|1. TEXAS A&M|
|2B||Nick Anders||Jr.||Tr.—Temple (Texas) JC|
|SS||Adam Smith||Fr.||HS—Klein, Texas|
|DH||Joe Patterson||Jr.||Tr.—Seminole (Fla.) CC|
|*Stats from 2007 at Winthrop|
SCOUTING THE AGGIES
Hitting: 55. Jose Duran, Dane Carter, Darby Brown, Brian Ruggiano and Blake Stouffer combined for 284 RBIs a year ago, and their departures leave some offensive question marks. Fortunately, the Aggies caught a break when the hulking Luke Anders elected to return to anchor the lineup for his senior season. With promising line-drive strokes, Raley and Greene should see their averages spike in 2009, and Colligan is a dynamic leadoff man who can do everything. Fleece and Smith have huge talent but have yet to prove themselves.
Power: 55. Luke Anders led the Big 12 in on-base percentage and slugging as a junior, and he might have more power than any hitter in the league as a senior. The Aggies expect big things from JC transfers Nick Anders (Luke's brother) and Patterson, who slugged 28 homers last year at the long-ball haven that is Seminole JC. Colligan has hit 27 homers in two and a half years for the Aggies. Fleece and Smith both flash plus power, and Navarro JC transfer Brett Parsons has some pop as well.
Speed: 55. Colligan, Greene and Raley all are plus or better runners who must spark Childress' high-octane offense. The Aggies love to apply constant pressure on opposing defenses with speed and aggressive small ball, but there's not a lot of speed in this lineup after that trio.
Defense: 55. Gonzalez and Colligan give the Aggies two strong defenders up the middle, but the double-play combination is new and somewhat suspect. The outfield corners are manned by excellent athletes with plenty of range and arm strength, and Fleece has a chance to be a standout defender at third.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The Aggies have been to consecutive super regionals (losing at Rice both times) and are hungry to break through to Omaha. Having two experienced veterans (Starling and Thebeau) at the back of the bullpen and two more seniors (Colligan and Luke Anders) leading the offense is a major advantage.
Baseball America OFP: 70. Anything less than an Omaha trip would be a major disappointment for a team with this much talent, particularly on the mound.
|2. LOUISIANA STATE
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
Bullpen: 55. Coleman will be a workhorse out of the pen thanks to his experience and good command of a low-90s fastball from a low slot. The setup man, Jr. RHP Paul Bertuccini (2-0, 2.63), is not overpowering but effectively mixes speeds and locations with four pitches. Sr. RHP Jordan Brown (5-0, 5.40) has plenty of arm strength and could be an X-factor. Freshmen Chris Matulis and Randy Ziegler figure to be the top two lefties on a staff with plenty of question marks.
Power: 55. LSU's biggest offensive loss is first baseman Matt Clark, the nation's leading home run hitter a year ago. Dean slugged 20 homers to earn first-team All-America honors as a sophomore, while LeMahieu and Schimpf offer excellent power for middle infielders. Football players Mitchell and So. OF Chad Jones have yet to really tap into their tantalizing raw power, and a back injury limited Gaudet's power output last year. Doubles should be the hallmark of this offense more than the long ball.
Speed: 55. The Tigers lack true burners, but they are athletic and aggressive on the basepaths. Landry and Mitchell are plus runners, while Schimpf, Helenihi and LeMahieu are solid runners with good baserunning instincts.
Defense: 65. Landry and Gibbs are elite up-the-middle defenders, anchoring an athletic, confident defense. Schimpf and LeMahieu are a very sound double-play combination. Helenihi moves from right field to third base, replacing stalwart Michael Hollander.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. LSU's lineup boasts enviable Omaha experience, and several of its pitchers worked big postseason innings. But it's uncertain how a brand-new weekend rotation will pan out.
Baseball America OFP: 70. The Tigers sent venerable old Alex Box Stadium out with a super regional win, and they have a good chance to cap the first year of the new Alex Box in the same fashion.
|3. NORTH CAROLINA
|RF||Ryan Norton||Jr.||Tr.—Lenoir (N.C.) CC|
|*Stats from 2007|
SCOUTING THE TAR HEELS
Bullpen: 65. The slightly built Bates doesn't look like a closer, but he has a quick arm and good stuff, though it remains to be seen how he'll respond to anchoring the bullpen. Brian Moran (1-2, 2.76 in 40 appearances last year) gives UNC a reliable, deceptive lefty, while So. RHP Patrick Johnson (4-1, 4.14) takes over Bates' vacated role as first man out of the bullpen. LHP Logan Munson and RHPs Nate Striz (an unsigned 2007 fifth-round pick), Garrett Davis and Ryan Leach all own quality arms and help make this staff embarrassingly deep.
Power: 40. The Tar Heels are counting on Fleury to build off his solid Cape Cod League performance and Holt to use his stellar fall as a springboard. UNC needs that duo to provide most of the power in a lineup that otherwise relies upon line drives and scrappy at-bats, though Ackley and Seager should both boost their power numbers moving from the spacious USA Baseball complex where UNC played its home games last year to new Boshamer Stadium, which should be friendly to lefthanded hitters.
Speed: 55. Ackley and Cavasinni are plus or better runners, while Gore, Seager, Graepel, Bunting and Norton all have decent speed. UNC might run more with less thunder in the lineup this year.
Defense: 55. Graepel solidified the infield defense after taking over at shortstop last year, and Gore should be much more comfortable at second base than he was at short. Seager moves from second to third, where his hands and instincts are sound. UNC believes Fleury can shut down opposing running games like his predecessor, Federowicz, did.
Experience/Intangibles: 70. North Carolina has made three straight trips to Omaha and returns 21 lettermen from last year's CWS team. White, Ackley, Seager and others have proven themselves on the biggest stages. But a delay in the opening of the new Boshamer Stadium could be a distraction.
Baseball America OFP: 70. This is UNC's last best chance to grab that elusive national championship before White, Ackley and Seager head to professional ball.
|3B||Brandon Loy||Fr.||HS—Rowlett, Texas|
SCOUTING THE LONGHORNS
Hitting: 60. As with the bullpen, the depth of the offense stands out more than the star power. Seven starters are back, as are two other regular contributors in Shepherd and Keyes, both of whom could have breakout years with regular playing time. The lineup is deep enough that last year's two leading hitters, Jr. DH/OF Russ Moldenhauer (.355) and Sr. IF Michael Torres (.354), will have to battle for playing time, thanks in part to the stellar fall performance of Loy. Tucker, Clark and Hernandez all struggled offensively for stretches in 2008 but look like bounce-back candidates.
Power: 50. Texas must replace star OFs Kyle Russell (the program's single-season and career home run king) and Jordan Danks (whose seven homers last year ranked third on the team). The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Keyes showed off his big-time raw power last summer, slugging eight homers for the Santa Barbara Foresters to rank as the California Collegiate League's top prospect. Belt flashes power to all fields, and Clark has hit 21 homers in three years despite seldom playing at 100 percent strength. The Longhorns expected Moldenhauer to be a power hitter when he arrived two years ago, but he has managed just seven home runs in 300 career at-bats.
Speed: 45. Rowe, the best athlete on the team, is an above-average runner. Tucker, Torres and Shepherd are intelligent baserunners but not burners. Clark, Rupp, Moldenhauer and Belt are not fleet of foot.
Defense: 65. When healthy, Clark might be the nation's best defensive catcher, and Rupp is an able backstop also. Tucker and Hernandez are a very solid double-play tandem, and Rowe gives Texas another very talented defender up the middle.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. Some of the Longhorns' young arms and talented sophomore outfielders still need to prove themselves, but there is no shortage of veteran leadership. Texas coach Augie Garrido is the sport's all-time winningest coach and a master motivator whose teams seldom underachieve, but his mid-January DUI arrest could prove a distraction.
Baseball America OFP: 65. The Longhorns haven't been to Omaha since winning the 2005 national championship. A three-year drought is an eternity in Austin; don't expect it to reach four years.
|5. CAL STATE FULLERTON|
|RHP||Kyle Witten||Jr.||Tr.—Bakersfield (Calif.) JC|
|RP||Tyler Pill||Fr.||HS—Covina, Calif.|
SCOUTING THE TITANS
Bullpen: 55. Fullerton expects to have a freshman closer in Pill, the younger brother of former Titans star Brett Pill. CSF's top recruit, Pill is a premium athlete and fierce competitor who commands an 88-91 mph fastball, good 12-to-6 curveball and excellent changeup. He'll have plenty of help in the pen with So. LHPs Jason Dovel (3-4, 5.32) and Kevin Rath (1-0, 6.48) and Jr. RHPs Ryan Ackland (1-1, 2.10) and Travis Kelly (1-1, 6.53).
Hitting: 65. The Titans lost third-team All-American Erik Komatsu but return seven other starters to a high-octane offense. Fullerton players excel at situational hitting and applying pressure with bunts, and veterans like Scott, Newman and Jones are masters of execution. Colon, Fellhauer and Brown are explosive players who can beat opponents with hard line drives or legging out bunts.
Power: 40. Fullerton does not rely on the long ball, but Clark has well-above-average raw power. With his 2006 knee injury behind him, Clark led the Titans in homers, RBIs, doubles and walks in 2008. Davis has yet to tap into his significant raw power in his first two years at Fullerton. Fellhauer, Colon and Brown have enough bat speed to hit one out on occasion.
Speed: 65. The Titans have good speed, but it plays up further because they are so aggressive on the basepaths, whether stealing or taking the extra base. Brown's well-above-average speed makes him one of the nation's fastest runners, while Colon, Fellhauer, Newman, Davis and Jones are all average or better runners.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The core of Fullerton's 2008 super regional team is intact, although the losses of weekend starters Jeff Kaplan and Cory Arbiso as well as closer Adam Jorgenson leave new faces filling key roles. The "Titan mystique" and talented coaching staff will make sure CSF lives up to lofty expectations.
Baseball America OFP: 65. After falling to Stanford in a home super regional last year, this deep, athletic, experienced unit has all the ingredients to return Cal State Fullerton to Omaha.
|DH||Matt Snyder||Fr.||HS—Centreville, Va.|
SCOUTING THE REBELS
Hitting: 60. The deep, balanced Mississippi lineup returns seven starters. Henry, the 2007 SEC freshman of the year, struggled through a sophomore slump for much of 2008, but he has the ability to be a catalyst atop the lineup. Miller, also a freshman All-American two years ago whose numbers dipped in '08, handles the bat well and could slide into the No. 2 hole, unless the versatile Button fills that role. Power, Ferguson and Hubbard all have the ability to hit for average and could see their numbers spike this spring. Jr. OF David Phillips, a transfer from Texarcana (Texas) JC, is a doubles machine who should see plenty of playing time.
Power: 55. Smith, who clubbed 14 home runs as a freshman, worked hard in the weight room during the offseason and was more physical this fall; he could vie for the national home run title as a sophomore. The 6-foot-5 Snyder and his identical twin brother Mike could eventually have as much power as older brother Brandon, who was a first-round pick of the Orioles in 2005. Power has hit 22 homers in three seasons. Ferguson, Button and Hubbard all have at least occasional pop.
Speed: 55. Henry is a plus-plus runner, while Ferguson and Button have plus speed. Hubbard and Power are each solid runners. Basham, Smith and Snyder prevent Ole Miss from becoming the runnin' Rebels.
Defense: 55. Button missed most of 2008 to injury and the Rebels struggled to replace him at shortstop, turning their defense into a weakness. Healthy again, Button should be a stabilizing force this spring thanks to his reliable hands and strong arm. Basham and Fr. C Taylor Hightower could split time behind the plate, and both have excellent catch-and-throw skills. Henry and Power are good defenders with strong arms in the outfield.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. Ole Miss has experience all over the diamond. Having seniors at the back of the bullpen and behind the plate is a significant advantage, but can they help the Rebels shake their recent string of super regional disappointments?
Baseball America OFP: 65. After falling in supers in three of the last four years, Mississippi looks primed to finally break through and reach the CWS for the first time since 1972.
|2B||Brock Holt||Jr.||Tr.—Navarro (Texas) JC|
|3B||Anthony Rendon||Fr.||HS—Houston, Texas|
|CF||Steven Sultzbaugh||Jr.||Tr.—Weatherford (Texas) JC|
|LHP||Taylor Wall||Fr.||HS—Houston, Texas|
SCOUTING THE OWLS
Bullpen: 45. For the first time since 2004, Rice enters the season without Cole St.Clair in its bullpen. The Owls hope another lefty, Evers, can step into St.Clair's shoes thanks to a plus fastball and good breaking ball. Six-foot-6 Sr. RHP Jordan Rogers threw just five innings last year but threw well in the fall, and Rice hopes to use him as its primary setup man this year. This staff lacks the deep reservoir of proven arms Rice has grown used to, so redshirt sophomores Abel Gonzales and Zack Harwood and redshirt freshman Andy Hamilton need to take steps forward.
Power: 40. Hague, Seastrunk, Buenger and Rendon are all strong enough to hit the ball out of the park now and then, but none is a typical masher. This is an offense built around doubles and tough outs, not the long ball.
Speed: 60. Stolen bases figure to be a bigger part of Rice's attack than in past years. Sultzbaugh and Mozingo have above-average speed, and all four projected starting infielders are solid runners. The ultra-athletic Fuda, also a wide receiver for the Rice football team, also brings very good speed.
Defense: 65. With sure-handed athletes all over the diamond, the Owls should be an exceptional defensive unit. Seastrunk shifts from third base to catcher this year, where he has aptitude and promising catch-and-throw skills but little experience. The undersized Comerota is not a typical first baseman but is very nimble around the bag.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. The Owls have made three straight Omaha trips and feature a number of veterans with experience on the sport's biggest stage. Coach Wayne Graham's teams are always mentally tough, year after year.
Baseball America OFP: 65. This team is constructed differently than recent Rice entries, with less power and fewer proven arms in the bullpen. But the Owls remain the heavy CUSA favorites and strong Omaha contenders.
|2B||Joey Hainsfurther||Fr.||HS—Dallas, Texas|
|CF||Brooks Pinckard||R-Fr.||HS—Buda, Texas|
|DH||Dan Evatt||R-Fr.||HS—Grapevine, Texas|
SCOUTING THE BEARS
Hitting: 55. The Bears have the potential to be very dangerous offensively if ballyhooed 2006 recruits Dickerson, Miller, Campbell and Hansen can put it all together. All four have big-time talent but struggled under the weight of expectations for much of the last two years. Hansen, Hainsfurther and Glime all switch-hit, giving the offense an added dimension. Hainsfurther and Pinckard are scrappy athletes with the ability to bunt and play small ball.
Power: 55. Again, Baylor could be one of the nation's most powerful teams if Dickerson and Miller explode; neither has yet truly unlocked his big raw power. Hansen and Campbell have occasional power, while Booker's lightning-quick hands could translate into serious pop. Evatt was Baylor's best hitter in the fall and also brings power potential.
Speed: 50. Pinckard is a plus-plus runner, and Booker has above-average speed. Miller, Campbell, Hansen and Hainsfurther are all solid runners but not burners. Dickerson runs well for his size.
Defense: 55. Glime, the field general, has good blocking and receiving skills and a strong arm. The three outfielders will cover abundant ground, but the infield range is more of a question mark, especially with Beamer Weems lost to pro ball. All four infielders do have good hands, however.
Experience/Intangibles: 50. Baylor is loaded with veterans, but veterans with a reputation for underachieving. Players like Volz and Glime grew tired of getting an earful from friends at other Big 12 schools and took control of the team in the fall. Their leadership must hold the team together in 2009.
Baseball America OFP: 60. On paper, there is plenty to like about Baylor. But the same was true heading into last year, and the Bears missed regionals. It's now or never for the nation's No. 1 recruiting class in 2006.
|9. UC IRVINE|
|CF||Cory Olson||Jr.||Tr.—Orange Coast (Calif.) JC|
|DH||Brian Hernandez||Jr.||Tr.—Cal State Los Angeles|
|RHP||Brock Bardeen||Sr.||Did not pitch|
SCOUTING THE ANTEATERS
Bullpen: 55. Pettis, who finished one off the national saves lead last year, pounds the strike zone with a sinker and a slider. He's versatile and could see time as a starter as well as a closer on an Irvine staff that lacks proven arms. So. RHP Nick Hoover, a transfer from Riverside (Calif.) JC with a fastball up to 88 and a good slider, is the key setup man.
Hitting: 65. The 'Eaters "should hit one through nine and be able to skill it up," in the words of coach Mike Gillespie. Irvine's offense is very dangerous because all of its players are masters of execution, starting with Orloff, whom Gillespie describes as a "skills grand-master." Like Orloff, Cusick, Stevenson and Madigan are tough outs with excellent plate discipline and good line-drive strokes. Hernandez is the key; one of the strongest players on the team and a gifted hitter (.454 last year at JC of the Canyons), he will likely hit in the No. 3 hole if the NCAA determines he is eligible.
Power: 35. Irvine simply does not rely upon home runs to score—last year they ranked 185th in Division I in homers per game, but led the nation in sacrifice bunts. Larson has the most power on the team and made much more consistent contact as a sophomore than as a freshman. The lefthanded-hitting Bell, who could platoon with righthanded-hitting Sr. OF Tony Asaro, also shows occasional pop.
Speed: 50. The Anteaters are very aggressive on the basepaths, but they lost their only true plus runner in catalyst Ollie Linton, who delivered 40 of their 99 steals last year. Olson, a slightly above-average runner, will try to fill Linton's role. The 'Eaters lack the speed to steal many bases, but they'll hit-and-run and bunt more than anyone.
Experience/Intangibles: 70. Though talented youngsters Tommy Reyes and Matt Summers could play immediately, Irvine figures to start nine upperclassmen at any given time. Most of its regulars were on the 2007 CWS team and the 2008 squad that won the Lincoln Regional. The Anteaters won't get rattled and will do all the things to win that don't show up on the stat sheet.
Baseball America OFP: 60. Irvine was six outs from its second-straight CWS appearance, nursing a five-run lead, before the wheels came off against LSU last year. UCI's veterans will learn from that experience but won't dwell on it—they're too mentally tough. They'll just set their sights back on Omaha.
|SS||Mike Liberto||Jr.||Tr.—Delgado (La.) JC|
|DH||Conner Mach||Fr.||HS—Chesterfield, Mo.|
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
Starting Pitching: 65. Missouri will be without first-team All-American Aaron Crow, who tied for the national lead with 13 wins as a junior before becoming a first-round pick, but its weekend rotation should be strong again anyhow. Gibson is a candidate to go in the top 10 picks of the draft in June, thanks to a lively low-90s fastball and above-average slider. Tepesch has even more arm strength, with a fastball that reaches the mid-90s, but he's still working on commanding his secondary stuff more consistently. He made progress in the fall and could be a major breakout candidate this spring. Berger was nearly as good as Crow in the first half of 2008 before falling off sharply down the stretch. His stuff is fringy but he makes up for it with his guile. So. LHP Kelly Fick, a command-and-control competitor, will compete with power-armed So. RHP Tyler Clark for midweek starts.
Hitting: 60. Slugger Jacob Priday is gone, but the other eight starters return, making this potentially the best Missouri offense in the Tim Jamieson era. The switch-hitting Folgia is a sparkplug with some pop atop the lineup. Lollis and Gray have a knack for delivering big hits, while Senne and Coleman could challenge for Big 12 Player of the Year honors. Conner Mach, the best prep hitter in the state of Missouri last spring, should be much more dangerous offensively than older brother Kyle.
Power: 55. Senne has big lefthanded power, and Gray has even more. Coleman and Folgia are capable of hitting occasional homers. Conner Mach can launch balls with a simple flick of his wrists; he provides a key source of righthanded pop.
Speed: 40. Liberto, who runs the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds, is the fastest runner on the team, but Lollis and Folgia can move just fine also.
Defense: 65. Coleman and Lollis are standout defenders up the middle. The middle infield was a weakness last year that should improve in 2009, with defensive whiz Liberto winning the shortstop job, Thigpen sliding from short to second, and Folgia moving from second to left field. Folgia and Senne have plus arms on the outfield corners, and Mach could be the best defensive third baseman in the Big 12.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. The only spots where Missouri lacks experience are in the bullpen and the Saturday starter spot, where Tepesch still must make good on his superb talent.
Baseball America OFP: 60. Missouri is a shoo-in to make its seventh straight regional appearance and could finally end its 45-year CWS drought. As Jamieson put it, "This is an experienced group that feels this is a statement year."
|11. SAN DIEGO
|LF||Bryan Haar||Fr.||HS—La Mesa, Calif.|
SCOUTING THE TOREROS
Hitting: 50. The Toreros invest a high percentage of their scholarship dollars in pitching, so scoring runs can be a struggle—they scored 6.4 runs per game in 2008, ranking 150th in the nation. But while USD's lineup is not very deep, it features a number of solid college hitters with a knack for putting the bat on the ball. Muno and Nicol are scrappy table-setters who should get on base ahead of middle-of-the-order hitters Sanchez, Meador, Haar and Valerio. Walters is the real pick to click, a switch-hitter with a pretty stroke and strength in his 6-foot-3 frame.
Power: 40. Sanchez has massive power, but there's no real bopper to protect him in the lineup. Meador and Valerio have occasional pop, while Haar and Walters are physical, athletic specimens who could turn into decent power threats. The rest of the offense has little juice.
Speed: 45. San Diego would find it easier to manufacture runs if it had more speed. Muno and Nicol are solid runners, but there's little speed after that.
Defense: 55. McCoy, Nicol and Muno give USD three quality veterans with sound defensive skills up the middle. Meador is another strong defender, while Sanchez, Haar and Walters have the tools to be also, with experience.
Experience/Intangibles: 50. Every expected contributor save Haar and Jensen have some meaningful Division I experience, but no Torero has post-regional experience. USD must prove it has the toughness to follow a strong regular season by winning a regional.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Even without Matusz and Romanski, this could be the year San Diego gets over the regional hump.
|C||Steve Rodriguez||Fr.||HS—Bellflower, Calif.|
|1B||Alex Weber-Shapiro||Jr.||Tr.—Claremont McKenna (Calif.)|
|SS||Tyler Rahmatulla||Fr.||HS—Santa Ana, Calif.|
|RHP||Gerrit Cole||Fr.||HS—Orange, Calif.|
SCOUTING THE BRUINS
Bullpen: 65. The Bruins have an extraordinarily deep bullpen anchored by a steady senior closer in Lafferty, who led the team in appearances as a junior. He attacks hitters with a 90-92 mph fastball and good slider. So. RHP Dan Klein and Fr. RHP Trevor Bauer each own quality four-pitch repertoires and will join Cole in the rotation in future years, but for now they'll strengthen the pen. So. LHP Matt Grace, Sr. RHP Jason Novak, Jr. RHP Garrett Claypool and Jr. LHP Matt Drummond all have quality arms, while R-Fr. RHP Eric Goeddel has enormous potential and is finally back from Tommy John surgery.
Power: 55. Again, this rating could be selling the Bruins short if Decker and Cohen come back strong; Cohen, in particular, has a chiseled frame and plus big league power potential, but his swing gets long and mechanical. Haerther and Weber-Shapiro should both reach double-digit homers, and Dunlap has some pop as well. So. OF Brett Krill and Fr. 3B Chris Amezquita bring power off the bench.
Speed: 50. Dunlap and reserve OF Raul Duran are plus runners, while Uribe, Cohen, Rahmatulla and Gallego are all at least solid-average.
Defense: 50. Rahmatulla and Gallego have the talent to be a special middle infield, but both must prove themselves at the Division I level. Rodriguez has solid catch-and-throw skills, and all three outfielders have good range. Haerther profiles as a first baseman in pro ball and could be a liability at third against bunt-happy West Coast offenses.
Experience/Intangibles: 50. UCLA lost a number of regulars from last year's underachieving bunch (Brandon Crawford, Jermaine Curtis, Alden Carrithers and Tim Murphy, among others), but there are some key veterans remaining. Until the Bruins prove they can win in the postseason with their exceptional talent, doubts about their toughness will linger. New assistant coach Rick Vanderhook, a longtime assistant at nemesis Cal State Fullerton, could be just the no-nonsense man the Bruins need.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Expectations are more cautious after the preseason No. 1-ranked Bruins struggled through much of 2008, but they still have top-end talent.
|13. ARIZONA STATE
|C||Carlos Ramirez||Jr.||Tr.—Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) CC|
|1B||Jared McDonald||Jr.||Tr.—Pima (Ariz.) CC|
|2B||Zack MacPhee||Fr.||HS—Phoenix, Ariz.|
|SS||Riccio Torrez||Fr.||HS—Phoenix, Ariz.|
|LF||Kole Calhoun||Jr.||Tr.—Yavapai (Ariz.) CC|
|DH||Jordan Swagerty||Fr.||HS—Sachse, Texas|
|LHP||Josh Spence||Jr.||Tr.—Central Arizona JC|
|RP||Jordan Swagerty||Fr.||HS—Sachse, Texas|
SCOUTING THE SUN DEVILS
Hitting: 65. With the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, Arizona State managed to reload effectively after losing All-Americans and first-round picks Brett Wallace and Ike Davis, plus mainstays Petey Paramore and Kiel Roling. JC transfers Ramirez, Calhoun and McDonald shouldn't miss a beat in the Pac-10; all three have quick bats and the patient approach that ASU covets. MacPhee, Newman and the two Torrezes offer solid line-drive strokes. As usual under Pat Murphy, the Sun Devils will run up pitch counts and punish mistakes. The bench is deep, and there is a strong balance of righthanded and lefthanded hitters.
Power: 55. This isn't the slugging ASU team that has bludgeoned opponents with the long ball in recent years, but Kipnis is a good power hitter, and Wilson has a chance to be even better. Ramirez, the Northwoods League home run leader last summer, and Calhoun also could reach double-digit homers.
Speed: 50. MacPhee is an electric player who runs the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds. Kipnis is a plus runner with good baserunning instincts, and every other regular save Ramirez runs fairly well.
Defense: 50. Ramirez has a plus arm but has drawn mixed reviews for his receiving. MacPhee and Riccio Torrez have a chance to be a dynamite double-play tandem, but starting two freshmen in the middle infield is a risk. The rest of the defense should be sound.
Experience/Intangibles: 50. ASU will be breaking in plenty of new players, but veterans like Leake and Raoul Torrez are stabilizing forces. And Murphy's teams always have a certain swagger.
Baseball America OFP: 55. After a dominant regular season, the Sun Devils were stunned by eventual national champ Fresno State in super regionals a year ago. They're talented enough to redeem themselves in 2009.
|2B||Levi Hyams||Fr.||HS—Stafford, Va.|
|3B||Colby May||Fr.||HS—Guyton, Ga.|
|RF||Chase Davidson||Fr.||HS—Milton, Ga.|
|RHP||Michael Palazzone||Fr.||HS—Marietta, Ga.|
SCOUTING THE BULLDOGS
Hitting: 45. The Bulldogs will find it impossible to replace All-America shortstop Gordon Beckham, who plastered his name all over the school's record book, and savvy veterans Ryan Piesel and Matt Olson will be missed as well. Georgia will plug its holes with no fewer than three freshmen playing everyday roles, and there figures to be a learning curve. The lineup is built around three talented veterans in Poythress, Massanari and Cerione, the latter of whom made better contact and showed an all-fields approach in the fall. Demperio and Sr. DH Adam Fuller are older players with much to prove offensively. Lewis has a history of clutch hits.
Power: 55. Poythress has blossomed into one of the nation's pre-eminent home run hitters. Massanari and Cerione figure to reach double figures in homers this year as well. The 6-foot-5 Davidson, an unsigned third-round pick, has massive lefthanded power potential but has a reputation as a streaky hitter.
Speed: 45. This lineup has some cloggers in Massanari, Poythress and Lewis, but Cerione is a good basestealer. Fr. OFs John Taylor and Zach Cone (an unsigned third-rounder) are plus runners who will swipe plenty of bases over the next three years and could push Allen for playing time immediately.
Defense: 40. Having two freshmen on the infield could lead to some growing pains, though both May and Hyams project as solid defenders. Demperio played second base his first two college years and now must slide to short. Massanari and Lewis will split time behind the plate, but neither is a strong defender.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. There are a number of key holdovers from last year's CWS Finals team, particularly on the mound, but in the end Georgia's freshmen must step forward for the Bulldogs to get back to Omaha.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Georgia has some unfinished business after coming so close to a national title in June. But odd years have not been kind to the Dawgs in the David Perno era: they went to Omaha in 2004, '06 and '08 but missed regionals in '05 and '07.
SCOUTING THE CARDINAL
Starting Pitching: 55. The Cardinal reached Omaha last year with a rotation that included one power arm (Inman), two innings-eaters without dominant stuff (Erik Davis and Austin Yount) and an electric lefty who served as a reinforcement down the stretch (Jeremy Bleich). The formula could be similar in 2009. Inman showed a lively low-90s fastball, good curveball and changeup in the Cape Cod League last summer, and he could emerge as an All-American and first-round pick this spring. Sandbrink and Fearnow are far from overpowering, but both compete with three pitches and use their changeups well. Fr. LHP Brett Mooneyham flashes a plus fastball and plus slider and could force his way into the weekend rotation if he can harness his stuff early on.
Bullpen: 60. Storen handled the closer duties as a freshman and should be even better with a year of experience under his belt. He has an aggressive mound demeanor, a plus fastball and a good, hard breaking ball. Sr. LHP Blake Hancock and Jr. RHP Brandt Walker give the Cardinal a pair of veterans to work the middle innings. Stanford's pitching-rich freshman class could factor in as well, particularly LHPs Scott Snodgress and Chris Reed and RHPs Brian Busick and Jordan Pries.
Hitting: 45. All-America catcher Jason Castro was to Stanford's offense what Gordon Beckham was to Georgia's, and Castro will be missed as much, but Cord Phelps, Sean Ratliff and Randy Molina are also significant losses. Milleville was a great supporting bat in that offense a year ago, but now he'll be the centerpiece of the lineup. Gerhart and Kaskow have the most upside of any hitters on the team and must take major steps forward. August and Whitlow provide solid but not special lefthanded bats. The switch-hitting Walsh is a tough out from both sides. Any offense Jones and Schlander provide is a bonus.
Speed: 50. Gerhart, who set the school's single-season rushing record on the gridiron in the fall, is a gifted athlete and plus runner. Whitlow and August are also solid runners, but there is little speed elsewhere.
Defense: 65. Schlander's stellar defense at short was one of the keys to the success of the 2008 Cardinal. The athletic Jones is a strong defender at third who is also sound behind the plate, where Clowe also has the tools to be solid. All three outfielders have great range and instincts.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. Stanford returns six regulars who topped more than 100 at-bats a year ago and four pitchers who topped 40 innings. The Cardinal's coaching staff is one of the best around.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Stanford regained some of its mojo by reaching Omaha last year for the first time since 2003. Another CWS run will depend on the development of premium talents like Gerhart, Kaskow and Mooneyham.
|RF||Kaleb Herren||Jr.||Tr.—North Central Texas JC|
|DH||Ross Hubbard||Jr.||Tr.—Navarro (Texas) JC|
|LHP||J.R. Robinson||Jr.||Tr.—New Mexico JC|
SCOUTING THE SOONERS
Bullpen: 50. Duke is a fine athlete with a quick arm who fields his position well and exudes confidence on the mound. Jr. RHP Chase Anderson keeps hitters off balance with a solid four-pitch mix and should be the primary setup man. The X-factor is Sr. RHP Stephen Porlier, the former Oklahoma ace who had surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in March. He was throwing again in the fall and could be a key bullpen piece if he can regain his arm strength and confidence.
Hitting: 65. Seven starters return from a lineup that powered the Sooners to the finals of the Tempe Regional last year. Jamie Johnson is the catalyst in the leadoff spot, a gap-to-gap hitter with occasional home run pop and a patient batting eye. Seng, an accomplished bunter who makes consistent contact, could be a good fit for the No. 2 spot. Casey Johnson, Baker and Hubbard provide lefthanded threats in the middle of the lineup, while Hernandez and Harughty can make things happen lower in the order.
Speed: 50. Both Johnsons are good runners, especially Jamie, and Seng has speed as well. Harughty and Hernandez are savvy baserunners, but the rest of the lineup offers little speed.
Defense: 60. The strength of the defense is the outfield, where Johnson and Johnson both have very good range, and shortstop, where Hernandez is a stabilizing force. R-Fr. 3B Garrett Buchele, the son of ex-big leaguer Steve, is a defensive whiz who could force his way into the lineup, shifting Harughty to second and Seng to a super-sub role. Wise is solid behind the plate, and Baker can fill in there also.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. Mike Gosse and Aljay Davis are the only meaningful losses from last year's regionals team.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Coach Sunny Golloway has said the Sooners finally have boosted the program's talent level back to where it was when he was an OU assistant in the mid-90s, when Oklahoma made three Omaha trips and won a national title. OU's 14-year CWS drought could end this year if its arms mature as hoped.
|3B||Colin Rooney||Jr.||Tr.—Saddleback (Calif.) CC|
|CF||Brian Humphries||Fr.||HS—El Cajon, Calif.|
|DH||Aaron Gates||Fr.||HS—Orange, Calif.|
SCOUTING THE WAVES
Bullpen: 60. Gaudi ranked fourth nationally in saves last year and then racked up 13 more while posting a 1.35 ERA in the Northwoods League, where he ranked as the No. 10 prospect because of his devastating split-finger and not his fringy 88-90 mph fastball. Pepperdine's bullpen has a chance to be really special if towering power righties Tyler Hess and Cole Cook blossom in their second year in Malibu. Gates is a polished lefty who will see meaningful innings also.
Hitting: 55. Pepperdine welcomes back six returning starters but must find a way to replace its two most dangerous hitters in Eric Thames and Chase d'Arnaud. From top to bottom, the Waves have players with good bat-handling skills, but they lack a true middle-of-the-order threat. Mendonca will create plenty of havoc in the leadoff hole. Harris and Humphries have the most explosive bats, and Heroy has a flair for the dramatic. Rooney had a good fall with the bat but most overcome the death of his brother Patrick (a former Pepperdine regular) in a January plane crash.
Power: 30. The Waves have no proven power hitters and will have to manufacture runs. They hope the switch-hitting Harris and righthanded-hitting Rooney will blossom into their surprise power sources, but they might not have any double-digit home run hitters in 2009.
Defense: 70. In 2008, the Waves ranked seventh in the nation in fielding percentage and double plays, and they could be even stronger defensively this year with the addition of Humphries in center field. Duron and Mendonca are steady senior middle infielders with good range, and Diedrich is a leader behind the plate. All four corners should be strong also.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. Humphries and Gates could be the top two freshmen in the West Coast Conference, and the Waves will have experienced veterans at every other spot.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Pepperdine has been to six straight regionals but hasn't won one since its 1992 national title team. The 2009 Waves have a few questions but are experienced, deep and athletic enough to get Pepperdine to its first super regional.
|18. KENT STATE
SCOUTING THE FLASHES
Hitting: 65. With all of Kent State's power arms, it's easy to overlook the bats, but that would be a mistake. This is a deep, balanced offense with eight returning starters. Tremblay is a mature leadoff man with gap-to-gap power and a keen batting eye. Rohan, Gallas and Klafczynski are more than just boppers, as all three can hit to all fields. Hindel and Weibley struggled offensively last year, but both are decent situational hitters.
Power: 60. The Golden Flashes have a powerful core anchored by Rohan, who led the MAC in homers last year and has delivered plenty of timely hits in his career. There might not be a more physical outfield in the country than Klafczynski, Bartholomew and Gallas, all of whom should reach double digits in homers. Patton has just seven career homers but does have some strength in his swing.
Speed: 45. Running is not a big part of the Kent State attack, but the Flashes have a number of quality athletes who run fairly well. Humphreys is the fastest and most instinctive of the lot, but Weibley, Tremblay and the three outfielders are decent runners also.
Defense: 45. This is the biggest question the Flashes must answer in 2009. Hindel, Weibley, Humphreys and Bartholomew have the skills to be very solid up the middle, but Kent State's coaches are simply concerned about defensive consistency.
Experience/Intangibles: 50. The Flashes have veterans all over the field, but the program has never advanced past regionals. Until it does, it's hard to regard the Flashes as a strong Omaha contender.
Baseball America OFP: 55. The MAC has not earned more than one regional bid since 1994, so if the Golden Flashes slip up in their conference tournament as they did in 2008, they could be left out in the cold, no matter how talented they are. But if they get hot at the right time, they could make a lot of postseason noise.
|C||Phil Pohl||Fr.||HS—Cooperstown, N.Y.|
|3B||Jason Stolz||Fr.||HS—Marietta, Ga.|
|*Stats from 2007|
|LHP||Chris Dwyer||Fr.||HS—Salisbury, Conn.|
SCOUTING THE TIGERS
Hitting: 60. As deep as the Tigers are on the mound, they might be deeper on the diamond, where competition for starting jobs will be thick. Stolz and fellow touted freshman Brad Miller are both big, strong and fast and will compete for jobs on the left side of the infield with So. 3B John Hinson and Widmann. The small but dynamic Johnson makes Clemson go out of the leadoff spot, and when he was lost for the 2008 season with a hand injury, the Tigers tanked. Freeman is a classic No. 2 hole hitter with good bat-handling skills. Schaus might be the best pure hitter on the team, a line-drive machine with a great feel for the strike zone. So. OF Chris Epps, another fine athlete with a promising bat, will battle for at-bats with Schaus and Boyd.
Power: 60. Paulsen and Parker are the best power-hitting duo in the ACC and provide much of the thunder in this offense. Boyd, Schaus, Johnson and Hinson have occasional pop, while Stolz and Epps project for good power in the future.
Speed: 50. Johnson, Stolz and Miller are plus runners. Schaus, Freeman, Hinson and Widmann are decent runners. Fr. OF Will Lamb provides plus-plus speed off the bench.
Defense: 50. Defense behind the plate is uncertain, as the freshman Pohl replaces departed senior Doug Hogan. Pohl is promising but unproven as a defender. The infield remains unsettled, but the Tigers should be OK with either Widmann or the very slick Miller at short. Johnson is a stellar defensive center fielder.
Experience/Intangibles: 50. Clemson has plenty of returning starters, but young players will play a large role. The Tigers must gel better than they did in 2008, when they missed regionals for the first time since 1986.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Injuries and underachievers torpedoed last year's Tigers, but Clemson appears deep enough to withstand any number of setbacks in 2009. This program has been too good for too long to stay down for two years in a row. More importantly, Clemson is too talented.
|20. GEORGIA TECH
|RHP||Zach Von Tersch||Jr.||7||5||4.33||73||49||0|
|RP||Mark Pope||Fr.||HS—Marietta, Ga.|
SCOUTING THE YELLOW JACKETS
Bullpen: 45. Tech will miss steady Brad Rulon and enigmatic Chris Hicks, who combined for 16 saves last year. The Jackets will lean on a freshman to close in Pope, who can reach 93 mph and has an excellent hard-breaking curveball. So. RHP Kevin Jacob, who threw 30 innings last year, is the most experienced arm in a bullpen that features plenty of lefthanded options in sophomores Zach Brewster and Taylor Wood and freshman Jake Davies (brother of big leaguer Kyle). Nichols and Long could factor into the pen from the right side, as both threw well in the fall.
Hitting: 55. For the first time in years, the Yellow Jackets boast complete two-deeps at every position, giving them insurance in case starters falter or get hurt. Making consistent contact and playing small ball won't be strengths of this offense—most of the Jackets are going to grip it and rip it. Tech's lineup leans lefthanded, which makes the production of righthanded hitters Murton, Haniger and House key. Talented freshmen Matt Skole and Brandon Miller could be impact bats early on.
Speed: 45. Rowland, Burnette and House provide the wheels in an offense that will rely more on the long ball than the stolen base.
Defense: 45. Rowland is an outstanding defender in center. Dietrich has a strong arm but limited range at the crucial shortstop position, and Murton lacks quickness in the outfield.
Experience/Intangibles: 50. Vets like Murton, Haniger and Plagman have been around the block, but the inexperience in the bullpen is a significant concern.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Youngsters like Dietrich, Rowland, Plagman, Nichols and McGuire gained valuable experience last year and could be ready to carry Georgia Tech past regionals for the first time since 2006. Even if the young bullpen takes its lumps, Georgia Tech should be able to bludgeon opponents with the long ball.
|LF||Taylor Dugas||Fr.||HS—Lafayette, La.|
|DH||Clay Jones||Jr.||Tr.—Shelton State (Ala.) CC|
|LHP||Adam Morgan||Fr.||HS—Marietta, Ga.|
SCOUTING THE CRIMSON TIDE
Bullpen: 60. Howell struggled with his command for most of his first two seasons before blossoming last summer, when he ranked as the top prospect in the Texas Collegiate League thanks to an explosive 90-93 mph fastball and biting 12-to-6 curve. So. RHP Jimmy Nelson was another TCL standout, showing an 88-92 power sinker and solid slider. Junior college transfers Adam Scott and Scott Hays are strike-throwers who work in the mid-to-upper 80s and own decent breaking balls. So. RHP Austin Evans is the sleeper: he has an electric fastball that tops out at 94 and a sharp 12-to-6 curve, and he began to reign in his wildness in the Northwoods League last summer.
Hitting: 60. Alabama could have one of the nation's best all-around infields, as Rutledge, Wilson and May are all significant offensive threats. The gritty Rutledge figures to be a sparkplug in the No. 2 hole, assuming Dugas (the lone lefthanded hitter in the projected starting lineup) acquits himself well in the leadoff spot. Moore and Sr. C Vincent DiFazio will platoon behind the plate, and both can swing it. Kubal and Smith won't give at-bats away lower in the order.
Speed: 50. Dugas is a plus runner who is disruptive on the basepaths, earning comparisons to former Vanderbilt leadoff man David Macias. Kubal and Rutledge also have above-average speed, and Wilson is a solid runner as well.
Defense: 65. The fleet-footed outfielders will cover plenty of ground. Rutledge and Smith are excellent defenders on the left side of the infield, and Wilson is very reliable at second. Moore and DiFazio both have solid catch-and-throw skills.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The Crimson Tide exceeded expectations in reaching regionals last year, and most of the key players on that team are back. Having a pair of seniors atop the rotation who have been through the rigors of SEC play is a nice luxury.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Alabama should be strong enough offensively and defensively to make up for any pitching deficiencies.
|3B||Zack Cox||Fr.||HS—Louisville, Ky.|
|DH||Travis Sample||So.||Tr.—Howard (Texas) JC|
|RHP||T.J. Forrest||Jr.||Tr.—Bossier Parish (La.) CC|
|RP||Zack Cox||Fr.||HS—Louisville, KY|
SCOUTING THE RAZORBACKS
Hitting: 60. Leavitt and Tschepikow give the Hogs a pair of very mature hitters with superior strike-zone awareness at the top of the lineup. Wilkins, Eibner and Cox have a chance to be a lethal trio in the middle of the lineup, though Eibner and Cox are still just scratching the surface of their potential. House is a breakout candidate, with the ability to hit for average and some power. The bottom of the lineup has holes with Cisterna and Lyons, but both will deliver occasional big hits.
Power: 65. Wilkins, who missed a month last year with a pulled muscle in his rib cage, could challenge for the SEC homer title with a full healthy season. Cox and Eibner project for huge power, and Sample has already proven himself as a slugger, blasting 19 homers for Howard JC last year and ranking as the No. 10 prospect in the Texas Collegiate League in the summer. Cisterna can hit the ball a long way when he connects.
Speed: 50. Leavitt is one of the SEC's fastest runners and a smart basestealer. Tschepikow is similarly savvy and fairly fleet-footed in his own right. Eibner is another good runner, but there's little speed elsewhere.
Defense: 60. Up-the-middle defense should be a strength for Arkansas. Cisterna has strong catch-and-throw skills, and the double-play combination is very reliable. Eibner has a chance to be special in center, and Leavitt and House cover plenty of ground on the corners.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. Leavitt, Lyons, Tschepikow and Cisterna provide enviable senior leadership. Coach Dave Van Horn and his staff do a great job getting their teams to play hard every year.
Baseball America OFP: 50. Arkansas has a rare blend of power and defense and could be very dangerous in the postseason if its pitching holds up.
|2B||Adam Duvall||Jr.||Tr.—Chipola (Fla.) JC|
|RP||Tony Zych||Fr.||HS—Chicago, Ill.|
SCOUTING THE CARDINALS
Hitting: 55. The Cardinals return eight of nine starters from their 2008 Big East championship team. Coach Dan McDonnell said the scrappy Dao might be the most important player on the team, a catalyst who does everything well. Duvall, the lone newcomer in the lineup, must replace last year's leading hitter in Justin McClanahan, but his tools evoke former Louisville star Logan Johnson. The physical Ijames is the best pure hitter on the team and gives the Cards another big lefthanded threat along with the power-hitting Clark. Richmond, Wunderlich and Haynes could take steps forward as sophomores, as all three have a good feel for hitting.
Power: 55. Dominguez has legitimate plus-plus power and could be the safest bet to lead the nation in homers. Everyone else in the order benefits from the fear he engenders in opposing pitchers. Clark has plus raw power and could see his long ball numbers spike. Ijames and Duvall are threats to reach double-digits in homers.
Speed: 45. Dao and Haynes have some speed but did not run very often in 2008. Dominguez, Clark, Arnold and Richmond are all quality athletes who run better than you might think, but speed really is not their game.
Defense: 60. Dao and Duvall should be steady in the middle infield, and Arnold is a strong defender behind the plate. Dominguez has a huge arm, and Richmond offers more arm strength in right. Haynes has good range in center.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. Louisville returns plenty of at-bats and an experienced ace in Marks, but the rest of the pitching staff is less proven.
Baseball America OFP: 50. The Cardinals are the strong favorites to win the Big East and could push to host a regional. Zych and Landers will be thrown right into the fire and must respond positively.
|24. FLORIDA STATE
|1B||Mike Meschke||Jr.||Tr.—North Florida CC|
|*Stats from 2007|
|LHP||Sean Gilmartin||Fr.||HS—Moorpark, Calif.|
SCOUTING THE SEMINOLES
Bullpen: 50. Florida State has the luxury of turning the ball over to a pair of seniors at the back of the bullpen in Marshall and fellow righty Bo O'Dell. Both have fairly firm but not overpowering stuff, and neither gives in to hitters. Freshmen should play a prominent role here as well, as LHP Kris Castellanos can reach 90 and has a good overhand curveball, while RHP Hunter Scantling has an imposing 6-foot-7 build and good feel for pitching. The Seminoles could have used lefty Kyle Long, their top recruit who transferred to a Virginia junior college after struggling academically in the fall.
Hitting: 65. Without mashers Buster Posey, Jack Rye and Dennis Guinn, the character of FSU's offense will be different, but it will be dangerous as usual. The 'Noles drive pitchers insane with their patience—they led the nation with 435 walks in 2008. No leadoff man in America works the count better than Holt, who ranked second nationally with 64 walks and reached base in all 55 regular-season games. He and Stidham will constantly be on base ahead of Tapley, McGee, Meschke and Oravetz, in some order. Expect competitive at-bats up and down the lineup and hard line drive after hard line drive.
Speed: 50. Holt and Richardson have game-changing speed, and the uber-athletic McGee is a good runner in his own right. Stidham and Danesh move around well also. The Seminoles seldom rely on the stolen base, however.
Defense: 40. This was Florida State's Achilles' heel in 2008, when it ranked 172nd in the nation with a .960 fielding percentage and unraveled defensively in Omaha. Stidham played third base and second in his first two years and now will try to stabilize shortstop, but it's not his natural position. Oravetz spent last year as the primary DH and figures to be just adequate with the glove at second. Tapley can be exploited on bunts at third, and Meschke is a liability at first with poor range. The outfield should cover plenty of ground, though, and Brunelle has a chance to be steady behind the plate.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. The biggest question about the Seminoles is their lack of starting pitching experience, but they do have a pair of seniors in the pen. And it's never a good idea to doubt Mike Martin's ability to squeeze every last ounce of ability out of his pitchers.
Baseball America OFP: 50. Pitching and defense weren't Florida State's strengths last year either, and that team brought FSU back to Omaha for the first time since 2000. But this team doesn't have national Player of the Year Buster Posey to lead the way.
|25. OREGON STATE
|1B||Jared Norris||So.||Tr.—Yavapai (Ariz.) CC|
|2B||Adalberto Santos||Jr.||Tr.—New Mexico JC|
|3B||Stefen Romero||So.||Tr.—Pima (Ariz.) CC|
|RF||Logan Lotti||Jr.||Tr.—Sierra (Calif.) JC|
SCOUTING THE BEAVERS
Hitting: 45. The Beavers have plenty of question marks in the lineup, where transfers Norris, Santos, Romero and Lotti must translate their junior college success to the Division I level. Santos, who led the NJCAA in hitting in 2007 before sitting out 2008, could make the biggest impact of that group. Norris and Romero both have patient approaches and good line-drive strokes. Ortiz is another disciplined hitter, and he's proven he can hit in the Pac-10. Wong's offensive progress was disappointing last year but the Beavers say he took a step forward in the fall. Casey, son of coach Pat Casey, also had a good fall, spraying the ball to all fields.
Power: 30. Lotti, who slugged 13 homers last year at Sierra JC, is the lone real power threat on the team. Norris has occasional pop as well but managed just two homers last spring. The Beavers rarely sit back and wait for three-run homers anyway.
Speed: 65. Kahalehoe has excellent speed but must get on base in order to use it. Santos is another plus runner, as are key reserves So. 2B John Tommasini, Fr. OF Brent Warren and So. OF Michael Miller. Wallace and Wong also run well. The Beavers will have to compensate for their lack of power by using their speed to manufacture runs.
Defense: 70. The Beavers were always strong up the middle during their three straight CWS appearances this decade, and they should be again in 2009. Ortiz and Wong are among the best in the nation at their respective positions. Romero and agile Fr. 3B Carter Bell should compete at third, and both are good with the glove, especially Bell. Santos and Tommasini are both smooth at second. The outfielders have very good range, and Lotti has a plus arm.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. Unparalleled confidence and a complete devotion to team-first principles carried the Beavers to two national titles, but the mystique took a hit when the two-time defending champs failed to make regionals in 2008. Veterans like Wong, Reyes and Wallace—not to mention the coaching staff—have valuable CWS experience, but the highly touted sophomores and all the newcomers have never taken the field at Rosenblatt Stadium. This team needs to find its swagger again.
Baseball America OFP: 50. Pitching and defense will have to carry Oregon State back to Omaha, because its bats are unlikely to.