When In Doubt, Best to Defer To Strength of Teams on Cape
Given the very unpredictable nature of
summer baseball, it often takes time for the nation’s top teams to
establish themselves and move to the forefront of Perfect Game’s
annual ranking of the top clubs. This year, it may be a more
difficult task than normal to get an early handle on the top
The Cape Cod League’s Harwich
Mariners are ranked No. 1 in PG’s first in-season ranking of the
Top 30 Teams for the 2012 season, but that may be more a
reflection of how the team finished a year ago and how it should play
when all its reinforcements arrive, as opposed to how it has played
Through its first five games this
season, the defending Cape Cod League champions are just 3-2, and
technically in third place in the Cape’s Eastern Division—hardly
the credentials of a No. 1-ranked team. But the Mariners have largely
held serve to date with a depleted roster, and plenty more is
expected of them in the coming weeks.
Among the reinforcements who are
expected to join the team today or Wednesday are top-rated prospects
like outfielder Austin Wilson and first baseman Brian Ragira, both
from Stanford; second baseman JaCoby Jones and righthander Austin
Nola, both from Louisiana State; and catcher Brett Austin from North
Carolina State. Nola will make his debut tonight against Hyannis as
the Mariners starting pitcher.
All five players are considered
elite-level prospects, and their delay in joining the Mariners is a
result of their team’s late participation in NCAA post-season play.
A sixth player, South Carolina outfielder Tanner English, will be
delayed a little longer as the Gamecocks are still alive in the
College World Series.
The one Harwich player that has stood
out to date and even carried the team in the early going is
outfielder Phil Ervin, a rising junior at Samford. He leads the
prestigious Cape League in homers (3), RBIs (8) and slugging average
(1.118) through five games, while hitting .412. Righthander Corey
Littrell (Kentucky) has been the dominant arm on the Mariners deep,
talented pitching staff, throwing four scoreless innings while
striking out eight.
While Harwich has yet to hit full
stride while awaiting the arrival of several key players, it has
opened the door for the Chatham Anglers and Orleans Firebirds to grab
an early share of the lead in the Cape’s Eastern Division. Both
teams are 4-1 in the early going, a full game ahead of Harwich.
A total of six teams from the Cape Cod
League, easily the nation’s most-prestigious summer-college league,
occupy spots in Perfect Game’s first Top 30 Ranking, and
conceivably more teams from that league could be ranked, except that
a team must have at least a .500 record overall to receive
consideration. As it is, Chatham at No. 4 and the Cotuit Kettleers
(3-2) at No. 5 have cracked the top five, in addition to Harwich.
Teams are ranked on the following
criteria: won-loss record, league dominance, depth and quality of
professional-level talent and the overall strength of the league.
Other teams to make the top five are
the No. 2-ranked Newport Gulls (5-1), a perennial New England
Collegiate League power, and No. 3-ranked La Crosse Loggers (15-5),
which has ridden a nine-game winning streak to a share of the best
record in the Northwoods League.
On the flip side, the Cal Ripken
League’s Bethesda Big Train (3-9), PG’s No. 1-ranked team in
2011, continues to struggle after an abnormally slow start, while the
Hyannis Harbor Hawks (0-5) remain winless after holding down first
place from start to finish in the regular season in the Cape Cod
League a year ago.