NCAA Top 25 Podcast: Florida Tops First Offseason Ranking
On this episode of the Baseball America College Podcast, Teddy Cahill and Joe Healy discuss their "Never Too Early" edition of the Top 25, which has the Florida Gators as the top team in the country.
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The newest rankings look to project ahead to 2021 based on what we know now. We know the draft is only going to be five rounds, we know that teams can sign an unlimited number of seniors and other nondrafted free agents for up to $20,000 and we know that the Division I Council has made it so that college teams can bring back everyone who doesn't sign if they so choose.
While that clarifies many things, including that only the truly elite college draft prospects will be selected, there is still a lot of uncertainty, particularly around what will happen with seniors across the country. How many elect to begin pro careers for $20,000 or less? How many, knowing that minor league baseball is unlikely to take place in 2020, return to school and look to sign in 2021 instead? How many will look to grad transfer to find a better situation?
Despite some of this uncertainty, putting this ranking together isn't all that different than doing so in the preseason, and the teams at the top are among the ones that will be returning the most talent, as is typically the case.
Florida expects to lose righthanders Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich, its two best starting pitchers. That's not nothing, but few programs plug and play with new pitchers better than Florida, and certainly lefthander Hunter Barco looks the part of a future Gators ace. On top of that, Florida returns just about everyone else and brings in one of the best recruiting classes in the country.
Virginia at No. 5 might stand out to some, as they are a program that hasn't been to the postseason in several years. However, the Cavaliers would in all likelihood have made the postseason in 2020, and furthermore, they've done an outstanding job of bringing in high-end talent that normally would have skipped college altogether, including righthander Mike Vasil, outfielder Chris Newell and lefthander Nate Savino. Mixed with some productive veterans, Virginia truly has a chance to be a national title contender in 2021.
Through this Top 25, you can also see the teams that might have missed a national title window in 2020, with 2020 top-10 teams like Arizona State and Miami down at Nos. 23 and 24, respectively. Georgia, which was No. 3 in the final rankings of the 2020 season, is out of the Top 25 completely. All three of these teams are expected to suffer heavy personnel losses due to the draft.
This ranking will be updated as the offseason goes along, with the next update coming after the draft takes place.