Baseball America

2014 College Preview: SEC

BA breaks down the SEC, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.

Southeastern Conference

TOP 20 PROSPECTS, 2014 DRAFT
1. Tyler Beede, rhp, Vanderbilt
2. Aaron Nola, rhp, Louisiana State
3. Grayson Greiner, c, South Carolina
4. Chris Oliver, rhp, Arkansas
5. Brian Anderson, 2b, Arkansas
6. Brandon Woodruff, rhp, Mississippi State
7. Joey Pankake, 3b, South Carolina
8. Daniel Mengden, rhp, Texas A&M
9. Spencer Turnbull, rhp, Alabama
10. Jacob Lindgren, lhp, Mississippi State
11. Mark Laird, of, Louisiana State
12. A.J. Reed, lhp/1b, Kentucky
13. Jalen Beeks, lhp, Arkansas
14. Hunter Cole, of, Georgia
15. Chris Ellis, rhp, Mississippi
16. Chandler Shepherd, rhp, Kentucky
17. Jared Miller, lhp, Vanderbilt
18. Austin Cousino, of, Kentucky
19. Adam Ravenelle, rhp, Vanderbilt
20. Karsten Whitson, rhp, Florida
TOP 10 PROSPECTS, 2015 DRAFT
1. Alex Bregman, ss, Louisiana State
2. Kyle Cody, rhp, Kentucky
3. Carson Fulmer, rhp, Vanderbilt
4. Walker Buehler, rhp, Vanderbilt
5. A.J. Simcox, ss, Tennessee
6. Eric Hanhold, rhp, Florida
7. Mikey White, ss, Alabama
8. Colin Poche, lhp, Arkansas
9. Richie Martin, ss, Florida
10. Ray Castillo, rhp, Alabama

Baseball Members (First Year): East—Florida (1933), Georgia (1933), Kentucky (1933), Missouri (2013), South Carolina (1992), Tennessee (1933), Vanderbilt (1933). WestAlabama (1933), Arkansas (1992), Auburn (1933), Louisiana State (1933), Mississippi (1933), Mississippi State (1933), Texas A&M (2013).

Checking in/out: None.

Conference Tournament: 12 teams, modified single/double-elimination. May 20-25 at Hoover, Ala.

Team to Beat: South Carolina.

Balanced, experienced Gamecocks get nod over Mississippi State, LSU and Vanderbilt in tightly packed SEC.

Player of the Year: Alex Bregman, ss, Louisiana State.

Last year’s national Freshman of the Year is a five-tool talent with rare leadership skills and uncanny instincts in all facets of the game.

Pitcher of the Year: Aaron Nola, rhp, Louisiana State.

No pitcher in the 2014 draft class has better command than Nola, whose career strikeout-to-walk ratio is 8.5-to-1.

Freshman of the Year: Keegan Thompson, 1b/rhp, Auburn.

A USA Baseball alumnus with a big-game track record, Thompson will bring big power to the middle of the lineup and swing-and-miss stuff to the weekend rotation.

Top 25 Teams: (7) South Carolina, (8) Mississippi State, (9) Louisiana State, (10) Vanderbilt, (21) Alabama, (23) Florida, (24) Texas A&M, (25) Arkansas.

Other Projected Regional Teams

Kentucky: A year ago, the Wildcats started 22-6 and won their first three SEC series before losing their mojo, going 8-19 the rest of the way. They must prove their toughness, but their talent is intriguing. Kyle Cody looks like an ace in the making with a huge frame and a fastball that reaches 96 mph. A.J. Reed and Chandler Shepherd join him in a potentially excellent rotation. UK needs multi-talented Austin Cousino to bounce back from a sophomore slump to help the slugging Reed (13 HR last year) carry the offense. Juco transfer Spencer Jack faces a tall task replacing closer Trevor Gott.

Notable Storylines: The SEC sent nine teams to regionals and should send nine or even 10 again this year, because it is the deepest conference once again. Ole Miss should defend at a high level, with three premium runners in the outfield, a senior catcher, three upperclassmen in the infield and a slick-fielding freshman at short (Errol Robinson). The Rebels need a big senior year from Preston Overbey and a big freshman campaign from Colby Bortles to give the lineup punch. Question marks abound on the mound, where talented Jr. RHPs Chris Ellis (Friday starter) and Hawtin Buchanan (closer) need to translate their potential into production . . . Dave Serrano has recruited well in his first two years at Tennessee, which could make a postseason run if talented sophomores A.J. Simcox, Vincent Jackson and Christin Stewart mature into offensive forces as hoped. Two more sophomores, RHP Andrew Lee and LHP Drake Owenby, have flashed swing-and-miss stuff on the mound. Serrano’s son, Fr. RHP Kyle Serrano, gives UT even more pitching upside, thanks to a fastball that has reached 95 and feel for a wipeout curve . . . New coaches at Auburn (Sunny Golloway) and Georgia (Scott Stricklin) inherit ranked recruiting classes, which could accelerate the rebuilding process. Polished, competitive two-way talent Keegan Thompson looks like a can’t-miss star for Auburn, while OF Anfernee Grier has electrifying athleticism and RHP Kevin Davis should be another key building block on the mound. Georgia’s top two recruits—ultra-fast Stephen Wrenn and hard-throwing RHP Robert Tyler—should make instant impacts in the center field and closer roles, respectively.