U18 Team USA goes for Gold in Colombia

Team USA's David Dahl. (The Birmingham News / Hal Yeager)

On Thursday, November 17, the under-18 Team USA baseball team will travel to Cartegena, Colombia, to take part in the Pan-Am Championships. From November 18-23, they will play teams from Puerto Rico, Argentina, Aruba, Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia, followed by the championships rounds held on November 25-27.  The 2009 U18 team was the first to win gold at the event, going 8-0 and beating Cuba 6-1 in the final. The team featured the top-three picks in the following year’s draft in Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon and Manny Machado.

This year’s team is loaded with potential first-round draft picks next season. Of the 20 players on the roster, only catchers Chris Okey and Jeremy Martinez are underclassmen and not eligible for the draft. The other 18 all have a legitimate shot at being first round selections, and some will hear their name called among the top 10.

The infield features a pair of dynamic shortstops who excel on both sides of the field. Gavin Cecchini is hitting .538 for Team USA with seven RBI and five stolen bases through 10 games. He is one of the best hitting prospects in the draft, and his elite speed and canon arm make him one of the top prospects in the country. Addison Russell is hitting .261 with five RBI and two stolen bases. A superb defender, he also can rake it at the plate with his short, compact stroke. Both figure to be among the top 20 players taken.

Mikey White is a do-it-all infielder who has played nearly every position for the team. He is hitting .400 with 10 RBI, two stolen bases and a home run. Catchers Nelson Rodriguez and Jeremy Martinez have also been brilliant. Rodriguez, a 6’-2”, 225 lb physical specimen, is hitting .385 with seven walks. He has the size and ability to be a great defensive backstop at the next level and should be a high average hitter with his advanced approach at the plate. Jeremy Martinez, the youngest player on the team at 16, is hitting .333 with a home run and six RBI. He also has walked seven times without striking out, showing plate discipline rarely seen for a player his age.

The outfield is led by a veteran and one of the purest hitters in the country. Albert Almora, a six-time member of Team USA, is a five-tool player who does everything right on the field. He is hitting .294 with two stolen bases while providing veteran leadership qualities that will carry him far in the major leagues. David Dahl, owner of one of the sweetest swings in the draft, has started slow, hitting just .219, but he has scored eight runs, knocked in four and is a perfect five-for-five in stolen base attempts. Dahl has few holes in his game and is also an outstanding defensive outfielder. Both could also find themselves in the upper half of the draft next June.

As great as the hitting is, the pitching is what will lead this team to a gold medal. The pitching staff has a 2.80 ERA and has held opponents to a .213 batting average. They are led by two outstanding prospects who could be selected in the top 10. Hunter Virant, arguably the top prep left-hander, has thrown seven scoreless innings so far. At 6’-4”, with long arms, he cranks his fastball up to 95 mph and has a power curve that wipes out hitters. Walker Weickel is a 6’-6” righty who has a 0.82 ERA, while striking out 14 over 11 innings. He is one of the top arms in the draft and his delivery is very deceptive due to its downhill motion.

Troy Conyers is a future workhorse in the major leagues. At 6’-5”, 230 lbs, the lefty has the frame to be a frontline innings eater. He has struck out nine over 10 innings, while posting a 0.90 ERA. Carson Kelly leads the team in wins with two, and Clate Schmidt, rising fast in the 2012 draft, is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA and seven strikeouts over nine innings. Schmidt is another power arm who can dial his fastball up to 95mph, and also has a plus mid-80s curveball at his disposal.

Overall, the team is 7-1-2, with their lone loss coming against UNC Greensboro. They have beaten Florida International, UNC Wilmington, and Team Canada twice. They are managed by Scott Brosius, an 11 year major league veteran and a 1998 all star.

If this team just plays up to their capabilities, a gold medal should be hanging around all of their necks come November 27. I think I speak for everyone when I say we are all rooting for them, as well as their safety. Good luck and go represent your country!

Below is the full roster, and you can track all of their games here.

#1 Alex Bregman 5’-11” 180 lbs INF Albuquerque Academy (NM)
#2 Gavin Cecchini 6’-1” 180 lbs SS Barbe HS (LA)
#5 Mikey White 6’-1” 185 lbs 2B Spain Park HS (AL)
#21 Carson Kelly 6’-2” 200 lbs INF/RHP Westview HS (OR)
#24 Joey Gallo 6’-5” 205 lbs 3B/RHP Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
#27 Addison Russell 6’-1” 185 lbs SS Pace HS (FL)
#3 Albert Almora 6’-1” 170 lbs OF Mater HS (FL)
#9 David Dahl 6’-2” 185lbs OF Oak Mountain HS (AL)
#23 James Winker 6’-3” 200 lbs OF Olympia HS (FL)
#8 Jeremy Martinez 5’-11” 185 lbs C Mater Dei HS (CA)
#14 Chris Okey 6’-0” 170 lbs C Eustis HS (FL)
#25 Nelson Rodriguez 6’-2” 225 lbs C George Washington HS (NY)
#11 Hunter Virant 6’-4” 175 lbs LHP Camarillo HS (CA)
#12 Clate Schmidt 6’-1” 175 lbs RHP Allatoona HS (GA)
#15 Cole Irvin 6’-4” 180 lbs LHP Servite HS (CA)
#16 Carson Fulmer 6’-1” 190 lbs RHP All Saints Academy (FL)
#17 Chase DeJong 6’-4” 185 lbs RHP Woodrow Wilson HS (CA)
#22 Walker Weicke 6’-6” 200 lbs RHP Olympia HS (FL)
#26 Nick Travieso 6’-2” 205 lbs RHP Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)
#29 Troy Conyers 6’-5” 230 lbs LHP El Capitan HS (CA)

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