Scouts ID Talent Better Than Winners In College




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Florida earned the No. 1 ranking in our preseason Top 25. It didn't take much deliberation. The Gators have been to the College World Series two years in a row, finishing second last year, and return most of their top players.

Seven Gators were voted onto BA's preseason All-America team, which is voted on by the scouting directors of major league franchises.

Scouting directors have been voting on our All-America teams since 1983, making this our 30th such exercise. According to my research—and in the magazine's 32-year history, I'm the first one to do it—Florida set a record with those seven preseason All-Americans.

The old mark was six, set by Arizona State in 1985 and tied by Georgia Tech (2001) and Stanford (2002). From Florida's standpoint, none of those teams is a good precedent. None won the College World Series, and Arizona State (with Barry Bonds) and Georgia Tech (with Mark Teixeira) failed to even make it to Omaha.

We don't ask scouting directors to help us pick the best teams. Frankly, we feel like our college experts can do that well enough, and over the years, we've had some pretty decent experts. Three BA staffers—magazine founder Allan Simpson, current executive editor Jim Callis and yours truly—have won the Wilbur Snypp Award from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association for our work covering college baseball. Will Kimmey (now with ESPN) and national writer Aaron Fitt have continued our commitment over the years.

We ask the scouts to pick our All-Americans because they know talent better than anyone, and we ask scouting directors because they see more of the nation than coaches or writers or anyone else. They also are factoring in professional projections into it, because what that really means is talent.

That doesn't mean they always get it right of course. But who does in baseball? And their selections make our preseason All-America team unique. Anyone could take last year's stats and this year's rosters and pick a preseason All-America team. We're not interested in the usual take.

Talent Equals Success

I am interested, though, to see that our preseason All-America teams have a good but not great correlation to winning. The first team in 1983 had three Texas Longhorns, led by Roger Clemens; he went on to lead Texas to the national title. In 1986 Arizona had three representatives and won it all; Stanford did the same in 1988. But since then, just two other teams have led the nation in preseason All-Americans and gone on to win the College World Series—Texas in 2005 and Louisiana State in 2009.

Having plenty of obvious pro talent on hand usually leads to a strong season; take UCLA, which hadn't been to the CWS since 1969 until its 1997 club broke through. The '97 Bruins had four preseason All-Americans to lead the field. Georgia Tech had never been to the Series before leading all teams with three preseason All-Americans in 1994, when it made its first trip to Omaha.

More recently, Oregon State's run as a national power began with its first CWS trip in 2005, when the Beavers had two preseason members with Jacoby Ellsbury and Dallas Buck. The next year, North Carolina had two first-teamers and went to Omaha for the first time in 17 years; in 2007, Vanderbilt was the lone team with two first-teamers (Pedro Alvarez, David Price), and won the Southeastern Conference and was ranked No. 1 before an upset loss in a regional. The Commodores set a school record with three preseason picks last year and broke through to reach Omaha for the first time.

Scouts Don't See It All

On the other hand, it's slightly more common for a team with no one the scouting directors voted as an All-American in the preseason to win the national title. That happened in 1984 and 1995 with Cal State Fullerton; in 1985 with Miami; in 1989 (Wichita State), 1990 (Georgia), 1994 (Oklahoma) and 2010 (South Carolina). In 2008, Fresno State's lone preseason All-American, Tanner Scheppers, was injured and didn't play during the Bulldogs' Cinderella run.

That's one reason why we put Michael Roth on the cover of our College Preview two weeks ago; he didn't even appear among the 12 starting pitchers on any of the 17 ballots that scouting directors submitted to us, but he's as close as it gets to being college baseball's biggest star in 2012. When the game has draft studs who will be big leaguers soon—like UCLA's dynamic duo of Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole last year, or San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg in 2009—we focus even more on the prospects, and so do most baseball fans.

But there's no draft superstar in the college ranks in 2012, and the attention on the College World Series keeps growing. South Carolina is going for a third straight title, and Roth has been a huge part of the first two, emerging as an unexpected hero in 2010 and shouldering much of the load in 2011. That's why we devoted so much space to him last issue; he deserved it, whether scouting directors think much of him or not.

Sometimes, the scouts don't see teams like South Carolina coming. The 2012 Gamecocks have one All-American in the preseason in first baseman Christian Walker, a second-team choice.

We still picked them third in the preseason Top 25 rankings. But with that record-setting talent pool, I'm comfortable picking Florida first.



MAKING HISTORY

Florida's seven preseason All-Americans is a record for BA in this our 30th year of having major league scouting directors vote on the teams. But its competitors for the most preseason All-Americans ever have never won the College World Series. Here are the past high-water marks with the players, their positions and what team they were voted onto.

Year School All-Americans How They Finished
2012 Florida 7 TBA
Mike Zunino, c, 1st ; Brian Johnson, util, 1st; Preston Tucker, of, 2nd; Austin Maddox, util, 2nd; Hudson Randall, rhp, 2nd; Nolan Fontana, ss, 3rd; Karsten Whitson, rhp, 3rd
2002 Stanford 6 47-18, reached College World Series
Jason Cooper, of/dh, 1st; Carlos Quentin, of, 1st; Jeremy Guthrie, rhp, 1st; Chris O'Riordan, 2b, 2nd; Tim Cunningham, lhp, 2nd; Sam Fuld, of, 3rd
2001 Georgia Tech 6 41-20; 0-2 in Athens, Ga., regionals
Mark Teixeira, 3b, 1st; Tyler Parker, c, 2nd; Rhett Parrott, rhp, 2nd; Richard Lewis, 2b, 3rd; Jason Basil, of, 3rd; Brian Sager, rhp, 3rd
1985 Arizona State 6 31-35; did not make regionals
Barry Bonds, of, 1st; Doug Henry, rhp, 1st; Luis Medina, 1b, 2nd, Todd Brown, of, 2nd; Gil Villanueva, lhp, 3rd; Don Wakamatsu, c, 3rd
2004 Georgia Tech 5 44-21, 0-2 in super regional in Atlanta
Eric Patterson, 2b, 1st; Jeremy Slayden, of, 1st; Micah Owings, util, 1st; Mike Nickeas, c, 2nd; Tyler Greene, ss, 2nd
1998 Stanford 5 42-14; went 1-2 in regional at Stanford
Jeff Austin, rhp, 1st; Chad Hutchinson, rhp, 1st; Jody Gerut, of, 2nd; Josh Hochgesang, 3b, 3rd; Brent Hoard, lhp, 3rd
1989 Fresno State 5 44-19; went 2-2 in regional at Fresno
Eddie Zosky, ss, 1st; Tom Goodwin, of, 1st; Steve Hosey, of, 1st; Eric Schullstrom, rhp, 3rd; Rich Crane, lhp, 3rd