College : : Story
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

College Top 25: Team breakdowns

Kendall Rogers        

ALSO SEE: Preseason College All-Americans | Preseason chat transcriptCollege Baseball Preview index

1. Virginia

Head coach: Brian O’Connor

Conference: Atlantic Coast

2013 record: 50-12 (22-8 ACC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached Charlottesville Super Regional (lost to Mississippi State)

Top returning hitters: 1B Mike Papi (.381-7-57), SS Branden Cogswell (.346-0-22), OF Joe McCarthy (.336-4-51), UTI Nick Howard (.323-3-38), OF Brandon Downes (.316-10-59), 3B Kenny Towns (.290-7-44), OF Derek Fisher (.293/7/48)

Top returning pitchers: LHP Brandon Waddell (3.15, 91 1/2 IP, 70K/28BB), RHP Josh Sborz (1.98, 30 appearances, 47K/12BB), RHP Whit Mayberry (2.45, 51.1 IP, 34K/9BB), RHP Nick Howard (3.38, 61.1, 52K/15BB), LHP Nathan Kirby (6.06, 32.2, 37K/13BB). The Cavaliers also welcome back veteran pitcher Artie Lewicki, who missed last season with an injury.

Freshman to watch: The Cavaliers welcome some talented freshmen to the squad this spring, but keep a very close eye on C Matt Thaiss and RHP Connor Jones. Thaiss, ranked No. 105 out of high school, put together a strong fall and could very well start for the Cavaliers, while Jones is one of the nation’s elite young arms, ranked No. 17 out of high school with a fastball up to 93 and advanced overall feel for his pitches. It’s not out of the question Jones joins the UVa. weekend rotation at some point this season.

2014 Prospects to watch: OF Derek Fisher (14), OF Brandon Downes (58), 3B/RHP Nick Howard (84), OF Mike Papi (77), SS Branden Cogswell (212).

Why they’re feeling good: We know, we know, the ACC hasn’t won a national title since Wake Forest accomplished that feat a long time ago. However, the Cavaliers have all the key pieces needed to make that step forward and bring the crown back to the conference and Commonwealth of Virginia. The Cavaliers have a balanced weekend rotation with a deep pitching staff, along with arguably one of the most talented offensive lineups we’ve seen in a long time. On paper, there’s not anything we particularly don’t like about this club.

Notebook: With Artie Lewicki (Tommy John surgery) and Branden Cogswell (broken finger) back healthy from injuries that occurred last season, the Cavaliers enter the campaign very healthy. Lewicki should be a solid senior sign for some professional organization out there with a fastball anywhere from 87-92, and plenty of experience … Derek Fisher is finally expected to make that next step into one of the nation’s elite overall hitters. The PG Preseason All-American is very athletic and ran a 6.35 60-yard-dash on Scout Day during fall workouts. He’s got a fluid lefthanded swing with plenty of pop … Last but not least, keep a very close eye on sophomore pitcher Nathan Kirby. Kirby struggled at times last season, but had a strong fall and is a potential first or second-round type of arm for the 2015 draft. He has good overall stuff, but his best offering is a 90-94 fastball.

2. Cal State Fullerton

Head coach: Rick Vanderhook

Conference: Big West

2013 record: 51-10 (23-4)

2013 accomplishment: Reached the NCAA Super Regional round

Top returning hitters: UTI J.D. Davis (.318-4-50), SS Matt Chapman (.285-5-37), OF Austin Diemer (.311-0-12).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Justin Garza (2.03, 115 IP, 95K/17BB), RHP Thomas Eshelman (1.48, 115.2 IP, 83K/3BB), RHP Grahamm Wiest (3.27, 104.2 IP, 76K/13BB).

Freshman to watch: The Blue Jays were spurned a few years ago by righthanded pitcher Tyler Beede, who’s now a junior pitcher at Vanderbilt. Now, they’ve got another one in Cal State Fullerton freshman righty Phil Bickford. Bickford will begin the season as midweek starter, but things could evolve rather quickly if he makes a smooth transition. Bickford, ranked No. 11 out of high school, has a fastball in the low-90s, with exceptional command.

2014 Prospects to watch: SS Matt Chapman (27), OF/RHP J.D. Davis (74).

Why they’re feeling good: With the departures of Carlos Lopez and Michael Lorenzen, among others, there’s no doubt there’s at least some concern about the Titans from an offensive standpoint. However, they welcome back one of the nation’s elite weekend rotations and are very well setup from a pitching standpoint. The Titans also have a lot of experience at some very key positions.

Notebook: Cal State Fullerton senior catcher Jared Deacon is ready to have a solid campaign. Deacon hit .300 in 50 at bats last season, and had a good fall. He’s a solid contact hitter, good leader and has good defensive skills … Matt Chapman has power to all fields and is a hitter with much upside. But the question remains with him: What’s his role at the next level? Some think Chapman will be a third baseman, others a shortstop. But then there’s the possibility of him pitching. Chapman has a plus-90s type of arm on the mound, and could be used as a reliever as some point this year. 

3. Oregon State

Head coach: Pat Casey

Conference: Pacific 12

2013 record: 52-13 (24-6 Pac 12)

2013 accomplishment: Reached the College World Series

Top returning hitters: OF Dylan Davis (.335-5-61), 2B Andy Peterson (.333-0-28), OF Michael Conforto (.328-11-47), 3B Kavin Keyes (.316-2-34).

Top returning pitchers: LHP Ben Wetzler (2.25, 96 IP, 83K/32BB), RHP Andrew Moore (1.79, 131 IP, 72K/28BB), LHP Jace Fry (4.70, 7.2 IP, injured most of last season), LHP Max Engelbrekt (1.30, 22 apps., 27.2, 20K/10BB), RHP Scott Schultz (2.08, 43.1 IP, 34K/8BB).

Freshman to watch: The Beavers will have one of the nation’s elite freshman pitchers this season with righthander Chandler Eden leading the way. Eden had a terrific fall for Pat Casey’s club, sitting 94-96 with his fastball, along with a plus curveball and average changeup. Still has room to grow his frame, but overall, an advanced pitcher for his age.

2014 Prospects to watch: OF Michael Conforto (15), OF/RHP Dylan Davis (45), LHP Jace Fry (36), LHP Ben Wetzler (106).

Why they’re feeling good: Oregon State head coach Pat Casey has a few concerns about offensive production, and mostly, the middle infielder with the departure of Tyler Smith. However, Andy Peterson has a good hold on things and the Beavers should be fine in this department. The pitching staff will be one of the nation’s best, and is a big reason why OSU is No. 3 preseason.

Notebook: We talked about OSU’s middle infield entering the season. Peterson has always been a fluid defender, but he also made some nice strides offensively during the fall. Meanwhile, shortstop Trevor Morrison really developed nicely at shortstop going into spring workouts … Andrew Moore might not be a tall pitcher, but there’s a lot of versatility in that arm. He’s consistently around the strike zone and has a fastball anywhere from 87-93 … Lefty Ben Wetzler is a bonafide ace pitcher for the Beavers, but he spent much of the fall developing better action on his changeup. Additionally, it’s interesting to know that he can throw his slider at three different speeds … Oregon State gets one of its biggest tests of the year in week two with a single game against No. 4 Indiana.

4. Florida State

Head coach: Mike Martin

Conference: Atlantic Coast

2013 record: 47-17 (20-10 ACC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached the NCAA Super Regional round

Top returning hitters: OF DJ Stewart (.364-5-59), 3B Jose Brizuela (.324-4-44), 1B John Nogowski (.277-2-33), SS Justin Gonzalez (.278-1-2).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Luke Weaver (2.29, 98.1 IP, 119K/19BB), LHP Brandon Leibrandt (3.44, 89 IP, 77K/30BB), RHP Peter Miller (3.55, 58.1 IP, 47K/21BB), RHP Mike Compton (out last season with an injury), RHP Gage Smith (2.41, 35 apps, 34K/8BB), RHP Jameis Winston (3.00, 17 apps, 21K/12BB).

Freshman to watch: FSU assistant coach Mike Martin Jr. spent much of the fall raving about infielder Ben DeLuzio. DeLuzio was a third round draft pick by the Miami Marlins last summer, and it’s easy to see why they liked him so much. DeLuzio can play multiple positions, is athletic and has a good bat for the Seminoles. DeLuzio was ranked No. 237 out of high school with a 6.56 60-yard-dash at the PG National Showcase.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Luke Weaver (28), RHP Peter Miller, LHP Brandon Leibrandt

Notebook: FSU is excited entering the spring with the return of Justin Gonzalez and Mike Compton from injuries. Additionally, the Seminoles enter the spring relatively healthy. RHP Peter Miller showed a lot more consistency during fall workouts and is ready for a huge season, while Leibrandt is a very solid pitcher despite only being 84-88 with his fastball, along with a changeup and curveball … Keep a very close eye on righty Luke Weaver. Weaver starred for Team USA this past summer and is ready for a monster junior campaign. Weaver tops out at 94-95 with his fastball, sits 88-92 and has developed a slider to go with a good changeup … FSU two-way player Jameis Winston earned plenty of recognition during the college football season for winning the Heisman Trophy. Now, the two-way and two-sport star hopes to shine on the baseball diamond. Though Winston’s primary role is as a reliever, he could also once again see time in the field.

5. Indiana

Head coach: Tracy Smith

Conference: Big Ten

2013 record: 49-16 (17-7 Big Ten)

2013 accomplishment: Reached the College World Series

Top returning hitters: 3B Dustin DeMuth (.377-5-41), C Kyle Schwarber (.366-18-54), OF/DH Scott Donley (.358-5-61), 1B Sam Travis (.316-10-57), OF Casey Smith (.309-5-34)

Top returning pitchers: LHP Joey DeNato (2.52, 103.2 IP, 87K/43BB), LHP Will Coursen-Carr (1.93, 65.1 IP, 37K/27BB), LHP Kyle Hart (3.01, 83.2 IP, 50K/27BB), RHP Ryan Halstead (2.89, 11 saves, 43.2 IP, 48K/12BB), RHP Scott Effross (2.44, 62.2 IP, 34K/13BB).

Freshman to watch: The Hoosiers have the unique situation where they won’t have to rely much at all on first-year players at key positions. With that said, there are some young players to watch, including 6-foot-7, 200-pound, righthanded pitcher Jacob Kelzer, as well as talented shortstop Austin Cangelosi, who joins Nick Ramos at that position. Kelzer was considered a high follow prospect out of high school, while Cangelosi was one of the top 1,000 prospects nationally as a senior.

2014 Prospects to watch: C/OF Kyle Schwarber (18), 1B Sam Travis (116), 3B Dustin DeMuth.

Notebook: Getting back to Omaha after shocking the nation isn’t always so easy, but the Hoosiers have all the experience and talent in the world to once again accomplish the feat. IU has the unique situation of starting three lefthanded pitchers in the weekend rotation, while talented senior closer Ryan Halstead chose to return for another season despite getting drafted in the 26th round by the Minnesota Twins last summer. The same goes for 3B Dustin DeMuth, who turned down 8th-round overtures from the Twins to return for another season … Keep an eye on LSU-Eunice transfer and second baseman Casey Rodrigue. He put together a strong fall for the Hoosiers and is expected to have quite an impact this spring … In the outfield, keep an eye on veteran Will Nolden, who has offensive potential, and of course, is a solid defender with a plus arm.

6. Mississippi State

Head coach: John Cohen

Conference: Southeastern

2013 record: 51-20 (16-14 SEC)

2013 accomplishment: National runner-up

Top returning hitters: 3B Alex Detz (.318-1-31), 2B Brett Pirtle (.310-2-33), Wes Rea (.291-7-40), OF C.T. Bradford (.281-1-27).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Jonathan Holder (1.65, 34 apps, 21 saves, 90K/17BB), LHP Ross Mitchell (1.53, 34 apps, 94 IP, 44K/29BB), RHP Ben Bracewell (1.76, 30.2 IP, 28K/12BB), RHP Trevor Fitts (3.03, 29.2, 26K/9BB), RHP Brandon Woodruff (injured some last season, 4.34, 18.2 IP, 15K/9BB), LHP Jacob Lindgren (4.18, 56 IP, 65K/18BB).

Freshman to watch: The Bulldogs could very well have a true freshman in the weekend rotation in talented righthander Dakota Hudson. Hudson, an elite prospect out of high school, had a strong fall for State. He sits 90-93 with his fastball, but can touch 95 on the radar gun. Additionally, he has a large 6-foot-5, frame, and produces some serious tilt on his pitches. The righty has a 79-82 breaking ball that serves as a true swing and miss pitch.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Brandon Woodruff (119), LHP Jacob Lindgren (209), RHP Jonathan Holder (239).

Notebook: The Bulldogs have several intriguing pitchers to watch this season. And while Hudson could very well start in the weekend rotation, also keep an eye on sophomore righthander Paul Young. Young is 91-93 with his fastball and has a low-80s slider that serves as a swing and miss offering … Brandon Woodruff could very well be one of the great stories of college baseball season. Woodruff suffered an injury just a few games in last season, but now is healthy and sitting 92-93 with his fastball, and up to 95 at times. He also possesses an 80-82 slider, 72-76 curveball and has an 82-84 changeup … The Bulldogs have the tough chore of replacing slider specialist and reliever Chad Girodo, but keep an eye on lefty Jacob Lindgren. Lindgren could be a very versatile arm for the Bulldogs this season with a fastball 91-93, up to 95, plus a mid-80s slider …  Lastly, keep an eye on talented shortstop Matthew Britton. Britton, who’s likely to take over at shortstop for Adam Frazier, had a good fall with increased strength and consistency.

7. South Carolina

Head coach: Chad Holbrook

Conference: Southeastern

2013 record: 43-20 (17-12 SEC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Super Regional

Top returning hitters: 3B Joey Pankake (.311-11-42), C Grayson Greiner (.298-4-38), OF Connor Bright (.288-4-22), OF Tanner English (.283-1-25), 2B Max Schrock (.282-6-39), 1B Kyle Martin (.288-2-10).

Top returning pitchers: LHP Jordan Montgomery (1.48, 79 IP, 60K/18BB), LHP Jack Wynkoop (3.09, 65 IP, 36K/11BB), RHP Joel Seddon (4.50, 18 IP, 20K/9BB), RHP Evan Beal (4.78, 32 IP, 36K/13BB).

Freshman to watch: The Gamecocks have a couple of very talented pitchers from the freshman class in Matthew Vogel and projected starting pitcher, RHP Wil Crowe. Crowe is a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, with a mature frame and fastball up to 923, consistently sitting 90-93 with a power curveball. He throws four pitches and turned down significant money out of high school to attend South Carolina.

2014 Prospects to watch: 3B Joey Pankake (67), C Grayson Greiner (68), OF Tanner English (123), RHP Evan Beal (148).

Notebook: South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook had a solid first season as the skipper of the Gamecocks, guiding the program to the NCAA Super Regional, where it dropped a heartbreaking three-game series to North Carolina. With that said, I’m looking for second baseman Max Schrock to take a rather significant step forward this season. Schrock finished last season with solid power production, but wasn’t ultra consistent, as with most freshmen, at the plate … Joey Pankake makes the move from shortstop to third base this spring, making room for sophomore Marcus Mooney to take over at short, while Brison Celek is expected to have a very good senior campaign at the plate … Last but not least, keep an eye on freshman pitcher Matthew Vogel, who touches 96, and veteran catcher Grayson Greiner, who has become a complete player and a likely high draft pick come this summer.


Head coach: John Savage

Conference: Pacific 12

2013 record: 49-17 (21-9 Pac 12)

2013 accomplishment: National champion

Top returning hitters: OF Eric Filia (.281-1-33), SS Kevin Kramer (.278-3-42), 1B Pat Gallagher (.274-1-20), OF Brian Carroll (.258-0-20).

Top returning pitchers: RHP David Berg (0.92, 51 apps, 24 saves, 78K/11BB), RHP James Kaprielian (1.55, 40.2 IP, 53K/24BB), LHP Grant Watson (3.01, 92.2 IP, 55K/16BB), RHP Cody Poteet (4.84, 70.2 IP, 56K/31BB).

Freshman to watch: If there’s one thing the Bruins would like to improve a great deal from last season it’s offensive production. Despite winning the national title last season, UCLA still finished the year with a .250 team batting average. For some infusion, look for outfielder Luke Persico to make an instant impact. Persico is a 6-foot-2, 170-pounder, who was drafted in the 37th round by the Rockies last summer. He was ranked No. 167 out of high school and has plus power and is considered a physical righthanded hitter.

2014 Prospects to watch: SS Kevin Kramer, C Shane Zeile, RHP David Berg

Notebook: One trait I like to see in championship-caliber teams is speed, athleticism and experience in the outfield. Well, Brian Carroll helps make UCLA’s outfield sturdy. Carroll is an impact senior with good gap to gap speed/instincts. He’s also a plus runner and typically finds a way to get on base … Catcher Shane Zeile is expected to take a step forward this season. He’s a plus receiver with an above average arm with decent righthanded power at the plate. Meanwhile, keep an eye on righty James Kaprielian, who moves into a front-line role with a 90-94 fastball, good curveball, slider and changeup. Last but not least, keep a close eye on rising freshman righty Nick Kern, who impressed John Savage during the fall with a 90-93 fastball. Kern is a former shortstop.

9. Oregon

Head coach: George Horton

Conference: Pacific 12

2013 record: 48-16 (22-8 Pac 12)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Regional

Top returning hitters: 1B Mitchell Tolman (315-1-37), 3B Scott Heineman (.278-4-38), 2B Aaron Payne (.241-0-19).

Top returning pitchers: LHP Cole Irvin (2.48, 116 IP, 87K/39BB), LHP Tommy Thorpe (2.16, 104.1 IP, 87K/39BB), RHP Jake Reed (3.50, 100.1 IP, 65K/30BB), LHP Garrett Cleavinger (1.24, 43.2 IP, 57K/24BB), RHP Brando Tessar (2.70, 6.2 IP, 2K/3BB — injured much of last season), RHP Darrell Hunter (3.40, 39.2 IP, 29K/15BB).

Freshman to watch: Very much like Cal State Fullerton with righthanded pitcher Phil Bickford, the Ducks got rather lucky in the MLB draft last summer, getting lefty Matt Krook on campus. Krook was a first compensatory pick for the Marlins, but chose to attend college. Krook is a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, who sits in the low-90s with a three-pitch mix, including a 12-6 curveball. He’s athletic, but will need to show more consistent command this spring.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Jake Reed (86), 3B Scott Heineman (107), LHP Porter Clayton (220).

Notebook: The Ducks have one of the nation’s elite arms in sophomore lefty Cole Irvin. Irvin is a projectable lefty with good command and pitchability, while they’re also excited about the return of Brando Tessar, who dealt with some injury issues last season. Tessar has a solid three-pitch mix with a good curveball, but could take some time to get back into the thick of things … UO has several players beyond just Tessar coming back from injuries this season. For instance, others coming back include Kyle Garlick (forearm), Jake Jelmini (foot) and Steven Packard (shoulder) .. Also keep an eye on Scott Heineman this season. Heineman only hit .278 last season, but is a good athlete who has a strong arm and runs well. More power production is needed from the veteran this spring.

10. North Carolina State

Head coach: Elliott Avent

Conference: Atlantic Coast

2013 record: 50-16 (19-10 ACC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached the College World Series

Top returning hitters: SS Trea Turner (.368-7-42), OF Jake Fincher (.313-0-29), OF Jake Armstrong (.266-1-30), C Brett Austin (.251-2-37), 2B Logan Ratledge (.250-0-17).

Top returning pitchers: LHP Carlos Rodon (2.99, 132.1 IP, 184K/45BB), RHP Logan Jernigan (1.56, 34.2 IP, 30K/28BB), LHP Brad Stone (5.49, 60.2 IP, 60K/24BB), RHP Andrew Woeck (3.09, 46.2 IP, 45K/10BB), LHP D.J. Thomas (2.89, 28 IP, 17K/10BB)

Freshman to watch: The Wolfpack had a very steady option over at third base last season in Grant Clyde, but he’s gone and they’ll need someone to step up. They’re hoping freshman Andrew Knizner provides that spark. Knizner obviously is inexperienced at this level, but the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, showed well during the fall with a consistent glove, good swing and above average power. 

2014 Prospects to watch: LHP Carlos Rodon (1), SS Trea Turner (3), C Brett Austin (219), RHP Logan Jernigan

Why they’re feeling good: N.C State was very much concerned with the bullpen at the conclusion of fall workouts with the departures of several quality arms, including workhorse Chris Overman. However, it received at least some relief with the addition of talented Temple brothers Eric and Patrick Peterson, who transferred there over the holiday break thanks to the Owls announcing they’d be cutting the baseball program after this season … In the meantime, the Pack feels very good about Woeck closing out games with an 88-90 fastball, low-80s cutter, mid-70s slider and good changeup … Keep an eye on sophomore designated hitter Will Nance, who has plus power and a good swing, but needs to be a bit more patient at the plate … Last but not least, keep a very close eye on Delgado CC transfer, outfielder Bubby Riley. Riley is a 6-foot-3, 192-pounder, who was very much a spark plug during fall workouts.

11. Vanderbilt

Head coach: Tim Corbin

Conference: Southeastern

2013 record: 54-12 (26-3 SEC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Super Regional

Top returning hitters: 3B Xavier Turner (.324-0-36), SS Vince Conde (.307-6-44), 1B Zander Wiel (.305-5-27).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Tyler Beede (2.32, 101 IP, 103K/63BB), RHP Brian Miller (1.58, 32 apps, 16 saves, 48K/11BB), RHP Carson Fulmer (2.39, 26 apps, 52.2 IP, 51K/25BB), LHP Steven Rice (2.57, 35 IP, 28K/12BB), RHP Walker Buehler (3.14, 63 IP, 57K/25BB), LHP Jared Miller (2.31, 23.1 IP, 24K/15BB).

Freshman to watch: Despite suffering a tough arm injury, righthanded pitcher Jordan Sheffield was still a solid draft pick last summer, going in the 13th round to the Red Sox. Sheffield has a big-time arm, and flashed a fastball up to 98 before having surgery. Sheffield was ranked No. 38 nationally out of high school, as well as No. 2 in the State of Tennessee. He has a fast, loose, arm with easy actions.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Tyler Beede (5), RHP Adam Ravenelle (170), LHP Jared Miller, C Chris Harvey (193).

Notebook: The Commodores are excited about several players entering the 2014 campaign, but keep a very close eye on outfielder Ro Coleman, who reminds some of former Vandy spark plug and versatile player Tony Kemp … Speaking of the offense, the Commodores expect big things from Dansby Swanson, who was injured last season, while third baseman Xavier Turner is ready to take another step forward. Turner has good hands and a plus contact bat. He also moves well in the field for a guy with a 6-foot-2, 220-pound, frame … Lefty specialist Steven Rice is expected to have a strong senior year, while Adam Ravenelle flashed a fastball up to 97 with a decent slider during fall workouts … Last but not least, just continue to watch junior righty Tyler Beede. Beede is 93-97 with his fastball, along with an 81-84 plus changeup. His breaking ball continues to develop as well.

12. LSU

Head coach: Paul Mainieri

Conference: Southeastern

2013 record: 57-11 (23-7)

2013 accomplishment: Reached the College World Series

Top returning hitters: SS Alex Bregman (.369-6-52), OF Sean McMullen (.314-2-30), OF Mark Laird (.307-0-18), 3B Christian Ibarra (.305-6-39), OF Jared Foster (.359-2-12)

Top returning pitchers: RHP Aaron Nola (1.57, 126 IP, 122K/18BB), LHP Cody Glenn (2.68, 84 IP, 38K/17BB), RHP Hunter Newman (2.55, 24.2 IP, 16K/11BB).

Freshman to watch: The Tigers will miss the ultra-athletic and sneaky powerful JaCoby Jones from last year’s club, but look for freshman Danny Zardon to rise to the occasion at the position. Zardon is a very mature player for his age with an advanced feel and approach at the plate. Though he’ll likely settle in at third base in the future, he’ll be at second this season. Zardon was ranked No. 173 nationally out of high school and No. 28 in Florida. He showed good power and a consistent bat at PG National after his junior campaign in high school.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Aaron Nola (24), OF Mark Laird, OF Jared Foster

Notebook: Most of the news surrounding the Tigers these days is pretty good, but there’s at least some bad news as pitcher Russell Reynolds will miss 2014 after having shoulder surgery … On a positive note, look for special things out of the outfield this spring, which includes Mark Laird, Andrew Stevenson and Jared Foster. Stevenson hit .363 at the Northwoods League last summer and seems to be ready to take a step forward, while Foster, a former backup QB for the LSU football team, is a plus runner with good arm strength. His offensive skills continue to develop, too … Nola, an All-American, is expected to have a strong campaign. The outstanding righty is 90-94 with his fastball, sometimes 95, along with advanced feel for a changeup and breaking ball. Command is a major strength of his.

13. North Carolina

Head coach: Mike Fox

Conference: Atlantic Coast

2013 record: 59-12 (21-7 ACC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached the College World Series

Top returning hitters: 3B Landon Lassiter (.358-1-28), OF Skye Bolt (.321-6-51), OF Parks Jordan (.252-1-27)

Top returning pitchers: RHP Trent Thornton (1.37, 91.2 IP, 81K/19BB), RHP Benton Moss (3.77, 88.1 IP, 92K/34BB), RHP Chris McCue (2.13, 63.1 IP, 54K/28BB), RHP Reilly Hovis (2.36, 34.1 IP, 26K/24BB), RHP Trevor Kelley (3.63, 44.2 IP, 36K/19BB).

Freshman to watch: The Tar Heels had one of the nation’s best hitters at first base last season in Cody Stubbs. However, Stubbs is done and that means someone needs to step up. Freshman Joe Dudek could be that guy. Dudek put together a strong fall at the plate and a very solid lefthanded hitter who projects well. Dudek was ranked No. 155 out of high school and No. 5 in New Jersey. Dudek eventually also could help out on the mound.

Prospects to watch: SS Michael Russell, 3B Landon Lassiter, RHP Taylore Cherry (201).

Notebook: After getting ample playing time as young players last season, I’d look for catcher Korey Dunbar and second baseman Alex Raburn to take steps forward this season. Both players have some pop in their bat, while Raburn is being pushed hard at second base by Wood Myers … Outfielder Skye Bolt is 100-percent healthy entering the spring after suffering a food injury in the middle late last season, while the weekend rotation is particularly interesting with Thornton, Moss and either Taylore Cherry or freshman Zac Gallen occupying the No. 3 spot int he rotation. Gallen is a high quality arm with some advanced feel. He’s a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder, who was ranked No. 341 out of high school, No. 10 in New Jersey, and who has a FB in the low-90s .. Also keep an eye on young arms such as LHP Zach Rice and RHP Spencer Trayner. Both had good falls and will log significant innings this spring.

14. Clemson

Head coach: Jack Leggett

Conference: Atlantic Coast

2013 record: 40-22 (18-12 ACC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Regional

Top returning hitters: OF Shane Kennedy (.317-5-35), C/DH Garrett Boulware (.308-8-45), OF Steven Duggar (.300-2-30), 2B Steve Wilkerson (.291-4-37), 1B Jon McGibbon (.285-0-37), OF Tyler Slaton (.263-0-13), SS Tyler Krieger (.257-0-27).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Daniel Gossett (2.56, 98.1 IP, 91K/38BB), LHP Matthew Crownover (2.19, 70 IP, 45K/17BB), LHP Zack Erwin (3.45, 60 IP, 32K/20BB), RHP Matt Campbell (4.82, 7 saves, 28 IP, 35K/13BB), RHP Kyle Schnell (2.84, 31.2 IP, 22K/10BB), RHP Patrick Andrews (2.87, 37.2 IP, 25K/10BB).

Freshman to watch: The Tigers already have a talented catcher in Garrett Boulware, but he likely will DH this season with the addition of advanced freshman Chris Okey. Okey, a 31st-round pick to the Padres (would’ve gone much higher if not for signability), is a former PG All-American and was ranked No. 20 nationally out of high school. Okey has a very impressive overall skill set and is a plus defensive catcher.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Daniel Gossett (102), LHP Matthew Crownover, C Garrett Boulware.

Notebook: The Tigers enter the 2014 campaign in great shape, but will not have returning leading hitter Shane Kennedy until the middle of the season because of a torn ACL. In a bit of good news, though, pitcher Kevin Pohle returns to the mound after suffering a shoulder injury last season … Righthanded pitcher Jake Long put together an impressive fall and could be a breakthrough arm for the Tigers this spring, while closer Matt Campbell is a power arm to watch with a fastball up to 94 at times … Garrett Boulware and Tyler Krieger are two the Tigers expect even more production from this season. Boulware is a versatile guy who can play behind the plate, or even the outfield, while Krieger is a shortstop with good range and speed. He’s also a switch-hitter.

15. Louisville

Head coach: Dan McDonnell

Conference: American Athletic

2013 record: 51-14

2013 accomplishment: Reached the College World Series

Top returning hitters: OF Cole Sturgeon (.339-1-33), OF Jeff Gardner (.337-9-43), SS Sutton Whting (.308-1-30), C Kyle Gibson (.305-0-13).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Nick Burdi (0.76, 29 apps, 16 saves, 35.2 IP, 62K/13BB), RHP Anthony Kidston (1.31, 48 IP, 58K/22BB), RHP Kyle Funkhouser (2.14, 54.2 IP, 55K/25BB), RHP Jared Ruxer (5.63, 38.1 IP, 35K/21BB), LHP Kyle McGrath (2.27, 25 apps, 47.2 IP, 48K/16BB). LHP Joe Filomeno (5.30, 18.2 IP, 22K/14BB).

Freshman to watch: The Cardinals have plenty of quality arms on this year’s club, but keep a very close eye on freshman 6-foot-2, 210-pound, lefthander Drew Harrington. Harrington put together and will log some significant innings this season. Harrington was ranked No. 240 out of high school and is 90-92 with his fastball, along with good secondary stuff and overall command.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Nick Burdi (10), LHP Joe Filomeno (159), RHP Jared Ruxer, RHP Anthony Kidston

Notebook: The Cardinals had one of the most talented second baseman in the nation last season in Nick Ratajczak, and will replace him with Zach Lucas this spring. Lucas made major strides during fall workouts, showing good athleticism and skill set after an impressive summer at the New England Collegiate League … Freshman pitcher Josh Rogers should be a significant contributor at some point this season. Rogers had Tommy John surgery his senior year of high school, but continues to progress very well … Speaking of injuries, lefty Joe Filomeno suffered an injury scare in last year’s Nashville Super Regional, but is healthy and ready to go this season. Filomeno is 92-94, and up to 98, with his fastball, along with good secondary offerings … Meanwhile, as much as we’ve talked about righthanded reliever Nick Burdi, who can touch 101 on the radar gun, keep an eye on Kyle Funkhouser, who had a strong fall and is expected to have a monster year. Funkhouser is 94-97 with his fastball, along with a good slider.

16. Florida

Head coach: Kevin O’Sullivan

Conference: Southeastern

2013 record: 29-30 (14-16 SEC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Regional

Top returning hitters: OF Harrison Bader (.312-1-22), UTI Justin Shafer (.300-5-25), SS Richie Martin (.300-0-18), C Taylor Gushue (.269-5-33), 1B Zack Powers (.268-3-27), 2B Casey Turgeon (.268-5-32).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Ryan Harris (3.07, 37 apps, 58.2 IP, 51K/15BB), RHP Jay Carmichael (3.08, 38 IP, 26K/15BB), LHP Bobby Poyner (3.41, 37 IP, 16K/7BB), LHP Danny Young (4.28, 40 IP, 23K/13BB), RHP Eric Hanhold (5.88, 33.2 IP, 24K/11BB), RHP Karsten Whitson (injured last season).

Freshman to watch: The Gators have plenty of talented arms at their disposal this spring. Despite that, they’ll lean heavily on the arm of talented freshman righthander Brett Morales. The former PG All-American isn’t a huge guy by any means, but packs a powerful punch with a fastball that can get up to the mid-90s. Morales was ranked No. 40 nationally out of high school and has good secondary offerings. He’ll occupy the No. 3 spot in the weekend rotation to start the season.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Karsten Whitson (52), C Taylor Gushue (158), 2B Casey Turgeon (173).

Notebook: Plenty has been said about the Gators and righthanded pitcher Karsten Whitson, but how about the rest of the weekend rotation? The Gators have some very solid options with Morales, the freshman, and sophomore righty Eric Hanhold. Hanhold, as with many freshmen, didn’t have a terrific first year with the program, but his upside is noticeable … Though Whitson is the headliner returning from an injury this spring, how about the rest of the Gators doing the same? Pitcher Keenan Kish (hip), first baseman Zack Powers (shoulder) and pitcher Corey Stump (shoulder) are all back from injuries this spring … From a positional standpoint, keep an eye on two-way player and Iowa product A.J. Puk. Puk, a massive 6-foot-7, 225-pounder, had a strong fall for the Gators and will contribute at the plate, while in terms of veterans, outfielder Harrison Bader is a key cog to watch. Bader had a strong fall, showing increased power production after earning All-SEC honors as a freshman last season.

17. Rice

Head coach: Wayne Graham

Conference: Conference USA

2013 record: 44-20 (15-9 C-USA)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Super Regional

Top returning hitters: 3B Shane Hoelscher (.320-0-25), OF Michael Aquino (.315-9-43), 2B Ford Stainback (.295-0-25), OF Keenan Cook (.292-0-32), SS Leon Byrd (.275-1-21), 1B Skyler Ewing (.226-4-23).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Zech Lemond (2.02, 14 saves, 75.2 IP, 71K/21BB), RHP Jordan Stephens (2.43, 118.2 IP, 100K/31BB), LHP Blake Fox (3.41, 37 IP, 23K/13BB), RHP Evan Rutter (4.86, 14 IP, 6K/6BB), RHP Kevin McCanna (4.50, 40 IP, 18K/17BB).

Freshman to watch: The Owls have the luxury of not needing to rely on too much newcomers this season, particularly of the freshman variety, but keep an eye on No. 3 starting pitcher and freshman righthander Jon Duplantier. Duplantier is a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder, who’s 87-92 with his fastball, along with a good breaking ball and command. Duplantier’s future is bright, as he still has plenty of room to grow moving forward.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Zech Lemond (69), RHP Jordan Stephens (122), 1B Skyler Ewing (182).

Notebook: Rice righthanded pitcher Zech Lemond was good all of last season, but it seemed like he only got stronger as the season progressed. He actually started in the Eugene Regional and was magnificent against host Oregon. Lemond, though, who has a fastball up to 95 on a consistent basis, will likely stay in the bullpen this spring … That means fellow righty Jordan Stephens spearheads the starting rotation. Stephens struggled a bit with command at the beginning of last season, but it seems like he’s been a different pitcher since. Stephens finished 2013 on a high note, and appears ready to take another step forward this spring. He’s 88-92 with good secondary stuff and command … From an offensive standpoint, keep a close eye on outfielder Michael Aquino. Aquino might not get a ton of publicity, but he’s got a lot of power in a compact frame. He’s also got solid speed with a 6.8 60-yard-dash time … In other news, the Owls feel like San Jacinto College transfer pitcher Trevor Teykl will help log some important innings this season.

18. Arizona State

Head coach: Tim Esmay

Conference: Pacific 12

2013 record: 37-22 (16-14 Pac-12)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Regional

Top returning hitters: C RJ Ybarra (.313-5-22), 1B Dalton DiNatale (.302-2-25), OF Trever Allen (.297-9-49), SS Drew Stankiewicz (.295-2-25), DH Nathaniel Causey (.274-5-26).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Ryan Burr (2.20, 12 saves, 45 IP, 60K/23BB), LHP Ryan Kellogg (3.15, 103 IP, 54K/17BB), LHP Brett Lilek (4.05, 20 IP, 17K/8BB), RHP Darrin Gilles (4.67, 34.2 IP, 28K/17BB).

Freshman to watch: With the Sun Devils moving hard-throwing righthanded pitcher Ryan Burr to the weekend rotation, they’re hoping freshman righty Hever Bueno can rise to the occasion. Bueno was a 17th-round pick to Cincinnati last summer, but chose to attend college. Bueno, ranked as the nation’s No. 426 prospect out of high school, has a fastball into the mid-90s with a sharp slider and good changeup.

2014 Prospects to watch: OF/RHP Trever Allen

Notebook: The Sun Devils hope to return to the College World Series this season with the return of several key cogs, namely No. 3 starting pitcher and lefthander Brett Lilek. Lilek was hurt much of last season, but had a strong fall and is expected to have a huge year. Lilek has a big-time fastball up to 94, while he also has a plus slider … Though the Sun Devils have some holes to fill from an offensive standpoint, they’re expected about the potential of juniors Trever Allen and Nathaniel Causey. Allen has plenty of offensive potential, but needs to improve his patience at the plate, while Causey is a big-time lefthanded hitter who blossomed at the end of last season. The bad news with Causey is he had Tommy John surgery in the offseason, so likely will be relegated to designated hitter duties this season … Meanwhile, the most intriguing aspect of the spring is the move of Ryan Burr to the starting rotation. Burr has a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s and touched 100 with Team USA last summer.

19. Texas A&M

Head coach: Rob Childress

Conference: Southeastern

2013 record: 34-29 (13-16)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Regional

Top returning hitters: 1B Cole Lankford (.352-3-40), C Troy Stein (.287-5-23), 3B Hunter Melton (.280-6-21), OF Krey Bratsen (.279-1-23), UTI Daniel Mengden (.271-3-16), 2B Blake Allemand (.253-1-27).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Parker Ray (1.73, 67.2 IP, 44K/19BB), RHP Daniel Mengden (2.11, 110.2 IP, 94K/24BB), RHP Jason Jester (2.47, 14 saves, 47.1 IP, 39K/12BB), RHP Grayson Long (3.52, 46 IP, 38K/25BB), LHP Matt Kent (4.17, 36.2 IP, 21K/2BB), LHP A.J. Minter (4.85, 13 IP, 16K/5BB), RHP Corey Ray (5.11, 44 IP, 29K/21BB).

Freshman to watch: The Aggies probably have the deepest pitching staff in the Rob Childress era, but that’s not keeping some freshmen from contributing, including 6-foot-3, 185-pound, righthanded hurler Ryan Hendrix. Hendrix had a strong fall for the Aggies and will log significant innings this season. He spins the ball well and comfortably touches 93 with his fastball. Hendrix was ranked No. 409 nationally out of high school.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Daniel Mengden (38), RHP Corey Ray (231), RHP Parker Ray (186), RHP Jason Jester.

Notebook: The Aggies have had some very good luck with shortstops over the past few years, and last season was no exception with Mikey Reynolds leading the charge. Well, the Aggies seemed to have had a hole at shortstop before the fall, but Logan Taylor has settled in and taken charge. Taylor shined at the Texas Collegiate League last summer. This past fall, he was stable defensively and led the Aggies in almost every offensive category … It’s to be determined how much he’ll contribute this season, but redshirt freshman pitcher Rex Hill is coming off Tommy John surgery this spring … Call it cautious optimism, but the Aggies feel very good about closer Jason Jester this season. Jester was good at times last season, and he was subpar. Fortunately for A&M, it looks like Jester is back in business with a fastball 90-95 and a four-pitch mix … Sophomore lefty AJ Minter in a physical pitcher who touches the upper-90s. He will log significant innings, while junior righty Corey Ray is a prototypical 6-foot-4, 200 pounds with a 91-96 fastball. Consistency will be the key for him, as usual, moving forward … Last but not least, keep an eye on the Aggies from an offensive standpoint. Look for junior college transfers G.R. Hinsley and Logan Nottebrok to provide instant relief.

20. Miami (Fla.)

Head coach: Jim Morris

Conference: Atlantic Coast

2013 record: 37-25 (14-16 ACC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Regional

Top returning hitters: 3B David Thompson (.286-6-46), 1B Brad Fieger (.279-0-34), 2B Alex Hernandez (.267-1-31), SS Brandon Lopez (243-1-15).

Top returning pitchers: LHP Chris Diaz (1.64, 109.2 IP, 78K/27BB), L Bryan Radziewski (1.78, 91 IP, 109K/30BB), LHP Andrew Suarez (3.95, 86.2 IP, 57K/19BB), RHP Javi Salas (3.18 ERA, 70.2 IP, 44K/19BB), LHP AJ Salcines (7.28, 29.2 IP, 30K/14BB).

Freshman to watch: The Hurricanes are aiming for more offensive production this spring, and freshman outfielder Willy Abreu is someone who could provide an immediate boost. Abreu was one of the nation’s elite prospects as a high school senior last year, getting drafted in the 14th round by the Cincinnati Reds, while also being ranked No. 66 nationally, No. 10 in the State of Florida. Abreu is a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, who has a smooth lefthanded swing with an impressive overall skill set.

2014 Prospects to watch: LHP Andrew Suarez, LHP Chris Diaz.

Notebook: Miami hasn’t made a significant statement on the national stage in a few seasons, but they’re hoping to change that with the return of several talented pitchers. For instance, Chris Diaz and Bryan Radziewski are very consistent arms, while Suarez might just be one of the fastest rising prospects on the national stage. Suarez got well into the 90s with his fastball during fall workouts and continues to gain attention … Meanwhile, if the ‘Canes are to make a statement this season, the offense must improve. David Thompson had a productive 2013 campaign, but he was one of few who did as the ‘Canes finished the year with a .258 team batting average. Perhaps freshman outfielder Willie Abreu will provide a much-needed boost in that regard. More good news for Miami is it’s healthy entering the spring.

21. Alabama

Head coach: Mitch Gaspard

Conference: Southeastern

2013 record: 35-28 (14-15 SEC)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Regional

Top returning hitters: SS Mikey White (.287-2-30), OF Ben Moore (.280-4-41), 1B Austen Smith (.279-7-40), 2B Kyle Overstreet (.271-0-37), OF Georgie Salem (.269-1-28).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Spencer Turnbull (3.70, 90 IP, 51K/38BB), RHP Ray Castillo (3.38, 12 saves, 42.2 IP, 43K/30BB), LHP Justin Kamplain (4.77, 54.2 IP, 50K/20BB), LHP Taylor Guilbeau (3.14, 51.2 IP, 39K/28BB).

Freshman to watch: The Crimson Tide has plenty of talented arms at their disposal, but keep a close eye on freshman righthanded pitcher Nick Eicholtz. Eicholtz had a very strong fall for Mitch Gaspard’s club, and should log some significant innings. Eicholtz was a 29th-round selection of the Brewers last summer, is 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, and has a fastball in the low-90s. He also has good breaking staff and good feel for the game.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Spencer Turnbull (79), C Wade Wass, OF Ben Moore (249), LHP Justin Kamplain, LHP Taylor Guilbeau.

Notebook: The Crimson Tide had one of the nation’s youngest teams last season and still managed to reach the NCAA postseason. Now, a year older, the Tide hopes to take the next step forward with either an NCAA Super Regional appearance, or of course, a trip to the College World Series. Bama has a very solid weekend rotation with elite prospect Spencer Turnbull and closer turned starting pitcher Ray Castillo leading the way, while talented lefty Justin Kamplain hopes to build off a summer at the Cape Cod League. Meanwhile, talented catcher Wade Wass, who has plenty of power potential returns from a hamate bone injury that sidelined him last season, while Ryan Blanchard made some offensive strides during fall workouts. Also huge for the Tide is the return of outfielder Ben Moore, who, too, has some power potential.

22. Kansas State

Head coach: Brad Hill

Conference: Big 12

2013 record: 45-19 (16-8 Big 12)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Super Regional

Top returning hitters: SS Austin Fisher (.361-2-38), 2B Ross Kivett (.360-3-39), 1B Shane Conlon (.341-7-28), C Blair DeBord (.327-0-37).

Top returning pitchers: RHP Nate Williams (2.81, 67.1 IP, 54K/33BB), RHP Jake Matthys (2.05, 61.1 IP, 9 saves, 44K/9BB), 

Freshman to watch: If there’s something the Wildcats could really improve on this season, it’s the pitching aspect of things. Kansas State is hoping freshman 6-foot-3, 250-pound, lefthander Jordan Floyd rises to the occasion this season. Floyd is a big and physical, hard-throwing lefty who must develop a better feel for a breaking pitch to take the next step as a first-year player this season. Floyd was ranked as one of the nation’s top 1,000 prospects out of high school.

2014 Prospects to watch: 2B Ross Kivett, OF Mitch Meyer.

Notebook: K-State accomplished a lot of goals last season without much elite pitching. And of those very solid arms, only a few are back, with arguably the best in lefthander Joe Flattery gone to the professional ranks. With that said, the Wildcats are excited about the potential with freshman righthanded pitcher Colton Kalmus, who’s expected to be the No. 2 starting pitcher despite suffering a fractured elbow during his senior high school season … Jake Whaley is an interesting power arm to watch with a fastball up to 93, while Max Brown is a speedster to watch with a 6.5 60-yard-dash speed. Other notables include pitcher Blake McFadden possibly missing the season because of a fractured elbow, while junior pitcher Nate Williams is an intriguing arm to watch with a fastball 88-92 with movement, along with a good breaking ball. 

23. Oklahoma State

Head coach: Josh Holliday

Conference: Big 12

2013 record: 41-19 (13-10 Big 12)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Regional

Top returning hitters: 1B Tanner Krietemeier (.314-4-45), OF Saulyer Saxon (.301-0-18), OF Gage Green (.287-2-21), OF Zach Fish (.283-7-41), OF Aaron Cornell (.280-2-17).

Top returning pitchers: LHP Tyler Nurdin (1.89, 85.2 IP, 69K/24BB), RHP Vince Wheeland (1.97, 73 IP, 64K/13BB), RHP Mark Robinette (3.58, 70.1 IP, 54K/22BB), RHP Brendan McCurry (2.72, 8 saves, 46.1 IP, 35K/11BB).

Freshman to watch: While some teams around the country got burned by the MLB draft last summer, the Cowboys made out very good with the addition of outstanding lefthanded pitcher Garrett Williams and local product Thomas Hatch. Williams is slated to be in OSU’s weekend rotation to start the season. Williams is a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder, who was ranked No. 50 nationally, No. 2 in Louisiana out of high school, while also topping out in the low-90s with good breaking stuff. 

2014 Prospects to watch: OF Zach Fish (149), LHP Tyler Nurdin, OF/RHP Conor Costello.

Notebook: The Cowboys have a lot of options this spring, but keep a very close eye on Conor Costello. Costello could be an important key contributor for Josh Holliday’s club as he returns from Tommy John surgery … Junior righthanded pitcher Jon Perrin, who finished last season with a 3.23 ERA in 47 1/3 innings of work, was one of the most impressive arms during fall workouts and is expected to take a step forward, while freshman righty Thomas Hatch is expected to evolve into one of the Big 12’s elite arms before his career is finished. Hatch touches mid-90s with his stuff, but needs some experience … Additionally, speaking of young players, one might watch for freshman outfielder Ryan Sluder. Sluder is an electric player with a 6.48 60-yard-dash speed.

24. Florida Atlantic

Head coach: John McCormack

Conference: Conference USA

2013 record: 42-22 (19-11 Sun Belt)

2013 accomplishment: Reached an NCAA Regional

Top returning hitters: OF Brendon Sanger (.347-3-28), SS Mitch Morales (.301-0-30), C Levi Meyer (.299-5-35), 1B Ricky Santiago (.298-5-29), OF Tyler Rocklein (.281-10-49).

Top returning pitchers: LHP Austin Gomber (2.97, 106 IP, 103K/28BB), RHP Jeremy Strawn (3.46, 93.2 IP, 64K/26BB), RHP Kevin Alexander (2.89, 53 IP, 44K/19BB), LHP Bo Logan (2.68, 43.2 IP, 41K/15BB), RHP Seth McGarry (2.79, 9.2 IP, 11K/3BB).

Freshman to watch: The Owls have several key contributors from different classes on this team, but keep a close eye on the talented freshman two-way player in Sean Labsan. Labsan, a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder, was a 17th-round pick to the Rangers last summer and was ranked as one of the nation’s top 500 prospects out of high school. He has a fastball touching 90 from the left side, while his bat packs some power, too.

2014 Prospects to watch: LHP Austin Gomber (179), SS Mitch Morales.

Notebook: Junior lefthanded pitcher Austin Gomber didn’t overwhelm hitters at the Cape Cod League last summer, but has a chance to take a step forward as the staff ace in a major conference this spring. Gomber has good overall stuff with a fastball up to 93 and good slider. He also has a plus changeup and is a hard-nosed competitor … Brendon Sanger and Tyler Rocklein really spearhead the outfield for FAU, with Rocklein a big-time hitter. Rocklein could do a little better in the batting average department this spring, but his power is undeniable, as evidenced by his 10 homers as a junior last season … If you’re looking for a breakout player for this club, keep an eye on righthanded pitcher Andrew Archer. Archer, who tallied an unimpressive 8.44 ERA last season, put together a strong fall and looks to be ready for a much better season.

25. Texas

Head coach: Augie Garrido

Conference: Big 12

2013 record: 27-24 (7-17 Big 12)

2013 accomplishment: Did not reach the NCAA postseason

Top returning hitters: OF Mark Payton (.393-0-29), SS C.J. Hinojosa (.309-2-29), 2B Brooks Marlow (.250-11-57).

Top returning pitchers: LHP Dillon Peters (1.97, 86.2 IP, 57K/24BB), RHP Nathan Thornhill (2.21, 85.1 IP, 60K/15BB), RHP Parker French (2.68, 77.1 IP, 46K/24BB), LHP Travis Duke (1.53, 35.1 IP, 25K/13BB), RHP Ty Marlow (2.16, 33.1 IP, 26K/7BB).

Freshman to watch: The Longhorns are thankful to have an infusion of young talent on this year’s team, and Tres Barrera is one of those guys they feel like will help them take the next step forward. Barrera, a 6-foot, 195-pounder, was ranked No. 204 nationally, No. 21 in Texas out of high school. For the time being, Barrera seems to be the favorite to capture the catcher job over veteran backstop Jacob Felts. Barrera has a good overall offensive approach with good defensive skills.

2014 Prospects to watch: RHP Parker French (46), LHP Dillon Peters (57), RHP Lukas Schiraldi (130), RHP John Curtiss (75).

Notebook: It almost seems like a broken record at this point, but the Longhorns have the personnel to make some serious noise on the national stage this spring. However, they must drastically improve offensively after finishing last season with a .260 batting average. Besides Tres Barrera, Andy McGuire, Zane Gurwitz and Bret Boswell all are guys who could help them right off the bat this spring … There’s been a lot of talk about righthanded pitcher John Curtiss. Curtiss, one of the better prospects on this team, didn’t pitch last season because of Tommy John surgery, and is being slowly brought along this spring. For now, Curtiss isn’t expected to pitch until Big 12 conference play … Keep an eye on reliever/starting pitcher Lukas Schiraldi. Schiraldi has experience and a big-time arm, but the Longhorns aren’t certain what his role is just yet … Last but not least, keep an eye on UT outfielders Ben Johnson and Collin Shaw. Shaw made some serious strides during fall workouts, while Johnson could be a terror if he can be more consistent at the plate. Johnson ran a 6.35 60-yard-dash during fall workouts.

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