We love the 20-80 scouting scale at Baseball America; we use it to assess everything from prospects to lunch spots. So we subject our preseason top 25 rankings to the same scrutiny.
Scouts grade prospects on how their tools compare with those of an average major leaguer, but we are rating teams relative to an average college baseball team with NCAA tournament aspirations. 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 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. The OFP scale:
80: A team for the ages. An overwhelming favorite with no obvious weaknesses. Think 1981 Arizona State or 1996 Louisiana State—and, this year, Florida.
70: Elite. A leading contender for the national title. (Stanford, South Carolina, Arkansas.)
65: Well-above-average. Legitimate championship contender. (Arizona, Rice.)
60: Above-average. Strong Omaha contender. (Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Louisiana State, North Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Texas, UCLA.)
55: Slightly above-average. A threat to win a conference title and perhaps reach Omaha. (Texas Christian, Clemson, Arizona State, Miami, Oklahoma, Florida State.)
50: Solid-average. Strong NCAA tournament teams who could make a postseason run. (Central Florida, Mississippi, Oregon State, Louisville, Cal State Fullerton.)
Remember, of course, that ranking teams is far from an exact science, and there will doubtless be surprises and disappointments as the season unfolds. But we think applying the 20-80 scale is an interesting way to gauge each team’s projected strengths and weaknesses heading into the season.
2011 Record (Ranking):53-19 (2). RPI: 2.
Coach (Record at school): Kevin O’Sullivan (176-82, 4 years).
Postseason History: 27 regional appearances (active streak: 4), 7 CWS appearances (active streak: 2), 0 national titles.
|Hitting: 70. Florida’s lineup has outstanding depth, with six mainstays back in the everyday lineup, four other returnees who played valuable part-time roles a year ago, and a talented group of newcomers led by 5-foot-9 scrappers Turgeon and Josh Tobias. Fontana’s remarkable plate discipline (105 walks, 59 strikeouts in two seasons) makes him one of the nation’s premier catalysts. Tucker also has more walks (92) than strikeouts (80) in his Florida career, making him a lefthanded slugger who is also a tough out. The rest of the lineup is more aggressive. Pigott and Thompson are streaky hitters who make this lineup extremely dangerous when they are locked in.
Power: 70. Few teams can match Florida’s thump in the heart of the order. Zunino and Maddox both have huge raw power from the right side, though Maddox did not adapt as well to the BBCOR bats. Johnson and Tucker—who made TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha look small with a long homer in the College World Series—bring plus power from the left side. Pigott, Thompson, Fontana, Powers and even Turgeon all have at least occasional pop.
Speed: 45. Florida ranked 229th in the nation in steals per game last year. Fontana, Pigott and Thompson are decent runners, while Tobias and fellow freshman Cory Reid bring plus speed off the bench.
Defense: 60. Fontana is as reliable as college shortstops get, and Turgeon has similar defensive ability at second base, where he’ll replace steady Josh Adams. Thompson is aggressive in center but lacks arm strength and is better suited for left field. Zunino has sound catch-and-throw skills. The Gators are decent but not special on the corners. Maddox, Johnson and Vickash Ramjit will all see action at first.
Starting Pitching: 75. Florida welcomes back its entire weekend rotation, fronted by Randall, a dogged competitor with pinpoint command of his four-pitch mix and excellent sink on his fastball, making up for below-average velocity. Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in 2010, has premium stuff—a mid-90s fastball, a power slider in the mid-to-high 80s and a rapidly improving changeup. Johnson might be the nation’s best Sunday starter, with advanced feel for a polished three-pitch repertoire from the left side. Fr. RHP John Magliozzi makes up for his smallish size with a big arm and plenty of tenacity, making him the front-runner for Florida’s primary midweek starter job.
Bullpen: 70. Even after losing mainstays Nick Maronde, Anthony DeSclafani and Tommy Toledo, Florida’s bullpen remains rock-solid. Rodriguez’s fastball-cutter combo is devastating, and he looks more confident than ever heading into his junior year. Maddox worked hard on his pitching in the fall, showing a heavy mid-90s fastball and better feel for his wipeout power slider. Sr. RHP Greg Larson is a proven sinkerballer, while sophomores Jonathon Crawford, Keenan Kish and Daniel Gibson are less proven but very talented, and coming off strong springs. Transfer Ryan Harris gives this unit a different look—his herky-jerky, three-quarters delivery has effort and deception, and his low-to-mid-90s fastball has very heavy sink.
Experience/Intangibles: 75. The Gators are loaded with veterans of their two Omaha runs over the last two years. The roster is stocked with winning players, and the coaching staff excels at putting them in position to succeed.
Baseball America OFP: 80. If ever a team were an overwhelming favorite on paper, it’s Florida, which has talent, experience, balance, motivation and strong coaching. It fell two wins shy in 2011 but looks poised to finally hoist the trophy in 2012.
2011 Record (Ranking):35-22 (13). RPI: 13.
Coach (Record at school): Mark Marquess (1422-741-7, 35 years).
Postseason History: 30 regional appearances (active streak: 2), 16 CWS appearances (last in 2008), 2 national titles (last in 1988).
|Hitting: 70. Stanford ranked just 162nd in the nation in scoring (5.4 runs per game) a year ago, but by season’s end the young lineup showed flashes of being truly explosive, and seven starters are back in the fold for 2012. Ragira, Kauppila, Piscotty, Diekroeger and Gaffney are all gifted pure hitters who pepper hard line drives all around the field. Taylor has a simple lefthanded stroke, and talented freshmen Blandino and Dominic Jose will battle for at-bats with Jr. C Christian Griffiths, who missed last year with a shoulder injury. Stewart and Wilson also have big-time ability but need to make more consistent contact.
Power: 60. Wilson has enormous raw power that he’s still learning to harness. Potential first-rounders Diekroeger and Piscotty both got considerably stronger in the offseason and should hit for more power as juniors. The lean Ragira also has intriguing raw power, though he is still maturing physically.
Speed: 60. The outfield has a pair of plus runners in Stewart and Gaffney (a tailback with 12 career touchdowns for the Cardinal football team), while Wilson runs very well for his huge size. Kauppila also brings solid speed, and while the rest of the lineup lacks burners, it is plenty athletic.
Defense: 65. Replacing graduated Zach Jones behind the plate will be one of Stanford’s biggest challenges, but Taylor is a natural leader with a strong arm, while Griffiths and converted infielder Eric Smith give the Cardinal good depth at the position. Stewart and Gaffney are standout defenders, and Wilson has one of college baseball’s strongest arms. The slick-fielding Kauppila will compete with Diekroeger—who was erratic as a sophomore, despite all his talent—for the shortstop job, and the infield corners should be very solid.
Starting Pitching: 65. The flame-throwing Appel is the early front-runner for the No. 1 overall pick in June thanks to a mid-to-upper-90s fastball, a devastating power slider at 86-87 and an improving changeup. Mooneyham might have been a first-rounder last year if he hadn’t missed the season with a finger injury; he had a strong fall, showing better command of a fastball that reaches the low 90s, a swing-and-miss changeup with good sink and a slider that he uses mostly for a chase pitch. Like Mooneyham, Vanegas was a premium recruit who needs to command the zone better, but he made progress in the fall, refining his hard breaking ball and developing changeup while adding a cutter to complement his 88-93 fastball. He’ll compete for the Sunday job with Jr. RHP Dean McArdle (7-4, 4.21), a bulldog with good command of a four-pitch mix.
Bullpen: 55. This unit has solid depth but must find a closer to replace first-rounder Chris Reed. Piscotty has little collegiate pitching experience but flashes nasty stuff from a low arm slot—a fastball that reaches 95-96 and a power slider. Freshmen will be key: projectable LHP Spenser Linney, pitchability LHP John Hochstatter and RHP David Schmidt (a smallish power sinkerballer) figure to see important innings. Righties Brian Busick, Sahil Bloom, McArdle and submariner Elliot Byers give the ‘pen some veteran leadership.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. Stanford won a regional last year with an underclassmen-laden roster. Now its young stars have matured into experienced stars who know what the postseason is all about.
Baseball America OFP: 70. Only Florida can match Stanford’s talent level. Anything less than a CWS appearance will be a disappointment for this group, which has a strong chance to end Stanford’s nearly quarter-century-long national title drought.
|3. SOUTH CAROLINA|
2011 Record (Ranking):55-14 (1). RPI: 5.
Coach (Record at school): Ray Tanner (689-296, 15 years).
Postseason History: 27 regional appearances (active streak: 12), 10 CWS appearances (active streak: 3), 2 national titles (active streak: 2 straight).
|Hitting: 55. The two-time defending champions will have their hands full replacing mainstays Jackie Bradley, Scott Wingo, Brady Thomas, Adrian Morales and Peter Mooney, but they are confident their sixth-ranked recruiting class can fill the gaps. Dynamic freshmen Pankake and English, plus the physical Greiner, form the core of South Carolina’s next wave of talent, while Dantzler has a knack for making hard contact from the left side. The lineup is built around Walker, one of college baseball’s premier hitters thanks to his righthanded bat speed, disciplined approach and toughness. Marzilli, Matthews and Williams are streaky but talented and experienced.
Power: 45. Walker was the lone Gamecock to slug more than 10 homers a year ago, and he remains the biggest power threat in a lineup that will rely more on situational hitting and speed. South Carolina is intrigued by Greiner’s strength and hopes Dantzler can provide protection hitting behind Walker. Marzilli, Matthews and Williams provide occasional pop.
Speed: 65. Ray Tanner’s teams traditionally do not lean heavily on the stolen base, but his personnel in 2012 could cause him to alter that strategy. English and fellow freshman T.J. Costen are plus-plus runners who could cause serious havoc on the basepaths. Matthews has similar speed, and Marzilli is also a plus runner.
Defense: 55. South Carolina must replace all four up-the-middle starters. Dante Rosenberg figures to split time behind the plate thanks to his strong receiving skills, but Greiner has a strong arm and a chance to become a quality defender. Pankake is a very talented shortstop with a strong arm who must learn to become more consistent, while Vergason is a solid veteran who makes all the routine plays. The outfield has superb range.
Starting Pitching: 70. Roth is college baseball’s most accomplished pitcher, the reigning national ERA champion and a hero of each of South Carolina’s two title runs. He dominates with pinpoint control of a low-to-mid-80s fastball, an outstanding changeup, the ability to vary his arm slots and a fringy breaking ball that he locates very well. Price has established himself as the nation’s best closer, but he wants to start, so he’ll make the transition to the rotation as a fourth-year junior. His tenacity, average-to-plus fastball, swing-and-miss slider and solid changeup should make him a success in the role. Holmes is a competitor with a solid three-pitch mix. Talented Fr. RHP Evan Beal will compete for midweek starts with veteran lefties Nolan Belcher and Adam Westmoreland, and perhaps Fr. LHP Jordan Montgomery, a bulldog in the Roth mold.
Bullpen: 65. Koumas started as a freshman, but his electric fastball-slider mix and experience on a big stage should make him a success at the back of the bullpen. Jr. LHP Tyler Webb is a talented lefty who made big strides in the fall. Lean Fr. RHP Joel Seddon flashed 90-93 mph heat and a quality breaking ball in the fall. Montgomery, Belcher, Westmoreland and Beal also factor into the bullpen mix, giving this unit solid depth. The X-factor is Pankake, who flashes 93-95 head and a dirty slider.
Experience/Intangibles: 75. Despite its abundance of newcomers expected to shoulder key roles, South Carolina can take solace in the leadership of Roth, Price, Walker and other veterans of its championship runs. The pitching staff is largely intact (though the bullpen will miss setup man John Taylor’s 50 appearances and 1.14 ERA), and the coaching staff is second to none. The Gamecocks simply expect to win, and they do.
Baseball America OFP: 70. If the last two years have taught us anything it is never to doubt Roth, Price and co. South Carolina has a legit chance at college baseball’s first three-peat since Southern California won five straight from 1970-74.
2011 Record (Ranking):40-22 (24). RPI: 14.
Coach (Record at school): Dave Van Horn (359-201, 9 years).
Postseason History: 24 regional appearances (active streak: 10), 6 CWS appearances (last in 2009), 0 national titles.
|Hitting: 60. After ranking 219th in the nation with a .270 team batting average last year, Arkansas figures to be much more dangerous offensively in 2012. The switch-hitting Ficociello has electric bat speed and figures to build on his freshman All-America 2011 campaign. Reynolds hit just .233 in his first two collegiate seasons but toned down his approach and posted a strong summer for Team USA and in the Cape League, making him a major breakout candidate. The pesky Bigham should be a sparkplug atop the lineup, and the ultra-athletic Morris made strides offensively after abandoning switch-hitting to concentrate on hitting from the right side. Wise hopes to build on a strong summer in the Northwoods League.
Power: 55. Expect Ficociello to take another step toward harnessing his big raw power as he matures physically. Fellow switch-hitter Vinson also has power from both sides and needs to translate his ability into games. Bates brings intriguing lefthanded pop, while the physical Morris and surprising Fr. C John Clay Reeves offer decent righthanded power potential.
Speed: 65. The Razorbacks typically run an aggressive offense—they ranked sixth in the nation in steals (122) last year—and figure to play a similar style this year. Carver is the best basestealer on the team, but Bigham and Reynolds are also good baserunners who could reach 20 steals. Anderson and Morris bring plus or better speed.
Defense: 70. Arkansas boasts a rock-solid fifth-year senior at shortstop in Carver, and the other three infielders are also excellent defenders. Anderson (who also has good actions in the infield), Morris and Vinson are all quality defensive outfielders with strong arms, while Wise and Reeves should make an able platoon behind the plate. This should be one of the nation’s best defenses.
Starting Pitching: 70. Baxendale is a dogged competitor who beat Michael Roth, Hudson Randall and Sonny Gray, among others, as a sophomore. He throws his 89-93 mph fastball from various arm slots and keeps hitters off balance with three quality secondary pitches. Stanek has one of the nation’s most electric arms, with a lively 92-97 mph fastball, a hammer curveball, hard slider and promising changeup, though he’s still learning to harness his command and mechanics. Fant’s 88-91 fastball bumps 93, his changeup is a serious weapon, and his cutter is developing into a solid third pitch. So. RHP Barrett Astin gives this staff a fourth potential starter with good stuff: a lively low-90s fastball and an upper-80s cutter.
Starting Pitching: 65. Sanburn, like Stanek, has filthy stuff but is still learning to repeat it. His 91-94 mph fastball reaches 98 at times, his 81-85 mph breaking ball has good depth when he stays on top of it, and his changeup made strides in the summer and fall. Jr. LHP Trent Daniel can run his fastball up to 94 mph, while sophomores Colby Suggs and Brandon Moore are quality options from the right side. A talented group of freshmen—led by LHP Mark Reyes and RHP Greg Millhorn—plus Morris’ two-way ability makes this a very deep group.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. With five upperclassmen penciled into the starting lineup and two more in the weekend rotation, Arkansas has plenty of experience. Bigham and Carver give the Hogs a pair of key holdovers from the 2009 CWS team.
Baseball America OFP: 70. Arkansas has a deep, talented roster and few discernible weaknesses. The Hogs are the favorites to win the SEC West and are legit national title contenders.
2011 Record (Ranking):39-21 (NR). RPI: 19.
Coach (Record at school): Andy Lopez (316-229-1, 10 years).
Postseason History: 32 regional appearances (active streak: 2), 15 CWS appearances (last in 2004), 3 national titles (last in 1986).
|Hitting: 65. The Wildcats return five key starters from an offense that ranked third nationally in batting (.320) and ninth in triples (26), a testament to their ability to wear out the spacious gaps in Tucson. Their new home field, Hi Corbett Field, should play similarly, and Arizona has the personnel to rack up doubles and triples. Refsnyder is the team’s best pure hitter and the centerpiece of the lineup. Rickard is a catalyst with a nice line-drive stroke of his own, while Mejia and Gilbert are tough outs who will drive pitchers crazy. The hard-nosed Field is another talented bat who is learning to manage the strike zone better.
Power: 50. Arizona’s coaches encouraged Mejias-Brean and Dixon to let it fly in the fall, hoping they can provide righthanded power even if it means more strikeouts. Refsnyder also is capable of driving balls out of the park, while fifth-year senior Brown provides valuable lefthanded pop. Don’t expect many homers at Hi Corbett, but Arizona can exploit smaller ballparks.
Speed: 55. Rickard is the only true speed merchant in the lineup, but Gilbert and Refsnyder are solid runners, while Mejia and Mejias-Brean are adequate runners who pick their spots on the basepaths.
Defense: 60. Arizona’s .976 fielding percentage ranked 14th in the nation a year ago. The instinctive Mejia is a defensive standout with a strong arm and good range despite mediocre foot speed, and Gilbert has great actions around the bag, forming a strong double-play tandem. The outfielders should cover plenty of ground. With fellow Fr. C David Schuknecht out for the year with a shoulder injury, the athletic, strong-armed Moore figures to do the bulk of the catching, and he has the talent to be a standout in time.
Starting Pitching: 65. Heyer has been a fearless, workhorse ace since he set foot in Tucson, and he gives the Wildcats a rock atop the rotation. He has excellent command of an 88-92 mph fastball, solid breaking ball and changeup, and his funky delivery adds deception. Wade, the No. 15 prospect in the Cape League last summer, attacks the zone with a lively 89-93 fastball, quality 81-84 slider and high-70s change with diving action. Troupe has similar fastball velocity, a changeup that some scouts rated as major league plus in high school, and a quality hard curveball. He’ll compete for starts with much-improved So. RHP James Farris, who worked this fall at 90-92 with a good slider and a changeup that has forkball action.
Bullpen: 55. Andy Lopez has a history of building winning teams around shut-down bullpens. This unit has good depth but lacks a proven closer. Cunningham has been limited by injuries over the last two years, but he was healthy this fall, during which he worked on refining a tight slurve to go with his 90-91 fastball and decent changeup. Jr. RHP Tyler Hale has some of the best stuff on the staff—a 90-93 fastball, good changeup and hard breaking ball—but is learning not to overthink. Jr. LHP Vince Littleman dropped to a submarine slot in the fall and took to it, getting hitters out with a deceptive 87-88 fastball, good changeup and developing cutter.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. The Wildcats are loaded with veterans from a team that reached a regional final last year, though they must answer questions at key spots behind the plate and in the bullpen. Mejia, Refsnyder and Heyer are consummate winners who number among Arizona’s wealth of clubhouse leaders.
Baseball America OFP: 65. A major reason for Arizona’s move to Hi Corbett was to enhance its chances to host a regional. This team is good enough to host and to get the Wildcats to Omaha for the first time since 2004.
2011 Record (Ranking):42-21 (15). RPI: 12.
Coach (Record at school): Wayne Graham (912-361, 20 years).
Postseason History: 17 regional appearances (active streak: 16), 7 CWS appearances (last in 2008), 1 national title (2003).
|Hitting: 60. The Owls will miss 2010 national Player of the Year Anthony Rendon, of course, but their lineup features enviable depth and experience. Hamilton showed excellent plate discipline during a standout fall and figures to handle the bulk of the leadoff duties. Doubles machine Ratterree is an accomplished run producer with advanced on-base ability. He’ll hit in the middle of the lineup with veterans Fuda and Rathjen, who were both limited by injuries a year ago but are dangerous hitters when healthy. Manuel is an exceptional bat-handler and gifted situational hitter, while Lewis and Stainback are tough outs with patient approaches. Hoelscher, like Hamilton, took a step forward offensively in the fall, and two-way talent J.T. Chargois provides insurance against injuries, though Rice would like him to focus on pitching.
Power: 40. No Owl hit more than six homers a year ago, but Ratterree and Rathjen give Rice a pair of potential double-digit home run hitters in 2012. Fuda and Hoelscher have occasional pop, and So. OF/DH Chase McDowell brings some more off the bench. But this does not figure to be a particularly powerful club.
Speed: 55. Rendon was the lone Owl to steal more than six bases in 2011, but Fuda has blazing speed when healthy, and Rathjen also will provide solid speed if his surgically repaired ACL holds up. Ratterree, Hamilton, Hoelscher, Stringer, Lewis and Stainback are all roughly average runners as well.
Defense: 70. Hamilton and Hoelscher gained invaluable experience as freshmen and fielded well in the fall. Stringer gives Hamilton a slick-fielding double-play partner, and Lewis is athletic at first base. Manuel handles a pitching staff as well as any catcher in college baseball and owns advanced catch-and-throw skills. Ratterree struggled at second base last year, but his athleticism should be an asset in Rice’s strong outfield.
Starting Pitching: 60. Kubitza