WBSC, MLB Pro Player Agreement Gives 18U National Team Potential Roster Options
USA Baseball announced its 18U National Team Trials roster earlier this week, but there's still a chance that the team will be able to add a few players who were drafted last month.
While the trials rosters is predominantly made up of 2018 graduates with a few 2019s sprinkled in, infielder Gage Workman is a member of the 2017 class who was selected by the Brewers in the 14th round of this year's draft. Workman was one of two 2017 graduates invited to the Tournament of Stars—along with outfielder Christian Robinson—but chose not to sign and will be heading to Arizona State this fall, while Robinson is committed to Stanford. Both players were originally members of the 2018 class, but reclassified and were among the youngest players drafted.
Thanks to an agreement between the World Baseball Softball Confederation and Major League Baseball, announced on June 29, MLB-affiliated players who meet age requirements (born 1999-2001) will be able to compete in the 18U World Cup from Sept. 1-10 in Thunder Bay, Canada.
That means players who were drafted and signed can now potentially join the 18U National Team, which gives the United States some interesting options to increase the talent level and experience of their 2017 roster.
“This landmark agreement further raises baseball’s international profile, particularly following the unprecedented success and popularity of this year’s World Baseball Classic,” WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari said in a release. “The National Team is intended to be a representation of a country’s best players, and together with Major League Baseball’s shared vision, the top young baseball players in the world will be able to wear their nations’ jerseys in Thunder Bay.”
It's unclear at this point how big league teams will go about allowing their players to take part with the 18U National Team, but each of the first three selections in the 2017 MLB Draft—Royce Lewis, Hunter Greene and MacKenzie Gore—are eligible based on age requirements, as all three were born in 1999. Lewis and Greene both have experience with the 18U National team, playing for the 2016 club that won the gold medal in the COPABE Pan American Championships in Monterrey, Mexico.
It's hard to overstate how much any of those players would help the American team, as Lewis started all eight games in Mexico and hit .500/.690/.611 while Greene was considered the top player in the 2017 class for the entire draft cycle. Another wrinkle that makes Lewis interesting is the fact that the 18U National Team will play its first training game against Iowa Western CC at Target Field—a preview of Lewis in his future big league home.
The other members of the 2017 class who were on the 2016 National Team and remain eligible are Patrick Bailey, Shane Baz, Blayne Enlow, Quentin Holmes, Calvin Mitchell and Ryan Vilade. Bailey is the only player among the group who was drafted, but chose not to sign. He will head to North Carolina State this fall.
It's difficult to envision major league clubs allowing their recently drafted pitchers to compete in the event, but the mound already appears to be an area of strength for the 18U team with many of the top arms in a strong 2018 pitching class already on the trials roster. Baz signed for $4.1 million as the Pirates' first selection while Enlow signed for $2 million as the Twins' third-round pick.
The most notable international prospect eligible to compete is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Canada, born on March 16, 1999) who is the No. 2 prospect in baseball, and would give the Canadian team an enormous offensive boost.
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Twelve nations–Australia, Canada, Taiwan, Cuba, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, South Africa and the United States— will take part in the World Cup. Each of the countries has until Aug. 27 to finalize their rosters.