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High School  | General  | 12/8/2023

Finest in the Field: Class of 2028

Jheremy Brown     
This time of the year, every year, out staff looks back at some of the defensive standouts, from their showings both in a showcase setting and live action, and assemble the Finest in the Field beginning today with the Class of 2028.

P – Yariel "Lito" Diaz (Saint Cloud, Fla.)
Diaz, who’s currently listed as a primary outfielder, was one of the more dominant arms on the circuit last summer from the 13u group, despite playing mostly at the 14u level. Part of the reason for his dominance, aside from an advanced arsenal, is the athleticism that allows him to replicate his delivery and release, maintaining his slot while pounding the strike zone. Nearly eligible to be on the 12u circuit throughout 2023 due to age, Diaz shows some of the more fluid mechanics and the entire package is an enticing one for the southpaw out of Florida. 



C – Aaron Garcia (Pico Rivera, Calif.)
Given that he won the Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year at the 13u Select Festival, it wasn’t a matter of IF Garcia would make this team, but rather WHERE. A natural middle infielder who brings that type of twitch and athleticism behind the plate, Garcia is as refined a defender behind the plate as you’ll find at the 13u level. I put where in all caps above because of the actions he’s shown up the middle, as well as the arm strength (86 mph across at the 13u National), all of which makes him a standout defender in the dirt as well. 

1B – Luke Esquivel (Grapevine, Texas)
Time will tell where Esquivel ultimate calls home long term, as it will for many of the players in 2028, but the reigning PG Two-Way Player of the Year already stands out in all facets on the fields. An accomplished left-hander who has already been upwards of 86 mph on the mound, the future LSU Tiger moves around the first base bag with nimble footwork and solid body control, something we also see on the mound. The arm strength is an asset for the position and already being 6-foot-1, 180 pounds provides his fielders a big target, though he has the softness in his hands to scoop the low throw in the dirt should he need to. 

MIF – Lio Garcia (Suwanee, Ga.)
Garcia’s bat did a lot of the talking for him this summer but not so much that it was able to overshadow what he brings to the defensive side of things as well. A primary shortstop who can play on either side of the bag with poise and confidence, Garcia already shows refined footwork in the dirt as he maintains balance while ranging to either side or making the charge, never breaking stride while manipulating his slot to finish the play. The arm and actions both play in the outfield as well, but it’s up the middle where he calls home and should continue to moving forward. 

MIF – Bryan Mesa (Hialeah, Fla.)
In terms of pure actions and confidence, not many in the 2028 class can top what Mesa brings to the shortstop position. While there’s a sense of flair to his game, the actions are also extremely polished with very sound fundamentals, whether it’s picking the backhand cleanly or on the move where he needs to change his slot while still showing ample strength across. The overall ease in which he plays the premium position can’t be understated either, which again is something that stems from the advanced foundation of tools and confidence in the dirt. 

3B – Jacob Gray (Benicia, Calif.)
Gray making this team as a third baseman isn’t to say he’s not a shortstop, as he’s still one of the tops in the country, but given his broad shouldered frame and the room in which he’ll continue to fill on his frame, he could make the slide over to the hot corner. That said, the arm strength will continue to play on the left side of the diamond as he makes it look easy while moving well in the dirt with his feet, something that would only aid at third base. Ranked No. 12 in the country and the No. 2 overall shortstop, wherever Gray plays this summer and down the road defensively, he’s going to be an asset with game changing ability. 

OF – Dexter McCleon Jr. (Buford, Ga.)
McCleon Jr. has continued to prove there isn’t much he can’t do on the baseball diamond, regardless of where he’s play, whether on the mound or in the outfield. Manning left field this summer some, the arm strength possessed by the Georgia native is second to none and could easily move over to left field, but his 6.8 speed could also suggest center field long-term. Regardless of where he ends up, McCleon Jr is going to be a standout defender given the combination of speed, athleticism, and arm strength. 

OF – Dru Wilson (Porter Ranch, Calif.)
Wilson has been one of the more popular names in this group over the last couple years and rightfully so given the tools the 3-time Select Festival alum possesses. Despite the physicality of his frame Wilson is an extremely fluid mover in the outfield, making his fair share of fully extended catches over the past circuit season. He runs well at 7.2 and it plays nicely in his defensive actions, charging balls with authority while working through and showing quality arm strength as well. Given the arm, there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to be a weapon in right field as he’s only going to continue adding serious strength. 

OF – Rylan Jenkins (Tennile, Ga.)
If you think about center field, you one thing immediately comes to mind: speed. Well, look no further than Rylan Jenkins of Tennile, Georgia as the speedy outfield was one of the true breakout stars of this past summer. He earned his invite to the 13u National Showcase based off of his play in Hoover, Alabama and immediately stole everybody’s attention when he ran an event best 6.61 in the 60-yard. That single tool is a game changer for Jenkins as he can quickly shrink the gaps with outstanding closing speed and efficient routes.

UTL – Julian Martinez (New York, N.Y.)
Adding some Northeast into the mix, Martinez could’ve capture the catching spot or a middle infield spot like Aaron Garcia above, so utility is a fitting home given his versatility. Another long-time standout, Martinez shows lots of softness in his hands, picking the ball cleanly and with an air of confidence while showing a strong arm across the diamond. That same refinement plays behind the dish where the exchange is clean, actions are repeatable and arm is accurate down to second base.