Thursday, February 18, 2010

Diamond Futures’ Pre-Season College Top 25

The Texas Longhorns appear poised to finish one game further in 2010

The college baseball season kicks into high gear this weekend, and with it comes our Pre-Season Rankings. Beginning in March, our top 25 will become a regular weekly feature all the way through the College World Series.

1) Texas -
While catcher Cameron Rupp will key the offense, this is a pitching dominated team. Sensational 2009 frosh, Taylor Jungmann will head a talented rotation that also features likely first round pick Brandon Workman. They have the talent, the experience and the coaching, and are favorites to avenge last season’s runner-up finish.

2) Louisiana State
While they graduated a number of key pieces from last year’s Championship Team, the Tigers remain an experienced bunch with a nice balance between offense and pitching/defense. Micah Gibbs, Blake Dean and Leon Landry will provide the offensive punch, while Anthony Ranaudo, the best junior pitcher in the country heads the rotation.

3) Virginia
Led by junior Jarrett Parker, the Cavaliers return every one of their position players from a team that finished 2009 with a 49-15 record. Sophomore Danny Hultzen who finished 9-1 with a 2.17 ERA heads the rotation.

4) Cal State Fullerton
The Titans return one of the best rotations in the college game, with junior Danny Renken as the Friday night starter. Offensively, they were hit hard by departures, but return Gary Brown and Chris Colon, two of the most exciting offensive players in the nation.

5) UC Irvine
The Anteaters are one of the more experienced teams in the Nation, as they return seven offensive starters and their rotation will be headed by returning seniors Dan Bibona and Christian Bergman. This is a team that entered the CWS in 2009 as the #6 overall seed, and there is no reason to think they shouldn’t be even better this year.

6) Rice
The Owls, led by super-soph Anthony Rendon and junior shortstop Ricky Hague, will put up a ton of runs this season…The question is whether they will be able to hold their opponents to less, as only one starter returns with an ERA less than 6.00.

7) Florida State -
The Seminoles are the poster child for the ‘team’ concept, as they have a lot of returning depth but few stars, Sophomore Sean Gilmartin is the Friday night starter and he should match up well with most anyone.

8) Georgia Tech -
The offense, led by junior Derek Dietrich and senior Tony Plagman, will lead the team, but Friday night starter Deck McGuire is one of the best in the country and closer Kevin Jacob looks to have taken major steps forward over the summer.

9) Florida
Matt den Dekker will provide the veteran leadership on offense, and sophomore Preston Tucker is a potential first round pick in 2011, but their pitching staff lacks experience and will likely feature an all-sophomore weekend rotation, which may get them in trouble in the SEC.

10) Arizona State -
The Sun Devils will be young on offense, as they lost their top two players Jason Kipnis and Carlos Ramirez to the draft. Their leadership will be missed as they will start five sophomores and a freshman. The same goes for the pitching, as Mike Leake will be hard to replace. Josh Spence returns, but this is a traditionally power house program that is entering the year with major uncertainties.

11) Texas Christian
The Horned-Frogs will start three freshman and two sophomores on offense, and their staff ace is likely to be freshman Matt Purke. So needless to say, while they may be a talented group, they will be inexperienced.

12) Miami
The offense will have a lot of questions heading into the season, as the Hurricanes feature five new starters, including three freshman. Yasmani Grandal keys the attack and is looking to shore up his draft stock that has become shaky. The rotation has plenty of uncertainties of its own, as Eric Erickson returns from Tommy John surgery while Chris Hernanedez looks to rebound from disappointing sophomore season.

13) Coastal Carolina
Few teams will be faster than the speedy Chanticleers, led by junior CF, Rico Noel. However, the fate of the team likely resides in the arms of Cody Wheeler and Anthony Meo.

14) Oregon State
The Beavers could be a National powerhouse if they only had a moderate amount of offense, but as it currently looks, this is a team that will rely on its pitching and defense. Sophomore Sam Gaviglio, who went 10-1, 2.73, will likely be the Friday night starter, but juniors Tyler Waldron, Greg Peavey and Tanner Robles provide significant rotation depth. Junior Kevin Rhoderick could be one of the most potent closers in the country.

15) Clemson
First baseman Ben Paulsen is now with the Rockies, and he is replaced by freshman Richie Shaffer…but that is the only offensive departure from the 2009 squad. The pitching is another matter, as outside of junior Casey Harman, it is an experienced bunch.

16) Arkansas
Zack Cox and Andy Wilkins key an offensive attack that doesn’t have but one other hitter that posted an average above .265 in 2009. On the other side, Dallas Keuchel is now in the Minor Leagues, leaving a rotation that has talent, but is relatively unproven. Sophomore Drew Smyly and/or junior Brett Eibner need to step up.

17) North Carolina
The Tar heels offense lost one of the best players in school history when Dustin Ackley was drafted by the Mariners, and enter 2009 with five new starters—none of which were with the program in 2009. This will increase the focus on junior Matt Harvey, who was disappointing last season, but has the raw ‘stuff’ to be one of the best Friday starters in the Nation.

18) Louisville
Senior Andrew Clark and junior Phil Wunderlich form a potent 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup, but they rotation lacks a true ace. If someone steps up to claim the Friday night role, the Cardinals could be dangerous.

19) East Carolina
Cape Cod League MVP keys an unproven offensive attack, and the Pirates have a solid rotation, but lack star material. They will be tough in Conference USA, but may not have enough to compete with the better teams from the top cpnferences.

20) San Diego
The Toreros are a team that is dominated by a deep and talented rotation that features Friday night starter, senior, A.J. Griffin, and two potential first round picks in juniors Kyle Blair and Sammy Solis. Blair is coming off of a solid summer on the cape, and this could be one of the best weekend rotations in the country.

21) Mississippi
The Rebels’ offense lacks true ‘star’ players, but it has the potential to be a devastating unit. Drew Pomeranz, a likely early first round pick in June, keys the rotation, but there is little quality behind him. This could make for a number of slugfests in 2010.

22) South Carolina
Senior Nick Ebert will provide plenty of firepower for the Gamecock offense, and Sam Dyson returns as the Friday night starter, looking to make amends for a disappointing 2009. If Dyson is able to hold down the front of the rotation, the pitching depth is impressive.

23) Ohio State
The Buckeyes return their top five offensive performers and their entire weekend rotation from a team that won the Big Ten in 2009, making expectations high in Columbus. Alex Wimmers, the junior right-hander, is potential first round material and was absolutely dominant toward the end of the 2009 season.

24) UCLA
The offense is shaky, as senior 1B, Justin Uribe’s .864 is the top returning OPS from 2009. The pitching however is another matter altogether, as sophomore Gerrit Cole is possibly the best pitching prospect in his class and Trevor Bauer and Rob Rasmussen are solid.

25) Georgia
No team on this list has been hit as hard by departures as the Bulldogs have. Their starting nine, in 2010, will consistent of seven sophomores and two freshman. This will put the spotlight on Friday night starter Justin Grimm, a likely first round draft pick in June, and closer, senior AlexMcRee. There isn’t a lot of experience behind Grimm, but there is substantial talent.

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