In a tournament the United States has routinely excelled, USA Baseball’s 18U team finished fourth this past weekend after dropping the bronze medal consolation game against South Korea. The 4-0 loss was a microcosm of the tournament as a whole for the team. Japan ended up beating Taiwan in the gold medal game.
It’s just the third time in the tournament’s history Team USA has failed to finish “on the podium”. It is the first time since 2010 the team has failed to make it to the championship game.
Team USA simply couldn’t find much offense in its 9-game showing, finishing the tournament with five wins and four losses. The offense averaged just 3.2 runs per game. On the mound, pitchers held the opposition to roughly 2.7 runs per game.
In a draft cycle where many in the industry believe this class may be short on high school bats, the tournament didn’t lend well to the contrary. The team slashed .211/.286/.294 over the two-week contest. Nobody on the team hit a home run.
Summerville (SC) 1B PJ Morlando, who many consider to be the top overall bat in the class, continued his punishing ways. He managed a .409/.591/.500 slash over 22 at-bats, finishing the tournament with three extra-base hits. Hialeah (FL) shortstop Manuelle “Manny” Marin also impressed posting a .333/.429/.417 slash over 21 at-bats. He added three stolen bases for good measure.
Morlando and Marin were the only players on the team to post batting averages north of .300 over the 9-game span, and the only players on the team to OPS over .750 too. For context, in 2022, here are the players who accomplished one or the other, or both, in the same tournament:
Aidan Miller: .478/.594/1.000
Kendall George: .368/.556/.636
Colt Emerson: .360/.515/.520
Bryce Eldridge: .316/.516/.842
Camden Kozeal: .306/.400/.382
Max Clark: .280/.357/.440
Kevin McGonigle: .240/.367/.520
Blake Mitchell: .133/.435/.467
That 2022 team saw seven of those eight players get drafted in the first round. Kozeal, the only exception, was said to have a high asking price in the draft and ended up at Vanderbilt where he is one of the more distinguished adds for the Commodores going forward. The 2022 team slashed .273/.408/.485 over nine games with nine homers.
There were some outlier standout performances despite the unorthodox overall numbers from the team. Florence (MS) SS/OF Konnor Griffin took 26 at-bats and was the only player on the team who didn’t strikeout all week. Corona (CA) LHP Ethan Schiefelbein was rather impressive posting 12 punch outs in 9.0 innings of work. Los Angeles (CA) RHP Levi Sterling was also effective. He took the ball for 8.1 innings, striking out five and issuing just one walk.
One tournament is hardly a barometer for the health of a high school draft class. This fall/winter should provide plenty of opportunity for added growth from the class as a whole. There’s plenty of talent and upside, if not unrefined at this stage, in the 2024 prep draft pool.