2013 Preseason College Top 25 Scouting Reports
We love the 20-80 scouting scale at Baseball America; we use it to assess everything from prospects to our favorite local barbecue restaurants. So we figured it would be fun and instructive to 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. There is no team like this heading into 2013.
70: Elite. A leading contender for the national title. This year, there is no clear-cut favorite that stands out dramatically from the rest of the pack
65: Well-above-average. Legitimate championship contender. (North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Louisville, Mississippi State, Oregon State, South Carolina, North Carolina State.)
60: Above-average. Strong Omaha contender. (Stanford, Louisiana State, Kentucky, UCLA, Mississippi, Texas Christian, Oregon.)
55: Slightly above-average. A threat to win a conference title and perhaps reach Omaha. (Florida, Rice, Oklahoma, Florida State, New Mexico, Cal State Fullerton, Southern Mississippi, Arizona, San Diego.)
50: Solid-average. Strong NCAA tournament teams who could make a postseason run. (None in this year's preseason Top 25)
Our OFP grades are more tightly bunched than usual this year, with no teams in our rankings above a 65 OFP, and no team below a 55. This is a reflection of our contention that there are a lot of very solid teams heading into this season, but no overwhelming favorite that stands out from the pack.
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 illuminating way to gauge each team's projected strengths and weaknesses heading into the season.
|1. NORTH CAROLINA|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 46-16 (17). RPI: 8.|
Coach (Record at school): Mike Fox (635-262-1, 14 years).
Postseason History: 27 regionals (active streak; 11 straight), 9 CWS trips (last in 2011), 0 national titles.
|C||Matt Roberts, Jr.||.111/.219/.148||0||3||0|
|1B||Cody Stubbs, Sr.||.258/.347/.403||5||35||6|
|2B||Michael Russell, So.||.269/.383/.341||0||24||14|
|3B||Colin Moran, Jr.||.365/.434/.494||3||35||1|
|SS||Landon Lassiter, Fr.||HS—Lexington, N.C.|
|LF||Parks Jordan, Jr.||.270/.357/.349||0||31||7|
|CF||Chaz Frank, Sr.||.293/.419/.401||0||39||16|
|RF||Skye Bolt, Fr.||HS—Atlanta|
|DH||Brian Holberton, Jr.||.297/.404/.398||1||15||1|
|LHP||Kent Emanuel, Jr.||8||4||1.96||110||100||0|
|RHP||Benton Moss, So.||7||2||1.94||79||83||0|
|LHP||Hobbs Johnson, So.||7||1||1.56||58||69||0|
|RP||Mason McCullough, So.||0||0||3.86||9||8||0|
Hitting: 60. The Tar Heels were an average offensive team a year ago, but their depth and experience, plus a full season of a healthy Moran,d should make them formidable in 2013. As usual, UNC ranked among the national leaders in walks last year (fourth with 304), and patience will be a hallmark of this lineup. Moran, perhaps the best pure hitter in college baseball, anchors the middle of the order fully healed from his broken hand, while Frank is a high-energy catalyst atop the lineup. Lassiter, Russell and Roberts provide key righthanded bats in a lefty-leaning lineup, and the switch-hitting Bolt excels from the right side, giving UNC good balance. Holberton and Jordan will deliver quality at-bats and big hits.
Power: 55. Expect Moran's power numbers to improve with a full healthy season. Stubbs also has big raw power but needs to make more consistent contact. Roberts and Bolt have intriguing pop and are coming off a strong falls. The rest of the lineup is capable of driving the gaps consistently.
Speed: 55. Freshmen Lassiter and Bolt give UNC a significant speed upgrade, as both are plus runners. Russell and Frank are solid runners with good baserunning instincts.
Defense: 60. The Tar Heels have new starters at the key positions of catcher and shortstop, but Lassiter has the hands and instincts to be a stalwart. Roberts has a strong arm and is ready to catch every day, though talented Fr. Korey Dunbar provides some insurance behind the plate. The much-improved Moran and the rock-solid Stubbs are underrated on the corners, and the outfielders will cover plenty of ground.
Starting Pitching: 70. UNC returns three weekend starters who each posted sub-2.00 ERAs last year. Emanuel is a veteran workhorse with outstanding fastball command, deception and a good changeup, and his breaking ball is improved. Moss and Johnson both pound the strike zone and can reach 92 mph with their fastballs, and both are dogged competitors. Moss also has a true swing-and-miss curveball. Sr. RHP Chris Munnelly has a quality three-pitch mix, leading a deep stable of other starting options.
Bullpen: 70. Though UNC lost All-America closer Michael Morin and lefty stalwart R.C. Orlan, no team has better bullpen depth than the Tar Heels. McCullough has electric stuff, with a fastball that sits 92-96 and bumps 98 along with a plus slider. So. RHPs Chris McCue and Luis Paula both can reach 94 mph and offer end-of-the-game makeup. Rubber-armed So. RHP Trevor Kelley has thrived since dropping his arm slot, and UNC envisions him becoming a key piece in the mold of former Tar Heels Rob Wooten and Jonathan Hovis. Shane Taylor, Andrew Smith, Trent Thornton and Taylore Cherry provide absurd depth from the right side, while Tate Parrish and Chris O'Brien have good stuff from the left side.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. UNC lacks an experienced closer, catcher and shortstop, but veterans abound everywhere else. This team has mental toughness in spades and great coaching.
Baseball America OFP: 65. With one of the nation's deepest rosters, North Carolina is insured against injury and underperformance. This group is hungry to put last year's stunning home regional loss to St. John's behind it, and return to Omaha for the sixth time in the last eight years.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 35-28 (NR). RPI: 25.|
Coach (Record at school): Tim Corbin (411-217, 10 years).
Postseason History: 11 regionals (active streak; 7), 1 CWS trip (last in 2011), 0 national titles.
|C||Spencer Navin, Jr.||.298/.427/.404||3||27||9|
|1B||Conrad Gregor, Jr.||.328/.439/.463||3||35||10|
|2B||Tony Kemp, Jr.||.261/.392/.386||1||31||21|
|3B||Vince Conde, So.||.195/.280/.297||2||26||4|
|SS||Joel McKeithan, Jr.||.171/.292/.195||0||4||1|
|LF||Jack Lupo, Sr.||.215/.246/.256||0||15||8|
|CF||Connor Harrell, Sr.||.241/.353/.433||7||26||4|
|RF||Mike Yastrzemski, Sr.||.286/.383/.427||6||41||14|
|DH||John Norwood, So.||.159/.269/.250||1||7||3|
|RHP||T.J. Pecoraro, Jr.||2||4||3.40||53||34||0|
|LHP||Kevin Ziomek, Jr.||5||6||5.22||79||79||0|
|RHP||Tyler Beede, So.||1||5||4.52||72||68||0|
|RP||Brian Miller, So.||0||2||3.26||61||49||5|
Hitting: 60. Vanderbilt's balanced lineup has a nice blend of lefthanded and righthanded hitters who all battle through every at-bat. Lefties Kemp and Yastrzemski are on-base machines who make the Commodores go. Fellow lefty Gregor is the centerpiece of the lineup, a patient hitter with the best pure swing on the team. Navin emerged as a tough out with a repeatable swing during his sophomore year, and Vandy hopes Conde and Lupo can provide similar offensive value this spring. Freshmen Xavier Turner brings offensive upside and could push Conde for playing time.
Power: 50. Gregor has yet to unlock his plus raw power in two years at Vandy, but he is a physical presence who figures to see his home run numbers spike as a junior. Harrell doesn't hit for average but can hit the ball a long way when he connects. Norwood also has good pop in his loose, athletic righthanded swing, making him a breakout candidate. Yastrzemski adds occasional power, though he's more of a gap-to-gap hitter.
Speed: 60. Though Kemp is the only classic burner in the lineup, Vandy is loaded with instinctive, aggressive baserunners with solid speed that plays up. Yastrzemski and Lupo fit that description perfectly, but even Navin and Gregor combined for 19 steals in 25 tries last year. Harrell and Norwood are above-average runners who could run more in 2013.
Defense: 65. The Commodores have a pair of premium defenders up the middle in Harrell and Navin, whose plus arm and quality receiving skills make him one of the nation's best defensive catchers. A left fielder as a freshman, Kemp is improving at second base after moving there halfway through last year, and the shortstop position will be manned ably by the either the rangy McKeithan or dynamic Fr. Dansby Swanson. Conde has smooth actions and plays well on the run at third base, while Lupo and Yastrzemski are outstanding on the outfield corners.
Starting Pitching: 65. The entire weekend rotation returns intact, and it has a chance to be special if Ziomek and Beede can live up to their tantalizing talent, as both took their lumps a year ago. Pecoraro returned quickly from Tommy John surgery to front the staff last year, thanks to his competitiveness and ability to command a quality three-pitch mix. Ziomek's command held him back as a sophomore, but he flashed the makings of three above-average pitches in the Cape Cod League last summer, highlighted by a 91-93 fastball with explosive life. Beede has premium stuff (a plus fastball, plus changeup and plus breaking ball) and a pedigree to match (he was an unsigned first-round pick out of high school). So. LHP Jared Miller gives this staff a reliable, strike-throwing bulldog on Tuesday.
Bullpen: 70. This unit stands out most for its depth of young power arms, but Miller gives it a dependable anchor with a funky delivery, excellent sink and a tenacious mentality. The nation's best recruiting class provides supremely talented reinforcements in flame-throwers Walker Buehler, Kyle Smith and Carson Fulmer, the latter of whom really stood out in the fall for his maturity and command as well as his stuff. The 'Dores were also impressed this fall with the way Fr. RHPs Luke Stephenson and Pat Delano worked downhill and induced ground balls. Holdovers Philip Pfeifer and Steven Rice provide good options from the left side, while So. RHP Adam Ravenelle figures to take a big step forward following a nice summer in the New England Collegiate League.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. Few teams have senior leadership like Vandy gets from Yastrzemski and Harrell, two of six returning regulars in the lineup. The weekend rotation is similarly battle-tested. The Commodores lost two very well respected assistant coaches in the offseason, but they shouldn't miss a beat with new hires Travis Jewett and Scott Brown.
Baseball America OFP: 65 Vanderbilt was rewarded for throwing its young players into the fray early on last year, as the team's red-hot second half was one of the season's best stories. This team is built to reach Omaha, where it should be one of the favorites to win the national title.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 46-22 (6). RPI: 9.|
Coach (Record at school): Dave Van Horn (405-223, 10 years).
Postseason History: 25 regionals (active streak; 11), 7 CWS trips (active streak; 1), 0 national titles.
|C||Jake Wise, Jr.||.244/.337/.341||2||25||2|
|1B||Eric Fisher, So.||DNP—Redshirted|
|2B||Dominic Ficociello, Jr.||.290/.387/.429||6||41||4|
|3B||Brian Anderson, So.||.283/.396/.367||2||11||2|
|SS||Brett McAfee, So.||Tr.—Panola (Texas) JC|
|LF||Joe Serrano, So.||.333/.403/.377||0||7||4|
|CF||Jacob Morris, Jr.||.236/.359/.407||3||23||5|
|RF||Matt Vinson, Sr.||.217/.345/.275||0||13||2|
|DH||Willie Schwanke, Fr.||HS—Frisco, Texas|
|RHP||Ryne Stanek, Jr.||8||4||2.82||93||83||0|
|LHP||Randall Fant, Sr.||2||3||3.27||52||39||0|
|RHP||Trey Killian, Fr.||HS—Mountain Home, Ark.|
|RP||Barrett Astin, Jr.||3||5||1.99||59||61||11|
Hitting: 55. The Hogs were a middling offensive team a year ago, though their ability to work counts and execute made them better than their .271 team average suggests. Talented recruiting classes from the last two years will now assume prominent roles in the lineup, making this team's offensive potential intriguing, if also difficult to forecast. The centerpiece of the lineup is the enigmatic Ficociello, whose lightning-quick wrists make him dangerous from both sides of the plate. Look for the compact Serrano (a doubles machine who controls the zone well) and the wiry Anderson to take major steps forward with increased playing time. Schwanke is a gifted natural hitter from the left side, and McAfee can be a sparkplug with the ability to drive the gaps.
Power: 50. Ficociello has yet to fully harness his intriguing raw power, but he figures to improve upon his half-dozen homers from a year ago. Fisher brings some lefthanded juice and consistently turns in competitive at-bats. Morris and Vinson are very physical but must improve their contact rates. Wise, who homered over the spacious left-center gap at TD Ameritrade Park last year, and Anderson also have emerging pop as well.
Speed: 55. McAfee is a plus-plus runner who could drive opposing defenses crazy on the basepaths. Morris can also fly, while Serrano and Vinson are solid runners.
Defense: 55. Ficociello's move from first to second allows Arkansas to get Fisher's bat in the lineup, and Ficociello handled the position with aplomb in the fall, showing quick hands and good lateral mobility. At 6-4, he'll be a rangy middle infielder in the mold of former LSU star D.J. LeMahieu. The Razorbacks say McAfee is their most athletic shortstop in the Dave Van Horn era, with excellent range and an above-average arm. Anderson's arm strength is elite, though he's still learning to improve his actions. Wise is a standout behind the plate, and the outfield should be very strong. The key will be how the new-look infield holds up.
Starting Pitching: 60. Stanek gives Arkansas one of the nation's most electrifying Friday starters, with a 93-96 fastball, plus power slider, solid downer curve and changeup. Fant made huge strides in the fall, showing more maturity and adding an effective cutter/slider to his quality fastball-changeup combination. Killian also has a good hard cutter and very good changeup, to go along with an 88-94 mph fastball.
Bullpen: 80. Without question, the bullpen is Arkansas' greatest strength—and it is the nation's best, assuming Astin stays in the bullpen instead of moving into the rotation. The unflappable Astin already drove hitters bonkers with a 90-92 mph fastball that bumps 94-95 and a disappearing split-change, but he'll be even more dangerous now that he's developed a filthy 87-90 cutter. Jr. RHP Colby Suggs ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the Cape Cod League thanks to a 93-97 mph fastball and an overpowering downer breaking ball. Sinkerballer Brandon Moore gives Arkansas a valuable long man, while Trent Daniel, Colin Poche and maybe Cade Lynch (if he is fully recovered from offseason surgery to relieve migraines) form a nice group of lefthanded options.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The Hogs have plenty of experience on the mound, and most of their everyday players have been to Omaha, but many of them still need to prove they can thrive in everyday roles. The outstanding coaching staff always gets its teams to play hard.
Baseball America OFP: 65. Arkansas has serious upside if its underclassmen in the lineup perform up to their talent. But the pitching staff will lead the way, and a return trip to Omaha looks like a strong bet.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 41-22 (NR). RPI: 42.|
Coach (Record at school): Dan McDonnell (258-128, 6 years).
Postseason History: 6 regionals (active streak; 1), 1 CWS trip (2007), 0 national titles.
|C||Kyle Gibson, Jr.||.285/.371/.343||0||23||3|
|1B||Zak Wasserman, Sr.||.297/.378/.462||6||27||1|
|2B||Nick Ratajczak, Sr.||.343/.463/.396||0||25||6|
|3B||Ty Young, Jr.||.344/.467/.539||6||42||15|
|SS||Zach Lucas, So.||.259/.366/.392||1||28||6|
|LF||Coco Johnson, Jr.||Tr.—Central Arizona JC|
|CF||Adam Engel, Jr.||.308/.367/.341||1||18||37|
|RF||Cole Sturgeon, Jr.||.321/.400/.430||1||45||8|
|DH||Jeff Gardner, Jr.||.299/.398/.413||2||34||2|
|RHP||Chad Green, Jr.||5||0||2.70||47||42||0|
|RHP||Jeff Thompson, Jr.||9||4||4.00||79||73||0|
|RHP||Jared Ruxer, So.||8||3||3.38||77||32||0|
|RP||Nick Burdi, So.||1||2||5.56||22||14||0|
Hitting: 60. Louisville returns eight battle-tested starters from a team that ranked 20th in the nation in scoring last year. In Engel and Sturgeon, the Cardinals have a pair of dynamic options for the leadoff spot, and Ratajczak's bat-handling prowess makes him an ideal No. 2 hitter. Young, Johnson, Gardner and Wasserman form a formidable quartet of run producers who all hit for average in the middle of the lineup. Gibson and Lucas won't give away outs, either.
Power: 50. Louisville will miss the physicality of departed Stewart Ijames, who hit twice as many homers (12) as any of his teammates last year, but the lineup still has plenty of physicality in Gardner, Wasserman and Johnson—all of whom are expected to provide some thump. Young excels at driving the gaps but also can hit the ball out of the park.
Speed: 70. Good luck finding a faster outfield than Louisville's; Engel and Johnson can run the 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds, and Sturgeon has been clocked at 6.6. Engel is a premier basestealer (37-for-39 last year), and Young also has good instincts to go along with 6.7 speed. Lucas is another plus runner, and Ratajczak has solid speed.
Defense: 65. Louisville's speed figures to save plenty of runs in the outfield, and the infield is also very athletic. Lucas can make some highlight-reel plays at short, but he's still working on consistency, and he has plenty of competition in Alex Chittenden and Sutton Whiting. Gibson is a rock behind the plate.
Starting Pitching: 65. All three weekend starters have power stuff, with 92-93 mph fastballs and good sliders. Green's easy arm action and good command of his quality three-pitch mix gives him a chance to thrive in the Friday starter role, after spending most of last year in the bullpen. The ultra-physical Thompson misses the most bats of this group thanks to his sharp low-80s slider. Ruxer has a different style, excelling by hitting his spots and pitching to contact, but he bumps 94 mph and flashes a plus changeup. Fr. RHP Kyle Funkhouser also bumps 94 and has an excellent slider, making him a stellar No. 4 starter option.
Bullpen: 65. Burdi is the hardest thrower in college baseball, with a fastball that regularly hits triple digits and a true slider in the low 90s. How his feel for pitching progresses will be critical. Jr. Dace Kime is 90-93 with a good curveball from the right side, and Fr. Joe Filomeno has flashed high-90s heat and another swing-and-miss curve from the left side. That trio has a chance to shorten games considerably this spring, but the bullpen is largely unproven.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. Loaded with two- or three-year starters in the lineup and two returning members of the weekend rotation, Louisville's experience is a major asset. The stellar coaching staff has been together for six years and functions like a well-oiled machine.
Baseball America OFP: 65. The Cardinals reached a regional final at eventual national champion Arizona last year, and anything short of their first trip to Omaha since 2007 will be a disappointment this spring. This team is a legitimate championship contender.
|5. MISSISSIPPI STATE|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 40-24 (22). RPI: 22.|
Coach (Record at school): John Cohen (126-101, 4 years).
Postseason History: 30 regionals (active streak; 2), 8 CWS trips (last in 2007), 0 national titles.
|C||Mitch Slauter, Sr.||.232/.354/.327||3||23||0|
|1B||Wes Rea, So.||.244/.346/.381||5||38||0|
|2B||Brett Pirtle, Jr.||Tr.—Panola (Texas) JC|
|3B||Daryl Norris, Jr.||.273/.380/.353||1||25||2|
|SS||Adam Frazier, Jr.||.371/.482/.445||0||26||9|
|LF||Jacob Robson, Fr.||HS—Windsor, Ont.|
|CF||C.T. Bradford, Jr.||.258/.345/.339||2||17||3|
|RF||Hunter Renfroe, Jr.||.252/.328/.374||4||25||7|
|DH||Trey Porter, Sr.||.259/.388/.376||5||24||1|
|RHP||Kendall Graveman, Sr.||4||4||2.81||90||59||0|
|LHP||Jacob Lindgren, So.||2||2||3.18||28||24||1|
|RHP||Brandon Woodruff, So.||1||2||2.38||34||37||0|
|RP||Jonathan Holder, So.||2||1||0.32||28||30||9|
Hitting: 60. Depth and experience are this lineup's greatest strengths as 11 players who started 27 or more games last year return. The Bulldogs manufacture offense however they can, and hit batsmen are a big part of their attack—they ranked seventh in the nation with 99 HBPs last year, led by Porter (15), Slauter (11) and Rea (10). Bradford and Robson are lefthanded catalysts with advanced feel for their barrels, and Pirtle is a dirtbag with good contact skills from both sides. But the most accomplished hitter in the lineup is Frazier, who really makes the Bulldogs go thanks to his superb plate discipline (50-24 BB-K last year) and ability to spray the ball around the field as the situation dictates. Rea racked up quality at-bats and made consistent hard contact in the fall. MSU expects him, Porter and Norris to hit for average this spring, and it seems safe to expect MSU to boost its .251 team average dramatically.
Power: 50. MSU hit just 21 homers a year ago, but that number should rise in 2013 after the Bulldogs moved the left-field fence at cavernous Dudy-Noble Field in about 13 feet. That means righthanded power hitters like Renfroe and Rea should be rewarded. Renfroe has prodigious raw power—he set a Cal Ripken League record with 16 homers last summer, then added three more in the playoffs—and is gradually refining his offensive approach. The 6-foot-5, 272-pound Rea also has plenty of strength, and Porter adds some thump from the left side. Fr. C Daniel Garner and So. 3B Nick Flair bring more righthanded pop off the bench.
Speed: 65. Robson has elite speed, running the 60-yard dash in 6.45 seconds, and should be a disruptive force on the basepaths. Renfroe and Bradford, plus reserve Demarcus Henderson, all have plus speed. Frazier is a slightly above-average runner with abundant baserunning savvy, and Pirtle moves well too.
Defense: 70. This defense has a chance to be special. Slauter has excellent game-calling skills, toughness and intelligence behind the plate, and his catch-and-throw skills are solid. Every infielder returns from a unit that led the nation with 71 double plays. Frazier has fluid actions, sure hands and an accurate arm at short, and Pirtle's instincts and arm strength should make him a fine double-play partner. Rea moves well for his size at first, and Norris is a stalwart at third. All three outfielders have serious athleticism and range; Bradford and Renfroe also bring plus or better arms, and they combined for 15 outfield assists last year.
Starting Pitching: 55. All-American ace Chris Stratton is gone, but MSU has a deep stable of starting candidates and a quality senior anchor in Graveman, who pounds the zone with a heavy sinker, above-average changeup and solid breaking ball. Lindgren and Woodruff have the talent to take major leaps as sophomores. Lindgren works at 91-93 mph with good sink from the left side and a devastating slider. Woodruff, an unsigned fifth-rounder out of high school, has comparable velocity and good life from the right side, and an 80 mph slider with good depth. Sr. LHP Chad Girodo had made a big leap, pitching at 90 mph and commanding three pitches, making him the likely fourth starter.
Bullpen: 70. Holder anchors a deep collection of quality arms in the bullpen. Holder pummels the zone with a 90-92 fastball, and his 80 mph power curveball has sharp 12-to-6 break. Jr. RHP Evan Mitchell can run his fastball up to 97 and has a swing-and-miss low-80s downer curve. Undersized Fr. RHP John Marc Shelly also has filthy stuff: a 93-95 mph fastball and mid-80s slider. So. RHPs Will Cox and Trevor Fitts are quality middle relievers who can reach the low 90s and have feel for pitching, while So. Ross Mitchell and Sr. Luis Pollorena offer different looks from the left side—but both excel at throwing strikes.
Experience/Intangibles: 70. Experience abounds in the lineup and the pitching staff, though the weekend starters behind Graveman still need to prove themselves. Plenty of holdovers remain from the 2011 MSU team that reached the brink of the CWS, and the Bulldogs proved their mettle by overcoming injuries last year and winning the SEC tournament.
Baseball America OFP: 65. The offense should be much more potent than it was a year ago, and the pitching and defense will be elite. This is a very deep, balanced, battle-tested team with its eye on a national title, and anything less than a trip to Omaha will be a disappointment.
|6. OREGON STATE|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 40-20 (24). RPI: 27.|
Coach (Record at school): Pat Casey (618-376-4, 18 years).
Postseason History: 13 regionals (active streak; 4), 4 CWS trips (last in 2007), 2 national titles (last in 2007).
|C||Jake Rodriguez, Jr.||.290/.374/.369||2||28||4|
|1B||Danny Hayes, Sr.||.307/.457/.544||5||27||0|
|2B||Kavin Keyes, Jr.||.226/.310/.294||0||18||3|
|3B||Jared Casper, Jr.||Tr.—Bellevue (Wash.) CC|
|SS||Tyler Smith, Sr.||.343/.434/.427||1||39||9|
|LF||Michael Conforto, So.||.349/.438/.601||13||76||1|
|CF||Joey Matthews, Sr.||.267/.394/.411||1||9||1|
|RF||Ryan Barnes, Sr.||.284/.411/.378||2||24||11|
|DH||Dylan Davis, So.||.247/.281/.346||3||30||4|
|LHP||Ben Wetzler, Jr.||8||2||3.10||102||75||0|
|RHP||Dan Child, Jr.||6||4||2.95||107||79||1|
|LHP||Matt Boyd, Sr.||4||0||3.41||37||31||3|
|RP||Tony Bryant, Sr.||6||2||3.82||31||35||9|
Hitting: 65. Oregon State returns nine players who started 24 or more games a year ago, making this a veteran lineup that knows how to execute and is ready for Pac-12 pitching. Rodriguez, Hayes, Smith, Mathews and Barnes are heady veterans who grind out at-bats and excel at situational hitting. Hayes is fully healthy for the first time since his freshman year, and his smooth lefthanded swing and patient, gap-to-gap approach should help him produce big numbers as a senior. The switch-hitting Keyes was an offensive force as a freshman before slumping last year, but he got back on track in the offseason and could re-emerge as a key run producer.
Power: 55. The centerpiece of the lineup is Conforto, an elite power hitter with prodigious strength in his lefthanded swing and a mature approach. Davis brings similarly huge raw power from the right side, but he needs to improve his contact rate. Casper's righthanded pop could earn him a spot in the middle of the lineup, and Hayes has decent juice as well.
Speed: 50. Mathews is the only above-average runner in this lineup, but Oregon State is an aggressive, intelligent baserunning team whose speed plays up. Smith and Barnes, for instance, are average runners who went a combined 20-for-23 in stolen base attempts last year.
Defense: 60. The hard-nosed Rodriguez has made a nice transition from second base to catcher, where he handles the staff well. Smith doesn't have huge tools, but he is a good athlete with sound instincts, and his emergence as a steady shortstop last year was a big key to Oregon State's success. Keyes should be a capable double-play partner, and Casper has good range and a strong arm at third. Conforto is working hard on improving his outfield defense but is not a standout. Mathews and Barnes are solid.
Starting Pitching: 65. Oregon State's top four starters figure to be upperclassmen with power stuff, and two of them (Child and Boyd) are Team USA veterans. Wetzler has refined his command of his 88-94 mph fastball, and his breaking ball and changeup are solid-average or slightly better pitches. Child has a big, durable frame and stuff to match: a 92-96 fastball with power sink, a hard slider that has sharp tilt when it's on, and a developing changeup. Boyd has worked almost exclusively as a workhorse reliever during his first three seasons, but the Beavers say he toned his body to hold his 88-94 fastball velocity longer in a starting role. His quality four-pitch mix should make him well suited for starting. Sixth-year Sr. RHP Taylor Starr has been effective when healthy in his long career and can reach 93 mph as well with his fastball.
Bullpen: 60. Bryant wasn't as effective last year as he was in 2011 (when he posted a 1.52 ERA and saved 12 games), but his poise still made him an asset at the back of the bullpen. His fringy fastball plays up because of his downward angle, and he has developed a better slider to go along with his excellent changeup. The Beavers expect a big contribution from Fr. RHP Andrew Moore, who reminds them of UCLA's Adam Plutko. Davis has premium arm strength in addition to his premium power potential, making him something of an X-factor. So. LHP Carlos Rodriguez, Jr. RHP Scott Schultz and Sr. RHP Cole Brocker provide variety and experience. Starr could slide back to the 'pen if OSU needs a power-armed reinforcement.
Experience/Intangibles: 70. Toughness and sound fundamentals have been Oregon State's calling cards since they ascended to national prominence in 2005, and this could be a vintage Beaver team thanks to its enviable experience all over the diamond, in the rotation and in the bullpen. But no Beaver has Omaha experience, as OSU hasn't been since 2007.
Baseball America OFP: 65. This has the look of Oregon State's most dangerous offensive team in years, and its pitching and defense should be characteristically strong. These Beavers have no glaring weakness and look like bona fide title contenders.
|7. SOUTH CAROLINA|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 49-20 (2). RPI: 7.|
Coach (Record at school): Chad Holbrook (0-0, first year).
Postseason History: 28 regionals (active streak; 13), 11 CWS trips (active streak; 3), 2 national titles (last in 2011).
|C||Grayson Greiner, So.||.222/.336/.392||6||32||0|
|1B||L.B. Dantzler, Sr.||.262/.339/.433||10||48||0|
|2B||Max Schrock, Fr.||HS—Raleigh, N.C.|
|3B||Chase Vergason, Sr.||.258/.402/.344||1||13||2|
|SS||Joey Pankake, So.||.264/.355/.377||2||27||3|
|LF||Graham Saiko, Jr.||Tr.—Tallahassee (Fla.) CC|
|CF||Tanner English, So.||.298/.341/.355||0||23||12|
|RF||T.J. Costen, So.||.275/.363/.397||1||2||1|
|DH||Erik Payne, Jr.||.265/.303/.469||3||19||2|
|LHP||Jordan Montgomery, So.||6||1||3.62||75||57||0|
|RHP||Colby Holmes, Sr.||7||2||3.05||80||65||0|
|LHP||Jack Wynkoop, Fr.||HS—Virginia Beach|
|RP||Tyler Webb, Sr.||6||1||1.56||58||58||3|
Hitting: 60. Expect the Gamecocks to be more offensive than the 2012 squad that ranked 213th in the nation in batting (.265) and 177th in scoring (5.1 runs per game), even though leading hitter Christian Walker is gone. English will switch-hit this year in an effort to reduce his vulnerability against righthanded breaking balls and help him cut down on his 71 strikeouts, but he has the tools to be a disruptive catalyst. Pankake can drive the ball to all fields and should see his numbers spike as a sophomore. Vergason and Saiko have mature approaches and a knack for getting on base. Schrock's compact lefthanded swing could make him a star early in his career.
Power: 55. Dantzler's plus raw power from the left side makes him the primary masher in the middle of the lineup, but Greiner and Payne add very good pop from the right side. Pankake, Shrock and Costen are also capable of driving balls out of the park, though their swings are more tailored to hitting line drives.
Speed: 55. South Carolina ranked 246th in the nation in steals per game last year, but this team is loaded with quality athletes. English is one of the fastest players in college baseball, and Costen also brings plus speed. Most of the rest of the Gamecocks hold their own on the basepaths, even if they lack blazing speed. Schrock has an unorthodox running style but has been clocked at 6.6 seconds in the 60-yard dash. New head coach Chad Holbrook was a basestealer as a player and has a knack for teaching it as a coach.
Defense: 70. Few teams—if any—are better up the middle than South Carolina. Greiner's receiving and blocking proved more advanced than expected last year, and his arm is a cannon. Like Greiner, Pankake learned the ropes as a freshman, and his arm and athleticism allow him to make highlight-reel plays. Schrock is a solid second baseman, and English covers abundant range in center to go with a strong arm. Saiko, Costen, Vergason and Dantzler make for a very good group of corners. South Carolina fielded .980 last year (fourth in the nation), and it should be better in 2013.
Starting Pitching: 55. Obviously, the Gamecocks will miss Michael Roth, the best big-game pitcher of his generation, but Montgomery proved he has plenty of Roth in him by shining in Omaha last year. He throws four pitches for strikes and has a bit more fastball velocity than Roth, working in the mid-to-upper 80s. Holmes is a classic senior righty with solid but not overpowering stuff and good feel for a four-pitch mix. Wynkoop is South Carolina's latest southpaw find, a good competitor with solid command of an 85-87 fastball and the makings of a plus changeup. Athletic, competitive Sr. LHP Nolan Belcher is the front-runner for the midweek starter role, but he also could provide bullpen value.
Bullpen: 65. Webb emerged as a key lefty out of the pen last year, appearing in 39 games and showing poise in pressure situations. His fastball and curveball are quality pitches. If healthy, Jr. RHP Forrest Koumas brings power stuff and experience to a setup role, and So. RHP Joel Seddon has shown feel for four solid pitches, highlighted by an 88-92 fastball. Fr. RHP Curt Britt, who works at 90-93 with a good changeup, also figures to see plenty of key innings. Greiner and Pankake are X-factors; both have big arms and saw some bullpen work in the fall.
Experience/Intangibles: 70. Toughness and poise were the defining characteristics of South Carolina's recent dynasty, and the Gamecocks return plenty of players with Omaha experience. But the core members of the title teams are gone, and new starters like Schrock, Saiko and Costen must prove themselves. South Carolina also lost one of the best coaches in college baseball when Ray Tanner became athletics director, but it shouldn't take long for Holbrook to prove he is also one of the best.
Baseball America OFP: 65. Roth, Walker, Matt Price, Evan Marzilli and Tanner may be gone, but South Carolina is still South Carolina. This program and these returning players have earned the benefit of any doubts. The new era begins now, and don't be surprised if it opens with a fourth straight trip to Omaha.
|8. NORTH CAROLINA STATE|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 43-20 (12). RPI: 13.|
Coach (Record at school): Elliott Avent (599-382, 16 years).
Postseason History: 25 regionals (active streak; 3), 1 CWS trip (1968), 0 national titles.
|C||Brett Austin, So.||.284/.350/.362||0||37||6|
|1B||Grant Clyde, Sr.||.316/.381/.421||0||4||0|
|2B||Logan Ratledge, So.||.261/.344/.359||1||21||4|
|3B||Sam Morgan, Jr.||Tr.—South Florida CC|
|SS||Trea Turner, So.||.336/.432/.459||5||43||57|
|LF||Bryan Adametz, Sr.||.250/.333/.458||0||1||0|
|CF||Brett Williams, Sr.||*.286/.368/.445||6||35||9|
|RF||Jake Fincher, So.||.300/.353/.405||1||23||16|
|DH||Tarran Senay, Sr.||.222/.323/.415||6||32||2|
|*Stats from 2011; injured in 2012|
|LHP||Carlos Rodon, So.||9||0||1.57||115||135||0|
|RHP||Logan Jernigan, So.||5||1||5.71||52||57||0|
|RHP||Ethan Ogburn, Sr.||5||4||3.38||91||71||2|
|RP||Chris Overman, Sr.||0||1||2.91||34||43||6|
Hitting: 65. Even after losing three of its top four hitters, there is reason to believe the Wolfpack offense could be even more potent than the group that ranked 13th nationally in scoring a year ago, and second in doubles—a sign of its ability to pepper the gaps. Turner is the nation's most dynamic table-setter, because his speed pressures defenses constantly, and he has plus bat speed from the right side. Austin's hard line-drive stroke from both sides of the plate made him a supplemental first-rounder out of high school, and he looks poised for a huge sophomore year. Fellow sophomores Ratledge and Fincher use the alleys very well and should take steps forward after productive freshman years. Morgan's superb plate discipline and bat control could make him a great fit in the No. 2 hole. Veterans Clyde and Adametz are decent gap-to-gap hitters coming off strong falls.
Power: 55. Austin is still learning to tap into his provocative raw power, and he is expected to anchor the middle of the lineup this spring. Senay has 14 homers in three seasons, and the Wolfpack is optimistic he can be an impact senior after he put together a strong fall. Williams, who tore his ACL in his first game last year, brings some righthanded juice to the middle of the order. Turner and Fincher have surprising pop as well.
Speed: 70. Turner has game-changing, top-of-the-charts speed and loves to use it—he led the nation with 57 steals in 61 tries last year. By himself, Turner makes speed a huge part of N.C. State's attack, but Fincher is also a plus to plus-plus runner (though not a very savvy baserunner), and Williams had plus speed before his knee injury. Adametz and Ratledge are also solid runners.
Defense: 50. This is N.C. State's greatest area of concern despite a fine defensive outfield, where Williams and Fincher have center-field range and experience with strong arms. Turner held his own at third base last year and now slides over to short, where he has range and arm strength but must become more consistent. The midyear transfer of Sr. C Danny Canela puts added pressure on Austin behind the plate, where his receiving is improving but still has a ways to go. Ratledge, Clyde and Morgan should all be solid at their respective infield positions.
Starting Pitching: 60. The Wolfpack will be very tough to beat on Fridays behind Rodon, the reigning national Freshman of the Year. With a fastball that easily reaches the mid-90s from the left side, a filthy 83-86 slider, a serviceable changeup and a serious mean streak, Rodon makes a strong case as the nation's best pitcher. Jernigan also has electric stuff—a low-to-mid-90s fastball with some life, a very good 12-to-6 curve and a decent changeup that can be too firm—but must throw strikes more consistently than he did a year ago. Ogburn is a steady Sunday starter with feel for an 86-91 fastball, sharp mid-70s curveball, effective low-80s slider and a solid changeup. Jr. RHP Josh Easley looked good this fall after returning from Tommy John surgery, flashing low-90s heat and a swing-and-miss downer curveball, giving the 'Pack a quality fourth starter option.
Bullpen: 65. Overman's competitiveness and poise made him a key contributor last year despite not having his best stuff for much of the season, but when he's on his average fastball has good deception, and his splitter and slider are effective. Sr. RHP Ryan Wilkins emerged as the go-to reliever in the postseason last year, showing the ability to command a quality four-pitch mix. Jr. RHP Anthony Tzamtzis gives N.C. State another experienced power arm in the 'pen, and Fr. LHP Brad Stone was a big surprise of the fall, reaching 92 mph and showing a good slider. The return of slop-tossing Sr. LHP Grant Sasser from Tommy John gives this unit a nice boost; he joins Jr. LHP D.J. Thomas, So. LHP Travis Orwig, So. RHP Dillon Frye and Sr. RHP Danny Healey in a deep, diverse, seasoned bullpen.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The core of last year's super regional team is intact, but inexperience at catcher and shortstop is a concern. This Wolfpack has plenty of seniors, and it needs them to embrace leadership roles.
Baseball America OFP: 65. Only a tough super regional matchup at No. 1 national seed Florida kept the precocious Wolfpack from snapping its 44-year CWS drought last year. The time for that slump to end is now. With a deep, balanced, talented roster, N.C. State looks like a true national title contender.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 41-18 (13). RPI: 11.|
Coach (Record at school): Mark Marquess (1463-759-7, 36 years).
Postseason History: 31 regionals (active streak; 3), 16 CWS trips (last in 2008), 2 national titles (last in 1988).
|C||Wayne Taylor, So.||.152/.222/.273||0||1||1|
|1B||Brian Ragira, Jr.||.329/.385/.448||5||50||3|
|2B||Danny Diekroeger, Jr.||.354/.422/.510||3||10||1|
|3B||Alex Blandino, So.||.294/.371/.523||8||40||4|
|SS||Lonnie Kauppila, Jr.||.280/.339/.350||0||13||0|
|LF||Dominic Jose, So.||.375/.490/.575||1||11||2|
|CF||Jonny Locher, Fr.||HS—Burien, Wash.|
|RF||Austin Wilson, Jr.||.285/.389/.493||10||54||7|
|DH||Brett Michael Doran, Jr.||.242/.402/.306||0||9||1|
|RHP||Mark Appel, Sr.||10||2||2.56||123||130||0|
|RHP||Dean McArdle, Sr.||3||3||3.97||48||38||0|
|RHP||Freddy Avis, Fr.||HS—Atherton, Calif.|
|RP||A.J. Vanegas, Jr.||4||0||2.62||65||53||5|
Hitting: 60. Stanford has serious offensive upside if its new starters can live up to their talent. Jose, son of ex-big leaguer Felix Jose, came on fast at the end of last season and has the bat speed to hurt opponents from both sides of the plate. Diekroeger isn't as athletic as older brother Kenny, but he shares his brother's innate hand-eye coordination and is a tough out. Stanford hitting coach Dean Stotz describes Blandino as a "stylish" hitter, and his pretty righthanded swing gives him a chance to be an elite offensive player. Ragira is an aggressive, grip-it-and-rip-it hitter with lightning-quick hands and the ability to wear out the gaps. Doran and Kauppila are good bat handlers who are tough to strike out. Taylor's simple lefthanded swing gives him a chance to hit, too.
Power: 65. As Wilson has improved his contact rate during his collegiate career, he has begun to unlock his mammoth righthanded power potential, which compares favorably with any player's in college baseball. Blandino and Ragira also have emerging power from the right side. Though Jose has a better swing from the right side, he has more power from the left side. Jr. OF Brian Guymon, who will compete for at-bats at DH, brings intriguing brute strength as well.
Speed: 55. Locher is a burner who could provide a spark if he can get on base with some consistency. Jose is a long strider with plus-plus speed underway. Wilson and even Ragira have good speed for their big frames. Kauppila, Blandino, Diekroeger and Doran are fringy but adequate runners.
Defense: 70. If Kauppila, who had ACL surgery last spring, returns to 100 percent as expected, Stanford's defense should be very good. Kauppila is an instinctive defender with sure hands and an accurate arm. Blandino has slightly above-average actions and arm strength at third, Diekroeger has improved his athleticism at second, and Ragira is a marquee defensive first baseman. Taylor has excellent agility, good carry on his throws and the leadership skills to be a standout catcher. Wilson has one of the strongest outfield arms in college baseball. Jose has a lackluster arm but excellent range. Locher has good range as well as arm strength in center.
Starting Pitching: 60. Appel declined to sign as the No. 8 overall pick after his All-America junior year, giving the Cardinal an extraordinarily talented and experienced senior ace with a fastball that reaches 98, a plus slider and an improved changeup. The rest of the rotation is up in the air, but McArdle and So. LHP John Hochstatter are two strong candidates because of their tenacity and feel for pitching with fringy four-pitch repertoires. The rotation has more upside if Avis can win a weekend job; a premium prospect out of high school, Avis has flashed mid-90s heat, a sharp power curveball and promising changeup in the past.
Bullpen: 60. Vanegas has a chance to start but is more likely ticketed for the closer job, where his explosive 93-97 fastball and 83-85 cutter could make him dominant. Sr. RHP Sahil Bloom and So. RHP David Schmidt are valuable sinkerballers who can get quick outs or eat up innings in long relief. Fr. RHP Marcus Brakeman is in the same mold as Schmidt and McArdle—smallish but feisty—while Fr. RHP Daniel Starwalt has flashed a plus fastball and plus curve in the past, making him an X-factor if he can return to his 2011 form, before injuries derailed his progress. So. Spenser Linney figures to be the primary lefty out of the bullpen.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. With Appel and Vanegas bookending the rotation, and Wilson and Ragira anchoring the lineup, Stanford has a core of seasoned upperclassmen who also happen to be premier talents. But the Cardinal will also rely upon a slew of young players, and how they mature will determine whether or not the season is a success.
Baseball America OFP: 60. Stanford has featured one of the most talented rosters in college baseball over the last two years but lost in super regionals both seasons. Stanford's top-ranked 2010 recruiting class has matured into a dangerous group of juniors, and the return of a key member of the second-ranked '09 class (Appel) for his senior year gives both classes one last shot at fulfilling lofty expectations.
|10. LOUISIANA STATE|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 47-18 (9). RPI: 10.|
Coach (Record at school): Paul Maineri (258-122-2, 6 years).
Postseason History: 25 regionals (active streak; 1), 15 CWS trips (last in 2009), 6 national titles (last in 2009).
|C||Ty Ross, Jr.||.292/.357/.384||3||41||2|
|1B||Mason Katz, Sr.||.320/.414/.552||13||52||8|
|2B||JaCoby Jones, Jr.||.253/.308/.363||4||29||11|
|3B||Christian Ibarra, Jr.||Tr.—Rio Hondo (Calif.) CC|
|SS||Alex Bregman, Fr.||HS—Albuquerque|
|LF||Raph Rhymes, Sr.||.431/.489/.530||4||53||2|
|CF||Chris Sciambra, So.||.246/.324/.311||0||11||2|
|RF||Sean McMullen, Jr.||Tr.—Delgado (La.) CC|
|DH||Mark Laird, Fr.||HS—Monroe, La.|
|RHP||Aaron Nola, So.||7||4||3.61||90||89||0|
|RHP||Ryan Eades, Jr.||5||3||3.83||94||63||0|
|LHP||Brent Bonvillain, Sr.||4||0||3.49||28||26||0|
|RP||Nick Rumbelow, Jr.||0||0||3.65||25||34||0|
Hitting: 60. LSU's lineup is built around one of the nation's most accomplished hitters in Rhymes, whose uncanny hand-eye coordination and flat bat path helped him flirt with .500 deep into the 2012 season. Like Rhymes, the precocious Bregman is an advanced hitter who rarely strikes out, and scouts are as convinced as LSU's coaches that he will be an instant star. Ross, who excels at going the other way into the right-center gap, took a big step forward last year. The 5-foot-7 Ibarra is an aggressive hitter with surprising strength in his swing. Sciambra, McMullen and Laird give this lineup a key trio of athletic lefthanded hitters who work counts, get on base and cause havoc.
Power: 50. Katz, who ranked third in the SEC in homers last year, packs impressive all-fields power into his 5-foot-10 frame. Fellow sub-6-footers Bregman, Ibarra and McMullen also could provide occasional pop. The wiry Jones has struck out too much during his collegiate career, but he showed off his emerging power last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he won the home run derby at the all-star game. The Tigers think he's primed for a monster year. Physical Fr. C Chris Chinea brings some more righthanded thump.
Speed: 70. The additions of McMullen, Laird and Fr. OF Andrew Stevenson change the complexion of LSU's lineup, because all three have premium speed and tailor their games around putting it to good use. Jones, one of the best athletes in college baseball, also has plus to plus-plus speed, and Sciambra is a slightly above-average runner. Bregman and Rhymes are fringe-average runners with good instincts.
Defense: 65. The Tigers will miss four-year stalwart Austin Nola at shortstop, but Bregman's superb instincts, smooth actions and solid-average arm should make him a capable replacement. Jones has excellent range at second and committed just four errors last year (.982 fielding percentage). Ibarra has soft hands and a strong arm at third, and Katz's athleticism and savvy make him a standout at first. Ross might be the country's premier defensive catcher. Sciambra, who has recovered from the frightening neck injury he suffered in the outfield last spring, takes efficient routes in center, and the corner outfielders are sound.
Starting Pitching: 60. Nola and Eades could form a dominating duo atop the rotation, but the Sunday starter job is still up in the air. Nola relentlessly pounds the strike zone (89-7 K-BB last year) with a lively low-90s fastball, quality changeup and breaking ball from a deceptive three-quarters slot. Eades has premium stuff—a mid-90s fastball, a wipeout downer curve in the low 80s, a sinker and changeup that induce ground balls—but must do a better job harnessing his command. Bonvillain has good deception and movement on his sinker and can fool hitters with his sharp breaking ball. Fr. RHP Russell Reynolds has more upside, with an 89-93 fastball and an above-average slider, but he needs to continue developing his changeup.
Bullpen: 60. A key question facing LSU is who will replace closer Nick Goody? With a fastball that reaches 94 and a putaway 12-to-6 curveball, Rumbelow has back-of-the-bullpen stuff. The most proven, trusted member of the bullpen is Sr. LHP Chris Cotton, who keeps hitters off balance by mixing his mid-80s fastball with an excellent changeup and occasional breaking ball. Jr. RHP Will LaMarche showed a mid-90s fastball and promising secondary stuff at Chabot (Calif.) JC last year, but he needs to show better command to earn a prominent role on this staff. Fr. RHP Mitchell Sewald and So. LHP Cody Glenn also have good arms, while Jr. RHP Kurt McCune and Sr. RHPs Kevin Berry and Joey Bourgeois provide valuable experience, making this a deep group.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. LSU's lineup has good veteran leadership in its four upperclassman with abundant experience in the lineup, which should make it easier for four newcomers to slide into the lineup. The bullpen is stuffed with vets, if not a proven closer, and two-thirds of the weekend rotation is back from a super regional team.
Baseball America OFP: 60. The lineup and the pitching staff still need to gel, but the front-line talent and depth on this roster is impressive. After getting stunned at home by Stony Brook in super regionals last year, LSU will be on a mission to return to Omaha, and its chances look strong.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 45-18 (20). RPI: 18.|
Coach (Record at school): Gary Henderson (129-99, 4 years).
Postseason History: 5 regionals (active streak; 1), 0 CWS trips, 0 national titles.
|C||Greg Fettes, R-Fr.||DNP—Redshirted|
|1B||A.J. Reed, So.||.300/.378/.405||4||43||0|
|2B||J.T. Riddle, Jr.||.279/.247/.407||5||38||3|
|3B||Max Kuhn, So.||.333/.400/.333||0||3||0|
|SS||Matt Reida, Jr.||.239/.297/.315||2||22||4|
|LF||Lucas Witt, Jr.||.319/.385/.333||0||9||5|
|CF||Austin Cousino, So.||.319/.408/.515||9||41||15|
|RF||Zac Zellers, Sr.||.311/.456/.475||5||19||7|
|DH||Paul McConkey, Jr.||.323/.463/.355||0||2||0|
|LHP||Corey Littrell, Jr.||9||2||2.74||99||87||0|
|LHP||Jerad Grundy, Sr.||6||3||3.78||86||63||0|
|LHP||A.J. Reed, So.||5||3||2.52||54||51||0|
|RP||Trevor Gott, Jr.||3||0||2.16||25||38||9|
Hitting: 55. This balanced lineup features five lefthanded bats, four righties and five returning starters. The engine that makes Kentucky's offense go is Cousino, an offensive dynamo with one of the most diverse skill sets in college baseball. The hard-nosed Zellers regularly delivers competitive at-bats, and UK hopes veterans McConkey and Witt can provide similar offensive production with increased playing time. Reida followed up his rough spring with a solid summer in the Cape, but he needs to cut down on his strikeouts. The physical Riddle and the athletic Kuhn (who had a standout fall) are breakout candidates.
Power: 55. The centerpiece of the lineup is the dangerous Reed, who could reach double figures in homers as a sophomore. Cousino also provides power out of the leadoff spot, while Riddle and Zellers also have decent pop. Kentucky ranked 11th nationally in homers last year, but it will miss Luke Maile, Cameron Flynn and Thomas McCarthy, who combined for 26 of the team's 56 long balls.
Speed: 50. Cousino, Witt and Zellers are all solid or better runners, and Cousino's aggressiveness makes him a force on the basepaths. But speed is not Kentucky's calling card.
Defense: 70. Kentucky set a school record with a .976 fielding percentage last year and could be even better in 2013. Cousino is a special defender in center, and the Wildcats have good athletes flanking him. Riddle and Reida comprise one of college baseball's better double-play tandems, and UK has good depth behind the plate in the physical Fettes, fourth-year junior Michael Thomas and talented freshmen Zach Arnold and Casey Schroeder.
Starting Pitching: 65. Two-thirds of Kentucky's all-lefty weekend rotation returns, and Reed replaces Taylor Rogers as the third southpaw. Littrell is a bona fide ace who commands an 88-93 fastball to both sides and flashes a plus slider, as well as a solid curveball and changeup. Grundy, who works in the 88-91 range, showed dramatically better command this fall, especially with his slider. Reed's two-way skills evoke former Florida star Brian Johnson, and he has similar stuff on the mound, with an 88-92 mph fastball and two good secondary offerings.
Bullpen: 60. The undersized Gott is an overpowering one-inning closer, with a 92-95 mph fastball and a swing-and-miss low-80s slider. If So. RHP Chandler Shepherd doesn't occupy the midweek starter role, he'll team with Gott to make a formidable duo in the late innings, thanks to a 90-94 mph fastball and good slider. Freshmen Ryne Combs and Dylan Dwyer give this staff two more quality lefties, while hulking Fr. Kyle Cody flashed 95 mph heat from the right side in the fall.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. Kentucky boasts admirable experience on the mound and a lineup loaded with upperclassmen and seasoned sophomores. But this program needs to prove it can get over the hump and win a regional.
Baseball America OFP: 60. Kentucky's 45-win 2012 season was a surprise, but the Wildcats won't catch anyone off guard this year. This has a chance to be the best team in school history, with a strong chance to finally break through to Omaha.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 48-16 (5). RPI: 1.|
Coach (Record at school): John Savage (275-207, 8 years).
Postseason History: 18 regionals (active streak; 3), 4 CWS appearance (active streak; 1), 0 national titles.
|C||Shane Zeile, So.||.371/.480/.452||0||10||1|
|1B||Cody Regis, Sr.||.239/.361/.287||1||25||3|
|2B||Kevin Williams, Jr.||.302/.413/.377||2||21||4|
|3B||Kevin Kramer, So.||.281/.351/.322||0||13||1|
|SS||Pat Valaika, Jr.||.266/.319/.362||1||39||5|
|LF||Ty Moore, Fr.||HS—Santa Ana, Calif.|
|CF||Brian Carroll, Jr.||.235/.381/.353||0||2||1|
|RF||Eric Filia-Snyder, So.||.245/.355/.264||0||8||3|
|DH||Chris Keck, So.||.293/.354/.366||0||5||0|
|RHP||Adam Plutko, Jr.||10||3||2.48||120||99||0|
|RHP||Nick Vander Tuig, Jr.||10||4||4.43||110||77||0|
|LHP||Grant Watson, So.||9||2||4.45||89||46||0|
|RP||James Kaprielian, Fr.||HS—Irvine, Calif.|
Hitting: 60. UCLA has its work cut out replacing departed stalwarts Jeff Gelalich, Cody Keefer, Tyler Heineman, Trevor Brown and Beau Amaral—its top five hitters a year ago and the core of two Omaha teams. Fortunately, it had a slew of talented players waiting in the wings, led by Filia-Snyder, a natural line-drive hitter who batted .383 in the Northwoods League last summer. Keck showcased a similarly pretty lefthanded stroke during his strong fall, and the Bruins think Zeile's quick righthanded bat will carry him to stardom this year. Kramer, Valaika, Moore and Williams are tough outs who use all fields, and the energetic Carroll can provide a spark at the top or bottom of the lineup.
Power: 45. Gelalich, Brown and Amaral accounted for 18 of UCLA's 23 homers last year, but their replacements might actually provide more pop. Moore and Keck, in particular, have legitimate home run power in their lefthanded swings. Likewise, Zeile has a real chance to hit for both average and power. Regis is in the best shape of his career, giving the Bruins hope that he can bounce back from a horrific 2012 and return to the form that produced 15 homers over his first two years. But this offense should primarily be a collection of gap-to-gap grinders this spring, much as it was last year. Jr. OF Brenton Allen is an X-factor; if he can fine-tune his approach and harness his raw power, he could force his way into a job.
Speed: 50. UCLA's fastest runner is Carroll, whose plus speed plays on the bases and in center field. Filia-Snyder is another above-average runner, and the quick-twitch Williams is a solid runner, but on the whole this team figures to have less speed than it did a year ago.
Defense: 60. Valaika is steady if not flashy at short, and Williams is a marquee defender at second, anchoring what figures to be a strong infield. Catching is in Zeile's blood (his uncle Todd caught in the big leagues), but he is a converted infielder who needs to prove himself behind the plate. How he handles the transition is a major key to UCLA's season. Carroll and Filia-Snyder have good range and arm strength in the outfield, but scouts aren't sold on Moore's defense. The Bruins are blessed with depth and defensive versatility.
Starting Pitching: 65. UCLA's pitching depth rivals that of any team in the nation, and the rotation has a returning All-American at the front in Plutko, a dogged competitor with command of four pitches, highlighted by an 88-91 fastball and plus changeup. Vander Tuig is a veteran workhorse with a similar repertoire, though his command is solid rather than exceptional like Plutko's. Watson leads the competition to start on Sundays thanks to a quality four-pitch mix from the left side, highlighted by a very good slider. Fr. RHP Cody Poteet, who flashes 94 mph head and a pair of hard breaking balls, is also in the starting mix, along with high-profile Fr. LHP Hunter Virant and Jr. RHP Zack Weiss.
Bullpen: 70. Depth is the hallmark of the bullpen, too. Kaprielian brings maturity beyond his years and overpowering stuff to the back of the bullpen: a 90-94 fastball, 82-84 power curve and above-average 81-83 changeup. So. RHP David Berg is an invaluable rubber-armed sidearmer who led the nation in appearances last year and could do so again this spring. Jr. RHP Ryan Deeter has a power arm and an aggressive delivery, presenting a different look. The only weakness is a lack of lefties, but Virant could remedy that somewhat if he winds up in the 'pen.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. UCLA is loaded with pitchers who have Omaha experience, along with three seasoned upperclassmen in the lineup. But five new starters must prove themselves, and so must the talented freshmen on the mound.
Baseball America OFP: 60. The Bruins changed their identity into an offense-driven club in 2012, but they retained good balance. This year they should be balanced again, but the strength shifts back to the mound. It should be a winning formula.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 37-26 (NR). RPI: 26.|
Coach (Record at school): Mike Bianco (471-278-1, 12 years).
Postseason History: 17 regionals (active streak; 1), 4 CWS trips (last in 1972), 0 national titles.
|C||Stuart Turner, Jr.||Tr.—LSU-Eunice|
|1B||Sikes Orvis, So.||.232/.317/.321||1||11||0|
|2B||Lance Wilson, Jr.||Tr.—Shelton (Ala.) State JC|
|3B||Andrew Mistone, Sr.||.243/.305/.299||1||21||3|
|SS||Austin Anderson, Jr.||.239/.352/.312||0||11||1|
|LF||Tanner Mathis, Sr.||.359/.437/.508||0||23||8|
|CF||Auston Bousfield, So.||.281/.352/.362||2||22||6|
|RF||Will Jamison, So.||.247/.289/.325||0||4||1|
|DH||Will Allen, Jr.||.302/.333/.391||1||24||2|
|RHP||Bobby Wahl, Jr.||7||4||2.55||99||104||0|
|RHP||Mike Mayers, Jr.||6||3||3.50||93||71||0|
|RHP||Chris Ellis, So.||4||0||2.84||32||29||0|
|RP||Brett Huber, Sr.||2||2||2.84||25||29||10|
Hitting: 50. The Rebels could take a step back without All-American Alex Yarbrough and slugger Matt Snyder, as their successors—Wilson and Orvis—are much less offensive. But Ole Miss should make up a big chunk of that production behind the plate, because Turner has serious bat potential. Mathis is the best pure hitter in the lineup, with the ability to pepper hard line drives all around the field from the left side. Jamison's flat, line-drive swing suggests he should be able to hit for more average as a sophomore, and Ole Miss says Anderson is another improved lefthanded hitter, though he doesn't figure to be an offensive force. Allen is the top returning bat from the right side, and he looks primed for a big junior year.
Power: 50. Mississippi is very excited about Turner's huge righthanded power potential, and Allen has more juice than his numbers suggest. The Rebels—and scouts—say Bousfield is more physical than he was a year ago and expect him to take a big step forward, providing a third righthanded bat with pop. Orvis brings some lefthanded power.
Speed: 70. Team speed is this lineup's greatest asset, and it could make the Rebels dangerous. Bousfield is faster as well as stronger, running the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds this fall. Jamison and Wilson are also plus-plus runners, while Mathis has plus speed and gets out of the box quickly from the left side, putting extra pressure on defenders. Two-sport talent So. OF Senquez Golson brings top-of-the-charts speed off the bench. Anderson is an average runner.
Defense: 65. Mississippi might have the nation's fastest outfield, and Bousfield also has a plus arm in center. Turner's strength, flexibility, intelligence, receiving ability and strong arm make him a special defender behind the plate. Mistone is an elite defensive third baseman, and the middle infield should be solid.
Starting Pitching: 70. The Rebels are blessed with three physical, power-armed righties in the weekend rotation, which should be stellar. Wahl works in the 90-95 range and gets plenty swing-and-misses with his 80-83 power sluve; some scouts have also seen him flash a plus changeup with late fade and bottom. Mayers, the No. 17 prospect in the Cape League last summer, sits at 89-93 and bumps 95, and has a pair of quality secondary pitches in his low-80s slider and 78-82 changeup. Ellis made a big jump in the summer and fall, bumping the mid-90s and sitting comfortably at 90-93. His changeup has really developed, and his 78-81 curve is an out pitch. Sr. RHP Tanner Bailey, a competitive, strike-throwing veteran with fringy stuff across the board, should be a solid midweek starter.
Bullpen: 70. Even without his best stuff last year, Huber racked up 10 saves, giving him 26 in his career. He attacks hitters with an 88-92 fastball and a good low-80s slider. So. RHP Hawtin Buchanan, like Ellis, made huge strides in the offseason, dramatically improving his 83-85 power slider and bumping 96-97 with his fastball, though he sat 91-94 this fall. This unit has depth, too: RHPs Josh Laxer, Aaron Greenwood, Brady Bramlett and Jacob Waguespack have solid breaking balls and intriguing upside. Austin Blunt and Matt Denny give this group a pair of left-on-left specialists, and Scott Weathersby is tough on righties.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The senior Mathis sets the tone for the lineup, giving the Rebels a little edge. Five everyday players are back, plus the one-two punch atop the rotation and an exceptionally battle-tested closer. But this program needs to prove it can get over the final hump and reach Omaha.
Baseball America OFP: 60. Ole Miss should be a formidable pitching-and-defense outfit, and that formula is very effective in the BBCOR era. How much would the Rebels love to end their infamous 41-year CWS drought, so they never have to hear about it again? This could be the year.
|14. TEXAS CHRISTIAN|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 40-22 (16). RPI: 31.|
Coach (Record at school): Jim Schlossnagle (388-175, 9 years).
Postseason History: 11 regionals (active streak; 9), 1 CWS trips (2010), 0 national titles.
|C||Kyle Bacak, Jr.||Tr.—San Jacinto (Texas) JC|
|1B||Kevin Cron, So.||.338/.383/.503||6||34||0|
|2B||Derek Odell, So.||.276/.339/.420||4||26||6|
|3B||Jantzen Witte, Sr.||.315/.374/.444||3||22||1|
|SS||Keaton Jones, So.||.166/.283/.189||0||17||7|
|LF||Brett Johnson, Jr.||.228/.322/.327||1||10||2|
|CF||Cody Jones, So.||Tr.—Temple (Texas) JC|
|RF||Jerrick Suiter, So.||.310/.375/.379||0||20||4|
|DH||Paul Hendrix, Jr.||Tr.—Howard (Texas) JC|
|RHP||Preston Morrison, So.||9||2||2.08||113||72||1|
|LHP||Brandon Finnegan, So.||4||5||3.47||62||56||0|
|RHP||Stefan Crichton, Jr.||9||2||3.41||95||53||0|
|RP||Andrew Mitchell, Jr.||5||3||3.74||77||101||0|
Hitting: 55. TCU must replace three key hitters from a year ago (Jason Coats, Josh Elander, Kyle Von Tungeln), but junior-college transfers should ease the transition. The switch-hitting Cody Jones has a similar tool set as Von Tunglen, giving him a chance to be a disruptive force atop the lineup. The wily Witte is an adept bat-handler who excels at situational hitting. The gritty Odell and Hendrix are gap-to-gap hitters with good feel for their barrels, and the physical Johnson has improved his offensive game while waiting in the wings for the last two years. Keaton Jones and Bacak have a long way to go at the plate, though Jones added 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason and showed offensive improvement in the fall.
Power: 55. Cron has massive raw power to go along with an advanced approach, giving him to be an elite college hitter in the mold of older brother C.J., who starred at Utah before becoming a first-round pick. Suiter brings impressive brute strength but is still refining his approach. Odell has solid pull power, and Johnson also should provide some punch.
Speed: 50. Cody Jones has marquee speed and knows how to use it by keeping the ball on the ground and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. Keaton Jones, Odell, Hendrix and Johnson have decent speed, but Jones is the only real threat to run.
Defense: 65. Bacak, Witte and the Joneses are standouts at their respective positions, anchoring what should be a strong defense. Cron has improved his body and his mobility at first, while Odell is dependable at second. Hendrix has the athleticism and arm strength to force his way into the middle-infield mix, and Odell is versatile enough to play a corner if necessary. Suiter's plus outfield arm is an asset.
Starting Pitching: 65. Morrison was a revelation as a freshman, emerging as the rotation anchor. He is a strike-throwing machine with a low three-quarters arm slot that helps him generate excellent life on his 81-86 mph sinker, and he mixes in a slider effectively. Finnegan is a bulldog with power stuff: an 89-94 mph fastball, 81-82 slider and 80-84 changeup from the left side, though he needs to continue refining his command of the zone. Crichton can get into trouble when his 88-92 mph fastball flattens out up in the zone, but he competes well and throws strikes with three pitches. Jr. LHP Trevor Seidenberger has a deceptive herky-jerky delivery, a solid 88-91 fastball and very good curveball and changeup, giving TCU a fourth quality starting option.
Bullpen: 65. Mitchell started last year as the Friday starter but is better suited for the back of the bullpen, where his 90-96 mph fastball and hammer mid-80s curveball are overpowering. R-So. RHP Trey Teakell was the most improved pitcher on the staff in the fall, showing an 88-92 fastball with good sink and a pair of solid offspeed pitches. The Horned Frogs are giddy about the potential of Fr. LHP Alex Young and Fr. RHP Riley Ferrell, who both have true power stuff, giving this bullpen a chance to be elite.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The Frogs are relying upon four new starters in the lineup, but Witte provides valuable leadership. The pitching staff is much more experienced than it was a year ago, even though it is headed up by two sophomores. Jim Schlossnagle and his staff have shown a knack for pushing the right buttons and getting the most out of their players.
Baseball America OFP: 60. TCU has a chance to be an elite run-preventing team if its pitching and defense prove as strong as hoped. The offense has more question marks, but the talent is intriguing. After reaching super regionals a year ago, the Frogs look equipped to make a strong run at Omaha.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 46-19 (11). RPI: 6.|
Coach (Record at school): George Horton (133-111-1, 4 years).
Postseason History: 4 regionals (active streak; 1), 1 CWS trip (1954), 0 national titles.
|C||Scott Heineman, So.||.189/.342/.278||1||9||7|
|1B||Ryon Healy, Jr.||.312/.378/.419||4||42||3|
|2B||Aaron Payne, Jr.||.277/.405/.357||1||27||16|
|3B||Ryan Hambright, Sr.||.265/.321/.333||1||12||0|
|SS||J.J. Altobelli, Sr.||.265/.354/.335||0||14||6|
|LF||Brett Thomas, Jr.||.313/.368/.438||1||25||9|
|CF||Connor Hofmann, Jr.||.239/.315/.331||3||14||9|
|RF||Steven Packard, So.||DNP—church mission|
|DH||Kyle Garlick, Jr.||.287/.382/.470||6||41||9|
|RHP||Jake Reed, So.||8||4||2.92||114||67||0|
|LHP||*Christian Jones, Jr.||7||2||3.24||78||73||0|
|RHP||Brando Tessar, Jr.||4||1||3.42||53||37||0|
|RP||Jimmie Sherfy, Jr.||5||3||2.20||61||93||19|
|*Stats from 2011; injured in 2012|
Hitting: 55. The Ducks ranked 214th nationally in batting (.265) last year and 219th in scoring (4.7 runs per game), but they still won 46 games and reached the brink of the CWS because of their toughness and ability to execute. The Ducks measure their success by how they "offense," rather than how they hit; the grammatical affront refers to getting on base via hit batsmen and moving runners with drag bunts, executing the hit-and-run or by any means necessary. Payne, a gritty former George Horton bat boy who excels at taking HBPs and walks, sets the tone out of the leadoff spot. Scouts have praised Hambright's pretty lefthanded swing for years, and he looks primed for a big senior year after coming on strong down the stretch in 2012. Likewise, Heineman has a nice stroke from the right side and looks like a breakout candidate after recovering from the broken foot that derailed his freshman year.
Power: 45. Oregon won't put up gaudy power numbers in its pitcher-friendly home ballpark, but this team will be more physical than recent editions. Healy continues to make progress unlocking his intriguing righthanded power potential, and he has a good all-fields approach. Thomas has also gotten stronger and could provide a bit more punch as a junior, though he stands out more for his baseball IQ and ability to use the gaps. Hambright, like Thomas, brings a lefthanded bat with pop, and Packard has quickly regained all of the strength he lost during his two-year Mormon mission, potentially adding some more juice. The primary righthanded threat is Garlick, who wore down in the second half last year but flashed impressive strength and bat speed in the first half.
Speed: 55. Hofmann is a plus-plus runner who figures to steal more bases as a junior. Payne has solid speed and is aggressive on the basepaths. Altobelli, Thomas, Packard and Heineman are decent runners as well. As a team, the Ducks excel at taking extra bases, reading balls in the dirt, and keeping pressure on opponents, so their speed plays up.
Defense: 70. Altobelli and Payne comprise one of the nation's best double-play tandems, as both players have keen awareness, smooth actions and accurate arms. Healy and Hambright are very reliable on the infield corners, Hofmann has excellent range and arm strength in center, and the outfield corners should be solid. The key is behind the plate, where the athletic Heineman is still learning the ropes and will be pushed by strong-armed So. Shaun Chase and talented Fr. Josh Graham.
Starting Pitching: 55. Reed replaces stalwart Alex Keudell atop the rotation, and he has the poise and feel for pitching to thrive in the role. Reed's bread and butter is an 87-92 fastball with tail and sink, and he flashes an average slider and changeup. Jones was a big-name prospect out of high school who looked primed for a breakout 2012 before having Tommy John surgery over the winter; at his best he sits at 89-91 and bumps 93 with a lively fastball, and mixes in a swing-and-miss curveball and solid change. Tessar and Jr. RHP Jeff Gold compete hard with below-average or fringy stuff, but the rotation has more upside if Fr. LHP Cole Irvin can win a spot. Irvin commanded an 87-90 fastball, good breaking ball and changeup during his strong fall, and he works downhill and easy.
Bullpen: 70. Even though power-armed Fr. RHPs Cole Wiper and Sam Johnson had Tommy John surgery before last year even began, the bullpen was one of Oregon's biggest strengths last year thanks to Sherfy and LHP Tommy Thorpe. Sherfy has electric stuff—a 91-93 fastball and a devastating 79-82 power breaking ball—and can pitch multiple innings at a time, but he lacks physicality, so Oregon might deploy him with more caution this year. Thorpe is death on lefties thanks to his deceptive 86-87 fastball and sweeping 79-80 slider, but he also holds his own against righties. Wiper and Johnson are healthy now and showing low-90s heat and good curveballs. Juco transfer Clayton Crum gives Oregon another power righty, and Gold figures to settle in as a steady long man.
Experience/Intangibles: 70. Based on raw talent, Oregon was an underdog in most of its Pac-12 series last year, but it earned a national seed and won a regional because of its unsurpassed toughness and its superb coaching. The Ducks have a mental edge against nearly everyone they play, and that is their greatest weapon. This team is also loaded with super regional veterans.
Baseball America OFP: 60. The sum is greater than the parts with Oregon, but this team has quality parts, too. Oregon figures to play more than its share of close games again this year, and few teams have a better knack for pulling out wins in tight spots. That skill is particularly valuable in the postseason. Oregon has its sights set on Omaha, and that looks like an attainable goal.
|16. GEORGIA TECH|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 38-26 (NR). RPI: 28.|
Coach (Record at school): Danny Hall (817-375-1, 19 years).
Postseason History: 28 regionals (active streak; 5), 3 CWS trips (last in 2006), 0 national titles.
|C||Zane Evans, Jr.||.295/.363/.433||4||51||1|
|1B||Daniel Palka, Jr.||.303/.380/.550||12||47||6|
|2B||Thomas Smith, So.||.302/.407/.349||0||12||5|
|3B||Matt Gonzalez, Fr.||HS—Kennesaw, Ga.|
|SS||Mott Hyde, Jr.||.266/.322/.416||7||33||10|
|LF||Brandon Thomas, Sr.||.360/.481/.550||5||44||12|
|CF||Kyle Wren, Jr.||.256/.346/.364||2||22||16|
|RF||Sam Dove, Sr.||.340/.411/.443||3||30||12|
|DH||A.J. Murray, So.||.083/.200/.083||0||1||0|
|RHP||Buck Farmer, Sr.||8||4||3.54||107||115||0|
|RHP||Dusty Isaacs, Jr.||6||4||6.55||66||46||0|
|RHP||Cole Pitts, So.||6||4||4.50||78||60||1|
|RP||Zane Evans, Jr.||0||1||3.68||37||34||7|
Hitting: 65. The Yellow Jackets return seven regulars from a team that ranked 12th in the nation in doubles, evidence of its gap-driving prowess. Wren, who slumped somewhat as a draft-eligible sophomore, has the patience (63-62 BB-K in his career) and contact ability to be an outstanding catalyst. In Thomas and Dove, Tech has a pair of quality seniors who have proven they can hit for average and rack up doubles. Evans and Hyde provide solid veteran righthanded bats, and Gonzalez will be a star thanks to his righthanded bat speed, toughness and moxie. Smith is a grinder who will turn in competitive at-bats down in the lineup.
Power: 65. Palka is a candidate to lead the nation in home runs, because he has big-time lefthanded pull power, helping him launch 24 long balls over his first two seasons. Thomas, who declined to sign as a fourth-round pick after his junior year, has plenty of strength from both sides of the plate, though his swing isn't particularly loose. Evans, Hyde and Gonzalez bring decent righthanded pop, and the physical Murray showed tantalizing juice during his stellar fall. He'll help replace some of the power production of departed ACC home run champ Jake Davies.
Speed: 60. Wren is a plus-plus runner who needs to become more efficient on the basepaths, while Thomas is a plus runner with baserunning savvy. Dove has slightly above-average speed, and Hyde is an average runner.
Defense: 60. Hyde has the arm strength to handle shortstop but must continue to become more consistent after having to shift from short to second early last season. Smith and Gonzalez are sound defenders, but Palka remains a work in progress at first. Evans is very good behind the plate, and the outfield boasts a pair of center fielders in Wren and Thomas. The versatile Dove is a nice fit in right field or second base, as needed, and Murray could factor in at first, right or behind the plate.
Starting Pitching: 55. Farmer was regarded as a top-four-rounds talent as a junior but elected to return to school after slipping to the 15th round. He is a physical, aggressive workhorse who challenges hitters with an 88-92 fastball that bumps the mid-90s, a good changeup and a decent slider. Isaacs showed improved command of an 88-90 fastball in the Cape last summer, and he can reach 94 mph at times to go along with a power breaking ball and a changeup he can throw for strikes. Pitts is a solid strike-thrower with an 88-92 fastball, a quality changeup and an adequate breaking ball. Fr. LHPs Jonathan King and Sam Clay could push him for a rotation spot, and So. RHP Josh Heddinger could also be a factor.
Bullpen: 55. The tenacious Evans attacks hitters with a low-90s fastball and a good slider that he uses for an out pitch. Jr. RHP Alex Cruz is a bulldog who locates a mid-80s fastball and a deceptive mid-70s change, making him a valuable swing man who is trusted in tight spots. Look for power-armed Jr. RHP Jonathan Roberts, who can reach 93-94, to assume a more prominent role this spring, and the return of Jr. LHP Devin Stanton from injury gives the Jackets a nice weapon against lefties.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. Few teams can boast more experience in their everyday lineups than Georgia Tech. Getting Farmer and Thomas back as seniors was a coup, and this team has no shortage of veteran leadership. Tech showed toughness by overcoming injuries to get hot down the stretch and win the ACC tournament title last year, but the program has a nettlesome track record of underachieving in regionals.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Georgia Tech has a chance to be one of the nation's best offensive teams, but it needs better performances from its arms in order to reach its potential. Despite all their talent (and three opportunities to host) in recent years, the Jackets haven't won a regional since 2006, creating some pressure for this experienced team to get over the hump.
Bubble Watch: LSU, North Carolina Bolster Hosting Cases
As conference tournaments continue, we look at NCAA Tournament bubble winners and losers from Friday.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 47-20 (3). RPI: 2.|
Coach (Record at school): Kevin O'Sullivan (223-102, 5 years).
Postseason History: 28 regionals (active streak; 5), 8 CWS trips (active streak; 3), 0 national titles.
|C||Taylor Gushue, So.||.206/.329/.383||5||21||1|
|1B||Zack Powers, So.||DNP—Redshirted|
|2B||Casey Turgeon, So.||.281/.368/.407||4||30||10|
|3B||Josh Tobias, So.||.252/.320/.319||0||10||3|
|SS||Richie Martin, Fr.||HS—Bloomingdale, Fla.|
|LF||Justin Shafer, So.||.284/.330/.333||0||27||3|
|CF||Harrison Bader, Fr.||HS—New York|
|RF||Vickash Ramjit, Sr.||.273/.329/.438||5||20||3|
|DH||Kevin Stypulkowski, Fr.||HS—West Palm Beach, Fla.|
|RHP||Jonathon Crawford, Jr.||6||2||3.13||78||73||0|
|RHP||Karsten Whitson, Jr.||4||0||3.51||33||20||0|
|RHP||Keenan Kish, Jr.||0||0||1.98||27||28||1|
|RP||Ryan Harris, So.||2||0||3.38||16||12||0|
Hitting: 60. Florida's lineup gets a dramatic makeover after the departures of stars Mike Zunino, Preston Tucker, Daniel Pigott, Brian Johnson and Nolan Fontana. Turgeon is a skilled bat-handler whose average figures to climb as a sophomore. Tobias, Gushue and Stypuklowski give the Gators a trio of aggressive switch-hitters who should wear out the gaps. Shafer is another quality gap-to-gap hitter who looks primed to take a step forward with increased playing time. The energetic Martin needs to get more physical but excels at the little things that help teams win, like working counts, bunting and hitting behind runners. The Gators will use their bench early and play matchups.
Power: 45. Florida needs Ramjit to provide righthanded power in the middle of the lineup, and he has the strength to reach double digits in homers. Powers provides occasional juice from the left side, while Gushue and Stypulkowski have some pop from both sides. But don't expect the Gators to lead the nation in home runs again, or even come close.
Speed: 50. Bader is a plus-plus runner, as is Jacksonville transfer Taylor Ratliff, though Florida is still waiting to hear whether the junior will receive a hardship waiver from the NCAA to be eligible this spring. Martin and Tobias have slightly above-average speed or a tick more, while Turgeon and Shafer are solid runners with plenty of savvy on the basepaths. The Gators will put more runners in motion and try to steal more bases now that most of their mashers are gone, but they still lack game-changing speed.
Defense: 55. The infielders are athletic as well as skilled. Turgeon is instinctive and reliable at second, and Martin has a stronger arm than Fontana at short, though he'll have his hands full trying to replicate Fontana's remarkable consistency. Gushue has a strong arm and solid receiving skills behind the plate. The January retirement of injury-plagued sixth-year senior Tyler Thompson leaves the rangy Bader in center, though if Ratliff is cleared Bader figures to move to right, pushing Ramjit to first.
Starting Pitching: 70. Crawford, who threw a no-hitter in regionals and then starred for Team USA last year, is a marquee ace with a lively 92-96 fastball, a plus 82-84 slider and an improving changeup. Whitson is still trying to live up to the talent that made him a first-round pick out of high school, but if he stays healthy he can overpower hitters with a premium fastball and swing-and-miss power slider. Kish, a strike-throwing righty with a darting low-90s fastball and good slider, will compete for the Sunday spot with Jr. Daniel Gibson, who has power stuff from the left side. Both have impressive pedigrees, and now they'll finally get a chance to assume prominent roles at Florida.
Bullpen: 60. Florida's bullpen was among the nation's best last year, but linchpins Steven Rodriguez, Austin Maddox and Greg Larson are gone. Harris, the likely closer, generates a heavy 93-96 fastball with serious sink from a funky three-quarters delivery, and his slider is improving. Assuming So. RHP Johnny Magliozzi and So. LHP Corey Stump don't wind up starting, they will join Harris to form a solid bullpen core. Magliozzi touched 94-95 and showed two good secondary pitches in a relief role in the Cape, while Stump stands out for his feel for pitching, angle and life. Fr. RHPs Eric Hanhold, Tucker Simpson and Jason Carmichael—plus Shafer, who will pitch more as a sophomore—provide quality depth.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The superstars of the great 2009 recruiting class are gone, leaving a slew of young players who need to prove themselves. But Florida has a nice core of veteran leaders with Omaha experience in Ramjit, Crawford and Whitson, and its coaching staff is top notch. And many of its key sophomores are already fairly seasoned.
Baseball America OFP: 60. For the first time in three years, the Gators won't enter the season as a national title favorite, but they remain talented. If the lineup gels, the pitching staff could make this team very dangerous by the time the postseason rolls around.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 41-19 (18). RPI: 19.|
Coach (Record at school): Wayne Graham (953-380, 21 years).
Postseason History: 18 regionals (active streak; 17), 7 CWS trips (last in 2008), 1 national title (2003).
|C||Hunter Kopycinski, Fr.||HS—Houston|
|1B||Connor Teykl, Fr.||HS—Sugar Land, Texas|
|2B||Christian Stringer, Sr.||.343/.448/.458||3||36||6|
|3B||Shane Hoelscher, Jr.||.244/.337/.350||4||30||5|
|SS||Ford Stainback, So.||.289/.411/.345||0||17||2|
|LF||Keenan Cook, Jr.||.304/.385/.348||0||3||3|
|CF||Leon Byrd, Fr.||HS—Cypress, Texas|
|RF||Michael Ratterree, Sr.||.233/.378/.407||6||32||6|
|DH||Skyler Ewing, So.||.182/.182/.182||0||0||0|
|RHP||Austin Kubitza, Jr.||6||5||2.69||81||73||0|
|RHP||Jordan Stephens, So.||2||3||4.38||39||40||0|
|RHP||Kevin McCanna, Fr.||HS—The Woodlands, Texas|
|RP||John Simms, Jr.||6||0||2.56||63||59||0|
Hitting: 55. Wayne Graham says he realized after talking with Arizona coach Andy Lopez that the Owls need to redouble their commitment to a line-drive, up-the-middle approach in the BBCOR era. Righties Hoelscher (Rice's leading hitter in the fall) and Ratterree worked hard in the fall to eliminate their "flying left elbows," as Graham put it, and focus on hitting line drives. The team's best hitter last year was Stringer, who walked (38) more than he struck out (28) and handled righties as well as lefties. He could hit in the No. 3 hole, behind switch-hitting sparkplugs Byrd and Stainback, who both work counts and spray the ball around the diamond. Teykl's sweet lefthanded swing and feel for his barrel could make him a star, and Cook gives the Owls another lefty who handles the bat and bunts well.
Power: 45. The wide-bodied Ewing had a big summer in the Northwoods League, and his righthanded pop could land him somewhere in the middle of the lineup. Ratterree, who worked with Lance Berkman this fall to become a more aggressive hitter, has 22 homers in his three-year career and has the bat speed to hit balls a long way when he connects. The Owls also envision Teykl growing into some power. But this should be primarily a gap-to-gap team.
Speed: 60. The Owls ranked 196th in stolen bases per game last year, but expect them to run more as part of their new offensive scheme in 2013. The dynamic Byrd is a 65 runner on the 20-80 scale, while Cook and Jr. OF Michael Aquino are slightly above-average to plus runners. Stainback and Ratterree are solid-average runners, and Stringer has fringe-average speed.
Defense: 70. Rice should be rock-solid in the middle infield, as Stainback and Stringer are instinctive defenders with sure hands and accurate arms. Likewise, Hoelscher has become an excellent third baseman, and Teykl's soft hands should make him a quality first baseman. Byrd's range, aggressiveness and arm strength give him a chance to be a premier defensive center fielder. Ratterree has improved his arm in right, and Cook is sound in left. The strong-armed Kopycinski and savvy Sr. Geoff Perrott form a good duo behind the plate.
Starting Pitching: 60. Kubitza anchors a group of four starting candidates with very intriguing upside, though only the ace is a proven commodity. Kubitza's calling card is the extreme life on his 85-92 mph fastball and his tough angle, and his hard breaking ball is a swing-and-miss pitch. Stephens flashed great promise as a freshman before a large cyst on his hand derailed his season, but he recovered from that by the fall, when he showed a live 87-92 fastball with good deception, a nice slider he can throw for strikes and a curveball he uses as a chase pitch. McCanna's front-shoulder deception makes his 88-91 fastball play up, and he has advanced feel for a good changeup and decent curve. Jr. RHP Chase McDowell is back from Tommy John surgery and flashing 94 mph heat along with a good curve and improved changeup.
Bullpen: 60. Simms is a quality bullpen anchor who attacks hitters with an 88-92 fastball, a sharp slider and solid change, though the Owls have a few lingering health concerns after his stuff declined in the Cape League. If he's back to full strength, he'll form a fearsome late-innings duo with So. RHP Zech Lemond, who can reach the low-90s and has developed a major weapon in a new spike curveball. So. RHP Evan Rutter also relies on a devastating spike curve—a Rice staple—that ranges from 78-82, though his fastball tops out around 89. So. RHP Matt Ditman is listed as a catcher on the roster but came out of nowhere as a pitcher this fall, showing an 86-90 fastball with serious movement and yet another spike curveball. This unit's weakness is the lack of an impact lefty, putting the onus on Sr. LHP Holt McNair to stay healthy and get lefthanded hitters out.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. Four regulars, the ace and the closer return from a team that hosted a regional last year, though another disappointing postseason performance left the Owls without any experience beyond regionals, because they haven't won a regional since 2009. This team will rely on its share of unproven players, but having Graham in the dugout will always be an advantage.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Graham said he is excited about this team because it is flying under the radar, "and I think we can sneak up on some people for a change." Rice will never be overlooked in Conference USA, which it has dominated for years, but maybe lowered national expectations will work to the Owls' benefit and help them snap their four-year CWS drought.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 42-25 (14). RPI: 24.|
Coach (Record at school): Sunny Golloway (303-160-1, 7 years).
Postseason History: 34 regionals (active streak; 5), 10 CWS trips (last in 2010), 2 national titles (last in 1994).
|C||Dylan Neal, Jr.||.153/.296/.143||0||7||0|
|1B||Anthony Hermelyn, Fr.||HS—McKinney, Texas|
|2B||Jack Mayfield, Sr.||.280/.359/.407||3||34||10|
|3B||Garrett Carey, Sr.||.209/.284/.277||2||24||2|
|SS||Hector Lorenzana, Jr.||Tr.—Howard (Texas) JC|
|LF||Craig Aikin, Fr.||HS—Coppell (Texas) HS|
|CF||Max White, Sr.||.337/.406/.444||2||55||7|
|RF||Colt Bickerstaff, So.||Tr.—Howard (Texas) JC|
|DH||Matt Oberste, Jr.||.312/.413/.444||6||22||6|
|LHP||Dillon Overton, Jr.||6||3||3.15||123||126||0|
|RHP||Jonathan Gray, Jr.||8||4||3.16||103||104||0|
|LHP||Billy Waltrip, Jr.||Tr.—Seminole State (Okla.) JC|
|RP||Anthony Hermelyn, Fr.||HS—McKinney, Texas|
Hitting: 45. The Sooners ranked 228th in the nation in batting last year (.262) and 175th in scoring (5.1 runs per game), and they must replace five regulars in the lineup. Fortunately, they get their leading hitter back in White, a physical veteran with a mature approach and excellent juice to the gaps. The other key holdover is Mayfield, a heady player who handles the bat well and does all the little things to help the offense succeed. Lorenzana is a skilled hitter, and OU hopes he can provide production similar to Mayfield's. Hermelyn has a quick bat and a high baseball IQ, and the Sooners have high hopes for him. The athletic Aikin could be a table-setter or a disruptive force at the bottom of the lineup.
Power: 55. Oberste and White provide physicality and solid home run power in the middle of the lineup. Bickerstaff, who spent his freshman year at Nebraska, brings plus raw power potential and can hit to all fields. Fr. Kolbey Carpenter set a Class 3A record in Texas with 48 homers during his high school career, giving the Sooners a more offensive alternative to Carey at third.
Speed: 50. Aikin is a burner who isn't afraid to steal bases, putting pressure on opposing defenses. White and Mayfield are also good runners, though they did not steal bases at a high percentage last year (combining to go 17-for-32). The Sooners rely more upon hit-and-runs and situational hitting than basestealing.
Defense: 60. Lorenzana has sure hands and a strong arm at shortstop, making him equal to the task of replacing Caleb Bushyhead. His double-play partner, Mayfield, is a proven standout with excellent instincts, athleticism and arm strength. Carey and Neal are in the lineup for their rock-solid defense at third base and catcher, respectively. White has quickly become a stellar center fielder thanks to his aggressiveness and quality reads, and Aikin has excellent range in left.
Starting Pitching: 70. Oklahoma's weekend rotation has a chance to be one of the nation's best, with three upperclassmen with overpowering stuff. Overton is one of college baseball's premier lefthanders, with a fastball that sits comfortably in the low 90s and reaches the mid-90s, a good breaking ball and changeup. Gray works in the mid-90s, can throw his power curveball for strikes, and has improved his command since arriving at OU. Waltrip can also reach 95 with good run on his fastball, and he is working on adding a better changeup to his swing-and-miss breaking ball. R-Fr. LHP Adam Choplick and Fr. RHP Corey Copping present two intriguing options for midweek starts.
Bullpen: 50. Hermelyn's 92-94 mph fastball and feel for pitching make him a leading candidate for the closer job, though how he juggles two-way duties as a freshman will be critical. The supporting cast is largely unproved, aside from Jr. RHP Kindle Ladd, who should serve as a crucial bridge in the middle to late innings. Junior-college transfer Ethan Carnes has a decent four-pitch mix from the left side, and the Sooners are excited about the arm strength of Fr. RHP Ralph Garza, a two-way player who blossomed this fall after concentrating on pitching.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. Captains White, Mayfield, Overton and Gray provide outstanding leadership and bring super regional experience from a year ago. But a host of players must prove themselves in the lineup and in the bullpen.
Baseball America OFP: 55. Oklahoma's starting pitching has a chance to carry it a long way, but questions linger about the bullpen and the offense. A run back to Omaha is certainly within reach, however.
|20. FLORIDA STATE|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 50-17 (4). RPI: 3.|
Coach (Record at school): Mike Martin (1723-594-4, 33 years).
Postseason History: 50 regionals (active streak; 38), 21 CWS trips (active streak; 1), 0 national titles.
|C||Stephen McGee, Jr.||.230/.428/.275|
|1B||John Nogowski, So.||.250/.361/.329||2||23||2|
|2B||Alvin Swoope, Fr.||HS—Port St. Lucie, Fla.|
|3B||Jose Brizuela, So.||.226/.322/.326||2||38||6|
|SS||Justin Gonzalez, Sr.||.256/.374/.436||9||42||13|
|LF||D.J. Stewart, Fr.||HS—Jacksonville, Fla.|
|CF||Seth Miller, Sr.||.212/.328/.349||3||29||4|
|RF||Josh Delph, So.||.267/.349/.344||0||20||3|
|DH||Marcus Davis, Jr.||Tr.—Walters State (Tenn.) JC|
|LHP||Brandon Liebrandt, So.||8||3||2.82||99||83||0|
|RHP||Mike Compton, So.||10||2||2.87||91||64||0|
|RHP||Scott Sitz, Sr.||4||3||3.72||65||50||1|
|RP||Luke Weaver, So.||1||0||5.93||41||40||1|
Hitting: 55. Florida State will have a dramatically different look after losing its top four hitters—James Ramsey, Jayce Boyd, Devon Travis and Sherman Johnson. But FSU teams always grind out at-bats, draw walks (386 last year, leading the nation) and use all fields, regardless of personnel. Delph's inside-out swing makes him a good fit for the offense, and Brizuela is a classic FSU slasher who looks primed for a breakout year. Davis is another pure lefthanded gap-to-gap hitter, and Nogowski is a physical line-drive hitter from the right side. Miller's bat handling and bunting should make him a useful sparkplug, and McGee's plate discipline (61-32 BB-K last year) gives him some offensive value.
Power: 55. The Seminoles think Stewart could slide into the No. 3 spot in the lineup as a freshman thanks to his aggressive lefthanded swing, which figures to produce plenty of home runs in his FSU career. Brizeula brings some more lefthanded pop, while Gonzalez and Nogowski provide good power from the right side. Newcomers Jameis Winston and Brett Knief bring more power potential and athleticism to the outfield mix. But Gonzalez is the only proven college power hitter, and he strikes out a lot.
Speed: 55. Winston, also a quarterback on the football team and raw on the diamond, is the only elite runner on this roster. Brizuela and Gonzalez are good baserunners with solid to above-average speed. Stewart, Miller, Delph, Davis, Swoope and Knief all have decent speed, but they are not burners.
Defense: 60. FSU should be strong up the middle, as Gonzalez has the footwork, actions, arm strength and quickness to continue playing shortstop in pro ball, and McGee is very reliable behind the plate. Swoope, a 5-foot-8 baseball rat in the mold of Travis, has good hands and instincts at second, where he'll battle juco transfer Casey Smit. Miller has good range and a strong arm in center, and Stewart also has good range in left. Nogowski and Brizuela have good athleticism on the infield corners but need to prove themselves in everyday roles.
Starting Pitching: 60. Florida State's rotation isn't overpowering, but all three starters have proven that they excel at getting outs, led by a pair of returning freshman All-Americans. Leibrandt has the poise and feel for pitching you'd expect from the son of a big leaguer (Charlie), and he carves hitters up by moving around his mid-to-upper-80s fastball, dropping in his plus changeup in any count and mixing in a decent breaking ball. Compton's forte is the wicked life on his 86-88 sinker and his ability to pound the bottom of the zone with that pitch and his slider. His changeup is improving, too. Sitz, a bulldog who commands a fringy three-pitch mix to both side of the plate, came on strong down the stretch last year. The projected midweek starter, Jr. RHP Peter Miller, has the best velocity of the group (88-93), but he is still learning how to pitch.
Bullpen: 50. FSU will sorely miss first-team All-America closer Robert Benincasa, but Weaver has the electric stuff to succeed at the back of the 'pen, highlighted by an 88-94 fastball. Whether he can command the zone more consistently is a major key to FSU's season. Jr. RHP Gage Smith, a submariner whose sinker/slider attack induces loads of ground balls, is the key middle man. Junior-college transfer Robby Coles, a low-three-quarters RHP in the mold of former Seminole Daniel Bennett, is another good competitor who figures to see plenty of key innings. So. Bryant Holtmann and Brandon Johnson give FSU a pair of solid options from the left side.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. Florida State is fortunate to have three weekend starters with Omaha experience. McGee and Gonzalez provide invaluable veteran leadership in the lineup, and few coaching staffs get more out of their rosters annually than Mike Martin's. But a lot of players must prove themselves around the diamond and in the bullpen.
Baseball America OFP: 55. The Seminoles don't rebuild; they retool, and they win 40 or 50 games, and they compete for conference championships, regardless of roster turnover. This program has earned the benefit of the doubt. FSU will be good, even if it won't be the clear-cut favorite in the ACC.
|21. NEW MEXICO|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 37-24 (NR). RPI: 63.|
Coach (Record at school): Ray Birmingham (166-132, 5 years).
Postseason History: 4 regionals (active streak; 3), 0 CWS trips, 0 national titles.
|C||Mitch Garver, Sr.||.377/.438/.612||10||57||6|
|1B||Alex Real, So.||.271/.320/.406||3||29||0|
|2B||Sam Haggerty, Fr.||HS—Denver|
|3B||D.J. Peterson, Jr.||.419/.490/.734||17||78||1|
|SS||Alex Allbritton, Sr.||.251/.274/.314||1||31||2|
|LF||Ryan Padilla, So.||.353/.430/.525||5||49||4|
|CF||Josh Melendez, Sr.||.347/.407/.517||3||44||23|
|RF||Luke Campbell, Sr.||DNP—injured|
|DH||John Pustay, Jr.||.294/.347/.413||3||20||1|
|RHP||Sam Wolff, Sr.||1||2||5.52||46||24||0|
|RHP||Josh Walker, Jr.||8||3||4.19||82||66||1|
|RHP||Tony Consiglio, Jr.||Tr.—Western Nevada JC|
|RP||Hobie McClain, Sr.||2||1||1.80||30||22||3|
Hitting: 70. The Lobos welcome back the top four hitters—and seven players who started at least 27 games—from a team that ranked inside the nation's top 10 in batting (.326, fifth), scoring (7.7 runs per game, fifth), doubles, triples and slugging. Peterson has a strong claim for the title of best hitter in college baseball, and Garver gives the lineup a second premium righthanded bat. The third pillar of the lineup is Padilla, a freshman All-American last year with serious lefthanded bat speed. Melendez is an athletic slasher who ranked third in the nation with nine triples last year. The switch-hitting Haggerty has a nice line-drive swing, and Campbell and Pustay can also hit for average.
Power: 70. Peterson excels at keeping his hands back and whipping them through the zone, generating easy plus to plus-plus power. Garver and Padilla also have serious juice, while Real and Campbell have the strength to boost their power numbers this spring. Up and down the lineup, the Lobos have good power to the gaps.
Speed: 50. Melendez is an above-average runner, while Campbell and Haggerty have solid-average speed. Real and Garver are good runners for their respective positions.
Defense: 60. Allbritton, a slick and reliable defensive shortstop, is the defensive glue, and the Lobos are glad he is fully recovered from the foot injury that dogged him somewhat last year. Haggerty and Real should be strong on the right side, and Peterson is improving at third base, though his range and actions limit his defensive ceiling. Melendez has a good first step and an above-average arm in center. Garver's strong arm helped him throw out 40 percent of basestealers last year, and he handles the staff well.
Starting Pitching: 45. Starting pitching is UNM's greatest question mark, but there are talented (if unproven) arms on this staff. Wolff has the best pedigree: He was a big-name prep prospect out of South Dakota who started his collegiate career at San Diego. He shows tantalizing ability, with a fastball that can reach 97 and an improved slider and changeup. Walker's low-three-quarters corkscrew delivery gives him good deception, helping his 89-91 fastball play up, and he can throw strikes with his breaking ball and changeup. Consiglio missed plenty of bats as a member of Western Nevada's NJCAA World Series team last year; he can throw four pitches for strikes, highlighted by an 88-91 fastball that reaches 93 and a good slider. So. LHP Alex Estrella, the fourth starting option, is a strike-thrower with late movement on a fastball that bumps the low 90s and a good changeup.
Bullpen: 55. McClain is a bulldog who can handle pressure situations. The submariner has good life on his 85-87 fastball and gives righties a hard time with a Frisbee slider. Jr. RHP Tyler Spencer, another Western Nevada transfer, has serious late life on a 91-93 fastball that touches 95, to go along with a solid cutter and changeup. Sidearming Sr. LHP Gabe Aguilar gives lefties a different look. The wild card is Jr. RHP Jake McCasland, who was limited by elbow trouble last spring but showed 93-97 mph heat and a good breaking ball in the Cape.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. After snapping a 48-year NCAA tournament drought in 2010, the Lobos have made three straight regionals under Ray Birmingham, so players like Peterson, Garver and Allbritton are battle tested. Birmingham's swagger rubs off on his team, which now expects to win and often does so. But inexperience on the mound is a concern.
Baseball America OFP: 55. With perhaps the nation's most explosive offense and a pitching staff well stocked with power arms that just need to prove themselves, New Mexico's upside is significant. This group of Lobos is good enough to win a regional and carry this surging program to Omaha for the first time—if it gets hot at the right time, unlike last year, when UNM fell flat at UCLA's regional.
|22. CAL STATE FULLERTON|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 36-21 (21). RPI: 20.|
Coach (Record at school): Rick Vanderhook (36-21, 1 year).
Postseason History: 34 regionals (active streak; 21), 16 CWS trips (last in 2009), 4 national titles (last in 2004).
|C||Chad Wallach, So.||.206/.282/.265||0||7||1|
|1B||J.D. Davis, So.||.229/.321/.381||4||20||2|
|2B||Matt Orloff, Sr.||.396/.418/.491||0||7||1|
|3B||Matt Chapman, So.||.286/.340/.370||2||23||1|
|SS||Richy Pedroza, Sr.||.324/.408/.380||0||21||1|
|LF||Anthony Hutting, Sr.||.279/.414/.395||1||27||3|
|CF||Michael Lorenzen, Jr.||.297/.353/.435||2||43||14|
|RF||Clay Williamson, So.||.229/.243/.286||0||9||0|
|DH||Carlos Lopez, Sr.||.317/.401/.413||1||35||7|
|RHP||Grahamm Wiest, So.||5||5||3.12||87||57||1|
|RHP||Justin Garza, Fr.||HS—La Verne, Calif.|
|RHP||Thomas Eshelman, Fr.||HS—Carlsbad, Calif.|
|RP||Michael Lorenzen, Jr.||2||0||1.23||22||17||16|
Hitting: 65. With six returning starters and a host of talented sophomores ready to assume more prominent roles, Fullerton has a deep group of athletic slashers who should be able to string together plenty of big innings. The switch-hitting Pedroza packs line-drive strength into his quick-twitch 5-foot-6 frame, and his plate discipline (26-17 BB-K) makes him a good table-setter. Lopez, Hutting and Williamson have pretty lefthanded swings that should produce loads of hard liners to the gaps. The most dangerous bats belong to the righthanded-hitting trio of Chapman, Lorenzen and Davis, who all have serious bat speed and should see their numbers spike. The scrappy Orloff should deliver competitive at-bats.
Power: 40. The Titans hit just 10 homers in 57 games last year (268th in the nation), but they should be more dangerous this year as young power hitters Chapman and Davis continue to mature. Scouts were impressed with how the ball exploded off Chapman's bat last summer in the Northwoods League, where he hit seven homers and ranked as the No. 2 prospect. Davis' above-average raw power made him a fifth-round pick out of high school, and he looks poised for a breakout year. Lorenzen has added strength to his lean frame and could easily double his career home run total (four). Wallach showed a dramatically improved all-fields approach and emerging power this fall.
Speed: 60. The Titans are loaded with stellar athletes with slightly above-average to plus speed in the outfield, from Lorenzen and Williamson to the faster duo of Austin Kingsolver and Austin Diemer, both of whom should battle for playing time. Pedroza also has good speed, while Hutting and Orloff are decent runners. Chapman is a slightly below-average runner but not a clogger by any means. Davis and Wallach are slow, however.
Defense: 70. The Titans have athletic playmakers all over the diamond. Lorenzen is a premium center fielder with one of the nation's best outfield arms, and Pedroza reasserted himself as a confident, slick-fielding shortstop in the Cal Collegiate League last summer. That pushes Chapman to third, where his actions and plus arm are assets. Orloff is heady and steady at second, and Wallach has made great strides behind the plate, showing soft hands and a strong arm to go along with his physical, durable frame.
Starting Pitching: 50. The strength of the pitching staff last year was its ability to attack the strike zone, as the Titans walked just 1.87 batters per nine innings, best in the nation. Weekend starters Dylan Floro (draft) and Kenny Mathews (suspension) are gone, leaving funky, deceptive strike-thrower Wiest as the veteran anchor. Wiest's crossfire delivery makes his 85-87 sinker tough to pick up, and he mixes in a short 73-75 curveball and a good 78 mph changeup. Garza would have been a premium draft pick if not for his slight 5-foot-11 build, because his stuff is overpowering: a 91-94 mph fastball, an above-average power breaking ball in the 75-78 range with sharp downer break, and the makings of an average changeup. Eshelman, a converted catcher who evokes former Pepperdine ace Barry Enright in body and style, ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the West Coast League thanks to an 87-92 fastball, a nasty mid-80s cutter and a promising change.
Bullpen: 60. Lorenzen has electrifying stuff at the back of the bullpen, attacking hitters with a 94-96 fastball and an 80-83 slider. So. RHP Koby Gauna, who is also a leading candidate for the midweek starter job, commands a high-80s fastball and 77-78 slurve, and he'll see valuable bullpen innings in weekends. So will So. RHP Jose Cardona, whose average fastball has good run and whose 73-75 curve has sharp 11-to-5 break. So. RHP Willie Kuhl and So. LHP Tyler Peitzmeier are nice complementary pieces who figures to make many appearances. Davis should also see more innings this year thanks to a 90-92 fastball and good breaking ball.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The lineup is very seasoned, but the Titans are relying a pair of talented freshmen in the weekend rotation. Fullerton always plays hard and excels at executing the game inside the game, and Rick Vanderhook imbues his teams with toughness.
Baseball America OFP: 55. The Titans won the Big West with an extraordinarily inexperienced pitching staff last year, and they are a strong favorite to repeat as league champions with an older team in 2013. If Fullerton fails to reach Omaha for a fourth straight year, it will be the program's longest CWS drought since it made its first trip in 1975. The Titans are hungry, but they likely must vanquish some talented Pac-12 foes to get back to Omaha.
|23. SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 32-24 (NR). RPI: 90.|
Coach (Record at school): Scott Berry (107-67, 3 years).
Postseason History: 12 regionals (last in 2011), 1 CWS trip (2009), 0 national titles.
|C||Chase Fowler, Sr.||.239/.318/.291||0||17||2|
|1B||Blake Brown, Sr.||.271/.383/.453||6||41||1|
|2B||Isaac Rodriguez, Sr.||.276/.343/.316||0||14||3|
|3B||Bradley Roney, So.||.227/.306/.264||2||10||2|
|SS||Michael Sterling, So.||.288/.486/.344||1||16||11|
|LF||Connor Barron, So.||.250/.392/.300||0||17||5|
|CF||Dillon Day, Sr.||.290/.341/.383||0||20||7|
|RF||Mason Robbins, So.||.330/.356/.450||3||38||7|
|DH||Jared Bales, Jr.||.269/.345/.269||0||1||0|
|RHP||Andrew Pierce, Sr.||7||4||1.99||99||96||0|
|LHP||Jake Drehoff, So.||6||2||3.51||95||57||0|
|LHP||Mason Robbins, So.||1||0||4.01||34||17||0|
|RP||Bradley Roney, So.||2||1||2.42||26||26||11|
Hitting: 55. USM's lineup features a nice blend of steady upperclassmen and talented sophomores, righties and lefties. The centerpiece of lineup is Robbins, whose pretty lefthanded swing and natural hitting instincts helped him rank as the No. 15 prospect in the Cape League last summer. Sterling's knack for getting on base (28 HBPs last year, a school record) and hitting situationally should make him a good fit in the No. 2 hole, behind the gritty Day. Barron's fluid lefthanded swing helped make him a third-round pick out of high school, but he needs to bounce back from a disappointing freshman year that was punctuated by surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. Fowler and Rodriguez provide limited offensive upside at the bottom of the lineup, but Rodriguez had a good fall, and the Eagles believe he could help them against lefties.
Power: 50. Southern Miss returns a quality senior cleanup man in Brown, who finished strong last year and looks like a strong threat to reach double-digit homers this spring. If Bales can stay healthy after missing most of last season with back problems, he could provide another physical veteran with righthanded pop in the middle of the lineup. Roney might have the team's most raw power and can punish fastballs in advantage counts, but his approach is a work in progress. Robbins has solid-average power from the left side, and Barron also has flashed intriguing power potential in the past, but he is a wild card. The Golden Eagles hit just 15 homers last year but should more than double that total this spring.
Speed: 50. Day and Sterling give the lineup a pair of athletic catalysts with plus speed. Barron is another above-average runner, and Robbins is a fringe-average runner. This could be USM's most athletic team in years, but speed isn't a big part of its attack.
Defense: 60. Rock-solid shortstop Ashley Graeter is gone, but Sterling's good range and strong arm give him a chance to be even better, in time. Rodriguez isn't flashy or particularly rangy at second, but he makes all the routine plays and fielded .990 last year. Roney's smooth actions and rifle arm give him a chance to be a standout at third. USM has a seasoned senior backstop in Fowler, who has sound catch-and-throw skills. Day and Robbins are good in the outfield, but Barron is still learning left field after moving from middle infield.
Starting Pitching: 65. After transferring in from the juco ranks, Pierce established himself last year as a dogged, strike-throwing ace in the mold of former USM standout Todd McInnis. His heavy sinker eats up righties, he throws his slurvy breaking ball for strikes, and his changeup is becoming a swing-and-miss pitch. Redshirt sophomore Drehoff generated real draft buzz this fall when his velocity jumped from the 85-88 range into the 87-91 range, and he developed another out pitch in a cutter/slider, complementing his stellar changeup. Robbins fills up the strike zone with an 87-90 fastball, average breaking ball and plus change. Jr. RHP Conor Fisk, a juco transfer, could push for the Sunday job thanks to his ability to command an 88-91 fastball and put hitters away with a nasty 79-82 slider.
Bullpen: 55. The live-armed Roney proved he can handle the pressure of closing as a freshman, and the Eagles think his velocity could continue to climb; he already reaches 92 and has a power slider. Fearless Jr. RHP Daniel Wineski, another juco transfer, attacks hitters with a high-80s fastball and good slider, making him a candidate for the primary setup role. The pick to click is So. LHP Cody Livingston, who now touches the low 90s after working in the mid-80s last year. Jr. RHPs Boomer Scarborough and Cameron Giannini (whose bread and butter is a power sinker) provide quality depth and experience.
Experience/Intangibles: 60. The pitching staff returns every key piece, and all nine projected regulars have at least some experience as starters. This team is loaded with veteran leadership, but none of its talented sophomores has played in regionals, as USM's nine-year postseason streak was snapped last year.
Baseball America OFP: 55. The Eagles spent last year breaking in their third-ranked recruiting class, and they went through their share of growing pains. But they should reap the rewards of that acclimation period this year. Southern Miss is a balanced club that should contend for the Conference USA title and could make a deep postseason run if it stays healthy and gets hot at the right time.
|2012 Record (Ranking): 48-17 (1). RPI: 4.|
Coach (Record at school): Andy Lopez (403-246-1, 11 years).
Postseason History: 33 regionals (active streak; 3), 16 CWS trips (active streak; 1), 4 national titles (active streak; 1).
|C||Riley Moore, So.||.301/.385/.379||1||38||2|
|1B||Ryan Koziol, Fr.||HS—New Lenox, Ill.|
|2B||Trent Gilbert, So.||.272/.337/.319||0||42||4|
|3B||Brandon Dixon, Jr.||.245/.326/.323||1||14||8|
|SS||Kevin Newman, Fr.||HS—Poway, Calif.|
|LF||Joseph Maggi, So.||.326/.375/.390||0||19||3|
|CF||Johnny Field, Jr.||.370/.476/.529||3||44||11|
|RF||Jackson Willeford, Fr.||HS—Ramona, Calif.|
|DH||Sam Parris, Jr.||Tr.—Edmonds (Wash.) CC|
|RHP||Konner Wade, Jr.||11||3||3.96||136||105||0|
|RHP||James Farris, Jr.||7||3||3.97||107||73||0|
|RHP||Tyler Hale, Sr.||2||0||4.05||20||23||0|
|RP||Mathew Troupe, So.||6||1||3.47||36||44||6|
Hitting: 50. An elite offense loaded with experience helped lead Arizona to the national title last year, but this unit will be less potent without departed regulars Alex Mejia, Robert Refsnyder, Seth Mejias-Brean, Joey Rickard and Bobby Brown. But the Wildcats get the reigning Pac-12 batting champion back in Field, a hitting machine with a short righthanded stroke that produces hard line drive after hard line drive. Willeford has a similar knack for hitting from the left side and comparable strength in his undersized frame. The wiry Koziol has a smooth lefty swing, and Newman is a heady grinder with a contact bat, but both need to get stronger. The switch-hitting Moore was a pleasant surprise as a freshman, and Gilbert can spray the ball around. The hard-nosed Maggi never gives in; Fr. OF Cody Ramer is another dirtbag who should see plenty of playing time; and Fr. OF Scott Kingery was the team's leading hitter in the fall, but his season could be delayed by mononucleosis.
Power: 40. Dixon, who delivered the CWS-winning RBI double last year, had laser eye surgery last summer, helping him put together a strong fall and giving the Wildcats hope he can provide some righthanded punch in the middle of the lineup. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Parris has the most power potential on the team, though he needs to prove he can handle Division I pitching. The rest of the lineup is stocked with gap-to-gap and spray hitters, though Field and Willeford could run into a few homers this spring.
Speed: 50. Kingery is a plus runner with a chance to win the center field job when he returns to full strength, pushing Field to left, where his fringy speed would fit better. Willeford has slightly above-average speed, while Ramer, Newman and even Dixon are average runners.
Defense: 55. Field's instincts made him adequate in center this fall, but Arizona's defense figures to be better if Kingery can take hold of the center-field job. Willeford is a natural infielder who is a work in progress in the outfield, but his strong arm is an asset. Maggi is solid at either corner; like Field, he has a below-average but accurate. Newman faces the tall task of replacing Pac-12 Player of the Year Mejia at shortstop, but he has the actions and savvy to handle the job, though his arm is fringy. Gilbert and Moore have proven themselves as quality up-the-middle defenders. Dixon and Koziol played very well at the corners in the fall.
Starting Pitching: 60. Workhorse ace Kurt Heyer is gone, but the rest of the championship staff returns intact, led by Omaha heroes Wade and Farris. Wade's 88-93 mph sinker has extreme movement—sometimes too much, leading to occasional control issues—and he flashes a plus changeup along with an occasional cutter. Farris is a steady strike-thrower with an 88-92 fastball and a good 79-82 slider that he can throw for a strike or use as a chase pitch. The competition for the Sunday spot remains open. Hale has struggled to throw strikes consistently in his career, but he made progress this fall and showed a 90-92 fastball, a good 12-to-6 curve and a solid change. Fr. LHP Cody Moffett, who has an 88-90 fastball, good changeup and an effective cutter, could seize the job if Hale falters. Fr. RHP Kevin Elder, a wide-bodied strike-thrower, is also in the mix.
Bullpen: 60. Troupe made the ninth inning an adventure at times last year, but he proved unflappable in pressure situations, and his power breaking ball and downer curve are nice weapons. The Wildcats hope RHP Nick Cunningham, like Hale, will finally harness his talent as a senior, because his 90-92 fastball and sharp breaking ball could make him a key setup man, or even a potential starter. Jr. RHP Stephen Manthei, who has a nice three-pitch mix, could team with Cunningham and Troupe to shorten games significantly. Soft-tossing So. LHP Tyler Crawford is effective against lefties. The Wildcats liked what they saw this fall from Fr. RHPs Tyger Talley, Nathan Bannister and Jesse Scholtens, giving this bullpen some depth.
Experience/Intangibles: 65. Sure, Arizona will have to break in five new everyday starters, likely including four newcomers. But Field, Moore, Gilbert, Maggi, Wade, Farris and Troupe were integral parts of a national championship team. That battle-tested group brings invaluable experience and leadership, and few other teams have a two-time national champion for a head coach.
Baseball America OFP: 55. With so much roster turnover, Arizona seems like a long shot to repeat as national champion, but it has enough pitching and enough young talent in the lineup to remain very competitive.
|25. SAN DIEGO|
|2012 Record (Ranking): 40-17 (NR). RPI: 36.|
Coach (Record at school): Rich Hill (481-331-3, 14 years).
Postseason History: 7 regionals (active streak; 1), 0 CWS trips, 0 national titles.
|C||Dillon Haupt, Sr.||.279/.389/.447||5||31||3|
|1B||Connor Joe, So.||.262/.401/.373||3||16||0|
|2B||Austin Bailey, So.||.273/.373/.342||0||20||2|
|3B||Kris Bryant, Jr.||.366/.483/.671||14||57||9|
|SS||Andrew Daniel, So.||.339/.394/.487||4||45||3|
|LF||Lucas Hagberg, Sr.||.333/.391/.421||0||11||0|
|CF||Louie Lechich, Jr.||.311/.368/.387||1||33||7|
|RF||A.J. Robinson, Sr.||.299/.341/.359||1||16||5|
|DH||Austin Green, Sr.||.200/.256/.275||1||4||0|
|RHP||Michael Wagner, Jr.||5||2||2.58||59||53||19|
|RHP||Dylan Covey, Jr.||6||3||3.32||81||50||0|
|LHP||Max MacNabb, Jr.||3||0||2.67||27||14||0|
|RP||Troy Conyers, Fr.||HS—Lakeside, Calif.|
Hitting: 60. USD returns eight players who logged meaningful playing time for a 2012 offense that ranked 13th in the nation in batting (.307). The centerpiece of the lineup is Bryant, a disciplined hitter who walked (39) more than he struck out (38) last year while also hitting for average and power. Daniel is an aggressive hitter with a pretty righthanded stroke that produces loads of doubles. Lechich is a lefthanded slasher who figures to be an effective table setter. Joe's patient approach and nice swing suggest he could be a breakout candidate. Haupt, Bailey, Hagberg and Robinson are grinders with steady bats.
Power: 50. Bryant has plus-plus power from right-center to the left-field line, making him perhaps the nation's premier power hitter. Haupt, Joe, Bailey and Green also bring occasional righthanded juice, but Bryant is the only true masher.
Speed: 45. The live-bodied Lechich is the lone plus runner in this lineup, but Bryant and Hagberg have solid-average speed or a tick more. The Toreros ranked 194th in the nation in steals per game last year, and they don't figure to run much in 2013 either.
Defense: 50. Infield defense was a weakness last year for USD, which ranked 195th nationally with a .962 fielding percentage. Daniel struggled mightily at shortstop last year, making 26 errors (.891 fielding percentage), but USD says he made progress this fall. Bryant has a cannon at third, but his size and actions might be better suited for a corner outfield spot at the next level. Bailey and Joe are sound on the right side of the infield, as is Haupt behind the plate. The outfield defense should be better than average, as Hagberg and Lechich have good range.
Starting Pitching: 60. Wagner ranked second in the nation in saves last year, but he moved into the rotation in regionals, and he will serve as the Friday starter this spring. His nice repertoire includes an 88-93 fastball, a swing-and-miss slider in the low 80s and a solid changeup. Covey has yet to live up to the talent that made him a first-round pick out of high school, but he has flashed mid-90s heat and a wicked downer curve in the past, and the Toreros could be tough to beat on weekends if he puts it all together as a junior. MacNabb offers a much different look as a lefty with good feel for an 85-88 fastball and three solid secondary pitches. USD has a fourth intriguing starting option in So. LHP Max Homick, who took a step forward in the fall, showing good deception and downward angle on his fastball.
Bullpen: 50. Wagner's transition to the rotation leaves a gaping hole at the back of the bullpen. Conyers, a funky three-quarters lefty with good extension in his delivery, keeps hitters off balance with a mid-80s fastball and an advanced mid-70s changeup. Sr. RHP Trevor Bayless made a jump in the fall, reaching 93 mph along with an 80-81 hammer curve, giving the Toreros a power option in the 'pen. So. RHPs Drew Jacobs and Ryan Keller work in the 88-90 range and figure to see plenty of key innings also. Lechich and Fr. P.J. Conlon, who both have feel for pitching with mid-80s fastballs, give USD two more southpaws to complement Conyers.
Experience/Intangibles: 55. The Toreros have a lineup packed with returnees, most of whom played in the Los Angeles Regional last year. The lack of experience in the bullpen is a concern, as is USD's history of falling flat in regionals. The Toreros have had plenty of talented teams in the Rich Hill era but are still looking for their first trip to super regionals.
Baseball America OFP: 55. San Diego has significant star power with Bryant, Wagner and (potentially) Covey. The Toreros also have a fairly deep stable of nice complementary pieces. And they have question marks to answer defensively and in the bullpen. This team should contend for another West Coast Conference title, but in order to get the postseason monkey off its back, it needs to peak in June, rather than in April.