PART II / Sophomores
PART III / Juniors: Coming Thursday
PART IV / Seniors: Coming Friday
NOTE: For a mid-season overview of the top 10 freshmen players and top 10 freshmen prospects overall in the 2009 college class, please link to Today’s Top 10. Player’s ranking in PG Crosschecker’s pre-season ranking of the nation’s Top 100 Freshmen is noted in parentheses.
Compiled by David Rawnsley
* Red-Shirt Freshman
1. Jeremy Schaffer, Tulane .336-6-32
2. John Hicks, Virginia .341-3-19
3. Nick Rickels, Stetson .283-3-25
4. C.J. Cron, Utah .294-4-21
5. Beau Taylor, Central Florida .341-3-11
COMMENT: None of the above five entered the 2009 season among the elite catching prospects in the freshman class, but it’s been very difficult for some of the top unsigned prospects from the 2008 high-school class to get at bats. The following seven highly-regarded catchers have combined for a total of only 158 at bats so far: Kyle Buchanan (Washington State), Taylor Hightower (Mississippi), Ben McMahan (Florida), Brandon Miller (Georgia Tech), Phil Pohl (Clemson), Jacob Stallings (North Carolina) and Jordan Swagerty (Arizona State).
FIRST BASE—TOP 5
1. Preston Tucker, Florida .359-7-45
2. Konstantine Diamaduros, Wofford .356-6-40
3. Ian Nielsen, Ball State .353-4-27
4. *Aaron Westlake, Vanderbilt .363-1-27, 28 R
5. Brandon Meredith, San Diego State (71) .288-2-31, 28 R
COMMENT: Tucker and Diamaduros are the obvious front-runners at this position. Given more playing time, such talents as Georgia’s Chase Davidson, USC’s Ricky Oropesa, Oklahoma’s Cam Seitzer and Mississippi’s Matt Snyder could soon emerge and provide more of a challenge. So could Virginia’s Danny Hultzen and Wake Forest’s Austin Stadler, who factor prominently on this list as two-way players. Tucker was a well-known bat in the Florida high school ranks but his quick adjustment to college baseball has been a pleasant surprise for Gator fans. His numbers are essentially the same as Wofford’s Diamaduros, who has a great name but largely flew under the radar a year ago as an outfielder at a local high school.
SECOND BASE—TOP 5
1. Matt Jensen, Cal Poly (96) .380-9-42, 12 2B, 23 BB
2. Levi Michael, North Carolina (57) .291-10-31, 20 BB
3. Ross Heffley, Western Carolina .429-2-25, 10 2B
4. Zach Miller, St. Louis .341-7-44
5. Adam McConnell, Richmond .358-1-14, 33 R, 16 SB
COMMENT: As an unsigned 11th-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners last June, Jensen was the obvious prospect in this year’s crop of freshmen second basemen, and he has lived up to expectations as the No. 1 offensive threat in the Cal Poly lineup. Michael wasn’t eligible for the 2008 draft because he was still, technically, a high-school junior, but has given the Tar Heels a big boost in the middle infield, both offensively and defensively, after transferring to North Carolina after Christmas. It’s hard to tell Jensen and Rice’s Anthony Rendon (the No. 1 freshman at third base) apart from their performance this season, and from talking to scouts about their tools. They should both be fixtures at the top of college All-America lists for the next 2 ½ years.
THIRD BASE—TOP 5
1. Anthony Rendon, Rice (21) .366-10-43, 19 BB, 30 R
2. Colby May, Georgia .363-9-34, 20 BB, 39 R
3. Steven Proscia, Virginia (66) .375-4-35, 15 2B
4. *Garrett Buechele, Oklahoma .401-4-30, 10 2B
5. Tyler Bream, Liberty .348-6-42, 14 2B
COMMENT: The hot corner is clearly the “hot” position in this year’s freshman class, and this list could easily extend to 12-14 legitimate candidates. As it is, there are three third basemen on the DH list below, and numerous others deserving of recognition who could easily move into the five-man mix by season’s end. Among the obvious are Vanderbilt’s Jason Esposito (.338-3-25, 16 SB) and Miami’s Harold Martinez (.301-5-34), both of whom could emerge as first-rounders by 2011. Charleston Southern’s Patrick Dolan (.357-6-26), LSU’s Tyler Hanover (.333-2-30) and Penn State’s Jordan Steranka (.395-3-32) have also enjoyed noteworthy freshmen seasons. Oddly, Arkansas’ Zack Cox (.244-4-16), the top-ranked prospect in the freshman third-base class at the start of the 2009 season, has struggled. Rendon is one of the best hitters in college baseball, not just in the freshman class. He can play any infield position and may eventually end up at second base. The 5-foot-6 Hanover should also move over to his more natural second base, even though he’s more than held his own playing out of position at third all spring. Bream and Buechele are the sons of ex-big leaguers Sid Bream and Steve Buechele.
1. Joe Panik, St. John’s .362-2-32, 16 BB/7 SO
2. Taylor Featherston, Texas Christian .364-2-19, 29 R
3. Ryan Wright, Louisville .344-2-30
4. *A.J. Pettersen, Minnesota .382-0-24, 40 R
5. Jeff Kemp, Radford .371-2-21
COMMENT: Shortstop, like catcher, has been a difficult position for freshmen to break into this year, although players like Anthony Rendon (3B), Harold Martinez (3B) and Levi Michael (2b) all have the tools to play there and may later in their college careers. Several other players who were earmarked to play prominent roles at shortstop for their teams this season have taken a different path. Vanderbilt’s Jason Esposito was moved to third base, Arizona State’s Riccio Torres has seen more time at first base and San Diego State’s Ryan O’Sullivan has split his time on the mound. Esposito, Torres and O’Sullivan were the top three shortstops entering the season. Featherston has struggled defensively too, at times, and been used more at second base recently, but has been a surprise with the bat.
1. Taylor Dugas, Alabama .413-2-19, 43 R
2. Kolten Wong, Hawaii .336-7-28, 30 R
3. Lee Orr, McNeese State .331-12-47, 31 R
4. Mike Martinez, Florida International .391-4-25
5. Jackie Bradley, South Carolina .301-6-19, 35 R
6. Kameron Brunty, Southern Miss .342-3-31
7. Jonathan Taylor, Georgia .330-0-9, 18 SB, 27 R
8. Tyler Sibley, Texas State .344-4-19, 46 R
9. George Springer, Connecticut .316-10-33, 31 R
10. Brian Humphries, Pepperdine (12) .271-2-29
COMMENT: Humphries is the only player on the above list who really excited scouts out of high school, and his college career is off to a solid, if unspectacular start at Pepperdine. Wong (Twins, 16th round) was actually drafted a round earlier than Humphries (Red Sox, 19th round), but like most of the other outfielders on this list is an undersized athlete with impressive tools who will have to prove himself at the college level. Wong is especially interesting as he can catch and play second base at a high level, and his power in Hawaii’s the spacious ball park is impressive. North Carolina A&T’s Xavier Macklin may have more impressive statistics (.378-5-28, 15 2B, 11 SB) than any freshman outfielder, but he was given only modest support as he compiled his numbers against inferior competition.
DESIGNATED HITTER—TOP 5
1. Troy Channing, St. Mary’s .411-15-49
2. Alex Dickerson, Indiana .388-10-39, 10 2B
3. Matt Skole, Georgia Tech .356-8-29
4. Nick Ramirez, Cal State Fullerton .336-6-23
5. Carlos Lopez, Wake Forest .292-10-29
COMMENT: Dickerson and Ramirez are actually filling true DH roles this year as freshmen, with Dickerson’s background being in the outfield and Ramirez’ at first base. Meanwhile, Channing, Skole and Lopez have spent a bulk of the 2009 season playing third base, and ended up being listed at a DH position because of the impressive depth of the third-base crop. All of them can mash, however. Channing and Skole could end up at first base by the end of their college careers. Channing, a 40th-round pick of the Seattle Mariners in last year’s draft, is leading all freshmen in both home runs and RBIs.
TWO-WAY PLAYER—TOP 5
1. Danny Hultzen, Virginia (5) 5-0, 2.39, 49 IP/63 SO; .356-0-20
2. Austin Stadler, Wake Forest (31) 3-3, 3.67, 41 IP/33 SO; .264-2-21
3. Randy McCurry, Oklahoma 1-2, 2.42, 6 SV, 22 IP/26 SO; .364-2-6
4. Brett Harris, Old Dominion 3-3, 4.47; 50 IP/33 SO; .296-0-12
5. Bo Reeder, East Tennessee State 2-3, 5.76, 29 IP; .331-9-29
COMMENT: Hultzen, who was scouted primarily as a lefthanded pitcher a year ago and may have signed had teams been willing to meet his seven-figure salary demands, stands out in this category. As a pitcher-first baseman at Virginia, he is bringing back memories of former Virginia supplemental first-round pick and two-way standout Sean Doolittle. McCurry’s background is interesting as he played at a small Oklahoma high school which played both spring and fall baseball. That enabled him to hit more than 100 home runs in his career, and yet his more valuable role this season at Oklahoma State has been on the mound, as a closer.
STARTING PITCHERS / Righthanders—TOP 15
1. Tyler Pill, Cal State Fullerton (25) 6-0, 2.85, 53 IP/7 BB/44 SO
2. Logan Verrett, Baylor 7-1, 3.79, 1 SV, 40 IP, 11 BB/50 SO
3. Eric Harrington, Lamar 6-0, 1.91, 47 IP/14 BB/39 SO
4. Trevor Bauer, UCLA (50) 5-3, 3.10, 52 IP/12 BB/49 SO
5. Jordan Cooper, Wichita State (23) 5-3, 2.52, 50 IP/11 BB/48 SO
6. Anthony Meo, Coastal Carolina 5-0, 2.11, 38 IP/35 SO
7. *Cole Cook, Pepperdine 5-2, 2.73, 50 IP/52 SO
8. Gerrit Cole, UCLA (1) 2-3, 4.15, 43 IP/15 BB/58 SO
9. Austin Dicharry, Texas (38) 3-1, 1.35, 33 IP/7 BB/32 SO
10. Noe Ramirez, Cal State Fullerton 4-1, 3.04, 50 IP/10 BB/44 SO
11. Tanner Peters, UNLV 4-2, 3.42, 50 IP/5 BB/44 SO
12. Derek Benny, Fresno State (55) 2-1, 3.70, 1 SV, 41 IP/10 BB/36 SO
13. Michael Goodnight, Houston 4-2, 3.63, 39 IP/ 31 SO
14. Tyler Ray, Troy 4-2, 3.66, 51 IP/39 SO
15. Tyler Anderson, Oregon 2-3, 3.15, 51 IP/45 SO
COMMENT: Not only has Pill, a 38th-round pick of the Texas Rangers a year ago, posted a perfect 6-0 record for Cal State Fullerton as a freshman, but he’s done it for a team that has played one of the toughest schedules in the country. Verrett, unheralded as a high-school senior, picked up the majority of his wins for Baylor out of the bullpen, but has been almost as effective as a starter. Few freshmen have seen their stock improve more among scouts. Noteworthy in the above list are UCLA’s freshmen duo of Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole, who have combined to go 7-5 while the rest of the Bruins staff is 6-14. Both pitchers have shown exceptional stuff and poise, and are in line to be first-rounders in 2011. Cole began the 2009 season as the nation’s top-ranked freshman.
STARTING PITCHERS / Lefthanders—TOP 10
1. Sean Gilmartin, Florida State (86) 6-1, 2.84, 50 IP/38 H/51 SO
2. Charlie Lowell, Wichita State (73) 5-1, 2.59, 41 IP/28 H/45 SO
3. Nick Routt, Mississippi State 4-2, 3.07, 56 IP/17 BB/58 SO
4. Chris Dwyer, Clemson (27) 4-2, 4.40, 47 IP/46 SO
5. Taylor Wall, Rice (54) 4-3, 4.07, 48 IP/46 SO
6. Blake Monar, Indiana (70) 4-2, 4.18, 47 IP/42 SO
7. Chris Matulis, Louisiana State 4-1, 4.41, 34 IP/29 SO
8. Ryan Carpenter, Gonzaga (48) 4-3, 4.64, 42 IP/45 SO
9. Aaron Gates, Pepperdine (61) 2-1, 3.00, 27 IP/32 SO
10. Brian Busch, Florida State 1-2, 4.12, 43 IP/36 SO
COMMENT: This may end up becoming the strength of the 2011 draft as each of these southpaws carries top prospect-type stuff to the mound, in addition to their ability to perform. Of course, Dwyer may not make it to 2011 as he is an unprecedented draft-eligible freshman and possesses one of the best curveballs in college baseball. Monar will also be eligible for the 2010 draft. Had he not already been positioned as the top two-way prospect in this year’s freshman class, Virginia’s Holtzen would have topped this list as well, adding even more depth. Hultzen was ranked No. 1 at the start of the year.
1. Mitch Lambson, Arizona State 5-2, 2.96, 2 SV, 45 IP/30 H/51 SO
2. Taylor Jungmann, Texas (4) 3-2, 1.26, 35 IP/19 H/38 SO
3. Matty Ott, Louisiana State 2-1, 2.73, 7 SV, 28 IP/2 BB/44 SO
4. Andrew Chafin, Kent State (90) 3-0, 1.16, 4 SV, 23 IP/36 SO
5. Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt (2) 2-0, 1.83, 4 SV, 19 IP/19 SO
COMMENT: Lambson and Jungmann have been invaluable to their teams working long relief during the first half of the season, and have thrown so well that they will likely be pitching more in starting roles the rest of the season and later in their college careers. Ott, on the other hand, is a true reliever with a sidearm release point and nasty stuff. He has been dominant as a closer for LSU. The future of Gray and Chafin are bright, whether they continue to use their power stuff out of the bullpen or, like Lambson and Jungmann, move into starting roles as sophomores. Gray and Jungmann ranked 1-2 among potential relievers at the start of the season.