Tournaments | Story | 10/17/2017

Handicapping top Jupiter teams

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

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The annual exercise of handicapping the top teams for the WWBA World Championships in Jupiter involves much the same formula that it always has, with an emphasis on having a deep pitching staff that can withstand playing up to 56 innings over a five-day period. The phrase often heard at PG tournaments held around the calendar year is "we've run out of pitching" when it gets to a certain point in the playoffs.

"We've run out of pitching" will not be a phrase uttered by the eventual 2017 world champion on Monday afternoon.

Of course, one still has to score runs and play defense to win baseball games and there is no shortage of future big leaguers spread among the 88 teams that will start play Thursday. Twenty-six Perfect Game All-American position players are rostered for the event along with the top three position prospects in the 2019 class. Despite the 2018 class already being touted as one of the most talented groups of high school pitchers ever, the irony is that this may end up being the highest scoring Jupiter in its 20-year existence.

Once play starts on Thursday, all pool and playoff predictions are as useful as a broken bat or a torn batting glove. But here's a look at how one person sees things potentially shaking out.

Teams are listed in alphabetical order within each grouping
Comments/numbers based on rosters as of Monday, October 16

Pre-Jupiter Favorites

Braves Scout Team/East Cobb  
College Commitments: 21/24 | Primary Pitchers: 11

This may be the most talented East Cobb team in many years. There are very high-level talents such as senior outfielder Cabrera Weaver, a PG All-American, and lefthander Garrett Wade and dynamic junior two-way prospect Hunter Barco. There are talented and proven pitchers such as righthanders Cooper Stinson and Davis Sharpe and lefty Ben Harris. Plus there is a depth of very experienced position talent that has played together for years. It's a good formula for still being in the hunt on Monday morning.

Canes National
College Commitments: 23/23 | Primary Pitchers: 11

The Canes are well positioned to resume their domination of the WWBA World Championship following their unprecedented 2013-2015 championship run. Of the 22 seniors on their roster, almost all of who have played together extensively the past few years, 15 of them are ranked in the top 300 in the PG class rankings. Five of those players – righthander Austin Becker, shortstop Xavier Edwards, outfielder Joe Gray Jr., third baseman Nick Northcut and catcher Anthony Seigler – are PG All-Americans. And the one 2019 on the roster, infielder Rece Hinds, is simply the No. 2 ranked player in the 2019 class. The pitching looks very deep, headed by Becker, fast-rising southpaw Carter Lohman and righthander Justin Jarvis. Lest anyone forget, the Canes, with a similar roster, have already won the 2017 17u WWBA National Championship, the closest thing on the Perfect Game tournament calendar to this event in scope and talent.

FTB/SF Giants Scout Team
College Commitments: 23/26 | Primary Pitchers: 11

FTB has an impressive 13 player ranked in the top 200 in the PG 2018 class rankings, headed up by perhaps the best player at the championship in shortstop Nander De Sedas and joined by De Sedas' PG All-American teammates outfielder Preston Hartsell and lefthanded pitcher Jonathan Gates. Outfielder Riley Greene might be the best pure hitter in the 2019 class. In addition to its huge depth of impact talent, a number of the top players, including Gates, Kristopher Armstrong and Angel Triburcio, are two-way players, always an important factor in a deep playoff run. This is a team put together to win a championship and this could be FTB's best chance to claim the rings after coming up just short so many times.

Houston Astros Scout Team/Elite Squad Prime
College Commitments: 18/20 | Primary Pitchers: 10

The Elite Squad program is fresh off a win at the WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers two weeks ago but their top team in Jupiter has none of those youngsters on their present roster. This veteran group of seniors has a core of some of the best position players in Jupiter, led by PG All-American and World Junior Championship MVP Triston Casas. Shortstop Blaze Alexander gives the Squad another PG All-American, while infielder Cory Acton and catcher Adrian Del Castillo are among the top players at their positions in the country. If anything, the roster appears to be a bit slender on pitching depth, which makes two uncharacteristic additions from outside of southeast Florida – righthander Cole Winn (California) and junior lefthander Jakob Berger (Texas) – potential key contributors.

Team Elite Prime
College Commitments: 24/26 | Primary Pitchers: 16

If there is any doubt that Team Elite Prime means business in 2017 after finishing as the Jupiter runner-ups last October, it's shown by their incredibly deep 16-man pitching staff, headed up by lefthanders Justin Wrobleski and Christopher Williams. But while they will be able to run waves of fresh arms out to the mound, the strength of the team still lies in their position players. Catcher Will Banfield has the potential to be one of the most impactful players in the tournament with his offense and defense, while outfielders Parker Meadows and Ryder Green are capable of having MVP-type performances. Infielders Andrew Benefield, Tim Borden and Isaiah Byars are all very experienced and mature players on both sides of the ball as well.

Deep Playoff Run Potential

5 Star National
College Commitments: 20/25 | Primary Pitchers: 13

5 Star has a deep and talented pitching staff with a pair of senior aces in righthanders Carter Raffield and Levi Kelly and two young future aces in junior righthanders Isaiah Bennett and Dylan Eskew, so pitching should not be a problem. And the offense appears to be strong as well, with the speedy Bennett serving a two-way role supported by big slugging infielders Brandon Howlett and Aaron Sabato. This is a team that could definitely still be in the hunt on Monday.

Central Florida Gators
College Commitments: 15/18 Primary Pitchers: 8

The Gators are missing two of their key players from their highly successful teams of the past two years in infielder Nolan Gorman and lefthander Matthew Liberatore, a pair of PG All-Americans who were part of the USA 18u National Team that played in September. In addition, Mason Denaburg, another PG All-American and Team USA member, will only be playing outfield and not pitching or catching. Still, the Gators have enough remaining talent to make a big impact in the playoffs. Denaburg, PG All-American outfielder Elijah Cabell and shortstop Kevin Ollio are the senior offensive leaders, while junior infielder Tyler Callihan is one of the best hitters in the 2019 class. Another junior, righthanded pitcher/outfielder Joseph Charles, might be the top two-way player in the 2019 class. Senior righthander Gunnar Hogland may assume Lberatore's role as the Gators’ ace.

College Commitments: 14/20 | Primary Pitchers: 11

A look down the defending champion Dirtbags roster reveals only two seniors ranked in the top 500 in the PG 2018 class rankings, shortstop Connor Norby and outfielder Cam Zayicek. While junior shortstop Travis Odom is ranked 63rd in the 2019 class, the story is much the same for the Dirtbags underclassmen. But this formula isn't unusual for the Dirtbags organization, who play a very clean brand of baseball under long-time coach Andy Partin, with lots of strike throwing pitchers and sound middle-of-the-field defense that doesn't beat itself.

GBG Marucci
College Commitments: 25/26 | Primary Pitchers: 13

A deep GBG run into the playoffs has become annual event in Jupiter and there is no reason to believe it will be any different this year, although the challenges of coming across the country to win the event cannot be overlooked. Senior catcher Kameron Ojeda is the top-ranked player on the GBG team but an interesting aspect of the roster is that there are six UCLA commits, all of them ranked in the top 250 in the PG 2018 class rankings, led by shortstop Michael Perez, outfielder Cole Roederer and third baseman/righthanded pitcher Jake Moberg. There aren't any real standouts on the deep GBG pitching staff but one can be assured of two things: they will throw strikes and they will have a top-level defense in back of them.

Texas Scout Team Yankees
College Commitments: 20/22 | Primary Pitchers: 10

The Texas Scout Team Yankees have always been a main scout draw in Jupiter and this year should be no different. But they have consistently made deep playoff runs, too, despite being an all-star team of primarily Texas high school players. They appear to have caught a break with a very winnable pool that might enable them to save some extra pitching for the playoffs. Righthander Simeon Woods-Richardson is the staff leader and one of the top-ranked pitchers in Jupiter, but fellow righties Ty Madden, Riggs Threadgill and Luke Trahan are all plenty capable of coming up with big performances against the best opponents. Texas Scout Team has an interesting lineup that is heavy on offense-first players. In fact, the trio of outfielders Tanner O'Tremba and Corey Holland and catcher/first baseman Cole Stillwell were among the top hitters in the August summer circuit events and are sure to get extra scout attention because of it.

The Talent’s There

Banditos Scout Team
College Commitments: 17/22 | Primary Pitchers: 8

This is a very young Banditos team that may be a year away from peaking, but their junior-based pitching staff is so talented that they are a team to be reckoned with by anyone. 2019 righthander Matthew Thompson is the seventh-ranked junior prospect in the country and will be looking to make a statement in Jupiter, but he's also joined by top 100 righthanders Sanson Faltine III and Jack Kochanowicz and lefty Yordani Carmona. Another junior, shortstop Anthony Volpe, is one of the most experienced players his age in the country and won't be intimidated by the crowds of scouts and coaches. PG All-American infielder Hunter Watson will provide both senior leadership and a big lefthanded bat in the middle of the lineup.

Canes American
College Commitments: 26/28 | Primary Pitchers: 13

The Canes American are clearly the Canes organization second team of seniors but there is plenty of precedent in Jupiter for an organization's second team doing very well. And while there are a smattering of players from around the country on the Canes American roster, it is also a testament to the talent in the Mid-Atlantic region when it can largely support teams like the Canes, the defending champion Dirtbags, the South Charlotte Panthers, the Upstate Mavericks and other talented programs. Pitching depth will be the key to any Canes American run, led by hard-throwing North Carolina commit Stephen Pelli and Louisville commit Jacob Gilcrest. The team has only two juniors on their deep roster, but extra strong righthanded hitter Hunter Travinsky and very projectable shortstop Tyler Causey could have an impact.

CBA Marucci
College Commitments: 16/19 | Primary Pitchers: 6

CBA always brings a very talented team from California across the country, but this year's edition might be a little young to make a deep playoff run, although a playoff appearance certainly won't be a surprise given the talent level of the juniors. Outfielder Jasiah Dixon, catcher Gabe Briones and first baseman Joseph Naranjo are among the most talented 2019's in the country at their positions and infielder Cole Freeman is a high-performing player with instincts like his brother, former PG All-American Tyler Freeman.

Midland Redskins
College Commitments: 21/24 | Primary Pitchers: 11

The Redskins reached the Jupiter semifinals last year and return another strong and deep team whose biggest strength isn't necessarily impact talent but the fact that they have played and won together all summer. Third baseman Paul Komistek leads the offense, with righthanders Lane Flamm and junior Jimmy Starnes ranking as the top pitchers on the staff. Plenty of scout eyes will be on highly athletic outfielder/righthanded pitcher William English. Getting past a talented Upstate Mavericks team, with their ace lefthander Nate Lamb scheduled to start, will be their biggest and most immediate obstacle to another deep playoff run.

North East Baseball
College Commitments: 28/32 | Primary Pitchers: 14

North East Baseball will face the same challenge they always do, melding together an extra large roster of talented players who have not all played together before and doing so in time to get out of pool play so their depth can really start to impact games. Perhaps fortunately for North East, their most challenging pool play game shouldn't be until their third contest against Scorpions Prime, with hard-throwing righthander Travis Lane schedule to start that contest. North East's two top prospects, infielder Bryce Reagan and slugging first baseman Grant Lavigne, will be among the most heavily scouted players in Jupiter, as both native Northeasterners ended the summer very strong.

Don’t Sleep On Them

Canes Prospect
College Commitments: 15/19 | Primary Pitchers: 8

This will be an important team for scouts to watch as it is the core of the junior class that will make up the Canes National team next summer and fall. They are unlikely to have the pitching depth or experience to make a deep playoff run but their 11 top 500 juniors, headed up by catcher C.J. Rodriguez, outfielders Tyler Kehoe and Dylan Rogers and righthander Jason Diaz, are all names to remember for the 2018 WWBA World Championship.

East Cobb Yankees
College Commitments: 14/23 | Primary Pitchers: 11

The Yankees come into Jupiter fresh off a championship at the Ways to Play event at LakePoint last weekend that featured a 16-team field that will all be in Jupiter this week. The strength of the team is undoubtedly their infield, led by PG All-American Kendall Simmons. Simmons and Ryan Bliss form perhaps the best left side defensive duo in the tournament and are supported by second baseman Billy Zimmershine and slugging first baseman Devin Warner. The four also serve as the top four hitters in the Yankees lineup. The pitching staff is deep and filled with strike throwers who provide plenty of ground ball opportunities and easy outs for the infielders to handle.

Indians Scout Team
College Commitments: 17/20 | Primary Pitchers: 8

The Indians Scout Team has perhaps the most interesting collection of 2019's in Jupiter, led by the top junior prospect in the country in shortstop Bobby Witt, Jr. Shortstop C.J. Abrams and outfielder Logan Britt are top 15 players in the class with dynamic athletic talent and second baseman/catcher Carter Young was a standout on the gold medal winning USA 18u National Team. The irony of the team is that their senior "leader," PG All-American shortstop Osiris Johnson, is actually a very young senior who is younger than many juniors. The Indians may not have a deep enough pitching staff to impact the playoffs but they will be a fun team to watch every game.

Rawlings National Scout Team
College Commitments: 22/26 | Primary Pitchers: 13

Rawlings National is an all-star team but one of the most talented all-star teams in the field, with a very diverse group of talented players from around the country. It features three top 100 players in fast rising center fielder Max Marusak, who will be one of the most heavily scouting players in the championship, and infielders Mateo Gil and Sean Guilbe. Juniors outfielder Emanuel Dean and third baseman Wade Elliot are potential impact bats for Rawlings as well. Getting this team to gel quickly will be vitally important, as Rawlings’ pool, which also includes the Ohio Warhawks and the South Charlotte Panthers, appears to be one of the most challenging.

SF Giants Scout Team - Christman
College Commitments: 15/28 | Primary Pitchers: 16

This is somewhat of a sentimental pick, as the Giants Scout team is largely the group that were the surprise winners of the 2016 WWBA Underclass World Championship. Any similar playoff run by this group will be keyed by the confidence of having won on the big stage before, plus a deep pitching staff headed up by senior righthanders Cole Ayers, Kyle Music and Gabe Bierman and lefthander Drew Rom. Never underestimate the value of having been successful before.

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.

• AZ D-Backs Scout Team
• Chet Lemon's Juice
• Dodgers Scout Team/Team Citius
• Dulin Dodgers
• Florida Burn Platinum
• Louisiana Knights
• Ohio Warhawks
• On Deck O's
• Padres Scout Team/Scorpions
• Palm Beach Select
• Reds Midwest Scout Team
• Royals Scout Team
• San Diego Show
• South Charlotte Panthers       
• St. Louis Pirates/Elite Baseball Training
• Tri-State Arsenal Prime
• Upstate Mavericks

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