2012 West Coast Conference Preview

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

Conf. Overall
San Diego 11 10 22 31
*San Francisco 16 5 32 25
Gonzaga 15 6 32 29
St. Mary’s 9 12 27 28
Portland 11 10 23 31
Pepperdine 7 14 22 34
Loyola Marymount 11 10 30 25
Brigham Young (MWC) 31 27
Santa Clara 4 17 17 34
Projected NCAA Teams (2): San Diego, San Francisco.
Conference Schedule: 24 games; begins March 30.
Conference Tournament: None.
Player of the Year: Kris Bryant, 3b, San Diego.
Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Zimmer, rhp, San Francisco.
1. Kyle Zimmer, rhp, San Francisco
2. Dylan Covey, rhp, San Diego (2013)
3. Kris Bryant, 3b, San Diego (2013)
4. Scott Frazier, rhp, Pepperdine (2013)
5. Patrick Wisdom, 3b, St. Mary’s
6. Aaron Brown, of/lhp, Pepperdine (2013)
7. Martin Agosto, rhp, St. Mary’s
8. Marco Gonzales, lhp/1b, Gonzaga (2013)
9. Michael Wagner, rhp, San Diego (2013)
10. Chris Johnson, rhp, Portland
11. Calvin Drummond, rhp, San Diego
12. Pat Stover, of, Santa Clara
13. Jordan Remer, lhp, San Francisco
14. Jon Moscot, rhp, Pepperdine
15. Joe Sever, 2b, Pepperdine
1. Kody Watts, rhp, Portland (HS—Vancouver, Wash.)
2. Trevor Megill, rhp, Loyola Marymount (HS—Huntington Beach, Calif.)
3. Aaron Brown, of/lhp, Pepperdine (HS—Chatsworth, Calif.)
4. Bradley Zimmer, of, San Francisco (HS—La Jolla, Calif.)
5. Austin Davidson, if, Pepperdine (HS—Oxnard, Calif.)
6. Kyle Raubinger, 3b, Loyola Marymount (HS—Arroyo Grande, Calif.)
7. Andrew Daniel, ss, San Diego (HS—San Diego)
8. Travis Radke, lhp, Portland (Westlake Village, Calif.)
9. Zach Abbruzza, rhp/c, Gonzaga (HS—Redmond, Wash.)
10. Colin Welmon, rhp, Loyola Marymount (HS—Santa Ana, Calif.)

• The always-competitive WCC looks poised for a banner year, as its overall talent level compares favorably with other Western mid-majors (including the Big West), and five to seven teams look like legitimate contenders for the conference crown. The league gains a ninth quality member this year, as Brigham Young bolts the Mountain West for the WCC (it’s independent in football). The Cougars played with passion and savvy during an undefeated four-game tour through the Dominican Republic at Thanksgiving, giving the coaching staff optimism for the season. But BYU has its work cut out for it in a strong WCC.

• San Diego struggled mightily against a robust early-season schedule last year and finished with just 22 wins, its fewest since 1991. But the Toreros have the best collection of power arms in the WCC, and their lineup should be considerably deeper thanks to the addition of a solid group of newcomers, led by middle infielders Andrew Daniel and Austin Bailey, who both have excellent feel for hitting and good athleticism. They join returning freshman All-American slugger Kris Bryant (.365/.482/.599, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 18 SB) in what figures to be an improved infield. But the strength of the team is the pitching staff, where Jr. RHP Calvin Drummond (3-4, 3.29, 77 IP/55 SO) and So. RHPs Michael Wagner (0-0, 2.97, 30 IP/28 SO) and Dylan Covey (1-3, 7.60, 34 IP/29 SO) all can dial their fastballs up to 93 mph or better. Covey, an unsigned first-round pick out of high school, added strength in the offseason as he adjusts to having diabetes, and his durability should benefit.

• Defending WCC champion San Francisco returns seven position players who logged significant playing time a year ago and a stellar one-two punch atop the rotation in Jr. RHP Kyle Zimmer (6-4, 3.73, 92 IP/89 SO) and Sr. LHP Jordan Remer (3-2, 3.67, 4 SV, 49 IP/60 SO). Remer generates good movement from a high slot on an 88-91 mph fastball that bumps 94, and he mixes in a pair of solid secondary offerings. Zimmer can reach 95 mph and flashes a wipeout power breaking ball. Zimmer’s little brother Bradley is USF’s top newcomer, a lanky center fielder with above-average speed and raw power. The Dons have fourth-year players at every infield position, catcher and DH. With mainstay Stephen Yarrow gone, the Dons hope Sr. 1B Nik Balog (.274/.319/.391, 4 HR) can be the centerpiece of the lineup.

• Gonzaga’s balanced club is headlined by the WCC’s best all-around player, So. LHP/1B Marco Gonzales (11-2, 2.57, 105 IP/90 SO; .291/.403/.382). The athletic Gonzales is a strong defender at first base with a smooth line-drive stroke at the plate and a polished four-pitch mix on the mound. The Zags feature a pair of seasoned upperclassmen behind Gonzales in the rotation, as Jr. LHP Tyler Olson (6-5, 3.97) and Sr. RHP Andy Hunter (2-3, 3.43) both have a good feel for pitching. Gonzaga’s top newcomer, two-way talent Zach Abbruzza, is the likely closer, with an 87-90 fastball and swing-and-miss splitter in the 78-81 range.

• St. Mary’s has two of the WCC’s top three prospects for the 2012 draft in slugging Jr. 3B Patrick Wisdom (.351/.416/.553, 8 HR, 46 RBI) and Jr. RHP Martin Agosta (7-6, 2.81, 90 IP/76 SO). Wisdom has two carrying tools in his huge power potential and plus arm at third base, while Agosta generated some scouting buzz in the fall by touching 95 mph and flashing a plus slider. Agosta is joined in the weekend rotation by a pair of quality Sr. RHPs: Mark Anderson (8-6, 3.50, 108 IP/80 SO) and Kyle Barraclough (7-6, 2.81, 90 IP/76 SO). The lineup is also loaded with upperclassmen, led by Wisdom and Sr. 1B Troy Channing, who hit 35 homers his first two seasons but just eight last year.

• Portland is yet another WCC club that is teeming with seasoned veterans. The Pilots’ greatest strength is on the mound, where they return their entire weekend rotation and welcome two impact freshmen in RHP Kody Watts (who can touch 95 and has the makings of a plus curveball and splitter) and LHP Travis Radke (who has advanced feel for three pitches and a projectable 6-foot-4 frame). That duo joins savvy Sr. RHP Kyle Kraus (6-5, 4.12, 103 IP/59 SO) and hard-throwing RHPs Chris Johnson (3-5, 3.56) and Owen Jones (5-6, 4.60). Jones, who started last year, is the likeliest candidate to replace stalwart Chris Dennis in the closer role. Two keys to Portland’s season will be how well Jr. C Beau Fraser returns from shoulder surgery, and whether Sr. SS Kris Kauppila (.160/.228/.192) can rebound from a disastrous 2011, when he was hampered by a shoulder injury of his own. His brother Lonnie plays middle infield for second-ranked Stanford.