High School : : Rankings
Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 National HS Rankings: 6-10

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

2017 Perfect Game High School Preview Index

6. American Heritage Patriots

Plantation, Fla.
FHSAA Class 6A District 15
Head Coach: Bruce Aven
2016 Result: 19-5, 6A Regional Semifinals

Key Losses: MIF Gary Mattis (Florida Atlantic), RHP Taylor D’Agostino (Christopher Newport), RHP Michael Cortelli (Amherst), MIF Kyle Carter (Bates)

Top Players: SS Mark Vientos (Miami), RHP Christian Santana (Florida International), 1B/3B/RHP Triston Casas (Miami), MIF Cory Acton (Florida)

American Heritage slots in at the No. 6 spot after making it to the 6A regional semifinals last season and falling to eventual state champion Archbishop McCarthy.

The Patriots are a deep team and they are led with star power as high ceiling infielder Mark Vientos, a PG All-American and Miami commit, and hard-throwing righthander Christian Santana, a Florida International commit, will anchor the team in the lineup and in the pitching rotation respectively.

One of the younger, and more intriguing, players for the Patriots is recently reclassified 2018 graduate Triston Casas, a Miami commit, who will be asked to anchor the middle of the lineup and pitch for American Heritage. Playing on the varsity team as a freshman, Casas is one of the most potent hitters in his class, evidenced by his .453 batting average last season, with big power and can also bump the fastball up in the low-90s from the mound. He has recently re-classified to the class of 2018, making him draft eligible a year earlier than expected.

Infielders Cory Acton, a Florida commit, and Devyn Munroe round out the athletic infield as the pitching staff should have a reliable defense behind them. Acton was a force with the bat in 2016 hitting .500 for Westminster Academy. Losing two starting pitchers to graduation hurts but American Heritage should have the depth to replace those players and the pitchers will need to step up if the Patriots want to reach the state finals.

7. Barbe Buccaneers

Lake Charles, La.
LHSAA 5A District 3
Head Coach: Glenn Ceccini
2016 Result: 35-6, 5A State Champions

Key Losses: OF Tyler Booth (Southeastern Louisiana)

Top Players: LHP Adam Goree (uncommitted), IF Antonio Gauthier (uncommitted), OF/RHP Damon Fountain (uncommitted), RHP Brandon Rushing (uncommitted)

As has been the case in the past with Barbe High School, this team is led by a combination of depth and a strong senior class. Turning in a remarkable 35-win season in 2016, the Buccaneers powered their way to the 5A State Championship and finished No. 5 in the Perfect Game Top 50.

The key loss for the Buccaneers came in the form of graduating senior outfielder and lefthanded pitcher Tyler Booth, who now attends Southeastern Louisiana, but aside from Booth this team retained a lot of talent and is led by a strong senior pitching staff.

The Bucanneers will have seniors Adam Goree, Brandon Rushing and Slate Fuller to round out a pitching staff that has a lot of experience up to this point. Goree, the highest ranked senior according to PG, is lefthanded and has been up to 88 mph with his fastball. He led the staff last season going 8-1 with a 1.17 ERA.

Damon Fountain is one of the more interesting pieces on this team as he is only a sophomore but is immensely talented. He’s a 6.8 runner in the 60-yard dash with strong tools on both offense and defense. Fountain pitches as well and should have no problem finding playing time.

The seniors on the roster come in the form of 12 players and their experience should be invaluable in leading the lineup. The offense will be the question mark entering the season but the leadership and experience should help the Bucanneers make a run to defend their state title.

8. Merritt Island Mustangs

Merritt Island, Fla.
FHSAA Class 6A
Head Coach: Greg Plecki
2016 Result: 20-8, 6A Regional Quarterfinals

Key Losses: OF Jackson Muldowney (Greenville), MIF Trent Taylor (Belmont Abbey), RHP Tyler Stephens (Shorter)

Top Players: SS Brady McConnell (Florida), C/RHP Mason Denaburg (Florida), 1B Connor Allen (Miami), MIF Ricardo Diaz (uncommitted)

The Mustangs return a strong collection of talent for the 2017 season led by a pair of Florida commits. Perfect Game All-American Brady McConnell returns as the starting shortstop and should be the catalyst near the top of the lineup. McConnell has a quick bat with advanced actions in the field and is one of the top draft prospects for the 2017 class.

Perhaps one of the most talented underclassmen in the country is fellow Florida commit Mason Denaburg. A legitimate two-way prospect, Denaburg has big power from the right side and can pump his fastball in the low-90s on the mound. Denaburg is joined in the lineup by lefthanded first baseman Connor Allen, a Miami commit. Allen is a power bat from the lefthand side who completes a strong "big three" in the lineup alongside Denaburg and McConnell.

Merritt Island has some 2017 arms returning but will need to find consistency from the rotation as the season goes on. Pitching can make or break a season but the Mustangs have enough talent on their roster to figure it out in the early part of the season. The Mustangs are no doubt a talented squad and should find themselves competing for their first state championship since 2000.

9. Walton Raiders

Marietta, Ga.
GHSA Class 6A
Head Coach: Shane Amos
2016 Result: 32-4, 6A State Champions

Key Losses: SS Carter Kieboom (MLB Draft, Nationals, first round), RHP Zac Kristofak (Georgia), C Drake Frix (College of Charleston), MIF Parker McCoy (Georgia Tech)

Top Players: LHP Luke Bartnicki (Georgia Tech), OF Jason Rooks (Georgia Tech), RHP Jacob Riordan (Uncommitted), OF Michael Guldberg (Georgia Tech)

Walton finished out the 2016 season not only as the No. 2 team in the Perfect Game Top 50 but carried their momentum all the way to becoming 6A state champs.

The big loss for the Raiders came as Carter Kieboom graduated and was selected in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. Walton also graduated seniors from the infield, rotation and outfield.

Walton is not short of depth and will have many players willing to step up. The Raiders boast two of the top arms in the state with juniors Luke Bartnicki, a Georgia Tech commit, and Jacob Riordan. The lefthanded Bartnicki is coming off a very impressive outing at the WWBA World Championship where he threw 92-95 mph with his fastball and a tight slider in the upper-70s to low-80s.

The question for Walton is not the pitching staff but who will replace Kieboom’s presence in the lineup. Senior outfielder Jason Rooks, a Georgia Tech commit, should anchor the lineup but Walton will be expecting contributions from fellow seniors Jason Avers, an Appalachian State commit, and Chris Rolick, a Georgia College & State commit.

10. Marjory Stoneman Douglas Eagles

Parkland, Fla.
FHSAA Class 9A
Head Coach: Todd Fitz-Gerald
2016 Result: 27-2, 9A State Champions

Key Losses: LHP Jesus Luzardo (MLB Draft, Nationals, third round), 3B Colton Welker (MLB Draft, Rockies, fourth round)

Top Players: MIF David Vazquez (NC State), OF Rafael Santos (Florida International), SS John Rodriguez (Florida International), LHP Brandon Kaminer (Miami)

Coach Todd Fitz-Gerald turned in an excellent season for the Eagles as they finished 8-0 in their district and eventually captured the school’s first state title. The team battled through some adversity and a season-ending injury to ace Jesus Luzardo before putting together a strong late season run to come away as champs.

The Eagles will have to make up for two big holes left by the lefthanded Luzardo, who was drafted in the third round by the Nationals, and third baseman Colton Welker, who was drafted fourth round by the Rockies. The pitching staff will also need some players to step up as the loss of Luzardo and fellow senior pitchers Brady Norris, Kyle Sha, and Jeremy Szozda leaves some holes.

Senior lefty Brandon Kaminer, a Miami commit, will lead the rotation and he has proven he has what it takes to be a staff ace. Last season Kaminer finished 11-0 with a 1.28 ERA and struck out 90 batters to step up when Luzardo went down with injury. The team will also certainly have some strength throughout the lineup. Seniors David Vazquez, a North Carolina State commit, and Rafael Santos, a Florida International commit, will anchor the lineup. Junior middle infielder John Rodriguez, another Florida International commit, is very smooth defensively and will be able to add some pop to the lineup as well.

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