CARY, N.C. — The University of Miami is well-represented at the 2016 National High School Invitational. Five future Hurricanes are participating in the 16-team tournament, which is, by far, the most of any college.
The cliché about Miami’s football team says that The U can recruit without leaving campus, with so many of the nation’s top players within shouting distance in the talent-rich South Florida area.
The same could be said of Miami’s baseball recruiting. The Canes’ recruiting classes for 2016, 2017 and 2018 are all among the top rated in the country thus far, and, as the quintet of commitments in Cary this week shows, South Florida players make up the heart of the program.
The front of North Broward Prep’s starting rotation is made up entirely of Hurricanes commitments, with seniors Gregory Veliz, Anthony Masiello and Evan McKendry leading the way. While the trio of Eagles pitchers are headed to Coral Gables in the fall, the Hurricanes will have to wait an additional year for the other two commitments at the NHSI.
Flanagan (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) has two 2017 Miami commits in southpaw Jeremy Cook and shortstop Mark Vientos.
Vientos could be the best of a very talented bunch, assuming he ever steps foot on campus.
“Mark Vientos is going to be a stud at Miami,” Veliz said of his future teammate. “Heck, Mark Vientos is a stud now.”
The 6-3, 185-pound junior is a big shortstop, but he has the agility and speed to stick at that position at the next level and beyond. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Vientos could skip a few levels along the way. The early consensus is that he stands a good chance of being the top high school position player taken in the 2017 draft.
Vientos isn’t wasting any time worrying about that, though.
“Whatever happens happens,” he said. “I can’t see into the future. I’m just working on getting better now.”
With a batting average of more than .330 over his first two-plus years in high school, along with line-drive power and smooth defense, there wouldn’t seem to be much that he needs to improve. Vientos has a list, however.
“Right now, my at-bats are not great,” he said. “I want to improve that.”
Vientos went 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI in a consolation round win against Brooklyn’s Poly Prep on Thursday, but he’s still not satisfied.
As often happens with standout high school players, opposing pitchers find it beneficial to pitch around Vientos, rather than challenging him and taking the risk that Vientos will beat them.
“I need to work on my patience,” Vientos said. “I also want to work on hitting off speed pitching, because that’s all I’m seeing right now.”
Vientos’ heart appears to be with the ‘Canes, even if the chance to start a professional career keeps him from joining the other NHSI prospects on campus. He committed to Miami almost two years ago, after finishing his freshman year. Even as his stature has risen and he’s caught the eye of coaches across the nation, Vientos hasn’t wavered in his decision.
“Miami is my home,” Vientos said. “It’s right around the corner from my house. It’s a great place. I was a big-time Miami fan when I was little.”
That appears to be a theme with the future ‘Canes. Veliz also remembers rooting for Miami football and baseball while growing up.
In addition to being exposed to Miami sports from an early age, the ‘Canes have an additional pull on the hometown baseball prospects: The chance for them to stay together.
“We all know Vientos,” Veliz said, speaking for the other two future Miami pitchers on the North Broward Prep staff. “We got to know him from playing in the same league and living in the same area. We’re all friends, and we play together all the time.”
“When you stop to think about it, it’s kind of crazy,” Veliz added. “We all grew up together, and now we get to all go and play at college together.”
Whether Vientos will be joining the group at Miami or watching from afar still remains to be seen.