2023 Pac-12 Conference College Baseball Preview

Image credit: Tommy Troy (Courtesy Stanford)

The Pac-12 has historically been one of the most loaded conferences in college baseball. It is known for its polished playstyle and high level of pitching, with each of its 11 teams usually having at least one legitimate professional prospect. Four teams enter the 2023 season ranked inside Baseball America’s top-25, while Arizona and others are knocking on the doorstep.? 

There will be two new head coaches in 2023 with Jason Kelly returning to Washington after being the Huskies pitching coach for seven years and Andy Stankiewicz heading to USC after a successful run at Grand Canyon.?? A handful of teams will be vying not only for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but also the College World Series as Stanford, UCLA, and Oregon State have the makings of championship caliber teams. The conference will be deep from top to bottom, with each weekend providing multiple high-quality series.

Preseason Awards

Player of the Year: Tommy Troy, 2B, Stanford: Coming off a stellar sophomore season in which he hit .339 with 15 doubles and seven home runs, Troy went on to win the Cape Cod League’s top pro prospect award after hitting .310 with six doubles, two triples and five home runs. The dynamic second baseman is impressive in the field, with plus athleticism and range. He has serious thump in his bat and should lead the conference in multiple offensive categories, further establishing himself as one of the premier college draft prospects in 2023. ? 

Pitcher of the Year: Quinn Mathews, LHP, Stanford: A stalwart in the Cardinal’s rotation for three years, Mathews has been extremely reliable since arriving in Palo Alto. He won’t overwhelm hitters with velocity, but with great command of three pitches—his changeup being his calling card—Mathews is able to consistently miss bats and avoid barrels. Last year he was used in a variety of roles, including the back end of the bullpen, and he pitched his way to a 3.08 ERA with 107 strikeouts in 99.1 innings pitched. This year he will be used exclusively as a starter, where his numbers figure to be even more gaudy. 

Freshman of the Year: Gavin Turley, OF, Oregon State: Turley was regarded as one of the best high school draft prospects in the 2022 class and brings five-tool upside to Corvallis. He will be an everyday member of the Beavers’ lineup from day one and reports out of Oregon State this fall were glowing, as he was able to show off his breathtaking power, plus arm and game-changing speed. Turley’s tool set allows him to impact the game in a myriad of ways and he has a chance to establish himself as a household name in college baseball. ? 

Predicted Order of Finish (2022 record)

1. Stanford (47-18, 21-9)

The 2022 season was another extremely successful one in Palo Alto as the Cardinal won the inaugural Pac-12 Tournament and made its third straight appearance in the College World Series. Stanford led the Pac-12 in home runs (118) and RBIs (455), while finishing second in team batting average (.309). It returns much of the production from last year’s team, including second baseman Tommy Troy, who hit .339 with 15 doubles and seven home runs, Carter Graham, who hit .331 and led the Pac-12 in home runs with 22, and star two-way player Braden Montgomery. Montgomery was the Pac-12 freshman of the year after hitting .294 with 18 home runs and logging quality innings. His arm from the outfield is one of the best in the country and it also translates to the pitching mound, where his fastball will touch upwards of 98 mph. Eddie Park is the ideal table setter atop the Cardinal lineup as he has a great sense of the strike zone and consistently puts together quality at-bats. He hit .318 last season with more walks (36) than strikeouts (33). Defensively, he will replace Brock Jones in center field. Park is a great defender who reads the ball well off the bat, and his above-average speed allows him to take efficient routes to the baseball. Drew Bowser will again man the hot corner for David Esquer, and he has a well above-average arm. He’ll also make a big impact with his bat, as he hit .293 with 18 home runs last year, with his hit tool continuing to take strides. It will be difficult to replace Kody Huff’s production on offense and reliable defense, but blue chip freshman catcher Malcolm Moore had an outstanding fall, especially with the bat, and figures to be a regular in the Cardinal lineup. Sophomore shortstop Trevor Haskins will replace 2022 Pac-12 defensive player of the year Adam Crampton, and although he played sparingly in 2022, Haskins had a great fall and his game has taken a drastic step forward.? 

The Stanford rotation will be led by veteran lefthander Quinn Mathews, who is coming off a great 2022 season; he had a 3.08 ERA with 111 striekouts in 99.1 innings pitched. He split time between the bullpen and the rotation, but he will start full time in 2023. He has advanced pitchability and can locate all his pitches for strikes. Following Mathews will be fellow lefthander Drew Dowd. Dowd enjoyed a solid season of his own, pitching his way to a 4.54 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 75.1 innings pitched. Dowd’s curveball is his calling card, a pitch that gets its fair share of swing and miss. To round out its rotation Stanford could turn to a handful of arms, including Ty Uber (4-1, 4.99), Joey Dixon (6-3, 3.96), and freshman Nick Dugan, who really impressed during the fall after getting significant pro interest in high school. The bullpen will be anchored by stopper of the year candidate Ryan Bruno. Bruno has one of the best fastballs in all of college baseball, as it gets up to 98 mph with plenty of carry. It has an absurd 40% miss rate and is supplemented by a plus changeup. Tommy O’Rourke (3-5, 4.41) and Max Meier (1-0, 7.31) will also factor into the Cardinal bullpen. With exceptional depth on each side of the baseball and a star-studded returning core, the Cardinal is in a great spot to do something it hasn’t done since 1988—win a national championship. 

2. UCLA (40-24, 19-11)

In what has become the norm under Coach John Savage, the Bruins pieced together a strong season in 2022. They appeared in their fifth straight NCAA Tournament as the No. 2 seed in the Auburn Regional. After losing their first game in the regional, they won two straight before eventually being eliminated by Auburn. This year, the Bruins offense will be led by a trio of familiar faces, and three of their top producers from 2022, in third baseman Kyle Karros, shortstop Cody Schrier and second baseman Ethan Gourson. Karros enjoyed a breakout sophomore season, hitting .308 with eight doubles, six home runs and 42 RBIs in 43 games played. Schrier, a projected 2021 first-round draft pick by some outlets, opted to attend UCLA instead of beginning his professional career. With sky-high expectations, Schrier did not disappoint as he hit .298 with 21 doubles and nine home runs, en route to being named a Freshman All-American. Ethan Gourson had less buzz out of high school than Schrier, but he made his presence felt immediately, hitting .294 with 23 doubles and ending his season with an invitation to Team USA’s Collegiate National Team training camp. All three project to continue to produce at an impressive clip for the Bruins and they make for a formidable middle of the lineup. Darius Perry will be the everyday catcher and had his most impressive college season so far in 2022, hitting .286 with 24 RBIs. 

On the mound, Coach Savage will hand the ball to junior righthander Jake Brooks on Friday nights, followed by sophomore righthander Alonzo Tredwell on Saturdays and sophomore lefthander Ethan Flanagan on Sundays. Brooks has fantastic command, and his sinking fastball misses barrels, especially down in the zone. He was off to a strong start in 2022 and had a 3.96 ERA with 57 strikeouts to only 10 walks in 63.2 innings pitched before an injury cut his season short. Now fully healthy, Brooks will be one of the better pitchers in the conference and projects to have a strong 2023 season. Tredwell was lights out for the Bruins in the back end of their bullpen last spring but will transition to a starting role this spring. He had a 2.11 ERA with a sparkling 62-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 47 innings pitched in 2022. He has the best control in the conference and his “invisi-ball” fastball consistently misses bats. Tredwell’s slider could end up as a plus pitch down the road, and he already is able to land a deep curveball for strikes. He moves well for his size, and with his diverse pitch mix and impeccable command, Tredwell should have plenty of success as a starter. Flanagan rounds out the rotation and also had a great 2022 season with a 3.28 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 60.1 innings pitched. He’s got an above-average slider and changeup and hardly ever gets squared up by opposing hitters.? 

The bullpen will feature two big time arms in electrifying lefthander Gage Jump and righthander Luke Jewett. Jump was limited in 2022 due to an injury, but he has some of the loudest stuff in college baseball. He will run his fastball into the upper 90s and features a lethal breaking ball. Jewett’s 2022 numbers are not eye-popping, but his stuff took a step forward this summer in the Cape Cod League. Freshmen Ben Jacobs and Finn McIlroy will also have roles on the pitching staff, with Jacobs likely to be the Bruins’ midweek starter. McIlroy was a star water polo player in high school and possesses great mobility and athleticism for someone who is 6-foot-7. The 2023 season has the chance to be a special one for UCLA as it seeks its first College World Series appearance since 2013.?? 

3. Oregon State (48-18, 20-10)

In 2022 the Beavers had their most successful season since winning the national championship in 2018. They finished with a 48-18 record, and their 20-10 record in conference play was good enough for a second-place regular season finish in the Pac-12 standings. Oregon State eventually lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game, but it earned the No. 3 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Beavers won their regional after defeating Vanderbilt but lost to Auburn in a decisive third game in super regional play. Travis Bazzana and Garret Forrester are the headliners on offense this spring, along with freshman sensation Gavin Turley. Bazzana had a Freshman All-American season last spring, hitting .306 with 16 doubles and six home runs. He’s a solid defender at second base, but Bazzana’s calling card is his blistering bat speed at the plate that allows him to pulverize the baseball. Joining Bazzana on the right side of the infield is Forrester, who is coming off a great season of his own. He hit .332 with nine home runs with 60 RBIs in 64 games played, and his fantastic approach netted him a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 64-to-48 and an on-base percentage of .480. Sophomore third baseman Mason Guerra is a player to watch after performing well in limited at-bats last spring; he went 15-45 (.333) and hit seven doubles. Guerra performed well this fall and should carve out an everyday role for himself this spring. Freshman outfielder Gavin Turley will also make an immediate impact in Mitch Canham’s lineup. After getting first-round draft interest last summer, Turley opted to attend Oregon State, where he made his presence felt from day one. He’s got 5-tool upside and reports on his performance this fall were sparkling.? 

Losing star lefthander Cooper Hjerpe (11-2, 2.53) is a blow to the pitching staff, but Mitch Canham returns a great group of arms, led by righthanders Ben Ferrer and Jacob Kmatz. Ferrer had a fantastic 2022 season out of the bullpen with a 1.72 ERA and 78 strikeouts to 14 walks in 62.2 innings pitched. Ferrer is unique in that he throws his slider 49% of the time, while throwing his fastball just 26% of the time. His slider is an above-average pitch that has a ridiculous 54% whiff rate, which is even more impressive given how often he throws the pitch. He will serve as a late-inning reliever for the Beavers, while Ryan Brown will be the closer. Brown is a better pitcher than his 2022 numbers indicated, particularly his 4.91 ERA, and he and Ferrer make for one of the deadlier back-end duos in the conference. Brown has a great presence on the mound and has a strong three-pitch mix (fastball-changeup-slider). Sophomore righthander Jacob Kmatz will lead the rotation after a solid freshman season in the rotation, pitching his way to a 4.19 ERA with 65 strikeouts. The physical righthander’s best trait is his incredibly advanced pitchability; he has feel for four pitches and can land all of them for strikes. Joining him in the rotation will be former Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) standout Trent Sellers and Jaren Hunter (2-2, 3.97). While there are some questions offensively, Oregon State features one of the better all-around pitching staffs in the Pac 12, again putting itself squarely in the conference championship conversation. 


4. Oregon (36-25, 18-12)

The Mark Wasikowski era is off to a great start, as Oregon has made back-to-back regionals for the first time since the 2014 and 2015 seasons. While they would eventually lose to regional host Louisville, 2022 was a successful season for the Ducks. The 2023 season is shaping up to be another strong year, especially with the Ducks’ returning core on offense. Drew Cowley exploded in 2022, hitting a whopping .424 with 16 doubles and 29 RBIs in 40 games played. He opted to return to Eugene, where he will be a focal point of the Ducks offense in 2023. Also back for another year is veteran outfielder Tanner Smith. Smith hit .317 with 13 doubles and 11 home runs in 2022. He’s been a dependable hitter throughout his college career with a total batting average of .305. Smith and Colby Shade are two very good outfielders and provide a real boost to the lineup. Shade is a great defender, but also found success with the bat in 2022 as he hit .305 with 19 extra-base hits after having a limited role in 2021. Sophomore first baseman Jacob Walsh is coming off a great 2022 season, where he hit .295 with 18 doubles and six home runs. He has huge raw power in his hulking 6-foot-4 frame and is a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the order. The most exciting player on the roster, however, is second baseman Rikuu Nishida. Nishida is a transfer from Mt. Hood (Ore.) Community College, and he put up video game numbers in his two years there. Last spring he hit .364 with an absurd 42 walks to just 14 strikeouts in 198 at-bats. He also stole a ridiculous 58 stolen bases, while only being thrown out four times. Nishida has proven himself against high level competition, as he was an all-star on the Cape after hitting .291 with 28 stolen bases for Hyannis this summer. He is limited in the power department, but he has elite bat-to-ball skills, and his speed allows him to take the extra base on balls in the gap and down the line. His baseball IQ is off the charts which bodes incredibly well for him on the base paths. A plus defender at second base, Nishida has fantastic range to either side and is comfortable throwing from any arm slot.? 

Two freshmen who profile to have significant roles are infielder Dominic Hellman and Canadian righthander Matthew Grabmann. Hellman has a towering 6-foot-6 frame and best profiles at third base defensively. While he might not get a ton of time on the dirt, he has unbelievable raw power that should land him a spot in the lineup. Grabmann had a great high school career and entered the 2022 draft with a big up arrow next to his name, but he ended up in Eugene when all was said and done. His fastball was up to 97 mph this fall and whether he’s used out of the bullpen or in a spot starter role, he projects to log meaningful innings on the mound.? 

The rotation will be led by junior righthanders Jace Stoffal and RJ Gordon. Stoffal and Gordon are each strike-throwers with above-average pitchability and although their 2022 numbers were rather modest, they each possess a strong combination of pitchability and pure stuff. Making the jump from the bullpen to the rotation is righthander Logan Mercado. Mercado was the Ducks’ most reliable arm in 2022 with a 2.61 ERA with 41 strikeouts in as many innings pitched. His velocity has taken a jump from last year and he’ll run his fastball up to 93 mph. The Ducks will be competitive throughout the season and are in a good spot to make their third consecutive regional appearance. 

5. Arizona (39-25, 16-14)

The 2022 season was the start of a new beginning in Tucson with Chip Hale taking over after Jay Johnson departed for Louisiana State. Johnson set a high bar for any coach that would follow him after taking Arizona to Omaha twice in his six-year tenure, but Hale had a great first year, guiding the Wildcats to a regional appearance. While they didn’t make it out of the Coral Gables Regional, they beat a strong Canisius team and host Miami before falling to eventual national champion Mississippi. On offense, they lose the production of 2022 first-round pick Daniel Susac and 15th-round pick Tanner O’Tremba. Susac was a superstar for the Wildcats and hit .366 last spring with 19 doubles, 12 home runs and 61 RBIs. O’Tremba had a great 2022 season as well, hitting .351 with 21 doubles and 11 home runs. Each will be missed in the heart of the Wildcats’ order, and players like Chase Davis and Garen Caulfield will look to fill the void. Davis is the best pro prospect on the roster and it’s easy to see why; he has a beautiful lefthanded swing with plus power that translates to games (18 home runs in 2022) and an above-average arm that profiles best in right field. Davis is a Pac-12 player of the year candidate this spring and has a chance to be selected in the first 50 picks of the 2023 draft. Caulfield is a fourth-year sophomore and in his first full season playing he hit .292 with nearly 20 extra-base hits, including 12 doubles. Tommy Splaine has thunderous raw power in his bat, and while the power numbers from 2022 might not reflect that, it would not be a shock to see the 6-foot-5 first baseman show an uptick in power this spring. Outfielder Mac Bingham returns for his fourth year, and his bat will really help the Wildcats out. He hit .277 last spring with 25 extra-base hits and plays good defense. One freshman to watch is infielder Mason White. White impressed throughout fall practice with his feel to hit, routinely posting triple-digit exit velocities. He will play an immediate role for Arizona. 

T.J. Nichols will be at the front of the rotation, with his fastball being the best of his offerings. He’s gotten it up to 99 mph, though his 2022 numbers might not reflect the sheer stuff he has in the tank. Nichols has a quick arm, and a short throwing motion, and the continued development of his secondary pitches will be key. Other arms that will play a key role for Arizona will be Javyn Pimental (1-1, 3.90), Dawson Netz (2-1, 4.26) and Chris Barraza (2-0, 5.18). Barraza is similar to Nichols from a velocity standpoint as his fastball has also reached the upper 90s, and continuing to improve his command should pay dividends.? The Wildcats are firmly in contention to qualify for a regional and with a particularly strong offense, they will be competitive in a year in which the Pac-12 is deep. 

6. Washington (30-26, 14-16)

There will be a new face leading the Washington program after Coach Lindsay Meggs announced his retirement following the 2022 season. Coach Kelly is familiar with the program as he spent seven seasons as its pitching coach from 2013-2019, before serving in the same role for Arizona State in 2020 and 2021 and then for LSU in 2022. He is a fantastic recruiter and developer of pitchers, two traits that will serve the Huskies well. In 2022 Washington won 30-plus games for the first time since its College World Series appearance in 2018, when it won 35 games. The Huskies return most of the production from that roster, including a key addition from the transfer portal. 

Offensively, the Huskies will be led by outfielders McKay Barney and A.J. Guerrero, first baseman Will Simpson, shortstop Cam Clayton and catcher Johnny Tincher. Barney’s bat-to-ball skills are his best trait, but he also slapped 10 doubles and swiped 15 bases. Guerrero was tabbed a Freshman All-American by some after an impressive season in which he hit .299 with 14 doubles and 10 home runs. Tincher is one of the most reliable backstops in the conference, but he also produces with his bat. Last season he hit .314 with 13 doubles and five home runs. Simpson has the most raw power on the roster, as he slugged 27 extra-base hits, including 15 doubles and 11 home runs, last year. If you’re looking for a pick to click on offense, third baseman Michael Snyder could be the guy. After hitting .282 last spring, Snyder showed out in the NECBL, hitting his way to a .406 batting average with five doubles and four home runs. 

Washington will be led by a transfer on the mound in righthander Kiefer Lord. Lord starred at Division III Carleton (Minn.) College as a starter last season. He had a minuscule ERA of 1.65 with 81 strikeouts to just seven walks in 49 innings pitched. He has a long, projectable frame and will attack hitters from an over-the-top arm slot. His fastball has been clocked at 97 mph and it plays up due to its carry. Although he threw only 22 innings last spring, 6-foot-5 lefthander Stu Flesland’s numbers were great; he had a 2.85 ERA with 32 strikeouts to six walks in just over 22 innings pitched. The fastball velocity is not particularly loud, but his changeup is an out pitch that gets a lot of swing and miss (56% miss rate in 2022). Rounding out the rotation is fellow righthander Case Matter. He’s an athletic mover on the mound, and like Lord he has above-average arm speed and the velocity to boot. He averaged 93.5 mph on his fastball last year, running it up to as high as 96 mph. Surrounded by other solid arms such as Jared Engman (4-5, 4.15) and Josh Emanuels (2-4, 4.99), the Huskies find themselves with a reliable pitching staff built for the long haul. Coach Kelly inherits a roster in its best position to make a regional since 2018, and should it get into the Field of 64 this is a team that could be an Omaha dark horse.? 

7. Arizona State (26-32, 13-17)

After making a regional in 2021, the Sun Devils took a bit of a step back in 2022, finishing under .500 both overall and in conference play. With an offense consisting of Joe Lampe, Sean McLain, Nate Baez, and Conor Davis, who have all since departed, there was excitement surrounding the team heading into the 2022 season. However, after winning their opening series against Dixie State (now Utah Tech), the Sun Devils got swept by BYU, Oklahoma State and UC Irvine. Willie Bloomquist is a great coach, and between their returning talent and some transfer portal additions, there is once again excitement around the Sun Devils heading into 2023. 

Their offense starts with sophomore catcher Ryan Campos. As a freshman he established himself as one of the premier hitters in the entire conference, hitting .357 as an everyday player. He doesn’t have a ton of raw power, but he has great feel for the barrel and sprays the ball to all fields. Campos followed his outstanding performance during the spring season by heading out to the Cape and being named an all-star. It is unique for a catcher to hit leadoff, but with Campos’ bat-to-ball skills he is an ideal table setter for the Sun Devils. Coach Bloomquist had one of the louder pickups of the transfer cycle, snagging former San Francisco shortstop Luke Keaschall. Keaschall is a fantastic athlete who has turned in plus run times, and although he started 56 games at shortstop during the spring season, he spent his time in center field during the Cape season. He’s also got thump in his bat, as he hit 18 doubles and eight home runs last spring. Keaschall is a dynamic player who has all-conference type upside and has the chance to be selected on day one of this year’s draft. Ethan Long is back in Tempe after being draft eligible as a sophomore in 2022. Long announced his presence with authority as a true freshman, as he hit .340 with 11 doubles and 16 home runs. The numbers dropped off a bit last season, but the physical first baseman still hit .294 with 10 doubles and 7 home runs. His swing is tailored to generate backspin and lift on the ball, and Long has 20-home run upside heading into 2023. Sophomore Will Rogers enjoyed a great freshman season, as he hit .299 with 17 doubles and nine home runs. He will man an outfield spot for Bloomquist, but he also spent some time this summer in the Alaska League refining his catching ability. Rogers has a dynamic bat that will factor into the middle of the Sun Devils order. True freshman Isaiah Jackson also has a chance to earn a starting role in the outfield after performing well this fall. He has thump in his bat and moves well for his size. ?

Nick McLain joins the Sun Devils after not playing last spring for UCLA. He impressed this past summer for the Santa Barbara Foresters, albeit in a limited sample size, but McLain carried his performance over to this fall and was a top hitter. He’ll rove center field this spring and he and Ryan Campos make for a formidable 1-2 combination at the top of the order. Another transfer addition who will log meaningful at-bats is Drake Varnado. Varnado, a former 17th-round draft pick to the Diamondbacks, was a highly touted recruit coming out of IMG Academy. He played sparingly for Arkansas last spring and decided to make the trek west to Tempe. Getting consistent at-bats will help him mightily and he profiles to slot in somewhere on the dirt.? 

The Sun Devils struggled on the mound in 2022 but made some quality additions in the transfer portal to help right the ship. It starts with lefthanded pitcher and potential day one draft pick Ross Dunn. Dunn transferred to Arizona State from Florida State, and he has huge stuff. He’s been up to 97 mph, and his slider is a plus pitch. He supplements those offerings with a changeup that’s flashed above-average, and the key for Dunn will be staying in “attack mode” and going after hitters. Lefthander Timmy Manning also joins the pitching staff after two seasons at Florida. Primarily a starter for the Gators in 2022, Manning had a respectable season that concluded with his ERA at 4.76 and 26 strikeouts in 22.2 innings pitched. His curveball is his best pitch, and with sharp 11-to-5 shape, it’s a pitch with which he gets swing and miss. Other arms who will contribute for the Sun Devils include Big Bend (Wash.) Community College transfer Dylan Gardner, Texas A&M transfer Khristian Curtis and San Francisco transfer Owen Stevenson. There are a lot of fresh faces within the program, but on paper this is an exciting team that will factor into the tournament conversation.? 

8. California (29-27, 14-16)

The Golden Bears could not have asked for a better start to their 2022 season, sweeping their way through the MLB 4 Tournament with victories against Houston, TCU and San Diego State. They turned in a respectable season, finishing above .500, but this was a team that was closer to a regional than the record indicates. Losing the production of their two star players in Nathan Martorella and Dylan Beavers will be tough to replace, but Coach Mike Neu has a solid core of position players—one that could catch the rest of the conference by surprise.? 

Dom Souto will again man the hot corner for the Golden Bears and is coming off his best college season to date. The graduate student hit .336 with six doubles and five home runs to go with 27 RBIs in 44 games. The two best prospects on the California roster are a pair of sophomores: center fielder Rodney Green Jr. and catcher Caleb Lomavita. Green Jr. started off slow but finished the season scorching hot and had a .293 batting average with 10 doubles and six home runs. Green Jr. has three plus tools already, with the chance to end up with at least one more when all is said and done. He’s a great defender in the outfield where his long levers and athletic ability allow him to cover ample ground, he has plus raw power, particularly to the pull side, and he’s a plus runner. Green Jr. only stole one base during the regular season, but he swiped 22 bags in the Appalachian League this summer while being thrown out zero times. He will be a middle-of-the-order bat for Coach Neu this season and his upside is immense. Lomavita also provided an immediate impact in his freshman year, as he hit .272 with 10 doubles, seven home runs and 46 RBIs, and he also swiped 15 bags. Lomavita runs well for a catcher and is even athletic enough to man an outfield positon. This summer he was named an all-star on the Cape while playing for the Cotuit Kettleers, and he finished the summer hitting .316. His game has a chance to hit another level this spring.? 

Shortstop Carson Crawford hit just .210 as a true freshman in 2022 but tore the cover off the ball this fall. Another hitter to watch is sophomore two-way player Tucker Bougie. Bougie was reliable on the bump last season as a freshman, pitching his way to a 3.42 ERA with 26 strikeouts in as many innings pitched. This summer he was otherworldly in the Prospect League, hitting .356 with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 48 RBIs, while also logging a 2.86 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 44 innings pitched on the mound. His velocity has taken a jump and like Crawford, his bat also impressed during the fall.? 

The Bears’ depth on the mound took a hit after Steven Zobac, Josh White and Joseph King were drafted, reliable reliever Nick Proctor transferred to South Carolina and righthander Sam Stoutenborough transferred to TCU. Outside of the aforementioned Bougie, Neu will rely on the services of crafty lefthander Ian May (2-1, 5.06), sophomore righthander Christian Becerra (2-0, 3.86) and the now-healthy Paulshawn Pasqualotto. May throws from a low three-quarter slot and hides the ball well. Nothing he throws is straight and he is a particular tough at-bat for lefthanded hitters. Becerra has louder stuff of the two, with his fastball eclipsing the 95 mph mark, and it is a pitch that plays up when elevated. Pasqualotto missed the entire 2022 season after having Tommy John surgery, but is now healthy and ready to lead the Cal rotation. His fastball will sit anywhere from 92-95 mph while touching 96 to 97, and his changeup is an out pitch. Joe Williams, a transfer from Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.), adds depth and a unique look to the Cal bullpen. Williams throws from a submarine slot and his sinker-slider combo avoids barrels and keeps hitters off balance. There are some questions regarding their depth on the pitching staff, but the Golden Bears’ offense is a young and exciting group of players that will keep them in many games. 

9. Washington State (27-26, 12-18)

Washington State has been on a positive path since Coach Brian Green took over the Cougars program amidst a tailspin following the 2019 season. They won over 25 games for the second consecutive season last year (27) and had quality series wins against Arizona and Oregon, while puncuating their season with a sweep of Arizona State. First baseman and 2022 All-Pac-12 selection Jacob McKeon leads the charge for the Cougars’ offense and is coming off a 2022 season in which he hit .348 with 15 doubles and seven home runs. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, McKeon is a physical hitter and he has difference-making raw power in his bat. In addition to McKeon, outfielder Bryce Matthews has turned himself into a potential draft pick after hitting .305 with 12 doubles and six home runs last season, as well as hitting .323 over 65 at-bats in the Coastal Plain League this summer. Matthews has quick hands and a knack for finding a gap or putting a ball over the fence. Infielder Kyle Russell enjoyed a nice freshman season in 2021, hitting .301 with eight extra-base hits in 20 games, but his production dropped off a bit last spring as he wound up hitting .264 with the same amount of extra-base hits. His approach did improve, however, and he finished the year with an on-base percentage of .355, a 44-point improvement from 2021. If it can all click for Russell, 2023 has the chance to be his best collegiate season so far.? 

The biggest strength for Washington State this year will be its rotation. Righthander Grant Taylor was the team’s starter on Friday nights last season and will have the same role this year. He enjoyed a breakout summer on the Cape with a 2.57 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched. Taylor’s fastball has been up to 95 and he throws from a straight over-the-top arm slot with short arm action, an operation that is somewhat deceptive to the hitter. The Cougs’ best arm is righthander Chase Grillo, who is likely to assume the closer role this year. Grillo had 50 strikeouts in 31.2 innings pitched last spring and carried the momentum he built during the spring into his summer season in the Northwoods League, where he had a 2.60 ERA with 27 strikeouts to five walks in 17.1 innings pitched. Grillo’s biggest weapon is his slider that he threw 55% of the time in 2022, a pitch that generated an absurd 55% miss rate. Righthander Caden Kaelber (1-1, 3.64) and Central Arizona transfer Shane Spencer will likely round out the rotation. Washington State will be a solid team this spring and has the foundation in place to win over 30 games for the first time since 2010, the same year the Cougars last made a regional. 

10. Southern California (25-28, 8-22)

Once the class of college baseball, the Trojans have appeared in just one regional since 2005. They’ve had four different coaches in that time span with none of them being able to break the regional drought. This summer, however, they Coach Andy Stankiewicz to become their new head coach. Stankiewicz was incredibly successful during his time at Grand Canyon and turned the program into the class of the WAC. He and his staff were responsible for the recruiting efforts of players like Jacob Wilson, Homer Bush Jr. and Danny Avitia. Stankiewicz guided the Lopes to their first top 25 ranking last spring as well as back-to-back regional appearances in 2021 and 2022. It will be difficult to turn the Trojans program around seemingly overnight, but Stankiewicz has the coaching and recruiting prowess to turn USC into a contender again.? 

Stankiewicz lost four of the top five hitters from the 2022 Trojans team in Rhylan Thomas (.363), Tyresse Turner (.330) and D’Andre Smith (.286), who were all drafted, as well as catcher Garret Guillemette (.286), who transferred to Texas. The Trojans are thin offensively but will rely on the bat of senior outfield Adrian Colon-Rosado to anchor the offense. He hit .298 last year with six doubles and eight home runs, while leading the team in RBIs with 34. Sophomore shortstop Caiden Huber missed all of 2022, but he is a prototypical Southern California infielder with smooth actions on the dirt and a good internal clock. If he can be even somewhat dependable with his bat, he should provide a real boost to the lineup. Their best position player might be freshman outfielder Austin Overn, who will start in center field for Stankiewicz and hit in the top third of the order. An already plus runner, Overn impressed this fall with his bat.? 

USC also lost three of its top four arms from 2022, with righthander Carson Lambert (6-3, 3.46) heading to Texas A&M, Charlie Hurley (6-2, 4.19) joining Guillemete at Texas and righthander Matt Keating (2-3, 3.60) starting his professional career after being selected in the ninth round of the 2022 draft. After losing blue chip freshman righthander Eric Hammond to Tommy John surgery last winter, Hammond is once again healthy and figures to lead the way for the Trojans rotation. Before his injury, Hammond was on his way to earning a spot in the rotation as a true freshman. His fastball sits anywhere from 90-95 mph, with his curveball being his best secondary offering. Pitchability specialist Jaden Agassi (3-2, 4.34), son of tennis legend Andre Agassi, joins Hammond in the rotation. Agassi’s changeup is his best pitch, and it has plenty of fade. Righthander Caden Aoki joins the pitching staff after posting a 3.86 ERA with 10 strikeouts across 9.1 innings pitched last spring at Notre Dame, and he figures to log meaningful innings. While USC might experience some growing pains this spring, Stankiewicz will have the Trojans in position to be competitive again in due time.? 

11. Utah (26-27-1, 10-20)

The Utes have won over 25 games just twice since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. The 2022 season was Gary Henderson’s first year at the helm for the Utes. He previously led Mississippi State to the 2018 College World Series after being named its interim head coach but was out of coaching before being named Utah’s head coach in June 2021.? 

Utah returns its three top hitters from 2022 in second baseman Landon Frei, catcher Jayden Kiernan and DH/infielder Davis Cop. Frei was a Pac-12 honorable mention in 2022 after hitting .330 with 10 doubles and three home runs as a true freshman. He has an advanced approach and sound swing decisions that translated to more walks (27) than strikeouts (21). Veteran Jayden Kiernan hit .316 in 2022, lashing 15 doubles and driving in 37 runs. He was limited defensively due to being banged up for some of the season but will be Utah’s everyday catcher in 2023. Cop led the team in batting average (.354), including hitting .367 in Pac-12 play. All three are extremely consistent movers of the baseball, a trait that bodes well against the high-quality Pac-12 arms. Center fielder Kai Roberts (.277) is the most tooled-up player on the roster. He’s an above-average defender in center, a plus runner and has pop to all fields. His tool set allows him to impact the game night in and night out. First baseman T.J. Clarkson will hit in the middle of the order for Henderson. Clarkson led the Utes in home runs with 11 in 2022, and his production will be crucial this spring. Freshman Cam Gurney will also get a significant number of at-bats this spring while manning the hot corner.? 

Sophomore righthander Cam Day will get the ball on Friday nights, and while his 2022 numbers might appear underwhelming, he had an impressive summer pitching in the West Coast League. He had a 0.48 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 18.2 innings pitched. Day has an easy operation on the mound and will run his fastball up to 96 mph. His curveball has a chance to be a true swing-and-miss pitch, and the ingredients are there for a breakout season. Lefthander Micah Ashman (2-1, 3.29) and righthander Blake Whiting (2-2, 4.13) will be key bullpen arms, along with submarine righthander Zac McCleve. McCleve had a 4.75 ERA last spring with 36 strikeouts in as many innings pitched. Whiting and McCleve will hold down the back end of the bullpen, with each seeing action in hold and save situations. Utah has an intriguing roster heading into the 2023 season and while there is no doubt its offense will be able to keep it in a lot of games, the key will be its pitching and whether it has the necessary depth to remain competitive for a full season.? ? ?????  

Top 20 2023 Draft Prospects

  1. Tommy Troy, 2B, Stanford
  2. Luke Keaschall, SS, Arizona State
  3. Chase Davis, OF, Arizona
  4. Ross Dunn, LHP, Arizona State
  5. Drew Bowser, 3B, Stanford
  6. Garret Forrester, 1B, Oregon State
  7. TJ Nichols, RHP, Arizona
  8. Alonzo Tredwell, RHP, UCLA
  9. Ryan Bruno, LHP, Stanford
  10. Ethan Flanagan, LHP, UCLA
  11. Quinn Mathews, LHP, Stanford
  12. Carter Graham, 1B, Stanford
  13. Kiefer Lord, RHP, Washington
  14. Kyle Karros, 3B, UCLA
  15. Jake Brooks, RHP, UCLA
  16. Chase Grillo, RHP, Washington State
  17. Jaden Agassi, RHP, Southern California
  18. Ethan Long, 1B, Arizona State
  19. Bryce Matthews, OF, Washington State
  20. Rikuu Nishida, 2B, Oregon

Top 10 2024 Draft Prospects?????????????  

  1. Braden Montgomery, OF/P, Stanford
  2. Travis Bazzana, 2B, Oregon State??
  3. Cody Schrier, SS, UCLA???????????????
  4. Malcolm Moore, C, Stanford?
  5. Caleb Lomavita, C, California ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ???????????????
  6. Rodney Green Jr., OF, California
  7. Luke Jewett, RHP, UCLA
  8. Ethan Gourson, 2B, UCLA
  9. Ryan Campos, C, Arizona State
  10. Jacob Kmatz, RHP, Oregon State

Top 10 Newcomers 

  1. Gavin Turley, OF, Oregon State
  2. Malcolm Moore, C, Stanford
  3. Luke Keaschall, SS, Arizona State
  4. Ross Dunn, LHP, Arizona State
  5. Kiefer Lord, RHP, Washington
  6. Nick Dugan, RHP, Stanford
  7. Nick McLain, OF, Arizona State
  8. Rikuu Nishida, 2B, Oregon
  9. Mason White, INF, Arizona
  10. Ben Jacobs, LHP, UCLA

Best Tools 

Best pure hitter: Travis Bazzana, Oregon State 
Best power hitter: Carter Graham, Stanford 
Best strike-zone discipline: Garret Forrester, Oregon State 
Best athlete: Braden Montgomery, Stanford 
Fastest runner: Rikuu Nishida, Oregon 
Best baserunner: Rikuu Nishida, Oregon 
Best defensive catcher: Josiah Cromwick, Oregon 
Best defensive infielder: Kyle Karros, UCLA 
Best infield arm: Drew Bowser, Stanford 
Best defensive outfielder: Eddie Park, Stanford 
Best outfield arm: Braden Montgomery, Stanford 
Best fastball: T.J. Nichols, Arizona 
Best breaking ball: Gage Jump, UCLA 
Best changeup: Ryan Bruno, Stanford 
Best control: Alonzo Tredwell, UCLA 

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