College Preview

2006 Big West Conference Preview




HOW THEY'LL FINISH



Conference Overall


W
L
W
L
1. Cal State Fullerton (5)
16
5
46
18
2. Long Beach State (22)
14
7
37
22
3. Cal Poly
14
7
36
20
4. UC Irvine
10
11
31
25
5. UC Riverside
11
10
28
27
6. UC Santa Barbara
8
13
26
30
7. Pacific
9
12
30
28
8. Cal State Northridge
2
19
18
36
(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

Projected NCAA Teams (3): Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State.
Conference Schedule: 21 games. Schedule begins March 31.
Conference Tournament: None.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
* 2005 conference leader

C—John Curtis, Jr., Cal State Fullerton (.234-0-29). 1B—Brett Pill, Jr., Cal State Fullerton (.327-9-57). 2B—Justin Turner, Sr., Cal State Fullerton (.324-3-31). 3B—Evan Longoria, Jr., Long Beach State (.320-5-30). SS—Blake Davis, Jr., Cal State Fullerton (.325-2-36). OF—Brett Bigler, Jr., UC Riverside (.322-0-19); Sean Boatright, Sr., Long Beach State (.299-3-30); Danny Dorn, Sr., Cal State Fullerton (.272-10-49). DH—Justin Baum, So., Pacific (.332-*17-45). P—Gary Daley, Jr., Cal Poly (6-2, 4.74); Jared Hughes, Jr., Long Beach State (8-3, 2.83, 89 IP/87 SO); Wes Roemer, So., Cal State Fullerton (7-3, 3.80). RP—Blair Erickson, Jr., UC Irvine (1-2, 1.80, 10 SV, 35 IP/52 SO).

Player of the Year: Evan Longoria, ss/3b, Long Beach State.
Pitcher of the Year: Jared Hughes, rhp, Long Beach State.
Freshman of the Year: Vance Worley, rhp, Long Beach State (20th round/Phillies ‘05).

Top Newcomers: 1. Vance Worley, rhp, Long Beach State. 2. Ryan Paul, lhp, Cal State Fullerton (Jr., 28th round/Tigers ‘05). 3. David Cooper, 1b, Cal State Fullerton (Fr., HS—Stockton, Calif.). 4. Danny Espinosa, ss, Long Beach State (Fr., HS--Santa Ana, Calif). 5. Andrew Carpenter, rhp, Long Beach State (Jr., 8-3, 2.89 at Sacramento CC).

PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2006-07 DRAFTS
1. Evan Longoria, ss/3b, Long Beach State (1st round).
2. Jared Hughes, rhp, Long Beach State (1st).
3. Blair Erickson, rhp, UC Irvine (1st).
4. Gary Daley, rhp, Cal Poly (2nd).
5. Danny Dorn, of, Cal State Fullerton (4th).
6. Justin Cassel, rhp, UC Irvine (4th).
7. Blake Davis, ss, Cal State Fullerton (4th).
8. #Justin Baum, 3b, Pacific (4th).
9. Brett Pill, 1b, Cal State Fullerton (4th).
10. Bud Norris, rhp, Cal Poly (5th).

# Not eligible for 2006 draft

BEST TOOLS

Best Pure Hitter—Evan Longoria, Long Beach State. Best Raw Power—Justin Baum, Pacific. Best Strike-Zone Discipline—Justin Turner, Cal State Fullerton. Best Athlete—Evan Longoria, Long Beach State. Fastest Runner—Brett Bigler, UC Riverside. Best Baserunner—Blake Davis, Cal State Fullerton. Best Defensive Catcher—John Curtis, Cal State Fullerton. Catcher/Best Arm—John Curtis, Cal State Fullerton. Best Defensive First Baseman—Brandon Godfrey, Long Beach State. Best Defensive Second Baseman--Justin Turner, Cal State Fullerton. Best Defensive Third Baseman—Evan Longoria, Long Beach State. Best Defensive Shortstop—Blake Davis, Cal State Fullerton. Infielder/Best Arm—Chris Valaika, UC Santa Barbara. Best Defensive Outfielder—Brett Bigler, UC Riverside. Outfielder/Best Arm--Clark Hardman, Cal State Fullerton. Best Fastball--Blair Erickson, UC Irvine. Best Breaking Ball—Haley Winter, UC Riverside. Best Control—Wes Roemer, Cal State Fullerton.

SHORT HOPS

• Cal State Fullerton had a record-tying 14 players drafted off last year’s team, which failed to return to the College World Series after winning the event a year earlier. But the Titans’ roster is hardly barren, as five of the drafted players—junior C John Curtis (.234-0-29), junior 1B Brett Pill (.327-9-57), senior 2B Justin Turner (.324-3-41), junior SS Blake Davis (.325-2-36) and senior OF Danny Dorn (.272-10-49)—did not sign and form the nucleus of this year’s club. In addition, Freshman All-American Clark Hardman (.341-0-31 in 2004) returns to regular duty in center field, and the Titans bolstered the ranks with four four-year transfers, including ex-Washington State 3B Justin McClure (.226-0-3) and ex-Louisiana State 3B Bryan Harris (.122-0-8), both California high school products. The most pivotal transfer, however, may be junior LHP Ryan Paul from Los Angeles Pierce JC. He will bolster a pitching staff that lost three of four starters, including LHP Ricky Romero (13-5, 2.89), the first pitcher drafted last June.

• Turner’s return may be the most important for Cal State Fullerton. “He has an unbelievable mind for the game of baseball and the way the Titans play,” coach George Horton said of the former Fullerton bat boy. “He can play offense or defense with anyone in the country and brings all the intangibles to this program.”

• Just like former teammate Troy Tulowitzki, Long Beach State SS/3B Evan Longoria used the summer prior to his junior year to vault himself into national prominence. Tulowitzki excelled as the shortstop for Team USA in 2004 and went on to become the seventh player drafted a year ago. Longoria stepped in at shortstop for the Dirtbags last season when Tulowitzki missed 25 games with an injury, and took his game to another level when he later led the Cape Cod League in home runs (eight) and RBIs (35) last summer. “He’s developed leadership on and off the field after he saw what he could do in the Cape,” Dirtbags coach Mike Weathers said. “He made the adjustment from junior college ball as a sophomore and has catapulted himself into the national spotlight.” Longoria (no relation to actress Eva Longoria of “Desperate Housewives” fame) hit .320-5-30 last year for Long Beach State.

• With six pitchers drafted off a pitching staff that posted a national-best 2.58 ERA last year, Long Beach State will have to scramble to pitch to that level, one it has become accustomed to in recent years. The Dirtbags had four pitchers drafted in the top two rounds from 2003-05—lefthanders Abe Alvarez (2003), Jason Vargas (2004) and Cesar Ramos (2005), and righthander Jered Weaver (2004)—and should have another this year in RHP Jared Hughes (8-3, 2.83), but after Hughes they’ll have to rely on two newcomers to fill out the rotation. Junior RHP Andrew Carpenter, who went 8-3, 2.89 at Sacramento CC, steps into the No. 2 slot while freshman RHP Vance Worley, a 20th-round pick of the Phillies, moves into the No. 3 hole. “The starting three of Hughes, Carpenter and Worley remind me a lot of last year, when we had just Ramos returning,” Weathers said.

• A year after LHP Garrett Olson was named the top pitching prospect in the Alaska League on his way to becoming a supplemental first-round pick of the Orioles in last year’s draft, junior RHP Gary Daley hopes to use the same Alaska League honor to springboard him into the first round in June. Daley went just 6-2, 4.74 with 59 strikeouts in 89 innings for the Mustangs as a sophomore, but his fastball hit 96 mph during the summer when he posted a league-leading 51 strikeouts in 53 innings. The Mustangs will also count on an improved performance from junior RHP Bud Norris (5-0, 4.54) after he went 7-1, 1.09 during the summer with the West Coast Collegiate League’s Aloha Knights.

• Six-foot-4, 215-pound 1B Jimmy Van Ostrand (.345-1-25), once a nationally-ranked badminton player in his native Canada, wasn’t drafted after an injury-plagued junior season at Cal Poly. He could be an early-round pick this year if he builds on his 2005 summer, when he led the Alaska League with a .363 average.

• UC Irvine closer Blair Erickson (1-2, 1.80) has been one of the nation’s best closers since he registered 17 saves as a freshman. In two years, he has struck out 103 in 72 innings, a nine-inning average of 12.9. “He possesses explosive and electrifying stuff,” UC Irvine coach Dave Serrano said.

• Pacific sophomore Justin Baum (.332-17-45), who led the Big West Conference and broke the school record with 17 homers as a freshman, will move across the diamond this spring from first base to third.

• UC Santa Barbara welcomes back junior SS Chris Valaika (.347-7-38 in ’04), who played for Team USA after a Freshman All-American season in 2004. Valaika missed most of 2005 (.200-0-4) with a knee injury, which occurred just after the deadline in March to be granted red-shirt status.

• UC Davis will continue to play all eight Big West opponents in non-counting three-game weekend series as it reclassifies from Division II to Division I. The Aggies will enjoy full Division I status in 2008.