Tournaments : : Story
Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Showdown: Montverde Academy

Jeff Dahn         Todd Gold        
2013 Perfect Game High School Showdown event page

Perfect Game High School Showdown Team Previews:

Florida Georgia
Venice Indians Parkview Panthers
Sarasota Sailors Blessed Trinity Titans
Mater Academy Lions
Cartersville Hurricanes
Montverde Academy Eagles Savannah Christian Raiders

Montverde Academy EaglesRoster | Schedule

Top left-handed pitching prospect Tim Layden was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the sixth round of the 2004 MLB First-Year Player Draft after three productive seasons at Duke University, and then embarked on what would become a seven-year minor league career.

When his playing days ended after the 2010 season, Layden -- who returned to Duke in 2010 to complete his degree -- was urged to pursue a coaching career at the high school level. He landed his first job at 100-year-old Monteverde Academy in Monteverde, Fla.

And in his first two seasons at the helm of the program, he would be given the opportunity to coach a pair of prospects that would within a year of one another would set out on the same course into professional baseball that Layden had pursued nearly a decade earlier.

Francisco Lindor was a No. 3-ranked national shortstop prospect and a senior on that 2011 Monteverde Academy team. The 2010 Perfect Game All-American and 2010 PG National Showcase alumnus would wind up being a first-round draft pick (eighth overall) of the Cleveland Indians in the 2011 draft.

Top outfield prospect Alexis Rivera was a senior on the 2012 Monteverde team, and the veteran of the 2011 PG National Showcase, 2012 PG World Showcase and 2012 PG National Pre-Draft Showcase would go on to become a 10th-round pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 2012 draft.

"I've been pretty fortunate so far," Layden said with a laugh. "Having Francisco my first year and then Alexis last year -- and even this year we have a couple of guys that (Perfect Game) thinks pretty highly of. Our thing is to teach them to be a student-athlete first and teach them the proper way to play, and hopefully that word spreads and you get more kids wanting to be a part of what we do here."

There is a lot of talent on Layden's third Monteverde Academy team, and the Eagles will show that talent off at the first Perfect Game High School Showdown scheduled for Thursday through Saturday at Terry Park and City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla. Monteverde is one of four highly regarded Florida teams at the tournament that will play head-to-head games against four equally prominent teams from Georgia.

"Any time you can be associated with something with Perfect Game, on the high school level of things that's about as good as you can get," Layden said of his team's involvement in the Showdown. "We're looking forward to heading down there and playing and some good competition."

Layden compiled a 25-17 record in his first two seasons at Monteverde, and this year's team won only eight of its first 18 games. But the Eagles' roster is loaded with top-ranked national talent, including seniors Angel Alicia-Nieves, a right-handed pitcher, and catcher Luis Ciuro.

Junior right-hander Luis Alvarado is also highly regarded, as are sophomores Bryan Scheker, an outfielder, and shortstop Gabriel Garcia. Alicia-Nieves, Alvarado, Ciuro and Garcia are all native Puerto Ricans at the culturally diverse school.

"We're still kind of up-and-coming," Layden said of his program. "We have outstanding basketball and soccer programs, and we're trying to get baseball to the level where we can be competitive on a national scale. We have a diverse school population and a diversified team and it's one of those things where we try to go out and open up as many doors for these kids as possible."

Layden said the program is built around a simple philosophy: "Work to be better today than you were yesterday" and that philosophy applies to both the playing field and the classroom.

"As far as growth overall, we've been happy to see the development of the players within the program," he said. "Of course, you always want to win more than you lose, but stepping into our situation it was more to establish a culture and developing the student-athlete first and trying to establish that, and growing out from there."

High School Team Breakdown: Montverde Academy

Top Prospects (Position, Class, PG National Rank):

1.  Bryan Scheker, OF, 2015, 77
2.  Luis Alvarado, OF/RHP, 2014, 101
3.  Angel Alicia-Nieves, RHP, 2013, 321
4.  Luis Ciuro, C, 2013, 404
3.  Gabriel Garcia, SS, 2015, Top 1,000

The lineup has a lot of youth in it, with the top ranked position prospects hailing from the 2014 and 2015 classes. But in spite of that youth, it's also deep. While the Eagles lack a major power threat, they have several players who project to develop over the fence power and currently boast plenty of gap to gap power and the lineup has good speed.

2015 OF Bryan Scheker is the top ranked prospect on the team, coming in at No. 77 in the nation for the sophomore class, while 2014 OF/RHP Luis Alvarado just misses the top 100 of his own class, coming in at No. 101. 2013 C Luis Ciuro is the senior leader of this group, and while it's his defensive prowess that has him ranked among the top 500 prospects in the country, he is also a key contributor to the Eagles offensive attack.

2013 RHP Angel Alicia-Nieves has run his fastball above 90 mph at PG events in the past and will be the arm that scouts pay closest attention to in Ft. Myers. 2014 OF/RHP Luis Alvarado is a high level two-way player who has interesting ability on the mound as well as in the outfield. The Eagles will also use 2014 RHP Bailey Ward and 2013 RHP Travis Dotson in their starting rotation this week.

While they have some upside on the staff, to this point in the year their pitching has been the achilie's heel, having allowed 89 runs over 18 games to this point (4.94 per game). That will have to change this week if they want to compete for a championship.

Lack of experience all around is the weakness at this point, and this is the kind of tournament where valuable experience is gained. But that said, if they're going to compete this week the Eagles will need to grow up in a hurry. They have the talent to surprise teams, and they matchup well physically, but how well they can put together a complete team effort for four consecutive games will ultimately determine their success in Ft. Myers.
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