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Jupiter College Standouts

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Austin Martin (Perfect Game)


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The impact of talent that takes the fields on an annual basis at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter is pretty significant. Now spanning over 20 years today's biggest and brightest stars – no longer just the young ones either – once showed off their talents on the fields of the Roger Dean Sports Complex.

And while many of those stars made the jump directly to professional baseball, many others headed to play at the college level first. In fact, when looking at the college game's biggest and brightest stars it's hard to find players who didn't suit up in Jupiter during their time in high school.

If you've been following along long enough you know this is an annual exercise dating back to 2006. Listed below are some of the very best collegiate players who played in Jupiter, most of which did so three years ago in 2016. The team is listed like that of an all-star team, position by position on an assembled dream team that would be tough to knock off in a weekend series, much less a single contest. 

To visit the past features, year-by-year, click on the following links:

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018


Catcher

Austin Wells, Arizona
AZ T-Rex Rawlings, 2016

It was a loud freshman season for the 2017 PG All-American, slashing .353/.462/.552 on his way to being named a Freshman All-American and the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. He carried that success onto the Cape where he was ranked as the league's No. 2 prospect. With one of the more advanced offensive approaches in the college game, Wells has a very discipline eye at the plate and a strong lefthanded swing able to consistently hit the ball hard to all parts of the field. He profiles well both behind the plate and at first base as a way to keep his bat in the lineup for more games, and enters the spring as one of several draft-eligible sophomores at the college level that could be selected in the top 1-2 rounds.

There would be no shortage of capable backups behind Wells, as Arkansas' Casey Opitz (Midland Redskins, 2016), Rice's Justin Collins (Premier Baseball Futures Evans, 2016; Texas Drillers, 2015) and Duke's Michael Rothenberg (Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team, 2016; Northeast Baseball, 2015)


First Base

Aaron Sabato, North Carolina
5 Star National/Chain National, 2015-16

North Carolina, a program that has long valued advanced metrics, undoubtedly appreciate the fact that Sabato had the third hardest hit ball in Jupiter in 2017 with a 104.8 mph exit velocity, not to mention the furthest hit ball with a 419.3-foot shot, both according to Trackman. And not surprisngly even then Sabato appeared to be a man among boys physically, and it's hard to imagine that he actually played infield positions other than first base thanks to his athleticism. He responded in kind upon arriving on campus, enjoying a Freshman All-American campaign, and now enters his encore 2020 season looking to build upon those numbers as a draft-eligible sophomore.

If you like sluggers you likely remember the impact Alejandro Toral made in three different years in Jupiter (2014-16) with the Elite Squad program. Ole Miss slugger Tyler Keenan spent two years (2015-16) with Team Elite in Jupiter, and despite playing third base for the Rebels, is worth noting here given the incredible depth at the three other infield positions.


Second Base

Casey Martin, Arkansas
Marlins Scout Team, 2016

Martin's freshman season went better than his sophomore campaign, leading the Razorbacks in batting (.345) for a squad that finished the year as the national runner-up in Omaha. He played third base that year, moving over to shortstop for his sophomore season and some scouts believe he profiles best as an offensive-minded second baseman at the next level. Wherever he plays defensively his tools fit well at the top of the over, driving the ball from gap-to-gap with enough over-the-fence pop to make him dangerous. He has good quickness and can steal bases once he reaches, returning to Arkansas where he and Heston Kjerstad will look to guide their team back to Omaha for the third straight year.


Shortstop

Alika Williams, Arizona State
Indians Scout Team, 2016

Williams played with a talented Indians Scout Team in 2016, taking middle infield reps alongside another talented shortstop by the name of Bobby Witt Jr, the eventual No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. Williams really blossomed from his freshman year to his sophomore year, seeing his batting average rise by over 50 points while adding some gap power to his profile. He hit near the top or in the middle of the dangerous ASU offense all season long and only committed eight errors at shortstop. With a lineup that includes Williams, Spencer Torkelson, Gage Workman and Trevor Hauver, among others, the Sun Devils will once again be a force to be reckoned with.


Third Base

Austin Martin, Vanderbilt
Padres Scout Tesam/Chandler World, 2016

Martin arrived at the 2016 WWBA World Championship as a player identified as someone to watch. He wasn't on the national scouting circuit much that summer, but enjoyed really strong back-to-back weekends at the WWBA Southeast and Florida Qualifiers, earning All-Tournament recognition at each. He wasn't quite as productive in Jupiter but continued to show his lightning quick bat and rangy athleticism that firmly put him on scouts' radars for the 2017 draft. After two years at Vanderbilt he enters his junior year as the No. 1 college prospect eligible for the 2020 MLB Draft thanks to his lofty offensive profile along with his versatility, as he could be playing on an everyday basis after manning the hot corner during the Commodores national championship run.

As for the aforementioned infield depth, you would have to pull quite a few strings to find regular playing time for what could be the strength of this year's college crop. Mississippi State's Justin Foscue (PG Navy Select, 2016) and South Carolina's Noah Campbell (Royals Scout Team 16u, 2016; Team Evoshield, 2015) give second base two more-than-competent backups. Arizona State's Gage Workman (GBG Marucci, 2016) and Miami's Raymond Gil (Twins Scout Team/Scorpions, 2016; Miami PG Columbia Blue, 2015) provide the same at third base. And you would have a hard time convincing Baylor's Nick Loftin (Premier Baseball Futures Evans, 2016), Dallas Baptist's Jimmy Glowenke (Texas Scout Team Yankees, 2016) and Rice's Trei Cruz (Royals Scout Team 16u, 2016) that they're not the starter at shortstop on any assembled team given their success to this point of their collegiate career.


Outfield

Daniel Cabrera, Louisiana State
GBG Marucci, 2015-16
Garrett Mitchell, UCLA
CBA Marucci, 2015
Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas
D-BAT, 2016

This is how big league teams like to line up their outfields, with two big, physical boppers on the corners, represented by Daniel Cabrera and Heston Kjerstad here, and most speed patrolling center. And regardless of their defensive profiles, all three of these young hitters can hit, and each does from the lefthanded batter's box.

Mitchell broke out during the 2019 season after arriving on campus as one of the nation's top-ranked freshman. Mitchell was a PG All-American during the summer of 2016 with a unique five-tool profile. An injury to fellow outfield Jeremy Ydens last year gave Mitchell the opportunity to lead off for the Bruins, hitting .349 with 14 doubles, 12 triples, six home runs and 18 stolen bases, giving you a good idea of his overall talents. His emergence was a big part of UCLA spending more than half of the regular season ranked as the No. 1 team, and prior to his collegiate days he patrolled the outfield for CBA Marucci and Orange Lutheran High School, both national powerhouses in their respective arenas.

Both Cabrera and Kjerstad hit the ground running during their freshmen seasons, with Kjerstad in partciular posting some loud numbers for the national runner-up OmahaHogs. Cabrera had somewhat of a sophomore slump season at LSU, but still was one of the team's primary run producers and he'll continue to be a leader heading into his junior year. Cabrera in particular stood out on the fields of Jupiter, batting .353 (6-for-17) with a pair of doubles a triple and numerous loud outs, helping to propel GBG Marucci to the quarterfinals in 2016.

The depth in the outfield doesn't quite match the infield depth, but there are still plenty of productive players worth mentioning. Zach DeLoach spent three years in Jupiter (Texas Scout Team Yankees, 2016; Dallas Tigers, 2014-15) prior to joining the Aggies at Texas A&M as he enjoyed a huge summer on the Cape and appears poised for a big junior year. Alerick Soularie (Houston Banditos, 2015-16) already enjoyed a breakout season with Tennessee on his way to being named a College All-American after beginning his college career at JUCO power San Jacinto. Michigan's Jesse Franklin (Royals Scout Team 16u) provided numerous key hits, along with stellar defensive play in the outfield, down the stretch and in Omaha for the national runner-up Wolverines. Reese Albert (Twins Scout Team/Scorpions, 2015-16), like DeLoach, could be poised for a big, breakout year. Tulane's Hudson Haskin (North East Baseball, 2017) is looking to improve upon a Freshman All-American season heading into his draft-eligible sophomore season. 


Utility

Logan Allen, Florida International
Astros Scout Team/FTB Tucci 2016; FTB Mizuno 2015

A long-time member of the FTB organization, Allen has quietly been dealing in two years at FIU as well as during the summers in between. He has a cumulative 3.47 ERA over those two years and a remarkable 205-to-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 158 combined innings. Allen is also hitting .298 during that time, although he received less time on the field, and in the batter's box, as a sophomore as compared to his freshman season. He followed all of that up with a strong performance on the Cape as Allen has always been able to carve with an increased level of pitchability and an overall advanced sense for the game. He alone will make FIU a regular stop among South Florida area scouts this coming spring.

Once again, it's an embarrassment of riches at the utility spot as Casey Schmitt (Dodgers Scout Team/East Cobb, 2016) of San Diego State and Alec Burleson (South Charlotte Panthers, 2015-16) of East Carolina both have made strong impacts as integral two-way players for their teams during their time at the college level. Both Burleson and Schmitt are similar in that they offer a greater impact at the plate than Allen, but the true multi-dimentional talents of all three of these players make them that much more exciting to follow.


Starting Pitcher

Emerson Hancock, Georgia
Braves Scout Team/Ohio Warhawks, 2016; PG Team Northeast, 2015
Asa Lacy, Texas A&M
Texas Scout Team Yankees, 2016; D-BAT, 2015
Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt
Team Elite Prime, 2016
JT Ginn, Mississippi State
East Coast Sox Select, 2017

SEC hitters beware, the 2020 season is going to be especially challenging given the number of premier pitchers the league will boast. It starts with Georgia's ace Emerson Hancock, who will enter the spring in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick after enjoying a First Team All-American season a year ago. His stuff matches his numbers, with a tall, athletic and still-projectable frame to go along with mid- to upper-90s heat. Similar to Casey Mize in 2018, Hancock has the ability to miss bats as well as minimize his strikeouts, and he's part of an incredibly talented weekend starting rotation that likely will include CJ Smith and Cole Wilcox.

John Doxakis and Asa Lacy formed a very difficult 1-2 punch to open weekend series a year ago, and now that Doxakis has moved onto the professional ranks, Lacy remains to take over the Friday ace role. He offers swing-and-miss stuff from the left side, and like Hancock did a nice job to miss bats while limiting free passes to opposing hitters. Another big season will likely cement his case to go in the first half of the first round of the 2020 draft.

It's hard to wait until the third paragraph to mention the 2019 postseason hero, Kumar Rocker, who was the top prospect to arrive on campus a year ago. In high school he was a member of the Team Elite squad, spending time at events with another light's out hurler, Ethan Hankins. Those two spent most of their high school career ranked at the top of the class of 2018 player rankings, and he's been the favorite to go No. 1 overall for the 2021 MLB Draft ever since he stepped on campus.

JT Ginn is yet another draft-eligible sophomore, a 2017 PG All-American who was named PG's College Freshman of the Year after a sensational rookie campaign. He lost steam as the season wore on, but he played an integral role for Mississippi State, serving as the team's No. 2 starter behind SEC Pitcher of the Year Ethan Small. Ginn could be a two-time first round pick after opting not to sign with the Dodgers out of high school which included an impressive career as a dynamic two-way talent for the East Coast Sox.

Vanderbilt's Mason Hickman deserves special mention as he (along with now top minor league prospect Ethan Hankins) was named co-Most Valuable Pitcher at the 2016 WWBA World Championship helping to guide the Dirtbags to the title by providing a light's-out performance in the semifinal round. Hickman is one of just several arms poised to have big, big years in the SEC. Below is a list of several others that played in Jupiter while in high school:

Tommy Mace, Florida (Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team, 2016; SWFL-Beyel Sabercat Bats, 2015)
Carmen Mlodzinski, South Carolina (Team Elite Prime, 2016; East Coast Grays/Chain Baseball, 2015)
Cole Henry, Louisiana State (Louisiana Knights, 2017)
Ian Bedell, Missouri (Marlins Scout Team, 2016)
Mason Hickman, Vanderbilt (Dirtbags, 2016; Royals Scout Team 16u, 2015)
Jack Leftwich, Florida (Twins Scout Team/Scorpions, 2016; Orlando Scorpions, 2015)

And that talent extends well past the SEC, with a handful of other arms that stand out today and a few years ago in Jupiter. Here's a small sampling of those pitchers:

Bobby Miller, Louisville (Chicago Scouts Association, 2016; St. Louis Pirates/Elite Baseball Training, 2015)
Chris McMahon, Miami (Evoshield Canes, 2016)
RJ Dabovich, Arizona State (Mountain West Slammers, 2016)
Zach McCambley, Coastal Carolina (Baseball U, 2016)


Relief Pitcher

Tyler Brown, Vanderbilt
Midland Redskins, 2016

Is it possible for the closer for the CWS champs to somewhat fly under the radar? That seems to be the case with Brown, who has a unique back story and helped use Jupiter during his senior year of high school, where he peaked at 92 mph for the Midland Redskins, as part of his comeback trail after missing his junior year due to Tommy John surgery in 2015. A First Team College All-American after the 2019 season, three of the 17 saves that Brown recorded last year came in Omaha, further cementing his season-long dominance. With Kumar Rocker and Mason Hickman expected back in the weekend staff, Brown should get plenty of more chances to close games out for the Commodores.

This category honors the national champion Vanderbilt Commodores, who had (and will still have) an incredibly deep and talented team. While Brown played a big part of that, so did several other key bullpen arms including Jake Eder (Astros Scout Team/FTB Tucci, 2016; Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team, 2015) and Hugh Fisher (Dulin Dodgers, 2014-16).



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