2012 Preseason College Top 25 Capsules




Follow me on Twitter

About Our Grades

We love the 20-80 scouting scale at Baseball America; we use it to assess everything from prospects to lunch spots. So we subject our preseason top 25 rankings to the same scrutiny.

Scouts grade prospects on how their tools compare with those of an average major leaguer, but we are rating teams relative to an average college baseball team with NCAA tournament aspirations. In addition to grading our top 25 teams on typical tools like hitting for average, hitting for power, speed and defense, we have divided the fifth tool (arm) into two categories: starting pitching and bullpen. We're also giving teams a grade for Experience/Intangibles—think of it as a team's "makeup", if you like. For each category, a grade of 50 is average, comparable to a typical NCAA tournament contender; 60 is above-average; 70 is well above-average; 40 is below-average; and 30 is well below-average. Twenty and 80 are the extreme limits in each direction.

Finally, each team is given an Overall Future Potential (OFP) grade. The OFP scale:

80: A team for the ages. An overwhelming favorite with no obvious weaknesses. Think 1981 Arizona State or 1996 Louisiana State—and, this year, Florida.

70: Elite. A leading contender for the national title. (Stanford, South Carolina, Arkansas.)

65: Well-above-average. Legitimate championship contender. (Arizona, Rice.)

60: Above-average. Strong Omaha contender. (Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Louisiana State, North Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Texas, UCLA.)

55: Slightly above-average. A threat to win a conference title and perhaps reach Omaha. (Texas Christian, Clemson, Arizona State, Miami, Oklahoma, Florida State.)

50: Solid-average. Strong NCAA tournament teams who could make a postseason run. (Central Florida, Mississippi, Oregon State, Louisville, Cal State Fullerton.)

Remember, of course, that ranking teams is far from an exact science, and there will doubtless be surprises and disappointments as the season unfolds. But we think applying the 20-80 scale is an interesting way to gauge each team's projected strengths and weaknesses heading into the season.

1. FLORIDA
2011 Record (Ranking): 53-19 (2). RPI: 2.

Coach (Record at school): Kevin O'Sullivan (176-82, 4 years).

Postseason History: 27 regional appearances (active streak: 4), 7 CWS appearances (active streak: 2), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Mike Zunino, Jr. .371 .442 .674 19 67 7
1B Austin Maddox, Jr. .280 .327 .368 6 35 1
2B Casey Turgeon, Fr. HS—Palm Harbor, Fla.
3B Zack Powers, So. .250 .314 .344 0 7 0
SS Nolan Fontana, Jr. .289 .414 .434 5 49 6
LF Daniel Pigott, Sr. .331 .375 .479 5 40 15
CF Tyler Thompson, Sr. .264 .331 .364 1 17 3
RF Preston Tucker, Sr. .308 .381 .545 15 74 5
DH Brian Johnson, Jr. .307 .381 .464 5 29 2
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Hudson Randall, Jr. 11 3 2.17 124 73 0
RHP Karsten Whitson, So 8 1 2.40 97 92 0
LHP Brian Johnson, Jr. 8 3 3.62 80 72 0
RP Steven Rodriguez, Jr. 4 2 1.91 38 44 2
 
Hitting: 70. Florida's lineup has outstanding depth, with six mainstays back in the everyday lineup, four other returnees who played valuable part-time roles a year ago, and a talented group of newcomers led by 5-foot-9 scrappers Turgeon and Josh Tobias. Fontana's remarkable plate discipline (105 walks, 59 strikeouts in two seasons) makes him one of the nation's premier catalysts. Tucker also has more walks (92) than strikeouts (80) in his Florida career, making him a lefthanded slugger who is also a tough out. The rest of the lineup is more aggressive. Pigott and Thompson are streaky hitters who make this lineup extremely dangerous when they are locked in.

Power: 70. Few teams can match Florida's thump in the heart of the order. Zunino and Maddox both have huge raw power from the right side, though Maddox did not adapt as well to the BBCOR bats. Johnson and Tucker—who made TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha look small with a long homer in the College World Series—bring plus power from the left side. Pigott, Thompson, Fontana, Powers and even Turgeon all have at least occasional pop.

Speed: 45. Florida ranked 229th in the nation in steals per game last year. Fontana, Pigott and Thompson are decent runners, while Tobias and fellow freshman Cory Reid bring plus speed off the bench.

Defense: 60. Fontana is as reliable as college shortstops get, and Turgeon has similar defensive ability at second base, where he'll replace steady Josh Adams. Thompson is aggressive in center but lacks arm strength and is better suited for left field. Zunino has sound catch-and-throw skills. The Gators are decent but not special on the corners. Maddox, Johnson and Vickash Ramjit will all see action at first.

Hudson Randall (Photo by Danny Parker)
Starting Pitching: 75. Florida welcomes back its entire weekend rotation, fronted by Randall, a dogged competitor with pinpoint command of his four-pitch mix and excellent sink on his fastball, making up for below-average velocity. Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in 2010, has premium stuff—a mid-90s fastball, a power slider in the mid-to-high 80s and a rapidly improving changeup. Johnson might be the nation's best Sunday starter, with advanced feel for a polished three-pitch repertoire from the left side. Fr. RHP John Magliozzi makes up for his smallish size with a big arm and plenty of tenacity, making him the front-runner for Florida's primary midweek starter job.

Bullpen: 70. Even after losing mainstays Nick Maronde, Anthony DeSclafani and Tommy Toledo, Florida's bullpen remains rock-solid. Rodriguez's fastball-cutter combo is devastating, and he looks more confident than ever heading into his junior year. Maddox worked hard on his pitching in the fall, showing a heavy mid-90s fastball and better feel for his wipeout power slider. Sr. RHP Greg Larson is a proven sinkerballer, while sophomores Jonathon Crawford, Keenan Kish and Daniel Gibson are less proven but very talented, and coming off strong springs. Transfer Ryan Harris gives this unit a different look—his herky-jerky, three-quarters delivery has effort and deception, and his low-to-mid-90s fastball has very heavy sink.

Experience/Intangibles: 75. The Gators are loaded with veterans of their two Omaha runs over the last two years. The roster is stocked with winning players, and the coaching staff excels at putting them in position to succeed.

Baseball America OFP: 80. If ever a team were an overwhelming favorite on paper, it's Florida, which has talent, experience, balance, motivation and strong coaching. It fell two wins shy in 2011 but looks poised to finally hoist the trophy in 2012.


2. STANFORD
2011 Record (Ranking): 35-22 (13). RPI: 13.

Coach (Record at school): Mark Marquess (1422-741-7, 35 years).

Postseason History: 30 regional appearances (active streak: 2), 16 CWS appearances (last in 2008), 2 national titles (last in 1988).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Wayne Taylor, Fr. HS—Houston

1B Brian Ragira, So. .329 .370 .465 4 46 2
2B Lonnie Kauppila, So. .298 .338 .371 1 25 1
3B Stephen Piscotty, Jr. .364 .423 .471 3 40 2
SS Kenny Diekroeger, Jr. .293 .356 .364 2 31 2
LF Tyler Gaffney, Jr. .327 .422 .472 3 35 7
CF Jake Stewart, Jr. .287 .339 .385 0 19 8
RF Austin Wilson, So. .311 .348 .423 5 30 1
DH Alex Blandino, Fr. HS—Mountain View, Calif.
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Mark Appel, Jr. 6 7 3.02 110 86 0
LHP Brett Mooneyham, Jr. DNP—injured

RHP A.J. Vanegas, So. 1 0 3.35 40 30 0
RP Stephen Piscotty, Jr. Did not pitch
 
Stephen Piscotty (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)
Hitting: 70. Stanford ranked just 162nd in the nation in scoring (5.4 runs per game) a year ago, but by season's end the young lineup showed flashes of being truly explosive, and seven starters are back in the fold for 2012. Ragira, Kauppila, Piscotty, Diekroeger and Gaffney are all gifted pure hitters who pepper hard line drives all around the field. Taylor has a simple lefthanded stroke, and talented freshmen Blandino and Dominic Jose will battle for at-bats with Jr. C Christian Griffiths, who missed last year with a shoulder injury. Stewart and Wilson also have big-time ability but need to make more consistent contact.

Power: 60. Wilson has enormous raw power that he's still learning to harness. Potential first-rounders Diekroeger and Piscotty both got considerably stronger in the offseason and should hit for more power as juniors. The lean Ragira also has intriguing raw power, though he is still maturing physically.

Speed: 60. The outfield has a pair of plus runners in Stewart and Gaffney (a tailback with 12 career touchdowns for the Cardinal football team), while Wilson runs very well for his huge size. Kauppila also brings solid speed, and while the rest of the lineup lacks burners, it is plenty athletic.

Defense: 65. Replacing graduated Zach Jones behind the plate will be one of Stanford's biggest challenges, but Taylor is a natural leader with a strong arm, while Griffiths and converted infielder Eric Smith give the Cardinal good depth at the position. Stewart and Gaffney are standout defenders, and Wilson has one of college baseball's strongest arms. The slick-fielding Kauppila will compete with Diekroeger—who was erratic as a sophomore, despite all his talent—for the shortstop job, and the infield corners should be very solid.

Starting Pitching: 65. The flame-throwing Appel is the early front-runner for the No. 1 overall pick in June thanks to a mid-to-upper-90s fastball, a devastating power slider at 86-87 and an improving changeup. Mooneyham might have been a first-rounder last year if he hadn't missed the season with a finger injury; he had a strong fall, showing better command of a fastball that reaches the low 90s, a swing-and-miss changeup with good sink and a slider that he uses mostly for a chase pitch. Like Mooneyham, Vanegas was a premium recruit who needs to command the zone better, but he made progress in the fall, refining his hard breaking ball and developing changeup while adding a cutter to complement his 88-93 fastball. He'll compete for the Sunday job with Jr. RHP Dean McArdle (7-4, 4.21), a bulldog with good command of a four-pitch mix.

Bullpen: 55. This unit has solid depth but must find a closer to replace first-rounder Chris Reed. Piscotty has little collegiate pitching experience but flashes nasty stuff from a low arm slot—a fastball that reaches 95-96 and a power slider. Freshmen will be key: projectable LHP Spenser Linney, pitchability LHP John Hochstatter and RHP David Schmidt (a smallish power sinkerballer) figure to see important innings. Righties Brian Busick, Sahil Bloom, McArdle and submariner Elliot Byers give the 'pen some veteran leadership.

Experience/Intangibles: 65. Stanford won a regional last year with an underclassmen-laden roster. Now its young stars have matured into experienced stars who know what the postseason is all about.

Baseball America OFP: 70. Only Florida can match Stanford's talent level. Anything less than a CWS appearance will be a disappointment for this group, which has a strong chance to end Stanford's nearly quarter-century-long national title drought.


3. SOUTH CAROLINA
2011 Record (Ranking): 55-14 (1). RPI: 5.

Coach (Record at school): Ray Tanner (689-296, 15 years).

Postseason History: 27 regional appearances (active streak: 12), 10 CWS appearances (active streak: 3), 2 national titles (active streak: 2 straight).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Grayson Greiner, Fr. HS—Blythewood, S.C.
1B Christian Walker, Jr. .358 .438 .554 10 62 4
2B Chase Vergason, Jr. Tr.—Brevard (Fla.) CC
3B L.B. Dantzler, Jr. Tr.—State JC of Florida
SS Joey Pankake, Fr. HS—Easley, S.C.
LF Evan Marzilli, Jr. .291 .375 .414 3 31 6
CF Tanner English, Fr. HS—Murrells Inlet, S.C.
RF Adam Matthews, Sr. .264 .367 .391 2 14 4
DH Jake Williams, Sr. .268 .361 .402 2 28 1
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Michael Roth, Sr. 14 3 1.06 145 112 0
RHP Matt Price, Jr. 7 3 1.83 59 75 20
RHP Colby Holmes, Jr. 7 3 3.69 85 77 0
RP Forrest Koumas, So. 6 1 2.96 73 63 0
 
Hitting: 55. The two-time defending champions will have their hands full replacing mainstays Jackie Bradley, Scott Wingo, Brady Thomas, Adrian Morales and Peter Mooney, but they are confident their sixth-ranked recruiting class can fill the gaps. Dynamic freshmen Pankake and English, plus the physical Greiner, form the core of South Carolina's next wave of talent, while Dantzler has a knack for making hard contact from the left side. The lineup is built around Walker, one of college baseball's premier hitters thanks to his righthanded bat speed, disciplined approach and toughness. Marzilli, Matthews and Williams are streaky but talented and experienced.

Christian Walker (Photo by Danny Parker)
Power: 45. Walker was the lone Gamecock to slug more than 10 homers a year ago, and he remains the biggest power threat in a lineup that will rely more on situational hitting and speed. South Carolina is intrigued by Greiner's strength and hopes Dantzler can provide protection hitting behind Walker. Marzilli, Matthews and Williams provide occasional pop.

Speed: 65. Ray Tanner's teams traditionally do not lean heavily on the stolen base, but his personnel in 2012 could cause him to alter that strategy. English and fellow freshman T.J. Costen are plus-plus runners who could cause serious havoc on the basepaths. Matthews has similar speed, and Marzilli is also a plus runner.

Defense: 55. South Carolina must replace all four up-the-middle starters. Dante Rosenberg figures to split time behind the plate thanks to his strong receiving skills, but Greiner has a strong arm and a chance to become a quality defender. Pankake is a very talented shortstop with a strong arm who must learn to become more consistent, while Vergason is a solid veteran who makes all the routine plays. The outfield has superb range.

Starting Pitching: 70. Roth is college baseball's most accomplished pitcher, the reigning national ERA champion and a hero of each of South Carolina's two title runs. He dominates with pinpoint control of a low-to-mid-80s fastball, an outstanding changeup, the ability to vary his arm slots and a fringy breaking ball that he locates very well. Price has established himself as the nation's best closer, but he wants to start, so he'll make the transition to the rotation as a fourth-year junior. His tenacity, average-to-plus fastball, swing-and-miss slider and solid changeup should make him a success in the role. Holmes is a competitor with a solid three-pitch mix. Talented Fr. RHP Evan Beal will compete for midweek starts with veteran lefties Nolan Belcher and Adam Westmoreland, and perhaps Fr. LHP Jordan Montgomery, a bulldog in the Roth mold.

Bullpen: 65. Koumas started as a freshman, but his electric fastball-slider mix and experience on a big stage should make him a success at the back of the bullpen. Jr. LHP Tyler Webb is a talented lefty who made big strides in the fall. Lean Fr. RHP Joel Seddon flashed 90-93 mph heat and a quality breaking ball in the fall. Montgomery, Belcher, Westmoreland and Beal also factor into the bullpen mix, giving this unit solid depth. The X-factor is Pankake, who flashes 93-95 head and a dirty slider.

Experience/Intangibles: 75. Despite its abundance of newcomers expected to shoulder key roles, South Carolina can take solace in the leadership of Roth, Price, Walker and other veterans of its championship runs. The pitching staff is largely intact (though the bullpen will miss setup man John Taylor's 50 appearances and 1.14 ERA), and the coaching staff is second to none. The Gamecocks simply expect to win, and they do.

Baseball America OFP: 70. If the last two years have taught us anything it is never to doubt Roth, Price and co. South Carolina has a legit chance at college baseball's first three-peat since Southern California won five straight from 1970-74.


4. ARKANSAS
2011 Record (Ranking): 40-22 (24). RPI: 14.

Coach (Record at school): Dave Van Horn (359-201, 9 years).

Postseason History: 24 regional appearances (active streak: 10), 6 CWS appearances (last in 2009), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Jake Wise, So. .163 .200 .233 1 5 0
1B Dominic Ficociello, So. .335 .364 .464 4 50 5
2B Bo Bigham, Sr. .291 .354 .371 2 20 17
3B Matt Reynolds, Jr. .243 .359 .351 3 22 16
SS Tim Carver, Sr. .232 .305 .271 1 13 24
LF Brian Anderson, Fr. HS—Edmond, Okla.
CF Jacob Morris, So. .194 .325 .254 0 5 2
RF Matt Vinson, Jr. .221 .302 .390 2 8 2
DH Sam Bates, Sr. .237 .343 .339 0 7 1
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP D.J. Baxendale, Jr. 10 2 1.58 85 77 3
RHP Ryne Stanek, So. 4 2 3.94 64 41 1
LHP Randall Fant, Jr. 3 5 3.89 69 35 0
RP Nolan Sanburn, So. 2 4 3.62 32 35 8
 
Hitting: 60. After ranking 219th in the nation with a .270 team batting average last year, Arkansas figures to be much more dangerous offensively in 2012. The switch-hitting Ficociello has electric bat speed and figures to build on his freshman All-America 2011 campaign. Reynolds hit just .233 in his first two collegiate seasons but toned down his approach and posted a strong summer for Team USA and in the Cape League, making him a major breakout candidate. The pesky Bigham should be a sparkplug atop the lineup, and the ultra-athletic Morris made strides offensively after abandoning switch-hitting to concentrate on hitting from the right side. Wise hopes to build on a strong summer in the Northwoods League.

Power: 55. Expect Ficociello to take another step toward harnessing his big raw power as he matures physically. Fellow switch-hitter Vinson also has power from both sides and needs to translate his ability into games. Bates brings intriguing lefthanded pop, while the physical Morris and surprising Fr. C John Clay Reeves offer decent righthanded power potential.

Speed: 65. The Razorbacks typically run an aggressive offense—they ranked sixth in the nation in steals (122) last year—and figure to play a similar style this year. Carver is the best basestealer on the team, but Bigham and Reynolds are also good baserunners who could reach 20 steals. Anderson and Morris bring plus or better speed.

Defense: 70. Arkansas boasts a rock-solid fifth-year senior at shortstop in Carver, and the other three infielders are also excellent defenders. Anderson (who also has good actions in the infield), Morris and Vinson are all quality defensive outfielders with strong arms, while Wise and Reeves should make an able platoon behind the plate. This should be one of the nation's best defenses.

D.J. Baxendale (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
Starting Pitching: 70. Baxendale is a dogged competitor who beat Michael Roth, Hudson Randall and Sonny Gray, among others, as a sophomore. He throws his 89-93 mph fastball from various arm slots and keeps hitters off balance with three quality secondary pitches. Stanek has one of the nation's most electric arms, with a lively 92-97 mph fastball, a hammer curveball, hard slider and promising changeup, though he's still learning to harness his command and mechanics. Fant's 88-91 fastball bumps 93, his changeup is a serious weapon, and his cutter is developing into a solid third pitch. So. RHP Barrett Astin gives this staff a fourth potential starter with good stuff: a lively low-90s fastball and an upper-80s cutter.

Starting Pitching: 65. Sanburn, like Stanek, has filthy stuff but is still learning to repeat it. His 91-94 mph fastball reaches 98 at times, his 81-85 mph breaking ball has good depth when he stays on top of it, and his changeup made strides in the summer and fall. Jr. LHP Trent Daniel can run his fastball up to 94 mph, while sophomores Colby Suggs and Brandon Moore are quality options from the right side. A talented group of freshmen—led by LHP Mark Reyes and RHP Greg Millhorn—plus Morris' two-way ability makes this a very deep group.

Experience/Intangibles: 65. With five upperclassmen penciled into the starting lineup and two more in the weekend rotation, Arkansas has plenty of experience. Bigham and Carver give the Hogs a pair of key holdovers from the 2009 CWS team.

Baseball America OFP: 70. Arkansas has a deep, talented roster and few discernible weaknesses. The Hogs are the favorites to win the SEC West and are legit national title contenders.


5. ARIZONA
2011 Record (Ranking): 39-21 (NR). RPI: 19.

Coach (Record at school): Andy Lopez (316-229-1, 10 years).

Postseason History: 32 regional appearances (active streak: 2), 15 CWS appearances (last in 2004), 3 national titles (last in 1986).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Riley Moore, Fr. HS—Santa Barbara, Calif.
1B Brandon Dixon, So. .200 .333 .200 0 1 0
2B Trent Gilbert, Fr. HS—Torrance, Calif.
3B Seth Mejias-Brean, Jr. .313 .372 .379 0 25 7
SS Alex Mejia, Jr. .335 .350 .379 0 42 7
LF Johnny Field, So. .297 .368 .491 3 32 4
CF Joey Rickard, Jr. .347 .410 .448 4 37 16
RF Robert Refsnyder, Jr. .320 .371 .498 6 55 9
DH Bobby Brown, Sr. .333 .361 .455 0 5 0
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Kurt Heyer, Jr. 8 5 2.41 138 134 0
RHP Konner Wade, So. 3 0 3.21 62 28 0
RHP Mathew Troupe, Fr. HS—Northridge, Calif.
RP Nick Cunningham, Jr. 1 0 4.15 22 12 1
 
Hitting: 65. The Wildcats return five key starters from an offense that ranked third nationally in batting (.320) and ninth in triples (26), a testament to their ability to wear out the spacious gaps in Tucson. Their new home field, Hi Corbett Field, should play similarly, and Arizona has the personnel to rack up doubles and triples. Refsnyder is the team's best pure hitter and the centerpiece of the lineup. Rickard is a catalyst with a nice line-drive stroke of his own, while Mejia and Gilbert are tough outs who will drive pitchers crazy. The hard-nosed Field is another talented bat who is learning to manage the strike zone better.

Power: 50. Arizona's coaches encouraged Mejias-Brean and Dixon to let it fly in the fall, hoping they can provide righthanded power even if it means more strikeouts. Refsnyder also is capable of driving balls out of the park, while fifth-year senior Brown provides valuable lefthanded pop. Don't expect many homers at Hi Corbett, but Arizona can exploit smaller ballparks.

Rob Refsnyder (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
Speed: 55. Rickard is the only true speed merchant in the lineup, but Gilbert and Refsnyder are solid runners, while Mejia and Mejias-Brean are adequate runners who pick their spots on the basepaths.

Defense: 60. Arizona's .976 fielding percentage ranked 14th in the nation a year ago. The instinctive Mejia is a defensive standout with a strong arm and good range despite mediocre foot speed, and Gilbert has great actions around the bag, forming a strong double-play tandem. The outfielders should cover plenty of ground. With fellow Fr. C David Schuknecht out for the year with a shoulder injury, the athletic, strong-armed Moore figures to do the bulk of the catching, and he has the talent to be a standout in time.

Starting Pitching: 65. Heyer has been a fearless, workhorse ace since he set foot in Tucson, and he gives the Wildcats a rock atop the rotation. He has excellent command of an 88-92 mph fastball, solid breaking ball and changeup, and his funky delivery adds deception. Wade, the No. 15 prospect in the Cape League last summer, attacks the zone with a lively 89-93 fastball, quality 81-84 slider and high-70s change with diving action. Troupe has similar fastball velocity, a changeup that some scouts rated as major league plus in high school, and a quality hard curveball. He'll compete for starts with much-improved So. RHP James Farris, who worked this fall at 90-92 with a good slider and a changeup that has forkball action.

Bullpen: 55. Andy Lopez has a history of building winning teams around shut-down bullpens. This unit has good depth but lacks a proven closer. Cunningham has been limited by injuries over the last two years, but he was healthy this fall, during which he worked on refining a tight slurve to go with his 90-91 fastball and decent changeup. Jr. RHP Tyler Hale has some of the best stuff on the staff—a 90-93 fastball, good changeup and hard breaking ball—but is learning not to overthink. Jr. LHP Vince Littleman dropped to a submarine slot in the fall and took to it, getting hitters out with a deceptive 87-88 fastball, good changeup and developing cutter.

Experience/Intangibles: 65. The Wildcats are loaded with veterans from a team that reached a regional final last year, though they must answer questions at key spots behind the plate and in the bullpen. Mejia, Refsnyder and Heyer are consummate winners who number among Arizona's wealth of clubhouse leaders.

Baseball America OFP: 65. A major reason for Arizona's move to Hi Corbett was to enhance its chances to host a regional. This team is good enough to host and to get the Wildcats to Omaha for the first time since 2004.


6. RICE
2011 Record (Ranking): 42-21 (15). RPI: 12.

Coach (Record at school): Wayne Graham (912-361, 20 years).

Postseason History: 17 regional appearances (active streak: 16), 7 CWS appearances (last in 2008), 1 national title (2003).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Craig Manuel, Sr. .309 .421 .360 1 35 1
1B Ryan Lewis, Jr. .269 .386 .363 1 28 4
2B Christian Stringer, Jr. Tr.—Navarro (Texas) CC
3B Shane Hoelscher, So. .281 .343 .386 3 37 4
SS Derek Hamilton, So. .248 .301 .279 0 30 0
LF Michael Ratterree, Jr. .327 .388 .481 6 53 6
CF Michael Fuda, Sr. .255 .339 .298 0 18 1
RF Jeremy Rathjen, Jr. .295 .353 .426 1 18 2
DH Ford Stainback, Fr. HS—Dallas
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Austin Kubitza, So. 6 5 2.34 100 102 0
LHP Taylor Wall, Sr. 1 0 3.60 35 16 0
RHP Matthew Reckling, Sr. 4 1 3.10 78 96 0
RP John Simms, So. 3 2 3.32 62 63 1
 
Hitting: 60. The Owls will miss 2010 national Player of the Year Anthony Rendon, of course, but their lineup features enviable depth and experience. Hamilton showed excellent plate discipline during a standout fall and figures to handle the bulk of the leadoff duties. Doubles machine Ratterree is an accomplished run producer with advanced on-base ability. He'll hit in the middle of the lineup with veterans Fuda and Rathjen, who were both limited by injuries a year ago but are dangerous hitters when healthy. Manuel is an exceptional bat-handler and gifted situational hitter, while Lewis and Stainback are tough outs with patient approaches. Hoelscher, like Hamilton, took a step forward offensively in the fall, and two-way talent J.T. Chargois provides insurance against injuries, though Rice would like him to focus on pitching.

Power: 40. No Owl hit more than six homers a year ago, but Ratterree and Rathjen give Rice a pair of potential double-digit home run hitters in 2012. Fuda and Hoelscher have occasional pop, and So. OF/DH Chase McDowell brings some more off the bench. But this does not figure to be a particularly powerful club.

Speed: 55. Rendon was the lone Owl to steal more than six bases in 2011, but Fuda has blazing speed when healthy, and Rathjen also will provide solid speed if his surgically repaired ACL holds up. Ratterree, Hamilton, Hoelscher, Stringer, Lewis and Stainback are all roughly average runners as well.

Defense: 70. Hamilton and Hoelscher gained invaluable experience as freshmen and fielded well in the fall. Stringer gives Hamilton a slick-fielding double-play partner, and Lewis is athletic at first base. Manuel handles a pitching staff as well as any catcher in college baseball and owns advanced catch-and-throw skills. Ratterree struggled at second base last year, but his athleticism should be an asset in Rice's strong outfield.

Austin Kubitza (Photo by Brian Westerholt)
Starting Pitching: 60. Kubitza gives Rice a marquee Friday starter. His 91-94 fastball has incredible run and sink, and his mid-80s slider disappears on hitters. Battle-tested changeup specialist Wall makes due with a well below-average fastball thanks to his command and moxie. Reckling has a low-90s fastball and a wipeout hammer curve, but he needs to do a better job throwing strikes—an area where he made strides in the fall. Electric Fr. RHP Jordan Stephens will compete with Wall and Reckling for a weekend spot thanks to a fastball that has reached 95, a tight slider and advanced command for his age.

Bullpen: 75. Rice's bullpen looks truly special—an absurdly deep unit with a trio of shut-down power arms in Simms, Chargois and Jr. RHP Tyler Duffey. Simms was virtually unhittable in the Cape last summer, where he posted a 0.00 ERA and ranked as the No. 5 prospect thanks to a lively low-90s fastball, sharp high-70s breaking ball and the makings of a nice changeup. Chargois ranked 16th on that list, showing an explosive sinking fastball at 92-96 and a plus power curveball at 78-83. Duffey is a bulldog with a low-90s fastball and a sweeping slider with good depth. Between Brad Kottman, Holt McNair and potentially Wall, the Owls should have enough options from the left side. Fr. RHP Zech Lemond leads a stable of intriguing righties that also includes Tyler Spurlin, Connor Mason, Andrew Benak, Ryan McCarthy and Jeremy Fant.

Experience/Intangibles: 60. Manuel headlines a strong group of veteran leaders, and Wayne Graham gives Rice a coaching edge against just about everybody. But few players on this team have experienced a deep postseason run, as Rice hasn't won a regional since 2009—a long drought for this program.

Baseball America OFP: 65. Rice's pitching-and-defense formula is a recipe for success in the BBCOR era, and the lineup will make opposing pitchers work hard. A deep postseason run is in Rice's sights.


7. TEXAS A&M
2011 Record (Ranking): 47-22 (7). RPI: 9.

Coach (Record at school): Rob Childress (246-135-2, 6 years).

Postseason History: 27 regional appearances (active streak: 5), 5 CWS appearances (active streak: 1), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Daniel Mengden, Fr. HS—Houston

1B Jacob House, Sr. .301 .353 .408 3 52 0
2B Charlie Curl, So. .276 .336 .336 1 18 4
3B Matt Juengel, Sr. .308 .395 .490 7 50 15

SS Mikey Reynolds, Jr. Tr.—Glendale (Ariz.) JC
LF Brandon Wood, Jr. .264 .351 .390 1 29 6
CF Krey Bratsen, So. .332 .395 .373 0 36 31
RF Tyler Naquin, Jr. .381 .449 .538 2 44 6
DH Jace Statum, So. .218 .279 .297 0 9 3
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Michael Wacha, Jr. 9 4 2.29 139 123 0
RHP Ross Stripling, Sr. 14 2 2.29 126 113 4
RHP Derrick Hadley, So. 0 1 5.40 37 18 0
RP Daniel Mengden, Fr. HS—Houston
 
Hitting: 60. The Aggies return their top four hitters from last year's Omaha club, headlined by reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Naquin, whose vision and lightning-quick wrists enable him to lace hard line drive all around the field. Bratsen is a dynamic table-setter at times but must put the ball in play more consistently to make use of his speed. Statum is in the same mold, giving the Aggies another disruptive slasher to hit at the top or bottom of the order. Fellow sub-6-footers Reynolds and Curl have surprising strength in their compact frames and aggressive approaches that fit well in A&M's scheme.

Power: 40. The physical, experienced Juengel is Texas A&M's best power hitter, though the Aggies count on him more to be a run producer than a feast-or-famine masher. Wood has continued to improve over the course of his career, and he could deliver eight to 10 homers as well. Naquin and House have good gap power and occasional long ball pop.

Speed: 80. The Aggies pride themselves on their high-pressure, hyper-aggressive offense, and their lineup full of quick-twitch athletes will drive opponents crazy on the basepaths. Bratsen is an 80 runner on the 20-80 scale, while Sr. utilityman Scott Arthur has plus speed and exceptional basestealing instincts. Statum, Naquin, Reynolds and Curl are all at least plus runners. Even Juengel and Wood run the 60-yard dash in 6.8 seconds.

Defense: 60. The greatest question mark facing A&M is how to replace up-the-middle regulars Kevin Gonzalez, Kenny Jackson and Andrew Collazo. The talented Mengden figures to split time behind the plate with So. Troy Stein and Frs. Mitchell Nau and Cole Lankford, giving the Aggies plenty of promising options. Reynolds has good range, sure hands and an average arm at short. Curl and Arthur have good instincts at second, and Rob Childress calls House the best defensive first baseman he's coached in 22 years. Juengel is gaining confidence at third but will never be a glove whiz. The outfielders have superb range, and Naquin has one of college baseball's best outfield arms.

Michael Wacha (Photo by John Williamson)
Starting Pitching: 65. Wacha and Stripling make a formidable one-two punch atop the rotation. Wacha pitches downhill with a 90-93 mph fastball, a very deceptive changeup and an improving cutter/slider. Stripling, the national wins leader a year ago, has loads of big-game experience, a solid-average fastball, filthy overhand curve and decent changeup. The Sunday starter is a question mark; Hadley is an athletic, four-pitch righty who reminds Childress of former Aggie Clayton Ehlert, but he needs to do a better job throwing strikes. He'll compete for starts with three harder-throwing righties: So. Rafael Pineda and Frs. Gandy Stubblefield and Corey Ray, all of whom reach the low 90s and have promising secondary stuff.

Bullpen: 55. JC transfer Jason Jester might have been the closer, but his eligibility is in doubt. Childress said he's never coached a catcher/pitcher before and doesn't want to tax Mengden too much, but he throws strikes with an 88-94 fastball and a good slider, making him the front-runner to close. Six-foot-6 sidewinder Kyle Martin has outstanding deception and a surprisingly firm 89-91 mph fastball, making him an invaluable setup man. Sr. LHP Estevan Uriegas works at 85-88 but mixes four pitches effectively. Pineda, Stubblefield or Ray could also bolster this unit.

Experience/Intangibles: 60. The Aggies have plenty of key holdovers from last year's CWS team, but they also have inexperience up the middle and at the back of the bullpen.

Baseball America OFP: 60. Wacha and Stripling will ensure the Aggies are very difficult to beat in weekend series, and the athletic lineup is intriguing. Another Omaha run is certainly within reach.


8. LOUISIANA STATE
2011 Record (Ranking): 36-20 (NR). RPI: 28.

Coach (Record at school): Paul Maineri (211-104-2, 5 years).

Postseason History: 24 regional appearances (last in 2010), 15 CWS appearances (last in 2009), 6 national titles (last in 2009).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Ty Ross, So. .223 .295 .277 1 20 0
1B Grant Dozar, Sr. .250 .341 .403 2 9 1
2B Casey Yocom, Jr. Tr.—Feather River (Calif.) JC
3B Tyler Hanover, Sr. .311 .407 .337 0 25 5
SS Austin Nola, Sr. .296 .378 .413 2 42 4
LF Raph Rhymes, Jr. .360 .424 .486 3 42 8
CF JaCoby Jones, So. .338 .395 .467 4 32 12
RF Mason Katz, Jr. .337 .371 .532 4 53 6
DH Jackson Slaid, So. .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Kevin Gausman, So. 5 6 3.51 90 86 0
RHP Ryan Eades, So. 4 1 4.81 43 31 0
RHP Kurt McCune, So. 7 3 3.31 90 68 0
RP Nick Rumbelow, So. 2 0 4.85 13 16 0
 
Hitting: 55. LSU must replace its most dangerous hitter—All-American Mikie Mahtook—but six everyday regulars are back in the fold. The Tigers expect to manufacture offense by grinding out at-bats and hitting situationally throughout the lineup. Rhymes is the Tigers' best pure hitter, and Slaid showed a similar knack for barreling balls up consistently during his breakout fall. Jones has loads of bat speed and is learning to control his swing better and drive the ball the other way. Quality veterans Katz, Nola and Hanover are capable of carrying the offense when they are locked in. Dozar and freshman Tyler Moore will be counted on to give this righthanded-heavy lineup some competitive at-bats from the left side.

Power: 35. Mahtook accounted for 41 percent of LSU's 34 homers last year; no other Tiger hit more than four long balls. Katz, coming off a strong summer in the Cape Cod League, is a physical presence in the middle of the lineup, though he's more of a gap hitter than a true slugger. Jones has Mahtook-esque raw power but is still learning to tap into it. Jr. OF Arby Fields is a switch-hitter with the best usable pop on the team, but he needs to make more consistent contact.

Speed: 45. The rangy Jones can fly but needs to be more efficient on the basepaths as a sophomore after going just 12-for-20 on stolen base attempts last year. Fields brings speed off the bench—unless he can earn an everyday job—but the rest of the lineup lacks burners.

Defense: 60. The Tigers have a nice luxury in a pair of steady seniors who make most of the routine plays on the left side of the infield. Ross' catch-and-throw skills and ability to handle a staff make him one of LSU's key players. The scrappy Yocom impressed the Tigers with his footwork and hands after making the transition from shortstop to second. Jones' athleticism helped him make the move from the infield to center, where he covers plenty of ground but is still learning. Katz has less speed but takes better routes in the outfield, and he could also see time at first.

Kevin Gausman (Photo by Danny Parker)
Starting Pitching: 65. The Tigers relied heavily on freshmen on the mound last year, giving them an experienced all-sophomore weekend rotation in 2012. Gausman and Eades have marquee stuff, helping them dominate last summer for Team USA and in the Cape League, respectively. Gausman's 92-96 mph fastball has armside run and sink, and he has refined his breaking ball and changeup since he arrived at LSU. Eades can run his fastball into the mid-90s as well, and he throws strikes with the heater as well as his sharp mid-70s curveball and promising high-70s changeup. McCune is a deceptive strike-thrower without premium velocity, but he has tightened up his breaking ball from a year ago, and he stands out for his moxie. Fr. LHP Cody Glenn made strides repeating his delivery and commanding his three-pitch mix in the fall, making him the likely No. 4 starter.

Bullpen: 60. The undersized, max-effort Rumbelow had a breakout summer in the Prospect League and carried his momentum over to the fall, running his fastball up to 93-94 and showing an improved power slider. He'll compete for the closer job with juco transfer Nick Goody, who has similar stuff. Talented Fr. RHP Aaron Nola, a changeup specialist with a low-slot who earns comparisons to former LSU star Louis Coleman, figures to be the first man out of the bullpen.

Experience/Intangibles: 55. Hanover and Nola give the Tigers a pair of holdovers from the 2009 national title team, but the rest of the lineup lacks meaningful postseason experience, especially after LSU was passed over for an NCAA tournament berth last year.

Baseball America OFP: 60. LSU lacks its traditional offensive firepower, but its enviable stable of arms and collection of solid veterans in the lineup could carry it back to Omaha for the first time since '09.


9. NORTH CAROLINA
2011 Record (Ranking): 51-16 (5). RPI: 1.

Coach (Record at school): Mike Fox (589-247-1, 13 years).

Postseason History: 26 regional appearances (active streak: 10), 9 CWS appearances (active streak: 1), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Jacob Stallings, Sr. .292 .403 .429 4 43 4
1B Cody Stubbs, Jr. Tr.—Walters State (Tenn.) JC
2B Mike Zolk, Fr. HS—Philadelphia
3B Colin Moran, So. .335 .442 .540 9 71 2
SS Tommy Coyle, Jr. .311 .411 .415 2 36 18
LF Tom Zengel, So. .204 .324 .301 1 23 0
CF Chaz Frank, Jr. .278 .411 .348 0 35 10
RF Seth Badlwin, Sr. .245 .366 .424 5 27 3
DH Brian Holberton, So. .250 .340 .375 1 15 0
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Kent Emanuel, So. 9 1 2.33 104 89 0
RHP Andrew Smith, So. 3 1 2.77 26 27 0
RHP Chris Munnelly, Jr. 6 5 4.09 70 57 0
RP Michael Morin, So. 4 2 4.64 64 66 10
 
Hitting: 60. Plate discipline is the hallmark of a North Carolina offense that ranked second nationally in walks last year. UNC's lineup is built around the strong, patient Moran, the reigning national Freshman of the Year. Frank and Coyle are high-energy players who walk more than they strike out and make the offense go from the top two spots in the lineup. The dangerous Stubbs and the ever-improving Stallings also have mature offensive approaches, while Zengel and Holberton have sweet line-drive swings and took strides forward in the fall. UNC will start eight lefties against righthanded pitching and count on So. C Matt Roberts and Fr. OFs Michael Russell and Adam Griffin to contribute from the right side against southpaws.

Power: 50. No Tar Heel reached double figures in homers a year ago, but Moran has plus power and should hit more homers as a sophomore. Juco transfer Stubbs also brings serious power potential, and Baldwin brings thump to the bottom of the order, though he has struggled to make consistent contact in his career. Roberts simplified his approach in the fall and looks primed for a breakout year.

Speed: 45. Frank and Coyle have solid speed and are aggressive, efficient baserunners. No other regular has better than fringy speed.

Defense: 60. Stallings is an elite defensive catcher with excellent receiving and blocking skills, a plus arm and a knack for handling a staff. Coyle proved he could handle the shift from second to short during the fall, though he lacks standout defensive tools. Zolk and Stubbs are steady on the right side, and Moran is improving at third but can be stiff at times. The outfield is solid but not exceptional.

Kent Emanuel (Photo by Alyson Boyer Rode)
Starting Pitching: 55. Emanuel, coming off an outstanding CWS turn, looks like the next in a long line of Friday studs for the Tar Heels thanks to his outstanding fastball command and angle, plus changeup and unflappable demeanor. Smith's fastball velocity jumped into the low 90s and peaked at 94 this fall, and he complemented it with a swing-and-miss breaking ball. Munnelly has plenty of big-game experience and solid stuff across the board, though he's not overpowering. High-ceiling Fr. RHP Benton Moss has advanced feel for an 88-92 fastball, sharp mid-70s curveball and promising changeup, giving UNC a fourth potential impact starter. So. RHP Shane Taylor gives the Tar Heels a fifth quality starting option.

Bullpen: 65. Morin emerged as a trustworthy closer down the stretch last year, racking up all 10 of his saves after April 1. He can run his fastball up to 95 and complements it with a terrific changeup and a decent slider. The Tar Heels can mix and match to Mike Fox's delight with three quality lefties (hard-throwing R.C. Orlan plus Tate Parrish and Hobbs Johnson) and three power righties (Cody Penny, Chris McCue, Mason McCullough).

Experience/Intangibles: 65. UNC's upperclassmen have experienced multiple CWS runs, and the younger players proved their mettle in last year's surprising 51-win campaign. The stellar coaching staff knows the ropes in Omaha after making five trips there in the last six years.

Baseball America OFP: 60. This program simply knows how to win. Its 2012 roster is built to grind opponents down offensively and win close games with its deep bullpen. That formula worked in 2011, and it should result in a lot of wins again this year.


10. VANDERBILT
2011 Record (Ranking): 54-12 (4). RPI: 4.

Coach (Record at school): Tim Corbin (376-189, 9 years).

Postseason History: 10 regional appearances (active streak: 6), 1 CWS appearances (active streak: 1), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Chris Harvey, Fr. HS—Norristown, Pa.
1B Conrad Gregor, So. .353 .456 .471 3 32 2
2B Riley Reynolds, Sr. .331 .383 .373 0 18 4
3B Joel McKeithan, So. .333 .333 .333 0 0 0
SS Anthony Gomez, Jr. .336 .352 .392 0 48 7
LF Tony Kemp, So. .329 .434 .417 0 34 17
CF Connor Harrell, Jr. .289 .355 .497 9 36 7
RF Mike Yastrzemski, Jr. .296 .422 .378 3 42 23
DH Jack Lupo, Jr. .192 .192 .269 2 7 1
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Kevin Ziomek, So. 3 0 1.59 45 47 1
RHP Tyler Beede, Fr. HS—Auburn, Mass.
LHP Sam Selman, Jr. 0 0 1.42 6 6 0
RP Will Clinard, Jr. 2 2 2.75 39 48 3
 
Tony Kemp (Photo by Danny Parker)
Hitting: 65. Even after losing two All-Americans (Aaron Westlake and Jason Esposito) plus a valuable senior (Curt Casali), Vanderbilt figures to have a very potent offense, led by six returning starters. Kemp is an indispensable, high-energy sparkplug atop the lineup. Like Kemp, Gomez and Reynolds are accomplished contact hitters who can move the ball around and execute small ball, though Gomez can be overly aggressive at times. Yastrzemski has a smooth lefthanded swing, a mature gap-to-gap approach and a grinder mentality.

Power: 55. Gregor is a gifted hitter with a disciplined approach and plus raw power that could blossom during his sophomore campaign. Harvey is extraordinarily physical for a freshman who skipped his senior year of high school, adding above-average righthanded power potential to the mix. Harrell also has good righthanded pop but needs to make more consistent contact. Lupo and the lanky McKeithan need to translate their decent raw power into game action.

Speed: 65. Kemp has blazing speed and knows how to use it, excelling at hitting the ball on the ground, drag bunting and causing havoc on the basepaths. Yastrzemski's advanced instincts make his average speed play up. Harrell, Lupo and McKeithan are plus runners, while Reynolds and Gomez are decent runners as well.

Defense: 60. The three outfielders are superb defenders with speed and savvy. Reynolds and McKeithan are very good infielders, while Gomez is solid but not spectacular at short. Gregor needs work at first, and Harvey is still learning the finer points of catching, where his arm strength is an asset.

Starting Pitching: 60. The Commodores lost a pair of All-Americans and a rock-solid senior in the weekend rotation. The men who hope to replace them are extremely talented but unproven. The strike-throwing Ziomek starred in the bullpen last year but struggled as a starter in the Cape League, due to fatigue and inconsistent mechanics. His fastball ranges from 88-94, his hard two-plane slider is an out-pitch and his changeup is coming along. Beede's pedigree speaks for itself: He is an unsigned first-round pick with a fastball that reaches 95 and advanced feel for three quality secondary pitches, though he did not have a great fall. Selman has been a bit of a tease for two years, flashing mid-90s heat, an electric power breaking ball and an effective changeup but struggling to repeat his mechanics and throw strikes. His command and mound presence took big strides in the summer and fall. Jr. RHP Drew VerHagen was a marquee recruit at Oklahoma who spent last year at NJCAA champion Navarro (Texas); he also flashes plus stuff but needs mechanical refinement.

Bullpen: 60. Vandy got a big boost when Clinard elected to return for his senior year, giving the 'Dores a battle-tested closer with good command of a solid fastball and a major weapon in his cutter, which is filthy when it's on. Getting tenacious So. RHP T.J. Pecoraro back from Tommy John surgery could provide another boost at some point. The bullpen is loaded with lefties, as talented freshmen Phillip Pfeifer, Nevin Wilson and Jared Miller join So. LHPs Steven Rice and Keenan Kollinsky. Two more key freshmen, Adam Ravenelle and Brian Miller, present different looks from the right side, making this a deep if inexperienced bullpen.

Experience/Intangibles: 60. It's nice to have six returning starters with Omaha experience, and the lineup is brimming with dogged competitors. But the pitching staff needs to prove itself.

Baseball America OFP: 60. Vanderbilt's upside is tantalizing, because its pitching staff is overflowing with quality arms, but how those arms will respond to the rigors of the SEC remains to be seen. The fantastic coaching staff and strong lineup ensure this team's floor is fairly high even if the pitching should disappoint. Amazingly, a team that lost 11 drafted players—including four All-Americans—could realistically get back to Omaha.


11. GEORGIA
2011 Record (Ranking): 33-32 (NR). RPI: 16.

Coach (Record at school): David Perno (338-277-1, 10 years).

Postseason History: 10 regional appearances (active streak: 1), 6 CWS appearances (last in 2008), 1 national title (1990).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Brandon Stephens, So. .270 .313 .313 0 9 0
1B Colby May, Sr. .222 .333 .352 2 5 0
2B Levi Hyams, Sr. .322 .411 .471 5 38 8
3B Curt Powell, Jr. .289 .358 .333 1 13 4
SS Kyle Farmer, Jr. .308 .364 .466 8 58 3
LF Hunter Cole, Fr. HS—Moore, S.C.
CF Conor Welton, So. .267 .345 .280 0 8 3
RF Peter Verdin, Sr. .258 .325 .321 1 15 13
DH Brett DeLoach, Jr. .263 .323 .428 5 27 2
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Michael Palazzone, Sr. 10 5 3.14 120 78 0
LHP Alex Wood, So. 6 7 4.44 101 78 0
LHP Blake Dieterich, Jr. 3 3 3.67 61 45 2
RP Tyler Maloof, Jr. 2 2 7.16 28 25 18
 
Hitting: 55.  The Bulldogs hit just .274 as a team (188th in the nation) and scored just 4.8 runs per game (234th) in 2011, but there are reasons to expect this team to be significantly improved on offense. For one thing, the talented duo of May and Verdin had strong falls and look poised for big bounce-back seasons after struggling mightily in 2011. If Verdin can hold down the leadoff spot, the slap-and-dash Welton is a perfect fit in the No. 2 hole, setting the table for gap-hitting run producers Farmer and Hyams. The scrappy Powell is a tough out lower in the lineup.

Power: 55. Cole is a future star with big-time power potential and the ability to hit for average, as well. May toned his body, regrouped mentally and looks like a threat to reach double-digit homers this spring. The streaky DeLoach also has that kind of ability, though he could split time at DH with the lefthanded hitting Jared Walsh. Farmer and Hyams also bring some pop, and Verdin has raw pull power, though Georgia would like him to stick with a middle-away approach.

Speed: 60. Verdin has game-changing speed—he ran the 60-yard dash in 6.29 seconds in the fall. Welton is a plus or better runner in his own right. Farmer, Hyams and Cole are all average runners.

Defense: 65. Farmer and Hyams comprise one of the nation's premier double-play tandems; each has sure hands, quality instincts, good range and arm strength. Powell's emergence at third pushed May to first, where he made a smooth transition. Verdin, in addition to having superb range, has a rifle arm in right, and Cole has an above-average arm in left. Welton covers a lot of ground in center, and Stephens has the arm strength behind the plate to significantly improve Georgia's struggles against opposing running games.

Michael Palazzone (Photo by Danny Parker)
Starting Pitching: 60. Palazzone has evolved from a young flame-thrower with limited feel into a savvy upperclassman with outstanding command of less overpowering stuff: an 88-90 fastball that occasionally bumps 92, a plus changeup, a decent curveball and a sinking one-seamer. Wood showed flashes of brilliance in his first year back from Tommy John surgery last spring, beating No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole and South Carolina All-American Michael Roth in back-to-back weeks in March. Wood, who works at 92-94, flashes a plus changeup and has developed a much-needed power curveball, looks poised for a huge spring. Dieterich has good feel for an 86-88 fastball, tough curveball and solid changeup.

Bullpen: 60. Maloof's misleading ERA was inflated by a couple of mop-up outings last spring, but he was lights-out in save situations, and he showed filthy stuff in the fall, attacking both sides of the plate with a 92-95 fastball, good slider and improving changeup against lefties. Jr. RHP Bryan Benzor is an invaluable setup man who keeps his high-80s fastball, slider and changeup down in the zone and uses his quality split-finger as an out pitch. Soft-tossing Sr. LHP Chase Hawkins is a nice weapon against lefties, while talented Fr. RHPs Taylor Hicks, Luke Crumley, Pete Nagel and David Sosebee plus Fr. LHP Jarrett Brown provide depth.

Experience/Intangibles: 65. Georgia welcomes back eight players who started at least 34 games in 2011 plus the entire weekend rotation (Dieterich moved into the No. 3 starter role down the stretch) and the closer. The Bulldogs proved their toughness in regrouping from the on-field paralyzing of outfielder Johnathan Taylor to make a regional.

Baseball America OFP: 60. David Perno thinks his team is in the best shape heading into a season as it has been in his tenure. Balanced and deep, Georgia is capable of making noise in the postseason.


12. GEORGIA TECH
2011 Record (Ranking): 42-21 (20). RPI: 10.

Coach (Record at school): Danny Hall (779-349-1, 18 years).

Postseason History: 27 regional appearances (active streak: 4), 3 CWS appearances (last in 2006), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Zane Evans, So. .270 .327 .398 5 42 2
1B Jake Davies, Sr. .347 .416 .482 5 35 0
2B Sam Dove, Jr. .310 .398 .357 0 18 6
3B Chase Butler, So. .233 .343 .300 6 9 1
SS Mott Hyde, So. .275 .352 .393 4 47 6
LF Brandon Thomas, Jr. .307 .417 .429 3 29 19
CF Kyle Wren, So. .340 .412 .445 1 32 16
RF Daniel Palka, So. .297 .375 .556 12 52 3
DH Paul Kronenfeld, So. .143 .226 .179 1 5 0
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Buck Farmer, Jr. 11 3 2.82 108 106 0
RHP Matt Grimes, So. 7 4 4.15 74 77 0
RHP Dusty Isaacs, So. 1 1 2.72 36 40 0
RP Luke Bard, Jr. 2 2 2.27 50 46 8
 
Hitting: 65. Georgia Tech leaned heavily on its talented freshman class in 2011, so four of its projected six sophomore regulars have already proven themselves as everyday players. Wren is a disruptive catalyst with a knack for getting on base atop the lineup. Thomas, the No. 13 prospect in the Cape League last summer, is the likely No. 2 hitter—a dynamic switch-hitter who is learning to make more consistent contact. The dangerous Palka made great strides using the whole field and cutting down his strikeouts in a strong Cape summer. Fellow sophomores Evans and Hyde are gap-to-gap hitters who also have improved their offensives approaches from a year ago. Butler and Dove will make pitchers work lower in the order. With four lefties, four righties and a switch-hitter, this is a very balanced lineup.

Power: 60. Palka has plus lefthanded power potential, helping him lead Tech in homers as a freshman and put on an impressive show in the Cape's home run derby at Fenway Park. Davies is similarly physical and should see his power numbers spike as a senior. Kronenfeld is a prime breakout candidate after a good summer in the New England Collegiate League, giving Tech a third potential lefthanded slugger. Thomas has average raw power from both sides, and Evans provides occasional power from the right side.

Speed: 65. Wren and Thomas both have plus-plus speed, while Hyde and Dove both flash above-average speed, more than making up for the slow-footed Davies/Palka tandem. Kronenfeld is a solid-average runner. Expect the Jackets to steal more bases than usual in 2012.

Defense: 60. Hyde returns to shortstop after switching to second early in his freshman year, and he was more consistent there this fall. Dove is also a natural middle infielder who returns from the outfield this spring, giving Hyde a quality double-play partner. Butler is a standout defender at third, while Wren and Thomas have stellar outfield range. Evans is solid behind the plate, and Tech has more depth behind him this year, which should help keep him fresh.

Buck Farmer (Photo by Brian Westerholt)
Starting Pitching: 55. Replacing stars Mark Pope and Jed Bradley is Georgia Tech's greatest challenge, but there are plenty of promising power arms ready to shoulder the load. Farmer was a rock as the Sunday starter and will be counted on to lead the rotation as a junior. Big and durable, Farmer pounds the zone with a 90-92 mph fastball that bumps 94, a plus changeup and two improving breaking balls. Grimes also can reach 94 to go with a solid slider, and he flashes a decent changeup, but he needs to continue refining his command of all three. Isaacs is the favorite in the four-man race for the Sunday job thanks to an explosive 91-92 fastball and good changeup, but his breaking ball is inconsistent. So. RHP DeAndre Smelter has improved his feel for pitching since high school, but his velocity has dropped from the mid-90s to the 88-90 range, occasionally bumping 91-92. His breaking ball has improved and he has added a changeup. So. RHP Jonathan Roberts and Fr. RHP Cole Pitts are also in the mix.

Bullpen: 60. Bard, the younger brother of Red Sox flamethrower Daniel Bard, was dominating as Tech's closer down the stretch last year thanks to an 89-92 fastball with arm-side run and a swing-and-miss slider. Roberts reached 94 in the fall, and he could give Tech another power arm in the 'pen if he doesn't win a starting job. Crafty LHP Devin Stanton and veteran RHP Clay Dalton give this unit a pair of reliable middle men.

Experience/Intangibles: 50. With seven returning everyday players and a pair of experienced juniors bookending the rotation, the Yellow Jackets should have adequate experience. Many of those players also carry the scars of losing three straight home regionals.

Baseball America OFP: 60. Georgia Tech has the talent to make an Omaha run, but the same could be said in each of the last three years, which ended in disappointment. The Jackets need their talented young arms to live up to their potential, and the whole team needs to play at peak level when it matters most.


13. TEXAS
2011 Record (Ranking): 49-19 (6). RPI: 11.

Coach (Record at school): Augie Garrido (666-301-2, 15 years).

Postseason History: 55 regional appearances (active streak: 13), 34 CWS appearances (active streak: 1), 6 national titles (last in 2005).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Jacob Felts, So. .215 .293 .247 1 20 5
1B Kevin Lusson, Sr. .198 .300 .281 2 25 2
2B Brooks Marlow, Fr. HS—Giddings, Texas
3B Erich Weiss, So. .348 .483 .518 4 45 11
SS Christian Summers, So. .182 .400 .364 0 2 1
LF Jonathan Walsh, Jr. .254 .350 .392 2 27 6
CF Cohl Walla, Jr. .229 .321 .292 0 18 3
RF Mark Payton, So. .263 .353 .325 0 25 6
DH Alex Silver, So. .172 .250 .172 0 1 0
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Sam Stafford, So. 6 2 1.77 81 91 0
LHP Hoby Milner, Jr. 7 4 2.45 84 62 1
RHP Austin Dicharry, Sr. 0 0 18.00 1 1 0
RP Corey Knebel, So. 3 2 1.13 56 61 19
Hitting: 45. Though the Longhorns ranked 224th in batting (.269) in 2011, they led the nation in sacrifice bunts (111), a perfect manifestation of Augie Garrido's small ball credo. Three of UT's top four hitters are gone (Brandon Loy, Tant Shepherd, Paul Montalbano), but leading hitter Weiss returns to anchor the lineup with his patient, line-drive approach. Texas hopes for breakout years from the hard-nosed Payton and fellow talented sophomores Felts, Walsh and Summers, all of whom must prove they are capable of carrying significant offensive loads. Marlow, like Payton, is a scrappy, high-energy player with surprising strength in his compact frame. Walla and Lusson have to put disappointing 2011 seasons behind them. Silver has a nice righthanded stroke.

Power: 30. Texas hit just 17 homers last year, and leading home run hitter Shepherd (five) is gone. Walsh is strong enough to increase his power output, while Weiss, Lusson and Marlowe will run into a long ball now and then, but don't expect Texas to finish inside the nation's top 250 in homers—especially playing its home games at cavernous UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The Longhorns rank ninth in triples and 29th in doubles last year, however, demonstrating respectable pop to the gaps.

Speed: 55. Though Walla is the lone true burner in the lineup, Texas has solid overall team speed. The Longhorns should run the bases well up and down the lineup.

Defense: 60. The 'Horns excel defensively just about every year, but they'll have their hands full replacing Loy at shortstop. They were hoping to land blue-chipper C.J. Hinojosa a semester early, but that plan fell through, leaving the talented but enigmatic Summers to handle the job. Marlowe should compete with the steady Jordan Etier—who was reinstated in January after being dismissed from the team in October for an arrest—at second, and the corners are strong. Felts has good catch-and-throw skills, and the outfielders cover a lot of ground.

Sam Stafford (Photo by Tom Priddy)
Starting Pitching: 60. Taylor Jungmann and Cole Green—rotation mainstays for three years—are gone, but the cupboard is far from bare. Stafford has shown flashes of great promise in his career while battling bouts of wildness at others; at his best he pitches downhill with a low-90s fastball, a tight mid-70s downer curve and a decent 83-85 changeup. Milner's calling card is his pinpoint command of an 86-92 fastball, solid changeup and curveball. Dicharry struggled through two lost seasons after his fantastic 2009 freshman year (8-2, 2.28), but he returned to form in the California Collegiate League last summer, working in the 90-92 range and showing a plus changeup and solid-average 11-to-5 curve. Electric Fr. RHP Ricky Jacquez flashes 97 mph heat and a hammer curve, while fellow Fr. RHP Parker French owns an 89-93 sinker and advanced changeup, giving Texas two more quality starter options.

Bullpen: 70. Knebel might be the nation's premier closer thanks to an overpowering fastball that he commands exceptionally well and a mean streak. So. RHP Nathan Thornhill, who is similarly unflappable and has good command of a solid three-pitch mix, leads the supporting cast, along with Jr. RHPs Josh Urban and Kiefer Nuncio, who should be ready to shoulder bigger burdens in the middle innings. Fr. LHP Dillon Peters and Fr. RHP John Curtiss have front-line ability but are still refining their secondary stuff. Fr. LHP Toller Boardman gives this unit a key strike-throwing lefty.

Experience/Intangibles: 65. Six regulars and several key pitchers return from last year's Omaha team. Garrido is a coaching legend who always seems to find ways to motivate his clubs and get them to buy into his effective style of play.

Baseball America OFP: 60. The lineup won't scare anybody, and the defense doesn't look quite as airtight as usual, but the arms and the system are capable of carrying Texas a long way.

14. UCLA
2011 Record (Ranking): 35-24 (22). RPI: 34.

Coach (Record at school): John Savage (227-191, 7 years).

Postseason History: 17 regional appearances (active streak: 2), 3 CWS appearances (last in 2010), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Tyler Heineman, Jr. .261 .404 .304 0 7 0
1B Trevor Brown, Jr. .217 .291 .245 0 8 1
2B Kevin Kramer, Fr. HS—Turlock, Calif.
3B Cody Regis, Jr. .284 .381 .448 6 45 4
SS Pat Valaika, So. .238 .318 .319 1 20 2
LF Cody Keefer, Jr. .303 .408 .393 1 18 7
CF Beau Amaral, Jr. .299 .404 .425 2 29 8
RF Jeff Gelalich, Jr. .268 .389 .415 2 13 10
DH Eric Filia-Snyder, Fr. HS—Huntington Beach, Calif.
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Adam Plutko, So. 7 4 2.01 108 92 0
RHP Nick Vander Tuig, So. 3 4 2.90 31 31 9
RHP Zack Weiss, So. 5 3 2.86 66 53 0
RP Scott Griggs, Jr. 1 1 5.60 18 21 0
 
Hitting: 60. The Bruins struggled mightily adjusting to the new bats last year, ranking 245th in the nation in batting (.263), 261st in scoring (4.4 runs per game) and 239th in slugging (.359). They hit much better with the next generation of BBCOR bats in the fall, and their lineup filled with seasoned line-drive hitters should be dramatically more potent in 2012. Amaral is a nice catalyst atop the order. Keefer, the best pure hitter on the team, has a pretty lefthanded stroke and eats up righthanded pitching. Filia-Snyder and Kramer are polished freshmen who will grind out at-bats and wear out the gaps. The switch-hitting Heineman is a tough out and a breakout candidate, and Valaika also looks poised for a big year after making great strides offensively in the offseason.

Power: 30. Regis has solid power to all fields and will anchor the middle of the lineup. Gelalich has plenty of bat speed and figures to increase his power production, and Kramer has good strength in his compact frame. The rest of the lineup is gap-oriented rather than homer-oriented; don't expect a huge improvement over UCLA's 17-homer 2011 season.

Speed: 60. The Bruins are athletic and versatile. Gelalich is the team's best athlete and a threat to steal bases on occasion. Amaral is a plus runner, while Keefer, Kramer and Filia-Snyder all have solid-average speed. There are no base-cloggers at any position.

Defense: 70. UCLA is strong at every position on the diamond. Valaika is reliable at shortstop, Regis has improved steadily at third, and Kramer can be a standout at second. Brown is an athletic first baseman who can also catch and play second base. Heineman has good blocking and receiving skills and a solid arm. The Bruins believe they have three center fielders roaming the outfield and another fine defender waiting in the wings with Filia-Snyder. Gelalich has a plus arm.

Adam Plutko (Photo by Larry Goren)
Starting Pitching: 60. Not many staffs could lose two of the top three picks in the draft, including the national Player of the Year, and still be in good shape on the mound, but UCLA's stellar 2010 recruiting class ensured the transition out of the Gerrit Cole/Trevor Bauer era should be smooth. Plutko was fantastic on Sundays as a freshman, and he won't be intimidated on Fridays. He pounds the strike zone with an 88-92 mph fastball, an excellent changeup and a good slider. Vander Tuig closed as a freshman but was a starter in high school; like Plutko he commands his low-90s fastball very well and mixes in a good changeup and a power slider. Weiss has a workhorse build and flashes premium stuff, though he sits comfortably at 89-92 with a promising high-70s slider. Athletic Fr. LHP Grant Watson has good feel for a four-pitch mix, making him the likely midweek starter.

Bullpen: 45. Griggs arrived at UCLA with as a long-term project with a huge arm, and John Savage says he turned a corner with his mechanics and command in the fall. His 93-96 fastball and hammer curveball could make him a dominant closer if he can harness his command. Fr. RHP Zack Ortiz throws strikes with an 88-90 fastball and three decent offspeed offerings. The Bruins aren't blessed with a deep pitching staff, so newcomers like Ortiz, Watson, Fr. RHP Jacob Ehret and JC transfer Michael Kerman must make instant impacts. Watson is the staff's lone lefty.

Experience/Intangibles: 60. The Bruins are loaded with experience in the lineup, including five key holdovers from their '09 national runner-up team, but inexperience in the bullpen is a real concern.

Baseball America OFP: 60. If UCLA's pitching holds up, it is capable of hosting a regional at newly-renovated Jackie Robinson Stadium for the third straight year, because the defense should be elite and the offense figures to transform from a liability into a strength.


15. TEXAS CHRISTIAN
2011 Record (Ranking): 43-19 (19). RPI: 21.

Coach (Record at school): Jim Schlossnagle (348-153, 8 years).

Postseason History: 10 regional appearances (active streak: 8), 1 CWS appearance (2010), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Josh Elander, Jr. .325 .426 .509 5 38 9
1B Kevin Cron, Fr. HS—Phoenix
2B Josh Gonzales, Jr. Tr.—San Jacinto (Texas) JC
3B Jantzen Witte, Jr. .331 .400 .469 4 45 7
SS Derek Odell, Fr. HS—Canyon, Texas
LF Jason Coats, Sr. .325 .403 .518, 8 56 8
CF Kyle Von Tungeln, Jr. .276 .363 .384 0 11 8
RF Brance Rivera, Sr. .324 .411 .512 7 36 14
DH Zac Jordan, Sr. .303 .338 .508 4 24 4
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Andrew Mitchell, So. 6 1 2.84 76 73 2
RHP Trey Teakell, Fr. DNP—redshirted
RHP Stefan Crichton, So. 6 3 1.98 50 42 5
RP Kaleb Merck, Jr. DNP—injured
 
Hitting: 70. Jim Schlossnagle believes this team has a chance to be the best offensive bunch in his tenure. For that to happen, Von Tungeln must do a better job coping with adversity and finally emerge as the dynamic leadoff man he is capable of being; his strong fall was a good sign. Witte is a perfect No. 2 hitter with a patient approach and strong bat-handling skills, but he'll be sidelined the first five or six weeks with a slightly torn hip labrum, so fourth-year Jr. Davy Wright will fill in to start the year. Elander, Coats and Cron are sluggers with advanced approaches and the ability to hit for average in the heart of the lineup.  Rivera is an accomplished hitter with good power to the gaps and excellent bunting skills. Jordan and Gonzales will battle through every at-bat.

Power: 70. No team in college baseball can match TCU's righthanded power potential, as Elander, Cron and Coats all have plus raw power that is also usable. Coats, one of the best run producers in TCU history, has a Jason Bay-style game. Rivera could boost his homer output after adding 20 pounds of muscle over the summer, and Witte bulked up as well. Von Tungeln and Odell have some pop to the pull side, though Odell is still developing as a hitter and maturing off the field.

Speed: 60. Along with his nice lefthanded swing, Von Tungeln's athleticism and plus-plus speed has earned him Jacoby Ellsbury comparisons from TCU's coaches since they recruited him. Rivera and Gonzales bring plus speed, while Coats and Elander run very well for their size.

Defense: 60. Witte is a smooth, instinctive third baseman who anchors the infield, and when he returns to action this defense could be very good. Odell does it easy at short, with a plus arm and advanced instincts, but he is unproven at the college level. Gonzales should be very steady at second, while Cron is a work in progress at first. Elander made huge strides defensively with Team USA last summer, showing sound receiving and blocking skills along with an average arm. In the outfield, the Frogs have above-average range but no plus arm.

Andrew Mitchell (Photo by John Williamson)
Starting Pitching: 55. The Horned Frogs lost rotation mainstays Kyle Winkler, Matt Purke and Steven Maxwell, but Mitchell emerged as their best starter down the stretch last year anyway, then shined in relief for Team USA. Mitchell attacks the zone with a 93-94 fastball that reaches 96 and a plus power breaking ball around 84, though he's still developing his changeup. Tall and very lean, Teakell needs to prove he can hold up under a starter's workload, but his four-pitch repertoire is promising: an 88-91 fastball with good command, a quality changeup, spike breaking ball and lively sinker. Crichton's 86-87 sinker has even more action, complementing his 88-92 fastball and slider that flashes plus at times. The X-factor is stocky, live-armed Fr. LHP Brandon Finnegan, who threw 93-94 from over the top—with no feel for pitching—when he arrived at TCU but was a revelation after dropping to a high three-quarters slot in the fall. He started pitching at 88-91 with dramatically better control and added a cutter to go with his decent changeup.

Bullpen: 50. Merck is a major key to TCU's season. Before having Tommy John surgery in October, 2010, Merck showed a 93-96 mph fastball with life and a nasty hard breaking ball, but he was 90-92 in the fall and his breaking ball lacked its former power. So. RHP Nick Frey is a three-quarters slinger who pounds the zone with three pitches and could also work as a starter if the Frogs decide they need Crichton in the 'pen. JC transfer Justin Sharf is a knuckle-dragging submariner in the Chad Bradford mold, and hitters struggle to elevate his mid-80s fastball. Fr. RHP Preston Morrison gives yet another look—he's a low-80s sidearmer who evokes ex-Frog Trent Appleby. Hard-throwing but erratic So. RHP Tyler Duffie and athletic but raw Fr. RHP Jerrick Suiter are the wild cards.

Experience/Intangibles: 60. Elander, who learned the ropes playing behind former field general Bryan Holaday as a freshman, is the heart and soul of this team, headlining a nice group of veterans from the 2010 CWS team. But TCU has just four pitchers who have ever appeared in a Division I game

Baseball America OFP: 55. TCU's stellar offense should carry it for long stretches, but the young pitching will be tested immediately by a challenging first four weeks (Mississippi, at Cal State Fullerton, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech).


16. CLEMSON
2011 Record (Ranking): 43-20 (21). RPI: 8.

Coach (Record at school): Jack Leggett (812-376-1, 18 years).

Postseason History: 36 regional appearances (active streak: 3), 12 CWS appearances (last in 2010), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Spencer Kieboom, Jr. .282 .365 .359 1 31 0
1B Jon McGibbon, So. .339 .463 .452 1 14 1
2B Steve Wilkerson, So. .173 .308 .173 0 5 1
3B Richie Shaffer, Jr. .315 .438 .577 13 55 8
SS Jason Stolz, Sr. .285 .350 .352 1 27 8
LF Tyler Slaton, Fr. HS—Cumming, Ga.
CF *Thomas Brittle, Jr. .265 .375 .382 2 10 14
RF #Brad Felder, Sr. .274 .354 .453 6 32 14
DH Phil Pohl, Sr. .333 .391 .482 4 33 5
*Stats from 2010 at College of Charleston
#Stats from 2011 at The Citadel
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Kevin Brady, Jr. 2 0 3.86 23 33 0
RHP Dominic Leone, Jr. 6 2 3.70 66 72 0
RHP Scott Firth, Jr. 5 1 3.06 50 38 2
RP Matt Campbell, So. 1 0 3.09 23 25 2
 
Hitting: 50. The Tigers ranked sixth in the nation in both batting (.318) and walks (304) a year ago, but they must replace ACC Player of the Year Brad Miller plus mainstays John Hinson, Jeff Schaus, Will Lamb and Chris Epps. Shaffer, who made great progress driving the ball to the opposite field in a strong summer in the Cape League, takes over as the centerpiece of the lineup. The switch-hitting Wilkerson was a blue-chip recruit who began to harness his significant potential in the fall. Kieboom and Pohl are tough outs with good patience, and Stolz has a decent contact bat. The undersized Slaton reminds Clemson of former Georgia Tech star Danny Payne and should make an immediate impact. Brittle is a good bat-handler and bunter.

Power: 60. Shaffer, the Cape League home run derby champion, has some of the best righthanded power potential in the nation. McGibbon and Felder have intriguing pop from the left side, and Slaton has sneaky power as well. Pohl and Wilkerson have some pop. Fr. C Garrett Boulware brings plus raw power off the bench.

Speed: 65. Felder is an 80 runner who has been clocked at 6.3 seconds in the 60. Slaton, Brittle, Wilkerson and Stolz also bring plus speed, and Shaffer runs well for his size.

Richie Shaffer (Photo by Tom Priddy)
Defense: 60. Stolz arrived at Clemson as a shortstop, and after playing mostly second and third in his career he assumes the starting job at short as a senior. He is a fine athlete, and how he handles shortstop is critical. Shaffer handled the move from first to third well, while McGibbon and Wilkerson should be strong on the right side. Kieboom has advanced catch-and-throw skills and shuts down opposing running games. The outfield is loaded with speed.

Starting Pitching: 65. Clemson's three junior starters can be electric, but all three must continue to make strides commanding the zone. A forearm strain limited Brady in 2011, but he pumped heavy 92-96 mph heat in a strong fall while showing a much-improved downer curveball and good feel for a changeup. Leone is a dogged competitor with an 89-92 fastball that touches 94, a hard curveball and solid changeup. Firth works at 90-93 mph and flashes a plus slider in the mid-80s. Jr. RHP Jonathan Meyer lacks that kind of velocity but has good feel for pitching and a swing-and-miss slider.

Bullpen: 55. Former closers Scott Weismann and Alex Frederick are gone, putting the onus on Campbell to anchor the pen. His velocity jumped into the 88-92 range in the offseason, and his curveball is a weapon. Experienced Sr. RHP David Haselden can pitch in long relief or late in games; his bread and butter is a heavy fastball and a good change. Fr. RHP Daniel Gossett is slight of build but big of arm, with a 91-95 fastball and a sharp downer curve at 76-81. So. RHP Kevin Pohle (5-2, 1.93) gives this unit a fourth quality option.

Experience/Intangibles: 55. Clemson is counting on a number of first-time starters in the lineup and some fresh faces in the bullpen, but the rotation is experienced and Kieboom is an accomplished field general.

Baseball America OFP: 55. Clemson has some question marks but also has significant upside. If McGibbon and Pohl can protect Shaffer and the bullpen can come together, the Tigers could challenge for the ACC title.


17. ARIZONA STATE
2011 Record (Ranking): 43-18 (9). RPI: 7.

Coach (Record at school): Tim Esmay (95-28, 2 years).

Postseason History: 35 regional appearances (active streak: 12), 22 CWS appearances (last in 2010), 5 national titles (last in 1981).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Max Rossiter, Jr. Tr.—Central Arizona JC
1B Abe Ruiz, Sr. .176 .176 .412 1 4 0
2B Drew Stankiewicz, Fr. HS—Gilbert, Ariz.
3B Michael Benjamin, So. .182 .240 .364 1 3 0
SS Deven Marrero, Jr. .315 .352 .434 2 20 10
LF Jake Peevyhouse, Fr. HS—Phoenix
CF Andrew Aplin, Jr. .284 .376 .411 1 19 3
RF Kasey Coffman, So. .333 .333 .333 0 1 0
DH Joey DeMichele, Jr. .368 .412 .663 9 51 6
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Brady Rodgers, Jr. 9 4 2.75 98 87 0
RHP Jake Barrett, Jr. 7 4 4.14 76 72 0
RHP Alex Blackford, Jr. 4 1 2.66 61 55 1
RP Trevor Williams, So. 1 0 2.50 40 35 1
 
Hitting: 50. DeMichele came out of nowhere to lead ASU in batting, slugging and homers as a sophomore, and the Sun Devils hope other players who have been waiting in the wings can emerge in 2012 to replace their six departed starters. DeMichele won't sneak up on anybody this year, and he must handle being the focal point of the offense—along with Marrero, whose simple swing, good hand-eye coordination and all-fields approach make him dangerous. Aplin's high energy level has long made him a favorite of the coaching staff, but he has also shortened his swing since last year, making him a major breakout candidate. Benjamin (son of the former big leaguer by the same name) is another hard-nosed grinder with some strength in his swing, and the switch-hitting Stankiewicz (son of former big leaguer and current Division II Grand Canyon head coach Andy) has a promising contact bat.

Power: 50. DeMichele has slightly above-average power and knows how to use it. The Sun Devils hope Ruiz can provide another physical lefthanded presence in the middle of the lineup, and the long-levered Coffman brings added lefthanded punch. Marrero is more of a doubles hitter but does have average raw power potential. Benjamin and Aplin also have occasional pop from the right side.

Speed: 55. This lineup is filled with solid-average runners whose speed plays up because of their instincts and aggressiveness. Aplin, Benjamin, Marrero, DeMichele and Coffman all fit that mold. Fr. OF Trever Allen, who spurned several D-I soccer offers to play baseball for the Devils, brings more athleticism and speed to the outfield mix.

Defense: 60. Marrero is the best pure shortstop in college baseball, with smooth actions, excellent instincts and a plus arm. The improving DeMichele or the sure-handed Stankiewicz will team with him across the keystone sack, although DeMichele could also see time at first or third. Rossiter's strong catch-and-throw skills make him the front-runner behind the plate, though So. Beau Maggi and Fr. Nathaniel Causey are also in the mix. Aplin is an exceptional defender in center field. The Devils need to prove themselves at all four corners, but Benjamin should be an asset at third.

Jake Barrett (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
Starting Pitching: 65. Rodgers is among the nation's most polished, proven aces. Athletic and competitive, he fills up the zone with an 88-92 fastball and three quality secondary pitches. Barrett has lost 30 pounds and transformed his mentality since arriving at ASU as a freshman; he sits at 93-96, throws his power slider for strikes or as a chase pitch and has a filthy out pitch in his splitter. Blackford, the front-runner for the Sunday job, throws his excellent downer curveball and quality changeup from the same tunnel as his 88-90 fastball, making him tough to hit.

Bullpen: 55. Arizona State's bullpen has a marquee closer in Williams but doesn't have a particularly deep supporting cast. The tenacious Williams works in the mid-90s and owns a good slider and changeup. Fr. LHP Brandon Bonilla, son of ex-big leaguer Bobby, worked in the 92-97 range in the fall and showed a promising curveball and changeup. Fellow Fr. LHP Adam McCreery has an even better curve and change along with an 88-90 fastball that should add velocity as he matures. That duo along with strike-throwing Fr. RHP Darin Gillies are also in the mix to start on Sundays or Tuesdays. Sr. RHP Joseph Lopez is the late-innings sleeper; he showed a low-90s fastball and outstanding curveball in the fall.

Experience/Intangibles: 55. ASU has experience at the front and back of its rotation, plus three returning veterans in the lineup, but this team will be relying on a host of new faces and former backups. Even so, it's a scrappy, hard-working and resilient bunch.

Baseball America OFP: 55. Arizona State is not eligible for the 2012 postseason because of NCAA rules infractions, but the Sun Devils can still win the Pacific-12 Conference title. Don't be shocked if they ride a free-wheeling, nothing-to-lose mentality—and a dynamite one-two punch atop the rotation—into the thick of the Pac-12 race.


18. MIAMI
2011 Record (Ranking): 38-23 (23). RPI: 14.

Coach (Record at school): Jim Morris (814-321-3, 18 years).

Postseason History: 40 regional appearances (active streak: 39), 23 CWS appearances (last in 2008), 4 national titles (last in 2001).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C *Peter O'Brien, Sr. .304 .382 .557 14 69 3
1B Esteban Tresgallo, Fr. HS—Guaynabo, P.R.
2B Micheal Broad, Jr. .248 .377 .416 3 21 1
3B †Tyler Palmer, So. .286 .333 .357 0 2 0
SS Stephen Perez, Jr. .263 .361 .366 0 31 14
LF Rony Rodriguez, Sr. .308 .418 .596 13 44 5
CF Dale Carey, So. .271 .376 .342 1 24 5
RF Chantz Mack, Jr. .232 .349 .341 3 16 4
DH Brad Fieger, So. .280 .333 .369 2 29 1
*Stats at Bethune-Cookman
†Stats at Florida
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Eric Erickson, Sr. DNP—injured

RHP Eric Whaley, Jr. 7 5 2.70 93 82 0
LHP Bryan Radziewski, So. 9 2 3.35 91 92 0
RP E.J. Encinosa, Jr. 5 6 3.45 86 70 0
 
Rony Rodriguez (Photo by Cliff Welch)
Hitting: 55. Rodriguez anchors a Miami lineup that has plenty of upside but also plenty of question marks. The switch-hitting Perez is talented but must cut down on his strikeouts and bounce back from a disappointing spring and summer in the Cape League. Broad, like Perez, saw his average plummet with the BBCOR bats in 2011, but he has added strength in the offseason and should enter 2012 with more confidence. The gritty Palmer has a short, compact stroke and a patient approach that should make him a good fit atop the order. Another newcomer, Tresgallo, is a promising gap-to-gap hitter who punishes fastballs. And the blue-collar Fieger has a knack for finding the barrel.

Power: 55. O'Brien is one of the most dangerous sluggers in college baseball, with plus-plus raw power from the right side and 34 homers under his belt over the last two years. Rodriguez also has good (and usable) righthanded power, while Carey and Mack are still learning to tap into their significant pop.

Speed: 60. Broad and Carey can fly, and Mack also brings above-average speed, though he's still learning how to use it. Perez is an average runner with good instincts on the basepaths.

Defense: 55. Perez has the ability to be a star at shortstop; he just needs to put it all together as a junior. Broad is somewhat of a liability at second. Palmer and Carey have cannon arms, while O'Brien and Mack have good arm strength. Some scouts question whether O'Brien can be a big league catcher, but he handles a staff well and has improved his receiving.

Starting Pitching: 60. Erickson went 23-6 in three seasons between 2007 and 2010, but he missed '09 and '11 altogether after having two Tommy John surgeries. The NCAA granted him a medical hardship waiver and he returned to Miami in August feeling better than ever—and throwing harder than ever before, though his command and moxie are his calling cards. Whaley also had a strong fall, commanding an 88-92 fastball, much-improved slider and good changeup. Radziewski can reach 92 from the left side with excellent life, and his changeup has taken a big step forward to complement his curveball and cutter/slider. Jr. LHP Steven Ewing, a slider specialist with good feel for his entire four-pitch mix, gives Miami a fourth quality starter.

Bullpen: 60. Encinosa made a smooth transition from a starting role to the back of the bullpen in the fall, running his fastball up to 96 mph with cut and sink, showing a good power slider and changeup, and improving his ability to throw strikes. Jr. RHP Eric Nedeljkovic can reach 92, has a pair of decent offspeed pitches and an aggressive mentality that fits well in the late innings. Freshman Andrew Suarez, a polished three-pitch strike-thrower, figures to be the next great Miami lefthander. Fr. Christian Diaz—owner of a nasty knuckle-curve—and low-slot So. A.J. Salcines give Miami two more quality lefties.

Experience/Intangibles: 65. Erickson headlines an experienced pitching staff, while the everyday lineup features six returnees who started at least 32 games last year. Only Erickson has College World Series experience, but Jim Morris and his coaching staff have more than enough of that to go around.

Baseball America OFP: 55. When the NCAA ruled O'Brien—who transferred from Bethune-Cookman to be near his ailing mother—eligible on Jan. 19, Miami's CWS prospects received a major boost. The Hurricanes are a balanced club led by a strong pitching staff, and they should be considered a major factor in the ACC.


19. OKLAHOMA
2011 Record (Ranking): 41-19 (NR). RPI: 30.

Coach (Record at school): Sunny Golloway (261-135-1, 6 years).

Postseason History: 33 regional appearances (active streak: 4), 10 CWS appearances (last in 2010), 2 national titles (last in 1994).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Hunter Lockwood, Fr. HS—Bedford, Texas
1B Max White, Jr. .286 .346 .422 3 20 1
2B Jack Mayfield, Jr. .259 .323 .379 1 10 1
3B Garrett Carey, Jr. Tr.—McLennan (Texas) CC
SS Caleb Bushyhead, Sr. .288 .378 .381 0 18 3
LF Matt Oberste, So. Tr.—Connors (Okla.) State JC
CF Erik Ross, Sr. .315 .381 .338 0 21 19
RF Cody Reine, Sr. .256 .333 .421 4 27 3
DH Drew Harrison, Jr. .200 .286 .320 1 1 1
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Dillon Overton, So. 8 4 2.30 74 59 0
RHP Jonathan Gray, So. Tr.—Eastern Oklahoma State JC
LHP Steven Okert, Jr. Tr.—Grayson County (Texas) JC
RP Damien Magnifico, Jr. Tr.—Howard (Texas) JC
 
Hitting: 55. Depth is the hallmark of Oklahoma's offense, which received a major talent infusion from a large recruiting class in the fall. But the biggest key for the Sooners will be whether holdovers White, Mayfield, Bushyhead, Reine and Harrison can bounce back from lackluster 2011 seasons—and their fall performance suggests they can. Another returnee, Ross, is a catalyst atop the lineup. Mayfield and Bushyhead are contact hitters who should boost their averages this spring. Sunny Golloway calls Oberste a "professional hitter" who can "flat mash." Sr. utilityman Evan Mistich, Fr. IF Drake Roberts and Fr. OF Brian Brightwell give OU insurance against injury or underperformance.

Power: 60. Harrison, White, Oberste and Lockwood all bring good righthanded power potential, though Harrison has yet to unlock his mammoth raw pop in game action. Reine has a knack for big hits and brings good thump from the left side, though he must put his disappointing junior season behind him.

Speed: 50. Ross is an above-average runner who is aggressive on the basepaths. Bushyhead and Mayfield have solid speed, and White runs well for his size. But speed won't be Oklahoma's calling card.

Caleb Bushyhead (Photo by John Williamson)
Defense: 55. Expect the athletic Mayfield to thrive now that he is concentrating on playing a position rather than juggling two-way responsibilities. Bushyhead and Carey have strong arms and good hands on the left side of the infield. White has moved around throughout his career but should be well suited for first. Lockwood throws well but is still polishing his receiving skills. Ross is good in center, but Oklahoma is very ordinary at the outfield corners.

Starting Pitching: 60. The precocious Overton beat Oklahoma's top four rivals—Texas Christian, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma—as a freshman thanks to his deceptive three-quarters delivery, excellent poise and advanced feel for a quality three-pitch  mix. Gray has electric stuff: a 92-94 mph fastball that tickles 97, hard slider and serviceable changeup, though his mechanics and feel for pitching needed refinement last spring in junior college. Another JC transfer, Okert, is the favorite for the Sunday job thanks to an 88-94 mph fastball, a good curveball and solid change.

Bullpen: 55. With the departure of OU's all-time saves leader, Ryan Duke, the Sooners will entrust the closer job to Magnifico, a 2009 unsigned fifth-round pick who blew hitters away with a 96-100 mph fastball in the fall. If he can stay healthy and throw strikes, he could blossom into an elite closer, and the Sooners have a deep group of quality arms around him. Deceptive four-pitch lefty Jordan John and bulldog righty Steven Bruce could have value as long relievers or midweek starters. So. RHP Cale Coshow has shown signs of harnessing his power stuff, highlighted by a fastball that reaches 93. JC transfer LHPs Ty Taylor and Jake Fisher give OU two more strong options.

Experience/Intangibles: 50. The Sooners will rely heavily on newcomers who lack Division I experience. They still have a nice core of veterans from their 2010 CWS team, but many of them have a lot to prove after 2011, when the team underachieved.

Baseball America OFP: 55. Optimism abounded in Norman after the fall, when fierce competition for jobs brought out the best in players. The Sooners look hungry and rejuvenated, and they figure to get better as the spring progresses and their newcomers adjust to Division I.


20. FLORIDA STATE
2011 Record (Ranking): 46-19 (8). RPI: 6.

Coach (Record at school): Mike Martin (1673-577-4, 32 years).

Postseason History: 49 regional appearances (active streak: 37 years), 20 CWS appearances (last in 2010), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Stephen McGee, So. .111 .333 .222 0 2 0
1B Jayce Boyd, Jr. .343 .423 .543 8 60 10
2B Devon Travis, Jr. .329 .455 .519 6 33 5
3B Sherman Johnson, Sr. .256 .411 .345 1 40 10
SS Justin Gonzalez, Jr. .264 .380 .433 8 40 8
LF Jose Brizuela, Fr. HS—Weston, Fla.
CF James Ramsey, Sr. .364 .442 .580 10 67 11
RF Seth Miller, Jr. .178 .341 .248 1 12 8
DH John Nogowski, Fr. HS—Tallahassee, Fla.
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Hunter Scantling, Sr. 3 3 4.45 59 48 0
RHP Scott Sitz, Jr. 4 2 5.92 52 33 1
LHP Brandon Liebrandt, Fr. HS—Alpharetta, Ga.
RP Robert Benincasa 2 2 3.58 33 24 0
 
James Ramsey (Photo by Cliff Welch)
Hitting: 65. Florida State's offense was characteristically elite in 2011, leading the nation in doubles and walks while ranking in the top 10 in scoring and home runs. Five key regulars are back in the fold, led by returning third-team All-American Ramsey, a confident, aggressive player with infectious energy. Ramsey takes a big hack but still has a knack for making consistent, hard contact. Travis, Boyd and Johnson all walked more than they struck out last year, and all recorded 17 or more doubles, embodying Florida State's patient, gap-to-gap approach. Brizuela and Gonzalez have loose swings and lots of ability but need to do a better job laying off pitches out of the zone. Henry has a contact bat and good bunting skills.

Power: 55. FSU ranked 10th in homers (61) last year even though no Seminole hit more than 10, illustrating the lineup's balance. As one scout put it last summer in the Cape League, Gonzalez "has some thunder in his bat," though he's still learning to harness it. Ramsey packs solid power into his compact frame, and he'll take advantage of the short porch in right field at Dick Howser Stadium. Boyd, Travis, Nogowski and Fr. C Mario Amaral have decent power as well, though none are mashers.

Speed: 55. Travis and Miller are plus runners, while Ramsey, Brizuela and Gonzalez have average to slightly better speed. Knee surgery slowed Travis in the fall, but he is back to full strength now.

Defense: 65. The Seminoles are blessed with four returning upperclassmen starters in the infield. Mike Martin compares Boyd to former Seminole Doug Mientkiewicz for his ability to scoop low throws. Travis and Gonzalez have smooth actions and good arms, while Johnson is sure-handed and has a quick release at third. Ramsey made a nice transition from right to center in the offseason, and he is flanked by two rangy athletes in Brizuela and Miller. McGee, coming off shoulder surgery, will split time behind the plate with the very talented Amaral.

Starting Pitching: 45. Florida State struggled to find consistent starters after ace Sean Gilmartin last year, and Gilmartin is gone now, leaving the rotation in a state of flux. Scantling dropped about 15 pounds since last season, which figures to help his stamina, but he also has a good bounceback arm that is well suited for relief. At 6-foot-8, he works downhill with an 88-91 fastball and mixes in a slider with good tilt and a serviceable changeup. Sitz pounds both sides of the plate with a fringy three-pitch mix. Liebrandt has the savvy you'd expect from the son of a big leaguer; he attacks the zone with a mid-80s fastball, a promising slider and a good change. Don't be surprised if Scantling or Sitz winds up in the 'pen, and Benincasa or Fr. RHP Luke Weaver earns a rotation job.

Bullpen: 50. Bullpen stalwarts Daniel Bennett, Mike McGee and Tye Buckley are gone, leaving a thin group without an anchor. Benincasa touches 92, owns a hard slider and has good feel for a split-change, but handling his emotions will be key for him. Thick-bodied Sr. LHP Brian Busch has good angle and deception and fills up the strike zone with three pitches, making him the primary middle man. Weaver flashes electric stuff, including a fastball up to 93, but needs to command the zone better. Two more freshmen—RHP Mike Compton and RHP Bryant Holtmann—should also see meaningful innings.

Experience/Intangibles: 60. The Seminoles win 40 or 50 games every year because their system runs smoothly and their coaches know how to put their players in position to succeed. This lineup is filled with winning veterans, but new pitching coach Mike Bell inherits a challenging situation on the mound.

Baseball America OFP: 55. Florida State will score loads of runs and should play good defense, but the development of its young pitching will ultimately determine whether or not the season is a success.


21. CENTRAL FLORIDA
2011 Record (Ranking): 39-23 (NR). RPI: 22.

Coach (Record at school): Terry Rooney (94-80, 3 years).

Postseason History: 10 regional appearances (active streak: 1), 0 CWS appearances, 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Ryan Breen, Jr. .285 .360 .380 1 26 2
1B D.J. Hicks, Jr. .351 .428 .583 14 66 1
2B Travis Shreve, Sr. .309 .368 .377 0 20 22
3B Chris Taladay, Jr. .279 .313 .377 2 20 2
SS Darnell Sweeney, Jr. .288 .367 .396 1 45 12
LF Nick Carrillo, Jr. Tr.—Central Arizona JC
CF Ronnie Richardson, Jr. .312 .440 .422 2 34 15
RF Erik Hempe, Sr. .307 .373 .497 7 29 4
DH James Vasquez, Fr. HS—Palm City, Fla.
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Brian Adkins, Jr. 6 5 4.40 88 45 0
RHP Ben Lively, So. 5 1 5.05 57 41 0
LHP Eric Skoglund, Fr. HS—Sarasota, Fla.
RP Joe Rogers, Jr. 4 2 4.79 41 38 9
 
Hitting: 65. The Knights ranked among the nation's top 25 in batting (.307), slugging (.463), scoring (6.9 runs per game) and doubles (139, eighth in the country) in 2011, and they return seven players who logged at least 150 at-bats.  Sweeney and Richardson—a pair of dynamic switch-hitters who work counts and wear out the gaps—make the offense go. Breen gives this balanced lineup a third switch-hitter, and the scrappy Shreve is a spark plug. The long-levered Hicks has shown an ability to hit for average as well as power. Vasquez has an innate feel for hitting from the left side.

DJ Hicks
Power: 60. UCF also ranked 12th nationally with 58 homers last year, and though it will miss Jonathan Griffin and his 19 home runs, this remains a powerful group. Hicks, the cleanup hitter, has big power from the left side, while Taladay and Carrillo should be run producers who bring additional lefthanded pop. Hempe has solid power from the right side. Richardson and Breen both offer occasional pop from both sides.

Speed: 60. Richardson, Sweeney and Shreve are plus runners who can wreak havoc on the basepaths, helping UCF's sluggers get more fastballs. Hempe is a solid runner as well.

Defense: 55. The ultra-athletic Sweeney is capable of dazzling at shortstop thanks to good range and arm strength. Shreve is rock-solid at second, and Richardson is a play-maker with a plus arm in center. UCF is unsettled at third, catcher and left field, where Breen, Taladay and Carrillo are all in the mix.

Starting Pitching: 50. Adkins should keep the Knights in every game on Fridays thanks to his competitiveness and ability to throw three pitches for strikes to both sides of the plate. His best offering is an excellent changeup. Lively presents a much different look on Saturdays: he is a power righty who reaches 93 and flashes a plus slider. The lanky, deceptive Skoglund earns comparisons to former Florida Gulf Coast ace Chris Sale; he has a good feel for pitching with a fastball that tops out around 90 and a pair of promising offspeed pitches. Another freshman, RHP Garrett Nuss, is in the Lively mold, with a fastball that bumps 93 and a good slider.

Bullpen: 50. In Rogers, UCF has a proven closer with a bulldog mentality, an 88-91 mph fastball from the left side and a very good slider. Junior-college transfer Roman Madrid, who owns a low-90s fastball and power slider, is the likely setup man. Newcomers Jr. LHP Jimmy Reed and Fr. RHP Ryan Meyer will be counted upon in the middle.

Experience/Intangibles: 50. Central Florida has plenty of experience in the lineup, and getting a taste of regionals last year will pay dividends, though no Knights have any history beyond regionals. How the young arms mature will be critical.

Baseball America OFP: 50. The pillars of Terry Rooney's first recruiting class at UCF are now entering their junior years, and UCF followed that group up with two more strong classes. The future is now for the Knights, who have their sights set on their first super regional.


22. MISSISSIPPI
2011 Record (Ranking): 30-25 (NR). RPI: 42.

Coach (Record at school): Mike Bianco (434-252-1, 11 years).

Postseason History: 16 regional appearances (last in 2010), 4 CWS appearances (last in 1972), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Will Allen, So. .227 .265 .402 4 10 0
1B Matt Snyder, Sr. .301 .425 .534 9 39 0
2B Alex Yarbrough, Jr. .350 .409 .542 7 38 4
3B Andrew Mistone, Jr. Tr.—Rio Hondo (Calif.) CC
SS Blake Newalu, Jr. .292 .363 .348 1 11 12
LF Tanner Mathis, Jr. .336 .386 .376 0 27 7
CF Will Jamison, Fr. HS—Memphis
RF Preston Overbey, So. .233 .278 .331 3 21 3
DH Zack Kirksey, Sr. .192 .283 .423 3 9 0
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Bobby Wahl, So. 0 2 4.80 30 26 4
RHP R.J. Hively, Sr. 1 2 7.85 18 16 0
RHP Mike Mayers, So. 1 0 5.10 30 27 0
RP Brett Huber, Jr. 2 1 3.60 30 21 4
Alex Yarbrough (Photo by Brian Westerholt)
Hitting: 60. The Rebels' offense will rely on a number of capable seasoned veterans and breakout candidates. The lineup's best pure hitter is Yarbrough, who has a balanced swing from both sides and the ability to lace hard line drives all over the field. Mathis is another proven hitter for average, and Allen's gap-to-gap approach should make him one of the SEC's top offensive catchers. Mistone brings another talented gap hitter, while the pesky Newalu and the athletic Jamison could make a disruptive duo atop the lineup.

Power: 60. Getting Snyder back for his senior year was a coup for the Rebels. The No. 2 prospect in the Valley League last summer, Snyder is is mature slugger with above-average lefthanded power. The Rebels also believe they could get get double-digit homers from Kirksey, Overbey and Yarbrough.  Mistone also has decent pop.

Speed: 60. Jamison, who reminds Ole Miss of a stronger Jordan Henry, has plus-plus speed, and fellow Fr. OF Senquez Golson (also a football player) brings similar speed and athleticism off the bench. Mathis, Kirksey and Newalu are also good runners who figure to reach double digits in steals.

Defense: 60. The steady Newalu anchors a solid defensive infield, and Mistone has the ability to be another standout at third. Allen has size, athleticism and a good arm behind the plate. All three outfielders have very good range.

Starting Pitching: 50. Mississippi's weekend rotation is its greatest question mark, but its options are promising. Wahl showed 93-97 mph heat and a power curve in the low 80s as a closer in the Cape League, and Ole Miss thinks he is ready to blossom into a front-line Friday ace. Hively, a fifth-year senior, has a power arm and flashes three quality pitches but needs to put it all together. Mayers has a similar fastball-slider-changeup mix (like Hively his heater can reach 92 mph) and has matured physically and mentally since getting his feet wet as a freshman. Fr. RHP Josh Laxer could wind up as a difference-maker in the rotation thanks to his tenacity, his 91-93 fastball, power breaking ball and feel for pitching.

Bullpen: 55. Huber, a freshman All-American two years ago, gives the Rebels a proven closer with good feel for a solid three-pitch mix. Fr. RHP Hawtin Buchanan strikes an imposing figure on the mound at 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, and his 90-94 mph fastball and significantly improved secondary stuff should make him a key setup man. R-Fr. RHP Scott Weathrsby, the No. 3 prospect in the New York Collegiate League, has good arm-side run on his low-90s fastball, and Jr. LHP Dylan Chavez has similar life from the left side.

Experience/Intangibles: 50. The Rebels return four of their top five hitters and three other position players who appeared in at least 29 games last year. But they are not postseason tested, and the pitching staff is largely inexperienced.

Baseball America OFP: 50. Ole Miss looks like a balanced club capable of making a run, though it won't be easy in the loaded SEC. The Rebels should get back into regionals, and if their young pitchers develop as hoped, they could be dangerous in June.


23. OREGON STATE
2011 Record (Ranking): 41-19 (10). RPI: 25.

Coach (Record at school): Pat Casey (578-356-4, 17 years).

Postseason History: 12 regional appearances (active streak: 3), 4 CWS appearances (last in 2007), 2 national titles (last in 2007).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Ryan Gorton, Sr. .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
1B Danny Hayes, Jr. .279 .414 .436 4 32 2
2B Jake Rodriguez, So. .320 .388 .453 1 7 3
3B Kavin Keyes, So. .302 .359 .374 1 30 3
SS Ryan Dunn, Sr. .280 .358 .411 4 26 1
LF Ryan Barnes, Jr. .248 .352 .345 1 25 8
CF Joey Matthews, Jr. Tr.—Sacramento (Calif.) CC
RF Michael Conforto, Fr. HS—Redmond, Wash.
DH Dylan Davis, Fr. HS—Redmond, Wash.
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Ben Wetzler, So. 6 3 4.66 68 50 1
LHP Jace Fry, Fr. HS—Beaverton, Ore.
RHP Riley Wilkerson, Fr. HS—West Linn, Ore.
RP Tony Bryant, Jr. 3 2 1.52 47 40 12
 
Hitting: 55. The Beavers might not put up flashy numbers on offense, but there are no easy outs in their lineup. Rodriguez, Hayes and Keyes give OSU a trio of line-drive machines who should rack up doubles by the bushel this spring. Dunn was a revelation after switching from the mound to the everyday shortstop job last spring, showing surprising strength in his swing and offensive maturity. Barnes is the most accomplished Beaver at executing hit-and-runs, run-and-hits, drag and push bunts, hitting in the gaps—whatever a situation calls for. Matthews is a contact hitter who uses all fields.

Power: 35. The long ball will never be Oregon State's calling card, but this team should have more pop than recent OSU clubs. The lanky Hayes has developing home run power and good pop to the alleys. Dunn also has occasional pop, and Barnes has added strength since last year. The righthanded Davis has the biggest raw power on the team, and his high school teammate Conforto brings intriguing power potential from the left side, but it could take some time for both players to harness their raw strength.

Speed: 50. Though the Beavers lack blazing speed, they are well stocked with decent runners with savvy on the basepaths. Matthews, Rodriguez and Barnes fit that description well, and Dunn has worked hard to improve his below-average speed.

Defense: 60. How well the Beavers replace catcher Andrew Susac and center fielder Brian Stamps will be crucial. Gorton, a converted pitcher, has a strong arm and improving blocking skills behind the plate, where Rodriguez also figures to see some action. Matthews doesn't have Stamps' speed but still should cover enough ground in center. Dunn has a strong arm and decent range at shortstop, and Rodriguez is rock-solid at second. Keyes mostly played DH a year ago but looked good at third in the fall. Conforto has a plus arm in right, and Barnes is an instinctive outfielder.

Starting Pitching: 55. The Beavers have many exciting—but unproven—young options in the rotation. Wetzler's command of his 89-93 fastball has taken a big step forward, as has his changeup, which now looks like a good weapon to complement his quality curveball. Wetzler ranked as the No. 4 prospect last summer in the West Coast League, where Fry was No. 1 thanks to a 92-94 fastball that bumped 96, a good slider, loads of competitiveness and advanced feel. The lanky Wilkerson is a dogged three-pitch strike-thrower who had an outstanding fall, and talented Fr. LHP Carlos Rodriguez could push him for a starting spot.

Tony Bryant
Bullpen: 70. The unflappable Bryant, who works downhill with an 87-90 fastball and a much-improved breaking ball, gives Oregon State a reliable bullpen anchor. The supporting cast is deep: Jr. LHP Matt Boyd, who spend last summer with Team USA, has superb command of a nice three-pitch mix, including an 86-92 mph fastball that plays up because of his funk and deception. He could also be a factor in the rotation if needed, as could So. RHP Adam Duke, who was electric down the stretch last year in relief, working at 92-94 with serious sink and a power breaking ball. He had shoulder cleanup surgery in June but is throwing catch again and could be back to full strength by March. So. RHP Dan Child also has power stuff and could fit into a variety of roles.

Experience/Intangibles: 60. Oregon State returns four seasoned infielders, a pair of bullpen studs and a talented weekend starter from last year's super regional team, but its No. 7 ranked recruiting class will also be counted upon to plug many holes instantly. The coaching staff always seems to get the Beavers to play hard and play smart.

Baseball America OFP: 50. There are plenty of question marks, but if the young arms mature as hoped, the Beavers have super regional upside.


24. LOUISVILLE
2011 Record (Ranking): 32-29 (NR). RPI: 97.

Coach (Record at school): Dan McDonnell (217-106, 5 years).

Postseason History: 5 regional appearances (last in 2010), 1 CWS appearance (2007), 0 national titles.
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Kyle Gibson, So. .242 .311 .288 0 5 1
1B Zak Wasserman, Jr. .204 .292 .269 1 8 1
2B Ty Young, So. .209 .327 .295 0 15 5
3B Ryan Seiz, So. .234 .301 .335 2 16 2
SS Alex Chittenden, So. .233 .332 .264 0 16 2
LF Cole Sturgeon, So. .209 .304 .218 0 6 4
CF Adam Engel, So. .250 .345 .264 0 9 16
RF Stewart Ijames, Sr. .247 .324 .454 11 45 6
DH Jeff Gardner, So. .333 .368 .533 3 13 3
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Justin Amlung, Jr. 10 2 2.31 105 80 0
RHP Jeff Thompson, So. 2 1 2.75 39 43 1
RHP Travis Tingle, Sr. 3 1 2.60 45 37 1
RP Derek Self, So. 1 2 3.96 25 25 0
 
Hitting: 45. Louisville, typically a power-hitting team, struggled to adjust to the BBCOR bats in 2011, producing too many flyball outs and hitting just .253 as a team (269th in the nation). The Cardinals also took their lumps with a number of freshmen in the lineup, but the coaches expect much better production from those players as sophomores. Engel and Chittenden, fresh off encouraging summers in the Coastal Plain and New England Collegiate leagues, have added strength and could be on the verge of breakout years. Sturgeon and Young are good bat-handlers with promising feel for hitting, and Gibson should be similarly scrappy.

Power: 45. Ijames, a physically mature fifth-year senior, will be counted upon to anchor the middle of the lineup as a lefthanded power hitter. Gardner and Wasserman also bring lefthanded pop, and Seiz has intriguing power potential from the right side. But Ijames, who has 33 homers in three seasons, is the only proven home run hitter on this club.

Speed: 55. Engel has been clocked between 6.5 and 6.7 seconds in the 60-yard dash, and his speed plays on the basepaths and in the outfield. Young is a 6.6 runner, and Sturgeon has average speed but very good instincts. The rest of the lineup is filled with solid athletes but not burners.

Defense: 60. Chittenden's strong arm and good actions caused him to be voted the best defender in the NECBL, and he should cut down on the 18 errors he made as a freshman. Young and Seiz are also very promising defenders, and Gibson has good catch-and-throw skills behind the plate, frequently producing sub-2.0-second pop times. Engel and Sturgeon have good range and arm strength in the outfield.

Starting Pitching: 60. The Cardinals are blessed with an abundance of power-armed starting options. They got a big boost when Amlung opted not to sign as a drafted sophomore; a Cape League all-star, Amlung attacks hitters with a 90-94 fastball and a quality low-80s slider. Thompson, the top pitching prospect in the NECBL last summer, has a physical 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame, a fastball that reaches 93, the makings of a plus slider and a developing changeup. The competitive Tingle commands a solid three-pitch repertoire, including an 88-92 fastball. So. RHP Dace Kime, an unsigned eighth-rounder out of high school, works at 89-92 and flashes a plus curve in the mid-70s.

Derek Self (Photo by Tomasso DeRosa)
Bullpen: 70. The experienced, unflappable Self—another Cape League all-star—anchors a very deep bullpen. Self pounds the zone with a 90-92 fastball and good slider. Jr. RHP Matt Koch has an even bigger arm, with a 91-96 mph fastball and a swing-and-miss slider at 79-83. Louisville's 12th-ranked recruiting class brought quality reinforcements, headlined by Fr. RHP Nick Burdi, who touches 97 and flashes a devastating hard slider. Fellow Fr. RHPs Joe Ceja and Jared Ruxer can reach 93 and have promising breaking balls, while Adam Schemenauer and Joey Filomeno have power stuff from the left side.

Experience/Intangibles: 55. The Cardinals are loaded with seasoned upperclassmen on the mound, so they can ease in their talented freshmen. While the lineup is sophomore-laden, most of them have some playing experience.

Baseball America OFP: 50. Louisville's lineup has a lot to prove, but the summer and fall provided plenty of reason for optimism, and the pitching staff should be good enough to carry this team to plenty of low-scoring victories.


25. CAL STATE FULLERTON
2011 Record (Ranking): 41-17 (14). RPI: 15.

Coach (Record at school): Rick Vanderhook (1st year).

Postseason History: 33 regional appearances (active streak: 20), 16 CWS appearances (last in 2009), 4 national titles (last in 2004).
2012 Lineup
Pos. Name, Yr. AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB
C Chad Wallach, So. .222 .344 .222 0 3 0
1B Carlos Lopez, Jr. .342 .400 .481 2 34 8
2B *Derek Legg, Jr. .228 .292 .257 0 9 1
3B Richy Pedroza, Jr. .331 .393 .411 0 22 9
SS Anthony Trajano, Sr. .313 .388 .354 0 23 5
LF Ivory Thomas, Jr. .294 .450 .375 1 17 20
CF Michael Lorenzen, So. .342 .427 .479 2 31 19
RF Austin Kingsolver, Jr. .241 .302 .278 0 6 9
DH J.D. Davis, Fr. HS—Elk Grove, Calif.
*Stats from 2010 at Long Beach State
Pos Name, Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
RHP Dylan Floro, Jr. 4 2 4.23 55 39 1
RHP Grahamm Wiest, Fr. DNP—redshirted
LHP Kenny Mathews, Fr. HS—Diamond Bar, Calif.
RP Michael Lorenzen, So. Did not pitch
 
Hitting: 60. Fullerton's lineup is loaded with athletic slashers who should be a good fit for new coach Rick Vanderhook's relentless, grind-it-out offensive style. Pedroza, Thomas and Trajano all stand 5-foot-9 or smaller but have compact swings and bat speed. The switch-hitting Legg is another sub-6-footer who is not an easy out. Lopez was born to hit hard line drives, and the dynamic Lorenzen joins him to form a nice duo in the heart of the order. The lean Kingsolver is making progress with his contact bat, but he and Thomas will be pushed by a deep group of athletic outfielders: Anthony Hutting, Greg Velasquez, Clay Williamson and Austin Diemer. Fr. SS Matt Chapman's knack for making hard contact will make him a tough challenger for an infield job.

Power: 30. Departed slugger Nick Ramirez accounted for more than half of Fullerton's 17 homers last year, leaving a serious power vacuum. The physical Davis has intriguing raw power potential to all fields, but it's hard to expect many homers from him as a freshman. Lorenzen should continue growing into some power, and Wallach has plenty of strength and leverage in a rather long swing. But most of the lineup is contact- or gap-oriented.

Michael Lorenzen (Photo by Larry Goren)
Speed: 65. Kingsolver and Thomas have blazing speed, as do Williamson and Diemer. Lorenzen and Pedroza have plus speed and are aggressive on the basepaths. Trajano and Legg are decent runners.

Defense: 60. Good luck finding a group of outfielders that cover more ground than Fullerton's. Lorenzen also has premium arm strength in center. Legg and Trajano are steady and savvy if not overly toolsy. Pedroza has flashed big arm strength in the past but has been dogged by several arm issues, including a separated shoulder late in the fall. Catching is an area of concern.

Starting Pitching: 45. Floro has been a key swingman for two years, and he should have no trouble sliding to the Friday starter spot. His average fastball plays up because of its sink and deception, he has excellent feel for his slider, and he has added a changeup with good sink. The funky Wiest is not overpowering, but he pounds the zone with a fastball around 87 and keeps hitters off balance with a good breaking ball. The Sunday job is wide open, but expect a freshman to occupy the role—whether it's the three-pitch lefty Mathews or a power righty, Koby Gauna, Jose Cardona or Davis.

Bullpen: 45. After losing eight drafted pitchers, the Titans simply lack proven arms. Davis has the arm strength and aggressive demeanor to thrive at the back of the bullpen, and Vanderhook thinks his velocity could jump from the high 80s into the low 90s this spring. Cardona is similarly fearless and flashed 91-93 mph heat in the fall. So. RHP Christian Coronado locates a fringy fastball and quality breaking ball effectively. Gauna bumps 90 and commands a solid slider and change.

Experience/Intangibles: 55. Floro and Coronado (21 innings) are the only pitchers on Fullerton's staff with any D-I experience. But the lineup returns plenty of blue-collar veterans, and Vanderhook is a true Titan who will get his team to play hard.

Baseball America OFP: 50. The significant pitching question marks place Fullerton in the unfamiliar position of being an underdog to get to Omaha. This program has a history of thriving when expectations for them are lower—and the Titans are still the favorite to win the Big West Conference.