BA breaks down the Mountain West Conference, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.
|TOP 10 PROSPECTS, 2014 DRAFT|
|1. Michael Cederoth, rhp, San Diego State|
|2. Erick Fedde, rhp, UNLV|
|3. Jordan Brink, rhp, Fresno State|
|4. Greg Allen, of, San Diego State|
|5. Austin Byler, 1b/3b, Nevada|
|6. Tyler Wells, lhp, Nevada|
|7. Alex Real, c, New Mexico|
|8. Jordan Luplow, of, Fresno State|
|9. Garrett Mundell, rhp, Fresno State|
|10. Chris Mariscal, 3b/ss, Fresno State|
|TOP 5 PROSPECTS, 2015 DRAFT|
|1. Tyler France, 3b, San Diego State|
|2. Taylor Ward, c, Fresno State|
|3. Brayden Torres, lhp, UNLV|
|4. Brody Russell, of, Fresno State|
|5. Jered Meek, 3b, New Mexico|
Mountain West Conference
Baseball Members (First Year): Air Force (2000), Fresno State (2013), Nevada (2013), UNLV (2000), New Mexico (2000), San Diego State (2000), San Jose State (2014).
Checking out: None.
Conference Tournament: Play-in game, followed by six-team, double-elimination tournament. May 21-25 at UNLV.
Team to Beat: New Mexico.
The Lobos must replace three of the nation's top 25 hitters—most notably first-round pick D.J. Peterson—but most of the infield remains intact. Look for Jr. 1B Ryan Padilla to revert to his 2012 freshman All-America form, teaming with Jr. C Alex Real to form a powerful heart of the order. So. SS Jared Holley and So. Sam Haggerty are a mature, heady middle infield duo, and Sr. RF Chase Harris has solid tools across the board. The pitching staff is less established, but Sr. RHP Josh Walker (11-1, 3.66) is a crafty winner with a deceptive delivery and loads of experience, giving the rotation an anchor.
Player of the Year: Greg Allen, of, San Diego State.
One of college baseball's most electric catalysts, Allen has top-shelf speed and knows how to use it on the basepaths and in center field.
Pitcher of the Year: Erick Fedde, rhp, UNLV.
Fedde performed well last spring and summer—in the Cape Cod League and for Team USA, commanding a 90-94 fastball and a power slider.
Freshman of the Year: Jesse Medrano, ss, Fresno State.
A former high school football standout, Medrano brings an aggressive mentality, valuable leadership skills and good baseball instincts to the middle of the diamond.
Other Projected Regional Teams
UNLV: The Rebels won 37 games last year (their most since 2004) but still fell short of regionals for the eighth straight year. But seven everyday regulars and two weekend starters return, giving UNLV high hopes for 2014. Fedde and Jr. RHP John Richy, a physical bulldog with an 87-92 sinker, should form the MWC's best rotation duo, and Jr. RHP Zack Hartman is back from Tommy John surgery to anchor the bullpen. Talented sophomores Brayden Torres, Kenny Oakley and Bryan Bonnell should all make big impacts on the mound. Sr. 1B Pat Armstrong (.373/.472/.596, 7 HR) emerged as the primary power threat last year, while little brother Joey Armstrong brings athleticism to center field.
Notable Storylines: Fresno State got off to a horrific 4-16 start last year en route to a 23-33 overall record, its fewest wins since 1968. But the Bulldogs might have more pro talent than any other team in the MWC, and they have significant upside this spring if sophomores like C Taylor Ward and CF Brody Russell take steps forward as hoped. Jr. RHP Jordan Brink, who played both ways his first two years, is focusing exclusively on pitching now and could be a front-line ace with a 92-96 fastball and power breaking ball. Like Brink, RHPs Derick Velazquez and Garrett Mundell have big potential and must now perform at a high level for Fresno to make a postseason run . . . San Diego State looks like a fourth legitimate regional contender in the MWC, and it's easy to envision those top four teams finishing in any order. 3B Ty France emerged as an offensive force down the stretch last year, helping the Aztecs bash their way through the conference tournament and into a regional. He'll join reliable veterans Ryan Muno, Tim Zier and Evan Potter in a strong infield. CF Greg Allen and RHP Michael Cederoth provide star power, and RHP Bubba Derby has the stuff and feel for pitching to thrive in the rotation after closing last year . . . Former San Diego assistant Jay Johnson takes over for the retired Gary Powers at Nevada, where he should have a quality ace in Tyler Wells, who works in the 90-92 range from the left side with a good changeup and promising curve. Austin Byler and Kewby Meyer give the Wolf Pack a strong duo in the heart of the lineup.