Golden yet again! The Americans did it!

Making quick work of their competition, the U18 American team ran the table in Thunder Bay, Ontario at the Baseball Under-18 World Cup, reeling off nine straight wins to finish the tournament undefeated. Behind incredible pitching from the entire staff, the United States team shut down their competition, allowing their bats to do the rest.

At the top of the core of the American pitching staff were two of the top ranked, 2018 MLB Draft eligible pitching prospects Kumar Rocker and Ethan Hankins – both of whom are Vanderbilt commits out of the Georgia.

In fact Rocker, Hankins, and the U18 teams’ standout catcher Will Banfield have all given verbal commitments to the powerhouse Vandy program.

Rocker, a fireballer, who has been gunned as high as 98mph in the past pitched up to his hype. An effortless delivery and an ability to spot a high-90s fastball on either side of the plate has scouts enamoured by the 17-year-old right-hander who presents an intimidating, yet athletic 6’5″, 250-pound frame on the mound.

While Rocker may be the most popular name in the 2018 class, the best pitching prospect may just be his summer travel ball teammate, Hankins himself. The 6’6″ right-hander, who touches 96mph on his fastball has shown the makings of being a future ace. With whippy and loose arm action, Hankins has a repeatable and athletic delivery with plus command, filthy and explosive movement on his fastball, and while in need of more polishing, his secondary stuff is very promising, with potential to become plus pitches in the future.

From the positional player side, the Americans were headlined by a trio of super prospects – Jarred Kelenic, Brice Turang, and Will Banfield. The secondary wave of high-upside prospects included power-hitting Nolan Gorman, tournament MVP Tristan Casas, and the Cuban-born Raynel Delgado.

Atop the Prep Baseball Report rankings and ranked number three by Perfect Games among top 2018 high school prospects, Kelenic is an outfielder with the potential to become a five-tool talent at the next level. The Louisville commit runs a 6.5s sixty and provides power with excellent bat speed from the left side of the plate, as well as a cannon from the outfield.

Meanwhile, Turang may have been the most exciting player to watch on this U18 American team. An athletic shortstop with an advanced approach at the plate, Turang can make a very solid case for best prospect in the nation. Plus bat speed from the left side, Turang understands how to make adjustments in the middle of at-bats, as well as between plate appearances.

Lastly, Will Banfield mans home plate like no other prospect can in the incoming class. Along with the Canadian Texas A&M commit Noah Naylor, Banfield has separated himself from the vast list of 2018 high school catching prospects. Some scouts who believe that Banfield has a Bryce Harper-type ceiling, see what Will can be capable of on the Major League level.

With off the charts make-up, Banfield’s can do it all behind the plate. He possesses exceptional flexibility, a strong arm, and a very agile and athletic lower half. With a pop time clocked as low as 1.74s, Banfield is the top catching prospect in the 2018 class with a ton of upside from the right side of the plate.

While the headliners lived up to their billing, other elite prospects continued to build their impressive summers. Top pitching prospects JT Ginn and Matthew Liberatore had very good showings at the tournament, while Michael Siani and Alek Thomas cracked the U18 All-World Team.

A powerhouse team that received contributions from each individual, the Americans’ magical run to the 2017 World Cup has unquestionably cemented them as the gold standard for developing, young baseball stars!


Richard Birfer

Regional Supervisor of the Canadian and Midwest regions. Kinesiology graduate student, Biomechaincs and Neuroscience specialization, at Brock University.

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