In our small college preview, Baseball America looks at Division II, Division III, NAIA and junior colleges.
|TOP 5—HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|Franklin Pierce (N.H.)||48-4|
|Cal Poly Pomona||46-17|
|Saint Cloud State (Minn.)||54-5|
|Seton Hill (Pa.)||43-13|
Defending Champion: Tampa.
Player of the Year: Will Albertson, of/c, Catawba (N.C.) College.
Pitcher of the Year: Ryan Olson, rhp, Cal Poly Pomona.
TOP PROSPECTS, 2016 DRAFT
1. Tyson Miller, rhp, Cal Baptist: The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder, who struck out 29 in 25 innings in the Cape Cod League, has at least three pro pitches with a 90-93 mph fastball and a pair of solid breaking balls.
2. Daniel Zardon, 3b, Nova Southeastern (Fla.): A transfer from Louisiana State who hit .305 in the Cape Cod League after his freshman season, Zardon is a solid defender at third with an excellent arm.
3. Brett Morales, rhp, Tampa: The Florida transfer didn’t show as much velocity during fall ball at Tampa, but he has shown a 93-94 mph fastball at his best and has flashed a quality breaking ball.
4. Nehwon Norkeh, of, Angelo (Texas) State: A big right fielder with the power, speed (6.6 60-yard dash) and an excellent arm, Norkeh has hit for power and stolen bags for Angelo State.
5. Michael Hernandez, c, Nova Southeastern (Fla.): An excellent catch and throw catcher with arm strength and accuracy, Hernandez faces some questions about his bat.
6. Collin McKee, rhp, Mercyhurst (Pa.): McKee has an excellent pitcher’s frame (6-foot-3, 220-pounds) and mixes a quality slider and 92-94 mph fastball.
7. Justin Alleman, rhp, Lee (Tenn.): Michigan State’s closer as a freshman and No. 2 starter as a sophomore, Alleman should star at Lee with a 90-93 mph fastball and an excellent curveball.
8. Jay Jabs, 3b/of, Franklin Pierce (N.H.): A lefthander hitter with a plus arm, some power and speed (6.6 60-yard dash).
9. Brandyn Sittinger, rhp, Ashland (Ohio): Sittinger struck out 92 batters in 82 innings last year, thanks to a fastball that touches the mid-90s.
10. Brandon Miller, rhp, Millersville (Pa.): Scouts got a good look at Miller last summer in the Cape Cod League. He mixes an 89-92 mph and three usable secondary offerings.
AROUND THE NATION
• Tampa returns just two starters from last year’s lineup, which helped the Spartans win their seventh national championship. They retooled with their usual array of Division I transfers, including RHP Brett Morales (from Florida) and C Adrian Chacon (North Carolina). The pitching staff should carry the team with returning LHP Michael Calkins (6-4, 3.18), RHP Brad Hencke (8-1, 4.86) and RHP David Heintz (3-2, 3.65).
• Catawba (N.C.) made it to the national championship game for the first time in school history last June. The Indians fell to Tampa in the title game, but Catawba brings back the bulk of last year’s team led by C/OF Will Albertson. Albertson was drafted by the Yankees in the 40th round last year after he hit a Division II-best .467 while hitting 26 home runs. Catawba should also have a strong pitching staff thanks to returning ace RHP Shafer Shepard and transfer RHP Nick Coble. Coble mixes a low-90s fastball with a quality breaking ball and changeup.
• Last year, Mercyhurst (Pa.) made it to the Division II World Series for the first time in school history. The Lakers have a chance to go even further this year as they bring back three of the top four starting pitchers, their top two relievers and as six members of last year’s lineup. The lineup will be led by 1B/OF Hank Morrison, a power hitter with surprising speed, C/DH Dan Popio, a catcher with on-base skills, 3B Brendan Cox and C Sabatino Dinardo. The rotation should be solid as well with RHSP Colin McKee and RHRPs Ben Nolan and Jake Hall.
• Minnesota State’s fantastic four (RHP Dalton Roach, LHP Brody Rodning, LHP Aaron Rozek and RHP Christian Howell) went 27-1 last season as freshmen. The Mavericks will now rely on those four pitchers as well as RHP Josh Matheson, who is returning after missing 2015 with Tommy John surgery. The pitching staff should be excellent, but the team will have to replace four-year starter C Nolan Johnson.
• Angelo State (Texas) should have one of the best lineups and best group of gloves the team has ever seen. OF Nehwon Norkeh has speed (10 steals last year) and power (10 home runs) should lead the lineup. But if the Rams are going to make their third trip to the Division II World Series they will need several young pitchers to step up to replace the departed Steve Naemark. RHPs Graylon Brown and Matt Shannon are the most likely arms to fill Naemark’s role as ace.
• Southern Indiana still has five starters around from the 2014 National Championship club. Tracy Archuleta’s club should have an excellent lineup thanks to OFs Kyle Kempf and Hamilton Carr and 3B Trent Gunn. The biggest question is who will replace Wandy Mendoza at shortstop. The pitching staff should be led by RHPs Colin Nowak and Alex Holder.
• Ashland (Ohio) senior RHP Jake Baldwin bounced back impressively after missing 2014 with Tommy John surgery. Baldwin went 9-1, 2.67 in his return and should once again serve as Ashland’s ace in 2016. Pitching should be the strength of the Eagles with RHP Brandyn Sittinger providing an excellent No. 2 starter behind Baldwin, thanks to his low-to-mid 90s fastball. All in all, Ashland brings back 11 of its top 13 pitches from last year. The lineup faces more questions.
• Drury (Mo.) has made three straight postseason appearances and has a good chance for a fourth straight thanks to RHP Sterling Sharp and RHP/INF Ryan Colombo. Sharp, a 13th-round pick of the Braves out of high school, is an excellent athlete with an 88-92 mph fastball.
• When you face Franklin Pierce (N.H.), you know you’re going to have to try to slow down Division II’s best base-stealing team. The Ravens had seven different players steal 15 or more bases last year and they did so at an 84-percent success rate. Like pretty much everyone in the lineup, 3B/OF Jay Jabbs is a threat to steal, but Jabbs also has power, as his 13 home runs last year showed. Sr. CF Max Sheehan stole 32 bases in 33 tries last year.
|TOP 5—HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|Wisconsin La Crosse||36-16|
|Frostburg State (Md.)||43-9|
Defending Champion: SUNY Cortland.
Player of the Year: Derek Hug, of, Heidelberg (Ohio).
Pitcher of the Year: Ryan Gray, lhp, Trinity (Texas).
TOP PROSPECTS, 2016 DRAFT
1. Lake Bachar, rhp, Wisconsin-Whitewater: Bachar has spent most of his time at Wisconsin-Whitewater as a punter on the football team, but he blossomed as a pitcher in the Northwoods League with a low-90s fastball that touches 95 and a promising curveball.
2. Jake Fishman, lhp/1b, Union (N.Y.): A two-way star at Union, Fishman’s pro future is on the mound. He pairs an 88-91 mph fastball and slider that are tough for lefties to pick up.
3. Steven Ridings, rhp, Messiah (Pa.): Ridings starred in the Valley League last summer thanks to a 90-92 mph fastball, a diving slider and a changeup with late drop.
4. Kyle Uhrich, rhp/1b, Webster (Mo.): Uhrich hit 17 home runs last season, but it’s on the mound where he’s most interesting to scouts. Urich is raw but he sits 90-92 mph and struck out 17 in 10 innings last year.
5. Derek Hug, of, Heidelberg (Ohio): A potential senior sign, Hug is a big (6-foot-3, 220-pound) outfielder with power (13 home runs) and speed (6.8 60-yard dash).
6. Taylor Kohlwey, of, Wisconsin La Crosse: Kohlwey has a long track record of hitting with a smooth lefthanded swing and he has tools as well with plus speed and excellent baserunning instincts.
7. Sam Dexter, ss, Southern Maine: Dexter hit .441 with a .715 slugging percentage last season, then followed it up with an impressive stint in the New England Collegiate Baseball League last summer.
8. Bill Munson, ss, Rhodes (Tenn.) College: A plus runner (44 steals last season) with a strong arm, Munson won’t be a shortstop if he makes it to pro ball, but he could move to second base or center field.
9. Aaron Barteau, rhp, Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas): Barteau has generated plenty of strikeouts at Mary-Hardin despite a below-average (86-88 mph) fastball. Barteau has a big frame (6-foot-7), good extension and solid control.
10. Zach Kirby, rhp, Framingham State (Mass.): Kirby really knows how to pitch, as evidenced by his 7-2, 1.38 stats last year, but he lacks a plus offering with any of his three pitches.
AROUND THE NATION
• Wisconsin-La Crosse senior OF Taylor Kohlwey has twice led Division III in hits and has batted over .400 each of the past two seasons to help lead the Eagles to their first ever Division III World Series appearance (they lost to SUNY Cortland in the championship game). Kohlwey and the Eagles have a solid shot of getting a chance to try to avenge last year’s heart-breaking loss. Wisconsin-La Crosse led 2-1 heading into the ninth inning before SUNY Cortland pulled off a comeback.
• This could be the year for Trinity (Texas). Trinity returns its ace LHP Ryan Gray and its top seven hitters from last year’s 40-win team that made it to the Division III World Series for the first time. Trinity may be experienced, but even it can’t match the experience Kean (N.J.) is bringing back. The Cougars’ entire lineup with the exception of the DH should be a returning senior. Injuries kept C James Lyczkowski, 3B Andy Lopez and LF Eric Fernandez from playing full seasons last year, but all three are back to bolster a lineup that made it to the NCAA Regionals last season.
• Trinity may be experienced, but even it can’t match the experience Kean (N.J.) is bringing back. The Cougars’ entire lineup—with the exception of their designated hitter—should be a returning senior. Injuries kept C James Lyczkowski, 3B Andy Lopez and LF Eric Fernandez from playing full seasons last year, but all three are back to bolster a lineup that made it to the NCAA Regionals last season.
• If Southern Maine can find a catcher, it’s in good shape to make a third D-III World Series appearance in the past four years. The Huskies return eight starters from the lineup and most of the pitching staff. The team’s star is SS Sam Dexter. Dexter has topped 100 total bases in each of his first three years at Southern Maine.
|TOP 5—HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)||46-12|
|St. Thomas (Fla.)||48-18|
|Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||41-19|
|The Masters (Calif.)||42-14|
Defending Champion: Lewis-Clark State (Idaho).
Player of the Year: Lucas Erceg, 3b/rhp, Menlo (Calif.).
Pitcher of the Year: Alex Webb, rhp, British Columbia.
TOP PROSPECTS, 2016 DRAFT
1. Lucas Erceg, 3b/rhp, Menlo (Calif.) College: Erceg was one of the key players in California’s lineup last year before transferring to Menlo for eligibility reasons. He’s a fine hitter with plus power potential who also has pro promise as a pitcher with a low-90s fastball. That plus arm also plays well at third.
2. John Schreiber, rhp, Northwestern Ohio: Schreiber finished second in NAIA last year with 14 saves, using a 92-95 mph fastball and an impressive slider.
3. Alex Webb, rhp, British Columbia: Webb, a 6-foot-3, 228-pound senior, had a breakthrough season in 2015 (10-3, 2.15, 97 SO/88 IP).
4. Bryan Saucedo, rhp, Davenport (Mich.): A 29th-round pick of the Brewers out of high school, Saucedo has one of the best arms in NAIA with a low-to-mid 90s fastball.
5. Edgar Lebron, of, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.): Lebron is a speedster with legitimate plus-plus speed that play well in center field. How much power he shows will determine how intrigued scouts are come June.
6. Austin Sweet, rhp, Missouri Baptist: A big (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) reliever with a 92-94 mph fastball and a biting slider, Sweet should slide into Missouri Baptist’s closer role this year.
7. Alex Martinez, rhp, Oklahoma Wesleyan: A former California pitcher, Martinez had a strong season in the Northwoods League last summer
8. Cabe Reiten, ss, Lewis-Clark State (Idaho): Reiten is a reliable defender and one of the better hitters in NAIA–he hit .411/.488/.627 last year.
9. Keivan Berges, RHP, Keiser (Fla.): Berges has significant power as a hitter but he’s more intriguing as a raw righthander with a big arm–he’s been clocked at 93-94 mph.
10. Jed Carter, rhp, Auburn-Montgomery (Ala.): Carter will either serve as a key starter or the closer for AUM–the depth of the club’s pitching staff means he might close. He attacks hitters with a 92-95 mph fastball.
AROUND THE NATION
• St. Thomas (Fla.) came one game away from a title last year, which would have been its first in any sport. They lost in the championship game to Lewis-Clark State (Idaho), which won its 17th championship. The Bobcats should contend again this year with a deep rotation and solid lineup. Massive (6-foot-2, 325-pound) RHP Ben Ancheff (3-2, 4.71) returns to anchor the rotation and the lineup is deep, led by 2B Michael Centeno (.274/.373/.443, 8 HR), 3B Cesar Ramirez (.315/.397/.520, 7 HR) and SS Bryan Bermudez (.360/.464/.420).
• In his first two seasons at Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State, Jeremiah Robbins’ Warriors lost in the championship series. The Warriors rallied to win their 17th NAIA title last June, ending a six-year championship drought that was the longest since the school won its first title in 1984. Senior SS Cabe Reiten (.411/.488/.627) is a returning NAIA all-American.
• Despite having seven members of last year’s lineup returning and 17 seniors, Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) still went out and brought in 17 transfers to give the 2016 team a talent boost. The transfers will be most needed on the mound where some injuries this fall have left the team thinner than desired. CF Edgar Lebron is a speedy center fielder with excellent range and a strong arm who will be the sparkplug of the lineup.
• Keiser (Fla.) DH Keivan Berges has turned his life around after spending time in prison for a variety of offenses. Coach Jamie Kennedy says Berges is now a team leader and one of the team’s better students. He’s also quite an impressive player. Berges hit 15 home runs last year as a designated hitter but he also will serve as Keiser’s closer after touching 94 mph off the mound during the fall.
• Tabor (Kan.) could end up with the best lineup the school has fielded. The outfield of Manny Deleon, A.J. Shaw and Jerrik Sigg all cover plenty of ground and can hit. But the best hitter in the lineup should be 3B Alex Couch, who is also a solid defender.
|TOP 5—HOW THEY’LL FINISH|
|Northwest Florida State JC||42-13|
|Iowa Western CC||56-11|
|McLennan (Texas) CC||41-20|
|Walters State (Tenn.) JC||57-12|
|San Jacinto (Texas) JC||43-21|
|Cowley County (Kan.) JC||54-5|
|Southern Nevada JC||46-18|
|Yavapai (Ariz.) JC||45-18|
|Chipola (Fla.) JC||40-12|
|Seminole State (Okla.) JC||39-17|
Defending Champion (DI): Northwest Florida State.
Player of the Year: Ramon Osuna, of, Walters State (Tenn.).
Pitcher of the Year: Matthias Dietz, rhp, Logan (Ill.) JC.
TOP PROSPECTS, 2016 DRAFT
1. Kep Brown, of, Spartanburg (S.C.) JC: A torn Achilles tendon dropped Brown, a preseason third-team prep All-American last spring, to the 10th round in the 2015 draft. Brown de-committed from Miami to try the draft again. If he’s healthy and taps into his power, he could be one of the best hitters available in 2016.
2. Matthias Dietz, rhp, Logan (Ill.) CC: Dietz showed a low-90s fastball and a tantalizing slider as a freshman, but he’s grown into a 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame. Dietz, an unsigned 29th-round pick of the Giants, was sitting 94-96 and touching 97 in fall ball, and his slider has gained some bite with the improved arm speed as well.
3. Jake Godfrey, rhp, Northwest Florida St. JC: The top player in Louisiana State’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2015, Godfrey transferred after an up-and-down freshman season. Godfrey has lacked consistency with his 91-94 fastball and hard breaking ball, but a strong spring would re-establish his prospect sheen. He is committed to Arizona State.
4. Kyle Weatherly, rhp, Grayson (Texas) JC: Weatherly will move to the rotation after a dominating freshman year as a reliever. Weatherly’s 92-94 mph fastball gets extreme run thanks to his low arm slot and he has a plus slider. But it’s the development of a potentially above-average changeup that gives the Louisiana State commit a chance to start.
5. Willie Rios, lhp, Florida Southwestern State JC: Rios’ control issues kept him from pitching much as a freshman at Maryland, but he should get a chance to play a bigger role at Florida Southwestern. Rios has a potentially dominating fastball/slider combination if he can throw enough strikes.
6. D.J. King, ss, Hillsborough (Fla.) JC: A two-time draftee, King is a true shortstop with good hands, at least an average arm and shortstop actions. The questions revolve around his hit tool. He has a contact-oriented swing but hasn’t yet hit for average.
7. David Lee, rhp, Santa Fe (Fla) JC: Lee, a Florida signee, transferred to Santa Fe after a solid freshman season at Florida International. He mixes a low-90s fastball with a curveball that can serve as an out pitch.
8. Nick Shumpert, ss, San Jacinto (Texas) CC: A quick-twitch athlete with the ability to stay up the middle, although he may eventually slide to second, Shumpert will get to prove his bat is worthy of a high pick as part of a loaded San Jac lineup.
9. Jeffrey Harding, rhp, Chipola (Fla.) JC: A 20th-round pick of the Royals last season, Harding is an undersized (5-foot-10) righthander with an extremely quick arm. Harding sits 92-94 mph and has touched 97.
10. Gabe Gonzalez, rhp, College of Southern Nevada: Gonzalez has already been drafted twice, once in the 13th round out of high school and then in the 36th round last year. He’s a starter with a big frame (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) to go with a big arm (91-95 mph fastball).
11. Reese Cooley, of, Chipola (Fla.) JC: A 26th-round pick of the Indians last season, Cooley has physicality and plenty of bat speed. But he has to prove he can make more contact to become a significant draft prospect.
12. Reece Calvert, rhp, McLennan (Texas) CC: Calvert has improved his slider to give him a third offering to go with his 90-94 mph fastball and potentially average changeup.
13. Ramon Osuna, of, Walters State: Osuna has excellent raw power and developing productive power as he showed with 13 home runs and a school record 27 doubles last season. He was named the Junior College World Series MVP last June after finishing with 17 RBIs, one short of the World Series record.
14. Chase Adkins, rhp, Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) CC: A transfer from Coastal Carolina who has signed with Georgia, Adkins is a short (5-foot-11) righthander with a 90-94 mph fastball and a hard (low-to-mid-80s) slider.
15. Michael Hickman, c, Chipola (Fla.) JC: An offense-first catcher who has shown some power to go with bat speed, Hickman needs to show steady refinement defensively.
AROUND THE NATION
• Northwest Florida State JC, the 2015 NJCAA Division I national champion, has the lineup to repeat. The Raiders reloaded by adding Division I transfers such as C Handsome Monica (Arizona), 3B Taylor Lane (Florida) and OF Hunter Tackett (Auburn). The pitching staff will benefit from the arrival of RHP Jake Godfrey, who had a solid freshman season at Louisiana State, going 7-1, 4.61. He’ll have to improve his control (55 IP, 33 BB in 2015) against lesser competition.
• Walters State (Tenn.) should score plenty of runs again this year. The team brings back six members of last year’s lineup including NJCAA World Series MVP Ramon Osuna. He should get some help from N.C. State transfer 3B/C Harris Yett. The Senators could have 10 or more Division I signees this year with a very loaded roster.
• Iowa Western JC is one of the more consistent junior college powers in the country. Marc Rardin’s Reivers have made eight NJCAA World Series appearances in the past nine years. Helping them go for a ninth World Series appearance in 10 years are a trio of prominent D-I transfer pitchers. RHP Taylor Goshen (transfer from Wichita State) sits 88-92 mph with a hard slider and an advanced changeup. He will either close or start for Iowa Western. RHP Jacob Douglas (Kansas State) attacks hitters with a high-80s fastball with tail and sink, and mixes in a cutter. RHP Jacob Niggemeyer (Ohio State) was slowed by a shoulder strain in fall ball, but he’s shown an 86-89 mph fastball, a straight change that keeps lefthanders honest and a slider he buries for strike three. Those three will supplement returning RHP Devon Perez. Perez is an athletic sophomore who has developed a harder slider this past fall to go with an 87-88 mph fastball that touches 92.