Preseason College Top 25 Capsules

We love the 20-80 scouting scale at Baseball America; we use it to assess everything from prospects to lunch spots to impersonations (regular listeners to the BA College Podcast probably know that John Manuel has a 70 Jim Morris imitation). 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 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. The OFP scale:

 

80: A team for the ages. An overwhelming favorite with no obvious weaknesses. Think 1981 Arizona State or 1995 Cal State Fullerton. There is no team like this heading into 2009.

70: Elite. A leading contender for the national title. (North Carolina, Texas A&M, Louisiana State.)

65: Well above-average. Legitimate championship contender. (Texas, Cal State Fullerton, Mississippi, Rice.)

60: Above-average. Strong Omaha contender. (Baylor, UC Irvine, Missouri.)

55: Slightly above-average. A threat to win a conference title and perhaps reach Omaha. (San Diego, UCLA, Arizona State, Georgia, Stanford, Oklahoma, Pepperdine, Kent State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Alabama.)

50: Solid-average. Strong NCAA tournament teams who could make a postseason run. (Arkansas, Louisville, Florida State, Oregon State.)

1. TEXAS A&M
2008 Record (Ranking): 46-19 (12).

RPI: 18.

Coach (Record): Rob Childress (119-68, 3 years).

Postseason History:  24 regional appearances (last in 2008), 4 CWS appearances (last in 1999), 0 national titles.

2009 Lineup
Pos. Name Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Kevin Gonzalez So. .261 .341 .359 3 29 2
1B Luke Anders Sr. .349 .486 .660 16 58 4
2B Nick Anders Jr. Tr.—Temple (Texas) JC
3B Nick Fleece So. .231 .322 .404 2 10 0
SS Adam Smith Fr. HS—Klein, Texas
LF Brodie Greene Jr. .290 .371 .462 4 27 7
CF Kyle Colligan Sr. .317 .421 .568 14 39 12
RF Brooks Raley So. .259 .358 .259 0 9 4
DH Joe Patterson Jr. Tr.—Seminole (Fla.) CC

Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Brooks Raley So. 7 2 4.76 93 68 0
RHP Barret Loux So. 6 2 4.18 90 81 0
RHP Alex Wilson* Jr. 6 4 2.51 111 97 0
RP Travis Starling Jr. 8 2 3.70 49 40 9
*Stats from 2007 at Winthrop

SCOUTING THE AGGIES

TEXAS A&M

AT A GLANCE

Starting Pitching 75
Bullpen 70
Hitting 55
Power 55
Speed 55
Defense 55
Experience 60
OFP 70

Starting Pitching: 75. Texas A&M can trump even North Carolina when it comes to pitching depth; the Aggies have four starters who would be pitching on Fridays for most teams in the country. Raley is a fierce competitor with good command of a quality three-pitch mix, including an 88-93 mph fastball, slider and changeup. Like Raley, Loux was a stalwart in the weekend rotation as a freshman, but his stuff is even more electric (93-96 fastball, power curve and changeup). Wilson was a freshman All-American at Winthrop before missing all of 2008 with Tommy John surgery and transferring to A&M. He owned a 91-94 mph fastball and a plus slider at Winthrop, and he ran his heater up to 98 this fall. Jr. RHP Clayton Ehlert (6-2, 3.41) might be the nation’s best midweek starter, with good command of a solid three-pitch mix.

 

Bullpen: 70. After posting a 1.33 ERA in 15 relief appearances as a redshirt freshman, Starling earned all-conference honors as a closer in 2008. His 87-91 mph fastball is effective though not overpowering, but his bread-and-butter is an excellent knuckle curveball. Good luck finding a better setup man in the nation than Sr. RHP Kyle Thebeau (6-5, 2.12 with 79 K in 76 IP), an unsigned ninth-round pick by the Padres who can unleash explosive fastballs and filthy sliders despite a slight frame. Jr. RHP Scott Migl has made 23 career starts and could serve as a fifth starter when necessary in 2009, but the rest of the time he’ll give the Aggies another experienced reliever. Jr. RHP Shane Minks (4-1, 3.27), Fr. LHP Ross Hales and Fr. RHP Danny Clement all have premium arms.

 

Hitting: 55. Jose Duran, Dane Carter, Darby Brown, Brian Ruggiano and Blake Stouffer combined for 284 RBIs a year ago, and their departures leave some offensive question marks. Fortunately, the Aggies caught a break when the hulking Luke Anders elected to return to anchor the lineup for his senior season. With promising line-drive strokes, Raley and Greene should see their averages spike in 2009, and Colligan is a dynamic leadoff man who can do everything. Fleece and Smith have huge talent but have yet to prove themselves.  

 

Power: 55. Luke Anders led the Big 12 in on-base percentage and slugging as a junior, and he might have more power than any hitter in the league as a senior. The Aggies expect big things from JC transfers Nick Anders (Luke’s brother) and Patterson, who slugged 28 homers last year at the long-ball haven that is Seminole JC. Colligan has hit 27 homers in two and a half years for the Aggies. Fleece and Smith both flash plus power, and Navarro JC transfer Brett Parsons has some pop as well.

 

Speed: 55. Colligan, Greene and Raley all are plus or better runners who must spark Childress’ high-octane offense. The Aggies love to apply constant pressure on opposing defenses with speed and aggressive small ball, but there’s not a lot of speed in this lineup after that trio.

Defense: 55. Gonzalez and Colligan give the Aggies two strong defenders up the middle, but the double-play combination is new and somewhat suspect. The outfield corners are manned by excellent athletes with plenty of range and arm strength, and Fleece has a chance to be a standout defender at third.

Experience/Intangibles: 60. The Aggies have been to consecutive super regionals (losing at Rice both times) and are hungry to break through to Omaha. Having two experienced veterans (Starling and Thebeau) at the back of the bullpen and two more seniors (Colligan and Luke Anders) leading the offense is a major advantage.

 

Baseball America OFP: 70. Anything less than an Omaha trip would be a major disappointment for a team with this much talent, particularly on the mound.

2. LOUISIANA STATE

2008 Record (Ranking): 49-19-1 (6).

RPI: 8.

Coach (Record): Paul Mainieri (78-45-2, 2 years).

Postseason History: 22 regional appearances (last in 2008), 14 CWS appearances (last in 2008), 5 national titles (last in 2000).

2009 Lineup
Pos. Name Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Micah Gibbs So. .322 .417 .448 2 35 2
1B Sean Ochinko Jr. .272 .308 .404 4 21 0
2B Ryan Schimpf Jr. .320 .416 .592 12 54 16
3B Derek Helenihi Sr. .295 .355 .407 3 43 12
SS D.J. LeMahieu So. .337 .386 .457 6 44 10
LF Blake Dean Jr. .353 .432 .665 20 73 4
CF Leon Landry So. .271 .308 .435 5 26 12
RF Jared Mitchell Jr. .297 .363 .469 6 29 16
DH Matt Gaudet Sr. .270 .352 .444 2 15 0

Yr. W

L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Anthony Ranaudo So. 1 0 0.00 12 13 0
RHP Austin Ross So. 3 1 2.58 52 37 3
RHP Daniel Bradshaw So. 4 5 4.12 55 52 4
RP Louis Coleman Sr. 8 1 1.95 55 62 2

SCOUTING THE TIGERS

LSU

AT A GLANCE

Starting Pitching 50
Bullpen 55
Hitting 75
Power 55
Speed 55
Defense 65
Experience 65
OFP 70

Starting Pitching: 50. The Tigers must replace their entire weekend rotation of Ryan Verdugo, Blake Martin and Jared Bradford (who also closed), all of whom are now in pro ball. Ranaudo, a touted recruit out of New Jersey, was limited by elbow tendinitis as a freshman but has a Friday starter’s repertoire. At 6-foot-7, he pitches downhill with a fastball that reaches 94 mph, and he shows good feel for a curveball and changeup. Ross, who relies on a lively two-seam fastball, and Bradshaw, whose three-pitch mix is highlighted by his excellent changeup, slide from the bullpen to the weekend rotation. Sr. RHP Nolan Cain (0-0, 2.37) has the inside track on the midweek starter role thanks to his deceptive delivery and lively stuff.

 

Bullpen: 55. Coleman will be a workhorse out of the pen thanks to his experience and good command of a low-90s fastball from a low slot. The setup man, Jr. RHP Paul Bertuccini (2-0, 2.63), is not overpowering but effectively mixes speeds and locations with four pitches. Sr. RHP Jordan Brown (5-0, 5.40) has plenty of arm strength and could be an X-factor. Freshmen Chris Matulis and Randy Ziegler figure to be the top two lefties on a staff with plenty of question marks.

Hitting: 75. LSU’s deep, balanced lineup features eight players who factored prominently in last year’s Omaha run. Dean, LeMahieu, Landry, Mitchell, Helenihi, Schimpf, Ochinko and Gibbs all wear out the gaps with hard line drives, and all are tough outs. There’s no breathing room in this lineup.

Power: 55. LSU’s biggest offensive loss is first baseman Matt Clark, the nation’s leading home run hitter a year ago. Dean slugged 20 homers to earn first-team All-America honors as a sophomore, while LeMahieu and Schimpf offer excellent power for middle infielders. Football players Mitchell and So. OF Chad Jones have yet to really tap into their tantalizing raw power, and a back injury limited Gaudet’s power output last year. Doubles should be the hallmark of this offense more than the long ball.

Speed: 55. The Tigers lack true burners, but they are athletic and aggressive on the basepaths. Landry and Mitchell are plus runners, while Schimpf, Helenihi and LeMahieu are solid runners with good baserunning instincts.

Defense: 65. Landry and Gibbs are elite up-the-middle defenders, anchoring an athletic, confident defense. Schimpf and LeMahieu are a very sound double-play combination. Helenihi moves from right field to third base, replacing stalwart Michael Hollander.


Experience/Intangibles: 65. LSU’s lineup boasts enviable Omaha experience, and several of its pitchers worked big postseason innings. But it’s uncertain how a brand-new weekend rotation will pan out.

Baseball America OFP: 70. The Tigers sent venerable old Alex Box Stadium out with a super regional win, and they have a good chance to cap the first year of the new Alex Box in the same fashion.

3. NORTH CAROLINA

2008 Record (Ranking): 54-14 (3).

RPI: 2.

Coach (Record): Mike Fox (452-190-1, 10 years).

Postseason History: 23 regional appearances (last in 2008), 7 CWS appearances (last in 2008), 0 national titles.

2009 Lineup
Pos. Name Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Mark Fleury Jr. .275 .360 .389 3 25 1
1B Dustin Ackley Jr. .417 .503 .597 7 51 19
2B Garrett Gore Sr. .275 .306 .352 2 38 5
3B Kyle Seager Jr. .347 .421 .597 9 75 5
SS Ryan Graepel Jr. .253 .333 .313 0 7 1
LF Ben Bunting So. .227 .310 .293 1 11 2
CF Mike Cavasinni* Jr. .231 .318 .231 0 3 0
RF Ryan Norton Jr. Tr.—Lenoir (N.C.) CC
DH Greg Holt So. .357 .367 .357 0 4 0
*Stats from 2007

Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Alex White Jr. 13 3 2.83 102 113 0
RHP Matt Harvey So. 7 2 2.79 68 80 0
RHP Adam Warren Sr. 9 2 4.23 83 73 0
RP Colin Bates So. 6 1 2.78 55 57 0

SCOUTING THE TAR HEELS

NORTH CAROLINA

AT A GLANCE

Starting Pitching 75
Bullpen 65
Hitting 55
Power 40
Speed 55
Defense 55
Experience 70
OFP 70

Starting Pitching: 75. No staff in the nation can match the power arms of White and Harvey, who project as top-five overall picks in the 2009 and ’10 drafts. Both have premium fastballs and killer secondary stuff—White uses a plus slider and a quality split-finger, while Harvey flashes a plus-plus curveball and plus change. Warren has used a solid four-pitch mix to compile a 22-2 record heading into his senior year, but his command was spotty last spring. So. RHP Bryant Gaines (a 6-foot-6 hulk who was a fall revelation) will vie for midweek starts with Fr. RHP Jimmy Messer.

Bullpen: 65. The slightly built Bates doesn’t look like a closer, but he has a quick arm and good stuff, though it remains to be seen how he’ll respond to anchoring the bullpen. Brian Moran (1-2, 2.76 in 40 appearances last year) gives UNC a reliable, deceptive lefty, while So. RHP Patrick Johnson (4-1, 4.14) takes over Bates’ vacated role as first man out of the bullpen. LHP Logan Munson and RHPs Nate Striz (an unsigned 2007 fifth-round pick), Garrett Davis and Ryan Leach all own quality arms and help make this staff embarrassingly deep.

Hitting: 55. UNC’s lineup lacks the depth it has boasted in recent years thanks to the departures of its three best righthanded hitters (Chad Flack, Tim Federowicz and Seth Williams) and All-American OF Tim Fedroff, who signed as a draft-eligible sophomore. Still, Ackley is the best pure hitter in the country (as his .409 lifetime average attests), and Seager is another proven line-drive machine with a knack for big hits. Cavasinni missed most of 2008 while recovering from an eye injury; if he and Gore can return to their 2007 form, they give the Tar Heels a pair of able table-setters. Bunting and Norton are X-factors who must give UNC quality at-bats down in the lineup.

Power: 40. The Tar Heels are counting on Fleury to build off his solid Cape Cod League performance and Holt to use his stellar fall as a springboard. UNC needs that duo to provide most of the power in a lineup that otherwise relies upon line drives and scrappy at-bats, though Ackley and Seager should both boost their power numbers moving from the spacious USA Baseball complex where UNC played its home games last year to new Boshamer Stadium, which should be friendly to lefthanded hitters.

Speed: 55. Ackley and Cavasinni are plus or better runners, while Gore, Seager, Graepel, Bunting and Norton all have decent speed. UNC might run more with less thunder in the lineup this year.

Defense: 55. Graepel solidified the infield defense after taking over at shortstop last year, and Gore should be much more comfortable at second base than he was at short. Seager moves from second to third, where his hands and instincts are sound. UNC believes Fleury can shut down opposing running games like his predecessor, Federowicz, did.

Experience/Intangibles: 70. North Carolina has made three straight trips to Omaha and returns 21 lettermen from last year’s CWS team. White, Ackley, Seager and others have proven themselves on the biggest stages. But a delay in the opening of the new Boshamer Stadium could be a distraction.

Baseball America OFP: 70. This is UNC’s last best chance to grab that elusive national championship before White, Ackley and Seager head to professional ball.

4. TEXAS

College | #2009 #Top 25

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2008 Record (Ranking): 39-22 (21).

RPI: 19.

Coach (Record): Augie Garrido (517-253-1, 12 years).

Postseason History: 52 regional appearances (last in 2008), 33 CWS appearances (last in 2005), 6 national titles (last in 2005).