What is Tournament 12?
The final rosters were recently announced for Tournament 12 (T12) which will take place in Rogers Centre in Toronto from September 17th to September 21st of 2019. In case you haven’t heard of T12 before, here is the description of it from the Toronto Blue Jay’s Academy website:
Tournament 12 (T12) presented by New Era is a national amateur baseball tournament held at Rogers Centre each September hosted by the Blue Jays Baseball Academy and Tournament Commissioner, Roberto Alomar. The goal of T12 is to provide a showcase opportunity for the best 150 amateur baseball players born in Canada, with college eligibility. T12 acts to centralize the best Canadian baseball players, with the intention of exposing them to as many pro and college scouts as possible. Simply put, the Blue Jays Baseball Academy’s intention is to provide a platform that both highlights and markets the high level of amateur baseball talent in this country. Since 2013, 69 former T12 players have been drafted by Major League Baseball organizations with over 300 receiving college scholarships to continue their academic and athletic careers.
As I discussed in my earlier article on this topic, from the inaugural tournament in 2013 through 2018, Tournament 12 was structured in a regional format with 8 teams as follows:
- Atlantic (Players from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island)
- British Columbia
- Futures (Bantam age (15U) players mostly from Ontario)
- Prairies (Players from Manitoba and Saskatchewan)
- Ontario 1
- Ontario 2
Tournament 12’s New Model
Although it wasn’t perfect, the old format ensured a lot of representation from the powerhouse baseball provinces like Ontario (two teams plus most of the Futures team), BC, and Quebec, while also offering a slight over-representation for less populated provinces with less Canadian baseball spotlight like the four Atlantic Provinces, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and even Alberta.
That over-representation for the smaller provinces resulted in some unexpected outcomes such as:
- T12 Overall tournament wins for the underdog Atlantic team in 2013 and 2017
- A professional contract from the Blue Jays for Andrew Case of Saint John, NB after pitching a no-hitter in the 2013 tournament
- Micah McDowell of Coldbrook, NS being named Tournament MVP in 2017
Despite the tournament’s ongoing success, for 2019, T12 organizers decided to move away from the regional format and made the following announcement earlier this year:
2019 will mark a new format for Tournament 12 in which tournament rosters will no longer be based on regional teams, but the best 150 players in Canada, divided appropriately among all 6 teams. This will ensure that Tournament 12 truly features the best 150 players in Canada regardless of geographic location.
My question is WHY? The original format seemed to be working well and certainly could have been tweaked without taking away opportunities from those who need them most.
The Final Roster Announcement Lays Bare The Impacts of T12’s New Model
Recently, the Blue Jays Academy announced the final roster for the 2019 T12 tournament and several things jump out at me after reviewing the list:
- Representation at this tournament was taken from most of the rest of the country and given instead to Ontario and BC
- The “showcase” model of selecting players has ensured that the goal of selecting “the top 150 high school baseball players in Canada” was not achieved, more so this year than ever before
- Performances at Baseball Canada Cup, the most important actual tournament in the nation for players of this age group, were largely ignored
Let’s unpack each of those a bit so I can explain what I mean:
Representation at this tournament was taken from most of the rest of the country and given instead to Ontario and BC
When the Blue Jays Academy announced their new format it was obvious that is was bad news for players in the areas of the country that could use the most help getting a look from scouts and colleges. That said, the final roster selections reflect an even bleaker picture than many imagined. I have included a table to illustrate what I mean.
This table is sorted by the provinces with the most roster spots this year. I have used the 2016 Final T12 Rosters to represent the Old Format as last year they began fiddling around with giving roster spots to people from other countries (more on that later). I am not sure if that happened in 2017 as well and I wanted a clean list to work with as a baseline. Let’s have a look:
Who Were the Format Change Winners?
So even though Ontario only gained 4 spots with the new model, with the smaller number of roster spots overall, their representation went up by almost 31% – Ontario players took almost 47% of the roster spots.
For British Columbia, it is a very similar story. They added only 1 roster spot but, with the overall roster contraction, increased their representation by almost 28%.
The last Canadian Province that could be considered at least a partial winner with this new format is Quebec. Although they lost two roster spots, their overall representation increased by almost 11%.
Who Were the Format Change Losers?
For every winner there has to be a loser. The biggest losers resulting from the format change are Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. Both of these Atlantic Provinces lost 100% of their roster spots and 100% of their representation. The people doing the evaluations felt that not even one player from either province was worthy of inclusion in T12.
The exclusion of players from the Atlantic provinces did not stop there. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (coincidentally the winners of this year’s Baseball Canada Cup tournament) both had their roster spots reduced by almost 67% and their representation by over 59%.
The Prairie provinces fared a little better than the Atlantic Provinces, but they suffered some big losses as well. Manitoba had it the worst in this group, losing 60% their roster spots and almost 51% of their representation. Saskatchewan lost almost 55% of their roster spots and almost 44% of their representation. Finally Alberta lost over 38% of their roster spots and over 24% of their representation.
Why Is Someone from Texas Being Included?
You will note that while all but two Provinces have lost T12 Roster spots with this new format, and two aren’t represented at all, someone still thought it was a good idea to give a roster spot to the
Province of US State of Texas. What is going on here exactly?
Homer Bush Junior, one of the T12 invitees, is the son of former Toronto Blue Jay Homer Bush. Bush Senior was traded to the Blue Jays in the 1999 off-season and released on May 10, 2002. Bush Junior was born on October 13, 2001 in Toronto and likely lived there for the first 7 months of his life before his Dad was released by the Jays. Given that Bush Senior went on to play with three more major league teams, although he may even be a dual citizen, I doubt that Junior lived in Canada much past his 1st birthday, if that much. He is currently a resident of Southlake, Texas.
Although Bush Junior was at T12 last year, to include someone from the US in this event while T12 opportunities are being taken away from Canadian kids in most of the country and two Canadian Provinces have exactly zero representation is the definition of tone-deafness.
Just as a literally tone–deaf person is unable to comprehend the differences between musical notes, a metaphorically tone–deaf person is unable to comprehend the different facets/nuances of a given situation. A statement (or action) such a person makes might also be described as tone–deaf.
The “showcase” model of selecting players has ensured that the goal of selecting “the top 150 high school baseball players in Canada” was not achieved, more so this year than ever before
What is a baseball showcase exactly?
Showcases have grown exponentially over the past 20 years or so as a players are promised an opportunity to “Be Seen”, for a fee of course. Perfect Game (PG) is the largest of the showcase organizations, although they don’t have a real presence in Canada and I am not aware of any PG showcase that has ever been held in this country. That said since PG is the big dog in this space, lets have a look at how they describe their showcases to get a feel for what they are all about:
Every participant at a Perfect Game showcase will be provided the opportunity to take part in a workout session, which typically includes a 60-yard dash and infield, outfield and catching throws to measure arm velocities, measure six important quantitative measure of the swing, along with a batting practice session. Prospects will be divided into teams and full-length games (usually 10 innings) will be played to provide pitchers an opportunity to get in front of college coaches and scouts and give position players an opportunity to perform in game situations.
So are the T12 Tryouts the same as Showcases? Do they truly evaluate the ability to play the game of baseball?
The Blue Jays Tryout Camp description is essentially a subset of what PG describes as a Showcase:
Position players will be evaluated based on Speed (60 yard sprint), throwing, defense and hitting. Pitchers will be evaluated by throwing in the bullpen. Each evaluation session will run approximately four hours.
You will note that these T12 Tryouts are skill evaluations only, without the opportunity for the evaluators to see how players perform in game situations (there is an exception to this rule that I will discuss later). The subtleties of pitching, catching, and infield and outfield defense are difficult to evaluate in this way and most true showcases only list throwing speeds in their results. Those who can light up the radar gun on the mound, from behind the plate, from Shortstop, or from Right Field get attention, regardless of whether their throws hit the intended mark. Catchers sometimes are evaluated on their ability to get the ball from Home to 2nd base quickly (pop-time), which encompasses more than just throwing speed.
In showcases and the T12 Tryouts, running speed is measured by capturing each player’s time in a straight-line 60 yard dash and running that 60 as fast as possible is the goal. I have always found this evaluation to be an odd one as the likelihood of running 60 yards in a straight line in a baseball game is very low. It may be an approximation of Home to 2nd base speed, but although that is also a 60-yard distance, there is a hard left turn in the middle that will have a big impact on players’ times. Again, this is not a true baseball skill evaluation as sprinters who have never picked up a glove or a bat would have great results.
The Atlantic T12 Tryout Tournament
The exception I noted above regarding the format is the Atlantic T12 Tryout Tournament. Players from Atlantic Canada are evaluated through the simulated games held during this tournament (all players start with a 1 and 1 count, just like in the actual T12). The Atlantic T12 Tryout tournament is usually held in Moncton, NB, with parts of the showcase style tryouts noted above included as well. Pitchers, this year at least, were only evaluated during simulated game play. Although this format would seem to be an advantage for Atlantic players, there are a few problems with that theory:
- The massive reduction in players from Atlantic Canada this year is all you need to look at to determine that this Tryout Tournament provides no particular advantage for those attending.
- The Tournament invitees only include each Atlantic Province’s 17U teams, as a result, most 18 year-old players from the region are excluded
- Newfoundland and Labrador decided that with the format changes for T12 this year, the cost of flying the team to Moncton for this tournament was no longer justifiable, so they did not attend the tournament this year
- Finally, during this year’s tournament, when rain forced some of the games to Sunday, the general consensus was that some or all of the Blue Jays evaluators were no longer in attendance as they had already flown out
Top Showcase Skillsets Selected Rather than the Top Baseball Players
Although the T12 Tryouts may include the top players with specific showcase related skillsets, many of which are fantastic baseball players as well, I am confident in saying that all of the top high school baseball players in Canada were not selected for T12. How could they be? For the most part, the ability to actually play the game of baseball did not figure into the evaluations at these tryouts.
Performances at Baseball Canada Cup, the most important actual tournament in the nation for players of this age group, were largely ignored
Baseball Canada Cup, which has been running for 31 years, is Canada’s national championship for players who are mostly 16 and 17. Although the age cutoff is at December 31 of each year, smaller provinces are permitted to include two “overagers” (turning 18 years old before Dec 31) and occasionally a particularly talented 15 year old will make a roster. Canada Cup includes teams from each of the 10 Canadian Provinces. This tournament is the highest level of play and most important tournament for high-school-aged baseball players in this country. Tournament 12 doesn’t meet the grade here because it is essentially the simulated game portion of a showcase rather than a true tournament where winning games really matters.
The Blue Jays picked the first 50 T12 roster spots early in the summer – see my earlier article on that topic. The remaining spots were to be picked a week after Canada Cup ended. Many people, myself included, assumed that the timing of those later picks was put in place to allow evaluations of players at Canada Cup in highly-competitive, high-stress, game competition. You know, so they could make sure they had the actual top 150 high school aged baseball players in Canada.
Unfortunately, anyone who had that expectation, was sorely disappointed. I see very little evidence that performance at Canada Cup had any impact on the roster decisions for T12. For example:
- Many players on the 2019 T12 roster had poor showings at Baseball Canada Cup
- Many players who had awesome performances at Baseball Canada Cup were excluded
- Of the 20 players on the roster of the Gold Medal winning Nova Scotia team, only 2 were selected for T12. What about the teams that finished behind them?
- Of the 20 players on the roster of the Silver Medal winning Ontario team, 17 were selected for T12
- Of the 20 players on the roster of the Bronze Medal winning British Columbia team, 17 were selected for T12
- Of the 20 players on the roster of the 4th Place Quebec team, 14 were selected for T12
- I could go on, but I believe I have made my point here
Based on those data points, it is pretty obvious that real-world baseball performance in the most important tournament in the country for players this age was ignored.
So, based on real-world high-performance tournament results, who else should be at T12?
For some reason only 136 of the 150 expected Canadians were selected for T12 – plus one kid from Texas. Rather than calling out the T12 players who had bad performances at Baseball Canada Cup, which would not be fair, I want to keep it positive. Let’s look at some of the players that performed well at Baseball Canada Cup but did not make it to T12. There are still 14 of the proposed 150 Canadian spots available – we will leave the Texas slot alone. I am going to make some suggestions as to which fantastic players from under-represented Provinces could fill those spots. Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec will be excluded from this list since they all already have plenty of representation at T12. I am going to concentrate on 17 and 18 year-olds to keep things a little simpler. We will have a look by team based on their finish at the 2019 Baseball Canada Cup.
It baffles me that only 2 players from the Canada Cup’s Gold Medal team made it to this year’s T12 roster, but that is what happened. The entire roster of 20 players obviously have a lot of skill and know how to win under pressure as they did during the whole tournament but especially in their Semi-Final win over Quebec and their Gold Medal win over Ontario. That said, which of the older players not selected for T12 stood out for the Gold Medal team?
Noah Boutilier was a leader for Nova Scotia at the 2019 Canada Cup. He was 6 for 21 for a slash line (Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage) of .286/.423/.286 with 4 Runs Batted In and 4 Runs Scored. That’s nice you say, but why include a guy here who didn’t have gaudy stats? I’ll tell you why… because Noah Boutilier is the definition of a clutch player. During the tournament he contributed mostly by getting on base and scoring, but during the Gold Medal game against Ontario he put the offense on his back, knocking in all 3 of Nova Scotia’s runs with 2 key singles, and earned Player of the Game honours for his effort.
Layton Cuvilier was a key two-way player for the Nova Scotia team at Canada Cup. At the plate he was 5 for 16 with a very nice .385/.500/.538 slash line and 5 Runs Scored. On the mound he came on in relief 3 times and was very effective. He had 3 Strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings earning a Save while giving up 0 Runs with a WHIP of 0.86.
Duncan McLaughlin was a leader for the Nova Scotia team during Canada Cup, contributing consistently on offense and defense. At the plate he was 6 for 14 with an impressive .429/.556/.571 slash line. On defense, when he was not pitching, Duncan was a stabilizing force for NS in Center Field. On the mound McLaughlin started 2 games and won them both. For the tournament he had 10 Strikeouts over 10 innings while giving up 2 Earned Runs and had a WHIP of 1.40. Duncan got the start in the Gold Medal game and earned the Win by baffling the powerhouse Ontario lineup over 5 innings, striking out 9 batters and only giving up 1 Earned Run.
Ethan McLellan was a key contributor on the mound for Nova Scotia’s Gold Medal run. For the tournament Ethan pitched in 2 games logging 9 Strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings while giving up 3 Earned Runs and had a WHIP of 1.05. In the Gold Medal game, McLellan came on in a tough spot in the 6th inning with the score at 3 to 2 for NS with the bases loaded and no outs. He was throwing absolute gas and worked his way out of that tough spot with a weak grounder back to him and two strikeouts. In the 7th, Ethan struck out the side to earn the Save and clinch Nova Scotia’s Gold Medal win.
Michael Short was a key contributor at the plate for Nova Scotia during the 2019 Canada Cup tournament. Although he didn’t hit for a high average, all of his hits were for extra bases and he was on base a lot. For the week, Mike was 4 for 17 with a slash line of .235/.409/.588, and had 2 Runs Batted In and 3 Runs Scored. He hit a clutch game-tying Triple in Nova Scotia’s comeback win over New Brunswick and earned Player of the Game honours.
Team Saskatchewan placed 5th at this year’s Canada Cup. They had a tough road as their Pool A placement meant they had to face the powerhouse lineups of Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec to make it to the medal round and fell just short. Which of the older players not selected for T12 stood out for SK?
Josh Cleggett was the top hitter for Saskatchewan during this year’s Canada Cup. He was 6 for 17 with a slash line of .353/.476/.529 while contributing 6 RBI’s and 2 Runs Scored.
Kendall Keller has a pretty solid hitting performance at Canada Cup himself. He was also 6 for 17 and had a slash line of .353/.450/.471 while contributing 2 RBI’s and 2 Runs Scored.
Team Manitoba placed 6th at this year’s Canada Cup. They finished second in Pool B behind Nova Scotia. Which of the older players not selected for T12 stood out for MB?
Logan Erb was a two-way player for Manitoba at Canada Cup, but the majority of his contributions came at the plate. On the mound he came on in relief in 1 game and earned the Win with 1 Strikeout over 2 innings while giving up 0 Runs and a had WHIP of 2.00. At the plate he was 5 for 15 with a very nice .333/.412/.533 slash line, 4 Runs Batted In, and 5 Runs Scored.
Davis Fenske was a key contributor in relief at Canada Cup for Manitoba. He pitched in 3 games logging 6 Strikeouts over 6 innings while giving up 0 Earned Runs and had a WHIP of 1.00.
Owen Sager was a key contributor in relief at Canada Cup for Manitoba. He pitched 6 innings in 2 games earning a Win while giving up 0 Runs and had a WHIP of 0.75.
Dawson Tanner was a two-way player for Manitoba at Canada Cup, with positive contributions on the mound and at the plate. On the mound he started 1 game and earned the Win with 5 Strikeouts over 6 innings while giving up 0 Earned Runs and had a WHIP of 1.00. At the plate he was 6 for 19 with a very nice .316/.362/.632 slash line, 7 Runs Batted In, and 3 Runs Scored.
Logan Warkentin was great at the plate for Manitoba at Canada Cup. He was 8 for 21 with an impressive .381/.362/.632 slash line, 2 Runs Batted In, and 5 Runs Scored.
Team New Brunswick placed 7th at this year’s Canada Cup. Which of the older players not selected for T12 stood out for NB?
Brayden Allain was great at the plate for New Brunswick at Canada Cup. He was 5 for 10 with an impressive .500/.500/.600 slash line, 4 Runs Batted In, and 4 Runs Scored.
Connor Hill was a two-way player for New Brunswick at Canada Cup, with positive contributions on the mound and at the plate. On the mound he came on in relief in 1 game and earned the Win with 1 Strikeout over 3 innings while giving up 0 Runs and a had WHIP of 0.33. At the plate he was 6 for 14 with an impressive .429/.500/.571 slash line and 5 Runs Scored.
Owen Lohnes was a two-way player for New Brunswick at Canada Cup, with positive contributions on the mound and at the plate. On the mound he started 1 game and had 5 Strikeouts over 4 innings while giving up 0 Runs and a had WHIP of 0.50. At the plate he was 7 for 19 with an impressive .368/.400/.684 slash line, 4 Runs Batted In, and 4 Runs Scored.
Olivier Potvin was a key contributor on the mound at Canada Cup for New Brunswick. He pitched 4 innings in 2 games while giving up 0 Runs, striking out 5, and had a WHIP of 0.50.
Prince Edward Island
Team PEI placed 8th at this year’s Canada Cup. Which of the older players not selected for T12 stood out for PE?
Chase Gaudette was great at the plate for PEI at Canada Cup. He was 5 for 15 with a solid .333/.565/.333 slash line and 4 Runs Scored. That On Base Percentage was so high because Gaudette worked 7 Walks.
Ben MacDougall was a two-way player for PEI at Canada Cup, but his contributions were felt most at the plate. On the mound he started 1 game and had 5 Strikeouts over 6 innings while giving up 0 Earned Runs and a had WHIP of 1.17. At the plate he was 6 for 17 with an impressive .353/.476/.529 slash line, 5 Runs Batted In, and a whopping 9 Runs Scored.
Jack MacKenzie was a two-way player for PEI at Canada Cup, with positive contributions on the mound and at the plate. On the mound he pitched in 3 games earning 1 Win. He had 9 Strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings while giving up 3 Earned Runs and a had WHIP of 1.61. At the plate he was 5 for 13 with a .385/.385/.462 slash line, 6 Runs Batted In, and 4 Runs Scored.
Team Alberta placed 9th at this year’s Canada Cup. Alberta has the most players on the T12 roster from the teams on this list but there is one who the selection committee might want to consider based on his performance at Canada Cup.
Caden Zarowny was great at the plate for Alberta at Canada Cup. He was 4 for 10 with an impressive .400/.625/.500 slash line, 2 Runs Batted In, and 5 Runs Scored. That On Base Percentage was so high because Zarowny worked 6 Walks.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Team NL placed 10th at this year’s Canada Cup. Which of the older players not selected for T12 stood out for NL?
Steven Abbott was great at the plate for Newfoundland at Canada Cup. He was 6 for 20 with a solid .300/.417/.400 slash line, 2 Runs Batted In, and 5 Runs Scored.
Alexander French was a two-way player for Newfoundland at Canada Cup, but his contributions were felt most at the plate, where he was NL’s top hitter of the tournament with 10 hits in 19 At Bats. He had an extremely impressive slash line of .526/.550/.737, 4 Runs Batted In, and 5 Runs Scored.
By now it should be pretty clear to you that I am not on board with the changes that were made to the Tournament 12 format this year. This Tournament was previously a very high-quality but still inclusive event that players across the country aspired to attend, and the top players from each Province were included with the Roster spots still skewed to the baseball powerhouses in Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec. With these changes, the nature of the event has changed to focus on opportunities for those who already have many opportunities, at the expense of those who have far fewer. I have some advice to each of the stakeholders in this event:
My Advice to the Blue Jays Staff Who Decide the Format and Those Who Make the Selections
To the people who decided to change the format of this event, I would point out that you have attempted to fix something that was not broken. This event is poorer for the players from regions of the country that you are now excluding. You should seriously consider reverting back to the original format for 2020.
To those making the player selections I have three pieces of advice:
- I would highly recommend that you find a way to do a better job of incorporating real-world performances at high-level tournaments such as Baseball Canada Cup into your selection criteria for T12 roster spots.
- I would also suggest that you consider techniques to address the familiarity bias that appears to exist in this selection process, especially with players in Ontario. I would like to point out that the original format had built in measures to address this specific problem as evaluators were forced to pick players they were not familiar with to fill out geographically-based rosters.
- Finally, I have pointed out several players above that had an excellent Canada Cup tournament. I encourage you to contact some of them to fill your remaining 14 Canadian roster spots.
My Advice to Scouts and College Coaches Considering Attending T12
The marketing you will receive on this event will indicate to you that the top high school baseball players in Canada will be in attendance for you to evaluate. That is only partially true. Although many of the top high school baseball players will be in attendance, the attendees were selected based on showcase skills rather than their ability to actually play the game of baseball.
If you would like to ensure that you evaluate all of the top high school players in Canada I would suggest you also include the Baseball Canada Cup and perhaps Baseball Canada’s 18U Championship in your travel plans. Baseball Canada will be posting details regarding the 2020 tournaments in the coming months HERE.
My Advice to High School Baseball Players Outside of Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec
If you are a baseball player from the Atlantic Provinces or the Prairie Provinces, the T12 tournament has been reconfigured to exclude rather than include you. I encourage you to continue to grow your baseball skills and focus on being a better baseball player. Please do not, in a vain attempt to make it to T12, turn your focus to improving your showcase skills as that is more likely to end in injury than the T12 roster spot that you are hoping for.