About Our Grades
We love the 20-80 scouting scale at Baseball America; we use it to assess everything from prospects to our favorite local barbecue restaurants. So we figured it would be fun and instructive to subject our preseason top 25 rankings to the same scrutiny.
Scouts grade prospects on how their tools compare with those of an average major leaguer, but we are rating teams relative to an average college baseball team with NCAA tournament aspirations. In addition to grading our top 25 teams on typical tools like hitting for average, hitting for power, speed and defense, we have divided the fifth tool (arm) into two categories: starting pitching and bullpen. We’re also giving teams a grade for Experience/Intangibles—think of it as a team’s “makeup,” if you like. For each category, a grade of 50 is average, comparable to a typical NCAA tournament contender; 60 is above-average; 70 is well above-average; 40 is below-average; and 30 is well below-average. Twenty and 80 are the extreme limits in each direction.
Finally, each team is given an Overall Future Potential (OFP) grade. The OFP scale:
80: A team for the ages. An overwhelming favorite with no obvious weaknesses. Think 1981 Arizona State or 1996 Louisiana State. There is no team like this heading into 2014.
70: Elite. A leading contender for the national title. (Virginia.)
65: Well-above-average. Legitimate championship contender. (Oregon State, Indiana, Cal State Fullerton, North Carolina State, Florida State, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Louisiana State.)
60: Above-average. Strong Omaha contender. (Vanderbilt, Oregon, UCLA, Clemson, Louisiana-Lafayette)
55: Slightly above-average. A threat to win a conference title and perhaps reach Omaha. (Rice, Miami, North Carolina, Texas, Texas Christian, Louisville, Alabama, Kansas State, Florida, Texas A&M, Arkansas.)
50: Average. Strong NCAA tournament teams who could make a postseason run. (None in this year’s preseason Top 25)
Ranking teams is far from an exact science, and there will doubtless be surprises and disappointments as the season unfolds. Last season, seven of the eight teams that eventually made the College World Series were ranked in our preseason top 12—but one team, Indiana, was unranked. We think applying the 20-80 scale is an illuminating way to gauge each team’s projected strengths and weaknesses heading into the season.
2013 Record (Ranking): 35-28 (NR). RPI: 29.
Coach (Record at school): Mitch Gaspard (133-115, 4 years).
Postseason History: 20 regionals (active streak: 1), 5 CWS trips (last in 1999), 0 national titles.
|RP||Thomas Burrows||Fr.||NA||HS—Florence, Ala.|
Hitting: 50. No Alabama regular hit .300 last year, as the Crimson Tide ranked 215th nationally in batting (.259) and 149th in scoring (5.2 runs per game). But talented underclassmen gained valuable experience last year and should take big steps forward in 2014. Salem and Overstreet are contact hitters with good knowledge of the strike zone, which should make them high-on-base catalysts. White is the best pure hitter in the lineup thanks to a sweet righthanded swing and strength to the gaps. Fellow righthanded hitters Moore and Haynie also have the ability to hit for average and drive the ball with authority. Alabama’s offense should be more dangerous, but even if it does not put up gaudy offensive numbers, it should turn in plenty of quality at-bats once again.
Power: 50. The Crimson Tide planned for Wass to slot right into its cleanup spot last year after he transferred in from the junior-college ranks, but an ankle injury cost him all of the season. His return provides a big power boost in the middle of the lineup, and fellow righthanded hitter Smith has good power to left and left-center. Moore has some pop to all fields, and Haynie has flashed plus raw power potential, giving the Tide two more dangerous righthanded bats. White also should contribute an occasional homer, and freshman Casey Houston brings some lefthanded pop off the bench.
Speed: 55. Salem’s plus-plus speed helps make him a disruptive force atop the lineup. Blanchard and Moore also have plus speed in the outfield. White is an average runner, but the rest of the lineup lacks speed.
Defense: 70. Few teams will be better up the middle than Alabama. Wass and Haynie both have plus arms and good receiving skills behind the plate, allowing the Tide to alternate them as necessary and keep both fresh. White and Overstreet form a marquee tandem in the middle, with sure hands, smooth actions, excellent instincts, advanced footwork and good arms. Salem has outstanding range in center field, while Blanchard and Moore both offer speed and arm strength on the corners. Vincent’s range and arm strength at the hot corner could make him another standout. Alabama fielded .976 last year (20th in the nation) and turned 80 double plays (second nationally), and the defense should be even better this year thanks to added experience.
Starting Pitching: 60. Turnbull overcame early command issues and established himself as a bona fide SEC ace last year. His bread and butter is his ability to work downhill with a 90-94 fastball that touches 96, and he mixes in a power slurve, a quality changeup and a cutter that he added late in the fall. Kamplain is a smallish bulldog who can hold his 89-91 fastball and eat up lefties with his sharp breaking ball, or backdoor it against righties. Castillo, who thrived in the closer role as a freshman, has the electric three-pitch repertoire to be a dominant Sunday starter, with a 90-95 fastball, a good changeup and a 12-to-6 curveball that can be devastating when he’s got his good feel for it. Fr. RHP Nick Eicholtz gives ‘Bama another talented starting option, with a 90-92 fastball and a slider that flashes plus.
Bullpen: 50. Castillo’s move into the rotation leaves a freshman in line to handle the closing duties again. The lefthanded Burrows is uncommonly polished for his age, with good command of an 89-93 fastball from a three-quarters slot and a swing-and-miss breaking ball. Versatile Sr. RHP Tucker Hawley—who could start, set up or close as needed—spots up a fringy fastball and mixes in a solid changeup and slider. Jr. LHP Jon Keller’s breaking ball is an out pitch, but he must command his fastball better than he did a year ago. Jr. LHP Taylor Guilbeau and Jr. RHP Jay Shaw bring more experience and depth.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. Alabama exceeded expectations to make a regional out of the rugged SEC with a young team last year, and it welcomes back five regulars and three-quarters of its innings. But four new starters and a freshman closer need to learn the ropes in the conference.
Baseball America OFP: 55. The Crimson Tide is a popular Omaha sleeper pick amongst other SEC coaches, who liked what they saw from Alabama’s outstanding young core last year. The Tide won’t sneak up on anyone this year, as it looks like a strong regional team with a chance to make noise in the postseason.
22. KANSAS STATE
2013 Record (Ranking): 45-19 (13). RPI: 16.
Coach (Record at school): Brad Hill (338-243-3, 10 years).
Postseason History: 4 regionals (active streak: 1), 0 CWS trips, 0 national titles.
|DH||Max Brown||Jr.||NA||Tr.—Bellevue (Wash.) CC|
Hitting: 65. Six regulars return from a team that ranked second in the nation in batting and fifth in triples last year, evidence of its prowess at driving the gaps. Up and down the lineup, the hard-nosed Wildcats apply pressure a variety of ways—working counts, getting hit by pitches, bunting, hitting behind runners, and mixing up their attack. Kivett, the reigning Big 12 player of the year, makes the Wildcats go with his energy and his ability to get on base thanks to a patient, mature all-fields approach. Fisher is a skilled, disciplined hitter with an inside-out swing, excelling at spoiling pitches and serving the ball to left field. Conlon, the most physical hitter in the lineup, can wear out the gaps or lay down a bunt. Meyer, Santigate and DeBord have all proven they can hit for average, and each delivered his share of timely hits last year. Speer and Dalrymple might not put up big numbers but should scrap and claw through at-bats, making them good fits in this lineup.
Power: 40. Departed Jared King and Jon Davis combined to hit 12 of Kansas State’s 29 homers last year. Conlon matured into a legitimate power threat last year, and Meyer brings occasional pop as well. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Brown is something of a wild card, as he has flashed strength but remains somewhat raw at the plate. Speer could hit a few home runs, and Kivett flashed fringe-average power in the Cape Cod League but has hit just three homers in three years at KSU. The Wildcats figure to thrive on using the gaps again, racking up doubles and triples.
Speed: 60. Kansas State’s aggressiveness on the basepaths makes its speed play up. Kivett is a fringy runner but knows how to read pitchers, read balls in the dirt, and generally take the extra base when the opportunity presents itself. The same could be true of most Wildcats, to varying degrees. Conlon stole 17 bases in 21 tries last year, Santigate swiped 11 bags in 16 tries, and DeBord was 6-for-8—and that’s from the two infield corners and the catcher. The tooled-up Brown is the fastest player on the team, and Dalymple is also an above-average runner.
Defense: 65. The Wildcats have upperclassmen at all four infield spots and catcher, and all of them were reliable starters on a team that fielded .974 last year (36th in the country). Conlon is a premier defensive first baseman, while Kivett and Fisher make all the routine plays but lack standout range or flashy actions. Santigate has very good range and instincts at third, helping him get to more balls than most, but he needs to cut down his errors a bit. DeBord runs the show behind the plate; this will be his third year calling pitches, and he has a good feel for setting hitters up, in addition to strong receiving skills and an accurate arm, though not a cannon. The outfield should be decent but not exceptional.
Starting Pitching: 35. The rotation was KSU’s weakness last year, and it will be again. The Wildcats were able to win despite seldom getting solid five-inning starts on the mound, but they hope MaVorhis and Moore can go deeper into games this year. MaVorhis is a strike-thrower with a low-to-mid-80s fastball, an adequate slider and a very good changeup. Moore showed an improved changeup during his breakout fall, complementing his 84-86 fastball and decent curve. Kalmus missed last year with a fracture in his forearm and has dealt with some soreness this winter, but if healthy he offers more arm strength, with an 86-90 fastball, a decent slider and changeup.
Bullpen: 55. Matthys earned freshman All-America honors last year, when he anchored the entire pitching staff from the back. His unflappable confidence is his best asset, and he attacks hitters with a lively 86-88 sinker, a good changeup and slider. The Wildcats can extend Matthys for multiple innings to shorten games, but they also have a competitive, proven setup man in Jr. RHP Nate Williams, who works at 88-92 with serious sink and a power curveball that is an out pitch when it’s on. The X-factor is Jr. RHP Jake Whaley, a junior-college transfer with a 93-94 fastball who is still learning to throw strikes consistently.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. The Wildcats have long embraced a dogged, blue-collar ethos that starts at the top with coach Brad Hill. Toughness has been their calling card for years, consistently helping them play above their talent. They play with energy, they have fun, and they expect to win. It also helps that their lineup and bullpen are loaded with veterans coming off a strong showing in a tough super regional at Oregon State.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Starting with its first-ever regional in 2009, Kansas State has been to the NCAA tournament four times in five years. The Wildcats hosted a regional for the first time last year and won it. They are good enough to compete for another Big 12 championship and will have a shot to elevate the program to an even higher level if their starting pitching improves. But that remains a major question mark.
2013 Record (Ranking): 29-30 (NR). RPI: 48.
Coach (Record at school): Kevin O’Sullivan (252-132, 6 years).
Postseason History: 20 regionals (active streak: 6), 8 CWS trips (last in 2012), 0 national titles.
|1B||Braden Mattson||Jr.||NA||Tr.—San Jacinto (Texas) JC|
|LF||Buddy Reed||Fr.||NA||HS—Middletown, R.I.|
|*Stats from 2012|
Hitting: 55. Florida fielded its least physical team in the Kevin O’Sullivan era last year, when it ranked 197th nationally in scoring (4.8 runs per game) and 168th in batting (.269). But there is reason to believe the offense will be much more potent in 2014. Switch-hitters Gushue and Tobias have quick, compact strokes and are capable of performing much better as juniors. Turgeon’s knack for making contact and bat-handling skills should enable him to top .300 as well, and his patient approach makes him a good table-setter. Martin and Bader (who was a breakthrough performer this fall) are undersized but have dynamic tool sets, and Shafer is a doubles machine who should help anchor the middle of the lineup.
Power: 50. The nation’s top recruiting class this fall upgraded Florida’s power potential. Alonso has plus raw power from foul pole to foul pole—he showed the kind of strength this fall that reminded O’Sullivan of former Gators Mike Zunino and Preston Tucker. Fellow freshman A.J. Puk could push him for playing time, as the long-levered Puk offers plus raw power from the left side, complementing Alonso’s righthanded juice. Shafer and Mattson, who started his collegiate career as a key recruit for TCU before heading to junior college, bring more intriguing righthanded pop, and Gushue has decent pop from both sides.
Speed: 55. Bader is a burner with plus-plus speed. So is the tooled-up 6-foot-3, 200-pound Reed, who has proven more advanced than expected for a three-sport athlete from the Northeast. He’ll compete for playing time with Fr. OF Ryan Larson, whose decent speed plays up because of his baserunning savvy. That description also applies to Turgeon and Shafer. Martin and Tobias are slightly above-average runners.
Defense: 65. Florida’s overall team athleticism translates well to the defensive side of the game. Martin has the lateral quickness and arm strength to be a standout at shortstop, and Turgeon is silky smooth and exceptionally consistent at second. The durable Gushue, who started 56 games behind the plate last year, offers good catch-and-throw skills. Tobias is a rock at third, Reed and Shafer have plus arms on the outfield corners, and Bader is a take-charge center fielder who covers plenty of ground.
Starting Pitching: 55. The Gators have serious upside on the mound, but they have plenty of questions to answer. Whitson, an unsigned first-rounder out of high school and a freshman All-American in 2012, missed last year after having cleanup surgery in his shoulder, and scouts who saw him this fall report seeing his fastball sit in the low 80s. The Gators report “he is back” this January. At his best in the past, he reached the mid-90s and showed a plus slider, but he is one of college baseball’s greatest wild cards this spring. Hanhold worked in the 91-94 range and showed a hard 82-85 slider and the makings of an above-average changeup last summer in the Northwoods League, where he ranked as the No. 2 prospect. Morales, one of four premium pitching recruits the Gators landed this fall, works at 90-93 and has good feel for his changeup and a quickly improving curveball. Fellow Fr. RHP Dane Dunning also should factor into the starting mix thanks to his advanced feel for three quality pitches, including an 88-91 fastball.
Bullpen: 60. The strength of this unit is its outstanding depth and its balance of lefties and righties, but it lacks a go-to reliever. Shafer doesn’t have overpowering velocity, but he pumps strikes with a lively 88-90 sinker and a solid slider. Jr. RHP Ryan Harris, whose max-effort delivery produces 92-94 heat and a power slider, is locked into a bullpen role along with So. RHP Jay Carmichael, a command-and-control specialist with a high-80s heater and feel for a slurve. Lefties Puk, Danny Young and Bobby Poyner all have the ability to start or relieve as needed. Fr. Scott Moss gives the bullpen yet another southpaw, while redshirt Jr. Keenan Kish and So. Aaron Rhodes should also factor in from the right side.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. The Gators are led by a nice core of seasoned juniors in Gushue, Turgeon, Tobias, Shafer, Whitson and Harris—all of whom have been to Omaha. But Florida will need its stellar freshman class to mature quickly in order to make another deep postseason run.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Florida had to scrap and claw to finish one game over .500 during the regular season last year, enabling it to sneak into regionals as a No. 3 seed. That team showed character by persevering in the face of enormous losses to the draft and some key injuries. The 2014 Gators are much more talented, but they need unproven young players to perform at a high level, and veterans to improve their own performance. This team has Omaha upside, but it has plenty of questions to answer.
24. TEXAS A&M
2013 Record (Ranking): 34-29 (NR). RPI: 32.
Coach (Record at school): Rob Childress (323-182-2, 8 years).
Postseason History: 29 regionals (active streak: 7), 5 CWS trips (last in 2011), 0 national titles.
|3B||Logan Nottebrok||Jr.||NA||Tr.—Temple (Texas) JC|
|LF||G.R. Hinsley||Jr.||NA||Tr.—Paris (Texas) JC|
|RF||Ryne Birk||Fr.||NA||HS—Katy, Texas|
Hitting: 50. Texas A&M scored just 4.4 runs per game last year (235th in the nation), but it should be more physical and more dangerous in 2014. Lankford, the expected No. 3-hole hitter, has a smooth lefthanded stroke and good feel to hit, and the Aggies think he has All-America potential as a junior. The quick-twitch Allemand emerged from an early slump last year to heat up in the second half, and A&M will count upon him to work counts and set the tone at the top of the lineup. Taylor, the top prospect in the Texas Collegiate League last summer, was A&M’s best offensive player this fall, exhibiting a quick righthanded stroke and a patient, all-fields approach. Birk has advanced feel for hitting and should be an impact player immediately, while physical juco transfers Nottebrok and Hinsley also impressed with their hitting instincts this fall. Bratsen is the X-factor; if he can be more disciplined in his approach and keep the ball on the ground, he could be a real catalyst.
Power: 40. Melton smacked six homers in just 118 at-bats as a freshman, and he’ll serve as the top power threat this spring. Nottebrok and Hinsley are accomplished junior-college run producers, and Nottebrok looks like the better bet to add more sock to the middle of the lineup. Stein, Lankford and Taylor are gap-to-gap hitters with occasional home run power. Melton is the only true masher, though.
Speed: 60. Bratsen is one of college baseball’s fastest players, capable of running the 60-yard dash in 6.35 seconds—but he’s still learning to make the best use of his speed. Allemand is a 6.5 runner, and the live-bodied Taylor showed basestealing ability last summer in the TCL, where he swiped 17 bags. Birk is a solid-average or slightly better runner, but his instincts make his speed play up.
Defense: 60. Taylor’s above-average arm, soft hands and good range should make him a worthy successor to Mikey Reynolds at short, where he did not make any errors in the fall. Allemand is a good double-play partner, Stein is physical and intelligent behind the plate, and Bratsen has premium range in center, making the Aggies very strong up the middle. The key to the defense will be the corners, where Texas A&M is less proven.
Starting Pitching: 60. Mengden is a front-line ace with command of four pitches—an 89-94 fastball, a solid-average slider, a decent changeup and curve. Ray also has feel for a quality four-pitch mix, though he has less fastball velocity (88-91). A standout high school quarterback, the athletic Ray fields his position well, has a commanding mound presence, and simply knows how to make big pitches in big spots. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Long works downhill with a 90-95 fastball and made progress with his command of his secondary stuff last summer in the California Collegiate League, flashing a power mid-80s slider with two-plane tilt and the makings of a serviceable changeup. So. LHP Hayden Howard is a pitch-maker with an 86-89 fastball and a good changeup, and he looks ready for the midweek starter job.
Bullpen: 60. Texas A&M’s bullpen is built around a premier closer in Jester, who set the school’s single-season saves record last year. He’s a dogged competitor with a 90-95 fastball and a tight power curve at 78-82, and he can mix in an occasional changeup. So. LHP A.J. Minter ran his fastball up to 97 late last spring, and the Aggies are optimistic he’ll take a step forward as sophomore, even coming off thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Jr. RHP Corey Ray sits at 90-92 and touches 94-95 on occasion, and he flashes an average slider, but it must be more consistent. Jr. RHP Gandy Stubblefield also has plus arm strength and could be a key bullpen piece if he can harness his command. So. LHP Matt Kent and R-Fr. LHP Rex Hill give the Aggies two more good pieces from the left side.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The Aggies had 24 freshmen and sophomores last year who “have all gotten beaten up and grown up,” as the coaches put it. Four experienced upperclassmen anchor the lineup this year, two more veterans front the rotation, and a senior anchors the bullpen.
Baseball America OFP: 55. If sophomores like Long, Minter and Howard take the anticipated steps forward, the Aggies could have a marquee pitching staff capable of carrying them a long way. Question marks remain in the lineup, but the talent is in place for this to be a capable offense and a very good defense. The Aggies should make their eighth straight regional and could be in the mix to host, but that won’t be easy to do in the loaded SEC.
2013 Record (Ranking): 39-22 (18). RPI: 30.
Coach (Record at school): Dave Van Horn (444-245, 11 years).
Postseason History: 26 regionals (active streak: 12), 7 CWS trips (last in 2012), 0 national titles.
|3B||Mike Bernal||So.||NA||Tr.—New Mexico JC|
|DH||Krisjon Wilkerson||Jr.||NA||Tr.—Pearl River (Miss.) CC|
Hitting: 50. A below-average offense was the culprit for the Razorbacks’ somewhat disappointing 2013 season, when they ranked No. 3 in the preseason but found themselves on the road for regionals, where they lost. The team’s top three hitters are back, led by Anderson, the lone .300 hitter in the lineup a year ago. Anderson’s swing got long at times in the Cape Cod League, but when he stays short and compact, he rips hard liners all over the field. He and Spoon both control the strike zone well, and Spoon showed a knack for timely hitting as a redshirt freshman last year. Serrano’s plate discipline could be better, but he has a good feel for his barrel and a No. 2 hitter’s bat-handling skills. Benintendi figures to lead off as a freshman thanks to his advanced approach and the surprising strength in his 5-foot-10 frame, which earned him comparisons to Kentucky’s Austin Cousino out of high school. The burly Wilkerson also has a short, simple swing and should make an immediate impact. The Hogs are still waiting for Fisher to make good on his offensive promise, but the fundamentals of his lefthanded stroke are sound.
Power: 40. Anderson has slightly above-average to plus raw power, but he is more of a doubles hitter currently. Spoon and Wilkerson also have some juice to the pull side, but don’t expect either to reach double figures in homers. Power will not be this team’s calling card.
Speed: 50. Benintendi is a slightly above-average runner, but his baseball speed and quickness are better than that. McAfee has plus speed but is not overly aggressive on the basepaths. Anderson is a 55 runner, while Spoon and Serrano are decent runners also. Arkansas ranked 209th nationally in steals per game last year.
Defense: 55. The Hogs struggled defensively last year as well, fielding .964 (172nd in the country). But they should be better in 2014, with two upperclassmen anchoring the middle of the diamond. Wise is in the lineup for his strong catch-and-throw skills, and McAfee is a quick-twitch athlete with excellent range and a strong arm at short. Bernal and fellow juco transfer Bobby Wernes are both strong defenders at third, and whichever of them develops more at the plate should earn the bulk of the playing time. Fisher is sound at first, and though Anderson is still learning second base, he has the range and plus arm strength to excel there after struggling with his throwing accuracy in the past on the left side of the infield. Benintendi is a take-charge defender in center, Spoon is a plus defender with a strong arm in right, and Serrano is an average left fielder with a below-average arm.
Starting Pitching: 55. Arkansas led the nation in ERA last year but lost its entire weekend rotation. This rotation has a chance to be special if the three new starters can live up to their potential, but all three have much to prove. Killian’s deceptive crossfire delivery and good control make his stuff—an 88-92 fastball, an average slider and changeup—play up. Poche has gotten stronger and shows similar velocity from the left side, along with a plus changeup and decent slider. Oliver showed huge stuff in a middle relief role last year, running his fastball up to 97 and flashing a filthy power slider at 85-86. He’s also making progress developing a changeup, giving him a chance to start or relieve. Jr. RHP Jacob Stone, an athletic and polished juco transfer, has a solid four-pitch mix.
Bullpen: 55. Beeks looks ready to replace Colby Suggs at the back of the bullpen thanks to his poise in tough spots and his good command of an 89-92 fastball, a swing-and-miss 80-82 slider and a decent change. Oliver could also vie for the closer job if he doesn’t start. Jr. LHP Michael Gunn throws strikes with an 87-88 fastball and has excellent feel for a sharp downer curve at 77-78. So. RHP Landon Simpson has an 88-90 fastball and a solid slider that is effective against righties. Newcomers Dominic Taccolini, Zach Jackson, Alex Phillips and James Teague help replenish a staff that lost seven drafted arms last year. The big-bodied Taccolini has the highest ceiling of a group, with a fastball that has flashed 94-95 in the past but sat at 89-91 in the fall.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. Wise, Serrano and Anderson started on the Hogs’ 2012 Omaha team, and three other position players earned starting roles last year. The inexperience on the pitching staff is a wild card; if the talented young arms mature quickly, this team could be very good. If they wilt under pressure, the Hogs could struggle to make a regional out of the rugged SEC.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Expectations will be more modest than they were going into last year, but there is still plenty of talent on the roster. Even if the Hogs go through some growing pains early, they could be very dangerous down the stretch.
See also: Capsules 1-5
See also: Capsules 6-10
See also: Capsules 11-15
See also: Capsules 16-20