College Preview

2012 Southeastern Conference Preview




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See also: Preseason Top 25 Capsules


*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE
HOW THEY'LL FINISH

Conference Overall
EAST W L W L
*Florida (1) 22 8 53 19
South Carolina (3) 22 8 55 14
Vanderbilt (10) 22 8 54 12
Georgia (11) 16 14 33 32
Kentucky 8 22 25 30
Tennessee 7 23 25 29
WEST W L W L
Arkansas (4) 15 15 40 22
Louisiana State (8) 13 17 36 20
Mississippi (22) 13 17 30 25
Mississippi State 14 16 38 25
Auburn 14 16 29 29
Alabama 14 16 35 28
Projected NCAA Teams (9): Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana State, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Kentucky.
Conference Schedule: 30 games; begins March 16.
Conference Tournament: Ten teams, May 22-27 at Hoover, Ala.
Player of the Year: Mike Zunino, c, Florida.
Pitcher of the Year: Michael Roth, lhp, South Carolina.

TOP PROSPECTS, 2012 DRAFT
1. Mike Zunino, c, Florida
2. Kevin Gausman, rhp, Louisiana State
3. Brian Johnson, lhp/1b, Florida
4. Nolan Sanburn, rhp, Arkansas
5. Nolan Fontana, ss, Florida
6. Matt Reynolds, 3b/ss, Arkansas
7. Alex Wood, lhp, Georgia
8. D.J. Baxendale, rhp, Arkansas
9. Hudson Randall, rhp, Florida
10. Austin Maddox, rhp/1b, Florida
11. Matt Price, rhp, South Carolina
12. Ian Gardeck, rhp, Alabama
13. Preston Tucker, 1b/of, Florida
14. Jerad Grundy, lhp, Kentucky
15. Christian Walker, 1b, South Carolina
16. Sam Selman, lhp, Vanderbilt
17. Kyle Farmer, ss, Georgia
18. Mike Yastrzemski, of, Vanderbilt
19. Steve Rodriguez, lhp, Florida
20. Taylor Rogers, lhp, Kentucky
 
TOP PROSPECTS, 2013 DRAFT
1. Karsten Whitson, rhp, Florida
2. Ryne Stanek, rhp, Arkansas
3. Ryan Eades, rhp, Louisiana State
4. Dominic Ficociello, 1b, Arkansas
5. Kevin Ziomek, lhp, Vanderbilt
6. Bobby Wahl, rhp, Mississippi
7. Zach Alvord, ss, Auburn
8. JaCoby Jones, of, Louisiana State
9. Forrest Koumas, rhp, South Carolina
10. Conrad Gregor, of, Vanderbilt
 
TOP NEWCOMERS
1. Tyler Beede, rhp, Vanderbilt (HS—Groton, Mass.)
2. Chris Harvey, c, Vanderbilt (HS—Norristown, Pa.)
3. Hawtin Buchanan, rhp, Mississippi (HS—Biloxi, Miss.)
4. Hunter Cole, of, Georgia (HS—Roebuck, S.C.)
5. Tanner English, of, South Carolina (HS—Murrells Inlet, S.C.)
6. Brandon Woodruff, rhp, Mississippi State (HS—Wheeler, Miss.)
7. Aaron Nola, rhp, Louisiana State (HS—Baton Rouge, La.)
8. Ian Gardeck, rhp, Alabama (Tr.—Angelina, Texas, JC).
9. Senquez Golson, of, Mississippi (HS—Pascagoula, Miss.)
10. Joey Pankake, ss/rhp, South Carolina (HS—Easley, S.C.)
 
BEST TOOLS
Best Pure Hitter—Preston Tucker, Florida. Best Raw Power—Mike Zunino, Florida. Best Strike-Zone Judgment—Taylor Dugas, Alabama. Best Athlete—Brian Adams, Kentucky. Fastest Runner—Tony Kemp, Vanderbilt. Best Baserunner—Mike Yastrzemski, Vanderbilt.
Best Defensive C—Zunino. Catcher/Best Arm—Zunino. Best Defensive 1B—Christian Walker, South Carolina. Best Defensive 2B—Bo Bigham, Arkansas. Best Defensive 3B—Tyler Hanover, Louisiana State. Best Defensive SS—Nolan Fontana, Florida. Infielder/Best Arm—Austin Nola, LSU. Best Defensive OF—Kemp. Outfielder/Best Arm—Peter Verdin, Georgia.
Best Fastball—Kevin Gausman, LSU. Best Breaking Ball—Matt Price, South Carolina. Best Changeup—Michael Roth, South Carolina. Best Control—Hudson Randall, Florida.
 
QUICK HITS
• Southeastern Conference teams have won the last three national championships, with Louisiana State (2009) and defending two-time champion South Carolina upholding the pride of college baseball's best league of the last 20 years. The league adds Missouri and Texas A&M from the Big 12 in 2013 and moves to a 10-team tournament in 2012, making it a six-day event.

• Mississippi State won a regional at Georgia Tech as a No. 3 seed, then pushed Florida to the brink in a thrilling super regional. The Bulldogs worked around plenty of injuries in their pitching staff last season, with 14 pitchers who saw time coming back in 2012. Confident Sr. RHP Caleb Reed (1-2, 1.55, 12 SV, 64 IP/66 SO) comes back as the closer, while oft-injured LHP Nick Routt (3-3, 3.86) will try to make it through a full healthy season for the first time since 2009. An all-new infield will be working behind them; the Bulldogs have high hopes for second-year players 2B Demarcus Henderson, a plus runner who redshirted last year; and 3B Daryl Norris (.377/.407/.351) and SS Adam Frazier (.274, no extra-base hits), who take on full-time roles as sophomores.

• Kentucky has plenty of reasons for optimism, from athletic 6-foot-4, 215-pound speedster OF Brian Adams (who doubles as a wide receiver on the football team, with eight career catches in two seasons); to LHPs Taylor Rogers and Jerad Grundy, both solid prospects, with Rogers coming off an all-star turn in the Cape Cod League; to a veteran infield led by Jr. 1B/C Luke Maile (.282/.361/.525, 9 HR) and Sr. 3B Thomas McCarthy (.371/.436/.581). In most leagues, that would get it done, but the Wildcats aren't in most leagues. Coach John Cohen—now at Mississippi State—won 44 games twice in three seasons from 2006-2008, but his successor, Gary Henderson, has yet to take Kentucky to Hoover for the SEC tournament, not to mention regional play. But the coaches believe this is the best team they have had since 2008, and that it will be a regionals team if its infield defense holds up.

• Tennessee welcomes Dave Serrano back to Knoxville, where the former UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton head coach replaces Todd Raleigh. Serrano and his current top assistant, Bill Mosiello, served as assistants under Rod Delmonico in Tennessee's baseball peak, in 1995-96. Back then, the Vols' pitching staff had two future big league arms in R.A. Dickey and Mike Lincoln. Serrano hopes the same is true of one of his top projects in his first season, enigmatic Jr. RHP/OF Drew Steckenrider, who carries a .164 average and 6.03 career ERA into the season. Serrano said Steckenrider was sitting 93-97 mph with his fastball in the fall and hopes to unlock the talent in him and fellow RHPs Nick Blount, Zack Godley and Nick Williams.