U18 Team USA seeking gold in Seoul

From August 30-September 8, the U18 Team USA National Team will be in Seoul, South Korea, to take part in the IBAF 18U/AAA World Championships. Some of the best high school players from around the country will try to duplicate last year’s team, which won the gold in Cartagena, Colombia, by dominating their opponents over nine games, outscoring them 88-8. That team was led by 2012 first-round draft picks Albert Almora (tournament MVP), Joey Gallo, David Dahl, Gavin Cecchini, Addison Russell, Nick Travieso, Jesse Winker and Walker Weickel. This year’s squad returns two players from the 2011 team, Jeremy Martinez and Chris Okey, and the depth and talent is just as good.

The schedule is as follows:

  • August 30 – Australia, 5 AM (ET)
  • August 31 – Netherlands, 5 AM
  • September 1 – South Korea, 1 AM
  • September 1 – Colombia, 9 PM
  • September 3 – Venezuela, 5 AM
  • September 5-7 – Crossover games, TBD
  • September 8 – Medal games, TBD

The team is managed by 11-year major league veteran Scott Brosius, who did a masterful job in his first season last year, and his efforts earned him 2011 Coach of the Year. Aside from the pride of representing their country, the players get a chance to play at the highest level of competition, and as evidenced by last year’s team, will only help with their development as players and their draft status.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, 144 players were trimmed down to 40, then 28 and finally down to the following 20 players:

Willie Abreu is one of the stars from Team USA.

Willie Abreu, OF, Hialeah, FL, Mater HS

The 6’-3”, 200-pound left-hander plays for the same school as the sixth-overall pick in the 2012 draft, Albert Almora. Like Almora, Abreu has a very high understanding of the game and plays with an advanced feel. More of a line drive hitter right now, his size suggests a whole bunch more power will come as he matures. Was part of the 2011 U16 gold medal team, hitting .423 (11-for-26) over seven games. With his strong arm, big bat and high-average potential, right field should be his home at the next level and Abreu should hear his name called on day one of the 2013 draft.

Christian Arroyo, IF, Brooksville, FL, Hernando HS

Arroyo is a defensive wiz who makes the game look easy. He turns the double-play as good as anyone and has great instincts on the field. He hit .305 as a junior with 15 RBI and a .434 OBP over 28 games as pitchers didn’t give him much to hit. A high-character kid with a high baseball IQ who has a lot of potential as he matures. Committed to Florida.

Cavan Biggio, IF/OF, Houston, TX, St. Thomas HS

The son of former 20-year major league veteran, Craig Biggio, who is also the coach at St. Thomas, Cavan is a great athlete whose potential is sky high. As a sophomore, the 6’-1” left-hander hit .402 over 34 games with seven home runs, 48 RBI and a .750 SLG. He also drew 36 walks for a .570 OBP. Last season, he hit .420 with two home runs, 26 RBI and a .488 OBP over 24 games as he hardly got a pitch to hit. He is a great defensive second baseman with a strong arm and quick feet. At the dish, he projects to a high-average hitter with a great approach at the plate, as well as developing power from the left side. Should be a first-round pick come June.

Ryan Boldt, OF, Red Wing, MN, Red Wing HS

Boldt is the first player from Minnesota to make the team since Joe Mauer in 2000.The 6’-1, 185-pound left-hander put on a show at trials, leading everyone with a .466 OBP and going 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts. Boldt has plus speed, a great approach at the plate and developing power from the left side. He projects to a center fielder at the next level and has been shooting up draft boards over the last two years as he gets more national attention.

Bryson Brigman, IF/ OF, San Jose, CA, Valley Christian HS

One of the best hitters in the country, regardless of class, Brigman is one of two underclassmen on the team. As a member of the 2011 U16 team, he hit an amazing .583 (21-for-36) over eight games with 12 RBI, earning All-Tournament team. As a sophomore last season, he hit .376 with just four strikeouts over 125 plate appearances. The 5’-11”, right-hander will be one of the top names heading into the 2014 draft.

Ian Clarkin, LHP, San Diego, CA, James Madison HS

Clarkin is a 6’-2”, power lefty whose fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s with late life. He also has a big, looping curveball that sits in the low-70s and he has a lot of deception in his delivery. Went 8-2 as a junior with a 0.62 ERA and 106 K/27 BB over 68 innings, allowing just 27 hits. A big game pitcher who played in the 2012 Perfect Game All-American Classic.

Kevin Davis, RHP, Brewton, AL, T.R. Miller HS

Davis is a 6’-1” right-hander with an electric arm. His fastball sits comfortably in the mid-90s and he also has a curveball and change-up that are above-average right now and project to plus. Had a ridiculous 113 strikeouts over 47 innings as a sophomore. As a junior, he went 7-2 with a 0.70 ERA and 139 K/13 BB over 60 innings. Like Lucas Sims last season, he makes up for his size with a strong lower half that generates a ton of power out of his arm. Could shoot up draft boards with another strong season.

Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, San Marcos, CA, Cathedral Catholic HS

A 6’-5” left-hander, Gonsalves is one of the top prep pitchers in the country, thanks in most part to a fastball that can touch 93 mph. As a junior, he had a 1.91 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 79 K/20 BB over 66 innings. He led his team to a second straight state title last season by tossing a three-hitter with eight strikeouts in the championship game. High ceiling with a lot of projection from his frame.

Connor Heady, IF/ RHP, Goshen, KY, N. Oldham HS

Heady is a prospect both on the mound and at the plate. His fastball sits in the 88-91 mph range, and at 6’-1” and 160-pounds, he has a lot of room for added velocity as he fills out. He also mixes in a low-80s change-up and low-80s curveball, both of which have above-average potential. As a hitter, he makes consistent contact with a solid approach at the plate from the right side. He also has plus speed and is committed to Kentucky.

John Kilichowski, LHP, Tampa, FL, Jesuit HS

A teammate of 2012 first-round pick Lance McCullers, the 6’-5”, 200-pound Kilichowski is a left-hander with great mound presence and command of all of his pitches. He went 4-0 last season with a 0.83 ERA and 47 K/13 BB over 33.2 innings, allowing just 12 hits. Like Gonsalves, he has a lot of projection due to his size. Committed to Vanderbilt.

Jeremy Martinez, C, Santa Ana, CA, Mater Dei HS

The heart and soul of the team, Martinez is the most polished prep player in the country and a likely top-five pick in next year’s draft. He is as good as it gets defensively, with a strong arm, great footwork and understanding of the game to be a perennial Gold Glove winner at the next level. Offensively, he projects to a high-average hitter with his excellent bat speed and approach at the plate. He hit .388 as a junior with 18 RBI and just eight strikeouts over 29 games. His batting stance is similar to Albert Pujols’ and the power is still coming. Seeking his second gold medal with the U18 team.

Andy McGuire, IF/OF, Vienna, VA, James Madison HS

A top-50 prospect, the 6’-2”, 180-pound right-hander is a great athlete with a plus arm in the outfield and good speed.  At the plate, his bat speed allows him to hit the ball to all fields with raw power. Was named MVP of the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase, going 4-for-4 and reaching base all eight of his plate appearances. Committed to Texas.

Reese McGuire, C/IF, Covington, WA, Kentwood HS

A left-handed hitting catcher, McGuire is an excellent defensive back stop with a strong, accurate arm and great footwork. Offensively, he is an aggressive hitter and uses good bat speed to make consistent contact. Hit .388 his junior season with four home runs, 34 RBI and a .675 SLG. He has an easy swing with developing power from the left side.

Dom Nunez, IF, Elk Grove, CA, Elk Grove HS

Nunez was a member of the 2011 U16 team and brings high level experience with him to the team. The 6’-0”, 170-pound left-hander can spray the ball to all fields and should develop more power as he matures. He hit .429 over 28 games as a junior with 10 doubles, nine triples, 29 RBI and a .551 OBP. Committed to UCLA.

Chris Okey returns for a second gold medal.

Chris Okey, C, Mount Dora, FL, Eustis HS

Like Martinez, Okey is seeking his second gold medal with the U18 team and is another polished catcher who should be a first-round draft pick come June. He hit .386 last season with three home runs, 21 RBI and just four strikeouts over 57 at-bats. As a sophomore, he hit .519 with seven doubles, three home runs and 25 RBI. Offensively, he generates extremely quick bat speed from his strong wrists and projects to a high-average hitter with pop. Behind the plate, he plays like a seasoned major league veteran with a strong arm and great footwork.

Ryan Olson, RHP, Upland, CA, Western Christian HS

A 6’-2”, 175-pound right-hander, Olson made news last year when he fanned every batter he faced (20 strikeouts over 6.2 innings) before being taken out so a fellow teammate could get into the game on senior day.  He features a low-90s fastball and an upper-70s curveball with good bite.

Carson Sands, LHP, Tallahassee, FL, N. Florida Christian HS

Sands joins Brigman as the only undercalssmen on the team. A member of the 2011 U16 team, he struck out nine over 5.2 scoreless innings. One of the top pitchers in the class of 2014, the 6’-3”, left-hander has three quality pitches: a fastball that can touch 93 mph, an upper-70s slider and a low-80s change-up with good deception. Went 8-2 as a sophomore with a 0.83 ERA and 103 K/19 BB over 67.2 innings.

Dominic Taccolini, RHP, Sugarland, TX, I.H. Kempner HS

Owner of one of the best sliders in the country, the 6’-3”, 230-pound Taccolini is a big right-hander who also has a low-90s fastball with heavy sink. He was also a highly touted linebacker but chose to focus on baseball full time. Has tremendous power at the plate but the mound is where his future is at, and he still has plenty of room for improvement now that baseball is his main focus.

Keegan Thompson, RHP, Cullman, AL, Cullman HS

The 6’-3”, 185-pound right-hander had a dominant junior season going 7-2 with a 0.94 ERA and 119 K/5 BB over 67.1 innings. Features a mid-90s fastball, plus curve, a developing change-up and superb command of all three. Was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama as a sophomore and also starred for 2011 U16 Team USA, going 2-0 with 18 strikeouts and only six hits allowed over 14 innings, including tossing a complete game shutout against Cuba in the gold medal game, striking out 12 while also going 4-for-5 at the plate with two RBI. Big-game pitcher with big time potential and a likely top-20 pick in next year’s draft.

Garrett Williams, LHP/OF, Shreveport, LA, Calvary HS

The former Little League World Series star is back on the highest of stages and is known for his smarts on the mound and overall advanced feel for the game. Has overcome two surgeries on his throwing arm to remain one of the top prep pitchers in the country. The 6’-3” lefty has a fastball that sits in the low-90s and also owns a curveball that projects to plus. Help pitched his team to a state title last season.

I will be following and giving re-caps of every game so check back for updates.

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