2019 Preseason Top 25 Preview: No. 24 Minnesota
Last Year: 44-15 (18-4 Big Ten); reached super regionals.
Final Ranking: No. 8.
Head Coach (record at school): John Anderson (1,288-860-3, 37 seasons).
Top 100 Draft Prospects: None.
The Good News: Minnesota is coming off a banner year that saw it win the Big Ten regular season championship, sweep through the conference tournament, host a regional for the first time since 2000 and advance to super regionals. Returning from that team are Freshmen All-American righthanders Patrick Fredrickson and Max Meyer, who will anchor the rotation and bullpen, respectively. Though the Gophers lost some key pieces in their lineup, first baseman Cole McDevitt, outfielder Ben Mezzenga and catcher Eli Wilson return and will provide an experienced core.
The Bad News: Chief among the Gophers’ losses was All-American shortstop Terrin Vavra, the team’s leading hitter. Redshirt junior Jordan Kozicky has played all over the infield for Minnesota and filled in at shortstop in the past when Vavra was out. His presence helps the transition, but it’s a big hole to fill. On the pitching staff, Minnesota needs to fill its rotation behind Fredrickson and can turn to senior righthanders Nick Lackney and Jake Stevenson, who have the stuff to succeed but will need to be more consistent. Minnesota has a strong culture of developing players to be ready for their opportunity, and it will need some players to take a step forward, whether they’re seniors, such as Lackney and Stevenson, or freshmen, such as infielders Zack Raabe and Andrew Wilhite.
Player To Know: Max Meyer, RHP/OF.
Meyer was a revelation at the back of Minnesota’s bullpen as a freshman, picking up 16 saves and earning a spot on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He is something of an X-factor for the Gophers again this spring. He could move into the rotation, but his fastball-slider combination plays so well at the end of games he is likely to remain in the closer’s role. After his heavy freshman workload, he didn’t pitch in the fall and instead worked out as a position player. He came to school as a two-way player and is expected this spring to get more of a chance to hit. A natural infielder, he’ll play either DH or the outfield to save his arm, but figures to add a dynamic athlete to the Gophers’ lineup.
Path To Omaha: The Gophers have won three of the last four Big Ten titles and will look to reload again. They have a tough regular season slate and will play their first 21 games on the road because their winter home, U.S. Bank Stadium, is unavailable while it prepares to host the Final Four. If they can survive the first six weeks, the Gophers will be battle-tested and ready for anything in the NCAA Tournament. If a couple position players take a step forward and another starter emerges to complement Fredrickson, the Gophers will be a tough out in the postseason.
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|2B||Zack Raabe||Fr. (HS -- Forest Lake, Minn)|