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2018 Junior College Preview

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See also: JUCO Top 50 Draft Prospects plus 150 more names to watch

HOW THEY WILL FINISH

NJCAA DIVISION I 
1. San Jacinto (Texas) JC 
2. McLennan (Texas) JC 
3. Chipola (Fla.) JC 
4. Grayson (Texas) JC 
5. Walters State (Tenn.) JC 
6. Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) JC 
7. Dyersburg (Tenn.) State JC 
8. Crowder (Mo.) JC 
9. Wallace Dothan (Ala.) JC 
10. Polk State (Fla.) JC 
11. Cowley County (Kan.) JC 
12. Central Arizona JC 
13. Howard (Texas) JC 
14. Santa Fe (Fla.) JC 
15. Iowa Western JC 
16. Yavapai (Ariz.) JC 
17. Connors State (Okla.) JC 
18. Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC 
19. Florence-Darlington (S.C.) JC 
20. Harford (Md.) JC

QUICK HITS

 San Jacinto (Texas) JC has made five World Series appearances this decade and have three runners-up finishes including 2016 and 2017. The Gators should be back for more this year. San Jac’s pitching staff is extremely deep with a large number of power arms, led by RHP Trey Dillard (93-95 mph), RHP/3B Sergio Macias and RHP Reid Morgan. The lineup is also solid thanks to OFs Matthew Goodheart and Alrerick Soularie, C Herbert Iser and RHP Reid Morgan.

 McLennan (Texas) CC won’t have the power it had when it won 52 games last year. But it does return one of the best players in junior college baseball in C/RHP Josh Breaux. Breaux has power and a special right arm. The Highlanders should have an excellent pitching staff with four Division I signees. LHP Tristen Bayless, a Texas signee, sits in the low 90s, while LHP Bailey Horn, an Auburn signee, returns after going 7-0, 3.86 last year. Baylor signee RHP Logan Freeman mixes a low-90s fastball and a quality slider as he also returns from last year’s rotation. McLennan will likely end up with more than 10 Division I signees and/or draftees.

• A year ago, Walters State (Tenn.) JC wasn’t eligible for the World Series. They should be back in World Series contention this year thanks to a very deep lineup. After winning 44 games last year, they bring back SS Hunter Wolfe, a 12th-round pick of the Pirates last year, who hit .393/.455/.658 and 3B Duncan Pence, a 33rd round pick of the Mets in 2016 out of high school who led the team with 12 home runs last season. 2B/3B Austin Henry, a Texas Christian signee; OF Dylan Harris, a North Carolina signee; RHP Hayden Lehman, a South Carolina signee and RHP Alex Haynes are also names to watch.

• This has a chance to be the best Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) CC team of Adam Thomas’ 19 years at the school. The team has an extremely deep pitching staff, led by Alabama signee Casey Cobb (10-4, 1.29 in 2017), South Carolina signee LHP Cole Ganopulos (87-91 mph with a power breaking ball) and Virginia Military Institute signee RHP Jacob Menders. The Pirates bring back the entire outfield (Tre Kirklin, Isaac Phillips and John Devine) but will be working in SS Parker McCoy (a transfer from Georgia Tech), C/2B Rankin Woley and DH Jason Rooks.

• After making it to the JUCO World Series in 2017, Dyersburg (Tenn.) State JC should once again have a very potent lineup. The team returns the heart of last year’s lineup with OF Andrew Swanson (.358/.456/.679), 1B Ladarius Williams (.341/.378/.603) and speedy CF Hagan Severance (.323/.445/.548) with 15 steals in 15 attempts. Dyersburg also added a pair of transfers in 2B Daino Deas and 3B Reed Smith who are expected step into starting roles. The question for the Eagles is how well they can rebuild the pitching staff. They will be depending on 90-93 mph RHP William Woods (a transfer from Tennessee-Martin), 88-90 mph LHP Tommy Morren (a transfer from Memphis) and RHP Bryce O’Brien (a transfer from Arizona Western who has touched 92 mph).

 Chipola (Fla.) JC has to largely start over with its lineup after seven hitters from last year’s national champions departed. C Max Guzman (.377-16-57) and OF Edmond Americaan (.364 with 12 stolen bases) are the only two starters back in the lineup and RHP Andrew Grogan (1-0, 3.82 with 38 strikeouts in 38 innings) is the only starting pitcher who is back. But there are plenty of talented reinforcements with C/1B Alex Webb, INF Morgan McCullough, C Austin Bates and RHPs Trevor Holloway and Weston Bizzle.

• After winning 54 games last year, Crowder (Mo.) JC brings back more than half of the lineup and a strong pitching staff. 3B Kobe Morris (.384-9-65), OF Tyler Duncan (.358-10-80), LHP Aaron Ashby (7-0, 4.09) and RHP Zach Jackson (12-3, 3.90) help pace a team that should be one of the best in the Midwest.

 Grayson (Texas) JC looks loaded as it brings back 20 sophomores from last year’s 37-14 team. The pitching staff is about as veteran as a junior college team can be with 11 returning pitchers. Grayson also has seven Division I commitments already, further spotlighting their talent. RHP Taylor Ford (a Texas Tech commit), LHP Braxton Webb (an Oklahoma commit), LHP Spencer Hynes (a Houston commit) and LHP Nathan Hawkins leads a very deep pitching staff. The lineup is also loaded with SS Ricky Martinez (a Tennessee commit), OF Ryne Randle (an Abilene Christian commit) and 3B Jackson Glenn (a Dallas Baptist commit).

 Wallace-Dothan (Ala.) CC could be even better than last year’s 43-19 team that made it to the Junior College World Series. OF Oraj Anu is an athletic switch-hitter with power potential and speed. LHP’s Jonathan Gettys and Trevor Hillhouse and RHP Jacinto Arredondo lead a talented pitching staff with plenty of velocity and Anu, C Eric Rodriguez, 1B Tanner Frabott should pace the lineup.

 Polk State (Fla.) JC is looking to win its fifth consecutive Suncoast Conference title, but they will have to rebuild on the fly to do so. With 22 new players, there are plenty of opportunities for newcomers to step up. It’s a talent group, led by LHP Pat Doudican, RHP Chavez Fernander and RHP Alec Barger as well as Division I kickbacks RHP Billy McKay (from Florida) and RHP Jared Frielach (Kentucky). The lineup is paced by 3B/OF Zach Scott.

• Iowa Western JC is a power year in and year out and with this lineup, they should once again be a team to fear. Speedy CF Tyler Reichenborn, defensive leader SS Kobe Hyland and 2B Hagen Holmstead’s hitting ability give the lineup plenty of tough outs. The pitching staff brings back less starters, but RHP Keaton Winn, RHP Indigo Diaz and RHP Sean Chandler give the team reason to believe the pitching staff will catch up to the hitting.

• With a pair of Division I signees Chris Diehl (Utah) at catcher, an athletic infield and plenty of speed in the outfield, Central Arizona JC’s lineup should be in great shape. But a lot of young players will have to step in immediately. RHP Nick Iverson, a Gonzaga commit with a 90-94 mph fastball and two relatively polished secondaries, is one to watch. Speedy OF Clayton Keyes, a 15th-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2017, and RHP Jacob Hilton, a 28th round pick of the Rangers in 2017, are also ones to watch.

 Howard (Texas) JC will bring back a veteran team by junior college standards, as the Hawks have a large number of talented sophomores. RHP Brandon Young, a Louisiana-Lafayette commit, went 8-3, 4.34. That may not sound all that impressive, but consider that Howard’s team ERA was 6.11 and opponents posted an 8.69 ERA. Young sits in the low 90s with an impressive changeup. He’ll be joined by Louisiana State kickback RHP Ryan McKay, a 6-foot-5, 245 pounder with a low-90s fastball and good control and RHP Tyler McKay, a 6-foot-6, 230 pound transfer from Kansas State with a low-90s fastball, a loose arm and maybe the best changeup on the staff. The lineup returns C Doug Facendo (.436/.526/.808), speedy CF Robert Bullard as well as new additions SS Jaxon Williams, a transfer from Arkansas, and RHP/OF Nick Jodway, a spark-plug as a hitter who could also close thanks to a fastball that reaches the mid-90s.

• It’s the newcomers that give Santa Fe (Fla.) JC plenty of optimism. Freshmen OF Andrew Eyster and 1B/RHP Garrett Mathes are expected to step right into the lineup while Division I kickbacks OF/RHP Austin Bodrado (a transfer from Florida) and RHP Max McKinley (a transfer from College of Charleston) are also being counted on immediately. McKinley will be Santa Fe’s opening day starter.

 Yavapai (Ariz.) JC, the 2016 NJCAA Division I champs, will be looking to get back to Grand Junction after failing to make it last year. The Roughriders lack a lot of experience, but they have plenty of depth on the pitching staff, led by Darius Vines, an 88-92 mph righthander with a promising breaking ball and changeup. Vines has already been drafted twice, once out of high school (32nd round, Astros, 2016) and last year out of Oxnard (Calif.) JC (27th round, Cubs). RHP Jonathan Stroman has sharpened his slider to go with an 88-92 mph fastball and RHP Dominic Hamel and LHP Tom Costello could also hear their names called come June. C Alex Isola, a Texas Christian commit, will hit in the middle of the lineup while also providing solid defense behind the plate.

 Connors State (Okla.) JC returns seven starters from last year’s lineup. 3B Jake Northern (.417-19-100), C Tony Hrynkiw (.409-3-60), OF Louis Pelayo (.459-6-94) and 1B Colton Burgess (.368-7-64) have been joined by 2B Drenis Ozuna and OF George Bell Jr. (son of Blue Jays outfielder George Bell) in a very impressive lineup. RHP Logan Gragg (11-2, 2.50) and RHP Brandon Goldston (10-0, 2.06) head a solid rotation as well.

 Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC brings back plenty from last year’s World Series team, including SS Koby Stephens (.397 with 25 stolen bases last year) and LHP Koren Thompson (a Cincinnati signee). Freshman C/3B Brian Fuentes should also make an immediate impact.

• A year after making its first NJCAA World Series appearance, Florence-Darlington (S.C.) Tech JC will be largely starting over. But the Stingers do have 11 Division I signees/commitments. The pitching staff could be stout, led by RHP Evan Odum, an East Carolina commit with a sinker and a quality breaking ball. RHP Tanner Myatt, a big 6-foot-6 reliever, could be the team’s best draft prospect as the College of Charleston signee can run his fastball into the mid-90s. OF Dante Blakeney is back after hitting .341/.455/.659 with a team-best nine home runs.

• Seven different Harford (Md.) JC hitters reached double digits in home runs last year. They should be just as powerfully potent again this year, thanks in part with the big addition of C Spencer Smith, a transfer from East Carolina. Harford could actually top last year’s 137 home runs. OF Ryan Calhoun, 3B Nick D’Amore, OF/DH Lou Testa, 1B Jordyn Smith and OF Chase Ragsdale are all bats to watch.

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Canaan Smith Is A Disciplined Hitter

The 2017 fourth-rounder makes hard contact, uses the whole field and sees the ball well at low Class A Charleston.

OTHER TEAMS OF NOTE

  • Cowley County (Kan.) JC will depend on its pitching staff and defense as they try to match or batter last year’s 45 wins. The pitching staff is deep, led by RHPs Brannon Jordan, Aaron Stramel, Andrew Roach, Braden Minor and Brady Ballard and LHPs Kaid Karnes and Adam White. OF Keavon Edwards hit .349/.428/.670 last year and freshman 3B Cross Factor is an Oklahoma State signee with lefthanded power at the plate.
  • JC of Southern Nevada will be deep on the mound thanks to RHP Ryan McDonald (UNLV signee), RHP Isaiah Blaylock (Houston signee), LHP Matt Mitchell, a lefty with an 88-91 mph fastball and a quality changeup and hard-throwing RHPs Herbie Good and Joey O’Brien. The lineup will be much less experienced. 1B Justin Lutes and 3B Jordan Macias are back, but the Coyotes will start as many as five freshman.
  • Hutchinson (Kan.) JC brings back last year’s outfield and catcher, but will have a completely new infield. INF/RHP Wyatt Divis (UT-Arlington signee) will be counted on both as a hitter and as a pitcher. RHP Zach Moore, OF Bobby Morgensen and RHP Blake Hearn will also be counted on to help the rest of the team grow up quickly.
  • Louisiana State Eunice JC brings back much of last year’s pitching staff, and they’ve added some nice additions as well with 2B/OF Mason Templet (a transfer from LSU), 3B/RP Micah McHugh (a transfer from Mississippi), and freshman SS Chance Clark. Speedy CF Jacob Richard could develop into a force in the lineup, but he’s got a lot of refinement to get to there.
  • Santa Barbara (Calif.) JC has 12 pitchers it can count on and most of them have solid velocity. They’ll be pitching in front of a very speedy outfield as well. It’s a deep team, although one that will not hit a lot of home runs. RHP Brett Vansant (a 6-foot-9 transfer from Western Kentucky), hard-throwing RHP Jayden Metz (up to 95 mph) and LHP Ian Churchill are pitchers to watch while OF John Jensen (a UC Irvine commit) will help drive the offense.
  • John A. Logan (Ill.) JC has become a consistent producer of pitchers to watch. Two years ago it was second-round pick Matthias Dietz and last year it was Zack Haake, who is now pitching for Kentucky. Logan will have a quartet of arms to watch again this year with RHP Tanner Gordon, RHP Trey Riley, RHP Brendan Heiss and LHP Kyle Ostrowski.
  • Patrick Henry (Va.) JC should be better on the mound than last year and there is the core of a promising lineup as well. Freshman RHP Bradley Hanner could contribute immediately thanks to a heavy fastball (up to 92-93 mph) and conviction in his changeup. OF Ethan Winesburgh hit eight home runs in only 39 games last year. SS Garrett Jones (a Presbyterian commit) gets the most out of his tools.
  • State College of Fla. JC will get plenty of good pitching, but they will have to figure out who can drive in runs pretty quickly. RHP Robbie Peto (North Carolina transfer), RHP Hunter Perdue, LHP Zach Attianese (a Florida State signee), LHP Nate Gillen (a transfer from Florida Gulf Coast) and RHP/1B Brock Bell (the son of MLB SS Jay Bell) will give Tim Hill plenty of options.
  • Chattanooga State (Tenn.) JC has 24 freshman on a 27-man roster, so describing them as young doesn’t fully explain how much on-the-job training will be taking place. But the Tigers do have plenty of athleticism with CF Sean Cheely, 2B Hayden Lock, C/OF Gavin Harmon and SS/RHP Noah Fitzgerald.

RECENT CHAMPIONS

Division 1 
2017: Chipola (Fla.) JC 
2016: Yavapai (Ariz.) JC 
2015: Northwest Fla. State JC 
2014: Iowa Western JC 
2013: Central Ala. JC 
2012: Iowa Western JC 
2011: Navarro (Texas) JC 
2010: Iowa Western JC

Division 2 
2017: Kankakee (Ill.) JC 
2016: Jones County (Miss.) JC 
2015: Louisiana State Eunice JC 
2014: Mesa (Ariz.) JC 
2013: Murray State (Okla.) JC 
2012: Louisiana State Eunice JC 
2011: Western Oklahoma JC 
2010: Louisiana State Eunice JC

Division 3 
2017: Tyler (Texas) JC 
2016: Tyler (Texas) JC 
2015: Tyler (Texas) JC 
2014: Tyler (Texas) JC 
2013: Gloucester County (N.J.) JC 
2012: Joliet (Ill.) JC 
2011: Eastfield (Texas) JC 
2010: Gloucester County (N.J.) JC

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