2020 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 3 Arizona State
Last year: 38-19 (16-13 in Pac-12); reached regionals
Final Ranking: NR
Coach (Record at school): Tracy Smith (155-129, five seasons)
The Good News: The Sun Devils will mash once again. An offense led by Torkelson, Williams, Workman and Trevor Hauver will likely be one of the very best in the country. Catcher Sam Ferri, second baseman Drew Swift and outfielder Myles Denson don’t have the gaudy numbers of those top four returning hitters, but all three are veterans, helping give ASU a lineup with a ton of experience from top to bottom. Ferri and Williams are also fantastic defensively at arguably the two most important positions on the diamond. Arizona State didn’t always pitch well enough to support its offense last season, but with new pitching coach Jason Kelly in the fold, there is plenty of optimism that will change in short order. A number of talented pitchers return to campus this season for Kelly to work with. They will be joined by some freshmen who should have an impact right away and a couple of high-end transfers in Justin Fall and Tyler Thornton.
The Bad News: The Sun Devils’ pitching staff is very long on talent, but short on track record at this level. Two-thirds of the projected weekend rotation, Fall and freshman Cooper Benson, will be getting their first taste of Division I baseball, and Thornton will take his first crack at the Pac-12. Returners like Boyd Vander Kooi, Blake Burzell and Will Levine will be asked to take steps forward after all had high ERAs last season. Closer RJ Dabovich had a 4.75 ERA last season, with the expectation that he will improve on that this season. Arizona State’s high preseason ranking is based on confidence that the pitching will be vastly improved, but if several of these pitchers falter in taking the next step in their development, it could be on the offense to do heavy lifting once again.
Player to Know: Justin Fall, LHP
Fall comes to Tempe after two seasons at Brookdale (N.J.) JC. After piquing some interest as an undrafted free agent at the conclusion of his freshman year, he added weight to his 6-foot-6 frame and saw his raw stuff take a jump. As a sophomore at Brookdale, he had a 1.82 ERA with 68 strikeouts and 13 walks in 64.1 innings using a fastball that touched as high as 95 mph and a slider that showed above-average potential when he was throwing it well. He impressed during fall practice and has the inside track on coming out as the Sun Devils’ Friday starter in 2020. If ASU’s pitching is going to make a big leap, Fall will almost certainly have to be a big part of it.
Path to Omaha: In a Pac-12 that will likely be a step behind where it was last year, Arizona State has the talent to not only win the conference, but also put up a gaudy league record along the way. Its offense is already capable of slugging its way to Omaha. But how well ASU is able to match up pitcher for pitcher with the teams it faces come June will determine whether or not it can make a return to the CWS for the first time since 2010.
2020 College Baseball Top 25 Chat (2/17/20)
Our first Top 25 chat of the season has plenty to focus on, including an impressive start to the season by Michigan, Ole Miss and more.
|C||Sam Ferri, R-Jr.||.269||.321||.385||2||24||130|
|1B||Spencer Torkelson, Jr.||.351||.446||.707||23||66||242|
|2B||Drew Swift, Jr.||.265||.375||.333||0||20||162|
|3B||Gage Workman, Jr.||.330||.413||.528||8||42||218|
|SS||Alika Williams, Jr.||.333||.429||.474||4||53||213|
|LF||Trevor Hauver, Jr.||.339||.433||.574||13||50||242|
|CF||Sean McLain, Fr.||HS -- Tustin, CA|
|RF||Myles Denson, Sr.||.292||.354||.416||0||11||89|
|DH||Hunter Jump, Jr.||(Transfer -- Central Arizona JC)|
|LHP||Justin Fall, Jr.||(Transfer -- Brookdale (N.J.) JC|
|RHP||Boyd Vander Kooi, Jr.||4||4||5.59||95||85||0|
|LHP||Cooper Benson, Fr.||(HS -- San Luis Obispo, CA)|
|RP||R.J. Dabovich, Jr.||7||1||4.75||53||47||3|
|RP||Erik Tolman, So.||3||1||3.38||48||49||0|