Baseball America

2014 College Preview: Small Colleges (VIDEO)


DIVISION II

Defending Champion: Tampa.

Player of the Year: Connor Obrochta, of, Tampa.

Pitcher of the Year: Josh Staumont, rhp, Azusa Pacific.

TOP 5—HOW THEY’LL FINISH
Team 2013 Record
Mount Olive (N.C.) 48-8
Tampa 47-12
Franklin Pierce (N.H.) 37-19
Minnesota State-Mankato 42-9
West Florida 39-14

AROUND THE NATION

  • John Verhoeven, an ex-big league pitcher, retired after 16 seasons at NAIA Biola (Calif.), where he won five Golden State Athletic Conference championships. Just weeks after retiring, however, he took over as the pitching coach at former league rival Azusa Pacific, which is now Division II. He brought So. RHP Josh Staumont (6-6, 3.96, 102 IP/109 SO) with him, and Staumont has emerged as the most exciting Division II prospect in years, with scouts confirming velocity readings in the 98-99 mph range in the fall and in scrimmages in January. Staumont also throws a hard curveball and projects as a potential first-round pick in 2015. His velocity sat in the upper 80s, touching 91, in high school in La Habra, Calif., just north of Anaheim, and he has continually improved under Verhoeven’s tutelage, hitting 94 mph last year, when he led the GSAC in strikeouts. Staumont is expected to pitch for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League this summer. Jr. LHP Adam McCreery, a former blue-chip prospect who never harnessed his ability at Arizona State, joined Staumont and head coach Paul Svagdis, who coached current big leaguers Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Stephen Vogt.
  •  Tampa won its sixth national championship in 2013 and its third under coach Joe Urso, and it returns several top contributors, including five senior starters led by OF Michael Danner (.344/.442/.533, 6 HR, 13-17 SB), speedy OF Connor Obrochta (.330/.461/.491, 15 SB) and 2B Tyler Ding (.378/.417/.500). Tampa added D-I transfers including former Florida State SS Giovanny Alfonzo (.263/.369/.293) and RHP Trey Oest (5-0, 4.28), formerly of Virginia, who will be counted on to help replace the loss of Tampa’s entire weekend rotation and twin closers Mike Adams and Caleb Kellog. Jr. LHP Jimmy Hodgskin, who spent two seasons at Troy, should be a factor after coming back from Tommy John surgery and threw well when the team traveled to Cuba in January.
  • The Northeast-10 had a banner season in 2013, with alum Chris Colabello of Assumption (Mass.) reaching the major leagues while eight NE-10 players were drafted—four out of Franklin Pierce (N.H.), which advanced to the D-II College World Series, three from rival Southern New Hampshire and one from Merrimack (Mass.). Franklin Pierce enters the year as the league favorite with returnees such as speedy Jr. CF John Razzino (.259/.286/.353, 13 SB) and Jr. C Matt Walsh (.259/.345/.332), who played in the Cape Cod League last summer. Sr. RHP Ryan Leach (6-4, 3.41, 66 IP/80 SO) also was in the Cape last summer and returns to anchor the Ravens’ pitching staff.
TOP PROSPECTS, 2014-15 DRAFTS
1. Josh Staumont, rhp, Azusa Pacific (Calif.): Strong-bodied sophomore has shown premium velocity, hitting 98-99 mph; led NAIA conference in strikeouts as freshman prior to transfer.
2. Mason McCullough, rhp, Lander (S.C.): Former North Carolina reliever flashes premium upper-90s power, but didn’t find strike zone enough to contribute for Tar Heels.
3. Codey McElroy, ss, Cameron (Okla.): Texas transfer seems too tall to stay at short at 6-foot-6 but has good footwork and instincts to go with above-average speed; didn’t hit for Longhorns (.161).
4. DeShorn Lake, rhp, Mount Olive (N.C.): Virgin Islands native was 12th-rounder in 2011; threw just 9.1 IP in two seasons at East Carolina but has raw arm strength.
5. Alex Haines, lhp, Seton Hill (Pa.): Lefty pitches with fastball with solid-average velocity and good angle to plate; secondary stuff hasn’t progressed.
6. Adam Schemenauer, lhp, Central Missouri: Louisville transfer was 12th-round pick in 2011 by Royals; 6-foot-9 pitcher needs innings to harness power arm.
7. Tyler Joyner, lhp, Mount Olive (N.C.): Control-oriented lefty had 5.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2012 for East Carolina before being dismissed from team after Jan. 2013 assault charge.
8. Connor Obrochta, of, Tampa: Speedy senior is career .338 hitter, efficient basestealer and plays small game, bunting well and drawing HBPs (24 last year).
9. Jordan DeLorenzo, lhp, West Florida: Solidly built lefty had strong summer in Valley League (1.68 ERA, 59 IP/64 SO).
10. David Armendariz, of, Cal Poly Pomona: Transfer from Cal Poly showed solid power and corner profile in Cape Cod last summer.

Division III

Defending Champion: Linfield (Ore.)

Player of the Year: Jake Wylie, c, Linfield (Ore.).

Pitcher of the Year: J.P. Fyereisen, rhp, Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

TOP 5—HOW THEY’LL FINISH
Team 2013 Record
Linfield (Ore.) 42-8
Wisconsin-Stevens Point 41-11
St. Thomas (Minn.) 34-7
Southern Maine 46-10
Trinity (Texas) 40-9

AROUND THE NATION

  • It took six short years for former Yankees and Athletics third baseman Scott Brosius to win a national championship at Division III Linfield (Ore.). Brosius also has become a key summer fixture for USA Baseball national teams on the high school side, and his Linfield team returns its top two home run hitters in Srs. C Jake Wylie (.396/.443/.589, 8 HR) and OF Nick Fisher (.374/.443/.589, 6 HR, 25 SB).
  • Perhaps the most intriguing name among the new coaches at Division III is David Kelton at LaGrange (Ga.). The 1998 second-round pick of the Cubs played in the Futures Game in 2003. He got 22 major league at-bats (and three hits) and has served as an assistant coach the last four seasons.
TOP PROSPECTS, 2014 DRAFT
1. J.P. Feyereisen, rhp, Wisconsin-Stevens Point: Pitching for Jordan Zimmermann’s alma mater, Feyereisen was WIAC pitcher of the year last season before dominating the Northwoods League last summer.
2. Robert Winemiller, rhp, Case Western Reserve (Ohio): A converted catcher, Winemiller has hit 94 mph with his fastball to go with a hard slider.
3. Jamill Moquete, of, UMass-Boston: A 22-year-old with a good 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame, Moquette has raw tools and flashes power.
4. Aaron Cressley, rhp, Pittsburg-Bradford: The Valley League’s No. 5 prospect, the lively 6-foot-1, 170-pound Cressley has touched 94 mph.
5. Mike Weinhold, lhp, Alvernia (Pa.): Southpaw has track record for missing bats with 13.76 K/9 last spring, 11.9 K/9 last summer in Atlantic Collegiate League.

JUNIOR COLLEGE

TOP 5—HOW THEY’LL FINISH
Team 2013 Record
Chipola (Fla.) JC 38-21
Cypress (Calif.) CC 32-14
State JC of Fla. 45-13
San Jacinto (Texas) JC 35-21
Walters (Tenn.) State JC 37-18

Last Year’s Champions: Central Alabama (NJCAA Division I), Murray (Okla.) State (NJCAA D-II), Gloucester (N.J.) County (NJCAA D-III); Cypress (California CCAA); Everett, Wash. (NWACC)

Player of the Year: Grant Heyman, of/rhp, Western Nevada JC

Pitcher of the Year: Robbie Dickey, rhp, Blinn (Texas) JC

AROUND THE NATION

  • Like other small-college levels, the nation’s junior colleges benefit from Division I’s rule change in recent years requiring transferring players to sit out a season. That has increased the amount of players who leave D-I for junior college. Chipola (Fla.) JC includes holdovers from last year’s 38-21 team led by So. C Ian Rice (.315/.421/.435), who has committed to Houston, and So. LHP Michael Mader (8-3, 3.19), a Florida State commit. The key new additions include So. OF Josh Merrigan, a speedster transferring in from Georgia State, where he batted .353/.404/.508 while succeeding in all 12 stolen-base attempts, and physical So. RHP Tucker Simpson (1-2, 4.79 at Florida in 2013).
  • Ken Campbell retired last summer after 14 seasons as head coach at Walters State (Tenn.) JC, and longtime assistant Joey Seaver succeeded him. However, in January, Seaver left the school for a coaching position in the Texas Rangers farm system, and 10-year staff veteran David Shelton took over as head coach.
  • The biggest name in junior-college baseball this year is Fr. 1B Ryan Ripken, the son of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. He spent last season redshirting at South Carolina but transferred after failing to make the 35-man roster. The 6-foot-6 lefthanded hitter, a 20th-round pick of the Orioles out of high school, is at Indian River (Fla.) JC.
TOP PROSPECTS, 2014 DRAFT
1. Jake Cosart, rhp, Seminole (Fla.) State JC: Younger brother of Astros righty Jarred has similar lightning in his arm with fastball that has reached 98 mph and power curveball.
2. Robbie Dickey, rhp, Blinn (Texas) CC: Sophomore has matured in JC stint physically (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) and with use of four-pitch arsenal highlighted by 95 mph fastball.
3. Ian Rice, c, Chipola (Fla.) JC: He needs to improve his throwing arm’s strength and transfer but he has offensive ability at a premium position, with solid righthanded power.
4. Gianni Zayas, rhp, Seminole (Fla.) State JC: His strong frame produces average fastball velocity, and he’s shown the ability to throw two breaking balls for strikes.
5. Patrick Weigel, rhp, Oxnard (Calif.) CC: Projectable Pacific kickback struggled with command but has explosive arm strength, having reached 97 mph.
6. Michael Mader, lhp, Chipola (Fla.) JC: A Florida State signee, Mader pitches off a moving fastball he commands with fringe-average velocity.
7. Conor Harber, rhp/of, Western Nevada JC: An unsigned 38th-rounder of the Orioles in 2013, Harber pitched briefly in the Cape Cod League but is a better hitter (.411 with wood last spring).
8. Matt Pope, rhp, Walters (Tenn.) State JC: Kentucky kickback is a raw, physical beast at 6-foot-7, 235 pounds who evokes big league reliever Stephen Pryor, who pitched in the same area.
9. Mark Reyes, lhp, Crowder (Mo.) JC: Former Arkansas recruit missed 2013 with Tommy John surgery; the Southern Mississippi recruit has shown life on and feel for an average fastball.
10. Grant Heyman, of, Southern Nevada JC: Miami kickback showed balanced approach, above-average speed and plus raw power while lacking the consistency scouts want to see.
11. Tanner Griggs, rhp, Angelina (Texas) JC: Cosart’s prep teammate at Clear Creek High in Texas, he’s a loose-armed projection pick with a 90-93 mph fastball.
12. Dalton Viner, rhp, San Jacinto (Texas): Jayhawk League’s top prospect last summer has touched 95 mph with fastball from but needs to repeat his delivery better.
13. Tyler Gilbert, lhp, Santa Barbara (Calif.) CC: Southern California commit has athleticism in his 6-foot-3 frame and has four-pitch mix with improved fastball velocity, touching 90 last fall.
14. Francis Christy, c, Palomar (Calif.) JC: Far West League top prospect was headed to Oregon but wound up at San Diego area JC; 37th-round pick of Athletics in ‘13 has offensive potential and athleticism behind the plate.
15. Dylan Rogers, rhp, Spartanburg (S.C.) Methodist JC: Still projectable at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Rogers has touched the low 90s and has a go-to, above-average slider.

NAIA

Defending Champion: Faulkner (Ala.).

Player of the Year: Blake Drake, of, Concordia (Calif.).

Pitcher of the Year: Stetson Nelson, lhp, Embry-Riddle (Fla.)

 

TOP 5—HOW THEY’LL FINISH
Team 2013 Record
Embry-Riddle (Fla.) 50-15
Faulkner (Ala.) 56-11
Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State 45-15
Oklahoma City 49-13
Missouri Baptist 37-14

AROUND THE NATION

  • NAIA schools have thrived more and more in recent years with Division I kickbacks, and 2012 national champ Tennessee Wesleyan is filled with such players. OF Shell McCain (North Carolina via Spartanburg, S.C., JC) and 3B K.J. Hockaday (Maryland) are two key elements to the lineup, but 1B Tim Kiene (Maryland) wowed scouts with his raw power in the fall. He hit nine homers in parts of two seasons with the Terrapins. Defending national champion Faulkner (Ala.), however, relies much more on high school and junior-college players. Two Dominican Republic natives who were All-America selections return to head Faulkner’s lineup: Sr. DH/OF Michael Cruz (.365/.449/.613, 13 HR) and C/3B Sergio Sanchez (.363/.406/.566, 7 HR).
  • It’s been a long, strange trip for RHP Daniel Poncedeleon, who was a 24th-round pick out of La Mirada (Calif.) High in 2010 by the Rays. He went to Arizona for a season, then spent one season at Cypress (Calif.) JC, where the Reds drafted him in 2012 (38th round). He didn’t sign and attended Houston for a season, going 7-5, 4.47 in Conference USA with 62 strikeouts in 87 innings. The Cubs drafted him in the 14th round and thought they had a deal before a medical issue scuttled the agreement. Eligibility issues tied to the negotiations prompted Poncedeleon to head to his fourth school in four seasons, this time Embry-Riddle (Fla.). The Eagles will slot him with Jr. LHP Stetson Nelson (8-2, 2.21) to form a potent weekend rotation.
  • Former James Madison assistant coach Jay Sullinger took over at Biola after spending the last two seasons as minister of recreation outreach at Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa. Biola coach John Verhoeven retired as a head coach and became pitching coach at Division II Azusa Pacific.
TOP PROSPECTS, 2014 DRAFT
1. Tyler Palmer, of, Thomas (Ga.): The 2011 Marlins fourth-rounder is continuing his long recovery from a hand injury that has required three surgeries. He thrived last summer in Florida Collegiate Summer League and transferred to NAIA Thomas, where he was practicing while awaiting NAIA clearinghouse confirmation.
2. K.J. Hockaday, 3b, Tennessee Wesleyan: Maryland kickback has teased scouts with physical tools but hasn’t produced, with just two homers for Terps.
3. Tim Kiene, 1b, Tennessee Wesleyan: Another former Terrapin, the big-bodied Kiene lacks Hockaday’s athleticism but has shown game power when healthy.
4. Daniel Poncedeleon, rhp, Embry-Riddle: If he’s healthy, the well-traveled senior gives the NAIA ranks a fairly polished power arm who’s already been drafted three times.
5. Blake Drake, of, Concordia (Ore.): Athletic CF has speed and defensive ability; wiry 6-foot-1, 165-pound build needs more strength, but he has bat-to-ball skills.