2019 Preseason Top 25 Preview: No. 3 UCLA
Last Year: 38-21 (19-11 PAC-12); reached regionals.
Final Ranking: NR.
Head Coach (record at school): John Savage (487-349-1, 14 years)
Top 100 Draft Prospects: 1B Michael Toglia (No. 44), 2B Chase Strumpf (No. 80).
The Good News: UCLA returns 24 players from last year’s regional team. The Bruins should have a well-balanced, loaded offense with both power and speed. The offense will be led by juniors Chase Strumpf, Michael Toglia and Jeremy Ydens. The Bruins should be solid defensively, led by shortstop Kevin Kendall. On the mound, righthanders Ryan Garcia and Zach Pettway will anchor down two of the weekend spots for the Bruins, and righthander Kyle Mora and closer Holden Powell will be relied on out of the bullpen. With a talented junior class and the sixth-ranked recruiting class in the country, UCLA will have a great mix of young and old throughout the roster. The recruiting class is led by Matt McClain, who was drafted 25th overall by the D-backs but chose to head to college instead of signing. He has the versatility to play several different positions and figures to find a way to make an immediate impact.
The Bad News: Most of Savage’s best teams at UCLA have been built around pitching. The Bruins’ depth on the mound was last year tested by injuries, and they must replace workhorse Jake Bird from last year’s rotation. Early on, this year’s pitching staff—though talented—has some questions marks. A healthy return for lefthander Justin Hooper, who missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, will be key. UCLA’s freshman class includes some high-end pitchers, and it would be a big boost if Jesse Bergin, Nick Nastrini, and Sean Mullen are able to quickly transition to the college game.
Player To Know: Garrett Mitchell, OF.
The Bruins are hoping for Mitchell to have a breakout season. He was a highly touted freshman a year ago but was slowed by a concussion that sidelined him for about three weeks. After hitting .280/.337/.331 in his freshman campaign, he hit. 309/.404/.382 in the Northwoods League this past summer. Mitchell has huge upside and all the tools to be a special player, and getting him at his best will only add to an already talented Bruins lineup.
Path To Omaha: The 2019 Bruins are a very talented group with a great mix that should only get better as it gets deeper into the season. A balanced lineup that brings back production and experience throughout, along with a young core of talented players that will be able to contribute, makes the Bruins a legitimate national title contender. The pitching has its question marks, but there is plenty of talent that could be developed into a solid group. The possible potent offense and reliable defense should help carry the Bruins while they get their pitching where they want it to be.
2019 Pac-12 Conference College Baseball Preview
Oregon State is the reigning champ, but UCLA and Stanford are among those challenging for a Pac-12 title this year.
|C||Noah Cardenas||Fr. (HS- - Los Angeles)|
|OF||Matt McLain||Fr. (HS -- Irvine, Calif.)|
|RHP||Jesse Bergin||Fr. (HS -- Los Angeles)|