Baseball America once again breaks down each conference, including our projections for regional teams, player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE
Baseball Members (First Year): Brigham Young (2012), Gonzaga (1996), Loyola Marymount (1968), Pacific (2014), Pepperdine (1968), Portland (1996), Saint Mary’s (1968), San Diego (1979), San Francisco (1968), Santa Clara (1968).
|TOP 10 PROSPECTS, 2014 DRAFT|
|1. Bradley Zimmer, of, San Francisco|
|2. Colin Welmon, rhp, Loyola Marymount|
|3. Connor Joe, c, San Diego|
|4. Aaron Brown, lhp/of, Pepperdine|
|5. Austin Davidson, 3b, Pepperdine|
|6. Collin Ferguson, 1b, St. Mary’s|
|7. Travis Radke, lhp, Portland|
|8. Trevor Megill, rhp, Loyola Marymount|
|9. Caleb Whalen, 2b, Portland|
|10. Mitchell Gunsolus, 3b, Gonzaga|
|TOP 5 PROSPECTS, 2015 DRAFT|
|1. Gio Brusa, of, Pacific|
|2. Jose Vizcaino Jr., of, Santa Clara|
|3. Jackson McClelland, rhp, Pepperdine|
|4. Steven Wilson, rhp, Santa Clara|
|5. Troy Conyers, lhp, San Diego|
Checking out: None.
Conference Tournament: Four teams, May 22-24 at Stockton, Calif.
Team to Beat: San Diego.
National Player of the Year Kris Bryant (31 HR) is gone, leaving Cape Cod League all-star Connor Joe (.319/.397/.470, 7 HR) as the centerpiece of the lineup. He is making progress in his transition from first base to catcher, but USD’s defense could be shaky again, as infield play has been a struggle in recent years. The Toreros need Austin Bailey and Andrew Daniel to have big junior years and give Joe some support. Wily lefties P.J. Conlon (9-1, 2.16) and Troy Conyers (3-2, 5.70) should give the Toreros one of the WCC’s better pitching duos, and Fr. RHP Ryan Olson has big upside.
Player of the Year: Bradley Zimmer, of, San Francisco.
Lean, athletic and projectable, Zimmer is a true five-tool talent who could follow in older brother Kyle’s footsteps as a top-10 overall pick if he can tap into his power.
Pitcher of the Year: Colin Welmon, rhp, Loyola Marymount.
Welmon is a proven ace with a commanding mound presence and advanced feel for four pitches, highlighted by an 88-93 fastball and plus changeup.
Freshman of the Year: Tyler Cohen, 3b/rhp, Loyola Marymount.
Cohen is advanced enough to start at third base and hit for average, and his 89-93 fastball and hammer curve are perfect for the back of the bullpen.
Notable Storylines: Losing RHP Trevor Megill to Tommy John surgery last spring was a blow to Loyola Marymount’s hopes in 2014, but the Lions still have a chance to make some noise if their 22nd-ranked recruiting class matures quickly. Two-way talent Cohen and instinctive, fluid Fr. SS David Fletcher give LMU a pair of exciting talents on the left side of the infield. Fr. C Cassidy Brown has power potential and promising catch-and-throw skills, and Fr. CF Austin Miller has plus-plus speed and table-setting skills. All four will play immediately . . . Every top WCC contender has holes to fill, but San Francisco and Gonzaga both return enough talent to compete for the conference crown. The Dons have two mature, crafty veterans atop the rotation in RHP Abe Bobb and LHP Christian Cecilio, plus the WCC’s best offensive duo in Zimmer and Sr. 1B Zach Turner (.333/.380/.504, 8 HR) . . . Gonzaga will have its hands full replacing Marco Gonzales and Tyler Olson in the rotation, but if its talented sophomore class matures as hoped, the Zags should have a chance to defend their regular-season title. So. 1B/RHP Taylor Jones has the power potential to anchor the middle of the lineup, and So. SS Cabe Reiten is a good defender with some offensive upside. So. RHP Andrew Sopko has good feel for a three-pitch mix and also needs to take a step forward . . . Pacific leaves the Big West for the WCC, where its private-school profile is a better fit. The Tigers have the league’s most talented sophomore in switch-hitting OF Gio Brusa, who has solid tools across the board and should be able to improve upon his modest freshman year.