Some of the top high school players from across the country are set to compete in the seventh annual USA Baseball National High School Invitational (NHSI) this week at the National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Seven games will be streamed live on MLB.com, including Saturday's championship matchup (complete schedule
Some of the top high school players from across the country are set to compete in the seventh annual USA Baseball National High School Invitational (NHSI) this week at the National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. Seven games will be streamed live on MLB.com, including Saturday's championship matchup (complete schedule here).
:: 2018 USA Baseball National High School Invitational ::
For scouts, the NHSI offers an early-season look at players who ultimately could become top picks, perhaps even first-rounders, in the June Draft. Last year's event alone produced a first-round selection in first baseman Nick Pratto (Royals, No. 14 overall) as well as four second-rounders in righty Hans Crouse (Rangers), catcher Hagen Danner (Blue Jays), and third basemen Joe Perez (Astros) and Mark Vientos (Mets).
• 2018 NHSI loaded with Draft prospects | Top NHSI participants in history
Meanwhile, with seven players ranked among MLB Pipeline's Top 50 Draft prospects -- including three of the Top 10 -- set to participate in this year's event, the 2018 NHSI field should yield even more early-round picks this June.
1. Matt Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (Glendale, Ariz.) | No. 3 Draft prospect
Scouts already viewed Liberatore, a 6-foot-5 left-hander with a strong track record of success with the 18U U.S. National Team, as one of the better pitching prospects in the 2018 class even before he took the mound this spring. He's since separated himself from his peers thanks to a fastball that's been up to 97 mph and a much sharper breaking ball. Those pitches, along with Liberatore's potentially plus changeup and overall solid feel for pitching, could make the Arizona commit one of the top picks in June.
2. Nolan Gorman, 3B, Sandra Day O'Connor HS (Phoenix) | No. 4 prospect
No player has as much raw power at this year's NHSI as Gorman, a left-handed-hitting third baseman who's committed to Arizona. That power netted him top honors at the MLB All-Star Game High School Home Run Derby in Miami and at the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
3. Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS (Corona, Calif.) | No. 7 prospect
Turang was regarded by some evaluators as the top player in his class before a modest performance on the summer showcase circuit and with the 18U U.S. National Team. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound shortstop lacks a game-changing tool but does everything well, showing good feel to hit from the left side, above-average speed and the potential to stay at his natural position long-term. Turang is committed to LSU.
4. Triston Casas, 3B/1B, American Heritage School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) | No. 39 prospect
Right up there with Gorman in the power department, Casas is a hulking left-handed hitter who has long showed the ability to impact the baseball to all fields, and he does so with relative ease. The Miami commit is coming off of an accolade-filled summer and fall in which he was the MVP of the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup, helping Team USA win a gold medal by leading the tournament in home runs and RBIs.
5. Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hattiesburg (Miss.) HS | No. 40 prospect
Few players in the 2018 class have more all-around ability than Gray, a tooled-up and physically projectable outfielder who has drawn Torii Hunter comparisons. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, he stands out most for his cannon arm -- a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale -- and a lightning-quick bat that generates above-average raw power to all fields, albeit with some hittability concerns. Though committed to Mississippi, Gray Jr. could become Hattiesburg's first Draft pick since 2007 if selected in June.
6. Cole Winn, RHP, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS | No. 42 prospect
The Colorado State High School Pitcher of the Year in 2016, Winn transferred to Orange Lutheran for his senior year and immediately improved the program's chances of repeating as NHSI champions. The 6-foot-2 right-hander saw his velocity tick up last fall at the World Wood Bat Association World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., where he showed a fastball that reached 94 mph along with his usual combination of polish and stuff.
7. Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel (Ill.) HS | No. 49 prospect
The son of White Sox director of strength and conditioning Allen Thomas, Alek is a three-sport star who is committed to Texas Christian, where he hopes to double as an outfielder in baseball and a slot receiver in football. An athletic and toolsy outfielder with a smooth left-handed swing, Thomas was Gatorade's 2017 Illinois baseball player of the year as a junior and led gold medal-winning Team USA with a .361 average at the 18U World Cup in September.
8. Cole Henry, RHP, Florence (Ala.) HS
At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Henry has a durable starter's frame and the potential to add more velocity to a fastball that reaches 94 mph. He dominated in his lone outing in Jupiter, allowing one hit and striking out nine in four scoreless innings.
9. Luke Bartnicki, LHP, Walton HS (Marietta, Ga.)
A physically put-together 6-foot-3 southpaw, Bartnicki improved his Draft stock on the summer showcase circuit and sat consistently in the low 90s while bumping 95 mph with his fastball late in the fall. He's committed to Georgia Tech.
10. Raynel Delgado, SS, Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
An athletic and projectable shortstop, Delgado is watching his stock rise this spring as the Georgia commit continues to grow on evaluators with his advanced hitting ability from both sides of the plate and slick defense on the dirt.
Top 2019 prospects
Jasiah Dixon, OF, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS
Hunter Cope, RHP, Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Andrew Roberts, 3B, Trinity Prep (Winter Park, Fla.)
CJ Rodriguez, C, Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Jacob Baldino, LHP, Walton HS (Marietta, Ga.)
Top 2020 prospects
Liam Norris, OF/LHP, Green Hope HS (Cary, N.C.)
Enrique Bradfield, OF, American Heritage School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Gavin Casas, 1B/3B, American Heritage School (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Tank Espalin, SS, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS
Christian Rodriguez, RHP, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.