The summer showcase season is already in full swing, with USA Baseball putting on several Prospect Development Pipeline events last week, and next up is the Tournament of Stars, held at USA Baseball's National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
The TOS, as it's commonly called, serves two different purposes. With 80 of the top high school prospects in the country together in one place, the tournament is a fantastic scouting opportunity, as big league teams create watch lists for the 2018 Draft.
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At the same time, USA Baseball has an important job to do. TOS serves as the first step toward determining who will be on the 18-and-under national team, which will compete in September's WBSC U-18 World Cup in Canada. This week's action will be the mechanism the USA Baseball staff uses to whittle the 80 players down to a 40-man trials roster. The trials to create the final roster take place in Minneapolis in August.
TOS games start on Tuesday with the 80 high schoolers split into four squads: the Pride, Brave, United and Free. Two games a day are held Tuesday-Thursday. Friday is a workout day, with a home run derby scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. The bronze and gold medal games will be held on Saturday and be streamed live on MLB.com. The complete schedule is as follows:
Tues., June 27
Pride vs. Brave, 10 a.m.
United vs. Free, 3:15 p.m.
Wed., June 28
Brave vs. United, 10 a.m.
Free vs. Pride, 1:30 p.m.
Thurs., June 29
Brave vs. Free, 10 a.m.
United vs. Pride, 1:30 p.m.
Fri., June 30
Home run derby, 7 p.m. on MLB.com
Sat., July 1
Bronze medal game, 9 a.m. on MLB.com
Gold medal game, 12:30 p.m. on MLB.com
Who are the most intriguing prospects to follow this week? Here's a quick primer on the top prospects:
Will Banfield, C/RHP, Brookwood HS (Lawrenceville, Ga.): Finding catchers in the Draft is always tough, so Banfield's all-around game will be in high demand. He has a plus arm behind the plate with good blocking and receiving skills. Offensively, he looks like an average bat with plus power, all in a strong, durable frame built for catching.
Elijah Cabell, OF, Winter Park (Fla.) HS: Cabell is toolsy with the ability to impact the game in a number of ways. He reminds some of Jarred Kelenic (see below), but from the right side, with solid run, hit and power grades.
Triston Casas, 1B, American Heritage HS (Pembroke Pines, Fla.): Casas reclassified to be eligible for the 2018 Draft and brings the prototypical power profile teams covet at first base. He homered twice and drove in 11 for Team USA last year and brings his advanced approach and power to all fields to USA Baseball again.
Slade Cecconi, RHP, Trinity Prep (Oviedo, Fla.): The 6-foot-5 right-hander will throw his fastball in the 94-97 mph range, along with a good hard breaking ball and solid changeup. He can throw all for strikes and gets high marks for his competitiveness on the mound
Mason Englert, RHP, Forney (Texas) HS: Big and strong, Englert has stuff and pitchability at his disposal. He'll use as many as six pitches at times, with two distinct breaking balls and a solid changeup as his chief secondary pitches behind his outstanding fastball.
Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hattiesburg (Miss.) HS: An intriguing combination of tools, body and athleticism, Gray has huge raw power and plus bat speed. He has the speed to play center field with a strong arm to boot, drawing comparisons from some to Adam Jones.
Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (Cumming, Ga.): A plus athlete, Hankins has a mid-90s fastball and solid secondary stuff. All of it comes from a 6-foot-6 frame.
Jarred Kelenic, OF/LHP, Waukesha (Wis.) West HS: Kelenic was on the 18U National Team last year as an underclassman and hit .407 with five extra-base hits in eight games of international competition. He has serious power, but that's far from all, with the potential to be above-average to plus across the board.
Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (Peoria, Ariz.): Liberatore sits around 90-94 mph with a hard curve and a changeup. He has an advanced feel for pitching and a solid, athletic frame.
Landon Marceaux, RHP, Destrehan (La.) HS: A 6-foot right-hander with a five-pitch mix, Marceaux's fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range. But his ability to throw any of his pitches along with is bulldog mentality makes it all play up. He might not be as big of a Draft prospect, but he has the chance to be a big-time contributor for Team USA.
Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS (Watkinsville, Ga.): Big, physical and athletic, Rocker has been up to 98 mph already and will pitch at 92-95 with ease. He's all about projection, with secondary stuff and command to come.
Mike Siani, OF/LHP, William Penn Charter School (Glenside, Pa.): Siani joined Kelenic and Casas as underclassmen on last year's national team and once again brings his plus speed and arm to the TOS. He is an outstanding defender in center field with a 70 arm, at least. He has bat speed and strength, with offensive projections to dream about.
Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS (Corona, Calif.): The son of former big leaguer Brian Turang, Brice is viewed currently as the best player in the 2018 Draft class. He's a plus hitter and plays an above-average shortstop. The only thing he doesn't have is plus power, but there might be more of that to come in the future.
Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto (Tenn.) HS: The son of former big leaguer David Weathers, Ryan has a big-time fastball and backs it up with an excellent slider. He has good command of his stuff as well.
Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage HS (Chickamauga, Ga.): He's 92-95 mph with his fastball and has a good breaking ball and changeup. He throws strikes and there's projection to his 6-foot-5 frame.
Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage HS: Bobby Witt's kid is a 2019 Draft prospect, but if he were eligible this year, he could give Turang a run for his money as the top player available. He has more pop than Turang, perhaps with a slightly better arm. Watching he and Turang play up the middle together all week should be fun.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.