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2019 Division I Junior College Preview

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Carter Stewart (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

JUNIOR COLLEGE DIVISION I

HOW THEY’LL FINISH

  1. Chipola (Fla.) JC
  2. Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC
  3. Jefferson (Mo.) JC
  4. John A. Logan (Ill.) JC
  5. Northwest Florida State JC
  6. McLennan (Texas) JC
  7. Central Arizona JC
  8. Iowa Western JC
  9. Walters State (Tenn.) JC
  10. State College of Florida JC
  11. Wallace-Dothan (Ala.) JC
  12. Cowley County (Kan.) JC
  13. Southern Idaho JC
  14. Johnson County (Kan.) JC
  15. Florence-Darlington (S.C.) Tech JC

Pitcher of the Year: Carter Stewart, RHP, Eastern Florida State JC

Player of the Year: Hayden Leatham, OF, Southern Idaho

LAST 10 CHAMPIONS
2018: Chipola (Fla.) JC
2017: Chipola (Fla.) JC
2016: Yavapai (Ariz.) JC
2015: Northwest Florida State JC
2014: Iowa Western JC
2013: Central Alabama JC
2012: Iowa Western JC
2011: Navarro (Texas) JC
2010: Iowa Western JC
2009: Howard (Texas) JC

Chipola (Fla.) JC 

Coming off of back-to-back NJCAA national titles and seven conference titles in the past eight seasons, expectations are as high as ever for Chipola (Fla.) JC. Chipola should in extremely deep in the infield with a trio of draftable prospects in Ivan Johnson, Josh Rivera and Julio Carrion. The pitching staff will be solid as usual as well thanks to righthanders Andrew Moore, Jared Howell and converted catcher Andrew Baker, as well as lefthander Jacob Smith.

Wabash Valley

Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC has been a consistently talented team, but this may be the Warriors' best group yet. Wabash Valley returns six members of the lineup and has a very deep pitching staff. Center fielder Noah Myers, a South Carolina signee, is coming off a freshman season in which he hit .318/.474/.482 and stole 20 bases in 20 attempts. He has power potential to go with excellent defense. Third baseman Sam Wilson, an Ohio State signee, and Miguel Rivera (.331/.481/.581 last season) will also help anchor the lineup. Freshman catcher Zade Richardson impressed in the fall with his arm and power. The pitching staff should also be loaded. Righthander Ryan O’Connell, an Alabama signee, is back after going 8-2, 1.63 with 79 strikeouts in 66 innings last year. He works down in the zone with an 88-91 mph sinker from a low, three-quarter arm-slot. Outfielder Manny Gonzalez and righthanders Austin Kelly, Jonathan Beymer, Nick King and Janier Puente are also potential draftees.

Jefferson (Mo.)

Jefferson (Mo.) JC should have one of the best pitching staffs among the junior college ranks, with more D-I caliber arms than innings to go around. Righthander Jason Rackers is the potential star thanks to his 6-foot-6 frame, 90-95 mph fastball and developing slider. Righthanders Riley Boyd, Anthony Green, Trevor Tietz, Ethan Axman, Austin Cheely, Adam Link and Demtri Frank, as well as lefthanders Adam Parker and Jacob Wirich are also arms to watch. The lineup is not as deep but is still talented. Third baseman Dalton Doyle, outfielder Nick Hagedorn and speedy lefthanded-hitting center fielder Matt Turino give Jefferson a very solid lineup, as does infielder Grant Wooda transfer from Murray State who hit .376/.520/.554 as a freshman with the Racers.

(John A. Logan)

This may be the deepest pitching staff John A. Logan (Ill.) JC has had, which is saying something for a team that has plenty of pitching over the years. Righthanders Andrew Peters (South Carolina commit), Johnny Ray (Texas Christian), Hunter Sullivan (Middle Tennessee), Austin Ruesch (Abilene Christian), Jeff Purnell (Marshall) and Andrew Zenner give the Vols a staff filled with Division I and draft potential. Offensively, Logan will lack in power, but they will try to win with high on-base percentages and speed around the diamond. Outfielder Ashton Creal, a Southeastern Louisiana signee, has plus speed and a strong arm, and he will likely be the club’s leadoff hitter. Infielder Cooper Trinkle, an Indiana signee, can also run. Catcher Hunter Combs (Indiana) and infielder Sam Frontino are also promising.

Northwest Florida State JC

Northwest Florida State JC has one of the better pitching prospects in JUCO with righthander Thomas Farr, a South Carolina signee. Third baseman Kaden Polcovich, an Oklahoma State signee, righthander Conor Angel, a Louisiana-Lafayette signee, and outfielder K.C. Simonich, a New Orleans signee, gives the Raiders a very talented lineup and rotation.

McLennan (Texas)

McLennan (Texas) JC’s excellent 2018 season ended in a crushing fashion as both them and Cisco were disqualified from the Region V tournament for a double-forfeit after benches cleared during their tournament game. Lefthander Grant Miller (9-1, 1.92) and righthander Alex DeLeon (6-1, 2.21) should give the Highlanders an excellent pitching staff. Catcher Cole Moore has shown power potential at the plate and could continue a fascinating trend—McLennan has had a catcher drafted in each of the past three seasons in Josh BreauxCory Voss and Nic Motley.

Central Arizona JC

After winning 45 games last year, Central Arizona JC will be loaded with sophomores. That experience will be needed as the beginning of the schedule is loaded with top teams from around the country. The Vaqueros have a very deep pitching staff with lefthander Lucas Knowles, a Kentucky commit who went 6-5, 4.35 for Washington’s College World Series team last year. Righthander Jason Nelson, a Louisiana-Lafayette signee, touches 95 mph and mixes in a split-change that helped him strikeout 98 batters in 65 innings last year. Outfielder Brennan Reback, a Virginia Tech signee, and third baseman Ernny Ordonez, a Kansas commit, are expected to provide plenty of production. Ordonez hit .398/.427/.626 last year.

Iowa Western JC

Perennial power Iowa Western JC should field an extremely athletic lineup, and many hitters will be threats to steal whenever they reach. Similarly, that athleticism creates a lot of versatility defensively, adding to the team’s depth. Freshmen righthander Braedyn McLaughlin and lefthander Jared Simpson will both be relied on to mature quickly. Shortstop Cooper Bowman and outfielder/first baseman Caleb Balgaard, an Old Dominion signee, will be lineup anchors.

Walters State (Tenn.)

After winning 60 games and finishing as the runner-up at the NJCAA World Series last season, Walters State (Tenn.) JC is starting over. Their entire lineup and rotation has moved on, but the Senators have an excellent recruiting class, per usual. Righthander Alex Haynes, a Tennessee signee, touched 96 mph in the fall. Lefthander Corey Stone, a transfer from South Carolina, could strengthen the rotation, and righthander Seth Caldwell, a 29th-round pick of the Angels in 2018, just needs to prove he’s healthy after tendinitis in the fall. Righthander Gage Gillian, a North Carolina signee, doesn’t light up radar guns, but his curveball and changeup work well off of his 85-88 mph fastball and he attacks hitters.

State College of Florida

Coach Tim Hill II has been consistently successful at State College of Florida JC, and this year should be no different. However, the Manatees have to work in a lot of new faces this year, as only three hitters and one pitcher who saw significant action last year return. As is customary, there is plenty of incoming talent thanks to Florida transfers Nick Long, a righthander, and shortstop Shane Shifflett, as well as catcher Giovany Lorenzo, a Bethune-Cookman transfer. The freshman class includes a pair of 2018 draftees in center fielder Tyler Acosta (D-Backs, 39th round) and outfielder Max Dineen (35th round, Reds). Righthander Hunter Perdue has plenty of fastball (90-94 mph) and is showing improved command. Catcher Josh Crouch and center fielder Tyler Acosta are also players to watch.

Wallace-Dothan (Ala.)

Wallace-Dothan (Ala.) JC has an excellent power-speed switch-hitting outfielder in Oraj Anu, who is a Kentucky signee. Righthander D.J. Roberts (Florida International) attacks hitters with a 90-95 mph fastball and quality slider. Lefthanders Brandon Kaminer and Jared Shemper (Mississippi State) should also give the Govs a deep rotation.

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Cowley (Kan.)

Cowley (Kan.) JC brings back eight pitchers with significant experience, led by righthander Brannon Jordan, a sophomore with a 92-93 mph fastball and a promising slider who is signed with South Carolina. Righthanders Andrew Roach (UNC Charlotte) and Cole Larson (Kansas) should also help keep Cowley in most every game. Catcher Cody Milligan, a transfer from Oklahoma State who is signed with Southern Miss, has a plus arm and gap power.

Southern Idaho JC

After winning 50 games last year, the Southern Idaho JC Golden Eagles should once again mash, but there are concerns about how well they can pitch after losing their top six pitchers from last year’s team. Outfielder Hayden Leatham, a Brigham Young commit who hit .369/.446/.626 last year, will move from left field to center. Similarly, shortstop David Hudelson is moving to shortstop from second base, while second baseman Colton Kent, a transfer from BYU, will be his double-play partner.

Florence-Darlington (S.C.)

Florence-Darlington (S.C.) Tech JC is loaded with quality arms and the lineup is more athletic than last year’s hitters, but this team won’t match last year’s school record for home runs. Righthanders Elian Almanzar, Will Abbott and Jamil Vanheyningen should keep hitters off balance. Shortstop Grant Bodison is athletic and has a strong arm.

Johnson County (Kan.)

Johnson County (Kan.) JC has talent up and down the roster. Righthander Cam Wynne will light up radar guns all year. The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder has touched 98 mph and has added a slider that flashed plus. He’s a Texas A&M signee. Outfielder Jake Owens is at least a plus runner and has a plus arm. If he shows he can drive the ball, the Wichita State signee could be a solid draftee. First baseman Malik Williams, a Lipscomb signee, hit .397 with 17 home runs last season while Washington State signee outfielder Anthony Amicangelo looked like the team’s best hitter in fall ball.

San Jacinto (Texas)

There is a conspicuous absence from the Division I rankings this year. San Jacinto (Texas) JC is a perennial power that finished as the runner-up in 2016 and 2017 and fourth in last year’s NJCAA Division I World Series. San Jacinto is just as talented again this season, but the team is ineligible for the postseason after the NJCAA found that the baseball team was violating scholarship limits. The Ravens have almost an entire pitching staff that can touch 92 mph or better, as well as a solid lineup. Righthander Jackson Rutledge, an Arkansas kickback who has signed with Kentucky, is one of the best draft prospects in junior college thanks to a 94-98 mph fastball. Righthander Dane Acker, an Oklahoma signee, has five pitches including a 92-94 mph fastball. Righthander Jack Conlon, an unsigned Orioles fourth-round pick out of high school, has a chance to have a plus fastball and changeup. The lineup is also promising and athletic, led by outfielder/infielder Andrew Papantonis, first baseman Ryan Hernandez, shortstop Adisyn Coffee and outfielder Tyriece Silas.

Eastern Florida State 

Eastern Florida State JC will have the best prospect in junior college baseball as Braves' 2018 first-round pick Carter Stewart has joined the team as he looks to become a first-round pick in back-to-back years. Stewart will be helped by solid defense up the middle including switch-hitting shortstop Dilan Espinal and catcher Austin Bates. Righthanders Raynieri de los Sanots and Boris Villa gives Eastern Florida another pair of pitchers who can touch 94 mph or better.

Editor's Note: The Jefferson County entry originally erroneously stated that Jason Rackers had pitched at Atkansas. The story has been corrected.

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