10th annual NHSI tourney loaded with 2023 Draft talent
It started as an interesting idea, a national high school tournament, back in 2012. Now USA Baseball’s National High School Invitational has cemented itself as one of the best high school events in the country as well as a must-stop for the scouting industry.
On Wednesday, the 10th edition of the NHSI kicks off with a slate of eight games in the four-day event. It’s a win-and-advance format, though every team in attendance gets four games, with the team that wins needing to go 4-0 to bring home the title. It’s one of the reasons scouts love the event so much: It gives them a chance to see players in an atmosphere that’s tough to replicate in a showcase setting.
“The NHSI has done a wonderful job of giving us the opportunity to see really good players on really good teams in a very competitive environment,” said Pirates scouting director Joe DelliCarri, who saw future Pittsburgh first-round picks Austin Meadows and Cole Tucker at this event over the years. “When you need to win to stay in the bracket, that heightens the urgency for teams to play well from the inception of the tournament. That’s another component: How they line up rotations and try to win four games in four days.”
“The NHSI is perennially one of the premier high school events in the country,” D-backs scouting director Ian Rebhan added. “It provides a great deal of value by seeing some of the best prospects in the country perform against quality competition.”
This year’s event once again promises to showcase some high-end Draft talent in that team-focused setting. There are seven players on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Top 100, published back in December, slated to compete:
16. Noble Meyer, RHP, Jesuit (Ore.)
36. Liam Peterson, LHP, Calvary Christian (Fla.)
55. Eric Bitonti, SS/3B, Aquinas (Calif.)
59. Trent Caraway, SS, JSerra Catholic (Calif.)
67. Adrian Santana, SS, Doral (Fla.)
73. Hunter Dietz, LHP, Calvary Christian (Fla.)
91. Drew Burress, Houston County (Ga.)
Other players, like Landen Maroudis, a right-hander also from Calvary Christian, and Ralphy Velazquez, a catcher and first baseman from Huntington Beach (Calif.), are off to good starts this spring and should climb the rankings. The Draft, of course, is much more than the first round and scores of players from these 16 schools have the chance to be evaluated over four days against consistently good competition, yet another plus for the scouting industry.
“It gives our staff an opportunity as a one-stop place to see a tremendous amount of footage over a four-day period without having to travel 3,000 miles to see the players they bring in,” DelliCarri said. “Especially this time of year, being sensitive to it being three and a half months before the Draft, that’s a good second component.”
The NHSI already has a very good track record in terms of alumni, with countless players becoming early-round picks and making it to the big leagues. Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty played in the NHSI twice, as a sophomore in its first season (2012) and again as a junior. A two-way player back then, Flaherty stepped up in '12 with teammate Lucas Giolito on the shelf, helping Harvard-Westlake make it to the championship game. Flaherty and his team finished as the runners-ups to Mater Dei in '12 and 2013.
“It wasn’t even about that (personal showcase); it was about going there with my team and trying to help them win,” said Flaherty, who also played alongside Braves All-Star left-hander Max Fried in the 2012 NHSI. “It gave us a chance to play against some of the best schools in California and we beat up on a lot of them. There were some great memories of playing in that tournament.”
“I remember us coming in and being one of the better teams and being able to play the guys that I saw over the summer for the All-American games and all that kind of stuff,” Fried said. “It's the first time you're really in one tournament with kind of the best high school teams in the country. So to be able to see how your school and how your stuff stacks up against the best, it was really cool. It was an awesome experience for me. I have fond memories.”
The Twins’ Joey Gallo was a two-way standout at Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman in that inaugural tournament, the spring before he became the Rangers’ selection at No. 39 overall. Even though they didn’t do as well as hoped, the big league veteran looks back at his time in Cary fondly.
"I pitched and hit, yeah,” Gallo said. “It was fun. I remember we were disappointed because we didn't play as well as we wanted to, but it was exciting. It was a fun tournament. I had been there before because of Team USA, so it was pretty cool to go back with my high school squad and play. It was a lot of fun."
Here are the teams participating in this year’s NHSI. There are four teams from California and Florida each, two from Georgia, and one each from Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina and Oregon:
Aquinas High School, San Bernardino, Calif.
Basha High School, Chandler, Ariz.
Bishop Gorman High School, Las Vegas
Bishop Verot High School, Fort Myers, Fla.
Blessed Trinity Catholic, Roswell, Ga.
Brother Rice High School, Chicago
Calvary Christian High School, Clearwater, Fla.
Doral (Fla.) Academy Hagerty High School, Oviedo, Fla.
Houston County High School, Warner Robins, Ga.
Huntington Beach (Calif.) High School
Jesuit High School, Portland, Ore.
JSerra Catholic, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Santa Margarita Catholic, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
St. Xavier High School, Louisville
TC Roberson High School, Asheville, N.C.