Tournaments | Story | 3/7/2019

Showdown-Academies Preview

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Daniel Espino (Perfect Game)

2019 PG High School Showdown-Academies: Event Page | Schedule

The PG High School Showdown - Academies begins its sixth annual championship Friday morning in Hoover, Alabama with 15 teams from eight states and Puerto Rico vying for the title, including defending champion Next Level Academy. Next Level defeated Georgia Premier Academy at the 2018 Academies Showdown, with Pro5 Academy claiming the third-place trophy. Both Georgia Premier Academy and Pro5 Academy return to this year's field.

While this year's event will be held parallel to the PG High School Showdown at the Hoover Met Sports Complex, the biggest scout attraction all weekend between the two events will occur when Georgia Premier Academy righthander Daniel Espino and his 100 mph fastball takes the mound, which is tentatively scheduled for Friday night. Espino, who touched 99 mph at last year's PG All-American Classic, is currently ranked fourth overall in the 2019 high school class and is a candidate to be the first pitcher, high school or college, selected in this year's draft.

Here is a look at the 15 Academy teams that will be competing this year.

Central Pointe Christian Academy (Kissimmee, Fla.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Justin Tejada (OF, 2019, 104)
Adonis Javier (SS, 2019, 500)
Kevin Melendez (RHP, 2019, T1000)
Jean Ramos Arocho (RHP, 2019, High Follow)
Abdiel Alejandro Rivera Camacho (RHP, 2019, High Follow)
Melvin Cotto (LHP, 2020, Follow)
Jan Luis Noa (MIF, 2020, Follow)

Central Pointe has at least seven players with college commitments, so there is plenty of talent on their roster and it's well distributed across the field. None is more physically talented that outfielder Justin Tejada, a Hillsborough CC signee who ran a 6.27 60-yard dash at the 2018 PG National Showcase, throws in the mid-90s from the outfield and generates 100-plus mph exit velocities from his righthanded swing. Shortstop Adonys Javier is another Hillsborough signee with big tools as well. Another senior, Kevin Melendez, is Central Pointe's top pitcher and is a polished righthander with an excellent mid-80s sinker.

Citadels (Peachtree City, Ga.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Marquis Grissom Jr. (RHP, 2020, 67)
Jeffery Waters (OF, 2020, 152)
Elijah Hilton (OF, 2019, 500)
Myles Holloway (OF, 2019, T1000)
Caleb Logerwell (3B, 2021, T1000)
Ethan Walker (LHP, 2019, Follow)

Marquis Grissom Jr. was one of the most improved players in the country in 2018 and could be ready for a big junior year. The son of the ex-big league outfielder of the same name is very mature on the mound with a low-90s fastball and multiple high quality off-speed pitches and will also be a key bat for the Citadels. Junior Jeffery Waters, a Maryland commit, leads perhaps the most athletic outfield at the event and is joined by seniors Myles Holloway and Elijah Hilton. Waters also has a 90-plus fastball off the mound. Citadels could well be playing in the last game on Sunday if they get enough pitching.

Dominion Christian School (Marietta, Ga.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Treyton Rank (RHP, 2021, 88)
Rafael Jackson (OF, 2020, T1000)
Chris Locurto (OF, 2020, Follow)
Zayd Brannigan (SS, 2020, Follow)
Avery Campbell (3B, 2021, Follow)

Sophomore Treyton Rank, who already has a Florida State commitment, is one of the most versatile players in the country and can literally play every position on the field with skill. He'll lead Dominion Christian both on the mound and in the middle of the batting order. Rafael Jackson and Chris Locurto give the team a pair of lefthanded hitting athletic outfielders who will also be able to contribute on the mound. Sophomore third baseman Avery Campbell is a young player to watch. Overall, Dominion Christian is one of the most experienced teams in the field and that could be the edge that moves them deep into the playoffs.

East Cobb Baseball ST (Marietta, Ga.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Spencer Borgel (LHP, 2020, 338)
Brady Simpson (LHP, 2019, T1000)
Alex Espinel (SS, 2019, T1000)
Cooper Torres (SS, 2020, T1000)
Rob Gordon (SS, 2021, T1000)
Carter Wright (C, 2021, T1000)

East Cobb's biggest weapon is the existence of two talented and experienced lefthanded pitchers in senior Brady Simpson, a Lipscomb signee, and Spencer Borgel. It will be interesting who East Cobb chooses to throw in their pool play matchup with Central Pointe Christian Academy, as that could be one of the most entertaining games of the championship. The team will be talented up the middle defensively as well, led by Princeton signee Alex Espinel.

Georgia Premier Academy Sox (Statesboro, Ga.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Daniel Espino (RHP, 2019, 4)
Andrew Washington (RHP, 2019, 264)
Miles Bowens (OF, 2019, 500)
Dylan Ross (RHP, 2019, 500)
Kameron Gay (1B, 2019, 500)
Brandon Lawrence (C, 2020, 500)
Dimerson Nunez (2B, 2019, Follow) 

Last year's runner-up, this team is much more than just Daniel Espino, who threw six shutout innings with 12 strikeouts at last year's championship and was named the Most Valuable Pitcher. Fellow righthander Andrew Washington, a South Florida signee, has been consistently in the low-90s over the last year and is extremely experienced on this stage, having thrown in 17 PG events since he was a freshman. A third senior righthander, Dylan Ross, gives Georgia Premier a third 90-plus arm. Ross is signed with Eastern Kentucky. Outfielder Miles Bowens and big first baseman Kameron Gay provide the pop in the lineup, while speedy second baseman Dimerson Nunez might be the fastest player in Hoover this weekend.

Gwinnett Barons (Buford, Ga.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Brandon Nugue (RHP, 2019, T1000)

Senior Brandon Nugue is an experienced righthander who works in the upper-80s and threw at eight PG events in 2018. He'll also contribute with the bat when not on the mound. Fellow senior MacKenzie Mitchell is another righthander with plenty of experience and a low-80s fastball. The Barons are made up primarily of home-schooled players.

Hitters Count Select (Saco, Maine)

One can easily guess how many times the Hitters Count players have been outside this spring (hint, the temperature in Saco, Maine was 7 degrees Wednesday night), so they will have a big challenge ahead of them. It's also a young group, with only four seniors on their roster.

Knights Academy Baseball (Nashville, Tenn.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Caleb Warta (RHP, 2021, 103)
Jackson Walker (OF, 2019, T1000)
Chase Nelson (LHP, 2020, T1000)
Tyler Cummings (MIF, 2019, Follow)
Matthew Miraglia (RHP,2020, Follow)
Abbott Lawrence (RHP, 2021, Follow)

Sophomore Caleb Warta is fresh off an outstanding performance at the PG National Indoor Showcase in St. Louis two weeks ago and vaulted to 103rd in the 2021 class rankings as a result. Warta, who topped out at 90 mph at that event, is also an athletic middle infielder. Righthander Matt Miraglia and lefthander Chase Nelson, an East Tennessee State commit, give the Knights two more solid arms. A pair of seniors, outfielder Jackson Walker and middle infielder Tyler Cummings, are the team's best hitters. Watch out for big sophomore righthander Abbott Lawrence, who pitched at the event last year as a freshman and who is improving quickly according to the Knights coaches.

Next Level Academy (Wetumpka, Ala.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
JonPaul Wheat (OF, 2021, 469)
Jackson Holcombe (C, 2019, T1000)
Jaylen Thompson (RHP, 2020, T1000)
John-Michael Hamby (SS, 2019, High Follow)
Brent Turley (RHP, 2019, High Follow)
Damien Whitfield (LHP, 2021, Follow)

The defending champions graduated much of their 2018 team, including last year's Most Valuable Player Troy Bearden, who is now at Auburn, but have reloaded with a very talented group of newcomers. Senior Brent Turley and junior Jaylen Thompson lead a deep and experienced pitching staff, while seniors Jackson Holcombe and John-Michael Hamby will lead the team both on offense and in the middle of the field on defense. Keep an eye on a pair of sophomores in outfielder JonPaul Wheat and lefthander Damien Whitfield. Whitfield struck out 12 hitters in five innings at the 2018 Southeast Qualifier last September, the last PG event he threw in.

P27 Academy (Lexington, S.C.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Andrew Romanoli (RHP, 2019, 500)
Ryan Ouzts (3B, 2020, 500)
Kyle York (RHP, 2019, T1000)
Joshua Ray (RHP, 2020, T1000)
Benjamin Lang-Spittler (SS, 2019, High Follow)
Reece Fields (RHP, 2019, Follow)
Simms Owens (OF, 2019, Follow)

P27 Academy has one of the deepest teams in the field with at least six players holding college commitments, including five seniors. Perhaps their most talented player, junior third baseman/righthanded pitcher Ryan Ouzts, hasn't committed yet but his two-way talent, which includes an upper-80s fastball, will be on display in Hoover.

PRO5 Baseball Academy (Wake Forest, N.C.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Ronald Evans II (3B, 2019, 500)
Tyler Driver (RHP, 2019, 500)
Sawyer Worrell (LHP, 2019, T1000)

PRO5 Baseball will be able to throw three quality starting pitchers in seniors Tyler Driver, Sawyer Worrell and Christian Baker, with Driver and Worrell notably holding scholarships from UNC-Charlotte and South Carolina-Update, respectively. Third baseman Ronald Evans II, another senior, is a UNC Wilmington signee and the 6-foot-2, 215-pound right handed hitter could emerge as one of the best power threats at the championship. How much offensive support Evans gets could determine how far PRO5 advances.

Reborn Christian Academy (Kissimmee, Fla.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Juan Andres Silva (OF, 2019, Follow)
Diego Tamariz (RHP, 2020, Follow)
Armando Ramirez (OF, 2020, Follow)
Junior F. Barrera (SS, 2020, Follow)
Jose Apicella (OF, 2021, Follow)
Carlos Cordero (SS, 2021, Follow)

Due to Reborn Christian Academy's young roster, which includes nine sophomores, it’s difficult to assess what is going to happen when they take the field. One player with an already impressive PG track record is sophomore shortstop Carlos Cordero, who was named to the Top Prospect Team at the National Underclass East Showcase in late January and will be looking to build on his performance there.

SBO 17U (Caguas, Puerto Rico)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Lucas Torres (OF/RHP, 2021, 85)
Javian Serrano (SS, 2020, 500)
Javier Acevedo (RHP, 2020, Follow)

SBO 17U is a mix of players from Puerto Rico and Southeast Florida, including five players from Stoneman Douglas High School. A player everyone should have their eye on is sophomore Lucas Torres, a primary outfielder who throws 91 mph off the mound, and like Dominion Christian sophomore Treyton Rank, can literally play all over the field with prospect tools. Torres, who is very young for his class, played in the 14u PG Select Baseball Festival last September. Junior shortstop Javian Serrano, one of the Stoneman Douglas players, will support Torres, while hard-throwing Puerto Rican righthander Javier Acevedo is the team's top pitcher.

The MacDuffie School (Granby, Mass.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Michael Cruz (OF, 2019, Follow)
Vincent Buono (SS, 2020, Follow)

The MacDuffie School gives the Showdown-Academies two teams from the Northeast and the schedule makers did the Massachusetts-based team no favors, matching them up against Central Pointe Christian and East Cobb in the first two time slots on Friday. Junior Vincent Buono is the team's best athlete and will take the mound in the first game and also play shortstop. Outfielder Michael Cruz has swung the bat well at a number of PG tournaments in the past.

Whitetigers (Orlando, Fla.)

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank)
Christian Soto (3B, 2022, 142)
Gregory Paulino (RHP, 2020, T1000)
Anthoine Daniel Gonzalez (LHP, 2021, T1000)
Dylan Luna (RHP, 2021, Follow)
Japhet A Rosado (SS, 2022, Follow)

Central Pointe Christian Academy's younger team may be lacking in age but they are not lacking in talent. Two freshman infielders, Christian Soto and Japhat Rosado, already have Division I commitments to Florida International and Stetson, respectfully, and sophomore infielder Anthoine Daniel Gonzalez is committed to Bethune-Cookman. Big 6-foot-4, 205-pound junior Gregory Paulino showed upper-80s arm strength at the recent PG World Showcase and it will be interesting to see him pitching in game situations.

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