Three of the top-rated infielders in the nation reside in Broward County — Archbishop McCarthy junior Alex Toral, Flanagan junior shortstop Mark Vientos and American Heritage freshman corner infielder Tristan Casas.
So do three nationally-ranked teams — Archbishop McCarthy, Douglas and North Broward Prep.
And two more — Flanagan and American Heritage — have the potential to join them once all the polls come out.
Leading the pack once again this season is Archbishop McCarthy, the county’s most prolific state champion.
The Mavericks, ranked No. 8 nationally by Perfect Game, became the first team in state history to win five state championships in a six-year span last season when they added to their county-leading total. And most of those top players were sophomores.
Toral, a junior first baseman, is ranked the top prospect in his class by Perfect Game and already has been chosen to the Under Armour All-Star Game this summer in Chicago.
Toral, a first-team All-Broward selection, hit .385 with five home runs and 31 RBI last season. But its his off-field intangibles that complete him as a valuable player, according to Mavericks coach Rich Bielski.
“Alex’s leadership has gone to a new level going into this season,” Bielski said. “He’s really a very humble player that goes out there and makes everyone better. He thinks of himself as one of the guys and he elevates everyone around him. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do this season.”
Toral, who committed to the University of Miami last summer, is one of two Hurricanes commitments on the team for the Class of 2017.
Junior pitcher Daniel Federman went 8-0 last year with a 1.95 ERA and delivered several clutch late-season performances, including one at the state final four. Federman and junior Johnny Leone, a transfer from St. Thomas Aquinas, lead the Mavericks’ rotation.
Along with Toral, senior shortstop Kobe Lopez (Alabama State commitment) and junior third baseman Joe Perez (USF commitment) lead a top-notch infield that is backed up by talented outfielders Alex Carballo, a senior, and Adan Fernandez, a junior.
McCarthy’s first opponent Tuesday is North Broward Prep, which enters the season ranked No. 44 by Perfect Game and is led by senior right-handed pitchers Gregory Veliz, Anthony Masiello and Evan McKendry — all of whom are UM commits.
The FHSAA realigned districts in the offseason, expanding to nine classifications. But it didn’t separate McCarthy from district rival American Heritage.
The teams are playing only once during the regular season (March 11) but could meet three times overall as the Patriots feature their own talented group led by Casas, the top-rated freshman in the nation by Perfect Game. Casas is a right-handed pitcher who can also play first or third base and has already exhibited tremendous skill at all three positions.
Heritage coach Bruce Aven’s squad lost talented shortstop Luis Almanzar, who moved back to his native Dominican Republic. But the Patriots received a boost at the position when senior Gary Mattis transferred over from Aquinas.
Douglas and Flanagan each had its state hopes crushed in the regional final round last season. Each appears to have the talent to make another solid push in Class 9A.
Flanagan graduated its ace of the past four seasons in Gentry Fortuno. But a deeper staff led by lefties Dylan O’Connell and Jeremy Cook and righty Nick MacDonald will try to get the Falcons over the Miami-Dade County regional finals roadblock. Flanagan has lost to the eventual state champion from Dade in that round each of the past two seasons.
Vientos is ranked No. 6 among juniors by Perfect Game and will bring valuable experience to the lineup at the plate and defensively in the middle infield. Senior outfielder and FAU commit Eric Rivera is also back after hitting .473 with four home runs last season.
Douglas debuted at No. 10 nationally and will be led by UM commits Jesus Luzardo, a left-handed pitcher, and shortstop Colton Welker.
Monday: Regular season began.
March 21-26: Spring break tournaments
April 27: Class 9A-5A regional quarterfinals
April 28: Class 4A-1A regional semifinals
May 3: Class 4A-1A regional finals; Class 9A-5A regional semifinals
May 10: Class 9A-5A regional finals
May 11-14, 18-21: State final four in Fort Myers
2015 STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 8A: Miami Columbus; 7A: Oviedo; 6A: Venice; 5A: Southwest Ranches Archbishop McCarthy; 4A: Jacksonville Trinity Christian; 3A: Miami Westminster Christian; 2A: Brito Miami Private; 1A: Williston.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
P Daniel Federman, Archbishop McCarthy, Jr.
P Jesus Luzardo, Douglas, Sr.
P Evan McKendry, North Broward Prep, Sr.
P Dylan O’Connell, Flanagan, Sr.
P Garret Rukes, Pine Crest, Sr.
P James Spatafora, Nova, Sr.
1B Peter Moforis, Flanagan, Sr.
1B Alex Toral, Archbishop McCarthy, Jr.
2B Derek Cartaya, Somerset, Sr.
SS Gary Mattis, American Heritage, Sr.
SS Colton Welker, Douglas, Sr.
SS Mark Vientos, Flanagan, Jr.
3B Joe Perez, Archbishop McCarthy, Jr.
C Anthony Mulrine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
OF Tommy Orr, Calvary Christian, Sr.
OF Eric Rivera, Flanagan, Sr.
OF Juan Texeira, Somerset, Sr.
UT Tristan Casas, American Heritage, Fr.
UT Anthony Masiello, North Broward Prep, Sr.
UT Jordan Schulefand, Pine Crest, Jr.
OTHERS TO WATCH
P: Angel Almonte, Cooper City, Sr.; Greyson Fletcher, Cypress Bay, Jr.; Max Lazar, Coral Springs, Jr.; Johnny Leone, Archbishop McCarthy, Jr.; Bailey Mantilla, American Heritage, So.; Brady Norris, Douglas, Sr.; Matt Rumpf, Monarch, Sr.; 1B: David Flores, Western, Sr.; SS: Kobe Lopez, Archbishop McCarthy, Sr.; 3B: Robert Shanley, Cooper City, Sr.; C: Michael Rothenberg, Pine Crest, Jr.; Gregory Snyder, Piper, Sr.; OF: Alex Carballo, Archbishop McCarthy, Sr.; Adan Fernandez, Archbishop McCarthy, Jr.; Cameron Krzeminski, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.; Jonathan Pino, Douglas, Sr.; Steven Revilla, West Broward, Sr.; UT: Gregory Veliz, North Broward Prep, Sr.
1. Archbishop McCarthy
3. American Heritage
5. Pine Crest
6. North Broward Prep
7. St. Thomas Aquinas
10. Cypress Bay
Under consideration: Cardinal Gibbons, Monarch, West Broward, Western, Pembroke Pines Charter, Taravella.
Note: For complete team-by-team outlooks, visit the online version of this story at www.miamiherald .com/high-schools
1. FLANAGAN (Coach Ray Evans, 13th year at FL, 28th overall, 456-217-1). Last year: 21-6 (Regional finalist). Top players: OF Eric Rivera, Sr.; INF Mark Vientos, Jr.; 1B Peter Moforis, Sr.; LHP Dylan O’Connell, Sr.; LHP Jeremy Cook, Jr.; RHP Nick McDonald, Sr.
2. DOUGLAS (Coach Todd Fitz-Gerald, 4th year at MSD, 15th overall, 323-96). Last year: 23-5 (Regional finalist). Top players: SS Colton Welker, Sr.; 3B-RHP Brady Norris, Sr.; C Chad McDaniel, Jr.; OF Jonathan Pino, Sr.; LHP Jesus Luzardo, Sr.
3. CYPRESS BAY (Coach Paul Liotti, 2nd year, 13-12). Last year: 13-12 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: 2B Jose Natera, Sr.; SS Raul Quintero, Sr.; P Greyson Fletcher, Jr.; OF Anthony Figueroa, Jr.; OF-1B Christian Nehls, Jr.; P Alex Rodriguez, Sr.
1. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (Coach Troy Cameron, 4th year, 59-19). Last year: 22-5 (Regional finalist). Top players: C Anthony Mulrine, Sr.; OF Cameron Krzeminski, Sr.; RHP Byron Giles, Sr.; OF Chris Ruckdeschel, So.; SS Daniel Lowry, Sr.; 2B Andrew Garcia, Sr.
2. NOVA (Coach Pat McQuaid, 42nd year, 861-309-2). Last year: 18-9 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: CF-LHP James Spatafora, Sr.; 1B-LHP Gary Moore, So.; 2B-SS Scott Shaw, Sr.; 3B Matt Patella, So.; P-DH Colbie O’Donnell, Sr.; P Jake Trodick, Sr.; SS-2B Andre Martinez, So.; OF Isaiah Goodman, So.; OF Daniel Hubert, Jr.
3. COOPER CITY (Coach Chris Delgado, 2nd year, 16-7). Last year: 16-7 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: P Angel Almonte, Sr.; 3B Robert Shanley, Sr.; P Jeremy Brower, Jr.; OF-1B-P Cameron Stadler, Jr.; 1B Cole Kantor, Sr.; CF Parker Britton, Sr.
4. CORAL GLADES (Coach Mike Goulette, 2nd year at CG, 10th overall). Last year: 13-10. Top players: 3B Alex Lara, Sr.; P-OF T.J. Densmore, Sr.; P-OF Preston Vegotsky, Sr.; C Joe Juliano, Jr.; C-1B Johnathan Hook, Sr.; 2B Robert Joy, Jr.
5. MCARTHUR (Coach Oddibe McDowell, 2nd year). Last year: 6-18. Top players: OF Aaron Ward, Jr.; INF Michael Gamble, Sr.; OF Brian Vallejo, Jr.
6. HOLLYWOOD HILLS (Coach Tom Marante, 2nd year at HH, 7th overall, 54-21). Last year: 9-13. Top players: SS-P Ralph Alvarez, Sr.; P-1B Justin Braden, Jr.
7. SOUTH PLANTATION (Coach Trevor Chang-Leung, 1st year). Last year: 9-12. Top players: CF-P Ernie Osteen, Sr.; P Rhyss Friedman, Sr.; C-P Zach Birchall, Sr.; 3B-2B Tyler Hudson, Sr.; P Jared Sigal, So.; SS Luis Morel, Jr.
PINES CHARTER (Coach Carlos Iglesias, 10th year, 138-80-1). Last year: 18-5-1 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: P Daniel Rivero, Sr.; CF Noah Rodriguez, Sr.; C Isaac Valancy, Sr.; P Christopher Nappi, Jr.; 3B Luis Palacio, Jr.; LF Maxwell Romero, Jr., Fr.
1. ARCHBISHOP MCCARTHY (Coach Rich Bielski). Last year: 27-5 (State champions). Top players: 1B Alex Toral, Jr.; RHP Daniel Federman, Jr.; 3B Joe Perez, Jr.; SS Kobe Lopez, Sr.; CF Alex Carballo, Sr.; RF Adan Fernandez, Jr.; RHP Johnny Leone, Jr.
2. AMERICAN HERITAGE (Coach Bruce Aven, 5th year, 85-23). Last year: 20-8 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: 1B-3B-RHP Tristan Casas, Fr.; SS Gary Mattis, Sr.; LHP Bailey Mantilla, So.; 3B-RHP Anthony Boix, Jr.; RHP Israel Cordero, Jr.; C Julio Cortez, So.
1. PINE CREST (Coach Mike Green, 1st year at PC, 5th overall, 42-40). Last year: 17-8-1. Top players: P Garret Rukes, Sr.; P-OF Jordan Schulefand, Jr.; C-INF Michael Rothenberg, Jr.; P-OF Ryan Keenan, Fr.; INF-P Cam Andres, Sr.; INF-OF Aram Leighton, Sr.; OF-INF Jared deFaria, So.; OF Nick Pagano, So.
2. NORTH BROWARD (Coach Brian Campbell, 9th year). Last year: 15-11. Top players: P-SS Gregory Veliz, Sr.; P-1B Anthony Masiello, Sr.; P-OF Evan McKendry, Sr.; C Eduardo Antonini, Sr.; P-OF C.J. Roth, Sr.; C-1B Dillon Belle, Sr.
3. SOMERSET ACADEMY (Coach Onel Garcia, 7th year). Last year: 19-11 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: 2B Derek Cartaya, Sr.; OF Juan Teixeira, Sr.; OF Jack Khawly, Sr.; OF Kenny Moreno-Costa, Sr.; C Luis Chavez, Sr.; P Brandon Valentin, Sr.
4. CARDINAL GIBBONS (Coach Jason Hamilton, 13th year at CG, 17th overall, 303-134-1). Last year: 20-8. Top players: OF Colin Durkin, Sr.; P Austin Phelps, Sr.; OF-P Kyle VanSciver, Sr.; INF Josh Shrouder, Sr.; UT Ty Crittenberger, So.; 1B-P Jarrett Hall, So.
1. NSU UNIVERSITY SCHOOL (Coach Dan Rovetto, 3rd year at US, 4th overall, 50-33). Last year: 13-14. Top players: LHP Jack Schmidt, Jr.; RHP Buddy Hayward, Jr.; 2B Kyle Oren, Sr.; SS Sammy Guillorme, Jr.; RF Mike Glantz, Jr.; CF Jonathan Miller, Jr.
2. CHAMINADE-MADONNA (Coach Mike Moss, 10th year at CM, 25th overall, 395-323-5). Last year: 12-14. Top players: SS Mike Drag, Sr.; P Mike Blanco, Sr.; P Mike Callari, Jr.; OF Chris Vickers, Sr.; 2B Chris Schoeller, So.; OF Rolando Petit, Sr.; C Kevin Rodriguez, Jr.
HIGHLANDS CHRISTIAN (Coach Bruce Charlebois, 11th year at HC, 16th overall, 220-165). Last year: 15-11 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: SS Swindly Lint, Sr.; RHP-UT Kyle Bombardier, Jr.; C Jose Sosa, So.; INF Daniel Malay, Jr.