College Podcast: Preseason Top 25
On this week’s edition of the Baseball America college podcast, Teddy Cahill, Joe Healy and Dave Serrano breakdown the newly released Preseason Top 25.
The preseason rankings are topped by No. 1 Vanderbilt, which brings back a loaded, veteran team that has impressive depth around the diamond. The Commodores bring back eight starters in their lineup and seven of the 10 pitchers who last season threw at least 20 innings.
"Even the one position player they’re replacing – Connor Kaiser, one of the best defensive shortstops in the country – well, Vanderbilt’s probably going to put Ethan Paul there, just move him over from second base,” Cahill said. "But they also have Austin Martin and Jayson Gonzalez working out there and any of those three guys would start for so many teams around the country at shortstop.
"There’s just a plethora of options there and so many different ways the Commodores can go in any position this season.”
Following Vanderbilt in the rankings is Louisiana State at No. 2. The Tigers also bring back a wealth of talent, highlighted by righthander Zack Hess and outfielders Antoine Duplantis and Zach Watson, all of whom were draft-eligible last season but chose to return to Baton Rouge.
To that core, LSU added the No. 1 recruiting class in the country as it held together its impressive recruiting class on draft day.
"All of the success for college programs now is having a little bit of luck and keeping those recruits and getting them to campus and staying injury free or bringing back key members of your team from the last year,” Serrano said. "LSU has done a little bit of each one of those and that’s why I believe they’re destined to have a good season.”
UCLA follows the two SEC powerhouses at No. 3. The Bruins have a potent offense led by juniors Chase Strumpf, Michael Toglia and Jeremy Ydens, but their pitching staff doesn’t have as much star power.
"I think they’ve got the arms to get them through the regular season successfully, put them in a position to host and to be a top-eight (seed),” Healy said. "The thing is, once they get into the postseason, with John Savage’s history, you kind of assume it’s too late to get them because at that point they probably have brought some of these arms along, they probably have developed guys and gotten their roles defined.
"Against some high-end opposition early in the season, you might be able to poke some holes here. But I think they’re going to be a well-oiled machine by the time you get to the postseason and I think it might be too late for other teams to take advantage of that perceived weakness.”