2011 College World Series Preview

In our preseason Top 25 capsules, we used the 20-80 scouting scale to grade each team in various facets of the game. In the interests of accountability and fun, let’s revisit and revise our preseason grades for the eight teams that reached the College World Series. Here’s how we explained our grading system in the preseason (we’ll use the same criteria here):

Scouts grade prospects on how their tools compare with those of an average major leaguer, but for our Top 25′s purposes, we rate talent relative to an average NCAA tournament team. In addition to grading our top 25 teams on typical tools like hitting for average, hitting for power, speed and defense, we have divided the fifth tool (arm) into two categories: starting pitching and bullpen. We’re also giving teams a grade for Experience/Intangibles—think of it as a team’s “makeup”, if you like. For each category, a grade of 50 is solid-average, comparable to a typical NCAA tournament contender; 60 is above-average; 70 is well-above-average; 40 is below-average; and 30 is well-below-average. Twenty and 80 are the extreme limits in each direction.

Finally, each team is given an Overall Future Potential (OFP) grade. In this case, the OFP represents our assessment of a team’s overall strength and its chance to win the College World Series.

Seven of the eight CWS teams appeared in our preseason Top 25 (and four were in the top seven), and their preseason grades are referenced below. North Carolina was not ranked in the preseason and will be subjected to the scrutiny of the 20-80 scale for the first time below.


VIRGINIA (No. 1 national seed)

Record: 54-10. Preseason Ranking: 15. Ranking at end of regular season: 2.

Season In A Nutshell: The Cavs had no trouble replacing five mainstays from their 2010 super regional team, as they had plenty of talented players waiting in the wings who thrived in everyday roles this spring. UVa. won the ACC’s regular-season and tournament titles, then cruised through regionals before running into serious adversity in super regionals against UC Irvine. The Anteaters held a 2-1 lead with the bases empty, two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning of Monday’s decisive third game, but Virginia rallied with two singles, a walk and a game-winning two-run single by Chris Taylor to send the Cavs to Omaha for the second time in three years.

Who’s Hot (postseason numbers):
• So. SS Chris Taylor (.462/.533/.538, 6 RBI in 26 AB)
• Jr. LHP/DH Danny Hultzen (.400/.400/.550, 6 RBI in 20 AB; 2-0, 0.73, 15-4 K-BB in 12 IP)
• Jr. RHP Will Roberts (1-0, 0.55, 15-1 K-BB in 16 IP)

Who’s Not (postseason numbers):
• Jr. 2B Keith Werman (.154/.450/.154 in 13 AB)
• Sr. OF John Barr (.217/.280/.304 in 23 AB)

2011 Draft Picks (8):
• Hultzen (No. 2 overall)
• Jr. C John Hicks (fourth round, Mariners)
• Roberts (fifth round, Indians)
• Jr. 3B Steven Proscia (seventh round, Mariners)
• Sr. RHP Tyler Wilson (10th round, Orioles)
• Sr. OF Kenny Swab (21st round, Royals)
• Sr. RHP Cody Winiarski (36th round, White Sox)
• Barr (39th round, Indians)

GRADING THE CAVALIERS

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 60

Revised: 70

Virginia leads the nation in ERA (2.26) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.8), and ranks third in hits per nine (6.77) and fourth in walks per nine (2.28). Hultzen is a truly elite ace, and the Cavs have three quality, strike-throwing upperclassmen behind him in Wilson, Roberts and Winiarski. Only Hultzen has overpowering stuff, though.

Bullpen
Preseason: 55

Revised: 65

Power-armed righthander Branden Kline has blossomed into one of the nation’s premier closers as a sophomore, and he has a strong supporting cast in Winiarski, Kyle Crockett, Whit Mayberry and Justin Thompson.

Hitting
Preseason: 60

Revised: 65

The strength of Virginia’s lineup is its maturity and discipline: every at-bat takes a toll on opposing pitchers. The Cavs excel at driving the gaps (they rank fourth in the nation with 145 doubles) and hitting situationally. David Coleman (the team leader with a .366 average), Swab and Barr lack standout tools but are very tough outs and have become valuable pieces of the lineup as seniors.

Power
Preseason: 50

Revised: 40

Virginia plays in a cavernous home park, so it has more physicality than its 24 homers indicate. Hicks (seven homers) and Proscia (eight) are legitimate long ball threats in the middle of the lineup, but the rest of the lineup lacks thunder.

Speed
Preseason: 55

Revised: 50

UVa. has good overall team athleticism but lacks any blazing runners. Proscia, Swab and Taylor all have recorded double-digit steals thanks to their instincts more than standout speed.

Defense
Preseason: 60

Revised: 65

Virginia’s .980 fielding percentage is fifth-best in the nation, but there aren’t any real marquee defenders on the field aside from slick second baseman Keith Werman. Taylor has done a solid job in his first year as the starting shortstop, but he does have 16 errors. Swab is a former catcher/first baseman playing center field; he’s done a good job there, but he’s not elite. Hicks has arm strength behind the plate but is just an adequate receiver. Proscia is dramatically improved at the hot corner.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 60

Revised: 70


The Cavaliers have resoundingly answered any questions about how they would plug the holes in their lineup. They still are loaded with Omaha veterans from their 2009 run, and they showed off their toughness and resilience in their stirring comeback against UCI last weekend.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 60

Revised: 70

Virginia carries a 54-10 record into the CWS, a testament to its remarkable consistency. The Cavs are balanced and experienced, and they must be considered one of the favorites for the national title.


FLORIDA (No. 2 national seed)

Record: 50-17. Preseason Ranking: 1. Ranking at end of regular season: 1.

Season In A Nutshell: The Gators started and finished the regular season atop the BA rankings. In between, they earned a share of the SEC regular-season title and won the conference tournament. They breezed through the Gainesville Regional in three games, then responded with their backs to the wall in a dramatic three-game super regional series against upstart Mississippi State.

Who’s Hot (postseason numbers):
• Sr. OF Bryson Smith (.520/.613/.680, 4 2B in 25 AB)
• So. C Mike Zunino (.458/.500/.958, 3 HR, 7 RBI in 24 AB)
• Jr. OF Daniel Pigott (.417/.462/.833, 3 HR, 8 RBI in 24 AB)
• Jr. OF Preston Tucker (.375/.464/1.042, 4 HR, 14 RBI in 22 AB)

Who’s Not (postseason numbers):
• So. SS Nolan Fontana (.240/.344/.360, 1 HR, 6 RBI in 25 AB)

2011 Draft Picks (11):
• Jr. LHP Nick Maronde (third round, Angels)
• Jr. RHP Anthony DeSclafani (sixth round, Blue Jays)
• Jr. LHP Alex Panteliodis (ninth round, Mets)
• Jr. RHP Tommy Toledo (11th round, Brewers)
• Sr. 2B Josh Adams (13th round, Marlins)
• Tucker (16th round, Rockies)
• Jr. C Ben McMahan (Brewers, 23rd round)
• Sr. RHP Matt Campbell (24th round, Phillies)
• Jr. RHP Greg Larson (29th round, Angels)
• Smith (34th round, Reds)
• Jr. OF Tyler Thompson (46th round, Nationals)

GRADING THE GATORS

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 65

Revised: 65

Hudson Randall has developed into a top-flight ace atop the rotation thanks to his superb command and ability to mix speeds and locations. Fr. RHP Karsten Whitson, an unsigned first-round pick, gives the Gators a No. 2 starter with premium stuff. If So. LHP Brian Johnson gets cleared to play (he’s been out since suffering a concussion in the SEC tournament), he gives Florida a third rock-solid starter with excellent feel for pitching. If he can’t go, the staff is still loaded with quality starting options like Panteliodis (the No. 1 starter on last year’s Omaha team) and Toledo. Florida throws strikes better than anybody, leading the nation in fewest walks allowed per nine innings (1.82).

Bullpen
Preseason: 75

Revised: 70

You won’t find a bullpen with better depth of power arms than Florida’s. Maronde, Steven Rodriguez and Panteliodis give the Gators excellent options from the left side, while DeSclafani, Larson, Toledo and Austin Maddox (if healthy) have excellent stuff from the right side. The only flaw is the lack of a proven big-game closer, like South Carolina has in Matt Price. Maddox anchored the closer committee for a good chunk of the season, but his status this weekend is in question due to the sprained foot he suffered on June 3.

Hitting
Preseason: 65

Revised: 65

The Gators rank 16th in the nation in batting (.311) and 12th in runs. They have quality table-setters in Smith and Fontana. Thumpers Zunino, Tucker, Johnson and Maddox can hit for serious power but do not sell out for power, making them tough outs. Pigott and Thompson have gotten hot at the right time, making the bottom of the lineup difficult to navigate as well.

Power
Preseason: 70

Revised: 70

Florida ranks fifth in the nation with 67 homers, led by Zunino’s 18 and Tucker’s 14. That pair and Pigott have a knack for delivering home runs in big spots, too. Even Fontana and Adams have occasional power potential.

Speed
Preseason: 50

Revised: 45


Florida does not rely on the stolen base, as Pigott (15-for-19) is the only Gator with double-digit steals. Fontana and Smith are solid runners but not burners.

Defense
Preseason: 70

Revised: 65


The Gators are 25th in the nation with a .975 fielding percentage. Fontana and Adams form one of college baseball’s best keystone combinations, and Zunino is a leader behind the plate. The outfield is average, and the infield corners have been trouble spots at times this season, leading Florida to install defensive specialist Cody Dent as the starter at third base.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 70

Revised: 70

Florida reached the CWS with a freshman-laden team a year ago, so it returns to Omaha loaded with players who have experience on the game’s biggest stage. The Gators are well coached and fundamentally sound, and they showed plenty of toughness in their super regional battle against MSU.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 75

Revised: 70

It is very hard to find a chink in Florida’s armor, but its health is a bit of a concern—Maddox and Johnson are key two-way pieces. Florida has gotten this far in the postseason without them, but it won’t be easy to win the national title if both remain sidelined. Even so, the Gators are one of the top title contenders, with or without Maddox and Johnson.


NORTH CAROLINA (No. 3 national seed)

Record: 50-14. Preseason Ranking: NR. Ranking at end of regular season: 13.

Season In A Nutshell: The Tar Heels entered the season with modest expectations after losing ace Matt Harvey to the draft, and talented outfielder Brian Goodwin was dismissed from the team for violating university rules in the fall. But UNC got off to a strong start on the West Coast and weathered plenty of adversity along the way to its fifth CWS trip in the last six years. The Tar Heels bounced back from series losses to Wake Forest and North Carolina State, plus a meltdown in a series at Georgia Tech, and swept Virginia in the final weekend to move atop the RPI rankings and earn a national seed. Coach Mike Fox lost his mother during regionals, and associate head coach Scott Forbes lost his father-in-law the following week, but UNC still completed an undefeated run through regionals and supers.

Who’s Hot (postseason numbers):
• Jr. C Jacob Stallings (.400/.478/.650, 1 HR, 7 RBI in 20 AB)
• So. OF Chaz Frank (.389/.480/.500, 6 RBI in 18 AB)
• Sr. RHP Patrick Johnson (2-0, 0.57, 18-2 K-BB in 16 IP)
• Fr. LHP Kent Emanuel (2-0, 0.64, 10-2 K-BB in 14 IP)


Who’s Not (postseason numbers):
• Jr. SS Levi Michael (.182/.308/.227, 0 RBI in 22 AB)
• Fr. 3B Colin Moran (.250/.348/.300, 1 RBI in 20 AB)

2011 Draft Picks (5):
• Michael (No. 30 overall, Twins)
• Sr. RHP/DH Greg Holt (eighth round, Nationals)
• Sr. 1B Jesse Wierzbicki (24th round, Astros)
• Johnson (25th round, Rockies)
• Stallings (42nd round, Reds)

GRADING THE TAR HEELS

Starting Pitching
Preseason: N/A

Revised: 60


For the first time since Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard arrived in Chapel Hill before the 2004 season, North Carolina’s rotation does not feature a current or slam-dunk future first-round pick. But Johnson blossomed into a bona fide ace as a senior thanks to a full season of health and significantly improved command of his average fastball. He’s a tenacious bulldog with a swing-and-miss breaking ball, and he threw 30 consecutive scoreless innings before finally giving up a run to Stanford in super regionals. Emanuel was a prized recruit who thrives off fastball command, downward angle and a good changeup. So. RHP Chris Munnelly has been up and down as the No. 3 starter.

Bullpen
Preseason: N/A

Revised: 60


UNC’s bullpen is deeper and more versatile than it has been in recent years. Holt is a quality senior with a swing-and-miss breaking ball for moment-of-truth situations, and So. RHP Michael Morin has a putaway pitch in his outstanding changeup, though his 4.71 ERA is high for a premier closer. The Tar Heels can mix and match to their hearts’ content thanks to an abundance of options from the right and left sides, but none have truly overwhelming stuff.

Hitting
Preseason: N/A

Revised: 55

UNC’s .289 batting average is modest, but the Tar Heels average 7.0 runs per game, 19th in the nation. Moran, a first-team All-American, has been the biggest surprise in an unexpectedly potent lineup that features tough outs from top to bottom. The switch-hitting Michael and righthanded-hitting Wierzbicki give UNC critical balance in the heart of the order, while Frank has developed into a solid table-setter. The Tar Heels are extremely patient and will make pitchers work hard, as evidenced by their 340 walks (second in the nation).

Power
Preseason: N/A

Revised: 50

No Tar Heel enters the CWS with double-digit homers, but Moran (nine), Wierzbicki (seven), Seth Baldwin (five) and Michael (five) give UNC adequate firepower.

Speed
Preseason: N/A

Revised: 55

The Tar Heels use the stolen base much more than they have in the past to generate offense. Tommy Coyle (18 steals), Bunting (17), Michael (15) and Frank (10) are all threats to run, though none has premium speed.

Defense
Preseason: N/A

Revised: 70


UNC is an elite defensive team with a .979 fielding percentage (sixth in the nation). Michael and Coyle are a strong double-play tandem, and Stallings is a marquee defender with a very strong arm behind the plate. The outfield has very good speed, and Wierzbicki is solid at first, though Moran is still a work in progress at third.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: N/A

Revised: 70

UNC does rely on its share of underclassmen, but it also features plenty of Omaha veterans like Michael, Bunting, Johnson and Holt. UNC is a classic “sum is greater than the parts” team, with a coaching staff that gets the most out of its players—who are very hungry and very savvy.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: N/A

Revised: 65

North Carolina does not have the pure talent of Florida or Vanderbilt, but underestimating the Tar Heels has proven unwise all season long. They are a very good college baseball team, but they need to stay in the winners’ bracket to have a shot at the national title, because they are not blessed with the deepest collection of starting pitchers.


SOUTH CAROLINA (No. 4 national seed)

Record: 50-14. Preseason Ranking: 7. Ranking at end of regular season: 4.

Season In A Nutshell: The defending national champions weathered injuries to their best player (first-team preseason All-American Jackie Bradley Jr.) and their best athlete (outfielder Adam Matthews), plus the loss of their entire weekend rotation from a year ago, en route to a share of the SEC regular-season title. They lost just one weekend series all year and took two out of three from both Vanderbilt and Florida. They waltzed unbeaten through regionals and super regionals.

Who’s Hot (postseason numbers):
• Sr. 2B Scott Wingo (.450/.542/.450 in 20 AB)
• So. 1B Christian Walker (.389/.522/.556 in 18 AB)
• Sr. C/OF Robert Beary (.350/.381/.700, 1 HR, 7 RBI in 20 AB)
• Jr. LHP Michael Roth (2-0, 0.00, 6-5 K-BB in 15 IP)
• So. RHP Matt Price (0-0, 0.00, 3 SV, 9-1 K-BB in 6 IP)

Who’s Not (postseason numbers):
• Sr. C/DH Brady Thomas (.176/.273/.235 in 17 AB)
• So. OF Evan Marzilli (.227/.250/.455 in 22 AB)

2011 Draft Picks (11):
• Jr. OF Jackie Bradley (supplemental first round, Red Sox)
• Price (sixth round, Diamondbacks)
• Wingo (11th round, Dodgers)
• Jr. SS Peter Mooney (21st round, Blue Jays)
• Sr. RHP John Taylor (22nd round, Mariners)
• Jr. OF Adam Matthews (23rd round, Orioles)
• Jr. LHP Bryan Harper (30th round, Nationals)
• Roth (31st round, Indians)
• Jr. LHP/OF Steven Neff (41st round, Giants)
• So. LHP Tyler Webb (48th round, Reds)
• Sr. 3B Adrian Morales (49th round, Royals)

GRADING THE GAMECOCKS

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 45

Revised: 60

The greatest uncertainty facing the Gamecocks heading into the season was how they would replace departed rotation stalwarts Blake Cooper and Sam Dyson. Roth built on his College World Series heroics by putting together a first-team All-America campaign as the Friday starter, leading all starting pitchers in college baseball in ERA (1.02). His stuff isn’t overpowering—his fastball ranges from 82-87, but he spots it very well, has an outstanding changeup and good feel for his breaking ball. Young righthanders Forrest Koumas and Colby Holmes have been solid but not spectacular behind Roth in the rotation for most of the season.

Bullpen
Preseason: 75

Revised: 70

As we wrote in the preseason, the bullpen was the backbone of South Carolina’s national title team, and it is perhaps the greatest strength of this year’s team as well. Price is the nation’s premier closer—a fearless power righty who can go multiple innings and bounces back quickly. Once again, the Gamecocks can show opponents lots of different looks, from submariners Taylor and Jose Mata to lefties Harper and Webb.

Hitting
Preseason: 60

Revised: 55

This offense, like North Carolina’s, is better than its .296 team batting average indicates. Walker has emerged as one of the nation’s best hitters as a sophomore; he, Wingo and Mooney all have more walks than strikeouts, while Morales and Jake Williams have about as many walks as strikeouts. The Gamecocks simply do a good job putting the ball in play, moving runners along and coming up with big hits. If Bradley returns from his wrist tendon injury in Omaha—and reports suggest that is a strong possibility—it could give the Gamecocks a further boost.

Power
Preseason: 60

Revised: 50


Walker is the lone Gamecock with double-digit homers (10); no other healthy Gamecock has more than five long balls. But everyone in the lineup is capable of running into one on occasion, and every regular has at least two homers.

Speed
Preseason: 55

Revised: 40

Matthews, the team’s fastest player, has been plagued by a hamstring injury most of the spring, and the next-best runner is Bradley, who has been limited to 37 games. South Carolina ranks 265th in the nation in steals per game, though Marzilli, Wingo and Beary are good athletes who move around the bases well.

Defense
Preseason: 65

Revised: 65

Though South Carolina’s .973 fielding percentage (42nd in the nation) is not elite, the Gamecocks are an outstanding defensive team. Mooney and Wingo are capable of dazzling in the middle of the infield, while Morales and Walker are strong on the corners. Bradley is the nation’s best defensive center fielder, but Marzilli has filled in for him nicely, showing plenty of range.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 70

Revised: 75

Only the relative inexperience of the rotation after Roth keeps this score from being an 80. South Carolina is loaded with confident, experienced veterans who proved their mettle time and again during the last two years. You won’t find a better coaching staff anywhere, and you won’t find a more mentally tough college baseball team, either.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 65

Revised: 65


The Gamecocks simply know how to win. They might not have the most pure talent in this CWS field, but they have plenty of talent, and their heart has made up for any talent gaps for two years.


VANDERBILT (No. 6 national seed)

Record: 52-10. Preseason Ranking: 4. Ranking at end of regular season: 3.

Season In A Nutshell: Vandy returned loads of key players from last year’s super regional team, and the Commodores were one of the nation’s best teams from wire to wire, losing just two weekend series (to South Carolina and Florida). After falling to the Gators in the SEC tournament title game, Vanderbilt was utterly dominant during its undefeated run through regionals and super regionals, outscoring its opponents 48-7 in five games. Finally, the Commodores earned their way to Omaha for the first time ever.

Who’s Hot (postseason numbers):
• Jr. 2B Riley Reynolds (.500/.556/.500 in 16 AB)
• Fr. DH Conrad Gregor (.471/.565/.588 in 17 AB)
• Jr. 3B Jason Esposito (.409/.458/.727, 2 HR, 8 RBI in 22 AB)
• Jr. 1B Aaron Westlake (.316/.480/1.000, 4 HR, 10 RBI in 19 AB)
• Entire pitching staff (5-0, 1.20, 47-11 K-BB in 45 IP)

Who’s Not (postseason numbers)
• Sr. C Curt Casali (.167/.304/.389 in 18 AB)
• So. OF Connor Harrell (.211/.286/.263 in 19 AB)
• Fr. OF Tony Kemp (.211/.385/.211 in 19 AB)

2011 Draft Picks (12):
• Jr. RHP Sonny Gray (No. 18 overall, Athletics)
• Jr. LHP Grayson Garvin (supplemental first round, Rays)
• Esposito (second round, Orioles)
• Jr. RHP Jack Armstrong (third round, Astros)
• Westlake (third round, Tigers)
• So. LHP Corey Williams (third round, Twins)
• Sr. RHP Taylor Hill (sixth round, Nationals)
• Sr. RHP Mark Lamm (sixth round, Braves)
• Casali (10th round, Tigers)
• Jr. RHP Navery Moore (14th round, Braves)
• Jr. RHP Will Clinard (30th round, Twins)
• Jr. OF Joe Loftus (46th round, Diamondbacks)

GRADING THE COMMODORES

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 70

Revised: 70

Vandy’s rotation features a pair of second-team All-Americans in the electric Gray and SEC pitcher of the year Garvin, the first pitcher ever to go 10-0 in SEC action. Hill might be the best No. 3 starter in this field, a physical, experienced sinkerballer with a quality four-pitch mix.

Bullpen
Preseason: 65

Revised: 70

Vandy’s bullpen is so deep that third-rounder Williams and sixth-rounder Lamm were relegated to middle relief roles, as was future first-rounder Kevin Ziomek. Moore’s stuff wasn’t quite as electric down the stretch as it was early, but he’s still a top-flight closer. Ziomek and Williams give this bullpen a pair of power-armed lefties, while Clinard, Armstrong and Lamm are power arms from the right side.

Hitting
Preseason: 65

Revised: 70

Vandy’s offense sometimes gets overlooked because of its riches on the mound, but the Commodores rank fifth in the nation with a .319 team batting average and 14th nationally in scoring (7.1 runs per game). Second-team All-Americans Esposito and Westlake lead a group of eight regulars hitting .300 or better, and five of them are hitting better than .340. Kemp and Gomez are prototypical catalysts in the top two spots in the order, and there is no letup in the bottom half of the lineup.

Power
Preseason: 55

Revised: 55

Westlake (17 homers) is the only Commodore in double-digit homers, but Esposito (nine), Harrell (seven) and Casali (six) are decent long ball threats as well. Gregor (three) has huge raw power that he’s still learning to tap into. On the whole, Vandy ranks 40th in the nation in homers per game.

Speed
Preseason: 55

Revised: 55


The stolen base isn’t a huge part of Vandy’s offense, but it is certainly a part. The team’s fastest runner is Kemp (16-for-20 in steals), but Mike Yastrzemski (22-for-25) and Esposito (15-for-25) are also good runners who are aggressive on the basepaths.

Defense
Preseason: 55

Revised: 60

One of the only questions facing Vanderbilt coming into the season was who would take over for Brian Harris at shortstop. After briefly trying Esposito at short, Vandy settled on Gomez there, and he is serviceable but does have 19 errors. Esposito has a reputation as a marquee defender at the hot corner, but he’s fielding just .913. Reynolds is a sterling defender at second (.995), and Casali is a good receiver with a below-average arm. All three outfielders have outstanding range and instincts.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 60

Revised: 65

This is Vanderbilt’s first trip to Omaha, but its roster is teeming with upperclassmen who have been to consecutive super regionals. Vandy is very well coached and disciplined, and the team chemistry is special. Don’t expect this group to get tight in big spots.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 65

Revised: 70

Vanderbilt set a Southeastern Conference record by producing 12 MLB draft picks this year—six of them in the top three rounds. That’s a pretty good indication of this team’s ridiculous talent level. The Commodores might be the nation’s most complete team, and they are a major threat to win the championship.


TEXAS (No. 7 national seed)

Record: 49-17. Preseason Ranking: 6. Ranking at end of regular season: 5.

Season In A Nutshell: A year after the Longhorns dominated the regular season but were upset by TCU in super regionals, they rode their pitching and defense back to Omaha for the second time in three years. The Big 12 regular-season co-champions (along with Texas A&M) had to win five consecutive elimination games to get through regionals and super regionals.

Who’s Hot (postseason numbers):
• Fr. OF Mark Payton (.391/.429/.478 in 23 AB)
• Sr. 1B Tant Shepherd (.387/.486/.645, 1 HR, 5 RBI in 31 AB)
• Jr. DH Kevin Lusson (.318/.400/.591, 2 HR, 7 RBI in 22 AB)
• Fr. RHP Corey Knebel (1-0, 0.00, 3 SV, 4-0 K-BB in 7 IP)

Who’s Not (postseason numbers):
• Jr. RHP Taylor Jungmann (0-2, 5.14, 7-5 K-BB in 14 IP)
• Sr. OF Paul Montalbano (.174/.345/.174 in 23 AB)
• Jr. 2B Jordan Etier (.200/.310/.320 in 25 AB)

2011 Draft Picks (9):
• Jungmann (No. 12 overall, Brewers)
• Jr. LHP Sam Stafford (second round, Yankees)
• Jr. SS Brandon Loy (fifth round, Tigers)
• Sr. RHP Cole Green (ninth round, Reds)
• Jr. LHP Andrew McKirahan (21st round, Cubs)
• Shepherd (24th round, Mets)
• Jr. RHP Austin Dicharry (41st round, Phillies)
• Sr. RHP Stayton Thomas (43rd round, Rays)
• Lusson (45th round, Rays)

GRADING THE LONGHORNS

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 70

Revised: 70

Jungmann carried an undefeated record and a sub-1.00 ERA into the NCAA tournament, but he has lost his last two starts, and the Longhorns need him to return to his dominating form in Omaha. Not only is he one of the nation’s most talented pitchers, but he’s a proven big-game pitcher who shut down LSU in the 2009 CWS Finals as a freshman. Green hasn’t been as good as he was last year (when he was a fourth-round pick), but he’s still a dogged competitor with a quality three-pitch mix. Stafford is a power lefty who can be overpowering when his command is on. The Longhorns rank second in the nation in ERA (2.27) and first in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.3).

Bullpen
Preseason: 65

Revised: 65


Texas had to replace first-team All-American Chance Ruffin at the back of the bullpen, and it did so with a second-team All-American in Knebel, a fearless freshman with an overpowering fastball. The unit around him is deeper than the Texas bullpen has been in recent years. Hoby Milner and Andrew McKirahan give UT quality options from the left side, while Kendal Carrillo and Nathan Thornhill complement them from the right side. It’s a deep unit, but not quite as rich as Vandy’s or Florida’s ‘pens.

Hitting
Preseason: 50

Revised: 45


Texas ranks 207th in the nation in batting (.272) and 185th in scoring (5.2 runs per game), but its offense is plenty competent. Texas simply relies on small ball, leading the nation with 109 sacrifice bunts, and situational hitting. Freshman sensation Erich Weiss (.358) and Loy (.344 with 23 doubles) have hit considerably better than expected; that duo and Shepherd (.305) anchors the lineup.

Power
Preseason: 35

Revised: 30

Shepherd (five homers) and Weiss (four) are the only Longhorns with more than two homers on the season. Certainly, UT’s cavernous home field suppresses the long ball, but even so this is not a physical lineup.

Speed
Preseason: 60

Revised: 50

Loy (19-for-23 in steals) and Weiss (11-for-13) are the only Longhorns with double-digit steals. Payton, Montalbano and Etier are all solid runners, while Cohl Walla brings blazing speed off the bench.

Defense
Preseason: 70

Revised: 70

Only Virginia allowed fewer runs per game than Texas this year, and the defense deserves nearly as much credit as the pitching. Loy is one of college baseball’s very best shortstops, a very steady defender who also can make the dazzling play. Etier, Weiss and Shepherd join him in a superb infield. But Felts has thrown out just nine of 41 basestealers, and the outfield is solid but not spectacular.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 70

Revised: 70


Texas has a roster filled with veterans of three straight super regional runs, including the 2009 national runner-up team. Though it relies on freshmen at key spots (most notably Weiss and Knebel), they are battle-tested and mentally tough freshmen. And, of course, Texas has the all-time leader in coaching victories in Augie Garrido, who is now the only coach to lead teams to Omaha in five different decades.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 65

Revised: 65

Texas has good enough pitching and defense to capture its first national title since 2005, but the Longhorns are the worst offensive team in the CWS field, and they won’t be the favorites in Omaha this year.


TEXAS A&M

Record: 47-20. Preseason Ranking: 21. Ranking at end of regular season: 7.

Season In A Nutshell: The Aggies shared the Big 12 regular-season title with Texas, then won the conference tournament, but they failed to land a national seed at least in part because ace John Stilson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury right before the postseason. Even without Stilson, the Aggies outlasted Arizona to win their regional and won a super regional at Florida State to reach Omaha for the first time since 1999.

Who’s Hot (postseason numbers):
• So. OF Tyler Naquin (.483/.545/.759 in 29 AB)
• Jr. 1B Jacob House (.375/.485/.417, 9 RBI in 24 AB)
• Jr. DH Matt Juengel (.360/.452/.800, 2 HR, 8 RBI in 25 AB)
• So. RHP Michael Wacha (2-0, 0.89, 14-6 K-BB in 20 IP)
• Jr. RHP Ross Stripling (2-0, 1.59, 13-3 K-BB in 17 IP)

Who’s Not (postseason numbers):
• Fr. OF Krey Bratsen (.250/.438/.250 in 24 AB)
• So. OF Brandon Wood (.222/.250/.296 in 27 AB)
• Fr. RHP Derrick Hadley (0-1, 12.00 in 6 IP)
• Relievers Kyle Martin, Brandon Parrent, Joaquin Hinojosa and Dylan Mendoza all have postseason ERAs of 13.50 or higher.

2011 Draft Picks (8):
• Jr. RHP John Stilson (third round, Blue Jays)
• Stripling (ninth round, Rockies)
• Sr. RHP Nick Fleece (13th round, Reds)
• Jr. 3B Adam Smith (25th round, Yankees)
• So. LHP Brandon Parrent (30th round, White Sox)
• Sr. SS Kenny Jackson (31st round, Marlins)
• Sr. C Kevin Gonzalez (36th round, Astros)
• Sr. RHP Steve Martin (37th round, Astros)

GRADING THE AGGIES

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 65

Revised: 60

With Stilson—who would have been a first-round pick had he stayed healthy—A&M would score a 70 here, but there is a significant drop-off from Stilson to new third starter Derrick Hadley, who was bombed by Florida State last weekend. Even so, Wacha and Stripling are front-line horses with power stuff. Wacha looks like a first-round pick in 2012 thanks to his outstanding command of a plus fastball and superb changeup.

Bullpen
Preseason: 55

Revised: 55


Hinojosa’s struggles down the stretch are a significant concern, and other key bullpen pieces like Parrent and Martin have also been less effective than they were earlier in the year. But strike-throwing power sinkerballer Fleece has emerged as the go-to arm in a bullpen that still offers a variety of different looks.

Hitting
Preseason: 45

Revised: 50

The Aggies have a pair of dynamic catalysts in the first two spots in the order in Big 12 player of the year Naquin and speed merchant Bratsen, the top two hitters on the team. Bratsen, though, strikes out at a fairly high clip, as do a number of Aggies. Juengel and House are the only other regulars hitting above .300. Naquin has seven triples and 23 doubles, leading a lineup that ranks second nationally with 29 triples. Still, the Aggies are just 96th in scoring (5.9 runs per game).

Power
Preseason: 40

Revised: 40

A&M ranks 173rd in the nation in homers per game (0.43), but they have good gap power. Juengel, Smith, Gonzalez and House also bring occasional home run pop.

Speed
Preseason: 65
Revised: 60

The Aggies rank 13th nationally with 107 steals, led by Bratsen, who has blazing speed. Andrew Collazo has 18 steals in 18 tries, illustrating his advanced baserunning savvy. Naquin is a plus runner but has just six steals in 13 tries.

Defense
Preseason: 60

Revised: 60

Jackson is steady but not special at shortstop, but he has stabilized an infield that was A&M’s Achilles’ heel in 2010. Gonzalez gives the Aggies another quality up-the-middle defender, but Smith is a liability at third base despite a strong arm, and the Aggies will often shift Collazo from second to third and put Charlie Curl at second late in games for defense. Bratsen and Naquin cover tons of ground in the outfield, and Naquin might have college baseball’s best outfield arm. The Aggies rank 20th in the nation with a .976 fielding percentage.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 50

Revised: 60


The Aggies needed to prove they could get over the hump to Omaha, and they showed a lot of character by doing it even after losing Stilson. The lineup features six upperclassmen, and the pitching staff has a nice mix of veterans and fresh faces. A&M is known for its grinder approach.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 55

Revised: 60

Without Stilson, the Aggies don’t have the pitching depth to run through the losers’ bracket, so they need Wacha and Stripling to be sharp and keep them in the winners’ bracket. The Aggies must be considered an underdog in this loaded CWS field, but they are certainly good enough to make a deep run.


CALIFORNIA

Record: 37-21. Preseason Ranking: 17. Ranking at end of regular season: NR.

Season In A Nutshell: Good luck fitting the story of Cal’s season inside a nutshell. In September, the school’s administration announced it was cutting the baseball program and several other athletic programs, but the players did not lose focus or feel bad for themselves during fall and spring practice seasons. Supporters of the program quickly mobilized to try to save the program, and they were rebuffed twice before finally getting it reinstated in April. The Golden Bears actually lost five of their final seven weekend series after reinstatement, then lost their regional opener against Baylor. But their run through the losers’ bracket culminated in a frantic comeback in the decisive final game against the Bears, when they overcame a three-run deficit in the ninth inning to reach their first super regional. Cal dominated Dallas Baptist in two games to reach Omaha for the first time since 1992.

Who’s Hot (postseason numbers):
• Jr. SS Marcus Semien (.393/.452/.714, 1 HR, 6 RBI in 28 AB)
• So. 1B Devon Rodriguez (.375/.484/.500, 1 HR, 7 HR in 24 AB)
• Fr. 2B Derek Campbell (.556/.556/.667 in 9 AB)
• So. LHP Justin Jones (2-0, 0.00, 15-4 K-BB in 14 IP)
• Fr. LHP Kyle Porter (1-0, 0.00, 10-2 K-BB in 8 IP)

Who’s Not (postseason numbers):
• So. 3B Mitch Delfino (.125/.185/.125 in 24 AB)
• So. DH Vince Bruno (.154/.214/.154 in 13 AB)

2011 Draft Picks (7):
• Jr. RHP Erik Johnson (second round, White Sox)
• Semien (sixth round, White Sox)
• Jr. RHP Dixon Anderson (ninth round, Nationals)
• Jr. C Chadd Krist (13th round, White Sox)
• Sr. RHP Kevin Miller (18th round, Astros)
• Jr. RHP Matt Flemer (19th round, Royals)
• Sr. OF Austin Booker (33rd round, Athletics)

GRADING THE GOLDEN BEARS



Starting Pitching
Preseason: 65

Revised: 55

Cal ranks 11th in the nation in ERA (2.84) and ninth in hits allowed per nine innings (7.68), but No. 2 starter Justin Jones is questionable with bicep soreness, which caused him to depart his super regional start in the sixth inning and reappear in a sling the following day. Johnson is a power-armed ace with a quality four-pitch mix and a competitive streak, and he pitched well in super regionals after struggling twice against Baylor in regionals. If Jones can’t go, that puts added pressure on Anderson, another physical power pitcher who can be very good when his command is on. He’s had an up-and-down season, however, and No. 4 starter Miller has not been as effective down the stretch as he was in his stellar first half.


Bullpen
Preseason: 45

Revised: 60

The bullpen turned out to be the strength of Cal’s pitching staff. The Bears have a reliable closer in the tenacious Flemer, a strike-thrower with an 88-92 fastball and good slider. Porter and So. RHP Logan Scott have thrived in setup roles, and Miller is a valuable swingman.

Hitting
Preseason: 60

Revised: 50

Cal’s .288 batting average is nothing special, but the lineup is filled with good line-drive hitters playing with confidence. Pac-10 player of the year Tony Renda, limited to DH duties in the super regional by a pulled quad, is a terrific bat-handler who makes the offense go. Krist (25 doubles) excels at shooting the gaps, but most of the lineup has the ability to find the gaps well. Cal’s offensive approach is aggressive, but not to a reckless degree.

Power
Preseason: 35

Revised: 40

Cal has just 31 homers, but it proved in the super regional that it can win with the long ball in the right conditions, riding a pair of three-run homers to a win in the first game, then jumping out to an early lead with a two-run shot in the second game. Jr. OF Chad Bunting has found his power stroke in the postseason and leads the bears with seven homers on the year. Rodriguez and Semien have five homers apiece.

Speed
Preseason: 50

Revised: 50

The numbers don’t tell the whole story here. The Bears rank 226th in the nation with 0.79 stolen bases, but they actually have an athletic lineup filled with solid or better runners like Darrel Matthews, Booker, Semien and Renda. They just don’t steal many bases; no Bear has more than nine swipes on the year.

Defense
Preseason: 50

Revised: 60

Cal’s fielding percentage jumped from .961 a year ago to .975 this spring. Semien might have been the most improved defender in the Pac-10, improving his fielding percentage from .929 to .960 at shortstop. He and Renda form a flashy keystone combination, and Krist is an underrated defensive backstop. The outfielders have good speed but lack arm strength.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 55

Revised: 55


The Bears have plenty of veterans in the lineup and on the mound, but they are navigating uncharted waters, as the program had not won a regional since 1992. In the past, Cal had a reputation for folding in pressure situations, but the Bears dispelled that reputation during this postseason run. The team chemistry is truly special, as the off-field ordeal helped an already tight-knit group bond even closer together.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 55

Revised: 55

As a No. 3 regional seed in a CWS field filled with No. 1s (including six national seeds), Cal is a heavy underdog—especially with Jones’ status in doubt. Still, Cal is a balanced team with a story that should appeal to the local fans, who could give the Bears a boost, especially if they start winning games at the CWS. And upstart Omaha darlings have succeeded in the face of long odds before (see: regional No. 4 seed Fresno State in 2008, regional No. 3 seed Oregon State in 2007).

College | #2011 #College World Series #Postseason

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