Playing in the National High School Invitational (NHSI) has become almost a rite of passage for top high school prospects, as the prestigious event provides players with a stage to showcase their talents early in the high school season in front of countless scouts from the college and professional ranks.::
Playing in the National High School Invitational (NHSI) has become almost a rite of passage for top high school prospects, as the prestigious event provides players with a stage to showcase their talents early in the high school season in front of countless scouts from the college and professional ranks.
:: 2018 USA Baseball National High School Invitational ::
As a result, the NHSI already has a long track record of producing high-round Draft picks, including more than 20 first-rounders since the event's inception in 2012. Some of those players -- 13, to be exact -- rank among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects, while others have already made a significant impact at the Major League level.
• Top 10 Draft prospects in 2018 NHSI | 2018 NHSI loaded with Draft prospects
That group of former NHSI participants now in the big leagues is headlined by Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers' 2013 fourth-round pick who clubbed 39 home runs en route to winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award last year. Though power has become his calling card, Bellinger actually stood out more on the mound for Hamilton HS (Chandler, Ariz.) in the 2013 NHSI, when he racked up 10 strikeouts in a four-hit shutout against Jenks (Okla.) HS.
Joey Gallo belted 41 home runs for the Rangers in 2017, just five years after he was regarded as the top prep slugger at the inaugural NHSI as a member of Bishop Gorman HS (Las Vegas). A's first baseman Matt Olson, a participant in '12 with Parkview HS (Lilburn, Ga.), connected on 24 home runs in just 216 plate appearances as a rookie last year. And on the mound, right-hander Lucas Giolito (Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles) started to tap into his potential with the White Sox late in the season and seems poised for even more success in 2018.
While the aforementioned players have since graduated from the prospect ranks, a look at MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list for 2018 underscores the amount of talent that comes through Cary, N.C., each year.
No NHSI alum ranks higher on that list than shortstop Royce Lewis, who enters his first full season as baseball's No. 20 prospect. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 Draft by Minnesota, Lewis established himself as one of the premier talents in his class as a sophomore in 2015 with JSerra Catholic HS (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.).
Outfielder Austin Meadows -- the No. 9 overall pick by Pittsburgh in 2013 and current No. 45 prospect -- boosted his Draft stock as a senior with a strong showing for Grayson HS (Loganville, Ga.) that included a 3-for-3 performance in his team's final NHSI contest. No. 95 prospect Adam Haseley stole the show the following year by hitting .417 and logging seven scoreless frames on the mound for The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.). He ended up honoring his commitment to Virginia, where he became a College World Series champion in 2015 and then a first-round pick of the Phillies as a junior.
Following in Haseley's footsteps, third-base prospect Austin Riley (DeSoto Central HS, Southaven, Miss.), No. 97 overall, was a two-way standout in 2015, showing power stuff on the mound and tallying six hits at the plate. No. 99 prospect Blake Rutherford was even more impressive with the bat in 2016, hitting .643 to lead Chaminade Prep (Canoga Park, Calif.) to an NHSI runner-up finish. The Braves ended up selecting Riley with the No. 41 overall pick in 2015, while the Yankees made Rutherford their first-round pick the following year.
A dominant performance at the NHSI against some of the nation's top teams can do wonders for a pitcher's Draft stock -- especially for those who enter the tournament having already generated a buzz in scouting circles. Most notably, Touki Toussaint (Coral Springs Christian Academy, Coral Springs, Fla.) pitched his way into the first round in 2014 (No. 14 overall) by striking out 12 over six one-hit frames, while left-hander Braxton Garrett (Florence HS, Florence, Ala.) fired a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts en route to becoming the No. 7 overall pick by the Marlins in 2016.
As for pitching staffs, none may ever top the 2012 Harvard-Westlake three-headed monster of Giolito, Max Fried (No. 7 overall pick in '12) and Jack Flaherty (No. 34 overall pick in 2014), each of whom pitched in the Major Leagues in 2017.
Current MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects
No. 38 Jack Flaherty (Harvard-Westlake School, Los Angeles, 2012)
No. 41 Ryan McMahon (Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana, Calif., 2012-13)
No. 45 Austin Meadows (Grayson HS, Loganville Ga., 2013)
No. 48 Justus Sheffield (Tullahoma HS, Tullahoma, Tenn., 2013)
No. 58 Kolby Allard (San Clemente HS, San Clemente, Calif., 2015)
No. 61 Dylan Cease (Milton HS, Milton, Ga., 2013-14)
No. 78 Stephen Gonsalves (Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego, 2013)
No. 83 Max Fried (Harvard-Westlake School, Los Angeles, 2012)
No. 90 Carter Kieboom (Walton HS, Marietta, Ga., 2016)
No. 95 Adam Haseley (The First Academy, Orlando, Fla., 2014)
No. 97 Austin Riley (DeSoto Central HS, Southaven, Miss., 2015)
No. 99 Blake Rutherford (Chaminade Prep, Canoga Park, Calif., 2016)
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.