Top high school talent set to wrap up States Play Invitational

September 24th, 2023

If big league pennant races and the Minor League postseason being in full force weren’t enough to provide ample baseball entertainment during September, enter the 2023 States Play Invitational, where the future stars of the diamond will get a chance to showcase their skills this weekend in Arizona.

Now in its fourth iteration, States Play will take place under the structure that debuted last year: East vs. West.

The top-tier talent from the 2025 and ‘26 Draft classes on hand in the desert will feature underclassmen from 17 different states, including three players from the Greater Phoenix Area. The group of approximately 40 prospects will take to practice fields, batting cages, and eventually a full-fledged diamond, for a development-focused experience, benefitting from the tutelage of a staff that includes multiple former big leaguers and personnel with experience at the game’s highest level.

The teams have played the first two of a three-game series (seven innings apiece) at Tempe Diablo Stadium -- Spring Training home to the Los Angeles Angels.

The schedule is as follows:

Fri., Sept. 22: 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MST -- 15-10 East victory
Sat., Sept. 23: 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MST -- 6-1 West victory
Sun., Sept. 24: 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. MST

States Play originated in 2018 and has since been a constant in helping to pinpoint many of the nation’s premier young talents. USA Baseball has been instrumental in the invite-only selection process, also relying on information provided by MLB’s development staff and national scouts and cross-checkers.

On hand this year will be eight players who have participated in past MLB Develops events and four from the inaugural class of “The Program,” a six-week development initiative established by MLB to give diverse student-athletes the opportunity to train with one another and compete in a variety of events on the national scale. The vast majority of prospects participating in Arizona have already verbally committed to many of the country's top collegiate programs, with the reigning national champion LSU Tigers (four) leading the way.

There are currently 10 former States Play participants ranked among their respective big league clubs’ Top 30 Prospects lists per MLB Pipeline. Nine members of the 2019 States Play class were selected in the 2023 Draft alone, including Orioles first-rounder Enrique Bradfield Jr. Five States Play alumni have already made their Major League debuts, headlined by the Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. and the Mets’ Brett Baty.

At the helm for the clubs will be Howie Kendrick and Homer Bush, who boast 22 combined seasons of big league experience between them. Two-time All-Star pitcher Brad Penny will be one of multiple coaches on hand with Major League service time.

Here is the complete list of players in attendance, along with their college commitments. (Players without school listings  are currently uncommitted.)

Clayton Armah, 3B/RHP, St. John’s College HS (Va.) -- Auburn
Grayson Boles, RHP, Saint Augustine HS (Calif.)
Mason Braun, 1B/OF, New Prairie HS (Ind.)
Grayson Burleson, RHP, Summertown (Tenn.) HS -- Vanderbilt
RJ Cope, LHP/INF, Georgia Premier Academy (Ga.)
Brett Crossland, RHP, Mountain Pointe HS (Ariz.)
Kayson Cunningham, SS/2B, San Antonio (Texas) Johnson HS -- Texas Tech
Lamar Edwards Jr., OF, Spruce Creek HS (Fla.) -- Duke
Ezra Essex, OF, P27 Academy (S.C.) -- Oklahoma State
Joe Forbes, C, Mountain Ridge HS (Ariz.) -- Arizona
Cody Freitas, RHP, Bradley Bourbonnais Community HS (Ill.) -- Arizona
Trent Grindlinger, C, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS
Fleming Hall, RHP, Trinity Presbyterian School (Ala.) -- Auburn
Dax Hardcastle, 1B/RHP, St. Mary’s HS (Calif.)
Landon Harmon, RHP/OF, East Union Attendance Center (Miss.) -- Mississippi State
Josiah Hartshorn, 1B/OF, Orange Lutheran HS (Calif.)
Holden Hering, RHP, College Station (Texas) HS -- Texas Tech
Andrew Jacobs, RHP, Mountain Ridge HS (Ariz.) -- Arizona
Donavan Jeffrey, 1B/OF, LC Byrd HS (Va.) -- Miami (FL)
Parker Jennings, RHP, Granite Bay HS (Cali.) -- Oklahoma State
Everett Johnson, OF/2B, Wayne Country Day (N.C.) -- NC State
John Kasten, RHP/C, Clovis (Calif.) HS
Darrell (DJ) McDowell, IF/RHP, Lassiter HS (Ga.) -- Tennessee
Alexander Mercurius, OF/RHP, Durango HS (Nev.)
Vaughn Neckar, RHP/3B, Vista Murrieta HS (Calif.) -- LSU
Xavier Neyens, IF/RHP, Mount Vernon (Wash.) HS -- Oregon State
Sebastian Norman, INF, Glendale HS (Mo.) -- Oklahoma State
Anthony Pack, OF, Long Beach (Calif.) Millikan HS
Mason Pike, IF/RHP, Puyallup (Wash.) HS -- Oregon State
Jarett Sabol, C/OF, Aliso Niguel HS (Calif.) -- USC
Brock Sell, OF/2B, Tokay HS (Calif.) -- Stanford
Minjae Seo, RHP, Hebron HS (Texas) -- Vanderbilt
Omar Serna Jr., C, Dobie HS (Texas) -- LSU
Tate Southisene, SS/OF, Basic HS (Nev.) -- USC
Zach Strickland, RHP, Maranatha HS (Calif.) -- UCLA
Zion Theophilus, RHP, Archbishop Moeller HS (Ohio) -- LSU
James Whitaker, RHP, Bishop Gorman HS (Nev.) -- LSU
Eli Willits, INF, Fort Cobb-Broxton HS (Okla.) -- Oklahoma
Quentin Young, 3B/OF, Oaks Christian HS (Calif.)