Team USA players to watch
Vanderbilt's Alvarez, Price top list of future stars
Posted: Friday August 4, 2006 1:36PM; Updated: Friday August 4, 2006 1:36PM
Before Anna Benson stole the family's headlines, Kris was a hero for Team USA. Before Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek were All-Star teammates in Beantown, they represented their country together. Some of the best images of a healthy Mark Prior came when the right-hander donned the red-white-and-blue.
Each summer, college baseball's best rising freshmen and sophomores gather to compete in a series of exhibition games against the world's top baseball talent. And while the U.S. didn't represent as hoped in the World Baseball Classic this spring, Team USA has been fantastic this summer, recently beating Japan in their long-standing series rivalry.
As Team USA heads to Cuba for the FISU World Championships this weekend, it's time to look at the players expected to represent the country in games with Taiwan, Puerto Rico and other countries at the tournament.
I've seen Team USA a handful of times this summer, and after making my own assumptions and hearing those of scouts, here is a list of the team's top 10 (plus one) prospects for the future. The players who just finished their sophomore seasons will be eligible to be drafted next June, while those coming off their first year with aluminum won't be joining the professional ranks until 2008.
1. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt, freshman
Despite his big lower half, Alvarez moves well. His stolen base total puts him among the team leaders, and he plays good enough defense at third to project him there in the future. While Alvarez is swing-and-miss-prone, his strikeout numbers aren't too worrisome.
Alvarez reportedly was offered more than $1 million to sign with the Red Sox and skip out on Vanderbilt but declined. It was a good decision, because by all accounts he's the early favorite to be drafted first in 2008.
2. David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt, sophomore
The organization that drafts Price will have to be patient, as he will need to make changes going forward. First, the lefty lives on the outside portion of the plate, rarely coming inside on a hitter. Second, many feel his delivery needs tweaking, though teams are always wary of tinkering with a pitcher's feel.
Naturally, as a fellow 6-foot-6 southpaw, Price will be compared to Andrew Miller (the 2006 draft's top prospect) next spring. In terms of fastball and projection, Price wins. In terms of breaking ball, third pitch and polish, he loses. Despite his shortcomings, Price is considered the best 2007 draft-eligible pitching prospect in the nation.
3. Jemile Weeks, 2B, Miami, freshman
4. J.P. Arencibia, C, Tennessee, sophomore
5. Jake Arrieta, RHP, TCU, sophomore