A look at Team USA 

June, 25, 2007
Team USA just completed its annual slate of games against New England Collegiate Baseball League opponents, and I attended the first four games to get an early preview of next year's first round, at least on the college side. Here's a summary of the players who stood out as potential first-round or sandwich picks. (Some very good prospects weren't with the team yet. Arizona State's Brett Wallace and Pete Paramore and Rice's Ryan Berry did not appear in any of the games I saw due to their participation in the College World Series. Miami's Jemile Weeks did not attend due to a lingering groin injury.)

South Carolina's Justin Smoak is still a force to be reckoned with. A switch-hitting monster with power from both sides, Smoak has a great, simple swing; he centers the ball and drives it. He shows pull power and opposite-field power. His path is simple, and he sets up almost loaded, just clicking back one notch for his swing trigger. He's stuck at first base because he's huge and doesn't have much arm, but who cares? One wonders if the Royals would just take him No. 1 overall, hoping that with him, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Chris Lubanski they could just outbeast everyone in the division.

Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez is right with Smoak in terms of overall talent. Alvarez doesn't have the raw power that Smoak has or the switch-hitting ability, but he's got good power in his own right and showed me this week that he can really play third base. Alvarez was in the best condition in which I've ever seen him, and it showed in his fielding; he was aggressive and showed a 50/55 arm. At the plate, he's got a lightning-quick bat and also takes a short path to the ball, and has good power to the opposite field. Conditioning may always be an issue for him, and for a guy with such a good swing, he swings and misses too often.