|TOP 5—HOW THEY'LL FINISH|
|Defending Champion: West Florida.|
|Player of the Year: Buddy Sosnoskie, of, Francis Marion (S.C.).
Pitcher of the Year: Stephen Johnson, rhp, St. Edward's (Texas).
Championship Schedule: Regionals, sites TBD, May 17-20; College World Series, May 26-June 2, Cary, N.C.
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2012 DRAFT|
1. Stephen Johnson, rhp, St. Edward's (Texas): Wiry Colorado native pumped mid-to-upper-90s heat last summer for Santa Barbara Foresters
|2. Ryan Thompson, rhp, Franklin Pierce (N.H.): Canadian didn't sign as eligible sophomore last year (Yankees, 36th round); fastball, slider grade as average|
|3. Zeb Sneed, rhp, Northwest Nazarene (Idaho): Raw, erratic power-armed righty with 6-foot-5 frame, quick arm; fastball has reached 97 mph|
|4. Ben O'Shea, lhp, Tampa: Unsigned White Sox' 10th-rounder has hit 92 with his fastball, which usually sits in the upper 80s|
|5. Carl O'Neal, rhp, St. Mary's (Texas): Converted catcher has gone 12-4, 2.99 the last two years with 121-64 K-BB ratio 141 IP|
|6. Brett Teschner, c, Columbus (Ga.) State: Physical (6-foot-2, 210-pound), solid athlete is son of a coach with power, arm strength|
|7. Joe Wendle, 2b, West Chester (Pa.): Shook off 2011 injuries to set Coastal Plain League hits record last summer; grinder with good bat|
|8. Ethan Bader, rhp, Armstrong Atlantic (Ga.) State: Eligible sophomore with big body (6-foot-5, 220 pounds), average fastball velocity|
|9. Buddy Sosnoskie, of, Francis Marion (S.C.): Solid all-around tools make former Virginia Tech Hokie a leader of resurgent Patriots program|
|10. Cody Repenning, rhp, Grand Canyon (Ariz.): Six-foot-6 righty has room to fill out lanky frame, throws strikes with high-80s fastball
• Several of D-II's top programs reside in Florida, such as Tampa (five titles, all since 1992), Florida Southern (nine titles all-time, the last coming in 2005), as well as Lynn, the 2009 national champ. The Sunshine State produced another champ in West Florida, which had five players drafted off last year's title team, including ace RHP Daniel Vargas-Vila (Angels) and OFs Dustin Lawley and Greg Pron (both Mets); three other Argos signed pro contracts. The team's top returnees include Sr. 3B Josh Huggins (pictured at right, .313/.430/.474), whose six homers ranked third on the club last year, and So. LHP Kevin Peters (5-1, 2.23), who moves from midweek to the weekend rotation.
• Tampa figures to be the state's top D-II club, though, built in part on a raft of Division I transfers and newcomers. Santa Fe (Fla.) JC transfer LHP Ben O'Shea was an unsigned 10th-round pick of the White Sox who should contribute immediately, as should C Shane Rowland (a transfer from Miami), the son of Yankees international scouting director Donny Rowland. Other transfers of note include LHP Eric Luksis (Manhattan), who went 7-4, 3.68 in Division I play last season; SS/OF Anthony Caronia (State JC of Florida/Central Florida), the No. 6 prospect in the Florida Collegiate League last summer; and RHP MIchael Zaccardo (Connecticut).
• Two programs that had their moments at the D-I level are moving to Division II: New Orleans, which is moving its entire athletic department, and Le Moyne, which was Division I in baseball only but was left without a conference when it was kicked out as an associate member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Dolphins go into the Northeast-10 Conference without righthander Jerome Werniuk, who transferred to St. John's, but with an experienced lineup as well as Sr. LHP Mike Anarumo (4-1, 4.59).
• Grand Valley State won 32 straight games before going two-and-barbecue in the D-II CWS. The Lakers prepped for a return trip to Cary by taking a one-week trip in early January to Cuba, where the team experienced the culture and played a three-game series against Cuba's college national team, losing all three. Senior all-American OF Steve Anderson, a physical 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, returns to lead the offense after hitting .397/.466/.625. His seven homers and 64 RBIs also led the Lakers. Relief ace Brad Zambron (4-1, 1.95, 10 SV) brings his premium command (38-2 K-BB ratio in 37 innings) back to the bullpen, while senior RHP Ryan Garman (9-1, 1.70) is back to front the rotation. He threw a no-hitter last season against Ashland (Ohio) and didn't allow more than two earned runs in any start.
• Francis Marion is poised for the best season in program history. Sr. OF Buddy Sosnoskie, one of Division II's top prospects, comes off an all-America season where he hit .396/.474/.550 with a team-best nine triples. He began his career at Virginia Tech, where he slugged 13 homers in 2010. The Patriots also return 20 victories to the mound in RHPs Don Sandifer (11-3, 2.33) and Jeffrey Stoner (9-0, 2.40), who combined to pitch 38 percent of the team's innings last season.
• Mercyhurst and Millersville dominated the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference last year and should collide again in 2012. Mercyhurst figured to have a strong roster for scouts to see before RHP Tyler Bowditch transferred to Miami-Dade JC and 1B/LHP Bill Gerstenslager left for fellow D-II South Carolina-Aiken. Mercyhurst still has some intriguing arms on board with Sr. RHPs Eric Aschley (8-1, 1.27) and Zach Leitten (4-2, 2.28, 59 IP/81 SO) as well as Jr. LHP Ben Rawding (7-1, 2.19). Millersville went further in the postseason last year and has more talent returning, with hard-throwing So. LHP Tim Mayza (6-4, 4.11) fronting a rotation that includes veterans Mike McMonagle (9-1, 1.79) and Brooks Rothschild (10-2, 2.60). The offense is led by Sr. SS Mike August (.379, 14 SB) and OF Sam Bender, a fifth-year junior transfer from Montgomery College-Germantown (Md.) CC, where he was a NJCAA Division II all-American.
• Andy Stankiewicz, the ex-big leaguer and former Arizona State assistant coach, gets his first full season as head coach at Grand Canyon (Ariz.) after taking over last April. He has a solid rotation to build around in Jr. RHPs Brady Wager (5-6, 3.72) and Cody Repenning (4-4, 2.80), who gained confidence with a 5-0, 1.82 summer in the New York Collegiate League.
• One of the more intriguing Division II prospects will be Post (Conn.) OF Ketaraus Stanton, the brother of Packers tight end Jermichael Finley. Stanton starred for two seasons on the gridiron at Cisco (Texas) JC. He was set to play both sports at Louisiana Tech and later Memphis but wound up at Angelina (Texas) JC last year, though he was ineligible. He hasn't played baseball in a while but is a physical specimen at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds.
|TOP 5—HOW THEY'LL FINISH|
|Defending Champion: Marietta (Ohio)|
|Player of the Year: Kevin Heller, of, Amherst (Mass.).|
|Pitcher of the Year: Brian Rauh, rhp, Chapman (Calif.).|
|Championship Schedule: Regionals, sites TBD, May 16-20; College World Series, Appleton, Wis., May 25-29.
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2012 DRAFT|
1. Max Beatty, rhp, Pacific Lutheran (Wash.): Four-pitch righty with physical 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame has average fastball velocity, solid slider
UPDATE: A Feb. 2 report disclosed that Beatty was diagnosed with testicular cancer in December, had surgery and will soon start chemotherapy. He will redshirt in 2012.
|2. Kevin Heller, of, Amherst (Mass.): Excellent athlete (6.8-second 60 runner, free safety in football) led ACBL in HR (11), slugging last summer|
|3. Dan Fiorito, 3b/rhp, Manhattanville (N.Y.): Physical 6-foot-4, 205-pounder has dominated D-III (.389), then hit .319/.417/.428 in NYCBL|
|4. Brian Rauh, rhp, Chapman (Calif.): Undefeated in college, 6-foot-1, 195-pounder used fastball-slider combination to lead nation in SO in '11|
|5. Mike Samela, c, Amherst (Mass.): Athletic backstop hit .382 last spring, doubles as wide receiver on Lord Jeffs' football team|
|6. Phil Schreiber, rhp, Wisconsin-Oshkosh: Iowa transfer has pitched in Cape Cod League, needs to improve on tepid 2011 showing|
|7. Mike Russo, rhp, Kean (N.J.): Last year's top prospect wasn't drafted despite 10-1, 1.93 season; fastball touches 93 but command wavers|
|8. Brendan Close, rhp, Moravian (Pa.): Fastball reaches upper 80s; pinpoint control of it helped him go 10-0, 1.00 with 100-5 K-BB ratio in '11|
|9. Zack Graczyk, of, SUNY Cortland: Speedster who hit .362 with 20 steals last season also thrived in ACBL in 2010|
|10. Justin Jirschele, 3b, Wisconsin-Stevens Point: Lefthanded-hitting corner bat lacks other tools but makes consistent solid contact (12 SO in 178 ABs)
• Northern schools dominate the Division III level; the last warm-weather school to win the D-III College World Series was Chapman (Calif.) in 2003. Chapman just missed last season, losing to Marietta (Ohio) in the championship game. Marietta has much of last yaer's lineup back, including Sr. RHPs Brian Gasser (pictured at right, 14-1, 1.06, 93 IP/89 SO) and Austin Blaski (12-2, 1.62, 95 IP/86 SO). But Chapman returns the most dominant player in D-III the last two seasons in Jr. RHP Brian Rauh, who is 22-0, 2.01 for his career—11-0 in each season. His 133 strikeouts in 2011 led the nation, but he left his last start, against Kean (N.J.) in the D-III CWS, in the fourth inning and didn't pitch over the summer, as he was scheduled to do, in the Northwoods League. A healthy Rauh, whose fastball has touched 92 and who commands his slider, should team with Jr. RHPs Christian Maietta (6-3, 3.21) and Travis McGee (6-3, 4.50) in a sturdy rotation.
• Amherst (Mass.) has a trio of alumni working as major league general managers—Ben Cherington (Red Sox), Dan Duquette (Orioles) and Neal Huntington (Pirates). If those GMs want to pick alumni, this is the year to do it, thanks to the duo of OF Kevin Heller (.338/.434/.566) and C Mike Samela (.383). Both have athleticism and a track record of hitting with wood and in summer college league competition. Both played football at Amherst—the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Heller had four interceptions in eight games as a senior free safety, while the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Samela had 16 receptions as a wide receiver, scoring three touchdowns for an 8-0 club. For a 25-10 baseball team last spring, Samela was the program's first-ever conference player of the year; Heller hit a team-high eight home runs and added 12 stolen bases. Heller then ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Atlantic Collegiate League, where he was named MVP. Samela hit .216 in the New England Collegiate League with a strong finishing kick in the playoffs.
• Two former big leaguers took over as D-III head coaches this offseason. Bethel (Minn.) hired Brian Raabe, a .311 career hitter in the minors who spent parts of three seasons with three teams in the late 1990s. Former Cardinals righthander Gene Stechschulte, who made 116 appearances over three seasons, takes over at Ohio Northern. Raabe has been a high school coach for more than a decade, while Stechschulte's coaching experience includes four seasons in American Legion ball and the summer collegiate Great Lakes League.
|TOP 5—HOW THEY'LL FINISH|
|Defending Champion: Concordia-Irvine, Calif.|
|Player of the Year: Dane Phillips, c, Oklahoma City.|
|Pitcher of the Year: Kris Hall, rhp, Lee (Tenn.).|
|Championship Schedule: Regionals, sites TBA, May 10-14; Avista NAIA World Series, May 25-June 1, Lewiston, Idaho.
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2012 DRAFT
1. Dane Phillips, c, Oklahoma City: No. 29 prospect in Cape Cod League has bat (.349/.446/.527 in Cape) to hit his way into first five rounds
|2. Kris Hall, rhp, Lee (Tenn.): Good pitcher's frame (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) should help him move from bullpen (4-1, 3.46, 8 SV; 26 IP/40 SO) to rotation|
|3. Geoffrey Thomas, rhp, Belhaven (Miss.): Small-framed, quick-armed pitcher touches 94, sits 89-90 mph with quality breaking ball|
|4. Tanner Leighton, of/ss, The Master's (Calif.): Good profile for center field: plus runner, lefthanded bat, good reads|
|5. Tommy Hoenshell, rhp, Concordia-Irvine (Calif.): Tenacious and imposing at 6-foot-6, Hoenshell pounds strike zone with four solid pitches in any count|
|6. Jonathan Thompson, rhp, Belhaven (Miss.): Three-pitch mix should help him contribute immediately after strong 2011 season at Southern Miss (7-1, 3.49)|
|7. Aaron Gates, lhp, Concordia-Irvine (Calif.): Big-bodied Pepperdine transfer has teased with talent, lacks feel for strike zone|
|8. Matt Skipper, 1b, Embry-Riddle (Fla.): Massive 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame produces power; Tommy John surgery alumnus missed 2011 spring|
|9. Daniel Mims, of, Southeastern (Fla.): Physical (6-foot-2, 215 pounds), runs well (6.8-second 60), comes off strong .333/.476/.517 showing in NYCBL|
|10. Keaton Briscoe, 2b/ss, British Columbia: Scrappy Canadian middle infielder has solid lefthanded bat, grinder mentality
• Oklahoma City eliminated Belhaven (Miss.) in regional play, beating the Blazers twice, but Belhaven added two-thirds of Southern Mississippi's 2011 weekend rotation to a club that went 45-18 a year ago. RHPs Geoffrey Thomas (10-3, 3.10) and Jonathan Thompson (7-1, 3.49) join coach Hill Denson, who coached Southern Miss from 1984-1997 (with a .548 winning percentage).
• Defending champion Concordia-Irvine (Calif.) got red-hot in the postseason in 2011, winning 25 of its final 28 games to win the national championship. Like Belhaven, the Eagles added two impact transfers to the rotation. Sr. LHP Aaron Gates went 9-15, 4.62 in three seasons at Pepperdine, including 4-5, 3.15 last season, though he walked 59 and struck out just 57 in 94 innings. Sr. RHP Tommy Hoenshell throws a lot more strikes, going 7-7, 2.89 with just 12 walks in 106 innings for D-I independent Cal State Bakersfield. Two of Hoenshell's wins last season came at South Carolina and at Arizona State.
|PRESEASON TOP 5|
|Defending Champions: Navarro, Texas (NJCAA Division I); Western Oklahoma State (NJCAA Division II); Eastfield, Texas (NJCAA Division III); San Joaquin Delta, Calif. (CCCAA); Bellevue, Wash. (NWAACC).|
|Player of the Year: Fernando Perez, 3b, Central Arizona.|
|Pitcher of the Year: Daniel Ponce de Leon, rhp, Cypress.|
|NJCAA World Series: May 26-June 2, Grand Junction, Colo.|
|CCCAA: Finals, May 18-20, Bakersfield, Calif.|
|NWAACC: May 24-28 at Lower Columbia (Wash.).
|TOP PROSPECTS, 2012 DRAFT
1. Fernando Perez, 3b, Central Arizona: Graduated high school a semester early to challenge himself in JC this spring; assets include lefty swing, arm strength
|2. Andrew Toles, of, Chipola (Fla.): Unsigned 2010 fourth-rounder (Marlins) struggled at Tennessee in '11 but has athleticism, speed|
|3. Daniel Ponce de Leon, rhp, Cypress (Calif.): Former Arizona Wildcat has tantalizing 6-foot-4 frame, a 90-93 mph fastball and good curveball|
|4. Trey Lang, rhp, Gateway (Ariz.): Converted outfielder is still new to pitching but his loose arm pumps fastballs up to 94 mph, slider with potential|
|5. Adrian Sampson, rhp, Bellevue (Wash.): Younger brother of ex-Phillies farmhand Julian has touched 93 mph, has plus curve; has had elbow, knee surgeries|
|6. Stefan Sabol, c/of, Orange Coast (Calif.): A summer 2010 top prospect (West Coast League), Oregon transfer combines athleticism, strength and power|
|7. Michael Heller, rhp/if, Miami-Dade: Injuries have slowed former high-profile Florida recruit; fastball touched 94 mph, sat 88-92 when at his best|
|8. Logan Ehlers, lhp, Howard (Texas): Unsigned 2010 eighth-rounder had drama-filled season at Nebraska; must throw strikes to set up plus slider|
|9. Tyler Alexander, lhp/of, Hillsborough (Fla.): Athletic southpaw used fastball-changeup combo to rank second in Great Lakes League in ERA last summer|
|10. Mallex Smith, of, Santa Fe (Fla.): Unsigned 13th-rounder may be one of nation's top runners with 6.4-second 60 times|
|11. Steve Nyisztor, ss, Louisburg (N.C.): No. 1 prospect in Northwoods League in 2010 flashed five-tool potential in past, but must bounce back from lost 2011|
|12. T.C. Mark, c, South Mountain (Ariz.): Receiving skills for Arizona kickback remain questionable, but his power bat is not|
|13. Kyle Hayes, 3b/rhp, Howard (Texas): Another D-I transfer (San Diego State) with lefty bat and 90-92 mph sinker on mound; also has true curve and promising change|
|14. Damek Tomscha, 3b/rhp, Iowa Western: Nearly led Iowa Western to repeat JC title; power, arm strength fit the third-base profile|
|15. Josh Anderson, 3b, Yavapai (Ariz.): Not as athletic as Tomscha, another hot-corner prospect with more present power, good savvy|
|16. Lee Ridenhour, rhp, Johnson County (Kan.): Former Jayhawk hit 92 mph regularly, added above-average slider when healthy in 2009; has missed two seasons|
|17. Zach Houchins, 3b, Louisburg (N.C.): Strong-armed third baseman with power potential—sound familiar? Unsigned Nationals' 15th-rounder in 2011|
|18. Trey Griffin, of, Santa Fe (Fla.): Atlanta-area product has teased scouts with tools such as plus speed, athletic body; making progress with bat|
|19. Jamaal Moore, lhp, L.A. Harbor: Dodgers' 10th-rounder was the highest unsigned 2011 draftee to attend junior college in 2012|
|20. Connor Kendrick, lhp, Northwest Florida State: Former Georgia Tech southpaw touched 91, flashed hard curveball in going 4-0, 1.16 in Alaska League last summer|
|21. Aaron Brooks, rhp, Edmonds (Wash.): Gonzaga transfer has shown 88-92 mph fastball to go with developing 6-foot-6 frame|
|22. Jake Cole, rhp/1b, Pima (Ariz.): Big-bodied righty has average velocity, has touched higher in the past; didn't pitch last spring at North Carolina|
|23. Kyle Ferramola, rhp, Cypresse (Calif.): Raw, unpolished arm has made big strides with velocity, touching 95 mph in the fall|
|24. Dominique Taylor, of, Salt Lake CC: Top-of-the-scale speed got him drafted in 2011 (33rd round, Astros); swing needs refinement|
|25. Dexter Kjerstad, of, Howard (Texas): Texas transfer combines speed (6.5 seconds in the 60) with size (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), power potential
• California's junior colleges have seen increased parity since Sacramento City and Riverside combined to win five straight titles from 1998-2003. No program has won more than once since then, as San Joaquin Delta won the title in 2011, a year after Ohlone won it all in 2010 and Orange Coast in '09. None had won a state title since 1980. League coaches voted Delta the preseason favorite in the North. In the south, it's coach Don Snedden's Santa Ana, which hasn't won a title since changing its name from Rancho Santiago JC; it last won in 1995. The nation's top juco pitching prospect, RHP Daniel Ponce de Leon, also plays in California for coach Scott Pickler at Cypress. San Joaquin Delta will try to defend its title minus two players who signed pro contracts and eight more that moved on to Division I programs. The Mustangs welcome UC Santa Barbara transfer 1B Nick Parent, son of ex-big leaguer and current White Sox bench coach Mark Parent, and bring back closer RHP Taylor Kruger (1-1, 8 SV, 2.75 ERA) and So. OF Langston Calhoun (.323), who had four hits in the state championship clincher.
• Texas' junior colleges include defending NJCAA champ Navarro and perennial power Howard, where coach Britt Smith says he has so much pitching depth, his biggest issue may be getting enough innings for all his arms. RHPs Kyle Hayes (San Diego State) and Spencer Davis (Texas A&M) are D-I transfers and two-way players who are better prospects on the mound. Both flash three average or better pitches with their fastball, curve and changeup; Hayes also will contribute at the plate while Davis figures to concentrate on pitching. The top hitting prospect may be OF Dexter Kjerstad, a Texas transfer who needs at-bats after getting none as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement for the Longhorns last spring, when he had a broken hand. Another arm to watch is 5-foot-11 RHP Nick Sawyer, who has been drafted twice and has touched 97 mph while flashing a good slider.
• Navarro lost most of the stellar pitching from the national champoinship squad; ace Tyler Mapes moved on to Tulane, national ERA leader Austin Pruitt (0.81) is at Houston, and Drew Verhagen (the team's fourth starter) is now at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs' top returnees include Baylor recruit So. SS Brett Doe (.322, just three errors last spring), a steady defender; So. OFs Weston Hall (.301) and Brode Boyd (.302, 5 HR); and RHP Clint Wilson, the Brewers' unsigned 43rd-round pick. Six-foot-5 RHP J.T. Autrey, a former Red Sox draftee who hit 93 mph last spring despite being less than 100 percent, will get a chance to earn rotation time as he is further removed from elbow surgery.
• Louisburg (N.C.) has made 10 trips to the NJCAA World Series and produced 12 big leaguers over the years but hasn't been to Grand Junction since 2002. New coach Mike McGuire spent the last six seasons as an assistant coach at Winthrop but was a head coach previously at Division II Lander (S.C.) for three seasons. He receives several four-year transfers in his first season, led by former Rutgers SS Steve Nyisztor, the No. 1 prospect in the Northwoods League in 2010. Health problems halted his season 12 games in last year and he got a medical redshirt. If he's healthy, he'll be a high draft pick thanks to his power potential and athleticism. He'll team on a talented left side of the infield with So. 3B Zach Houchins, the Nationals' unsigned 15th-rounder who slides over from shortstop, where he played out of position as a freshman. The Hurricanes' top two arms are tall D-I kickbacks in RHPs Cody Cox (6-foot-6, Old Dominion) and Tim Brechbuehler (6-foot-8, North Carolina).
• Florida's junior colleges continue to pump out top prospects for the draft, including the top two juco picks in 2011. Indian River's Cory Spangenberg went 10th overall to the Padres while Miami-Dade's Brian Goodwin went 33rd to the Nationals. Chipola has the top big league alumnus from the state in Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista; was the state's representative at the NJCAA World Series last year; and has the state's top JC prospect in athletic but raw OF Andrew Toles. The unsigned Marlins fourth-rounder in 2010 transfers in after one season at Tennessee; he hit .270 with 21 stolen bases there and then hit .302 in the Cape Cod League, where he ranked as the No. 30 prospect. Miami-Dade should challenge for a spot with a talented pitching staff. RHP Michael Heller flashed premium stuff in high school but remains an enigma in college, having transferred away from Florida. He'll be pushed for innings by Mercyhurst (Pa.) transfer RHP Tyler Bowditch, South Carolina recruit Dixon Llorens, a hard-throwing 5-foot-9 RHP; and Missouri transfer RHP Myles Smith. The Sharks' offense will include transfer infielders 3B/2B Antonio Alvarez (N.C. State) and SS Mikal Hill (who spent the fall at South Carolina) to join 1B Ozney Guillen, whose father Ozzie now manages the Miami Marlins.