Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jupiter breakdown: top 20 teams

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

2013 WWBA World Championship: Pool Breakdown
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Editor's note: This annual WWBA World Championship preview reflects only the writer’s thoughts and not necessarily those of any other Perfect Game employee.

Each of the 85 teams that are in Jupiter, Fla., this week for the WWBA World Championship are worthy of it, as it is the most difficult and exclusive travel team tournament in the baseball world. There are literally hundreds of teams from across the country who would love to be here to play in front of the hundreds and hundreds of professional scouts and college coaches who will be closely following every pitch and every swing. It is the task of the Perfect Game staff during the year to narrow this huge national field down to 85 teams and eventually get the top teams and the top players to Jupiter.

It’s this writer’s job to go over the rosters and put together his thoughts on who the top teams are. I’ve been to every WWBA World Championship dating back to 2001 (when there were no golf carts) and have seen some amazing performances and expect to see more this year. It is always a memorable event, even without last year’s 50-plus mph winds from super-storm Sandy.

After seeing teams such as Cangelosi Baseball, the Orange County Boxers and Central Florida PG Royal reach the Championship Game in the last five years, everyone knows that literally every one of the 85 teams has a chance before the tournament starts.

But when the first pitch is thrown Thursday morning, the following teams have a better chance making it to that game.

Teams are listed in alphabetical order within each grouping. Commits/roster numbers based on rosters as of Monday, October 21.

Pre-Jupiter favorites

Cardinals Scout Team/FTB Chandler

College Commitments: 23/25
Primary Pitchers: 15

It’s hard to find a weakness in the Cardinals Scout Team roster, starting with five Perfect Game All-Americans in shortstop and right handed pitcher Nick Gordon, catcher Alex Jackson, righthanded pitchers Cobi Johnson and Sean Reid-Foley and lefthander David Peterson. But the depth builds up behind those standouts. Infielder Forrest Wall and first baseman Jeremy Vasquez are two of the elite hitters in the country. When Gordon and fellow shortstop Milton Ramos are paired in the middle infield it is probably the top possible defensive middle infield at this level of baseball. Catcher J.J. Schwarz, who will back up Jackson, is an All-American quality prospect. The only potential weak spot on the roster is coach Jered Goodwin’s likely dependence on junior pitchers at some point in pool play in righthanders Joseph Arce and Jordan Gubelman and lefties Michael Zimmerman and Juan Hillman. But with a 15-man deep pitching staff, not including the hard throwing Gordon, there will always be relief close by. Perhaps Marlins rookie sensation Jose Fernandez will drop in to watch his former team play.

EvoShield Canes
College Commitments: 22/22
Primary Pitchers: 11

The first thing that stands out about the Canes roster is that all 22 players have college commitments. And then you look at the schools on the commitment list and it is even more impressive: South Carolina (7), North Carolina (3), Virginia (2), Florida (2), UCLA, Clemson, etc. But the most important part of the Canes roster is that their pitching staff is arguably the most talented collection of arms in Jupiter. PG All-American righthander Grant Holmes has the potential to be the Fernandez/Rick Porcello/Shelby Miller pitching star of event, the pitching prospect who stamps his name on the 2013 high school pitching class. Behind him is fellow PG All-American righthander Brandan Murray, Oklahoma’s Braden Webb, California’s Grant Hockin and a diverse group of talented pitchers. The Canes even have an everyday closer in low- to mid-90s righthander Jeff Harding. PG 17u World Series MVP third baseman Charlie Cody, PG All-American first baseman Justin Bellinger and a standout catcher duo of Hunter Taylor and Justin Morris will lead coach Jeff Petty’s offense.

GBG Marucci
College Commitments: 17/25
Primary Pitchers: 12

GBG (Garciaparra Baseball Group) has seemingly emerged as the top organization from California over the past year and brings a very strong roster across the country to Florida, including three Perfect Game All-Americans in third baseman Sean Bouchard, outfielder Trenton Kemp and outfield/first baseman D.J. Peters. The three most important players on the team might not have “PG All-American” on their resume, however. Lefthanded pitcher and outfielder Quinn Brodey and junior lefthandeder and first baseman Kyle Hatton are a pair of the most talented two-way prospects in the country, while shortstop Josh Morgan has played at a very high level both offensively and defensively this fall. Big righthanded pitcher Tylor Megill will be a big attraction for scouts regardless of which game coach Mike Garciaparra decides to start him.

Marucci Elite
College Commitments: 17/28
Primary Pitchers: 14

It’s easy to look at the Marucci roster and wonder how all the talented 2015s that coach Chad Raley has assembled will react to the Jupiter pressure. Center fielder Jahmai Jones, infielder Nick Shumpert and lefthanded pitcher Justin Hooper are all top 10 talents in the 2015 class, while outfielder Seth Beer is the No. 2 prospect in the 2016 class. But when you look at the senior talent on the roster, that worry quickly disappears. PG All-American infielder Greg Deichmann and outfielders Justin Smith and Marcus Wilson will anchor the lineup, with tested veterans such as catcher Handsome Monica and infielder Tristan Hildebrandt in support. The pitching staff is very deep, led by senior righthanders Keith Weisenberg, Alex Lange, Branden Kelliher and Mitch Hart.

Orlando Scorpions/Mets Scout Team
College Commitments: 25/28
Primary Pitchers: 13

Perfect Game’s Jeff Dahn recently named 2013 “The Year of the Scorpion,” which seemed fitting given all the rings and hardware the organization has taken home from Perfect Game tournaments in the past five months. Could the WWBA World Championship be the crowning achievement for coach Matt Gerber’s team? The team’s strength is its depth and looking down the roster any of at least a dozen players could end up being the Scorpions star for the championship. PG All-American outfielder Carl Chester and the versatile Adam Haseley bring outstanding speed to the top of the lineup and shortstop Tate Blackman, as well as a pair of precocious juniors -- infielder Brendan Rodgers and WWBA Underclass World Championship MVP catcher Nick Fortes -- will have plenty of run producing opportunities. WWBA 17u National Championship Most Valuable Pitcher and PG All-American Foster Griffin is shut down for the fall, but their 13-man staff has been tested at top tournaments and deep into the playoffs consistently since Memorial Day weekend. Righthander Andrew Karp has been outstanding all year on the mound, while southpaw Carson Sands can shut down any lineup in the tournament if he’s on his game.

Deep playoff run potential

College Commitments: 16/25
Primary Pitchers: 12
One can always be assured that coach Andy Partin’s teams will come to Jupiter with a deep pitching staff of hurlers who pound the strike zone and an equally talented and sound group of fielders who will make the other team beat them. That has always been a successful formula for a deep run into the playoffs. The key to the Dirtbags overall chances may rest on the broad shoulders of one player however: PG All-American outfielder and first baseman Braxton Davidson. If the talented lefthanded hitter steps up and posts MVP type numbers, the Dirtbags will score enough runs to handle the elite level teams.

Houston Banditos
College Commitments: 13/24
Primary Pitchers: 15

The Banditos have been relatively quiet this year but you can be sure that coach Ray DeLeon has his players ready for Jupiter. The offense will be led by PG All-American outfielder Stone Garrett and athletic shortstop Justin Twine, but the real key to the Banditos will be the impressive number of two-way players who should contribute across the board, including Jake Jarvis, Brigham Hill, Corbin Martin, Patrick Mathis and Ricardo Salinas. A pair of 2015 righthanders, Jarod Bayless and Ryan Cole McKay, have been very impressive in WWBA tournaments this fall and could give the deep rotation a big boost.

Midland Redskins
College Commitments: 16/24
Primary Pitchers: 14

The Redskins and their Ohio-based brethren, the Ohio Warhawks, have a similar roster philosophy heading into Jupiter it seems -- load up on talented pitchers and hope the offense takes care of itself. Midland only has ten primary position players listed on the roster, and one them, Perfect Game All-American Zack Shannon, is regarded by many scouts as a better pitching prospect than position prospect. Outfielders Lane Thomas and Keenan Eaton, along with top 2015 catcher Lucas Herbert, will play key roles along with Shannon in seeing that the Redskins score enough runs to support the talented and deep staff.

Ohio Warhawks
College Commitments: 17/32
Primary Pitchers: 18

The Warhawks rarely lack star power and this year's team is no different. Whatever game lefthanded pitcher Kodi Medieros pitches may be the most heavily scouted contest of the event, especially considering it will occur during the Friday afternoon contest against Chandler Baseball. Top 2015 righthander Nolan Kingham also has potential first-round ability. Coach Ron Slusher’s team also has eviable depth on the pitching staff well beyond the stars, with 18 primary pitchers on the roster to go with some talented secondary pitchers. The questions for the Warhawks will remain the same as they do every year though: Who is going to drive in the runs and can they avoiding losing the annual pool play game they always seem to drop? Answer the those two questions and the pitching is there for a deep playoff run.

South Florida Elite Squad
College Commitments: 16/25
Primary Pitchers: 10

It was tempting to place coach Richie Palmer’s team in the top group, and that will likely occur next year given the Elite Squad’s roster dominated with an impressive collection of players from the high school classes of 2015 and 2016.  Third baseman and righthanded pitcher Christian Demby, outfielder Danny Reyes, shortstop Jonathan India, catcher Dominic DiCaprio, shortstop Zack Kone, all juniors, along with sophomore righthander Anthony Molina, are all names that fans will be hearing about for years to come.  Their success will ride on the shoulders of the seniors, including two-way talents Michael Mediavilla and Brian Gonzalez, infielder Kirvin Moesquit and catcher Spencer Levine. Pitching depth could pose a problem if the Elite Squad makes a deep run into the playoffs.

The talent's there

Atlanta Blue Jays
College Commitments: 9/33
Primary Pitchers: 13

The Blue Jays are long on star-power on their 33 player roster, with PG All-American righthander Touki Toussaint and his high school teammate, catcher Benito Santiago, along with slugging outfielder Luke Bonfield, leading the way. Outfielder Raphael Ramirez, righthander Kevin Steen and shortstop Dale Burdick will also be very popular players with the scouting community. How the Blue Jays young pitchers perform will likely determine if they are up to a long playoff run.

Chandler Baseball
College Commitments: 19/22
Primary Pitchers: 8

Chandler brings a very deep lineup of position players to Jupiter, especially big power hitters who can change a game with one swing of the bat. First baseman J.J. Matijevic and third baseman Max Ponzurick -- both Pennsylvania natives -- catcher/third baseman Blake Wiggins and shortstop Shane Benes will drive in runs if players such 2015 outfielder Chris Botsoe, infielder Ryan Lillard and outfielder Andrew Shaps get on base in front of them. The question mark will be the pitching staff, both in terms of depth and having one standout who can take care of the Ohio Warhawks in the Pool D matchup.

East Cobb Baseball
College Commitments: 8/21
Primary Pitchers: 11

This appears to be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the defending WWBA World Champions, as the strength of the team lies in its 2015 class, most notably outfield phenom Daz Cameron. Lefthanded pitcher and first baseman Max Wotell, catcher Joey Bart, shortstop Jalen Miller and slugging outfielder Isaiah Gilliam, all of whom are also from the 2015 class, will all contribute to East Cobb’s efforts. That isn’t to discount the presence of PG All-American outfielder Kel Johnson, one of the rare players with the ability to take over the course of the tournament if he gets hot at the plate. For East Cobb to get deep into the playoffs, however, a number of pitchers are going to have to step up.

Team Elite
College Commitments: 13/24
Primary Pitchers: 9

Team Elite might very well have been among the tournament favorites if  a pair of PG All-Americans -- Michael Gettys, the top ranked player in the 2014 class, and Dylan Cease -- had chosen to play. The Elite still have a very formidable pitching staff, however, featuring righthanders Spencer Adams, Nick Niedert, A.J. Moore and Clarke Schmidt along with hard throwing southpaw Willie Rios. That type of pitching depth could guarantee a playoff spot by itself. Not having Gettys in the middle of the lineup may be too much for the Team Elite offense to overcome, however.

Texas Scout Team Yankees
College Commitments: 12/18
Primary Pitchers: 8

The problems for the Texas Scout Team to overcome are summarized in the numbers above; an 18 player roster with only eight primary pitchers. That is nothing new for coach Randy Taylor, as he prefers that to better showcase his very talented players. Multi-talented lefthanded pitcher and outfielder Alex Verdugo, and a pair of strong armed Texas righthanders, Garrett Fulenchek and Turner Larkins, will get huge attention from the scouting community when they are on the field. A pair of top 10 juniors, righthander Beau Burrows and slugging first basman/outfielder, Ryan Johnson, will be making their debuts on the big stage as well.

Don't sleep on them

Florida Burn
College Commitments: 13/23
Primary Pitchers: 10

The Burn, like the Houston Banditos above, have been relatively quiet this summer and fall after filling up a case of rings in 2012. Many members
of last year’s WWBA Underclass World Championship team are still around and will be looking for a fitting conclusion to their Perfect Game careers, including shortstop Dalton Guthrie, catcher/third baseman Michael Rivera, outfielder/righthanded pitcher Brandon Elmy and talented utility/athlete prospect Ryan Miller.

South Charlotte Panthers
College Commitments: 15/23
Primary Pitchers: 10

The Panthers biggest obstacle may be just escaping Pool M, which has three very viable playoff teams with East Cobb Baseball and Syracuse Sports Zone. In a format that rewards teams with versatile players, the Panthers have two of the best and most accomplished two-way talents in the event in lefthanded pitcher and first baseman Alex Destino and jack-of-all-trades Ryder Ryan, who could see time at catcher and third base in addition to making a start on the mound.

Team EvoShield
College Commitments: 18/22
Primary Pitchers: 11

Team EvoShield is nominally the second of the two teams in the field from the EvoShield organization but history shows that doesn’t always mean they won’t surpass the primary team. The roster is loaded with 2015 talent, including righthanders Cody Morris and Matthew McGarry, outfielder Danny Blair, infielder Logan Tolbert and first baseman Desmond Lindsey, along with enough senior pitching to keep them in every game. Interestingly, Pool Q also contains Orlando PG Purple, the Orlando Scorpions second team.

Toronto Blue Jays Scout Team
College Commitments: 15/21
Primary Pitchers: 9

The Blue Jays will be an entertaining to watch offensively and there will be plenty of attention on PG All-American shortstop Jacob Gatewood. Along with Gatewood and his prodigious power, outfielder Kevin Bryant, catcher Tim Susnara and junior catcher Michael Hickman all have the type of talent to lead the Blue Jays into the playoffs. As with many scout organized teams, pitching depth is a potential issue. Hard throwing righthander Erik Manoah and towering 6-foot-9 righty Stetson Woods will be two interesting prospects to watch on the mound.

Tri-State Arsenal
College Commitments: 17/25
Primary Pitchers: 11

The Arsenal have a deep roster with 17 college commitments and 11 pitchers, including PG All-American lefthander Devin Smeltzer. They will also be a fun team to watch, with high energy underclassman such as shortstop John Aiello, lefthanded pitcher and outfielder Joseph Baran and hard throwing sophomore Tyler Mondile. A statistical oddity on the Arsenal roster: There are five primary catchers among the 14 position players.

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.

Chet Lemon’s Juice
Diamond Devils
Dulins Dodgers/Rockies Scout Team
Houston Heat
Ontario Blue Jays

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