Preseason Top 25 Capsules: No. 2 Oregon State

2017 Record: 56-6 (27-3 in Pac-12); reached the College World Series. Final ranking: No. 3. Coach (Record at school): Pat Casey (1,016-560-6, 23 years). Top 200 2018 Draft Prospects: SS/2B Nick Madrigal (7), SS Cadyn Grenier (48), OF Trevor Larnach (92), RHP Drew Rasmussen (109),

The good news: The Beavers return the overwhelming majority of a squad that went a ludicrous 56-6 last season—the best record in program history and the fourth-highest winning percentage (.903) in NCAA history. An exciting, dynamic up-the-middle core of infielders Nick Madrigal and Cadyn Grenier, center fielder Steven Kwan and catcher Adley Rutschman remains intact, giving Oregon State an exceptional foundation on which to build. Oregon State will complement that core with plenty of veteran experience around the diamond and should be a strong offensive club—even without drafted thumper K.J. Harrison. The Beavers fell just short in Omaha last season, but they have the talent, experience and coaching staff to make another national championship run.

The bad news: As arguably the most complete team in the country, the Beavers have very few significant question marks. However, the evolution of the pitching staff will be worth watching as it works to fill the holes left by the departures of Jake Thompson (14-1, 1.96) and hard-throwing righthander Drew Rasmussen, who will more than likely miss the 2018 season after having his second Tommy John surgery. Senior lefthander Luke Heimlich led the country in ERA last season (0.75) and won Pac-12 pitcher of the year, but he removed himself from the team prior to super regionals after The Oregonian reported on a sex crime he committed as a minor. Heimlich is expected back in his Friday starter role this season, though it remains to be seen if or how those off-the-field headlines could impact him or his teammates. Though not overpowering, Bryce Fehmel was a steady weekend starter for the Beavers last year and does all of the little things well. The Sunday starter role has a number of candidates, including righthander Sam Tweedt, who works in the low-90s with a four-pitch mix; junior lefthander Jordan Britton who shows similar velocity and has improved his secondary offerings; and talented freshman righthander Kevin Abel.

Returner to know: Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS: The reigning Pac-12 player of the year, Madrigal is one of the clear-cut top players in the nation due to his performance and glowing intangibles. Madrigal will always face scrutiny in scouting circles due to his diminutive frame (5-foot-7, 161 pounds), but he’s done nothing but perform since arriving in Corvallis, batting .380/.449/.532 a year ago. Madrigal is a top-of-the-order spark plug with a diverse skill set. He possesses excellent plate discipline and bat-to-ball ability and is a burner on the basepaths, and his high baseball IQ and defensive prowess make him an invaluable asset.

Path to Omaha: Odds are very much against a repeat of last season’s 56-6 record—but the Beavers are the rare team that could regress and still be an Omaha shoo-in. The Beavers will likely face more resistance in conference play this year with the middle of the Pac-12 looking stronger and deeper. But, barring injury, the Beavers remain the obvious team to beat. With a dugout teeming with talent and experience, Pat Casey’s squad should be well-poised to vie for its third national championship this season.

2018 lineup:

C Adley Rutschman, So.: .234/.322/.306 | 209 AB | 2 HR | 33 RBI
1B Zak Taylor, Jr.: .232/.279/.268 | 56 AB | 0 HR | 6 RBI
2B Nick Madrigal, Jr.: .380/.449/.532 | 237 AB | 4 HR | 40 RBI 
3B Michael Gretler, Sr.: .301/.364/.468 | 216 AB | 5 HR | 33 RBI
SS Cadyn Grenier, Jr.: .275/.393/.435 | 200 AB | 5 HR | 37 RBI
LF Jack Anderson, Sr.: .281/.401/.339 | 171 AB | 1 HR | 30 RBI
CF Steven Kwan, Jr.: .331/.440/.400 | 160 AB | 1 HR | 18 RBI
RF Trevor Larnach, Jr.: .303/.421/.429 | 198 AB | 3 HR | 48 RBI
DH Tyler Malone, So.: .256/.441/.279 | 43 AB | 0 HR | 5 RBI
LHP Luke Heimlich, Sr.: 11-1 | 0.75 ERA | 118 IP | 128 SO | 0 SV
RHP Bryce Fehmel, Jr.: 6-3 | 3.87 | 81 IP | 49 SO | 0 SV
RHP Sam Tweedt, R-Jr.: 3-0 | 2.50 | 36 IP | 31 SO | 0 SV
RP Jake Mulholland, So.: 7-1 | 1.20 ERA | 52 IP | 44 SO | 6 SV
RP Brandon Eisert, So.: 5-0 | 2.31 ERA | 47 IP | 50 SO | 4 SV

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