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2016 College Conference Preview: MAAC

Matt-Batten
BA breaks down the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, including our projections for player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects.
Members: Canisius, Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan, Marist, Monmouth, Niagara, Quinnipiac, Rider, Siena, St. Peter’s.
Team to Beat: Quinnipiac. After two years as an assistant at his alma mater, John Delaney was elevated to head coach last year. The Bobcats were one of the MAAC’s most improved teams in his first season in charge, as they boosted their win total by 11 games over 2014, tying the program record with 29. The next step for Delaney and the Bobcats is to get back to regionals for just the second time in school history. The pieces should be there, as they return an experienced rotation led by all-conference performer Tom Jankins combined with an offense that offers a blend of speed and power. Shortstop Matthew Batten and center fielder Mike Palladino both stole over 20 bases a year ago, while hulking 6-foot-5 first baseman Ben Gibson and senior second baseman Ryan Nelson both can be home run threats. St. John’s transfer Joseph Burns, slated to be the starting third baseman, could be an intriguing two-way player, showing an intelligent approach at the plate and a low-90s fastball on the mound.
Player of the Year: Matt Batten, ss, Quinnipiac. Batten, who was already a standout defender, will look to build on a breakout year with the bat. He raised his average from .260 to .303 from 2014 to 2015 while finishing fourth in the league with 22 steals.
Pitcher of the Year: Tom Jankins, rhp, Quinnipiac. The leader of the Bobcats’ veteran pitching staff, Jankins reaches the low 90s with his running fastball and knows how to mix his three pitches. He’s coming off a 2015 season that saw him finish sixth in the league with a 3.20 ERA.
Freshman of the Year: Jordan Folgers, 3b, Siena. Folgers shouldn’t be asked to do too much in an already quality Siena lineup, but he’s got the power to hit in the middle of the order right off the bat, along with having solid hands and a strong arm at the hot corner.
Notable Storylines: Canisius has been the MAAC’s standard-bearer of late, winning either the regular-season or tournament titles in each of the last three years, and the Golden Griffins won’t give up the mantle without a fight. They’ll have a different look though after losing staff ace Devon Stewart and their two most dangerous hitters, Connor Panas and Brett Siddall, who combined for 22 of the team’s 33 homers a year ago. Junior second baseman Jake Lumley (.328/.416/.440) can do a little of everything and figures to be the offense’s biggest catalyst, and the Griffs have high hopes for big sophomore first baseman Ryan Stekl (.294/.367/.336). But with Stewart gone, the pitching will need some other arms to step up in support of senior lefty Alex Godzak. ... Rider came out of nowhere to win the MAAC regular-season title last year before making a disappointingly early exit from the conference tournament. The Broncs were the league’s best pitching team a year ago, but after losing two of their weekend starters and their closer, much more of the onus will be on senior outfielder James Locklear (.302/.367/.358) and the rest of the offense and if they’re going to be a factor again in 2016. ... The MAAC is the home to Division I’s longest-tenured head coach in Siena’s Tony Rossi, who’s been in charge with the Saints since 1970. Coming off a fourth-place finish in 2015, the Saints should be solid offensively, led by toolsy outfielder Dan Swain (.266/.355/.375) and power hitting first baseman Joe Drpich (.301/.405/.581, 9 homers), but pitching depth is the concern.
Tournament: Six teams, double elimination, May 25-29 at Manhattan.

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TOP 10 PROSPECTS FOR 2016 DRAFT
1. Tom Jankins, rhp, Quinnipiac
2. Anthony Ciavarella, lhp, Monmouth
3. Iannick Remillard, rhp, Canisius
4. Anthony Massicci, ss, Canisius
5. Tom Cosgrove, lhp, Manhattan
6. Dan Swain, of, Siena
7. Kyano Cummings, lhp, Siena
8. Bryan Goossens, rhp, Siena
9. Jake Salpietro, of, Fairfield
10. Christian Santisteban, of, Manhattan

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