College World Series Breakdown: Bracket One
Looking at Florida, Florida State, Texas Christian and UCLA
In our preseason Top 25 capsules, we used the 20-80 scouting scale to grade each team in various facets of the game. In the interests of accountability and fun, let's revisit and revise our preseason grades for the eight teams that reached the College World Series. Scouts grade prospects on how their tools compared to those of an average major leaguer, but we're rating a team's talent relative to an average NCAA tournament team. For each category, a grade of 50 is 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.
We have four categories for position players—hitting for average, hitting for power, speed and defense—and two for pitching: starting pitching and bullpen. We also give teams a grade for experience and intangibles—think of it as a team's "makeup" if you like. Finally, each team gets an Overall Future Potential (OFP) grade. In this case, the OFP represents our assessment of a team's overall strength and its chance to win the College World Series.
Seven of the eight CWS teams appeared in our preseason Top 25 (and six were in the top 15), and their preseason grades are referenced below. Oklahoma was not ranked in the preseason (it was No. 28 in our unofficial internal rankings) and will be subjected to the scrutiny of the 20-80 scale for the first time. These are the teams in bracket one, which begins play on Saturday. For the teams in bracket two, which begins play on Sunday, click here.
Season In A Nutshell
After losing a home super regional to upstart Southern Mississippi a year ago, Florida entered 2010 ranked seventh in BA's preseason Top 25 thanks to a solid group of returnees and the nation's best recruiting class. The young Gators proved incredibly consistent en route to the SEC's regular-season title, then cruised unbeaten through regionals and super regionals.
• Fr. LHP/DH Brian Johnson (1-0, 0.00 in 7 IP; .533/.529/.867 in 15 AB)
• Sr. OF Matt den Dekker (.400/.538/.650 in 20 AB)
• Jr. 2B Josh Adams (.150/.227/.350 in 20 AB)
• Jr. OF Bryson Smith (.182/.357/.182 in 11 AB)
2010 Draft Picks
• Jr. LHP Kevin Chapman (fourth round, Royals)
• Sr. OF Matt den Dekker (fifth round, Mets)
• So. RHP Tommy Toledo (32nd round, Twins)
• Sr. C Hampton Tignor (36th round, Angels)
• So. RHP Justin Poovey (41st round, Angels)
• Jr. RHP Matt Campbell (43rd round, Reds)
In Alex Panteliodis, Hudson Randall and Brian Johnson, Florida has three strike-throwing starters with solid but not overpowering stuff. Panteliodis, though, showed in the super regional that he can be a dominant ace at times: He struck out 12 in a complete game against Miami.
Absurd depth is the strength of Florida's pitching staff, and that depth translates to a lights-out bullpen. Hard-throwing lefthander Kevin Chapman is a shut-down closer, and the Gators surround him with quality righties (Jeff Barfield, Anthony DeSclafani, Greg Larson, Tommy Toledo) and quality lefties (Nick Maronde, Paco Rodriguez).
Florida's offense ranks eighth out of the eight Omaha teams in batting and scoring, but the lineup is packed with tough outs from top to bottom. The Gators execute small ball well.
The Gators have three mashers in the middle of the lineup in Preston Tucker, Austin Maddox and Johnson, and Matt den Dekker has shown more pop as a senior, hitting 13 homers. Few teams have more dangerous power hitters in the heart of the order than Tucker and Maddox.
Florida's fastest runner, den Dekker, has 23 steals in 30 attempts. Just one other Gator (Nolan Fontana, with 10) has double-digit steals, but the Gators are not filled with base-cloggers, either.
Fontana, who has made just three errors all season as a freshman (.989 fielding percentage), is one of the nation's best defensive shortstops, and den Dekker has a reputation as the premier defensive center fielder in college baseball. Catcher Mike Zunino and second baseman Josh Adams are also standouts up the middle. The only question mark is at third base, where Maddox lacks range but has plenty of arm strength.
There might not be a team in the nation that leans more on freshmen than Florida, but those freshmen have proven that they do not wilt under pressure. And Florida's coaching staff is superb.
Florida is deep, balanced and athletic. Its stellar defense and bullpen give it a legitimate national title chance, even with a lineup loaded with freshmen.
Season In A Nutshell
UCLA, which started 2009 with a 2-10 record and wound up missing regionals, got off to a much faster start in 2010, winning its first 22 games. The offense slumped in the middle of the season, and UCLA went just 8-10 after its 22-0 start, capped by a home sweep at the hands of Arizona State. But the Bruins rebounded to earn a national seed, breeze through regionals and finally beat nemesis Cal State Fullerton in a thrilling super regional, reaching Omaha for the first time since 1997.
• Fr. 3B Cody Regis (.409/.519/1.000, 4 HR, 8 RBI in 22 AB)
• Fr. CF Beau Amaral (.417/.517/.667, 7 RBI in 24 AB)
• Jr. LHP Rob Rasmussen (2-0, 1.80, 16-1 K-BB in 15 IP)
• Sr. 1B Justin Uribe (.200/.368/.400 in 15 AB)
• Sr. DH Blair Dunlap (.227/.346/.273 in 22 AB)
• Jr. OF Chris Giovinazzo (.217/.217/.261 in 23 AB)
2010 Draft Picks
• Jr. LHP Rob Rasmussen (second round, Marlins)
• So. RHP Dan Klein (third round, Orioles)
• Jr. LHP Matt Grace (eighth round, Nationals)
• Sr. RHP Garett Claypool (11th round, Phillies)
• Jr. LHP Matt Drummond (20th round, Orioles)
• Jr. OF Chris Giovinazzo (21st round, Rockies)
• So. RHP Erik Goeddel (24th round, Mets)
• Jr. OF Brett Krill (25th round, Giants)
• Jr. SS Niko Gallego (27th round, Diamondbacks)
• So. LHP Mitchell Beacom (36th round, Royals)
• Sr. OF Blair Dunlap (43rd round, Orioles)
The Bruins have three premium arms in the weekend rotation in sophomore righthanders Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer and junior lefty Rob Rasmussen. All three are capable of overpowering hitters and dominating in any given start, and senior righty Garett Claypool gives UCLA one of the nation's premier No. 4 starters.
The bullpen deserves just as much credit for UCLA's 2.97 ERA as the rotation. Dan Klein always had a terrific arm and blossomed into a lock-down closer this year. The supporting cast features a nice mix of righties (Erik Goeddel, Claypool) and lefties (Matt Grace, Mitchell Beacom, Matt Drummond).
UCLA ranked 132nd in the nation in scoring and 125th in batting, which was a bit better than expected. We have to downgrade the offense a bit after No. 3 hitter Tyler Rahmatulla was lost to a broken wrist in the dogpile celebration at the end of super regionals. The unit that remains is scrappy but not intimidating, filled with pesky outs, line-drive hitters and hard-nosed players who can execute hitting coach Rick Vanderhook's aggressive small-ball style.
The Bruins lag behind the rest of the CWS field in home runs, and no one on the team hit more than eight this year. But Dean Espy, Cody Regis, Brett Krill and Steve Rodriguez are all capable of hitting the ball out of the park and could take advantage of Rosenblatt Stadium's hitter-friendly dimensions.
Just about every UCLA regular is at least a fringe-average runner. The team's best basestealer is Gallego, who has 26 steals in 27 tries. Amaral has excellent speed but is just 8-for-17 on the basepaths.
Again, UCLA takes a hit with the loss of Rahmatulla, who plays a solid second base. The Bruins are expected to slide Regis from third to second and insert either Trevor Brown or Espy at third. It's hard to say how the lineup shifting will affect the defense, but it figures to have an effect. Gallego has played brilliant defense at shortstop in recent weeks, and Amaral and Rodriguez are also strong defenders up the middle.
UCLA has proven it is tough enough to get to Omaha, silencing many of its skeptics in the process. But the Bruins have six underclassmen in the everyday lineup, and this is the first postseason run for the key young players, including Cole and Bauer. How they react to Rosenblatt will be critical.
UCLA's dominant pitching staff gives it a real chance to win the championship, but it must overcome the loss of Rahmatulla, and its up-and-down offense needs to be up.
Season In A Nutshell
TCU entered the season ranked No. 11 and made a splash early in the season with a road series win at Cal State Fullerton. The Horned Frogs went on to dominate the Mountain West Conference, as usual, and outscored their opponents 36-8 in a perfect run through the Fort Worth Regional. Then the Frogs avenged last year's super regional loss to Texas, winning in Austin in three games.
• Jr. DH Joe Weik (.444/.476/1.000, 3 HR, 8 RBI in 18 AB)
• Fr. 3B Jantzen Witte (.458/.480/.542 in 24 AB)
• So. RHP Kyle Winkler (2-0, 0.66, 12-4 K-BB in 14 IP)
• Sr. 1B Matt Curry (.211/.444/.211 in 19 AB)
• So. OF Brance Rivera (.136/.208/.182 in 22 AB)
• Jr. 2B Jerome Pena (.111/.292/.111 in 18 AB)
2010 Draft Picks
• Sr. C Bryan Holaday (sixth round, Tigers)
• Jr. RHP Greg Holle (11th round, Brewers)
• Jr. RHP Steven Maxwell (12th round, Twins)
• Sr. 1B Matt Curry (16th round, Pirates)
• Sr. RHP Tyler Lockwood (25th round, Red Sox)
• Sr. RHP Paul Gerrish (42nd round, Astros)
TCU's weekend rotation has been consistent all season. Unsigned 2009 first-round pick Matt Purke gives the Frogs an All-America ace coming off an 11-strikeout performance against Texas. Righties Kyle Winkler and Steven Maxwell both attack hitters with quality stuff, including fastballs that reach the low 90s.
TCU has a reliable, rubber-armed senior closer in Tyler Lockwood, a former Friday starter with pedestrian stuff but excellent feel for pitching. The bullpen also features power righties Kaleb Merck, Erik Miller and Greg Holle, but the latter two have been up and down. Veterans Trent Appleby and Paul Gerrish add experience and depth. The only thing missing is a go-to lefty.
TCU's .340 batting average leads the CWS field (and ranks 14th in the nation), as does its .558 slugging percentage (eighth in the nation). The lineup is loaded with quality righthanded line-drive hitters, but Matt Curry and the switch-hitting Jerome Pena are the only lefthanded presences. The bench offers quality depth in the form of Josh Elander, Jimmie Pharr and Kyle Von Tungeln.
The Frogs rank 20th in the nation in homers per game, led by Curry (17 homers), Bryan Holaday and Jason Coats (13 apiece). TCU has occasional long ball threats up and down the lineup, as five other starters have six or more home runs. While the Frogs' overall numbers get an assist from playing in the Mountain West, the offense is legit. Just ask Texas closer Chance Ruffin, who had given up two homers all year before yielding two in Sunday's super regional finale.
The fastest player on the team, Von Tungeln, lost his starting job when he struggled in the first half, but he provides speed off the bench. Speed isn't a huge part of TCU's attack, but most of its regulars are at least solid runners, and all three outfielders are faster than that.
Infield defense—particularly at shortstop—was the greatest question facing TCU coming into the season. The middle infield defense still isn't elite, but Taylor Featherston has been more consistent at short as a sophomore this spring. The Frogs have standout defenders at third base, catcher and all three outfield positions.
This is TCU's first trip to Omaha, but the Frogs have a number of players who have been to two super regionals, and winning in Austin shows TCU can win just about anywhere. The Horned Frogs are well coached and stocked with veteran leadership, highlighted by the heady Holaday.
TCU is one of the most balanced, complete teams in the CWS field and is a legitimate national title contender. The first step is avoiding the Omaha rookie jitters against experienced Florida State.
Season In A Nutshell
The Seminoles started the season ranked ninth and remained in the top 10 all season until getting swept at Clemson in the final weekend of the regular season, costing them a division title. They rebounded by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, then were sent to Connecticut for regionals as the No. 1 seed. After a 3-0 run through the regional, FSU returned to Tallahassee and won a hard-fought super regional against Vanderbilt to reach Omaha for the second time in three years.
• Fr. 1B Jayce Boyd (.545/.560/.909, 2 HR, 4 RBI in 22 AB)
• So. 3B Sherman Johnson (.346/.414/.769, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 26 AB)
• So. LHP Brian Busch (1-1, 1.32, 8-5 K-BB in 14 IP)
• Jr. DH Stuart Tapley (.083/.389/.083 in 12 AB)
• Jr. RHP Geoff Parker (0-0, 7.71, 8-2 K-BB in 7 IP)
2010 Draft Picks
• Jr. LHP John Gast (sixth round, Cardinals)
• Jr. RHP Geoff Parker (ninth round, Rockies)
• Jr. OF Tyler Holt (10th round, Indians)
• Sr. SS Stephen Cardullo (24th round, Diamondbacks)
• So. OF Taiwan Easterling (31st round, Marlins)
• Jr. OF/RHP Mike McGee (41st round, Diamondbacks)
Florida State's weekend rotation has been inconsistent all season. Ace Sean Gilmartin struggled for most of the second half, though he has shown signs of coming around. Fellow sophomore lefty Brian Busch provided stability by seizing a rotation spot down the stretch; he's a competitor with good command but fringy stuff. A third lefty, John Gast, has the best arm on the staff but seemingly lost his grip on a starter's job down the stretch, as the Seminoles began to put more trust in righty Geoff Parker. But Parker was hit hard in the super regional.
Two-way star Mike McGee made a seamless transition from weekend starter in 2009 to stalwart closer in 2010, stabilizing a bullpen in crisis early in the season. A solid supporting cast developed around him, led by righty Daniel Bennett, who has a 2.00 ERA in nine postseason innings. Tye Buckley is a key lefthanded specialist.
Florida State's offense has not put up the gaudy numbers it had in recent years, ranking 46th in the nation in scoring and 170th in batting. As usual, the Seminoles drive pitchers crazy with their patience, racking up a nation-leading 389 walks. Veterans Tyler Holt, McGee, Stephen Cardullo and Stuart Tapley have racked up big hit after big hit in their careers, and underclassmen Sherman Johnson, James Ramsey and Jayce Boyd are excellent run producers in their own right.
Florida State ranks 59th in the nation and sixth among CWS teams in homers per game, but the balanced lineup does feature seven players with seven or more homers, led by McGee (15).
Leadoff man Holt is an on-base machine with above-average speed and superb basestealing skills (he is 30-for-33 in steals this spring). Cardullo (20-for-21) is a decent runner whose speed plays up because of his instincts. Florida State as a team is efficient on the basepaths, with 96 steals in 114 tries (84 percent).
The Seminoles are better defensively than they were over the last two years. Cardullo is a decent but not great shortstop, and he does have 20 errors. Holt is one of the best defensive center fielders in college baseball, and Rafael Lopez is solid behind the plate. Johnson has provided an upgrade over Stuart Tapley at third base, and freshman Devon Travis is fielding at a .979 clip at second.
Florida State is one of just two teams in this year's field that has players on the roster with Omaha experience. Veterans Holt, McGee, Tapley and Cardullo made the trip two years ago and provide outstanding leadership. And in Mike Martin, the Seminoles have a master in the dugout with 13 trips to Omaha under his belt.
Florida State hasn't won pretty in 2010, but it has won plenty. Winning players like Holt, McGee and Cardullo have a knack for coming up big when it matters most, which has masked some of FSU's pitching deficiencies. Pitching remains a major question mark, making the Seminoles the underdog in a bracket filled with outstanding pitching staffs.