Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 15 Virginia

2017 Record: 43-16 (18-12 in ACC); reached regional. Final ranking: No. 21 Coach (Record at school): Brian O’Connor (639-239-2, 14 years). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: OF Jake McCarthy (37), LHP Daniel Lynch (98).

The good news: Virginia’s pitching staff is perhaps the deepest its been since the Cavaliers won the College World Series in 2015. The losses of Adam Haseley (draft) and sophomore Noah Murdock (Tommy John) hurt, but Virginia still boasts a strong mix of experience and upside. Junior lefthander Daniel Lynch had an up-and-down sophomore system but is coming off a standout performance in the Cape Cod League and could be a top-three-rounds pick in June. Righthander Evan Sperling, now two years removed from Tommy John surgery, looked sharper in the fall and runs his lively fastball up to 94. Veterans Derek Casey and Bennett Sousa add starting depth, and freshmen Andrew Abbott, Kyle Whitten and Griff McGarry could all make instant impacts.

The bad news: Pavin SmithAdam HaseleyErnie Clement and Robbie Coman—all key pieces of Virginia’s championship squad—have moved on, leaving the Cavaliers to establish a new position-player core. While those players are by no means easy to replace, the Hoos have several juniors that appear ready to make the jump from role player to key player. Second baseman Andy Weber showed offensive growth throughout the course of last season and projects to hit in the middle of the order; the same holds true for first baseman Nate Eikhoff and outfielder Cam Simmons. Shortstop is more up in the air, although Virginia has attractive options in the form of talented sophomore Cayman Richardson and incoming freshmen Tanner Morris and Devin Ortiz.

Returner to know: Jake McCarthy, OF: The younger brother of former Cav and current Rays farmhand Joe McCarthy, Jake missed most of his freshman season with a foot injury but returned for his sophomore year and made an instant impact. With Haseley going in the first round of last June’s draft, McCarthy will slide over to center field where his 70-grade speed (on the 20-80 scale) will be an asset. McCarthy is coming off a solid summer with Team USA’s Collegiate National Team and flashed more power this fall.

Path to Omaha: The Cavaliers can no longer lean on the leadership of CWS champs like Haseley, Clement and Smith, but Virginia has enough returning experience and enough depth on the mound to be a dangerous team both within the ACC and nationally. The Cavaliers will need to settle on a shortstop and find some power in the middle of the order, but barring health, they should be primed for a postseason run.

2018 lineup:

C Caleb Knight, Jr. .301/.474/.469 | 113 AB | 4 HR | 20 RBI
1B Nate Eikhoff, Jr. .278/.336/.357 | 126 AB | 1 HR | 15 RBI
2B Andy Weber, Jr. .278/.349/.396 | 187 AB | 2 HR | 43 RBI
3B Justin Novak, Sr. .295/.377/.388 | 129 AB | 1 HR | 14 RBI
SS Cayman Richardson, So. .231/.302/.282 | 39 AB | 0 HR | 2 RBI
LF Charlie Cody, Sr. .254/.407/.507 | 67 AB | 4 HR | 16 RBI
CF Jake McCarthy, Jr. .338/.425/.506 | 237 AB | 5 HR | 36 RBI
RF Cameron Simmons, Jr. .352/.432/.563 | 213 AB | 9 HR | 57 RBI
DH Cameron Comer, Jr. .105/.227/.105 | 19 AB | 0 HR | 1 RBI
LHP Daniel Lynch Jr. 7-5, 5.00 ERA | 77 IP | 45 SO | 0 SV
RHP Derek Casey, Sr. 5-2, 3.79 ERA | 71 IP | 58 SO | 0 SV
RHP Evan Sperling, Jr. 3-3, 7.51 ERA | 38 IP | 44 SO | 0 SV
RP Chesdin Harrington, Jr. 3-2, 2.41 ERA | 37 IP | 38 SO | 0 SV
RP Riley Wilson, Sr. 0-1, 5.52 ERA | 15 IP | 21 SO | 0 SV

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