Gonzalez, can carry a team if he gets hot with the bat.

Chicago Scouts Association

College Commitments: 16/23 | Primary Pitchers: 11

Chicago Scouts Association shares a pool with Elite Squad Prime and plays them their first game on Thursday, so they better come ready to go.  If junior outfielder/pitcher Jarred Kelenic, the MVP of the recently completed Pan American Championship, is in Jupiter it will certainly help their chances.  Even without Kelenic, the third-ranked player in the 2018 class, CSA has a strong team, including a deep pitching staff led by hard throwing righthander Bobby Miller, Ryan Kutt, Nathan Burns and low-90s 2018's Jacob Sweeney and Colby Gomes.

East Cobb Yankees

College Commitments: 14/23 | Primary Pitchers: 10
PG All-American: OF Kyle Jacobson

The Yankees have a strong cast of position players and a strong chance to emerge from pool play if they get some strong early pitching performances.  PG All-American outfielder Kyle Jacobson is a veteran high performance hitter and should have plenty of support in the order with top 2018 infielder Kendall Simmons, outfielder Colin Hall, shortstop Ryan Bliss and first baseman Cole McNamee.

Florida Burn Platinum

College Commitments : 13/19 | Primary Pitchers: 8

The Burn have become a feeder program for the Florida Gators and have five Florida commits on their roster, including shortstops Shane Shifflett and Jose Ciccarello and catcher Samuel McMillan.  Righthanded pitcher/outfielder Sam Keating is a proven two-way performer, and the Burn pitching staff, while a bit lacking in numbers, is full of experienced strike throwers.

Houston Banditos

College Commitments: 14/21 | Primary Pitchers: 6

The Banditos are one of the youngest teams in the tournament, with only four 2017 graduates on their 21-player roster.  Their six primary pitchers almost eliminate any chances of a deep playoff run, but they stand a very good chance of getting out of pool play and making an impact on the playoffs.  Junior infielders Jordan Groshans and Hunter Watson are two of the top underclass talents in the country and Groshans and his low-90s fastball will likely see time on the mound, too.  Polished junior righthander Marcelo Perez will also be bringing plenty of low-90s heat.  Sophomore righthander Matthew Thompson may be the top 2019 pitcher in the country.

Reds Midwest Scout Team

College Commitments: 17/25 | Primary Pitchers: 10

The Reds Midwest Scout Team are perennial over-achievers in Jupiter and they appear to have a deep enough team to put up a strong showing again this year.  Lefthander Brendan Murphy and XXL righthanders Jimmy Ramsey and Austin Marozas give the Reds three solid starting pitchers, while infielders K.C. Simonich, Zion Pettigrew and Mark Vierling will provide punch to the lineup and solid defense.

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
• Dallas Patriots Stout
• Diamond Devils
• Dulin Dodgers
• East Cobb Astros
• Homeplate Chilidogs
• Elite Squad Louisville Slugger
• Midland Redskins
• Mountain West Slammers
• Ontario Blue Jays
• Palm Beach Select
• Premier Baseball Evans
• Richmond Braves
• SGV Arsenal
• South Charlotte Panthers
• St. Louis Pirates/Elite Baseball Training
• Tri-State Arsenal Prime

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