College World Series Preview

We graded the eight College World Series participants in seven different categories, using the 20-80 scale (where 50 is average). Then we averaged all seven grades for each team, and sorted them below from highest average to lowest. Obviously some of these categories are more important than others, so the average should not be interpreted as our overall assessment of each team (see the Baseball America OFP scores for that). But this chart provides a neat snapshot of the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and how they stack up with each other. For the sake of reference, Louisville and Mississippi State tied for the highest averages in our preseason chart (62.86), followed by North Carolina and Vanderbilt (62.14). LSU, which has the highest average this time around, tied for eighth in the preseason (60.71).

Hitting Power Speed Defense Starting Pitching Bullpen Experience/
Intangibles
AVG
Louisiana State 70 60 60 70 60 65 70 65
North Carolina 70 65 60 60 55 65 70 63.6
Louisville 60 50 75 60 65 70 65 63.6
Oregon State 60 50 45 55 70 65 70 59.3
N.C. State 50 50 65 55 60 70 65 59.3
Mississippi State 55 50 55 60 40 70 65 56.4
UCLA 40 35 50 65 65 70 70 56.4
Indiana 70 65 60 40 50 55 55 56.4

Scouts grade prospects on how their tools compare with those of an average major leaguer, but for our Top 25′s purposes, we rate talent relative to an average NCAA tournament team. 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 solid-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. In this case, the OFP represents our assessment of a team’s overall strength and its chance to win the College World Series.

northcarolinaNORTH CAROLINA (No. 1 national seed)

Record: 57-10. Preseason ranking: 1. Ranking at end of regular season: 5.

Season In A Nutshell: The Tar Heels ranked No. 1 in BA’s preseason Top 25 for the first time ever, and they justified that ranking by winning the ACC’s regular-season and tournament titles en route to the No. 1 national seed. After a 44-4 start, North Carolina stumbled just a bit down the stretch, losing back-to-back series at the end of the regular season and getting pushed to the brink by Florida Atlantic in regionals and South Carolina in super regionals. But when the dust settled the Tar Heels had reached Omaha for the sixth time in the last eight years.

An opposing coach breaks down UNC

Skye Bolt

Skye Bolt (Photo by Brian Westerholt)

Who’s Hot (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Fr. DH Landon Lassiter (.452/.528/.452 in 31 AB)
• Sr. 1B Cody Stubbs (.400/.471/.633, 4 2B, HR, 4 RBI in 30 AB)
• Jr. C Brian Holberton (.379/.438/.552, HR, 7 RBI in 29 AB)
• Fr. RHP Trent Thornton (2-0, 1.20, 2 SV, 18-3 K-BB in 15 IP)

Who’s Not (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Fr. OF Skye Bolt (.214/.303/.250 in 28 AB)
• Jr. 3B Colin Moran (.233/.361/.367 in 30 AB)
• Jr. LHP Kent Emanuel (1-0, 10.22 in 12 IP, 1 SV)

2013 Draft Picks (6):
• Moran (No. 6 overall, Marlins)
• Emanuel (third round, Astros)
• Stubbs (eighth round, Royals)
• Holberton (ninth round, Astros)
• Jr. LHP Hobbs Johnson (14th round, Brewers)
• Sr. OF Chaz Frank (20th round, Blue Jays)

GRADING THE TAR HEELS

Hitting
Preseason: 60
Revised: 70

North Carolina is a truly elite offensive team, with accomplished line-drive hitters from top to bottom. The Tar Heels rank second in the nation in scoring (7.9 runs per game), 16th in batting (.308) and third in walks (354), a reflection of their ability to wear opponents down by working counts. UNC also ranks 13th in triples and 23rd in doubles, making this offense a good fit for spacious TD Ameritrade Park.

Power
Preseason: 55
Revised: 65

Moran, Bolt, Stubbs and Holberton are all legitimate home run threats, helping UNC rank 22nd in the nation in home runs and 26th in slugging percentage. Stubbs ranks fourth in the nation in doubles (26); as a unit, UNC’s gap power is even more dangerous than its home run power. This grade might even be higher if Bolt flashed his pre-injury form, but he hasn’t homered since breaking his right foot in mid-April.

Speed
Preseason: 55
Revised: 60

There are no slugs in the UNC lineup, as even its first baseman (Stubbs) and catcher (Holberton) are solid runners who can steal an occasional base. Frank, Bolt, Lassiter and Michael Russell have good speed and have combined to steal 58 bases in 71 tries, and the Tar Heels pressure defenses going first-to-third aggressively.

Defense
Preseason: 60
Revised: 60

North Carolina ranks 25th in the nation with a .975 fielding percentage. The Tar Heels are outstanding in the outfield—don’t let Frank’s dropped fly ball in the super regional fool you, he is an excellent center fielder—and the infield is very solid. The only question mark is behind the plate, where Holberton took over once Matt Roberts broke his finger. Holberton has the potential to be a good defensive catcher, but he does not have abundant experience at the position.

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 70
Revised: 55

UNC’s three returning weekend starters did not duplicate their 2012 success, when all three posted ERAs below 2.00, but they still had solid seasons. Emanuel (11-3, 2.93) has a track record of thriving in big games, dating back to the shutout he threw against Texas as a freshman in the 2011 CWS, but he has scuffled in the postseason. Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78) has struggled even more down the stretch; both he and Hobbs Johnson (4-1, 2.62) have quality stuff and can be very good if their command is on. But that’s a big “if.” No UNC starter made it through three innings in the super regional.

Bullpen
Preseason: 70
Revised: 65

Thornton (11-1, 1.28, 8 SV, 78-15 K-BB in 85 IP) has been North Carolina’s most valuable pitcher this year. A talented freshman with a low-90s fastball, excellent changeup and breaking ball, Thornton can go multiple innings and bounces back well, but UNC has leaned on him heavily. RHP Chris McCue is the only other option the Tar Heels seem to trust in really big spots, but he has been very dependable. Tate Parrish (0.00 ERA in 6.1 IP over 18 appearances) is a classic left-on-left specialist who is very good at his role, while Trevor Kelley (2-1, 3.50) and Reilly Hovis (4-0, 2.38) are useful middle men. This unit has proven to be not as deep as anticipated heading into the year, but Thornton is a major weapon.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 65
Revised: 70

North Carolina certainly proved its mettle in the thrilling regional finale against Florida Atlantic, bouncing back from FAU’s stunning ninth-inning rally to tie the game in the bottom of the frame, then bouncing back from FAU’s three-run homer in the 12th to tie it again. North Carolina showed more resilience against South Carolina, coming from behind in both of its victories. Emanuel and Moran experienced the big stage of the CWS as freshmen, and few coaching staffs know their way around Omaha like this group.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 65
Revised: 70

UNC’s starting pitching, its biggest perceived strength heading into the season, has become a question mark heading into the College World Series, but if the starters pitch up to their capabilities, this is the most complete team in the field. The Tar Heels got a very tough draw in their opener (N.C. State ace Carlos Rodon), but they have won three of the four games Rodon has started against them the last two years. They probably need to stay out of the losers’ bracket to spare their arms, which have been taxed over the last two weekends.

oregonstateOREGON STATE (No. 3 national seed)

Record: 50-11. Preseason ranking: 6. Ranking at end of regular season: 4.

Season In A Nutshell: The Beavers got off to a 15-0 start—their best since 1986—and never looked back, winning the Pac-12 by two games over Oregon. They allowed just seven runs in a three-game sweep through the Corvallis Regional, then bounced back from a loss to Kansas State by winning the next two games of their super regional.

An opposing coach breaks down Oregon State

Michael Conforto

Michael Conforto (photo by Bill Mitchell)

Who’s Hot (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Jr. 3B Kavin Keyes (.409/.435/.455 in 22 AB)
• Sr. DH Ryan Barnes (.409/.435/.545, HR, 4 RBI in 22 AB)
• Jr. LHP Ben Wetzler (2-0, 2.16 in 17 IP)
• Fr. RHP Andrew Moore (2-0, 2.25 in 16 IP)

Who’s Not (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Sr. OF Max Gordon (.077/.143/.077 in 13 AB—but 5 sacrifices)

2013 Draft Picks (7):
• Wetzler (fifth round, Phillies)
• Sr. LHP Matt Boyd (sixth round, Blue Jays)
• Sr. SS Tyler Smith (eighth round, Mariners)
• Sr. 1B Danny Hayes (13th round, White Sox)
• Jr. RHP Scott Schultz (17th round, Marlins)
• Jr. RHP Dan Child (18th round, Phillies)
• Jr. C Jake Rodriguez (19th round, Astros)

GRADING THE BEAVERS

Hitting
Preseason: 65
Revised: 60

Like most Pat Casey teams, these Beavers are better offensively than their numbers suggest. OSU ranks third in the Pac-12 in batting (55th in the nation) and scoring (74th in the nation), and there is no easy out in the lineup. The Beavers can skill it up from top to bottom—Gordon has just one extra-base hit in 115 at-bats, but he is an accomplished bunter who fights for every pitch. The Beavers excel at hitting situationally and keeping pressure on their opponents. Tyler Smith and Andy Peterson are excellent table setters in the top two spots in the order.

Power
Preseason: 55
Revised: 50

Sophomores Michael Conforto and Dylan Davis have serious power, and Danny Hayes can also impact games with his pop. That trio combined for four big home runs in the super regional; they make this the most physical Oregon State team since 2006, but this is still not a team that relies on the long ball. That makes the Beavers well suited for TD Ameritrade Park.

Speed
Preseason: 50
Revised: 45

Peterson (13-for-18) is the only Beaver with double-digit steals. The Beavers will put runners in motion, but they seldom go for the straight steal—in part because their team speed is fringy.

Defense
Preseason: 60
Revised: 55

OSU’s .972 fielding percentage is a bit misleading, as OSU’s infield struggled while Smith missed time earlier this season. Smith, a heady senior shortstop, is the glue for this solid defense, and Peterson is a good double-play partner. Gordon makes highlight-reel grabs on a routine basis in center, but the Beavers are just adequate on the corners.

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 65
Revised: 70

The Beavers have easily the best three-man rotation in this field, and perhaps the best in all of college baseball. Boyd, Moore and Wetzler are a big reason OSU ranks second nationally in ERA—they have turned in 35 quality starts in 47 outings. Moore might be just a freshman, but he has won nine consecutive games, and his four-pitch mix from the right side complements the two quality lefthanders perfectly. All three can reach the low 90s, and all three have excellent feel for pitching.

Bullpen
Preseason: 60
Revised: 65

The Beavers have a deep, diverse bullpen with reliable options from the left side (Max Engelbrekt, Jace Fry) and the right (sinkerballer Scott Schultz, changeup artist Tony Bryant, sidewinder Brandon Jackson, power-armed Cole Brocker, Dan Child and Taylor Starr). But that bullpen did lose the super regional opener against K-State, and the Beavers showed little faith in their bullpen in the third game, bringing back Boyd on one day of rest to get the final four outs.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 70
Revised: 70

Though no Beaver has been to Omaha aside from coach Pat Casey, this team has veterans all over the field and on the mound, and they are loaded with postseason experience. And other coaches marvel at Oregon State’s toughness and ability to grind its opponents down.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 65
Revised: 70

With the best pitching staff in the field, a solid defense and a balanced offense, Oregon State is a very complete club. The Beavers look like the favorite on their side of the bracket, and they have a very real chance to take home their third national championship.

lsuLOUISIANA STATE (No. 4 national seed)

Record: 57-9. Preseason ranking: 10. Ranking at end of regular season: 2.

Season In A Nutshell: LSU got off to a torrid 33-2 start en route to the SEC West title. The Tigers lost just one series all year, and they enter the CWS red-hot. After losing to Arkansas in their second SEC tournament game, the Tigers ran through the losers’ bracket to capture the SEC title, and they have not lost since.

An opposing coach breaks down LSU

Aaron Nola (photo by Andrew Woolley)

Aaron Nola (photo by Andrew Woolley

Who’s Hot (NCAA tournament numbers):
• So. RHP Aaron Nola (2-0, 0.00, 12-3 K-BB in 16 IP)
• Sr. OF Raph Rhymes (.444/.524/.500 in 18 AB)
• Fr. SS Alex Bregman (.400/.455/.650 in 20 AB)

Who’s Not (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Jr. 3B Christian Ibarra (.105/.261/.158 in 19 AB)
• Fr. OF Andrew Stevenson (.214/.389/.214 in 14 AB)

2013 Draft Picks (9):
• Jr. RHP Ryan Eades (second round, Twins)
• Jr. 2B JaCoby Jones (third round, Pirates)
• Sr. 1B Mason Katz (fourth round, Cardinals)
• Jr. RHP Nick Rumbelow (seventh round, Yankees)
• Jr. RHP Will LaMarche (ninth round, Tigers)
• Jr. C Ty Ross (12th round, Giants)
• Sr. LHP Chris Cotton (14th round, Astros)
• Rhymes (15th round, Tigers)
• Ibarra (32nd round, Pirates)

GRADING THE TIGERS

Hitting
Preseason: 60
Revised: 70

The Tigers rank 15th in the nation in batting and 12th in doubles, a reflection of their ability to pepper the gaps with hard line drives up and down the lineup. They also rank 13th in walks—every hitter in the lineup can work counts, and most of them are difficult to strike out.

Power
Preseason: 55
Revised: 60

Katz, Bregman, Ibarra and Jones can all hurt opponents with the long ball, although only Katz (15) has more than six homers on the year. LSU excels at stringing together hits and racking up doubles rather than sitting back and waiting for the three-run homer, and that makes the Tigers a good fit for TD Ameritrade Park. They rank in the nation’s top 30 in home runs and slugging.

Speed
Preseason: 70
Revised: 60

LSU doesn’t run a lot, ranking 204th in the nation in stolen bases per game, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers lack speed. Stevenson and Mark Laird have blazing speed in the outfield, where their wheels are a real asset. Jones and Bregman also run well, and both are savvy basestealers.

Defense
Preseason: 65
Revised: 70

Paul Mainieri has repeatedly said this LSU team is the best defensive college club he has ever seen. The Tigers have standout playmakers at every position on the diamond—even Rhymes has become a quality left fielder, fielding 1.000 on the season. A converted catcher, Bregman plays shortstop like a pro, not like a freshman. LSU did make five errors in a regional game against Sam Houston State, but that bizarre game accounted for about 10 percent of the team’s errors in 66 games this season. LSU’s .980 fielding percentage ranks fifth in the nation.

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 60
Revised: 60

Nola has a strong case as college baseball’s best pitcher, and he is coming off a two-hit shutout against Oklahoma in super regionals—his fifth complete game of the year, and third shutout. Nola by himself makes this an above-average rotation, and with the CWS spread out over a week and a half, he could conceivably impact three games in Omaha. Eades has electric stuff but inconsistent command, and he has not labored in the postseason (5 BB in 6.1 IP). Cody Glenn gives the rotation a solid lefthander with a low slot who could present a tough matchup for a lefty-leaning team like North Carolina or UCLA.

Bullpen
Preseason: 60
Revised: 65

Cotton isn’t a typical flame-throwing closer, with an 86-88 mph fastball, a good changeup and a solid curve. But he has been a rock at the back of the bullpen thanks to his impeccable command, as evidenced by his 45-3 K-BB mark in 44 innings. Rumbelow, LaMarche and Joey Bourgeois give this unit a trio of power options from the right side, while lefty Brent Bonvillain and righty Kurt McCune are useful swingmen.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 60
Revised: 70

No holdovers remain from LSU’s last Omaha team in 2009, but upperclassmen like Katz, Jones, Ross and Rhymes have plenty of postseason experience. The Tigers, perhaps motivated by their super regional loss a year ago to Stony Brook, have demonstrated a knack for coming through in big spots all year, and Mainieri is a premier coach who knows how to push the right buttons. Bregman has special leadership qualities; he is the kind of player that championship teams are often built around, like Darwin Barney or Scott Wingo.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 60
Revised: 70

LSU heads to Omaha as the favorite to win the national championship. The Tigers are a complete club without any major weaknesses, and they are playing their best heading into the CWS.

louisvilleLOUISVILLE

Record: 51-12. Preseason ranking: 4. Ranking at end of regular season: 15.

Season In A Nutshell: The Cardinals started 18-2 in preconference play, then overcame a pair of Big East series losses to win the conference’s regular-season title, winning their final 16 regular-season games. After a surprising 0-2 showing in the Big East tournament, Louisville allowed just 14 runs in a 5-0 run through regionals and supers, taking down top-ranked Vanderbilt in two games in Nashville.

An opposing coach breaks down Louisville

Dace Kime (photo by Tomasso De Rosa)

Dace Kime (photo by Tomasso De Rosa)

Who’s Hot (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Jr. OF Coco Johnson (.438/.550/.813, 2 HR, 6 RBI in 16 AB)
• Jr. RHP Jeff Thompson (1-0, 1.38 in 13 IP)
• Jr. DH Jeff Gardner (.389/.476/.667, 3 2B, 3B in 18 AB)

Who’s Not (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Jr. 3B Ty Young (.150/.227/.150 in 20 AB)
• Jr. OF Cole Sturgeon (.188/.350/.250 in 16 AB)
• Jr. OF Adam Engel (.188/.409/.313 in 16 AB)

2013 Draft Picks (7):
• Jr. RHP Dace Kime (third round, Indians)
• Thompson (third round, Tigers)
• Young (seventh round, Rays)
• Johnson (11th round, Marlins)
• Jr. RHP Chad Green (11th round, Tigers)
• Jr. LHP Cody Ege (15th round, Rangers)
• Engel (19th round, White Sox)

GRADING THE CARDINALS

Hitting
Preseason: 60
Revised: 60

The athleticism and bat-handling skills of Louisville’s lineup makes this a formidable high-pressure offense. The Cardinals drive the gaps very well and rank sixth in the nation in triples. Engel, Jeff Ratajczak, Young, Johnson, Gardner and Sturgeon make for a very good top six, and Zak Wasserman delivered a number of big RBIs against Vanderbilt. This is a deep, experienced lineup that knows how to manufacture runs. The Cardinals get on base by any means necessary, leading the nation with 128 hit-by-pitches.

Power
Preseason: 50
Revised: 50

Gardner (9 HR) and Johnson (8 HR) give the lineup some thump, but the rest of the Cardinals are more gap-oriented than homer-centric. In other words, this team is built for the BBCOR era and for TD Ameritrade Park.

Speed
Preseason: 70
Revised: 75

Speed is Louisville’s greatest weapon on offense. The Cardinals rank second in the nation with 150 stolen bases, led by Engel (41 SB), Young (26), Sutton Whiting (24) and Johnson (22). The Cardinals are very aggressive on the basepaths, and they present a huge challenge for the catchers on their side of the bracket.

Defense
Preseason: 65
Revised: 60

Louisville’s speed gives it an elite defensive outfield, which is a major advantage in spacious TD Ameritrade Park. The infield is solid but not exceptional, as Whiting relies more on savvy than tools at shortstop, and Young is fielding .912 at third. The team may have to adjust going from its own turf field and the one it played on at Vanderbilt to TDAPO’s natural surface.

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 65
Revised: 65

Green (10-3, 2.29) and Thompson (11-1, 2.00) form an experienced, polished duo atop the rotation. Both have big frames and power arms, both know how to pitch, and both have come up big in the postseason. Kime (6-1, 3.07) has the best pure stuff of the trio, and he has given the rotation a big boost in the second half. Only Oregon State can match Louisville’s rotation in this CWS field.

Bullpen
Preseason: 65
Revised: 70

So. RHP Nick Burdi (3-3, 0.78, 16 SV, 61-13 K-BB in 35 IP) is one of the nation’s most dominant closers, with a high-90s fastball that can reach triple digits and a wipeout slider in the high 80s. Ege (4-1, 1.19) is an ultra-reliable setup man who eats up lefthanders. Kyle Funkhouser, Joe Filomeno (if healthy), Sturgeon and Jared Ruxer comprise a very talented supporting cast of power arms.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 65
Revised: 65

Only the coaching staff has Omaha experience, but the Cardinals are blessed with eight upperclassmen in the lineup and three more in the rotation. Like Mississippi State and Oregon State, the Cardinals are very mature and poised. The coaching staff has been together for years and has a great feel for motivating its players.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 65
Revised: 70

The three national seeds that reached the CWS must shoulder the “favorites” burden, but Louisville might be just as good as any of them. Only Oregon State can rival Louisville’s pitching staff, and the Cardinals might have the more explosive offense because of their speed. Louisville is a very strong national title contender.

ncstateNORTH CAROLINA STATE

Record: 49-14. Preseason ranking: 8. Ranking at end of regular season: 7.

Season In A Nutshell: After reaching super regionals a year ago, N.C. State entered the season with its highest preseason ranking ever. The Wolfpack withstood first-half injuries to key players Trea Turner, Logan Ratledge and Logan Jernigan and caught fire down the stretch, putting together a 15-game winning streak in March and April. The ‘Pack allowed just 10 runs during a 5-0 run through regionals and supers, propelling it to Omaha for the first time since 1968.

An opposing coach breaks down N.C. State

Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)

Who’s Hot (NCAA tournament numbers):
• So. OF Jake Fincher (.417/.440/.458 in 24 AB)
• Sr. 1B Tarran Senay (.364/.440/.727, 2 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI in 22 AB)
• So. SS Trea Turner (.391/.462/.609, 3 SB in 23 AB)
• So. LHP Carlos Rodon (1-0, 1.56, 19-2 K-BB in 17 IP)
• Sr. RHP Ethan Ogburn (1-0, 1.04 in 9 IP)

Who’s Not (NCAA tournament numbers):
• So. C Brett Austin (.091/.130/.136 in 22 AB)
• Sr. OF Bryan Adametz (.095/.136/.095 in 21 AB)
• Sr. 3B Grant Clyde (.182/.280/.182 in 22 AB)

2013 Draft Picks (2):
• Sr. RHP Josh Easley (23rd round, Marlins)
• Sr. RHP Anthony Tzamtzis (32nd round, Rays)

GRADING THE WOLFPACK

Hitting
Preseason: 65
Revised: 50

Turner (.378) and Fincher (.327) are the only two N.C. State players hitting better than .300, and that duo makes the Wolfpack go. North Carolina State is hitting just .279 as a team (111th in the nation), but it does rank 14th nationally with 125 doubles. The lineup is not flashy, but the Wolfpack has gotten competitive at-bats from all parts of its lineup, and role players like Adametz, Clyde and Williams have demonstrated a knack for coming up with timely hits. The lineup is very heavy on righthanded hitters, with just one lefty in the lineup (Senay) plus the switch-hitting Austin.

Power
Preseason: 55
Revised: 50

Turner’s lightning-quick hands give him surprising righthanded pop (7 HR) considering his skinny frame. Senay (8 HR) is the primary power plant in the middle of the lineup; no other Wolfpack player has more than four homers. But as stated above, this team racks up doubles at a healthy clip, so the lineup is far from punchless.

Speed
Preseason: 70
Revised: 65

N.C. State ranks 19th in the nation with 107 stolen bases, and five Wolfpack regulars have double-digit stolen bases. But Turner (27-for-33 in steals) is not quite the unstoppable dynamo on the basepaths that he was before his ankle injury earlier this spring, so N.C. State’s speed score gets a slight downgrade. Fincher, Brett Williams and Ratledge are very good runners.

Defense
Preseason: 50
Revised: 55

N.C. State ranks 87th in the nation (and seventh among CWS teams) with a .970 fielding percentage. The strength of its defense is the outfield, where Williams and Fincher are true standouts who have made some of the season’s most incredible catches. Turner, in his first year at shortstop, has handled the position well but isn’t as rock-solid as some other shortstops in this field. The infield as a whole is average. Austin has been a stalwart behind the plate, playing virtually every inning, but he has thrown out just 20 percent of basestealers, and he has 12 passed balls.

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 60
Revised: 60

Rodon by himself makes this an above-average rotation, because he is the most dominant pitcher in college baseball when he’s on his game—and he has been down the stretch. He allowed just one hit over 10 sterling innings in a no-decision against North Carolina in the ACC tournament (a game N.C. State lost in 18 innings). For much of the season, the Wolfpack has struggled to get consistent outings from the rest of its rotation, but Jernigan and Fr. LHP Brad Stone have shown flashes of great promise, especially in the postseason. And Ogburn is a very seasoned starter coming off five sterling innings of relief in the 17-inning game against Rice in super regionals.

Bullpen
Preseason: 65
Revised: 70

Short outings by the starters haven’t derailed N.C. State because its bullpen is extremely deep. Sr. RHP Chris Overman (1-1, 0.34 in 26 IP) and Sr. LHP Grant Sasser (3-0, 1.10) are a two-headed monster at the back of the bullpen, while Easley (7-2, 1.44) and Sr. RHP Ryan Wilkins (6-2, 4.02) are invaluable swingmen. RHP Andrew Woeck and LHP D.J. Thomas add quality depth.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 60
Revised: 65

The Wolfpack hasn’t been to Omaha in 45 years, so how it handles the big stage will be critical. But the ‘Pack is loaded with veterans from last year’s super regional team and it has very good senior leadership thanks to Williams, Senay, Adametz, Clyde, Ogburn, Sasser, Overman and others.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 65
Revised: 65

N.C. State’s greatest asset is Rodon, who gives his team the edge every time he takes the mound—even against No. 1 national seed North Carolina. Rodon must get the Wolfpack into the winners’ bracket on Sunday, but if he does, N.C. State’s confidence will continue to burgeon, and it has a chance to make a big splash in Omaha.

mississippistateMISSISSIPPI STATE

Record: 48-18. Preseason ranking: 5. Ranking at end of regular season: 14.

Season In A Nutshell: Mississippi State got off to a 17-0 start against a home-baked nonconference schedule, before losing a home series to Central Arkansas. That started a stretch of four straight series losses for the Bulldogs, who dropped six series overall but salvaged a home regional with a huge series win against South Carolina and a strong 3-1 showing in the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs got their revenge against Central Arkansas in the Starkville Regional, winning two out of three meetings against the Bears, then rode their hot bats and strong bullpen to a two-game sweep of No. 6 national seed Virginia in Charlottesville.

An opposing coach breaks down Mississippi State

Hunter Renfroe

Hunter Renfroe (Photo by Danny Parker

Who’s Hot (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Jr. SS Adam Frazier (.429/.467/.607, 3 2B, 3B, 8 RBI in 28 AB)
• Jr. OF Hunter Renfroe (.423/.444/.577, 2 2B, 3B, 7 RBI in 28 AB)
• Jr. 3B Alex Detz (.429/.571/.476 in 21 AB)
• So. LHP Ross Mitchell (1-0, 0.00 in 9 IP)
• Sr. LHP Chad Girodo (2-0, 2.08, 24-4 K-BB in 13 IP)

Who’s Not (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Sr. C Nick Ammirati (.100/.182/.100 in 20 AB)
• Jr. OF C.T. Bradford (.167/.231/.167 in 24 AB)

2013 Draft Picks (7):
• Renfroe (No. 13 overall, Padres)
• Frazier (sixth round, Pirates)
• Sr. RHP Kendall Graveman (eighth round, Blue Jays)
• Girodo (ninth round, Blue Jays)
• Jr. RHP Evan Mitchell (13th round, Reds)
• Jr. IF/RHP Daryl Norris (22nd round, Tigers)
• Sr. LHP Luis Pollorena (23rd round, Rangers)

GRADING THE BULLDOGS

Hitting
Preseason: 60
Revised: 55

The Bulldogs rank 38th in the nation with a .297 team average, led by the dynamic duo of Frazier and Renfroe, who are both red-hot heading into Omaha. Frazier went 8-for-11 in two games in the Charlottesville Super Regional, and he sets the tone out of the leadoff spot. The bottom half of the lineup is more pitchable, but savvy veterans like Bradford, Demarcus Henderson and Ammirati know how to handle the bat. MSU ranks 60th in the nation in scoring; this is a solid-average to slightly above-average offense.

Power
Preseason: 50
Revised: 50

Mississippi State would have well below-average power if not for two players—Renfroe and Rea. Renfroe’s huge raw power helped make him a first-round pick, and his 15 home runs are more than half the team total (29). The hulking Rea (7 HR) is the only other Bulldog with more than two long balls. But Frazier, Alex Detz and Brett Pirtle use the gaps well.

Speed
Preseason: 65
Revised: 55

Renfroe, Bradford and Henderson have plus speed, and Frazier is a slightly above-average runner with excellent baserunning instincts. So this team has more speed than its stolen base totals suggest, but no Bulldog has double-digit steals, and they rank 197th nationally in stolen bases per game.

Defense
Preseason: 70
Revised: 60

MSU’s fastest players are its three outfielders—Henderson, Bradford and Renfroe cover huge swaths of ground, which will be a major asset in spacious TD Ameritrade Park. Frazier is one of college baseball’s best defensive shortstops, and Pirtle gives him a very steady double-play partner. Ammirati is solid behind the plate, and he handles opposing running games fairly well, throwing out 30 percent of basestealers. Mississippi State has a rather average .972 fielding percentage, but its defense is better than that.

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 55
Revised: 40

Starting pitching has been Mississippi State’s primary weakness all season; only Graveman is a safe bet to last five innings, and MSU needs him to pitch into the sixth or seventh to spare the bullpen some strain. Jacob Lindgren has had a disappointing sophomore year, and the Bulldogs have tried using Luis Pollorena, Trevor Fitts and Ben Bracewell in starting roles down the stretch, with generally lackluster results. Mississippi State’s bullpen is good enough to cover up this deficiency, but the Bulldogs need their starters to avoid putting the team in an early hole, even if they only last three innings.

Bullpen
Preseason: 70
Revised: 70

The deep, talented bullpen was the primary reason MSU ranked fifth in the preseason, and the unit has been the strength of the team all season. So. RHP Jonathan Holder (2-0, 1.31, 83-15 K-BB in 48 IP) has dominated for two years by attacking hitters with a low-90s fastball and a tough downer curve, and he earned second-team All-America honors this spring. Girodo (8-1, 1.38 in 46 IP) and Mitchell (12-0, 1.35 in 87 IP) are the meat and potatoes of the pitching staff, a pair of low-slot lefties who bridge the gap from the early innings until Holder. Girodo does it with more power and Mitchell finesse, but both have been tremendous. And there are also plenty of quality options from the right side if MSU needs to match up.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 70
Revised: 65

Like most of the teams in this CWS field, no MSU player has Omaha experience, but this is a very experienced group loaded with seasoned upperclassmen. The Bulldogs play with an edge that comes from hard-nosed coach John Cohen, and their toughness is one of their biggest strengths.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 65
Revised: 60

On paper, Mississippi State looks like an underdog in this field, because its rotation does not match up with the other teams in this bracket, and its offense is solid but not special. But the Bulldogs are playing their best at the right time of year, and they won’t be an easy out in Omaha. Renfroe, Frazier and Holder are true impact stars who could carry this team on their backs, and the complementary pieces are grinders and winners.

UCLAUCLA

Record: 44-17. Preseason ranking: 12. Ranking at end of regular season: 10.

Season In A Nutshell: UCLA had a steady season, winning all but three of its weekends, not getting swept and taking six straight series before dropping its final set at Stanford. The Bruins peaked in the postseason, allowing just 10 runs during a 5-0 run through regionals and supers, capped by a two-game sweep of No. 5 national seed Cal State Fullerton. That got the Bruins to Omaha for the third time in the last four years.

An opposing coach breaks down UCLA

Nick Vander Tuig

Nick Vander Tuig (Photo by Larry Goren)

Who’s Hot (NCAA tournament numbers):
• So. OF Eric Filia (.524/.545/.571 in 21 AB)
• Jr. 1B Pat Gallagher (.471/.474/.588, 7 RBI in 17 AB)
• Jr. RHP Adam Plutko (2-0, 2.92 in 12 IP)

Who’s Not (NCAA tournament numbers):
• So. 3B Kevin Kramer (.158/.143/.158 in 19 AB)
• Jr. SS Pat Valaika (.188/.300/.188, 5 RBI in 16 AB)
• Jr. OF Brian Carroll (.211/.286/.211 in 19 AB)

2013 Draft Picks (7):
• Jr. RHP Nick Vander Tuig (sixth round, Giants)
• Jr. RHP Zack Weiss (sixth round, Reds)
• Valaika (ninth round, Rockies)
• Plutko (11th round, Indians)
• Jr. OF Brenton Allen (20th round, Nationals)
• Jr. DH Kevin Williams (29th round, Marlins)
• Jr. RHP Ryan Deeter (32nd round, Brewers)

GRADING THE BRUINS

Hitting
Preseason: 60
Revised: 40

UCLA’s talented young hitters did not take the jump to stardom that we anticipated in the preseason. The Bruins do not have a single .300 hitter; they rank 253rd in the nation in batting (.251), 205th in scoring (4.8 runs per game) and 240th in slugging (.334). UCLA is far and away the meekest offensive team in this College World Series field—but the Bruins were less offensive than Fullerton too, and they still beat the Titans. As the season has progressed, UCLA has gotten more and more competitive at-bats from its hitters, and Filia and Gallagher have caught fire in the postseason, giving the Bruins a big lift. Kramer, Filia and Valaika are the only Bruins with more than 11 extra-base hits this season, but UCLA is good at taking advantage when opponents issue walks or make errors. The Bruins scrap and claw for every run, and that approach has been good enough, given the quality of their pitching.

Power
Preseason: 45
Revised: 35

Only Valaika (5 HR) and Kramer (3 HR) have more than two home runs, and this team does not rack up doubles, either, ranking 234th in the nation in doubles per game. This lineup just won’t scare anyone.

Speed
Preseason: 50
Revised: 50

The Bruins have one serious stolen-base threat in Carroll (30-for-37), who can fly but has had trouble getting on base down the stretch. Kramer and Filia are solid runners, and Valaika’s below-average speed plays up because of his savvy.

Defense
Preseason: 60
Revised: 65

The Bruins rank sixth in the nation with a .980 fielding percentage. The left side of their infield (Kramer and Valaika) is exceptional, while the right side (Cody Regis and Gallagher) is adequate. Regis and Gallagher make the routine plays, though, just like the rest of the Bruins. Shane Zeile has made incredible progress in his first year behind the plate, but he still is not a finished product. Carroll and Filia have excellent range in the outfield, while Allen is a marginal defender in left.

Starting Pitching
Preseason: 65
Revised: 65

Plutko and Vander Tuig are the two of the most experienced, proven big-game pitchers in this field. Both were key pieces of last year’s Omaha team, and both have been models of consistency all season long. Both are flyball pitchers—especially Plutko—which should suit them well in Omaha. So. LHP Grant Watson has bounced back from a rocky middle of the season to pitch well again down the stretch, including seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball in the regional clincher against San Diego. He is a wily southpaw who mixes speeds and locations with four pitches.

Bullpen
Preseason: 70
Revised: 70

UCLA’s bullpen is not as deep as N.C. State’s, Louisville’s, Mississippi State’s or Oregon State’s, but it has a claim as the best bullpen in Omaha anyway, because its four key pieces are so good. Berg (7-0, 0.88 with 21 saves and a 73-8 K-BB mark in 71 IP) is a first-team All-American with incredible movement on his sinker. The sidewinder bounces back very well and can pitch multiple innings whenever necessary. Fr. RHP James Kaprielian (1.67 ERA, 50-23 K-BB in 38 IP) and Weiss (2-1, 2.33 in 39 IP) give UCLA a pair of power-armed setup men, each capable of reaching 93 or 94 mph with swing-and-miss secondary stuff. The Bruins lean primarily upon that trio in the bullpen, and they lack a trusted lefthander, potentially making them vulnerable against a lefty-leaning team like North Carolina. But they match up better against LSU or N.C. State, which are both primarily righthanded lineups.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: 60
Revised: 70

Regis is the only Bruin who has played on all three Omaha teams over the last four years, but players like Valaika, Williams, Plutko, Vander Tuig and Berg were all key pieces of last year’s CWS team. The Bruins have the most Omaha experience in this field, and they proved their toughness and focus by out-executing a more talented Fullerton team in super regionals. The sum is certainly greater than the parts with this club.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: 60
Revised: 60

UCLA’s offense makes it an underdog in this CWS, but its pitching staff is something of an equalizer, and its coaching staff knows its way around Omaha. South Carolina won a pair of national championships with a similar pitching-and-defense formula, and the Bruins seem to have some of that Gamecock mojo working for them.

IndianaINDIANA

Record: 48-14. Preseason ranking: NR. Ranking at end of regular season: 8.

Season In A Nutshell: Indiana opened sparkling new Bart Kaufman Field with a bang, winning the Big Ten regular-season title outright for the first time since 1932, then winning the conference tournament and earning a trip to regionals for the third time ever. The Hoosiers broke into the BA Top 25 for the first time ever after taking two of three at Florida in Week Four, and they have been ranked ever since. After winning their home regional in three games, the Hoosiers went to Tallahassee and outslugged Florida State in two games, propelling them to Omaha for the first time ever—and snapping the Big Ten’s 29-year CWS drought.

An opposing coach breaks down Indiana

Aaron Slegers

Aaron Slegers

Who’s Hot (NCAA tournament numbers):
• So. C Kyle Schwarber (.389/.560/.722, 2 HR, 8 RBI in 18 AB)
• So. 1B Sam Travis (.368/.480/.737, 2 HR, 8 RBI in 19 AB)
• So. DH Scott Donley (.471/.591/.765, HR, 6 RBI in 17 AB)
• Sr. SS Michael Basil (.364/.391/.455, 7 RBI in 22 AB)

Who’s Not (NCAA tournament numbers):
• Sr. OF Justin Cureton (.188/.278/.375 in 16 AB)
• Fr. RHP Scott Effross (0-0, 5.14 in 7 IP)

2013 Draft Picks (3):
• So. RHP Aaron Slegers (fifth round, Twins)
• Jr. 3B Dustin DeMuth (eighth round, Twins)
• Jr. RHP Ryan Halstead (26th round, Twins)

GRADING THE HOOSIERS

Hitting
Preseason: NR
Revised: 70

Indiana is one of the nation’s most dangerous offensive teams, with seven regulars hitting better than .300. The Hoosiers rank 20th in the nation in batting, 21st in scoring, and ninth in doubles; DeMuth (24 2B), Travis (20 2B), Donley (15 2B) and Basil (15 2B) are doubles machines. This lineup is deep, talented and balanced, with threats from both the left side and the right.

Power
Preseason: NR
Revised: 65

Indiana ranks 14th nationally in home runs (53) and slugging (.452). The Hoosiers are nearly always more physical than their opponents. Schwarber and Travis have serious thump, combining for 28 of the team’s long balls. But DeMuth, Donley, Casey Smith and Nick Ramos have five home runs apiece, so they are also capable of impacting games the long ball. Indiana’s ability to hit home runs separates it from most of its opponents, but the Hoosiers are not dependent upon the long ball; they have a varied offensive attack.

Speed
Preseason: NR
Revised: 60

The Hoosiers are extremely aggressive on the basepaths, taking extra bases whenever possible and forcing opponents to make plays. Cureton (22 SB) and DeMuth (11 SB) are burners, while left-field platoonmates Will Nolden and Chris Sujka also have good speed. There aren’t any base-cloggers in this lineup; even catcher Schwarber and first baseman Travis run well enough for their size. So Indiana’s speed is an asset, though it ranks just 83rd nationally with 71 stolen bases.

Defense
Preseason: NR
Revised: 40

Indiana’s bugaboo all season has been its defense. The Hoosiers are fielding just .965 (159th in the nation), and they just have to hope they score enough runs to make up for their defensive deficiencies. So far, that formula has worked.  At least Indiana has experience on the left side of the infield, with a senior shortstop (Basil) and a junior third baseman (DeMuth)—although that duo has combined for 37 errors. The outfield, led by the sensational Cureton, is better than the infield.

Starting Pitching
Preseason: NR
Revised: 50

Indiana’s rotation is not overpowering, but it is solid. Slegers (9-1, 2.13) emerged as the Big Ten pitcher of the year but struggled in the super regional against Florida State. At 6-foot-10, his downward angle makes his high-80s fastball play up. Lefties Joey DeNato (9-2, 2.76), Will Coursen-Carr (5-0, 1.80) and Kyle Hart (8-2, 3.01) have good feel for pitching and competitiveness; Coursen-Carr has the best stuff of the trio and has emerged as the No. 3 starter in the postseason.

Bullpen
Preseason: NR
Revised: 55

Halstead (4-4, 2.40) and Effross (6-1, 2.47) are the go-to options in the bullpen, with fastballs that reach the low 90s and decent breaking balls. Both of them were hittable last weekend, but their body of work is strong. The supporting cast is decent, led by righties Luke Harrison and Evan Bell plus lefty specialist Brian Korte.

Experience/Intangibles
Preseason: NR
Revised: 55

Every week, Indiana sails into unchartered waters, and so far it has handled the pressure well. Each time Florida State came from behind to tie the game or take the lead last week, Indiana answered right back. The Hoosiers have proven they do not get rattled when the going gets tough, but they are also the youngest team in a CWS field loaded with older clubs.

Baseball America OFP
Preseason: NR
Revised: 60

Indiana surprised many college baseball fans by taking down mighty Florida State in Tallahassee, but that was no fluke—the Hoosiers are for real. They are the best offensive team on their side of the bracket, and if their bats stay hot, they could mash their way to the Finals. The other three teams in this bracket can really pitch, but IU proved it could handle excellent pitching when it knocked around Florida State’s staff. But Indiana is also the weakest defensive team in this field, and teams that win the CWS are almost always excellent on defense.