BA breaks down the Colonial Athletic Association, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.
|TOP 10 PROSPECTS, 2014-15 DRAFTS|
|1. Jordan Ramsey, rhp, UNC Wilmington|
|2. Mitch Aker, rhp, William & Mary (2015)|
|3. Chris Huffman, rhp, James Madison|
|4. Gunnar Heidt, ss, College of Charleston|
|5. Chad Carroll, of, James Madison|
|6. Morgan Phillips, of, College of Charleston|
|7. Christian MacDonald, lhp, UNC Wilmington|
|8. Evan Phillips, rhp, UNC Wilmington (2015)|
|9. Ryan Lindemuth, 2b, William & Mary|
|10. Gary Jones, of, Delaware|
Colonial Athletic Association
Baseball Members (First Year): College of Charleston (2014), Delaware (2002), Hofstra (2002), James Madison (1986), UNC Wilmington (1986), Northeastern (2006), Towson (2002), William & Mary (1986).
Checking out: George Mason (to Atlantic 10), Georgia State (to Sun Belt), Old Dominion (to Conference USA).
Conference Tournament: Six teams, double-elimination. May 21-24 at UNC Wilmington.
Team to Beat: UNC Wilmington.
The Seahawks have been the CAA's most consistent program under long-time head coach Mark Scalf. They've claimed back-to-back regular-season titles and have a core of veterans that know how to win. Sr. 3B Ryan LaGrange and Jr. 1B Corey Dick form a powerful middle-of-the-order tandem, but the Seahawks have plenty of offensive depth in the form of players like Sr. 2B Luis Renvill, who should move into the leadoff role after a breakout fall. Then there's the pitching, which returns 2013 CAA pitcher of the year Sr. LHP Mat Batts and Jr. RHP Jordan Ramsey—the team's best pro prospect thanks to a fastball that runs up to 93 mph and a projectable frame—to lead the rotation. The bullpen is also loaded with experience, led by Sr. LHP Kelly Secrest (8 SV last year).
Player of the Year: Kurt Wertz, of, Towson.
One of the league's premier power hitters will try to build upon his breakout 13-homer season from last year.
Pitcher of the Year: Mat Batts, lhp, UNC Wilmington.
The favorite to repeat as CAA pitcher of the year, Batts—a baseball rat who interned at BA last summer—has feel for his secondary pitches and toughness in spades.
Freshman of the Year: Nick Pappas, 1b, College of Charleston.
Pappas adds a physical lefthanded bat to the CofC lineup and already showed a knack for putting together quality at-bats in the fall.
Notable Storylines: Last season was a banner year for the CAA, which sent three teams to regionals, and in particular William & Mary, which earned an at-large berth for the first time in school history. However, the Tribe lost head coach Jamie Pinzino, the 2013 CAA co-coach of the year who left for an assistant's job at Oklahoma. It'll be up to former Pinzino assistant Brian Murphy, now the head coach, to keep the program's momentum going. Slugging Jr. 1B Michael Katz leads an established core of position players good enough to keep the Tribe competitive, but if they're going to threaten UNCW, they'll need some new faces to step up on the pitching side after losing two-thirds of last year's weekend rotation . . . The outlook is similar at conference newcomer College of Charleston, which will feature two freshmen starting on weekends. The Cougars, second-place finishers in the Southern Conference last season, should still be a factor, but the onus will be on a lineup led by dynamic Jr. SS Gunnar Heidt and two major power threats in Sr. OF Brandon Murray and So. 1B Carl Wise . . . James Madison boasted the country's second-highest scoring offense last season (7.9 runs per game), but even that wasn't enough to overcome a 6.51 team ERA, which limited JMU to an 11-15 conference record. Four key regulars from that lineup are gone, though top-of-the-order catalyst Jr. OF Chad Carroll is back after hitting .389 last year. The good news is JMU expects to pitch better this time around, as arms that took their lumps last year as freshmen and sophomores should be better as sophomores and juniors. At the top of the list is Jr. RHP Chris Huffman, who can run his fastball up to 95 mph and will move to Friday starter after closing last year.