Looking Ahead: Eight For The 2007 College World Series

Oregon State just won the College World
Series, but Baseball America always looks ahead. So here are eight
teams that look likely to end the 2007 season in Omaha. A year ago,
we predicted four of the eight teams that made it here this year
(Rice, Clemson, Oregon State and Cal State Fullerton) and got gun shy
about adding Georgia Tech or North Carolina to the list because it
looked like too many clubs from one conference. Four Atlantic Coast
Conference teams made it anyway this year. Oh, and here are the
misses, in case you were wondering: Texas, Florida, Florida State and Nebraska.

Remember, plenty of factors can change
between now and when these clubs take the field in February such as
unexpected professional signings, transfers and injuries. Even last
year’s list looked different in our preseason top 25, which included
six of this year’s CWS teams in the top eight.

But this is just for fun right? Go
ahead and print it, save it and grade it in a year. The teams are
listed alphabetically.


The Bruins went from 15 wins in 2005 to
33 in 2006 behind a precocious crop of freshmen that included
shortstop Brandon Crawford and third baseman Jermaine Curtis. Expect
catcher Ryan Babineaux and outfielder/lefthander Tim Murphy to display
marked improvement as sophomores after heating up late in their first
seasons. Dave Huff is gone after transferring in to solidify the
rotation, but coach John Savage might have another move like that up
his sleeve. Plus, righthander Tyson Brummett returns as a senior, and
closer Brant Rustich could come back as a as a junior after a medical
redshirt (if he doesn’t sign as a 13th-round pick of the Indians).
And UCLA has signed two of the top pitching recruits on the West
Coast in Charles Brewer and Gavin Brooks.


Top picks Jon Jay
and Chris Perez leave vacancies in the No. 3 hole and closer role, but
nearly everyone else that helped this upstart reach Omaha a year
ahead of schedule will be back and gunning for a return. Scott Maine
and Danny Gil were draft eligible, but should return to the rotation
unless their strong postseason performances generated late
professional interest. The same holds true for third baseman Danny
Valencia, a 19th-round pick of the Twins, who could return to the
middle of the order behind speedy slasher Jemile Weeks and before
powerful Dennis Raben, who launched two moonshots in Omaha. Shortstop
Mark Sobolewski could round out the middle infield as a freshman
after sliding to the Astros in the 20th round.

North Carolina

First-rounders Andrew Miller and Daniel
Bard leave as juniors and national ERA leader Jonathan Hovis departs from the bullpen, but every other prominent player on this CWS
finalist will be back, including every position player who started a
game this season. Shortstop Josh Horton will again flirt with .400
(and the draft’s first round), while Jay Cox, Chad Flack and Tim
Federowicz continue providing thunder to a team that led the NCAA
tournament in homers and slugging. Cox, a junior, was drafted late
enough that he’ll return to campus, as will righthander Robert
Woodard, the team’s No. 2 starter. Freshman Luke Putkonen or junior
Matt Danford could help flesh out a rotation that might need a
contribution from signees Alex White or Matt Petition. Andrew
Carignan returns as closer.


No pitching staff
struck out more batters than Rice’s in 2006. Eddie Degerman and Bryce
Cox leave after ringing up a ton of those K’s, but the rotation
should still feature two power lefthanders if Joe Savery puts his
tendinitis behind him and closer Cole St.Clair makes the expected
move from the bullpen. Bobby Bell and Will McDaniel both return to a
pitching staff that will again be flush with quality arms. The lineup
loses Josh Rodriguez and Greg Buchanan, but the first four hitters
will still look fearsome with Tyler Henley, Brian Friday, Savery and
Aaron Luna, fresh off setting a school record with 16 homers as a
freshman, all lined up.

South Carolina

Pitching struggles
hampered South Carolina for much of 2006, and it still fell only a
game shy of Omaha. Don’t worry about that next year as righthanders
Wynn Pelzer, Mike Cisco and Harris Honeycutt already look like one of
the best rotations in the Southeastern Conference. Justin Smoak was
one of the nation’s best freshmen, and he and classmates Andrew
Crisp, Reese Havens and James Darnell should only find more success
as sophomores. Add to that the return of thumpers Robbie Grinestaff
and Phil Disher, who will be back to power an offense that again will
offer the potential to homer in five consecutive at-bats.


Sometimes the
Jimmys and Joes mean more than the X’s and O’s, and Texas has all
kinds of talent plus that Garrido fellow who knows a little something
about getting the best out of a team. Drew Stubbs and Kyle McCulloch
will be missed, but the outfield can remain potent with full seasons
out of Jordan Danks and Kyle Russell. Nick Peoples could move back to
center field as a junior while manning the leadoff spot. Bradley
Suttle and Preston Clark will keep UT strong up the middle as
sophomores. Texas should get bounce-back junior years from Adrian
Alaniz and Kenn Kasparek while Austin Wood, Kyle Walker and Riley
Boening grow into more vital performers.


Vanderbilt closely resembles North
Carolina at this point last year. It returns a potential No. 1
overall pick to front the rotation as a junior in lefthander David
Price. His 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings led a staff that finished
second to Rice in strikeouts. Everyone else on the staff aside from
Matt Buschmann return, and freshmen Nick Christiani, Brett Jacobsen
and Josh Zeid should mature and find more prominent roles. Freshman stud Pedro Alvarez brings his 22 homers back to a lineup that
will feature eight holdovers, including shortstop Ryan Flaherty and
his team-best .339 average.


baseman Sean Doolittle was the ACC player of the year as a sophomore,
and he’ll battle Wichita State’s Damon Sublett for the honor of being
the nation’s top two-way player in their junior seasons. Jacob
Thompson returns to join him in the rotation after a strong freshman
showing. They combined for 21 wins a year ago, and their ERAs don’t
equal 5.00 if you add them together. The base-hit Brandons (Marsh and
Guyer) return to the middle of the order for the Cavaliers, and the
defense should again be one of the nation’s best and most efficient.
That was a bold statement this season given that freshmen David
Adams, Greg Miclat and Jeremy Farrell joined Doolittle around the
horn, and each should improve in both phases of the game in their
second season.

Five More To Follow

Arizona State




Wichita State