2016 College Conference Preview: Mountain West

BA breaks down the Mountain West Conference, including our projections for player of the year, pitcher of the year and top prospects. Teams in the Preseason Top 25 are linked to their preview capsules.

Members: Air Force, Fresno State, Nevada, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State.
Team to Beat: San Diego State: The Aztecs have been to regionals three straight years—each via winning the Mountain West tournament—and look poised to make it four. They lose top power threats Stephen Pallares and Seby Zavala (combined 23 home runs in 2015) from last year’s team, but they prefer an up-tempo, disruptive style of offense anyway and have returning veterans well suited for it in outfielder Chase Calabuig and second baseman Andrew Brown. Sophomore first baseman David Hensley took his lumps as a freshman, hitting .257, but the Aztecs see him as a candidate for a breakout year after he showed an improved approach in the fall to go with his power potential. The pitching staff has to replace top starters Bubba Derby and Mark Seyler, but juniors Marcus Reyes and Cody Thompson have starting experience and know how to mix and match on the mound. Junior college transfer Mike Diamond brings a bigger arm, capable of reaching 93 mph, and could be a significant contributor as either a starter or reliever if his command holds up.
Player of the Year: Trenton Brooks, of/lhp, Nevada. Brooks took home the MWC’s player of the year award last year, and the Wolf Pack will be counting on even bigger things from the junior after losing five of its top seven hitters. A quality athlete with an easy swing, he won the league’s batting title in 2015 with a .365 average while drawing more walks (39) than he had strikeouts (25), and he did all this while doubling as the Friday starter down the stretch.
Pitcher of the Year: Trent Monaghan, lhp, Air Force. Monaghan posted the second best ERA in the conference in 2015 at 2.75—also the lowest by an Air Force pitcher since 1982. As the Falcons look to improve their win total for the fifth straight year, Monaghan should be at the forefront.
Freshman of the Year: Jordan Verdon, 3b, San Diego State. Verdon turned down the Mets as a 24th-round pick to come to SDSU, where he should take over the third base job as a freshman. The Granite Hills (Calif.) High product has a smooth lefty swing with intriguing power potential.
Notable Storylines: Nevada won the MWC regular-season title by three games last year, but an 0-2 showing in the league tournament doomed its NCAA hopes. The Wolf Pack still has a couple of cornerstones in Brooks and senior lefty Christian Stolo, but the rest of the room has had plenty of turnover, beginning with when coach Jay Johnson left to take the Arizona job. Former UCLA assistant T.J. Bruce was hired to take his place, and he’ll inherit a team that has to move on without stalwart power producers Ryan Howell (17 homers) and Austin Byler (14), among others . . . Air Force has never finished higher than fourth since joining the Mountain West in 2000—and hasn’t been to regionals since 1969—but the Falcons have been making incremental improvements under energetic coach Mike Kazlausky, as their 23 wins last year was their best total since 2002. They expect to take another step in 2016 behind one of the league’s toughest pitching staffs, led by Monaghan and junior lefty Jacob DeVries, whose fastball has touched 95 mph. DeVries aims to become the second pitcher ever drafted out of Air Force, following righthander Ben Yokley last year (Cardinals, 29th round). . . . Nevada-Las Vegas head coach Tim Chambers resigned in December, ending a trying year for one of the state’s most accomplished coaches. Chambers missed most of the Rebels’ 2015 season after having back surgery in March, and he was arrested in October for driving under the influence. UNLV named veteran assistant Stan Stolte its acting head coach. Stolte takes over with the program just two years removed from going to regionals in 2014 but coming off a disappointing 25-31 season.
Tournament: Seven teams, double-elimination, May 25-29 at Albuquerque, N.M.

1. Jacob DeVries, lhp, Air Force
2. Trenton Brooks, of/lhp, Nevada
3. Mike Diamond, rhp, San Diego State
4. C.J. Saylor, c, San Diego State
5. Carson Schneider, lhp, New Mexico
6. Chris DeVito, c, New Mexico
7. Danny Collier, of, New Mexico
8. Spencer Thornton, of, San Diego State
9. Marcus Reyes, lhp, San Diego State
10. Austin Guibor, of, Fresno State


Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone