USA Baseball Unveils 18U National Team
2016 18U Roster Announced
September 23, 2016 By Hudson Belinsky
Hunter Greene will be a position player only in COPABE (Photo by Mike Janes)
Hunter Greene will be a position player only in the COPABE Pan American Championships (Photo by Mike Janes)
USA Baseball unveiled its final 20-player roster for the 18U National Team that will take part in the COPABE Pan American Championships starting Sept. 30.
The event is in Monterrey, Mexico, and runs through Oct. 9. The team was selected from an original pool of more than 100 players who participated in the Tournament of Stars back in June, as well as standouts from USA Baseball’s National Team Identification Series. A group of 40 players attended the National Team trials in Houston this week as USA Baseball finalized the roster.
The roster includes many of the top prospects for the 2017 draft, as well as a deep group of underclassmen that could develop into top prospects for the 2018 draft. The team is built to compete for a gold medal, however, and players are not necessarily selected based on their prospect status. The team has a deep, well-rounded roster that should contend for the gold medal.
This weekend, the National Team will play exhibition games against three college teams: Division I powers Texas and Houston, as well as junior college juggernaut San Jacinto (Texas) JC.
The team should be able to count on a mix of power bats in the middle of the lineup to follow a group of speedy players with on-base ability at the top. Potential 2017 No. 1 overall pick Hunter Greene performed well in this week’s trials, going 6-for-16 with three doubles and a home run. Greene could join Nick Pratto, Ryan Vilade, Royce Lewis and 2019 prospect Triston Casas in the middle of the lineup.
Using the linear weights of Fangraphs’ calculation for weighted on-base average (wOBA) in 2016, Greene led all players at the trials with a .503 wOBA, with the usual caveat of a small sample size. Following Greene, the top five performers at the trials (in terms of wOBA) were Nick Allen (.502), Vilade (.477), Pratto (.468), Quentin Holmes (.433) and Brice Turang (.412).
At the top of the lineup, Team USA should have plenty of speed with Holmes and Turang, as well as Lewis and 2018 prospect Mike Siani.
The team has seven righthanded hitters, six lefthanded hitters and one switch-hitter, assuming that both Shane Baz and Hagen Danner will be available to hit in addition to pitching.
The national team should be particularly strong up the middle. Behind the plate, M.J. Melendez is a capable receiver with excellent arm strength, and he has a strong reputation for his work with pitchers. Melendez will team with Patrick Bailey, a switch-hitter with athleticism and a quick transfer to go along with solid-average arm strength.
In the middle infield, Nick Allen and Hunter Greene are among the best defensive infielders in the class. The team has plenty of flexibility in the outfield, with plenty of plus runners. Holmes is arguable the best present center fielder, with advanced instincts are reads off the bat. Lewis, Siani and Jarred Kelenic (another 2018 prospect) have each shown above-average to plus arm strength in the past.
While Greene is arguably the best pitching prospect in the class, he has stopped pitching for the fall, and will be a position player only for Team USA. The roster is also missing some top prospects who have already begun to rest their arms for the fall in Georgia lefthander DL Hall and Texas flamethrower Alex Scherff. Even so, the team has plenty of depth on the mound, both in lefties and righties. Danner and Pratto will reprise their roles from last year’s national team, providing veteran leadership for the team.
The team has a pair hard-throwing righthanders in Hans Crouse and Shane Baz. Louisiana righthander Blayne Enlow has shown one of the best breaking balls in the class. CJ Van Eyk has shown promise with a fastball/curveball combo, and he struck out nine batters in six innings over two appearances at the trials.
Team USA is particularly strong with lefthanded pitching. Logan Allen is a bit undersized, but he’s shown flashes of command and an electric fastball/curveball combination. Leviathan Mitchell Stone is 6-foot-9, athletic and has the ability to generate ground balls. Jordan Butler throws from a deceptive, low arm slot, and he has national team experience, having helped Team USA win gold at the 2015 WBSC World Cup as an underclassmen.