High School : : General
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

National HS Invitational Preview

Ben Collman        

Perfect Game High School will be live in Cary, NC to cover the National High School Invitational. The field features nine teams in PG National High School Top 50 and numerous players ranked highly in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 class.

The complete schedule can be found here. MLB.com is also streaming seven of the games live and Gamechanger is scoring the entire tournament.

Follow @PGbcollman for updates throughout the tournament and check back daily for blogs featuring news, notes and scouting information from the NHSI.

Here is a look at the 16 team field.

American Heritage (Plantation, FL)

PG National Rank: 14
PG Florida Regional Rank: 5
Players to Watch: IF/RHP Brandon Lopez, OF Esteban Puerta, LHP Brandon Diaz, C Zack Collins

Heritage has as much talent as anyone in the field, and picking just four players to watch doesn’t do justice do this loaded roster. They started the season ranked #9 in the nation and have done nothing to question their lofty rankings. They sit at No. 14 this week after picking up a big win over Miami rival and fellow NHSI participant Gulliver Prep. What makes Patriots so intriguing is their depth, both in the lineup and on the mound. Along with Diaz and Lopez, Alex Seibold, Shaun Anderson and Domenick Mancini are all D1 caliber arms who work around 90 mph. A four game in four day tournament is similar to the format of PG’s 17u WWBA and WWBA World Championship where depth especially on the pitching side usually determines the winner.

Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, NV)

PG National Rank: 1
PG Southwest Regional Rank: 1
Players to Watch: IF/RHP Joey Gallo, RHP/IF Cody Roper, OF/RHP Johnny Sewald, OF AJ Van Meetren

The Nevada powerhouse Gaels have won six straight Nevada state titles and can make a claim as the best baseball program in the country. Some have said this is Gorman’s best team yet and they have done nothing to dispute the claim, rolling to an undefeated record and claiming the top spot for the second straight week in the PG National Top 50 Rankings. Perfect Game All-American 3B/RHP Joey Gallo leads the way and provides the power on offense as well as a mid 90s arm out of the bullpen. Gorman has pitching depth and an athletic outfield with RHP Evan Dunn and OF Kenny Meimerstorf joining the above players to watch to give Gorman as much star power as any team in Cary.

Brookwood (Snellville, GA)

PG Southeast Regional Rank: 9
Players to Watch: RHP/IF Lucas Sims, C Clint Carr, OF Boyce Mullins, RHP/IF Stephen Wray

A preseason top 50 team, Brookwood has been solid this year, dropping out of the rankings last week after losing their third game, but remaining high in the Southeast Regional Rankings. RHP/IF and Perfect Game All-American Lucas Sims is the headliner and is the type of ace that can shut down any of these potent offenses. Brookwood has been tested in the early season, losing to Columbus (GA) and splitting with Mill Creek (GA). Their opener against Highlands Ranch (CO) could be a dandy of a pitching matchup: Sims vs. fellow PG All-American Ryan Burr.

Carroll (Corpus Christi, TX)

PG National Rank: 2
PG Texahoma Regional Rank: 1
Players to Watch: OF/RHP Courtney Hawkins, IF/RHP O’Shea Dumes, IF/RHP Josh Cruz, IF Trey Rodriguez

The consensus best team in the Lone Star State, Carroll won the 2010 5A state title and have started 2012 with a 14-0 record behind a dominant offense. PG All-American Courtney Hawkins is the leader and is the kind of player that could carry an offense over a four day stretch. Hawkins has company as Carroll one thru nine has as good of a lineup as anyone in the tournament. Hawkins and Dumes lead the staff and if the Tigers can get solid pitching past those two, they could be the team to beat.

Columbus (Columbus, GA)

PG National Rank: 4
PG Southeast Regional Rank: 1
Players to Watch: LHP/OF Kyle Carter, IF/RHP JT Phillips, IF/RHP Hunter Swilling, IF Spencer Draws

Another undefeated team and Top 5 team in the National Rankings. The Blue Devils have won two straight Georgia AAA state titles and it would be a shock to see them not make it a three-peat. Carter is the leader on the mound and on offense and Phillips is a second power bat and low 90s arm on the mound. They have rolled thru their early season schedule taking down fellow NHSI participants Brookwood (GA), Parkview (GA), and Russell County (AL). Columbus figures to hit a ton whoever they face and if they have the pitching behind Carter and Phillips they could be very dangerous.

George Washington (Bronx, NY)

PG National Rank: 10
PG Northeast Regional Rank: 1
Players to Watch: C Nelson Rodriguez, RHP Kevin Torres, IF Randy Rodriguez, RHP Edwin Corniel

George Washington is off to an 8-0-1 start, playing more early season games than any other team in the Northeast. Their offense has dominated but will be without one their top players as Fernelys Sanchez will miss the tournament with a leg injury. Nelson Rodriguez is well-known in the scouting community and has light tower power when he squares one up. GW might be the biggest unknown as it will be interesting to see how a Northeast team will compete against top teams from warm weather state who have already played 15-20 games this year.

Gulliver Prep (Miami, FL)

PG National Rank: 19
PG Florida Regional Rank: 4
Players to Watch: C Chris Chinea, IF Adrian Marin, IF Eric Neitzel, LHP Ivan Palaez

The Raiders have the biggest win of any of the teams coming to North Carolina. They knocked off then-No. 1 Tampa Jesuit a few Saturday’s ago, knocking the Tigers from the unbeaten ranks. Ivan Palaez threw a gem in that game, shutting down a potent offense and will be counted on heavily again. The Gulliver offense matches up favorably against anyone with Miami commits all over the field and LSU commit C Chris Chinea behind the plate. Gulliver has been a bit inconsistent over the last two years but their talent is unmistakable.

Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, CA)

PG National Rank: 18
PG Pacific Regional Rank: 3
Players to Watch: LHP Max Fried, OF/IF Joe Corrigan, C Arden Pabst, IF/RHP Jack Flaherty

When the teams were announced for the NHSI, Harvard-Westlake was an early title favorite as they were assumed to have two wins in the bag with RHP Lucas Giolito and LHP Max Fried dominating in the early going. But an injury to Giolito and a three game stretch of two losses and a tie brought the Wolverines back to earth a bit. Westlake will still be potent as Fried is among the top pitchers in the 2012 class, and the offense has responded with 42 runs during their current 5 game winning streak.

Highlands Ranch (Highlands Ranch, CO)

PG Great Plains Regional Rank: 7
Players to Watch: RHP/OF Ryan Burr, C/IF Michael Cerullo, IF Geordy Smith, C Adam Gauthier

Burr is the headliner for Highlands Ranch, an ASU commit, he has been up to 94 in the past and is one of the top arms in the 2012 class. Gauthier is the leader on offense and the Falcons are off to a 3-1 start on the season. One of the favorites for the 5A Colorado state title, they will face many of the same questions that were posed with George Washington (NY). Can a cold weather team match-up against powerhouse programs from baseball hotbeds like South Florida, Georgia, and Southern California? They will get a major test on Wednesday afternoon as they face Brookwood (GA).

Lee County (Sanford, NC)

Players to Watch: LHP/IF Alex Furl, RHP/IF Chase Arrington, OF Dalton Spivey, LHP/OF Nick Durazo

The host team, Sanford is located about 45 minutes southeast of the USA Baseball complex. The travel schedule of the other teams (especially teams flying in from California, Texas, and New York) may give Lee County a bit of an advantage. They are off to a 2-7 start this year and while pitching has been solid the offense has struggled. A game against Florida powerhouse Sarasota will give us an early look if the Yellow Jackets can compete against the other highly touted teams. Lee County can’t stack up with the other schools on paper, but as anyone who has watched a lot of high school baseball can attest, throwing strikes, good defense and timely hitting win a lot of games.

Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA)

PG National Rank: 20
PG Pacific Regional Rank: 4
Players to Watch: OF/RHP Ty Moore, C Jeremy Martinez, OF Austin Grebeck, IF/RHP Davis Tominaga

A preseason top 5 team, Mater Dei has dropped three games in the early going including a 6-4 contest to Orange Lutheran. OF/RHP Ty Moore does it all for the Monarchs as he is their top hitter as well as ace pitcher. He has plenty of help as Martinez is currently ranked No. 9 in the 2013 class. Grebeck, Tominga, and IF Austin Monte are three other players that coach Burt Call will count on this week. Mater Dei does have three notable wins on the year, beating Bishop Amat in a game that was the National High School Game of the Week, and are currently on a two-game win streak, beating powers JSerra and Servite last week. An opener against Bishop Gorman might be one the best played games we see on Wednesday.

Orange Lutheran (Orange, CA)

PG Pacific Regional Rank: 23
Players to Watch: LHP/IF Art Vidrio, RHP/IF Brent Wheatley, IF/OF Conner Sullivan, IF/RHP Cody Nulph

Orange Lutheran comes in at 10-2 and has won six straight including wins over Mater Dei, Sevite, JSerra, and St. John’s Bosco. It starts with pitching for the Lancers and USC commit Wheatley and Fullerton commit Vidrio are a formidable duo at the top. Sullivan and Nulph lead the offense and OF Jason Martin is another bat to watch. Columbus (GA) will be the first foe and a big test for Orange Lutheran. Coming at No. 23 in the Pacific Region the Lancers can make a big statement with a solid week in Cary.

Oxford (Oxford, AL)

Players to Watch: OF/RHP Zach Lovvorn, IF/RHP Tucker Simpson, IF/RHP Jackson Stephens, OF Matthew Goodson

A preseason top 20 team, Oxford stumbled out of the gate, losing six of their first nine games. They have bounced back, now sitting at 17-8. The Yellow Jackets have star power and power arms in Simpson, Stephens, and Goodson. Lovvorn has had a big spring, pitching in the low 90s up to 93 and has a chance to make a big impression on crosscheckers and scouting directors this week. Those four, along with IF Tanner Gardner and IF/RHP Trent Simpson give Oxford half a dozen high D1 players. If they can get enough offense they could be very dangerous. The kick off the tournament with American Heritage (FL).

Parkview (Lilburn, GA)

PG National Rank: 15
PG Southeast Regional Rank: 2
Players to Watch: IF/RHP Matt Olson, RHP/OF Jesse Foster, OF/LHP Josh Hart, C/RHP Jarrett Freeland

The only two blemishes on the Panthers record so far are losses to perennial Georgia powers Columbus and Cartersville. Parkview won the Georgia AAAAA title last year and bring back the bulk of that roster. Their top prospect is two-way star Olson, who is an upper 80s arm as well as a power bat. Hart and Freeland, Georgia Tech and Georgia commits, respectively, make the offense go along with another Georgia commit Jack Esmonde. 2014 LHP Mac Marshall has been up to 87 in the past and gives Parkview another top arm behind Olson and Foster.

Russell County (Seale, AL)

PG Southeast Regional Rank: 20
Players to Watch: IF/RHP Anfernee Grier, LHP/OF Ruck Rucker, RHP/IF Ray Castillo, OF Hunter Webb

Traditionally a top team in Alabama, Russell County was a Preseason Top 25 team only to stumble to a 7-7 record out of the gate. All they have done since then is win 17 straight games. Grier is the offense standout and has lots of bat speed and power. Castillo and RHP Jesse Nelson are two power arms. The two question marks for Russell County are OF Webb, who has battled injuries all spring and Rucker who has shown tools to be one of the top players in the country. If Webb is healthy and Rucker on his game, Russell County might just keeping rolling.

Sarasota (Sarasota, FL)

Players to Watch: LHP/IF Dylan White, IF/OF Jason Sierra, OF/C Danny Mars, IF Tyler Leonard

Sarasota has a storied baseball history having won eight Florida State titles. They sit at 9-5 on the year but had a very solid showing at the Sarasota Baseball Classic, one of the top tournaments in the state. Vanderbilt commit Jason Sierra is a player who could really break out with a solid week. Big and strong with lots of power Sierra is the kind of bat that can carry an offense. Mars is a athlete and strong left-handed bat and White is a Miami commit and 90 mph lefty. The Sailors open with Lee County (NC) Wednesday afternoon.

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