U-18 USA team captures Gold

The U-18 COPABE Pan Am “AAA” (18U) Championships finished up over the weekend in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, and the USA team beat 7 time defending champion Cuba in the finals.

In the semi finals: USA crushed Panama 18-2 (box/gamer).  Philip Pheifer pitched a slaughter rule shortened 6 inning complete game and the top of the USA order came alive to destroy Panama.  Our 1-2-3 hitters Sean Coyle, Tony Wolters and Bryce Harper went a combined 8-11, scoring 10 runs and driving in 9 to pace the team.  Harper (playing CF) finally had the break out game we’ve been expecting, going 3-3 (with two walks thrown in), scoring 3 and driving in 5.  Harper displayed both power and speed with a double, a homer and two stolen bases.

In the Finals: USA d Cuba to win the Gold Medal 6-1 (box/gamer).  High end 2010 pitching prospect Jamie Taillon dominated the Cuban team, giving up 4 hits, 0 runs and striking out 16 in 7 2/3s innings to lead the US to victory.  USA’s hitters finally got to a tiring Cuban starter Julio Martinez, scoring all 6 runs in the 7th inning to claim the title.  Harper was behind the plate for the final and was quiet at the plate, with just a sac fly rbi to show for his 0-3 day.

The final stats for the USA team are here.  Harper finishes the tournament 10-34 with 4 doubles and 2 homers and enough extra base hits to lead the team in total bases.  .294/.375/.588 was his final line.  The breakout hitting star of the team is SS Manny Machado, who put up a .367/.472/.600 with 2 homers to put his name firmly on the 2010 draft map.

For a lot of these players, this was their first major competition using solely wood bats, and many struggled to put up the impressive numbers they are accustomed to with aluminum.  For those picking on Bryce Harper’s numbers; remember he JUST turned 17 (born 10/1/1992) and is still amazingly advanced for his age (hence his potential).

  1. #1 by Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 - October 5th, 2009 at 11:57

    Rizzon said on a NATS Insider Q&A that he is not committed to Harper in the same way that he was to Strasburg this time, aprox., last year. There will be other bats and pitchers competing for our attention next season. That said Harper has not hurt his chances, so far, to go high in next year’s draft.

  2. #2 by Steven J. Berke - October 5th, 2009 at 12:23

    Rizzo has shown that he has a STRONG preference in the draft toward college players, especially in the higher rounds. He is also well aware that pitching continues to be the organization’s strongest need. Harper will need to sustain high performance in JUCO in order for Rizzo to set aside that preference. There are also other factors (who the Nats sign in free agency, how Derek Norris develops, etc.)

  3. #3 by Andrew S. - October 5th, 2009 at 12:48

    But Rizzo has also preached taking the best player on the board, and I think it is clear that Harper would be the best player. I don’t think Norris’ development should have ANY impact on who he selects. Teams get burned when they pick for need in the draft.

  4. #4 by Brian Oliver - October 5th, 2009 at 12:53

    Harper is the best player on the board … today.

    He needs to demonstrate that his unusual move of skipping his senior year and heading to JuCo was not a mistake.

    If he shows he can perform at the JuCo level and does not let the pressure of the spotlight make him press, he has a great shot at sticking at #1 overall.

  5. #5 by Todd - October 5th, 2009 at 13:02

    Plus, I don’t think the team can look at Norris, Flores or any player (even Ryan Zimmerman) and think, “well gee I can’t draft a catcher because i’ve got a good catching prospect coming up.”

    Harper already has shown that he has the speed, arm and skills to play center or right; if so he’s flexible enough to stick where he’s needed.

    What intrigues about Harper is the age; if he just turned 17, he’d only be 22 after five full minor league seasons.

  6. #6 by Dick Salmon - October 5th, 2009 at 17:15

    Don’t forget Rizzo picked Justin Upton when he was in the same situation with the Snakes. It is clear to me he will pick whoever he thinks is the best player at #1. And the Lerners convinced me they will support taking the best player. We’ll see who that is in 8 months.

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