Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 19 Louisville

2017 Record: 53-12 (23-6 in ACC); reached the College World Series. Final ranking: No. 5 Coach (Record at school): Dan McDonnell (509-203, 11 years). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: OF Josh Stowers (77), RHP Sam Bordner (126), RHP Riley Thompson (175), 2B Devin Mann (198).

The good news: As has been the case throughout most of the Dan McDonnell era at Louisville, the Cardinals are loaded with talent, albeit with less veteran experience than the team has had over the last few years. Dynamic center fielder Josh Stowers came on strong late in the 2017 campaign, including an impressive showing in Omaha, and could be set for an explosive Corey Ray-like junior season with his speed and power combination. Up the middle, Tyler Fitzgerald was a blue-chip shortstop recruit a year ago and is in line to take over the position after Devin Hairston’s exit. Junior Devin Mann has a stranglehold over second base and should be a middle-of-the-order bat. On the mound, Louisville is flush with lefthanded starters and righthanded velocity, although a pecking order needs to be set.

The bad news: Once again, the draft hit Louisville hard. The Cardinals lost the best college baseball player of his era in two-way stud Brendan McKay, as well as power-hitting third baseman Drew Ellis, catcher Colby Fitch, Hairston, Saturday starter Kade McClure and closer Lincoln Henzman. In past years, Louisville has retained established stars to carry the load, but this year’s team is a bit younger and greener. The weekend rotation, in particular, will look vastly different without McKay fronting it. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be effective. The Cardinals have numerous candidates to fill the void. Junior Adam Wolf, a 6-foot-6 lefty with excellent downhill plane and angle, projects to slide into the Friday role, followed tentatively by freshman southpaw Reid Detmers—who turned down significant draft money to  come to school—and sophomore Nick Bennett—who manned Sundays a year ago. A healthy Bryan Hoeing could throw his name in that mix, as well as freshman Shay Smiddy, who impressed in the fall.

Returner to know: Sam Bordner, RHP: One area where there isn’t much uncertainty for Louisville is at the back end of games. Though Henzman was technically Louisville’s closer a year ago, a case could be made that Bordner was the team’s most effective reliever. The physical 6-foot-6 righthander allowed just two runs in his 43.2 innings a year ago and was lights-out in Omaha as the team’s moment-of-truth reliever. Whether he works as the team’s closer or in a variety of roles, Bordner and his power stuff should serve as a valuable safety net for the new-look Louisville rotation.

Path to Omaha: Though they’ve been the class of the Atlantic Coast Conference  since joining in 2015, the Cardinals are going to have a tougher time steamrolling through conference play this season. Louisville’s new cast of characters will have to get acclimated to their roles, and there will likely be quite a bit of tinkering to the lineup and pitching staff throughout the year. The Cardinals have the talent to make a repeat trip to the CWS; they’ll just need to find the right formula.

2018 lineup:

C Pat Rumoro, R-So. .200/.333/.200 | 10 AB | 0 HR | 1 RBI
1B Logan Wyatt, So. .167/.273/.222 18 | 0 HR | 4 RBI
2B Devin Mann, Jr. .268/.363/.434 | 235 AB | 8 HR | 44 RBI
3B Justin Lavey, So. .345/.486/.586 | 29 AB | 1 HR | 5 RBI
SS Tyler Fitzgerald, So. .208/.303/.272 | 125 AB | 0 HR | 11 RBI
LF Danny Oriente, R-Fr. Did not play—Injured
CF Josh Stowers, Jr. .313/.422/.507 | 201 AB | 6 HR | 34 RBI
RF Ethan Springer, R-Fr. Did not play—redshirt
DH Jake Snider, So. .286/.333/.393 | 56 AB | 1 HR | 11 RBI
LHP Adam Wolf, Jr. 6-0, 2.18 ERA | 41 IP | 35 SO | 1 SV
LHP Reid Detmers, Fr. HS—Chatham, Ill.
LHP Nick Bennett, So. 5-1, 3.18 ERA | 65 IP | 61 SO | 0 SV
RP Sam Bordner, Jr. 2-0, 0.41 ERA | 44 IP | 39 SO | 3 SV
RP Riley Thompson, R-So. 1-0, 4.02 ERA | 16 IP | 23 SO | 0 SV

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