College Preview

2012 Pacific-12 Conference Preview




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See also: Preseason Top 25 Capsules with full reports on Stanford, Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon State


*2011 automatic qualifier. 2011 NCAA regional participants in bold (2011 records listed; 2012 national rankings in parentheses)
PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE
HOW THEY'LL FINISH

Conf. Overall

W L W L
Stanford (2) 14 12 35 22
Arizona (5) 15 12 39 21
*UCLA (14) 18 9 35 24
Arizona State (17) 17 10 43 18
Oregon State (23) 17 10 41 19
California 13 13 38 23
Washington State 10 17 26 28
Oregon 11 16 33 26
Southern California 13 14 25 31
Utah (MWC) 29 21
Washington 6 21 17 37
Projected NCAA Teams (7): Stanford, Arizona, UCLA, Oregon State, California, Washington State, Oregon.
Conference Schedule: 30 games; begins March 24.
Conference Tournament: None.
Player of the Year: Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona State.
Pitcher of the Year: Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford.
 
TOP PROSPECTS, 2012 DRAFT
1. Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford
2. Deven Marrero, ss, Arizona State
3. Stephen Piscotty, 3b/rhp, Stanford
4. Jake Barrett, rhp, Arizona State
5. Kenny Diekroeger, ss, Stanford
6. Brady Rodgers, rhp, Arizona State
7. Tony Renda, 2b, California
8. Brett Mooneyham, lhp, Stanford
9. Tyler Gaffney, of, Stanford
10. Justin Jones, lhp, California
11. Jacob Lamb, 3b, Washington
12. Joey DeMichele, 2b/3b, Arizona State
13. Jake Stewart, of, Stanford
14. Andrew Aplin, of, Arizona State
15. Scott Griggs, rhp, UCLA
 
TOP PROSPECTS, 2013 DRAFT
1. Adam Plutko, rhp, UCLA
2. Konner Wade, rhp, Arizona
3. Jason Monda, of, Washington State
4. Austin Wilson, of, Stanford
5. Brian Ragira, 1b, Stanford
6. Nick Vander Tuig, rhp, UCLA
7. Lonnie Kauppila, 2b/ss, Stanford
8. Andrew Knapp, c, California
9. Ben Wetzler, lhp, Oregon State
10. A.J. Vanegas, rhp, Stanford
 
TOP NEWCOMERS
1. Jace Fry, lhp, Oregon State (HS—Beaverton, Ore.)
2. Brandon Bonilla, lhp, Arizona State (HS—Bradenton, Fla.)
3. Jake Reed, rhp, Oregon (HS—La Mesa, Calif.)
4. Billy Flamion, of, Oregon (HS—Modesto, Calif.)
5. Riley Moore, c, Arizona (HS—San Marcos, Calif.)
6. Dante Flores, 2b, Southern California (HS—Bellflower, Calif.)
7. Stephen Tarpley, lhp, Southern California (HS—Gilbert, Ariz.)
8. Adam McCreery, lhp, Arizona State (HS—La Verne, Calif.)
9. Kevin Kramer, 2b, UCLA (HS—Turlock, Calif.)
10. Spencer O'Neil, of, Oregon (HS—Kennewick, Wash.)
 
BEST TOOLS
Best Pure Hitter—Tony Renda, California. Best Power Hitter—Taylor Ard, Washington State. Best Strike-Zone Discipline—Tyler Gaffney, Stanford. Best Athlete—Gaffney. Fastest Runner—Joey Rickard, Arizona. Best Baserunner—Rickard.
Best Defensive C—Chadd Krist, California. Catcher/Best Arm—Collin Slaybaugh, Washington State. Best Defensive 1B—Brian Ragira, Stanford. Best Defensive 2B—Tony Renda, California. Best Defensive 3B—Piscotty. Best Defensive SS—Deven Marrero, Arizona State. Best Infield Arm—Marrero. Best Defensive OF—Andrew Aplin, Arizona State. Best OF Arm—Austin Wilson, Stanford.
Best Fastball—Mark Appel, Stanford. Best Breaking Ball—Appel. Best Changeup—Adam Plutko, UCLA. Best Control—Brady Rodgers, Arizona State.
 
QUICK HITS

• The first wave of the pending major conference realignment in college sports takes effect in 2012, as the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-12, welcoming Colorado (which does not field a baseball team) and Utah. The conference sent eight teams to regionals as recently as 2010, and adding a solid Utah program seemingly improves the league's chances to get seven or eight bids more consistently. Utah joins the conference on the heels of a second-place (16-7) finish in the Mountain West Conference, but the Utes will have their hands full replacing first-round pick and first-team All-America slugger C.J. Cron and ace lefty Rick Anton. The pitching staff does have a pair of power-armed bookends in Jr. RHPs Zach Adams (2-0, 2.40, 30 IP/36 SO) and Tyler Wagner (4-3, 2.04, 12 SV, 35 IP/33 SO). Adams showed 91-93 heat and a good slider before a shoulder injury cut his sophomore season short, and Wagner thrived in his first full season as the closer after converting from shortstop. The offense has plenty of new faces but features a powerful duo in the middle of the lineup: Sr. OF Shaun Cooper (.332/.395/.589, 8 HR, 43 RBI) and So. 3B Trey Nielsen (.318/.365/.572, 9 HR, 41 RBI). Though he's just 5-foot-10, Cooper generates good bat speed thanks to his quick hands, and he set single-season Northwoods League records for homers (20), extra-base hits (38) and total bases (163) last summer.

Tony Renda
• California was college baseball's best story in 2011, as supporters of the program successfully scrambled to raise enough funds to save the program from the chopping block, and the Golden Bears staged a dramatic comeback in regionals en route to their first CWS appearance since 1992. Seven everyday starters return from that club, led by reigning conference Player of the Year Jr. Tony Renda (.332/.366/.434), whose baseball instincts, leadership and pure hitting ability have made him a favorite of coaches around the conference. So. Derek Campbell (.263/.288/.333) takes over alongside him at shortstop, where his smooth infield actions and good arm strength should serve him well. Jr. LHP Justin Jones (9-6, 2.93, 120 IP/81 SO) has proven himself over two years in the conference and should have no trouble in the Friday starter role, though the Bears will ease him into the season as he finishes working his way back to full strength from a nerve issue. Relievers Kyle Porter (6-0, 1.89) and Matt Flemer (4-2, 1.83, 6 SV) will slide into the rotation, and Logan Scott (1-2, 3.09) has the makings of a solid closer. The primary question for Cal is pitching depth—where the lost recruiting cycle a year ago could really rear its head. But if Cal's unheralded young arms come on as hoped, the Bears could be dangerous for a second straight June.

• Washington State saw its streak of two consecutive regional appearances snapped a year ago, when its strength was its veteran pitching staff. The Cougars must replace their entire weekend rotation in 2012, but their veteran lineup should be able to carry the load. The centerpiece of the offense is Sr. 1B Taylor Ard (.337/.408/.577, 10 HR, 55 RBI), a physical, patient slugger who led the league in homers and RBIs a year ago. The outfield is extremely athletic, with lanky So. Jason Monda (the No. 14 prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer) and Sr. Derek Jones (.275/.370/.477, 8 HR) flanking speed merchant Kyle Johnson (9-for-9 in SBs). And the Cougars have two more burgeoning sophomore stars behind the plate (the strong-armed Collin Slaybaugh) and at shortstop (the slick-fielding Trace Tam Sing).

• After making a stunning run to regionals in 2010, Oregon entered 2011 with high expectations and a preseason ranking, but an anemic offense (259th in the nation in batting, 238th in scoring) proved too much for a strong pitching staff (19th nationally in ERA) to overcome. When the Ducks lost top assistant Andrew Checketts, now UC Santa Barbara's head coach, they added assistant coach Mark Wasikowski (previously at Arizona) as recruting coordinator and "offensive expert" while bringing back Jay Uhlman, whose team bio describes him as an "offensive guru." They'll work to get more production out of Sos. 1B Ryon Healy (.320/.373/.516), C Aaron Jones (.270/.369/.365), OF Brett Thomas (.291/.402/.359) and OF Connor Hofmann (.212/.270/.242). Until the offense gets its bearings, Oregon will rely on its pitching staff, led by Sr. RHP Alex Keudell (7-3, 2.89, 90 IP/71 SO), who gives the rotation an athletic, dogged, experienced ace. Jr. LHP Christian Jones (7-2, 3.24) has improved his strength and flexibility, showing a 90-94 mph fastball with late sink and run in the fall. Adding the nation's No. 9 recruiting class will also help, although key Fr. RHPs Cole Wiper and Sam Johnson will miss the year after having Tommy John surgery.

• Frank Cruz guided a pesky Southern California team to a solid 13-14 showing as the interim head coach last year, and the Trojans rewarded him by making him the full-time coach. He brought in another former Trojan—Dan Hubbs from California—to serve as his pitching coach and shepherded the nation's No. 11 recruiting class to campus in the fall. The two pillars of that class—Fr. 2B Dante Flores and Fr. LHP Stephen Tarpley—will be expected to make significant contributions from the outset. Sr. RHP Andrew Triggs (5-4, 3.67, 91 IP/72 SO) anchors a largely inexperienced pitching staff.

• Washington is optimistic about the direction of its program heading into coach Lindsay Meggs' third season at the helm. The Huskies welcomed a strong recruiting class in the fall, and they expect power-hitting Fr. 1B Trevor Mitsui, Fr. 2B Robert Pehl and Fr. SS Eric Forgione to be critical building blocks over the next three seasons. The pitching staff, however, is unproven; UW figures to rely on a pair of junior-college transfers (LHP Mac Acker and unsigned Cubs 24th-round pick RHP George Asmus) to stabilize the rotation.