College Preview

2006 Pacific-10 Conference Preview




HOW THEY'LL FINISH



Conference Overall


W
L
W
L
1. Oregon State (8)
19
5
46
12
2. Arizona State (16)
15
9
42
25
3. Southern California (17)
15
9
41
22
4. California (25)
13
11
34
23
5. Stanford
12
12
34
25
6. Arizona
17
7
39
21
7. Washington
12
12
33
22
8. UCLA
4
20
15
41
9. Washington State
1
23
21
37
(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

Projected NCAA Teams (6): Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon State, Southern California, Stanford.
Conference Schedule: 24 games. Schedule begins March 17.
Conference Tournament: None.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
* 2005 conference leader

C—John Hester, Sr., Stanford (.282-5-41). 1B—Mike Van Winden, So., California (.296-1-31). 2B—Brad Boyer, Sr., Arizona (.285-3-46). 3B—Josh Satin, So., California (.348-5-40). SS—Jason Donald, Jr., Arizona (.288-5-33). OF—Brennan Boesch, Jr., California (.355-7-33); Colin Curtis, Jr., Arizona State (.342-2-45); Michael Taylor, So., Stanford (.289-4-28). DH—Chris Errecart, Jr., California (.298-8-35). UT—Matt Hague, So., Washington (.418-8-34; 1-2, 6.52). P—Dallas Buck, Jr., Oregon State (*12-1, *2.09, 129 IP/118 SO); Ian Kennedy, Jr., Southern California (*12-3, 2.54, 117 IP/*158 SO); Tim Lincecum, Jr., Washington (8-6, 3.11, 104 IP/131 SO). RP—Kevin Gunderson, Jr., Oregon State (6-4, 2.76, *14 SV, 65 IP/62 SO).

Player of the Year: Brennan Boesch, of, California.
Pitcher of the Year: Ian Kennedy, rhp, Southern California.
Freshman of the Year: Ike Davis, lhp/dh, Arizona State (Fr., 19th round/Devil Rays ’05).

Top Newcomers: 1. Ike Davis, lhp/dh, Arizona State. 2. Brett Wallace, 1b, Arizona State (Fr., 42nd round/Blue Jays ’05). 3. David Huff, lhp, UCLA (Jr., 19th round/Phillies ’05). 4. Brandon Crawford, ss, UCLA (Fr., HS—Pleasanton, Calif). 5. Preston Paramore, c, Arizona State (Fr., 22nd round/Mets ’05).

PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2006 DRAFT

1. Ian Kennedy, rhp, Southern California.
2. Brandon Morrow, rhp, California.
3. Dallas Buck, rhp, Oregon State.
4. Mark Melancon, rhp, Arizona.
5. Greg Reynolds, rhp, Stanford.
6. Jason Donald, ss, Arizona.
7. Colin Curtis, of, Arizona State.
8. Brennan Boesch, of, California.
9. Tim Lincecum, rhp, Washington.
10. Chris Errecart, of, California.

PROJECTED TOP PROSPECTS, 2007 DRAFT

1. Michael Taylor, of, Stanford.
2. Eric Berger, lhp, Arizona.
3. Nolan Gallagher, rhp, Stanford.
4. Andrew Romine, ss, Arizona State.
5. Darwin Barney, ss, Oregon State.

BEST TOOLS

Best Pure Hitter—Chris Errecart, California. Best Raw Power—Michael Taylor, Stanford. Best Strike-Zone Discipline—Colin Curtis, Arizona State. Best Athlete—DeSean Jackson, California. Fastest Runner—Tyler Graham, Oregon State. Best Baserunner—Tyler Graham, Oregon State. Best Defensive Catcher—John Hester, Stanford. Catcher/Best Arm—John Hester, Stanford. Best Defensive First Baseman—Mike Van Winden, California. Best Defensive Second Baseman—Ryan Gipson, Oregon State. Best Defensive Third Baseman—Adam Sorgi, Stanford. Best Defensive Shortstop—Chris Minaker, Stanford. Infielder/Best Arm--Jason Donald, Arizona. Best Defensive Outfielder—Tyler Graham, Oregon State. Outfielder/Best Arm—Jarrett Roenicke, UCLA. Best Fastball—Brandon Morrow, California. Best Breaking Ball—Tim Lincecum, Washington. Best Control--Ian Kennedy, Southern California.

SHORT HOPS

• California hasn’t won a Pac-10 title since 1980, when it set a school record with 44 wins, but the Golden Bears may have their most talented team since then. In OFs Brennan Boesch (.355-7-33) and Chris Errecart (.298-7-33) and RHP Brandon Morrow (0-1, 9.36), the Bears have three potential first-round picks, a feat that has been accomplished by one school in the same year just three times in draft history—in 1979 by Michigan, in 1989 by Fresno State and in 2004 by Rice.

• The key to Cal’s success probably lies with Morrow, who battled control problems and started just five games in 2005. “With a 95-99 mph fastball and three above-average offspeed pitches (cutter, changeup and split-finger), Brandon has as good stuff as anyone,” Bears coach David Esquer said. “If his command of the strike zone is consistent, he could be one of the most dominant pitchers in the country.” Morrow ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer after going 0-0, 1.64 with three saves in 16 appearances for Yarmouth-Dennis.

• Oregon State caught everyone off guard a year ago when it improved its conference record from 7-17 in 2003 to 10-14 in 2004 to 19-5, won a school record 46 games and made its first College World Series appearance in 52 years. The Beavers are hoping for more of the same as they return 20 lettermen, including almost their entire pitching staff. Most prominent among those returning are junior starters Dallas Buck (12-1, 2.09), Jonah Nickerson (9-2, 2.13) and Anton Maxwell (11-1, 4.33) and junior closer Kevin Gunderson (6-4, 2.76, 14 SV). The catalyst of last year’s team, Pac-10 batting champion Jacoby Ellsbury (.406-6-48, 26 SB), is gone, however, after being drafted by the Red Sox in the first round. His place in center field will be taken by another speedster, Tyler Graham (.307-0-24, 21 SB), who rejected a 15th-round offer from the Cubs to return for his senior year.

• Stanford slipped to an uncustomary 12-12 in the Pac-10 in 2005—its poorest conference record since going 12-18 in 1993--and snuck into the NCAA tournament with a 34-25 overall mark. The Cardinal could struggle again as it must replace two first-rounders, 1B John Mayberry Jr. (.303-8-53) and 2B Jed Lowrie (.317-14-66), along with its two top starters, LHP Mark Romanczuk (5-6, 4.24) and RHP Jeff Gilmore (10-3, 3.76). Junior RHP Greg Reynolds (2-2, 5.08) is slated to become the team’s top starter. He has first-round stuff but has never consistently gotten out college hitters. Stanford’s biggest offensive threat becomes 6-foot-5, 250-pound sophomore OF Michael Taylor, who is expected to improve on a .289-4-28 season after being selected the top prospect last summer in the Alaska League.

• Arizona was hit harder by the 2005 draft than any team in the conference with the departure of four juniors selected in the first five rounds, including Indians first-rounder Trevor Crowe (.403-9-54, 27 SB). Freshman T.J. Steele, a 22nd-round pick of the Astros will step in for Crowe, while RHP Mike Colla, a 38th-round pick of the Astros, will assume the closer’s role, replacing RHP Mark Melancon (4-3, 2.58, 11 SV), who assumes the role of staff ace from John Meloan (10-3, 3.70), the Dodgers’ fifth-round pick. Two other freshmen are scheduled to start for the Wildcats.

• Arizona State will also look to a strong freshman class to plug holes at catcher, first base, shortstop and DH. Among the newcomers scheduled to assume starting jobs are C Preston Paramore, a 22nd-round pick of the Mets; 1B Brett Wallace, a 42nd-round selection of the Blue Jays; SS Matt Hall, an eighth-round pick of the Angels; and Ike Davis, a 19th-round choice of the Devil Rays who will take a turn in the Sun Devils rotation while also serving as DH. Davis is the son of former big league reliever Ron Davis. Hall will step in at shortstop for Andrew Romine (.282-2-23), who will be forced to sit out his sophomore year after doctors discovered a blood clot in his chest.

• UCLA will also field a freshman-dominated lineup after experiencing one of the poorest seasons in program history in 2005, the first year of the transition from 30-year coach Gary Adams to former UC Irvine coach John Savage, and won just 15 games. The Bruins will start four freshmen in the field, including Ryan Babineau, a 13th-round pick of the Brewers, behind the plate; highly-touted but undrafted Brandon Crawford at short; and Tim Murphy, an 11th-round pick of the Angels in right field. But the biggest reason why Savage, one of the nation’s most respected pitching instructors, expects the Bruins to improve dramatically is a pitching staff with at least three juniors that should be premium draft picks in June: starters Hector Ambriz (3-7, 3.94) and David Huff, and closer Brant Rustich (2-7, 5.23). Junior LHP Brian Schroeder (4-6, 4.77), son of former UCLA and Washington Redskins quarterback Jay Schroeder, who was also the third overall pick in the 1979 baseball draft, will be the third pitcher in the rotation. Huff pitched for Savage as a starter at UC Irvine in 2004, before transferring to Cypress Junior College, where he was drafted in the 19th round last June by the Phillies. “We have older, experienced pitching that should give us a chance to be competitive,” Savage said. “Our incoming freshman class will get a chance to play right away.”

• Washington returns junior RHP Tim Lincecum (8-6, 3.11), who had high expectations of being selected in the first two rounds last year as a draft-eligible sophomore after piling up 292 strikeouts in 216 innings his first two years with the Huskies. The 6-foot, 160-pound Lincecum, however, reportedly set too high a price tag for his services and slipped all the way to the 42nd round (Indians). “Tim’s a little guy with a mid-90s fastball and a power curveball who will be one of the premier pitchers in the country,” Huskies coach Ken Knutson said. “He has tremendous resilience in his arm and the ability to start or close.” The Huskies are also counting on a big year from redshirt sophomore RHP Richie Lentz, who missed the 2005 season after having Tommy John surgery. The second of three Lentz brothers to play for the Huskies (younger brother Andy is a true sophomore on the team), Lentz was the top-rated prospect in the New England Collegiate League in 2004. He is slated to be Washington’s closer.

• Southern California will miss the explosive bat of catcher Jeff Clement (.348-15-54), the third overall pick in last year’s draft. His spot behind the plate will be taken by junior Johnny Bowden, a January transfer from Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) JC. Trojans coach Mike Gillespie is hoping Clement’s spot in the heart of the lineup will be filled by Cyle Hankerd (.298-1-39), who was selected the No. 1 prospect in the NECBL last year after falling two RBIs shy of winning the league’s triple crown. Hankerd hit .383-9-36 and also homered twice against Team USA in an exhibition game, homered in the league all-star game and homered twice more as Newport swept to the league title. The Trojans are also hoping that Daniel Perales (.266-1-9) bounces back from an injury-plagued 2005 season after enjoying a breakout season in the Cape Cod League in 2004.

• Oregon State is hoping its appearance in the 2005 College World Series will encourage more home-state products to stay closer to home to play college baseball rather than seeking greener pastures elsewhere. Three players from Oregon high schools initially went to warm-weather colleges before transferring to OSU for the 2006 season: C Erik Ammon (Hawaii), 1B Bill Rowe (UC Santa Barbara) and RHP Mike Stutes (Santa Clara). Crowe, Ellsbury and Lowrie were all 2002 products of Oregon high schools who were drafted in the first round in 2005, but only Ellsbury elected to play at Oregon State.

• Freshman OF DeSean Jackson will scramble to find playing time in a talented California outfield that includes Errecart in left, Boesch in center and Jason Corder, who ranked as the nation’s top two-way high school player entering his junior year of high school, in right. Jackson was one of the nation’s top baseball prospects at Poly High in Long Beach but was even better at football and chose Cal over Southern California. As a freshman wide receiver this fall, Jackson led the Golden Bears in catches (32), receiving yardage (471) and touchdown receptions (five). He’s already projected as a future first-round pick in the NFL draft.

• Washington State has brought up the rear in the Pac-10 every year since 1999—the year the conference went to a one-division format. Only once, in 2004 (29-26), has the program been over .500 since the merger. The Cougars reached a new low in 2005 under first-year coach Don Marbut by winning only one of 24 conference games. But junior RHP Wayne Daman (7-6, 4.91), the team’s winningest pitcher, returns and he’ll be joined in the rotation by junior RHP Mike Wagner, a Washington high school product with a power arm who spent his first two years at Vanderbilt, going a combined 4-0 with 66 strikeouts in 63 innings.