The 2016 National High School Invitational is in the books. For the fourth time in the five years of the USA Baseball-run event, a California school took home the trophy. Congrats to Huntington Beach for taking the hardware back to the West Coast again.
In addition to trying to ascertain the best high school team in the country, the NHSI has been terrific one-stop shopping for scouts since the tourney's inception. It allows everyone, from scouting directors on down to area scouts, the ability to see a whole lot of talent in one place, in a competitive setting, in four consecutive days.
This year's NHSI crop of talent, at least in terms of 2016 early-round hopefuls, wasn't deep. But that doesn't mean there weren't impressive performances throughout the four days at the National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The following is a top 10 list (with a bonus), combining performance with prospect status. Some underclassmen, who will be talked about in much greater detail in 2017, are also included.
1. Braxton Garrett, LHP, Florence (Ala.)
The lefty, ranked No. 41 on MLBPipeline's Top 50 Draft Prospects list, was well regarded entering the tournament as a prep arm who knew how to pitch. Initially thought to be the type who could sneak into the back end of the first round, Garrett now seems like a lock. And there were whispers of him being a top half of the first-round type, with his eight-inning, 11-strikeout shutout performance in the first round of the NHSI not hurting the Vanderbilt commit's stock one bit, showing the ability to use all three of his pitches effectively.
2. Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade Prep (Canoga Park, Calif.)
The top high school bat in the country did what many hoped or expected he would do: dominated. That's not to undersell Rutherford's performance -- 9-for-14 with two doubles, a triple and five runs scored as Chaminade's leadoff hitter -- as the top guys at events like this don't always live up to the hype. Rutherford, a UCLA commit and the No. 7 Draft prospect, did.
3. Josh Stephen, OF, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Some scouts said it might be tough to profile Stephen, since he's not the kind of burner you like to see in center field, but most believe his bat will play at the next level. The USC commit swung the bat well at the NHSI, going 8-for-14 with four doubles, a homer and nine RBIs.
4. Zack Hess, RHP, Liberty Christian (Lynchburg, Va.)
There is some effort to this LSU commit's delivery, but no one argues about how well he competed. Facing Braxton Garrett, Hess carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, striking out 10 in the process. His fastball touched 94-95 mph and he showed a solid breaking ball.
5. Hagen Danner, RHP/3B, Huntington Beach (Calif.)
The 2017 prospect showed ability on both sides of the ball, though he didn't pitch as well as he did here as a sophomore one year ago. Danner was in the low-90s and struck out seven over 5 2/3 innings, but he also walked five. Offensively, he homered and went 7-for-13 overall to lead Huntington Beach to the title.
6. Nick Kahle, C, Chaminade Prep (Canoga Park, Calif.)
A bit more under-the-radar as a Draft prospect, the University of Washington commit hit everything hard for the runner-up, finishing 7-for-15 with a pair of doubles and home runs. Kahle is a leader behind the plate, calling his own game, but some think his arm might be a touch short right now for the next level.
7. Carter Kieboom, 3B, Walton (Marietta, Ga.)
Performance-wise, Kieboom was just so-so (2-for-10), but he had some quality at-bats and did manage to drive in five runs. Kieboom, ranked 50 on the Top 50 Draft Prospects list, also looked good defensively, though most see a move from shortstop to third in the Clemson commit's future.
8. Daniel Bakst, 3B, Poly Prep (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Scouts were willing to give Bakst a mulligan as the NHSI represented Poly Prep's first game action of the year. The Stanford commit finished the tournament 3-for-13, with a double and an RBI.
9. Kyle Jacobsen, OF Allatoona (Acworth, Ga.)
Another Class of 2017 prospect, the center fielder showed his all-around skills, going 5-for-13 with a double, triple and five RBIs while playing a solid outfield.
10. Cash Case, SS, The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.)
The 2014 NHSI champs may have gone 1-3, but this 2017 prospect certainly showed well. Case went 6-for-13 with a pair of triples and two RBIs while playing very well defensively at shortstop.
Bonus. Mark Vientos, SS, Flanagan (Fla.) -- There is a little swing-and-miss to his game, but the Class of '17 product showed glimpses at the NHSI (3-for-11) of why he's going to be watched carefully a year from now.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow @JonathanMayo on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.