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On November 17, 2011, U18 Team USA skipper Scott Brosius and his stable of coaches brought 20 of the top high school players in the country to Cartagena, Colombia, to participate in the Pan Am Championships in hopes of bringing the gold medal back to the states. Over the course of 11 days, Team USA put on one of the most dominating performances you will ever see.
They beat, in order, Aruba 15-0 (7 innings), Mexico 3-1, Argentina 16-2, Colombia 4-0, Bahamas 16-0 (5 innings), Puerto Rico 8-2, Panama 9-0, Venezuela 5-1 and Canada, in the gold-medal game, 12-2 (8 innings).
Some more numbers to support their dominance:
- The offense hit .353 with a .451 OBP, while the pitching staff held opponents to a .165 average and .238 OBP.
- The team stole an insane 45 bases over the nine games. Their opponents stole eight as catchers Jeremy Martinez, Nelson Rodriguez and Chris Okey did a great job of preventing their opponents from being too aggressive.
- The offense scored 88 runs, a 9.8 average, while the pitching staff held their opponents to just eight runs, a 0.9 average.
- The defense committed just two errors, both coming in the gold-medal game. Their opponents committed 22 errors, which led to 21 unearned runs.
- The team drew 50 walks, led by Joey Gallo and Jeremy Martinez with seven a piece. The pitching staff walked 20.
Eighteen of the 20 players were selected in the 2012 MLB draft, including eight first-round picks and 10 in the first 86 selections. The two players who didn’t get drafted, Jeremy Martinez and Chris Okey, were both underclassmen on the team, and both considered first-round draft picks in the 2013 MLB draft. Both are catchers, and both helped lead the 2012 U18 Team to another gold medal this past summer in Seoul, South Korea.
To say the players from that team enjoyed a successful first season to their pro careers would be a major understatement. Their talents were on full display this past summer, and here is a rundown of each player from a team that may one day go down as the best amateur team ever assembled:
David Dahl, CF, Rockies, RD-1 PK-10
67 G, .379, 22 2B, 10 3B, 9 HR, 57 RBI, 12 SB, .423/.625/1.048
Starring for Oak Mountain HS in Alabama, Dahl hit .449 his junior season and .417 his senior season with 17 extra-base hits, 17 RBI and 18 stolen bases over 84 at-bats. He elite speed, defense in center field and ability to hit for a high average drew comps to his favorite player, Jacoby Ellsbury. He was regarded as the best left-handed hitter in the draft and one of the top athletes.
The 6’-2” left-hander was outstanding at the Pan Am Games, hitting .364 with 11 runs, nine RBI and seven stolen bases batting leading for Team USA.
It’s hard to argue that anyone from the 2012 draft class enjoyed a more successful debut than Dahl, a 6’-2” left-hander with one of the sweetest swings around. Spending the entire season in the Pioneer League playing for Grand Junction, he paced the league in batting average, hits (109), total bases (175), SLG and OPS en route to earning Topps Pioneer Player of the League Honors. He had a 26-game hitting streak in which he went 49-for-115 (.426) with 34 runs, eight doubles, five triples, five home runs, 23 RBI and a .662 SLG. Over 34 games in the second half, he hit .399 with 23 extra-base hits, 29 RBI and a .662 SLG. His elite speed and glove will allow him to stick at center field. His bat will make him a top-of-the-order hitter who should compete for batting titles, as well as being a threat on the base paths. The Rockies got an absolute stud who is as great a person off the field as he is on.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers, RD-1A PK-39
59 G, .272, 12 2B, 1 3B, 22 HR, 52 RBI, 6 SB, .412/.660/1.072
No one had as much raw power entering the 2012 draft as Gallo did. He showed that jaw-dropping power all throughout his high school career at powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Nevada. Over 40 games his senior season, he hit .509 with 21 home runs, 80 RBI and a 1.795 OPS. He hit four home runs in a game against Clark HS and launched 19 over his last 26 games. For his career, he set a state record with 70 home runs over 160 games, including a .468 batting average and 258 RBI. His team won four state titles.
At the Pan Am Games, he played first base and hit .286 with five RBI and four stolen bases. He went 2-for-4 with a 2-run double in the opener against Aruba and had a big RBI in the team’s 3-1 win over Mexico.
Over his first three games as a pro for the AZL Rangers, Gallo was 0-for-5. He did, however, draw nine walks, including five in one game on June 23. Over his next 40 games, he hit 18 home runs, setting an Arizona League record. He finished first in home runs (18), RBI (43), SLG (.733), OPS (1.169) and second in walks (37) and OBP (.435). He was named AZL Player of the year. He struggled a bit during his promotion to short-season Spokane, hitting just .214 over 16 games with 26 strikeouts. He did draw 11 walks over that span, however, and also had a two-home run, seven-RBI game. It remains to be seen if he can stick at third base long term, but he could contend for many home run titles and be a major run producer at the next level.
Addison Russell, SS, Athletics, RD-1 PK-11
55 G, .369, 10 2B, 9 3B, 7 HR, 45 RBI, 16 SB, .432/.594/1.027
At Pace HS in Florida, Russell hit over .500 his first three years. As a senior, he hit .368 with seven home runs, 30 walks and a .532 OBP. He was a regular at every major summer event, and he lost 20 pounds between his junior/senior season to quiet critics on his ability to remain at shortstop. He hit .393 at the Pan Am Games with nine RBI, four stolen bases and hit the team’s only home run of the tournament, a grand slam in the bottom of the first against Canada in the gold-medal game that put the game away early for Team USA.
Russell showed off his amazing offensive potential right from the start during his pro debut. Over 26 games for the AZL Athletics, he hit .415 with four doubles, five triples, six home runs, 29 RBI, nine stolen bases and a 1.205 OPS. The A’s then promoted him to Vermont of the New York Penn League and Russell continued his hot hitting. Over 13 games, he hit .340 with five extra-base hits and seven RBI, earning him another promotion to class-A Burlington. As one of the youngest players in the league, he more than held his own, hitting .310 over 16 games with four doubles, two triples, nine RBI and five stolen bases. His ability to hit for power, along with being a threat on the base paths, at a premium position, should make him a multiple All-Star at the next level.
Jesse Winker, OF, Reds, RD-1A PK-49
62 G, .338, 16 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 1 SB, .443/.500/.943
One of the best left-handed bats in the draft, the 6’-3” Winker hit .488 with 14 doubles, three home runs, 30 RBI and drew 34 walks for a .640 OBP his senior season at Olympia HS in Florida. He was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher at the Pan Am Games by going 2-0 with 10.1 scoreless innings, including the win in the team’s opener against Aruba.
Playing his entire first season for Billings of the Pioneer League, Winker paced the league in OBP, finished third in batting average and OPS, and finished eighth in walks (40). He ended the year strong, hitting .436 (17-for-39) over his last 10 games with four doubles, three home runs, seven RBI and a 1.309 OPS. With his advanced approach at the plate, as well as his plus power, Winker projects to a middle-of-the-order run producer at the next level.
Albert Almora, CF, Cubs, RD-1 PK-6
33 G, .321, 12 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB, .331/.464/.795
Almora’s resume was unmatched on the prep level heading into the draft. A record six-time member of Team USA, the 6’-2” right-hander was considered the most polished player in the draft, regardless of class. During his senior season at Mater HS in Florida, he hit .603 (44-for-73) with 13 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 34 RBI and had a 1.831 OPS. He was 25-for-26 in stolen base attempts and struck out just three times.
Almora showed his invaluable experience at the Pan Am Games by hitting .421 (16-for-38) while leading the team with 11 runs, five doubles, 11 RBI and nine stolen bases. He was named MVP of the tournament.
In his first game as a pro for the AZL Cubs, Almora launched his first pro home run, a two-run shot over the left field fence in his third at bat. Over 18 games in the Arizona League, he hit .347 with five doubles, a home run, 13 RBI, five stolen bases and an .843 OPS. The Cubs promoted him to short-season Boise, and over 15 games, he hit .292 with seven doubles, a home run, six RBI and a .738 OPS. Almora is a true five-tool talent whose plus defense in center field and extremely high understanding of the game should make him a superstar at the next level.
Gavin Cecchini, SS, Mets, RD-1 PK-12
58 G, .240, 9 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 5 SB, .307/.321/.629
Cecchini was regarded as one of the best pure hitters and athletes heading into the draft. At Barbe HS in Louisiana, he hit .467 his senior season with seven home runs, 32 RBI, 31 stolen bases and had a .527 OBP. He led his team to a state title and was named Player of the year in Louisiana.
At the Pan Am Games, Cecchini hit .469 to lead the team and also added 10 RBI and eight stolen bases. He went 4-for-5 with two RBI in the opener, and 2-for-4 with an RBI in the gold medal game.
He struggled a bit during his first pro season but showed glimpses of the player he is going to be. Despite the numbers, coaches called him the most impressive player on the team and his work ethic and dedication is second to none. His plus speed and ability to make consistent contact project him to a top-of-the-order hitter. His strong arm and defense will allow him to stick at either shortstop or second base at the next level.
Carson Kelly, 3B, Cardinals, RD-2 PK-86
56 G, .225, 10 2B, 0 3B, 9 HR, 25 RBI, .263/.399/.662
As a junior at Westview HS in Oregon, Kelly hit .473 with 14 home runs and led his team to a state title. As a senior, the 6’-2”, 200-pound right-hander hit .388 with five home runs as opposing pitchers rarely gave him anything to hit. He also went 6-3 on the mound with a 1.09 ERA, earning him Gatorade Player of the Year honors for the state or Oregon.
Kelly was a monster on the mound for Team USA, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 12 K/1 BB over 14 innings. He tossed eight shutout innings against host Colombia, allowing just five hits while striking out seven to no walks in picking up the win. He also got the win in the gold medal game against Canada, allowing two runs over six innings, striking out five to one walk.
Kelly spent his entire first season playing for Johnson City of the Appalachian League. Kelly may not have hit for a high average his first go around in the pros, but he did show off the power that is going to make him a top prospect in the Cardinals organization very soon. Over 22 games in July, he hit seven home runs and had a .900 OPS. He makes good contact, and his strong arm and defense will allow him to stick at the hot corner at the next level.
Nelson Rodriguez, C, Indians, RD-15
32 G, .229, 7 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 17 RBI, .375/.459/.834
At 6’-3” and 230 pounds, Rodriguez was considered one of the top prep catching prospects in the draft. As a senior at Washington HS in New York, he hit .468 over 40 games with 14 doubles, eight triples, three home runs, 38 RBI and had a 1.404 OPS.
At the Pan Am Games, his defense behind the plate was instrumental as he showed the ability to catch some of the best arms in the country without having done so before. At the plate, he drew eight walks and had a .400 OBP. He also had two doubles, a triple and an RBI during the tournament.
Rodriguez continued to show his advanced approach at the plate during his debut with the AZL Indians. He drew 24 walks over his 32 games, including 13 in first 11. His power potential and ability to get on base draw comps to current Indians catcher Carlos Santana. His size and footwork around the plate should allow him to stick at his current position.
Nick Travieso, RHP, Reds, RD-1 PK-14
0-2, 4.71 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 14 K, 5 BB, 21 IP
Travieso was rising fast heading into the draft, thanks in most part to a fastball that was clocked at 99 mph. At 6’-2” and 215 pounds, scouts loved his size, his velocity and his mid-80s slider that was a projected plus pitch. He posted a 0.76 ERA with 70 K/11 BB over 46.1 innings at Archbishop McCarthy HS in Florida.
He worked out of the pen at the Pan Am Games where he used his strong arm to overpower hitters, tossing six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while striking out eight.
Travieso showed great control of his pitches during his debut with the AZL Reds. His best outing was on August 21 against the AZL Brewers in which he tossed four shutout innings, allowing four hits while striking out four. With continued development on his change-up, he projects to a frontline starter who should rack up a ton of strikeouts.
Chase DeJong, LHP, Blue Jays, RD-2 PK-81
1-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 15 K, 1 BB, 12 IP
As a senior at Woodrow Wilson HS in California, DeJong went 3-4 with a 0.82 ERA and 103 K/21 BB over 76.2 innings. He had six games of double-digit strikeouts, including 15 over eight innings against Milikan HS on March 21. In his final game of his prep career, the 6’-4” left-hander had arguably his best performance of his life. He went 10 innings, didn’t allow a single hit and struck out 12 batters to four walks. His team ended up losing 2-1 against Long Beach Poly in 12 innings, but DeJong stole the show.
Against Argentina at the Pan Am Games, he went five innings, allowing one run on one hit while striking out four batters. He picked up the win as Team USA routed Argentina 16-2. For the tournament, he was 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 12 K/6 BB over 11 innings.
Like Weickel, his workload his senior season forced the Jays to be cautious with their prized southpaw. He appeared in six games for the Gulf Coast league Blue Jays and went two innings in each of them. He struck out a career-high four against the GCL Phillies in his final start of the season on August 25. DeJong features a low-90s fastball, a hard curve and a developing change-up. He is a smart pitcher who knows how to work the strike zone, and he has an easy, fluid delivery.
Walker Weickel, RHP, Padres, RD-1 PK-55
1-3, 4.50 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 12 K, 6 BB, 14 IP
A teammate of Winker at Olympia HS, the 6’-6” right-hander went 12-1 his senior season with a 1.07 ERA and 93 strikeouts over 72 innings. He was considered one of the top prep righties in the draft thanks to a mid-90s fastball, and a change-up and curve that both projected to above-average offerings.
Weickel dominated Panama at the Pan Am games, tossing eight scoreless innings, allowing just three hits while striking out 10 to no walks. He finished the tournament 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA and 12 K/2 BB over 13.1 innings.
After a heavy workload his senior season, the Padres were cautious with Weickel. He appeared in nine games with the AZL Padres but never went more than two innings. His best outing was on August 18 against the AZL Rangers in which he tossed two scoreless frames, striking out three to no walks. With his size, deceptive delivery and three-pitch mix, he projects to a frontline starter at the next level.
Seven other players from the team also were drafted but opted to stick with their college commitments:
- Hunter Virant, LHP, RD-11, Mets — UCLA
- Carson Fulmer, RHP, RD-15, Red Sox — Vanderbilt
- Cody Poteet, RHP, RD-27, Nationals — UCLA
- Alex Bregman, IF, RD-29, Red Sox — LSU
- Cole Irvin, RHP, RD-29, Blue Jays — Oregon
- Mikey White, IF, RD-34, Mets — Alabama
- Clate Schmidt, RHP, RD-36, Tigers — Clemson
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @DanMKirby for draft updates and prospect news.