JUCO: Top 10 Teams

Juco : : Rankings
Allan Simpson        
Published: Monday, January 31, 2011

TOP 10 TEAMS, 2011

1. HOWARD / Texas (45-10 in 2010)
Critical injuries sidetracked the Hawks bid to repeat as national champs in 2010, but fireballing RHPs Derrick Bleeker (transfer from Arkansas) and Damien Magnifico (injured in 2010; Mets’ fifth-round pick in 2009) headline a deep pitching staff. Both pitchers were clocked at 97 mph in the fall. Florida International-bound Nathan Burns (.394-12-53, 29 SB) and Baylor transfer Tyler Collins, both outfielders, are offensive stalwarts. A key for the Hawks will be the continued emergence of Oklahoma-bound 3B/RHP Tony Calhoun (.356-9-56), who didn’t pitch as a freshman but was clocked at 94 mph in the fall.
2. SAN JACINTO /Texas (52-12 in 2010)
The Gators made a record 12thappearance in the national title game a year ago, and return ace LHP Miguel Pena (14-2, 2.51) and Ole Miss-bound C Ryan Hornback (.347-1-37), along with RHP Tommy Collier (2-0, 0.00) and LHP David Rollins (1-0, 3.52), who missed most of last year with season-ending injuries but combined for 21 wins in 2009. Key supplemental pieces include OF Jarrett Higgins (.317-5-35, 29 SB), Arkansas-bound LHP Tyler Wright (1-0, 4.50) and Southern Miss-bound RHP Cam Giannini (Liberty transfer).
The defending Florida JC state champs feature a nice mix of returning players like SS-turned-RHP Nick Goody (0-1, 2.55), an LSU recruit whose fastball was clocked at 94 mph in the fall, and 3B L.B. Dantzler (.286-1-21), MVP of the Florida Collegiate Summer League; transfers like ex-Florida RHP Ben Brown and ex-Central Florida 2B Anthony Caronia; and incoming freshmen like OF Rock Shoulders (Red Sox, 20throunder) and RHP/SS Luis Benitez (Blue Jays, 31st-rounder).
4. FEATHER RIVER / California (31-7 in 2010)
The Golden Eagles are mysteriously missing from the top of the California JC pre-season rankings, but feature the state’s top three returning hitters in OFs Dayton Alexander (.508-7-52) and Victor Mendoza (.500-10-52), and 2B Kyle Stone (.497-0-21). Texas Christian-bound RHP Cody Anderson (0-1, 3.21), a 17th-round pick in the 2010 draft whose fastball peaked at 94 mph in the fall, is the top-ranked prospect in the California juco ranks, and he’ll be complemented in the Feather River rotation by LHP Tyler Hoelzen (5-2, 1.66).
5. WALTERS STATE / Tennessee (42-9 in 2010)
The Senators have been a JC power since winning the 2006 national title. Power-hitting OF Cody Stubbs, a transfer from Tennessee and North Carolina recruit, could be a premium draft in June, and he’ll get plenty of offensive support from returning 1B and former Washington Nationals 15th-rounder Corey Davis (.346-3-39). RHP Chris Costantino (2-0, 3.77) returns for a full season after taking a medical red-shirt early in the 2010 season. His fastball was clocked at 93 mph in the fall. LHP Shane Grimm (7-0, 3.19) is a Kentucky recruit, while RHPs Cody Poarch (UNC Greensboro) and Jordan Cooper (Mississippi) are prominent D-I transfers. The Senators received a further shot in the arm after Christmas when OF Marcus Davis and RHP Dale Innes, both one-time top prep prospects, transferred in from Louisiana State and Clemson, respectively.
6. CENTRAL ARIZONA (46-20 in 2010)
Twelve players from CAC, the 2002 national champs, committed to NCAA D-I schools in the November early-signing period, led by rapidly-improving C Max Rossiter (.338-1-20, 19 2B), one of three Arizona State recruits, and highly-athletic Utah-bound OF Keenyn Walker (.299-2-16, 21 SB). Ex-Long Beach State 3B R.J. Santigate and ex-Texas 3B Jordan Weymouth lead an impressive wave of newcomers, while Southern California-bound RHP Zach Dando (4-2, 3.54) will step in the No. 1 starter and ASU-bound RHP Josh Dahl (3-1, 5.33) will close with his 95 mph fastball.
7. NAVARRO / Texas (39-20)
A wave of impressive newcomers should play key roles for the Bulldogs, notably 6-foot-6 ex-Oklahoma RHP Drew Verhagen, who has returned to full health and cranked his fastball up to 94 mph in the fall. He’ll join holdovers like 2B Christian Stringer (.352-6-32), ex-Texas C J.T. Files (.380-2-30) and ex-Houston 1B Casey Grayson (.344-4-31). Verhagen is a Vanderbilt recruit and one of nine Bulldogs who made commitments to Division I schools in the fall.
8. PALOMAR / California (24-15 in 2010)
The Comets feature North Carolina State-bound RHP Ryan Wilkins (6-3, 3.32), and numerous prominent transfers from Division I schools, notably ex-San Diego State OF Justin Bellez, ex-Arizona State SS Tyler Bernard and ex-Southern California 1B Casey Husband. Bellez and Bernard did not play as freshmen, but Bellez was clocked up to 95 mph in the fall and Bernard is a former 20th-rounder out of high school who is headed for Virginia Tech.
9. EASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE (37-22 in 2010)
The Mountaineers added two prominent freshman arms—RHP Jonathan Gray (Royals, 13th round), RHP Mason Justice (Red Sox, 21st round)—and transfer pitchers from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to a solid returning nucleus that includes Cal State Fullerton-bound SS Chris Munoz (.358-15-54, 27 SB, 6 SV as closer), and top winner Jesse Baird (9-2, 3.86). Baird, Gray, Wichita State-bound LHP Brandon Bargas (transfer from Oklahoma) and Justice should form a formidable four-man rotation, while Munoz, whose fastball has been clocked at 93 mph, will close.
10. MIDDLE GEORGIA (38-22 in 2010)
The four-time former national champs may have as much raw talent as any junior college team in the country, but much of it is untested. LHP Matt Taylor, a transfer from Alabama who has committed to Georgia, is the state’s best JC prospect and takes over the No. 1 spot in the rotation. Sophomore RHP Jesse Scott, another Georgia recruit, steps into the No. 2 spot. RHP/OF Demondre Arnold, a Tampa Bay draft pick out of high school who was clocked at 94 mph in the fall, and speedy OF Patrick Smith, a Boston draft pick, highlight an impressive freshman crop.
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