Last year’s Connie Mack World Series featured perhaps the finest collection of amateur pitching the tournament has ever featured. This group of horses included Lucas Jackson of the Florida Legends (Rangers-supplemental round, 2010), Jake McCasland of the Strike Zone Cardinals (UNM, offered and turned down 2nd round money), Adrian Houser of the Strike Zone Cardinals (Astros-2nd round, 2011), Dylan Bundy of the DBAT Mustangs (Orioles-4th overall, 2011), Dillon Howard of Midland (Indians-2nd round, 2011), Archie Bradley of DBAT (Diamondbacks-7th overall, 2011), and Daniel Norris of the East Cobb Yankees (Blue Jays-2nd round, 2011). Last year’s pitcher heavy CMWS produced plenty of low-scoring games and a disproportionately high amount of strikeouts. It was very exciting as a coach and fan to witness these talented arms knowing that a finer group of prep pitchers had likely never been in Farmington before. Which players have the highest ceiling at this year’s CMWS?
As mentioned previously, the Legends return with new management and a new financial situation, but the talent level is still through the roof led by Albert Almora and David Thompson, both 2012 HS grads and both committed to Miami. Almora is an easy plus hitter with terrific speed and an arm capable of a RF job professionally, where his foot speed will play up a bit. Almora has a projectable frame and enough loft in his swing currently to hit for plus power in the future. Long story short, I highly doubt he falls out of the first round come June. Thompson is a tougher player to call because he likely will be a 3B in the pros despite playing a number of innings at both left-side infield spots as a prep player. He may not have the arm to be on the left side of the infield professionally, but his hit and power tools are both good enough to slide to left. Personally, I’d prefer that he gets a shot to stay at short until he absolutely must move, but that’s how I feel about just about everyone who has even a semblance of a shot to stay at short. Thompson is easily one of the best rising seniors in the United States.
Midland is bringing a pair of giants who both project as top of the draft arms in 6’8” lefty Matt Smoral (committed to UNC) and 6’10” righty Taylore Cherry (also committed to UNC). Cherry and Smoral can both reach the mid-90s with live fastballs with good bite on breaking pitches. Cherry throws more of a 10/4 or 11/5 true curveball while Smoral throws a low to mid-80s slider due to a lower slot. Both are good athletes who repeat their deliveries well, and those bodies are worth millions in signing bonus dollars, although Smoral has the more projectable build. Both pitchers will be heavily scouted this year prior to the draft, and Farmington is sure to appreciate their quality arms.
DBAT righty Jack Moffitt can reach the low-90s with his fastball with great arm-side action and good command. His delivery is clean and consistent with an athletic ¾ slot. His curveball is tight and more of the 11 to 5 variety. His changeup is behind the breaker, and he tends to slow his delivery a bit with it, but it has a chance to be an effective third pitch. Rising junior infielder Niko Buentello is also an exciting young player with a lot of upside in the field and with the bat. He is the only 16-year old on the DBAT club and one of the few in the entire tournament.
The Strike Zone Cardinals possess a potential helium guy in Shilo McCall. McCall turned a lot of heads when he ran a 6.6 60 at the Perfect Game Nationals as a 6’1”, 205 lb. 16-year old. He will be one of the youngest draft eligible players at the CMWS and nationwide. His hit tool and power tool are very strong with a lot of projection. Shilo’s arm is at least a 50 now with a chance at a 55-60 in the future, which means he could slide to right as well. Shilo has quality makeup and the talent and head to achieve a lot in the game. He is without question the best position player Farmington has produced since Casey Andrews (FHS 2001) and quite possibly the best yet.
The CMWS has helped launch the careers of a lot of young players as they attempt to take their games beyond the prep ranks, and 2011’s tourney will surely be no different. The Series is not typical of national recruiting events because the scores of the game actually matter. The national showcase circuit has its pros and cons, but the biggest con is the fact that there exists no team atmosphere at many of these events. Baseball is a sport to be won and lost as a team beyond anything else, and the CMWS reflects this more than any other club tournament in the United States, year after year. These are just a handful of the most highly regarded participants in 2011’s Series with likely dozens of other top recruits and draft prospects also gearing up for the week ahead. I’m psyched.