|MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE|
|HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|*New Mexico (21)||18||6||37||24|
|San Diego State||12||12||26||34|
|*2012 conference champion
Teams in bold are 2012 NCAA tournament participants. Teams are listed in predicted order of finish. Records listed are from 2012 season.
|Projected NCAA Teams (2): New Mexico, Fresno State.|
|Conference Schedule: 30 games; begins March 15.|
|Conference Tournament: Six teams, double-elimination. May 22-26 at Fresno State.|
|Player of the Year: D.J. Peterson, 3b, New Mexico.|
|Pitcher of the Year: Tyler Linehan, lhp, Fresno State.|
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2013-14 DRAFTS|
|1.||D.J. Peterson, 3b, New Mexico|
|2.||Aaron Judge, of, Fresno State|
|3.||Braden Shipley, rhp, Nevada|
|4.||Michael Cederoth, rhp, San Diego State (2014)|
|5.||Tyler Linehan, lhp, Fresno State|
|6.||Derick Velazquez, rhp, Fresno State (2014)|
|7.||Mitch Garver, c, New Mexico|
|8.||Chris Marsical, ss, Fresno State (2014)|
|9.||Greg Allen, of, San Diego State (2014)|
|10.||Jordan Luplow, of, Fresno State (2014)|
|1.||Derick Velazquez, rhp, Fresno State (Tr.—Merced, Calif., JC)|
|2.||Brody Russell, 2b/ss/of, Fresno State (HS—Bakersfield)|
|3.||C.J. Saylor, c, San Diego State (HS—West Covina, Calif.)|
|4.||Taylor Ward, c, Fresno State (HS—Indio, Calif.)|
|5.||Bryan Bonnell, rhp/1b, UNLV (HS—Las Vegas)|
• The MWC has a new look, with perennial power Texas Christian gone for the Big 12, and WAC refugees Fresno State and Nevada replacing it. New Mexico, which earns a preseason ranking for the first time ever, has emerged as the team to beat in the Mountain West following three straight trips to regionals, but Fresno State is certainly a worthy rival for the league crown. The Bulldogs underachieved for much of 2012, finishing fifth in the WAC at 8-10, but they ran through the loser’s bracket to win the conference tournament, earning them a trip to regionals for the sixth time in the last seven years. Fresno is loaded with impact talent this spring, headlined by Jr. OF Aaron Judge (.308/.453/.458), whose massive size and athleticism have earned him physical comparisons to the likes of Dave Winfield and NBA star Blake Griffin. So. OF Jordan Luplow (.279/.321/.386) has the pretty righthanded swing and strength to emerge as a star this spring, and seniors Austin Wynns (.284/.352/.397) and Trent Garrison (.333/.380/.426) provide competitive at-bats and enviable catching depth. So. SS Chris Mariscal (.238/.293/.286) took his lumps at the plate as a freshman but handled shortstop ably, and the Bulldogs need him to take a step forward at the plate. The pitching staff has a potentially dominant one-two punch in hard-throwing Jr. LHP Tyler Linehan (4-5, 3.58, 83 IP/82 SO) and So. RHP Derick Velazquez (the nation’s top junior-college transfer thanks to a sinker that reaches 92 and the makings of two plus secondary pitches).
• Nevada hasn’t made a regional since 2000, but it did finish in a three-way tie atop the WAC standings last year, and its starting pitching should keep it competitive in its first season in the MWC. The Wolf Pack should be competitive with anyone on Fridays behind ace Jr. RHP Braden Shipley (9-4, 2.20, 98 IP/88 SO), a converted shortstop who won WAC pitcher of the year honors last year and then ranked as the top prospect in the Alaska League, where he flashed 97 mph heat, a good changeup and a solid curve. Sr. RHP Tom Jameson (7-2, 2.55) is a very reliable Saturday starter, but the rest of the staff needs to prove itself. The offense doesn’t look frightening, but it has a nice centerpiece in Sr. OF Brooks Klein (.335/.409/.591), and an emerging talent in So. 1B Kewby Meyer (.324/.366/.412).
• San Diego State has had plenty of roster turnover in recent years, but 24 of the 35 players on its roster are returnees—though the majority of them are entering their second seasons at the D-I level. The Aztecs need So. RHP Michael Cederoth (4-4, 4.14) to make the leap to stardom as a sophomore; with a 93-97 fastball and a filthy mid-80s slider, his stuff and size make him the MWC’s best 2014 draft prospect. So. OF Greg Allen (.312/.383/.403) has an intriguing speed/power blend, making him another breakout candidate. SDSU will lean on upperclassmen up the middle—Sr. C Jake Romanski (.289/.336/.352) and Jr. 2B Tim Zier (.318/.391/.379)—to provide leadership and consistency
Editor’s note: Braden Shipley was mistakenly omitted from the top prospects list in the first version of this preview. He has been added to the list.