2021 NCAA Top 25 Preview: No. 15 Arizona

Last year: 10-5 
Final ranking: NR
Coach (record at school): Jay Johnson (163-96, five years)

Top 200 draft prospects: OF Ryan Holgate (No. 115)

The good news: The Wildcats could have one of the most productive outfields in the country with the return of second-year freshman left fielder Mac Bingham, fourth-year junior center fielder Donta Williams and third-year sophomore right fielder Ryan Holgate, plus the addition of freshman Chase Davis, one of the most dynamic recruits to make it to a college campus in 2020. In addition to being a dangerous offensive player, Williams is an elite defensive center fielder, and Holgate could be the best power bat in the Pac-12 in 2021. That unit will be helped offensively by third-year sophomore first baseman Branden Boissiere, who consistently hits the ball hard and could develop more traditional power over time. With the arrival of Davis, plus catcher Daniel Susac, infielder Jacob Berry and junior college transfer righthander Chase Silseth, the Wildcats’ most recent recruiting class looks capable of helping a lot right away. 

The bad news: With the departure of Austin Wells and Matthew Dyer via the draft, Arizona not only lost two power bats, but also two players capable of catching. Susac, the freshman, has big-time tools and looks ready to handle the job, but there could be growing pains. Also, while the talent level on the pitching staff has clearly improved and pitching coach Nate Yeskie is one of the best in the business, it will be incumbent upon the Wildcats’ pitchers to show that they’re better than they have been in recent years. Signs were pointing in a good direction in 2020, but the canceled season kept the staff from being able to show that those improvements were real and not an early-season mirage. Certainly, the arrival of righthander Chase Silseth and his plus stuff could be another big step toward the goal of having the quality on the mound match the quality at the plate. 

Player to know: Ryan Holgate, OF.

There was no doubting his talent upon arriving at Arizona, but Holgate had an inconsistent season as a freshman in Tucson, hitting .240/.378/.437. It was a very different story in 2020, though, as Holgate was hitting .377/.459/.547 and looked the part of the ringleader of an extremely talented Arizona lineup when the season ended. The Wildcats hope he picks up in 2021 where he left off. If he does, with his plus raw power, he could put up a Pac-12 player of the year-type of season, which would go a long way toward Arizona reaching its potential. 

Path to Omaha: The Arizona lineup is good enough to get the team to the College World Series. It’s deep with power and athleticism, which also stands to set it apart in a Pac-12 without a ton of dynamic offenses returning, and the coaching staff thinks that this could be one of the best defensive teams it’s had. The key will be how far along the pitching comes. If the likes of fourth-year junior lefthander Garrett Irvin, second-year freshman righthander Chandler Murphy, third-year sophomore righthander Quinn Flanagan and fifth-year senior closer Vince Vannelle are simply as good as they’ve shown in their careers, it will be enough for the Wildcats to make the postseason and potentially make a deep run. But if one or more of that group takes a step forward and Silseth instantly becomes one of the more formidable starters in the conference, it suddenly opens up the path to Omaha for Arizona. 

2021 Lineup
C Daniel Susac, Fr. HS — Carmichael, Calif.
1B Branden Boissiere, R-So. .327 .356 .455 55 2 13
2B Kobe Kato, R-So. .333 .500 .333 6 0 1
3B Tony Bullard, R-So. .133 .372 .133 30 0 8
SS Jacob Blas, R-So. .322 .420 .424 59 0 6
LF Mac Bingham, R-Fr. .361 .478 .500 36 1 7
CF Donta’ Williams, R-Jr. .348 .527 .500 46 0 14
RF Ryan Holgate, R-So. .377 .459 .547 53 1 12
DH Jacob Berry, Fr. HS — Queen Creek, Ariz.
RHP Chase Silseth, R-So. Transfer — JC of Southern Nevada
LHP Garrett Irvin, R-Jr. 4 0 3.18 23 28 0
RHP Chandler Murphy, R-Fr. 2 0 2.70 17 19 0
RP Preston Price, R-Sr. 1 0 2.45 11 11 0
RP Vince Vannelle, R-Sr. 1 0 1.35 13 20 2

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