2020 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 22 Arizona
Last season: 32-24 (15-14 in Pac-12); missed NCAA Tournament.
Final ranking: NR.
Coach (record at school): Jay Johnson (153-91, four years).
The good news: Arizona last year had one of the nation’s most productive offenses, hitting an incredible .326/.432/.533 as a team. The bulk of that lineup returns, including catcher/outfielder Matthew Dyer, DH Dayton Dooney and Wells, all of whom produced an OPS of more than 1.000. Keeping the Wildcats’ offense humming is important but improving its run prevention is critical. To that end, Johnson brought in pitching coach Nate Yeskie, who established himself as one of the best in the nation during his tenure at Oregon State. The Wildcats’ No. 24 recruiting class was heavy on pitching and many of the newcomers will be thrust right into action. Arizona should also be better defensively as second baseman Jacob Blas returns from an injury that cost him most of last season and freshman Kyson Donahue arrives ready to take over at shortstop.
The bad news: As much offensive firepower as Arizona returns, it did lose infielders Cameron Cannon and Nick Quintana, who last June were both top-50 overall draft picks. Cannon led the team in hitting and Quintana led it in home runs, leaving two large holes in the lineup. The larger concern, however, is on the pitching staff. Hi Corbett Field is an offensive friendly environment but Arizona last season only had one pitcher with an ERA below 4.50. Improving both its 6.23 team ERA and .962 fielding percentage will be critical to this year’s success. Freshmen Chandler Murphy, Dawson Netz, Wesley Scott, graduate transfer Davis Vanier and junior college transfers Ian Churchill and Garrett Irvin are the newcomers to watch on the mound.
Player to know: Austin Wells, C.
Wells has an impressive offensive skillset that he showed off last year both for the Wildcats, earning Freshman All-America honors, and then in the Cape Cod League. The lefthanded hitter has plus raw power and a patient approach, making him one of the best hitting prospects in the country. He also offers solid versatility, and he’ll split time with Dyer behind the plate, while also seeing time at first base and left field thanks to his athleticism.
Path to Omaha: Arizona finished last season red-hot, winning 13 of its last 14 games, but fell just shy of an NCAA Tournament bid. Now, it’ll try to carry that momentum into 20220. The Wildcats figure to have a powerful offense again this spring and if they can sure up their defense and pitching staff, they could pile up a lot of wins in what looks to be a wide-open Pac-12. To get to Omaha, they’ll need their pitching to really take a jump, but between the newcomers and Yeskie’s influence on the staff, a dramatic improvement is not out of the question.
College Baseball Takeaways: Texas, Stanford Win Thrilling Openers
In an atmosphere befitting a series of that magnitude, the Longhorns claimed game 1 with a tight, 5-4 victory.
|C||Austin Wells, So.||.353||.462||.552||5||60||221|
|1B||Brandon Boissiere, So.||.336||.430||.464||2||24||110|
|2B||Jacob Blas, So.||.246||.362||.316||0||8||57|
|3B||Tony Bullard, So.||.301||.412||.482||2||17||83|
|SS||Kyson Donahue, Fr.||HS -- Honolulu, Hawaii|
|LF||Matthew Dyer, Jr.||.393||.480||.571||4||28||168|
|CF||Donta Williams, Jr.||.267||.396||.408||2||35||206|
|RF||Ryan Holgate, So.||.240||.378||.437||7||33||167|
|DH||Dayton Dooney, So.||.323||.417||.596||10||53||161|
|RHP||Quinn Flanagan, So.||8||3||4.92||68||42||1|
|LHP||Garrett Irvin, Jr.||Transfer -- Riverside (Calif.) JC|
|RHP||Chandler Murphy, Fr.||HS -- Peoria, Ariz.|
|RP||Dawson Netz, Fr.||HS -- Sierra Madre, Calif.|
|RP||Vince Vannelle, Sr.||2||2||3.47||36||27||2|