The U-18 Pan American Baseball Championship is taking off on Friday, 23 November in three ballparks in Panama: Omar Torrijos in Santiago, Olmedo Solé in Las Tablas and Rico Cedeño in Chitré.

Santiago is hosting Group A and the highly favourite USA, the five-time defending champions. Jack Lagget will manage a roster that has its core made of nine players who participated in the U-17 National Team Development Program. Only five players are USA Baseball alumni and two of them, outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong and infielder Anthony Volpe, played on the U-15 Pan Am Champion team in 2017.

The USA will debut against Honduras, while the other powerhouse of the group Dominican Republic will play the first game against Peru. Brazil completes the lot of participants

Group B, that will see action in Las Tablas, may well offer the toughest competition. Cuba, the runner up in the 2016 edition, will debut against the Bahamas, while Canada and Colombia will close the day.

Venezuela, managed by David Brito, looks like the team to beat. Starting pitcher Luis Curvelo (Seattle Mariners), cacthers Carlos Hurtado (Houston Astros) and Cesar Rodriguez (Philadelphia Phillies), third baseman Sean Mendoza (Astros), shortstop Juan Querecuto (Mariners), center fielder Carrillo Yefri (Astros) are amongst the prospects to watch.

The hosts Panama will play in Chitré and will debut, after the Opening Ceremony, against Guatemala. Panama’s player to watch is right handed pitcher Daniel Espino, whose velocity tops 99 miles per hour. Manager Dimas Ponche will count on St Louis Cardinals top prospect Ivan Herrera, a catcher who started his season in the Dominican Summer League and finished it at Double A Springfield. Juan Crisp, who plays in the New York Yankees Farm System, will be his backup. Shorstop Joshwan Wright plays in the Oakland A’S Organization.

Nicaragua and Mexico are credited as the top contenders in the group and they will play each other on Opening Day. Argentina is the fifth team in the group.

The top two teams of each group will play in the super round, set to begin on Wednesday, 28 November. The top four teams of the super round will qualify to the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup and the top two will play in the final for the Pan Am Title.

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