Building A College World Series Super Team
OMAHA, Neb.—Arkansas and Oregon State, two of the most dynamic teams in the country, will this week meet in the College World Series finals. The two teams were both ranked in the top five in the Preseason Top 25 and have two of the deepest rosters in college baseball.
As the two teams prepare to battle for the national championship, we examine what a combined starting lineup might look like. Some tough calls must be made, particularly in the outfield. But if there were a super team of the Arkansas Beavers or the Oregon State Razorbacks, this is what it might look like.
Catcher: Adley Rutschman, Oregon State. The choice here is between Rutschman and Grant Koch. In a pick between USA Baseball Collegiate National Team catchers past and future, Rutschman gets the call. He’s the superior defender and has had a better season at the plate, where he is hitting .397/.500/.616.
First base: Jared Gates, Arkansas. One of the toughest calls of the whole lineup. Neither team has a particularly dynamic first baseman, so Gates, a senior, and his six home runs, get the call over Zack Taylor, who has an isolated slugging percentage of .096.
Second base: Nick Madrigal, Oregon State. Senior Carson Shaddy brings a veteran presence to the Arkansas lineup and he’s a big part of why the Razorbacks are playing for a title. But Madrigal was the fourth overall pick in the draft and an All-American for a reason. He impacts the game in so many ways, hitting .395/.455/.551 with 15 stolen bases while playing excellent defense.
Third base: Casey Martin, Arkansas. The freshman is the Razorbacks’ leading hitter and he’s been red-hot in Omaha. He’s hitting .357/.432/.580 with 13 home runs and has made some highlight-reel plays at the hot corner.
Shortstop: Cadyn Grenier, Oregon State. Grenier is one of the best defensive shortstops in the country and is hitting .317/.405/.486. To have him anchoring the defense while also providing a potent bat in the top half of the lineup makes him incredibly valuable for the Beavers.
Left field: Steven Kwan, Oregon State. Kwan has been a mainstay in center field for Oregon State, but this is an all-star team and Dominic Fletcher’s arm gives him the nod in center. That said, Kwan has to be in the outfield somewhere. He covers ground well and is a sparkplug at the top of the Oregon State lineup. He’s missed a couple games with a hamstring injury but told coach Pat Casey he’s feeling 100 percent now.
Center field: Dominic Fletcher, Arkansas. Fletcher is a dynamic, all-around player. He has five-tool potential and has been one of the Razorbacks’ best players in the CWS. He’s hitting .298/.349/.482 with 10 home runs and can change the game at any time.
Right field: Trevor Larnach, Oregon State. In a series full of power hitters, no one has more pop than Larnach. He broke out to hit .344/.464/.643 with 18 home runs and earn All-America honors. His ability to drive the ball out to all fields makes him one of the most dangerous hitters in the nation.
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DH: Heston Kjerstad, Arkansas. Kjerstad has been a mainstay in left field for the Razorbacks and is hitting .337/.420/.563 with 14 home runs. We opted for defense in the outfield with Kwan moving to left field, but there’s still room in this lineup for Kjerstad.
Starting pitchers: Blaine Knight, Arkansas; Luke Heimlich, Oregon State; Kacey Murphy, Arkansas. These two teams stand out the most for their offenses, but they’re plenty strong on the mound as well. Knight, an All-American, is 13-0, 2.88 this season and is a ferocious competitor at the top of the rotation. Heimlich has struggled in Omaha, not making it even five innings in either of his starts last week, but he still is 16-2, 2.80 with 154 strikeouts in 125.1 innings this season. Murphy doesn’t have as big of a profile as the aces, but he’s been very dependable all year for the Razorbacks and is 8-5, 3.15.
Relief pitchers: Matt Cronin, Arkansas; Jake Mulholland, Oregon State. Both teams employ similar closers. Cronin (2-1, 3.15, 13 SV) and Mulholland (2-2, 2.25, 15 SV) are both sophomore lefthanders who have the ability to go multiple innings to finish the game and have excelled this season. Expect to see plenty of both closers throughout the series.