2014 College Preview: Pac-12

Baseball America breaks down the Pac-12, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.

Pacific-12 Conference

TOP 20 PROSPECTS, 2014 DRAFT
1. Michael Conforto, of, Oregon State
2. Dylan Davis, of/rhp, Oregon State
3. Scott Heineman, 3b/of, Oregon
4. Alex Blandino, 3b, Stanford
5. Jace Fry, lhp, Oregon State
6. Wyatt Strahan, rhp, Southern California
7. Jake Reed, rhp, Oregon
8. A.J. Vanegas, rhp, Stanford
9. Ben Wetzler, lhp, Oregon State
10. Mathew Troupe, rhp, Arizona
11. Dane Flores, 2b, Southern California
12. Kevin Kramer, ss, UCLA
13. Nigel Nootbaar, rhp, Southern California
14. Riley Moore, c, Arizona
15. Mitch Watrous, rhp, Utah
16. Jeff Brigham, rhp, Washington
17. Shane Zeile, c, UCLA
18. Trevor Allen, of, Arizona State
19. Jason Monda, 1b/lhp, Washington State
20. Tanner Chleborad, rhp, Washington State
TOP 10 PROSPECTS, 2015 DRAFT
1. James Kaprielian, rhp, UCLA
2. Ryan Burr, rhp, Arizona State
3. Kyle Twomey, lhp, Southern California
4. Cole Irvin, lhp, Oregon
5. Drew Jackson, ss, Stanford
6. Ryan Kellogg, lhp, Arizona State
7. Brent Lilek, lhp, Arizona State
8. Kevin Newman, ss, Arizona
9. Cody Poteet, rhp, UCLA
10. Hunter Virant, lhp, UCLA

Baseball Members (First Year): Arizona (1979), Arizona State (1979), California (1916), UCLA (1928), Oregon (1916-1981, 2009) Oregon State (1916), Southern California (1923), Stanford (1918), Utah (2012), Washington (1916), Washington State (1919).

Checking out: None.

Conference Tournament: None.

Team to Beat: Oregon State.The Beavers boast one of the nation’s deepest, most experienced pitching staffs and an Omaha-tested lineup with big power in the middle. 

Player of the Year: Michael Conforto, of, Oregon State.The reigning Pac-12 player of the year hits for both power and average, and he has become a steady left fielder with an accurate arm.

Pitcher of the Year: David Berg, rhp, UCLA.Resilient sidewinder tied the NCAA record for appearances (51) last year, broke the saves record (24) and won a national title. He is college baseball’s best closer. 

Freshman of the Year: Chandler Eden, rhp, Oregon State.After showing an electric 94-96 fastball and the makings of a plus curveball this fall, Eden looks ready to bolster OSU’s bullpen or start midweek. 

Top 25 Teams: (2) Oregon State, (11) Oregon, (12) UCLA.

Other Projected Regional Teams 

Arizona State: ASU’s strength is its all-sophomore weekend rotation, which has a chance to be one of the nation’s best. RHP Ryan Burr makes the move from closer to Friday starter, and the Sun Devils compare him to recent No. 1 overall picks Gerrit Cole and Mark Appel for his mid-to-high-90s heater, plus slider and solid change. LHP Ryan Kellogg has advanced feel for four pitches and showed more velocity this fall, while LHP Brett Lilek can run his heater up to 94. But ASU needs to answer questions in the bullpen, where freshman Hever Bueno is key, and in the lineup, where Trevor Allen is the only proven power hitter.

Washington State: The Cougars took their lumps with a young team last year, going 9-21 in the conference, but they return eight regulars and their top 10 pitchers. Friday starter Tanner Chleborad can run his fastball up to 94 and features an emerging slider; now he just needs to perform like an ace. Six-foot-8 Saturday starter Scott Simon reminds WSU of big leaguer Doug Fister for his frame and his heavy 87-90 fastball. Sr. LHP/1b Jason Monda moves into the rotation (where he throws strikes with three pitches and reaches 91) and helps anchor a veteran lineup. Yale Rosen and potentially Ben Roberts bring more power potential, while Nick Tanielu, Trek Stemp and Collin Slaybaugh should be on-base machines.

Southern California: Scouts who saw the Trojans this fall report that they played with abundant energy and expect them to make their first regional since 2005. Jr. RHP Wyatt Strahan made a big jump, flashing 96 mph heat and an average curveball. He’ll slot between senior bulldog Bob Wheatley and quick-armed LHP Kyle Twomey in a strong rotation. Dante Flores broke out in the Cape League last summer and should be one of the Pac-12’s top hitters. So. OFs Timmy Robinson and Vahn Bozoiahn made huge strides in the fall, giving USC a physically imposing duo in the middle of the lineup.

Arizona: Juniors Riley Moore and Trent Gilbert have started at catcher and second base since Arizona’s 2012 national championship run. Kevin Newman, who led the Cape in hitting (.375) last summer, is one of the country’s best all-around shortstops, and So. CF Scott Kingery has premium speed in center field, making the Wildcats outstanding up the middle. But they must answer questions on the corners and in the bullpen, as Mathew Troupe moves from the closer role into the rotation, where he’ll team with fellow Omaha veteran James Farris to form a nice one-two punch. So. RHP Tyger Talley, the front-runner to close, is a strike-thrower with a funky low three-quarters delivery, but his stuff is not overpowering.

Notable Storylines: Injuries and underperformance caused Stanford to be one of the nation’s biggest disappointments last year, and the Cardinal enters 2014 as perhaps college baseball’s most prominent wild card. Cape Cod League standouts Alex Blandino, Drew Jackson and Danny Diegroeger should give Stanford an exciting infield. If ultra-talented RHPs Freddy Avis, A.J. Vanegas and Daniel Starwalt plus OF Dominic Jose can finally stay healthy and translate their huge potential into performance, Stanford could be formidable . . . Washington moves into sparkling new Husky Ballpark this spring, giving the program a huge boost. Fans who come for the novelty of the new park should enjoy watching So. CF Braden Bishop, a premium athlete who made great strides in the fall, and fourth-year Jr. RHP Jeff Brigham, who flashed 98 mph heat before having Tommy John surgery. His recovery went well, and he is penciled into the Friday starter role . . . Utah returns seven everyday players and all three weekend starters, and the Utes report that all of the freshmen have become better players—especially OF Wyler Smith, who is bigger, stronger and faster. Still, Utah’s offense has a long way to go. The team’s strength is its pitching, headlined by Jr. RHP Mitch Watrous, a competitor with a 90-94 sinker and two quality secondary pitches . . . California is finally recovering from the recruiting hit it took when its program was in peril during its 2012 Omaha run. Its strong freshman class adds critical pitching depth, and the return to full strength of slugging 1B Devon Rodriguez, athletic OF Derek Campbell, Jr. LHP Michael Theofanopoulos and Sr. LHP Kyle Porter after various injury issues will provide a big boost. The two lefties figure to join So. RHP Ryan Mason in a sound weekend rotation.