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Everyone has an opinion about teams and players alike. And at Perfect Game, we're not an exception to that rule.
To best illustrate the preferences of PG colleagues David Rawnsley and Allan Simpson, and myself, we unveil our personal college baseball “dream team” as the college baseball season nears the final stretch.
The “dream team” isn’t necessarily filled with top prospects. It also shouldn’t be considered a precursor to the Perfect Game All-America team. But it’s a snapshot -- with analysis attached -- of the teams we’d put together at this point in the season if we were college head coaches.
There are both agreements and disagreements between the three of us. For instance, top draft prospects C Andrew Susac (Oregon State), P Gerrit Cole (UCLA) and 1B C.J. Cron (Utah) were on all three teams, while Rawnsley was the only one to include OF Adam Brett Walker (Jacksonville), Simpson was the only one to include UTI Austin Maddox (Florida) and myself the only to include CL Matt Price (South Carolina).
Each of our college baseball “dream teams” will be revisited at the conclusion of the 2011 season after the College World Series.
C Andrew Susac, Oregon State: Though he could be out the rest of the season with a hamate bone injury, Susac already has made the statement needed to be one of the top draft picks in June. He’s hitting .364 with four home runs and 25 RBIs. He also is slugging .614 with a 496 on-base percentage in addition to skills behind the plate.
1B C.J. Cron, Utah: When you’re being mentioned in the same breath as Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon in the feared department, you’re in good company. Cron is a big kid with a huge presence at the plate. He makes observers rise to their feet in many cases. The big bopper is hitting .478 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs He also is slugging .805 with a .541 on-base percentage.
2B Kolten Wong, Hawaii: Wong caught everyone’s attention last summer and hasn’t skipped a beat this spring with another strong campaign. Wong is hitting .389 with five home runs and 28 RBIs. He also is slugging .587 and has a .483 on-base percentage. Wong also has swiped 14 bases this spring.
SS Nolan Fontana, Florida: Stanford’s Kenny Diekroeger seems to be the sexy pick from my PG colleagues, but I’m going with personal preference here and choosing the talented Gators shortstop. Fontana is extremely smooth in the field and makes almost all the tough plays with a .951 fielding percentage. Oh yeah, he also has improved at the plate this season with a .308 average and a solid .430 OBP.
3B Anthony Rendon, Rice: Rendon could very well be the Owls’ designated hitter the rest of the season, but he’s still a third baseman to me. Rendon is one of those guys, like Cron, that has everyone’s undivided attention when he steps in the batter’s box. Rendon is hitting .349 with 10 doubles, three home runs and 21 RBIs in a “down” year. He also has a .553 OBP. Amazingly, Rendon has induced 57 walks (many of those intentional) and only has struck out on 21 occasions.
OF Jackie Bradley Jr., South Carolina: Bradley may not quite be Rendon or Cron at the plate, but he’s a hard-nosed player with a plethora of tools. And despite an up and down 2011 campaign, he’s still one of the premier hitters you’d want on a dream team. Bradley, though, is just hitting .275 with six home runs and 26 RBIs. He’s also slugging .496 and has a .380 OBP. Don’t be surprised to see Bradley get hot down the stretch.
OF Mikie Mahtook, LSU: The Tigers might be struggling overall at the plate, but the hard-hitting Mahtook is having a campaign to remember. He has increased his draft stock with impressive power production with the new bats. Mahtook is hitting a team-high .374 with seven doubles, three triples, 10 home runs and 36 RBIs. He also is slugging .724 with a .503 OBP. The Tigers could be lethal at the plate if others would rise to the occasion.
OF George Springer, Connecticut: There were some lofty expectations placed on Springer entering the season, but the top prospect hasn’t disappointed. Though he has a violent swing that could turn off some scouts, he absolutely crushes any pitch he gets ahold of, making him an incredibly fun player to watch. Springer is hitting a team-high .348 with 16 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 43 RBIs. He also is slugging .614 and has a .452 OBP.
DH Garrett Buechele, Oklahoma: The Sooners might be having some issues establishing consistency this season, but Buechele is not part of the equation. He had a great year at the plate in 2010 and has continued his successful ways this season. Buechele is hitting a team-best .391 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs. He also is slugging .570 and has a .473 OBP. Though Buechele isn’t considered an elite prospect, he’s a guy we believe will be successful at the next level.
SP Trevor Bauer, UCLA: Bauer has drawn comparisons to San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum because of his unorthodox motion and odd training techniques. Bauer also happens to have a nasty arsenal of pitches. The dominant right-hander is having another impressive campaign for the Bruins. He has a 1.47 ERA in 73 2/3 innings, and has struck out 110 and walked 23. Bauer also is limiting teams to a .148 batting average.
SP Gerrit Cole, UCLA: While Bauer is the unorthodox arm, Cole is best identified as the prototypical big-time arm. Cole has an impressive physique and can run it up to 98-100 mph on occasion. He, too, is having another great campaign. Cole has a 2.22 ERA in 65 innings, and has struck out 75 and walked 11. Cole also is holding opposing teams to a .188 average. With another strong spring, it’s believed Cole could ascend to the No. 1 pick in the June draft.
SP Danny Hultzen, Virginia: Hultzen hit the weight room hard in the offseason and it has shown this season. Hultzen has a few more ticks on his fastball, sitting 93-95 mph against Georgia Tech two weekends ago. He also is having a dominant campaign for the Cavaliers. Hultzen has a 1.17 ERA in 61 1/3 innings, and has struck out 99 and walked 10. Opponents are hitting him at just a .178 clip. With the great spring, Hultzen definitely has increased his draft stock.
RP Cody Martin, Gonzaga: He’s not going to get a lot of headlines because of where he’s located in the Pacific Northwest, but Martin is an absolute stud out of the pen for the Bulldogs. Martin has made 15 appearances, recorded seven saves and has a fabulous 0.76 ERA in 35 1/3 innings. He also has struck out 48 and walked 10 and teams are hitting him at just a .161. He just oozes consistency, which is exactly what you want from a reliever.
RP Branden Kline, Virginia: Much of the talk this spring has been about the fast increasing draft stock of Hultzen, but also keep an eye on Kline for next year’s draft. The talented right-hander is having a fantastic campaign as the Cavaliers’ top reliever. He has appeared in 17 games, recorded 11 saves and has a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings. Kline also has struck out 32 and walked six and teams are hitting .190 against him.
RP Nick Maronde, Florida: The Gators have a plethora of relievers that could fit this mold nicely, but Maronde was outstanding when we saw him earlier this season against LSU. Maronde was clocked at 94-95 mph against the Tigers and has compiled impressive numbers. He has appeared in 17 games and has a 2.61 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 33 and walked five while teams are hitting just .208 against him.
CL Matt Price, South Carolina: When it comes to relievers or closers that are tough as nails, it simply doesn’t get better than Price. Price isn’t rattled by any situation and is very consistent out of the pen. The talented sophomore has appeared in 20 games, recorded 11 saves and has a 2.36 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. He also has struck out 37 and walked six and teams are hitting .196 against him. Chances are great if the Gamecocks have a lead with Price on the mound.
UTI Nick Ramirez, Cal State Fullerton: The first thing that stands out about Ramirez is his physical presence. He’s a big kid with a plethora of power. But outside of the power, he’s a pretty good baseball player, too. Ramirez has appeared in 12 games on the mound and has a 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings. He has struck out 18 and walked five and teams are hitting just .171 against him. Ramirez was 86-87 mph with his fastball against TCU earlier this season. At the plate, Ramirez is a candidate to get hot down the stretch, hitting just .280 with four home runs and 27 RBIs.
1B Aaron Westlake, Vanderbilt: Westlake has been fantastic the entire season, but he particularly caught our attention against South Carolina last weekend when he put little effort into a home run that went a great distance. Westlake is a physical presence and is a guy to watch down the stretch. He’s hitting .380 with 12 doubles, six home runs and 28 RBIs. He’s also slugging .613 with an impressive .491 OBP.
SP Taylor Jungmann, Texas: For our final bench spot, it only was fair to go with the most elite player available. That’s Jungmann. The talented right-hander, who has been consistently throwing 92-93 mph this season, is having an amazing campaign for the Longhorns. He has a 1.11 ERA in 72 2/3 innings, and has struck out 63 and walked nine. Jungmann also is limiting teams to a .173 average. He’s a certain top-10 pick in the upcoming draft.
C Andrew Susac, Oregon State: OSU has gone completely en fuego with sweeps of Stanford and Arizona State since Susac broke his hamate bone, but that isn’t an addition by subtraction situation. The draft-eligible sophomore is still the top performer and top prospect among college catchers.
1B C.J. Cron, Utah: Cron’s production is pretty absurd in the current college hitting environment and it would be hard to argue he isn’t the best present hitter in college baseball. As perspective, his teammates have only hit six home runs combined. We can ignore his sore shoulder and say that he’s our backup catcher, too.
2B Kolten Wong, Hawaii: The diminutive Hawaiian should be an ideal leadoff hitter even without the pop in his bat as he both draws walks and runs well. While his shortcoming on this roster is that he isn’t a qualified backup shortstop, Wong was an outstanding catching prospect in high school and could fill in there if needed.
SS Kenny Diekroeger, Stanford: There really aren’t any college shortstops who combine high level prospect status with inspiring performance, although sophomore Diekroeger is hardly an automatic out at the plate. His tools and potential get him the nod over others such as Nolan Fontana and Austin Nola. He gets a bonus point for having attended the same high school as me.
3B Cory Spangenberg, Indian River CC: It was tempting to put Oklahoma’s Garrett Buechele here, but Spangenberg’s left handed bat, speed and Division I accomplishments as a freshman (.370-11-49, 24 SB’s) at VMI override his current JC status.
OF George Springer, Connecticut: Springer got some negative attention for a slow start but is hitting .344-4-37 with 21 extra base hits and 15 steals. That’s plenty of performance to go with an even higher physical ceiling.
OF Adam Brett Walker, Jacksonville: Walker is one of only two non-draft eligible players on this team, but it’s hard to overlook a 6-5, 225 lb. athlete who’s hitting .418-9-51, along with a perfect 9-9 in steals. This is a big, physical and talented outfield!
OF Mikie Mahtook, LSU: LSU’s recent struggles have somewhat obscured what is a Player of the Year candidate season from the Tiger centerfielder. In addition to some great offensive production, Mahtook has been fabulous in the field.
DH Anthony Rendon, Rice: I’m a bit worried about Rendon’s lack of power this year, which likely is linked at least in part to his shoulder issues. But opposition pitchers can’t blatantly pitch around him in this line up. A healthy Rendon can obviously play third base and probably even fill in at shortstop or second base in a lineup.
SP Gerrit Cole, UCLA: Cole’s numbers don’t measure up to the other starters, but think about King Felix Hernandez as a comparison. Cole’s stuff and draft status (consensus #1 pick) earn him the role as the Big Dog in this rotation.
SP Danny Hultzen, Virginia: Hultzen could lay claim to Cole’s lead spot based on his Player of the Year performance and he won’t go more than a couple of picks later in the draft, either. Don’t forget that Hultzen can contribute as a pinch hitter/defensive replacement on this team.
SP Taylor Jungmann, Texas:/Matt Barnes, Connecticut: Jungmann and Barnes are virtually interchangeable as pitchers in effectiveness and probably in scout’s eyes as well. Both could be top 5 picks in the right draft year but either or both could conceivably slide out of the top 10 in this draft class.
RP Trevor Bauer, UCLA: Bauer vs. Barnes for the 4th starter role came down to the fact that Barnes is more mature in his command and pitchability. Bauer is still at the young David Cone stage, where he seems to want to embarrass everyone with nasty unhittable pitches.
RP John Stilson, Texas A&M: Stilson was arguably the best pitcher in the country last year as a reliever, although his stuff has held up plenty well as a starter in 2011. On a roster lacking in backup middle infielders, he could also spell Diekroeger in an emergency at shortstop.
RP Andrew Chafin, Kent State: Chafin gets the nod over Georgia Tech’s Jed Bradley, who will likely get drafted higher, based on superior performance this year and the fact that he closed as a freshman in 2009.
CL Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt: Gray fits the closer role better than other top line pitchers in college baseball, especially as he has a true strikeout pitch in his curveball. The closer “attitude” should not be a problem, either.
UTI Brooks Pinckard, Baylor: Pinckard is one of the fastest players in college baseball, so he’s an ideal late inning pinch runner for Cron or Susac. He’s also a left-handed hitter, a rarity on this roster. Of course, Pinckard throws 93-95 mph sinkers off the mound, although poor command has hurt him this spring.
UTI Nick Ramirez, Cal State Fullerton: Ramirez fills a couple of very valuable roles off the bench as a left-handed hitter with power and as an experienced closer who can get left handed hitters out. Florida’s Brian Johnson could have filled this spot, too.
1B Christian Walker, South Carolina: Walker is the best hitter on what might be the country’s best team. His low maintenance but powerful swing is perfect for pinch hitting and he moves to first base if a healthy Cron moves behind the plate for a game or to DH if Rendon is playing in the field.
C Andrew Susac, Oregon State: Susac has clearly established himself as the best all-round catcher in the 2011 college draft class with his combination of a strong, durable frame, natural athleticism, solid catch-and-throw skills and improving offensive tools. He has been a force at the plate this spring for the Beavers, leading the team in batting, slugging and on-base average, and would be a middle-of-the-order presence on this team.
1B C.J. Cron, Utah: Though he was used extensively as a catcher in his first two years at Utah, Cron’s superior bat and suspect defensive skills behind the plate has made his full-time transition to first base a well-timed move this spring. Able to concentrate on hitting only, Cron has become the most-feared offensive player in this year’s college class with his superior plate coverage, serious raw power to all fields and acute sense of strike-zone discipline.
2B Kolten Wong, Hawaii: Pound for pound, there may not be a better prospect in the 2011 draft class than the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Wong. He solidified his status as a potential first-rounder last summer in the Cape Cod League with an MVP season. Wong played a variety of positions in his first two years at Hawaii, but settled in at second base on the Cape, and not only responded with a big season in the field, but also at the plate and on the bases. He has polished hitting skills from the left side, and surprising pop for a player his size.
SS Kenny Diekroeger, Stanford: An unsigned 2009 second-rounder, Diekroeger has the whole package to emerge as an elite pick in the 2012 draft. He has excellent bat speed along with a polished plate approach; he also has smooth actions in the field to go with a smart, savvy approach and excellent instincts. Though his range is adequate by shortstop standards, Diekroeger’s quickness in the field makes him better suited for third base, and he could become a natural at that position as his raw power evolves.
3B Anthony Rendon, Rice: Rendon was the early front-runner to go first overall in the 2011 draft, but his junior season has been marked by a nagging shoulder injury that has limited his time in the field and compromised his effectiveness at the plate. It’s just the latest injury that has impacted Rendon’s career as he missed the last two summers with Team USA with season-ending ankle injuries. Rendon’s power and hitting ability grade out as plus-plus tools, and he is easily one of the top hitters in the college game in the last decade. He hit .388-20-72 as a Rice freshman and .394-26-85 with 65 walks in 63 games as a sophomore, but his latest injury and a change in bat standards have seen his 2011 numbers suffer appreciably. Defensively, Rendon is not flashy but very steady. He made only five errors at third base in 2010.
OF Jackie Bradley Jr., South Carolina: Undrafted and largely overlooked by colleges out of a Virginia high school three years ago, Bradley was the centerpiece of South Carolina’s 2010 national-championship team, earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the College World Series. Despite his modest 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame, Bradley is a legitimate first-round pick with five-tool talent. He generates good bat speed from the left side, and projects to be an above-average hitter with average power. If anything, Bradley excels defensively. He has a chance to be an elite defender in center field with a strong, accurate arm.
OF George Springer, Connecticut: The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Springer has an elite combination of power and speed, and may rank as the top five-tool athlete in this year’s draft. He hit .337-18-62 and was successful on 33 of 35 stolen-base attempts as a sophomore at Connecticut. He was a little slow rounding into top form this spring, but Springer soon showcased his outstanding bat speed and huge raw power potential. His speed is also above-average, and he uses it well on the bases for a player his size. Defensively, Springer projects as an above-average center fielder with above-average arm strength, but he would be relegated to left field on this team in deference to Bradley and Mahtook. While Springer’s ceiling may be higher than anyone in the 2011 college draft class, he may have farther to go to reach it than any of the other elite prospects.
Mike Mahtook, LSU: Mahtook struggled in adapting to wood last summer in the Cape Cod League and with Team USA, but has enjoyed a breakthrough junior season at the plate for LSU, solidifying his status as a legit first-rounder in June. He is a complete package with superior athletic ability. While more than capable of playing center field on almost any team at the next level, he would defer to Bradley at that position on this team.
DH Alex Dickerson, Indiana: A rare California high-school talent who ended up attending college in the upper Midwest, Dickerson had a big 2010 season at the plate, hitting .419-24-75 and leading the Big Ten Conference in all three Triple Crown categories. He continues to sting the ball this spring with pure hitting skills in his easy, yet powerful left-handed swing. He should hit for both average and power down the road. The rest of Dickerson’s tools are limited and he would profiles as no better than a DH on this team.
SP Jed Bradley, Georgia Tech: The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Bradley asserted himself as a premium lefty last summer by leading the Cape Cod League in strikeouts, and has been equally dominant through the first half of the 2011 season for Georgia Tech. Bradley has very fluid mechanics and solid command of three pitches (a 93-94 mph fastball, slider, changeup), and is extremely advanced for a pitcher that went undrafted out of high school.
SP Gerrit Cole, UCLA: An unsigned first-round pick in 2008, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Cole has more than lived up to the hype since picking UCLA, the national runner-up a year ago, over the New York Yankees. Cole has the most electric stuff in college baseball with a fastball that routinely sits in the mid-90s and will top out in triple digits on occasion. He complements his fastball with a high-80s slider that ranks among the best off-speed pitches in the amateur ranks and his changeup has developed this spring into a dominant third pitch. Cole’s clean delivery, aggressive makeup and more-mature approach to pitching this spring have only served to round out his package, and he is a natural ace of this college all-star squad.
Danny Hultzen, Virginia: Hultzen is an early candidate for college player-of-the-year honors as he has been a force for No. 1-ranked Virginia both on the mound and at the plate (mostly as a DH). Though he would serve a valuable two-way role on this roster-challenged team, scouts see Hultzen only as a pitcher, and he has significantly enhanced his draft stock this spring by bumping his fastball consistently into the mid-90s and improving the command of his secondary stuff (slider, changeup).
RP Trevor Bauer, UCLA: Bauer skipped his senior year of high school to enroll at UCLA a year ahead of schedule, and has had little trouble transitioning to a faster level of play. He is on pace to lead the nation in strikeouts for a second straight season. Unlike his UCLA teammate Cole, the slightly-built Bauer does not have overpowering stuff with a fastball that generally sits in the 88-92 mph range, and he would be challenged to crack the starting rotation on this pitching-rich club. Bauer has superior command of four major-league quality pitches, however, and would excel in any role.
RP Adam Conley, Washington State: Conley saved 12 games as WSU’s primary closer in 2010 and pitched mostly in relief as a freshman and sophomore for the Cougars. Though installed as his team’s Friday starter this spring --mainly on the basis of need -- Conley has excelled in every role, and would fit nicely in a variety of relief responsibilities on this team. Conley has a quick, live, loose arm and can throw strides with uncanny routine. His explosive fastball frequently reaches 95-96 mph, but he profiles a relief role because of the violence in his delivery and modest secondary stuff.
RP John Stilson, Texas A&M: The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Stilson set a school record and led the nation with a 0.80 ERA as a Texas A&M sophomore, while going 9-1 with 114 strikeouts in 79 innings. He has been just as dominant this season for the Aggies in a starting role. While Stilson has excellent stuff with a fastball in the 93-98 mph range that peaks at 99 when used in short bursts, along with a solid changeup, there is significant violence in his delivery that raise questions about his durability if used as a starter over the long haul. His extremely competitive makeup also seems ideal for a role with a game on the line.
CL Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt: Gray might rank alongside Cole as the elite right-hander in this year’s college crop were he not a sub-six-footer. But there is no overlooking his big arm, superior athletic ability and instinctive feel for pitching. As a starter, Gray runs his fastball at a steady 92-97 mph with excellent cutting and sinking action. He also has sound command of an exceptional breaking ball and developed better feel this spring of an 82-85 mph changeup. With his smaller size and the extra effort he generates in his delivery, Gray would be the ideal target to close on this club and there is little doubt he would make a seamless transition to the role as his fastball has reached 99 mph on the rare occasions that he has been used in brief outings. His intense, competitive approach would also be an attribute there.
C James McCann, Arkansas: With his superior defensive skills, refined mechanics and take-charge approach, McCann could catch in the big leagues right now. He is in a class of his own defensively among college catchers. Though somewhat challenged offensively, McCann has raw power potential and would be an ideal backup on this team.
SS Deven Marrero, Arizona State: Marrero is a smart, instinctive ball player and plays the game effortlessly. He has a solid feel for all aspects of shortstop play and is an elite defender with a superior arm. Marrero continues to get better at the plate with experience, and has started turning on balls more consistently as a sophomore at Arizona State. Though just second-year players, Marrero and Diekroeger are the best shortstop prospects in the college game, and would battle it out for playing time on this team.
UTI Austin Maddox, Florida: With only a 19-man roster, versatility is at a premium on this club and there may be no more versatile player in the college game than Maddox, who has been used at catcher, both infield corners and on the mound in short stints in his brief career at Florida. No matter where Maddox is used, a team would be wise to make maximum use of his raw power potential, the best on the Gators roster, and his pure arm strength. In limited use as a pitcher for the Gators, Maddox has been clocked consistently in the mid-90s.
Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at email@example.com