See Also: 2013 HS Games To Watch
The beginning of college baseball season is 111 days before the draft. Those days go quickly for scouting directors and crosscheckers, as they zig-zag across the country trying to see as many key players as possible. With such a limited amount of time before the big day, carefully choosing the best matchup games is important. Here are some of the season’s best college matchups, from a draft perspective, for the 2013 season.
Minnesota at UCLA (Feb. 15)
From a draft perspective, this looks like the best opening day matchup in the country with UCLA righthander Adam Plutko likely facing off against Golden Gophers lefthander Tom Windle.
Stanford at Rice (Feb. 15)
This series has more overall appeal than the one in Westwood. Even with righthander A.J. Vanegas on the shelf after having back surgery, Stanford is loaded with draft talent. This game will feature the top overall draft prospect, righthander Mark Appel (who was born in Houston and has a number of family members who attended Rice) against Rice righthander Austin Kubitza. Kubitza, who went 6-5, 2.69 last season, will have his work cut out for him, as Stanford’s lineup features two first-team All-Americans in outfielder Austin Wilson and first baseman Brian Ragira, along with one of the better college shortstop prospects in Lonnie Kauppila.
Long Beach State at Vanderbilt (Feb. 15-16)
Vanderbilt has lefthander Kevin Ziomek penciled in as its Saturday starter, to split up its righties and lefties. So this won’t be a marquee matchup, but it will give evaluators the chance to see Long Beach State righthander Shane Carle and Ziomek on back-to-back days.
Fresno State at Stanford (Feb. 22-24)
Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge has huge raw power, but even with his 6-foot-7, 255-pound frame, he’s only connected for six home runs over his first two years with the Bulldogs. Two of those home runs came against Appel last year . . . who will come out on top this time?
Samford at Mississippi State (Feb. 23-24)
Battle of the Bulldogs! These two games—part of a tournament that also features Purdue—will feature two of the toolsiest, most athletic outfielders in the country: Samford’s Phillip Ervin and Mississippi State’s Hunter Renfroe. After leading the Cape Cod League in home runs, Ervin has the better track record, but few players (if any) can match Renfroe tool-for-tool. Samford also features righthander C.K. Irby on Friday nights, and he was up to 97 mph out of the bullpen in 2012. Mississippi State also has righthander Evan Mitchell in the bullpen, who has also been up to 97, and junior Adam Frazier is one of the best shortstops in the country, in a year where the position is as thin as ever for draft-eligible talent.
Arizona State vs. Arkansas at Surprise, Ariz. (Feb. 28 & March 2)
The 11th annual Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Ariz., is a no-brainer for scouting directors picking in the top half of the draft. This year’s event features plenty of potential first-round pitchers in Arizona State righthander Trevor Williams, Arkansas righthanders Ryne Stanek and Colby Suggs and Gonzaga lefthander Marco Gonzales. Pacific is also in the tournament, but the Tigers’ best prospects are freshmen.
Pepperdine at Oklahoma (March 1-3)
The first game of this series looks to be a marquee matchup between two pitchers projected to go in the first two rounds: Oklahoma lefthander Dillon Overton, who ranked eighth in the country in strikeouts in 2012, and Pepperdine righthander Scott Frazier, who has big-time stuff, but hasn’t posted the results to match just yet. Pepperdine also has one of the best two-way talents in the country in outfielder/lefthander Aaron Brown, a draft-eligible sophomore. The rest of the Sooners’ weekend starters can also run their fastballs into the mid-90s: big, physical righthander Jonathan Gray and lefthander Billy Waltrip, a transfer from Seminole State (Okla.) JC.
Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech at Cary, N.C. (March 2)
USA Baseball’s inaugural “Irish Classic” gives scouts the chance to see two of the best third basemen in the country (Notre Dame’s Eric Jagielo and Virginia Tech’s Chad Pinder) on the same field. Another top prospect at the hot corner, San Diego’s Kris Bryant, will also be in North Carolina that weekend, as USD takes part in the UNC Wilmington tournament just 140 miles away.
Texas State at Oregon State (March 8)
There will be plenty of excellent matchups this year for Oregon State, a team with its entire weekend rotation (lefthanders Ben Wetzler and Matt Boyd and righthander Dan Child) ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100 college prospects. Aside from the stout Pacific-12 Conference play, the Beavers will also face Gonzaga and San Diego in the first two weekends. But this matchup early in the year gives national crosscheckers and scouting directors the chance to see an intriguing matchup between Wetzler against righthander Kyle Finnegan. It will be a key game for Finnegan, as the Beavers present the toughest lineup he’ll face all season.
Indiana State at Minnesota (March 15)
With only 14 Fridays during the college regular season, scouting directors love big pitching matchups. It’s even better when it’s two of the top lefthanders in the country and they’re in a dome, so weather is all but guaranteed to be a non-issue. This game is in the Metrodome and should pit Indiana State’s Sean Manaea against Windle. Minnesota high schools don’t start practicing until March 18, so teams interested in Red Wing High outfielder Ryan Boldt won’t be able to see him on this trip.
San Diego at Gonzaga (March 22-24)
For Gonzales, going up against Bryant and the Toreros will be his biggest challenge of the season. Scouts will have other opportunities to see Bryant face premium arms when the Toreros take on Oregon State (March 28-30), Pepperdine (April 12-14) and San Francisco (April 26-28).
Mississippi at Florida (March 29)
Southeastern Conference matchups are going to be plentiful this season with eight starting pitchers who project to go in the first three rounds. But without a Florida-Arkansas series on the schedule, matching those teams up against Mississippi will be key. Florida righthander Jonathon Crawford and Ole Miss righthander Bobby Wahl both project to be drafted in the top half of the first round.
Louisiana State at Arkansas (April 12-14)
This should be a great series, as both teams enter the season highly ranked and both are loaded with draft talent. Scouting directors will also have the opportunity to get into Fayetteville a little early to catch New Mexico in town April 9th & 10th.
Marshall at Central Florida (April 19)
This will be one of the best Conference USA matchups of the season, likely pairing Central Florida righthander Ben Lively against Marshall righthander Aaron Blair. Both project to be picked in the top five rounds in June, and scouting directors will love this matchup, as they can convene in Orlando early to watch the Canadian Junior National Team take on pro competition.
San Francisco at San Diego (April 26-28)
Things could change, but right now both teams’ Saturday starters are listed as righthander Alex Balog for San Francisco and righthander Dylan Covey for San Diego. With Fresno State at San Diego State the same weekend and with it being an above-average year for high school talent in the San Diego area, evaluators shouldn’t have a hard time staying in the area for a few days, if they choose.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State (May 3)
Oklahoma State righthander Jason Hursh takes on Texas Tech righthander Trey Masek. This will be a big matchup as both are highly ranked prospects for 2013 and both have limited track records. Hursh missed all of 2012 after having Tommy John surgery and Masek pitched mostly out of the Red Raiders’ bullpen last season. Scouting directors and crosscheckers have the added benefit that New Mexico will be in Lubbock April 30 and May 1, and it’s best to catch the Lobos on the road, anyway, to judge third baseman D.J. Peterson’s power away from the altitude of Albuquerque.
North Carolina at Georgia Tech (May 10-12)
Obviously this won’t be the first time during the season that decision makers see the Tar Heels, but this series provides a nice pairing, as five of the players (UNC third baseman Colin Moran, UNC lefthander Kent Emanuel, Georgia Tech first baseman Daniel Palka, Georgia Tech outfielder Brandon Thomas and Georgia Tech righthander Buck Farmer) rank among Baseball America’s top 100 college prospects.