If sheer number of Perfect Game Preseason College All-Americans is any indication, Virginia could have an amazing campaign in store this spring.
The Cavaliers lead all college baseball teams with five players on our Preseason All-America first and second teams, with utility player Nick Howard and outfielder Derek Fisher leading the charge on the first team. Meanwhile, Brandon Downes and Mike Papi earned second team honors.
Interestingly, Papi is the lone Cavalier to earn All-American honors to end last season, while also beginning this year with equal expectations and honors.
Several other talented players are in the same situation as Papi. Indiana’s Kyle Schwarber, LSU’s Alex Bregman and Aaron Nola, Oregon State’s Michael Conforto, North Carolina State’s Carlos Rodon and Louisville’s Nick Burdi earned first team honors to end last season, while North Carolina State’s Trea Turner and UCLA’s David Berg earned second team honors, with Turner moving up to first team to begin 2014.
As for teams with representatives on the two All-America squads, Virginia clearly leads the way, with Oregon State (3), North Carolina State (2) and Indiana (2) trailing with some strong representatives.
Without further ado, the 2014 Preseason College All-Americans, based partly on previous production and always heavy on projection.
ALSO SEE: Where do the All-Americans stack up as prospects?
Photo: IU Athletics
Kyle Schwarber, Indiana
.366 AVG, 10 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR, 54 RBI, 42 BB, 37 SO
Several college baseball coaches have said Schwarber is the best pure hitter they’ve seen in many seasons. Schwarber, though, is a complete player in every sense of the word. Schwarber, ranked as the No. 7 prospect for the upcoming draft, is a 6-foot, 240-pounder, who’s extremely consistent offensively, good defensively and possesses plus raw power. With Schwarber and Travis in the middle of the Indiana lineup, there’s no doubt the Hoosiers are expected to make a return trip to the College World Series this spring.
Photo: IU Athletics
Sam Travis, Indiana
.316 AVG, 22 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 57 RBI, 39 BB, 33 SO
Travis didn’t receive as much fanfare as Schwarber last season. One reason for that is that he hit several points lower than Schwarber, but still managed to smack 10 homers and knock in 57 runs while nursing a broken hamate bone for much of the season. Travis, ranked No. 41 in our college prospects list, has big-time raw power and packs a punch in his 6-foot, 210-pound, frame. Entering the season 100-percent healthy and ready to go, look for Travis to tally very good offensive numbers this season.
Photo: Kansas State Athletics
Ross Kivett, Kansas State
.360 AVG, 15 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 39 RBI, 29 BB, 27 SO, 26 SB
If there’s a Johnny Football in college football, Kivett might just be that guy in college baseball. The consummate dirtbag baseball player, the outstanding senior middle infielder surprised many when he turned down the Cleveland Indians as a 10th-round pick this past summer to return for another campaign. Kivett is a good defender and brings a consistent and productive offensive approach to the table. The senior also possesses some speed, as indicated by his 26 stolen bases last season. K-State needed this key piece back to make a run at the CWS in June.
Photo: UCI Athletics Media Relations
Taylor Sparks, UC Irvine
.360 AVG, 11 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 6 BB, 40 SO, 7 SB
Sparks had one of the most impressive turnarounds in college baseball last season. As a freshman in 2012, he batted .202 with just three homers and 12 RBIs in 124 at bats. However, the rising junior hit .360 last season with big-time raw power. Sparks, who has a pro body at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, impressed observers this past summer and enters the spring as the nation’s No. 26 prospect.
Photo: NC State
Trea Turner, NC State
.368 AVG, 13 2B, 4 2B, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 38 BB, 31 SO, 30 SB
North Carolina State lefthanded pitcher Carlos Rodon might be the nation’s elite pitcher and prospect, and the headliner for the Wolfpack. But plenty of coaches out there would take Turner over anyone else in college baseball. Turner, a lanky 6-foot-1, 171-pounder, has exceptional speed, an advanced offensive approach and is a more than adequate defender. He’s truly one of the electrifying players in college baseball, and it’s a good reason why he’s our No. 3 prospect entering the season.
Photo: Ethan Erickson
Michael Conforto, Oregon State
.328 AVG, 14 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 41 BB, 47 SO, 6 SB
There are only a couple of hitters in college baseball that would be more feared than Conforto. Conforto is a pure hitter and has advanced skills in other areas, too. Conforto has an elite arm in left field, and offensively, he led the Beavers last season with big-time power despite hitting in a home ballpark that typically isn’t conducive to amazing power numbers. Conforto has a stocky/compact frame and is expected to have a productive spring as the nation’s No. 17 overall prospect.
Derek Fisher, Virginia
.293 AVG, 12 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 28 BB, 40 SO, 8 SB
Fisher has yet to live up to his full potential, but all the pieces are there to accomplish that goal as a junior this spring. Fisher is a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, who has an impressive skill set, most notably very solid raw power. Fisher should excel at the plate with plenty of help around him in this year’s Virginia lineup. For now, the talented junior is ranked the nation’s No. 6 college prospect.
Photo: USF Athletics
Bradley Zimmer, San Francisco
.320 AVG, 12 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 29 BB, 31 SO, 19 SB
Bradley’s brother, righthanded pitcher Kyle Zimmer, was a first-round pick in the MLB draft two summers ago. Bradley could be the next Zimmer to receive that honor should he put together a strong spring, which by the way, is expected. Zimmer has a very lengthy frame at 6-foot-5, 205-pounds and impressed scouts this past summer on the Cape Cod League with his ability to consistently put the bat on the ball. Zimmer has good instincts in the outfield, and also possesses above average speed.
Photo: Louisiana State
Alex Bregman, Louisiana State
.369 AVG, 18 2B, 7 3B, 6 HR, 52 RBI, 24 BB, 25 SO, 16 SB
Bregman had absolutely no problem meeting lofty expectations last season. Bregman entered the season as a heralded freshman and didn’t disappoint, displaying very good gap power, an advanced offensive approach, and of course, doing a nice job at the shortstop position. Bregman gets placed at the designated hitter spot because of Turner, but make no mistake about it, he’s an advanced overall player and likely the top MLB draft prospect for the 2015 college class.
Nick Howard, Virginia
.323 AVG, 3 HR, 38 RBI | 3.38 ERA, 61.3 IP, 52 K, 15 BB
Howard put together an impressive 2013 campaign for the Cavaliers, but UVa. head coach Brian O’Connor says he had an outstanding fall, particularly on the mound, and is ready to take the next step forward. Though Howard is listed as Virginia’s No. 3 starting pitcher going into the spring, he could be the team’s elite starter from a talent standpoint. All the tools are there for Howard to have dominant numbers both at the plate and on the mound in 2014.
Photo: NC State Athletics
Carlos Rodon, NC State
2.99 ERA, 132 1/3 IP, 184 K, 45 BB, .200 OPP BA
It really doesn’t get any better than Rodon in college baseball. Rodon has a physical frame at 6-foot-3, 234 pounds, and is incredibly difficult to hit, especially when he has the slider working from the left side. Rodon has a fastball into the mid-90s, a solid slider in the mid- to upper-80s, and a low-80s changeup that continues to develop. Assuming he has a good 2014 campaign, look for Rodon to be the top overall pick in the MLB draft next summer.
Photo: East Carolina
Jeff Hoffman, East Carolina
3.20 ERA, 109 2/3 IP, 84 K, 39 BB, .243 OPP BA
Though it remains a long shot in the eyes of many, Hoffman is one pitcher who could unseat Rodon as the top overall pick in next summer’s MLB draft. Hoffman, a 6-foot-4, 192-pounder, has elite stuff, and coach Billy Godwin feels like he has a chance to put all the puzzle pieces together once and for all this spring. Hoffman has a fastball anywhere from 94-97, with the ability to touch 98, while he possesses a good low-80s curveball and developing low-80s changeup. Perhaps no pitcher includes as much intrigue entering the spring as Hoffman.
Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt
2.32 ERA, 101 IP, 103 K , 63 BB, .187 OPP BA
The former Blue Jays first-round pick out of high school should emulate that selection next summer in the MLB draft, and for good reason. Beede is already one of the nation’s elite pitchers, and most would say he hasn't reached his full potential. Beede has a fastball anywhere from 90-95, along with an always-improving 80-83 curveball. Beede also has a very good changeup in the low-80s, but improved command is something he's striving for in '14. Beede is ranked the nation’s No. 5 college prospect.
Photo: Louisiana State
Aaron Nola, Louisiana State
1.57 ERA, 126 IP, 122 K, 18 BB, .188 OPP BA]
The Tigers had one of the nation’s best teams and rotations last season, and it should be much of the same this spring with Nola and lefthanded pitcher Cody Glenn leading the charge. Nola, a 6-foot-1, 183-pounder, is Mr. Command out on the mound, as evidenced by his incredibly low walk total from last season. From a stuff standpoint, Nola has a fastball that typically sits in the low-90s. However, he can get up to 94 at times. Meanwhile, his curveball sits in the upper-70s, along with a low-80s changeup.
Zech Lemond, Rice
2.02 ERA, 75 2/3 IP, 71 K, 21 BB, .207 OPP BA
The Owls have a tough decision on their hands entering the 2014 campaign. Head coach Wayne Graham has flirted with the idea of putting Lemond in the weekend rotation instead of a key relief role. However, the Owls, for now, are set on keeping the outstanding righthanded pitcher in the bullpen. Lemond is so valuable on the back-end of things with a low- to mid-90s fastball and outstanding spike curveball. Additionally, Lemond possesses a very deceptive motion.
Nick Burdi, Louisville
0.76 ERA, 35 2/3 IP, 62 K, 13 BB, .192 OPP BA
It’s not often a reliever is chosen in the top 10 picks of the MLB draft, but Burdi will put that consistent trend to the test next summer. Burdi, a strapping 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, will be very hard to turn down. He’s one of college baseball’s elite pitchers with a fastball in the mid- to upper-90s, touching 100 at times. He also possesses a slider in the low-90s and good overall stuff. Surprisingly, the UL coaching staff strongly believes Burdi will be even better as a junior than he was as a sophomore last season.
||Cal State Fullerton