Baseball season is just around the corner. The opening weekend of college baseball kicks off this Friday, February 15th. Major league pitchers and catchers are beginning to report to their respective spring training camps today. If you are an avid fan of baseball like me, this should excite you.
I had the chance to go to the finale of the 2016 College World Series in Omaha, a rainout that was actually played the following afternoon. Although this severely affected the crowd turnout, it was still very cool to take in a college national championship game, and to see a smaller school like Coastal Carolina have their moment of glory. TD Ameritrade Park is a beautiful ballpark and I recommend catching a game there at least once.
D1Baseball.com recently released their top 25 preseason rankings, placing some of the mainstays like Vanderbilt, Florida, and Oregon State in the top 10:
- Texas Tech
- North Carolina
- Oregon State
- Ole Miss
- East Carolina
- Florida State
- Mississippi State
- Oklahoma State
- Wake Forest
- Coastal Carolina
- Cal State Fullerton
It is worth mentioning that every #1 ranked preseason team has made it to the College World Series, but none of them went on to win it. Defending champion Oregon State was ranked #2 in last year’s preseason rankings.
Players to Watch For:
Adley Rutschman is the big name to remember going into the 2019 season. A switch-hitting catcher for the defending champion Oregon State Beavers, Rutschman had a great 2018 campaign in which he posted a .408 AVG, .505 OBP, and .628 SLG in 250 AB. Not to mention, he won Most Outstanding Player in the College World Series.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo calls him “the complete package.” With a resume like this, and one more season still ahead of him to perfect his craft, it’s no secret why Rutschman is the #1 overall prospect for the 2019 MLB Draft. Fittingly enough, the Baltimore Orioles, who selected a switch-hitting catcher 5th overall in the 2007 draft by the name of Matt Wieters, currently hold the 1st overall pick.
Another player to watch for this season is California first baseman Andrew Vaughn. He not only won Pac-12 Player of the Year last season as a sophomore, but also won the Golden Spikes Award as the top player in the nation.
Many prospect rankings have Vaughn right behind Rutschman as the second-best college player. His numbers certainly do not lie, as he slashed .402/.501/.819 last season in just under 200 at-bats, along with 23 HR and 63 RBI. This came as a big improvement from an already stellar freshman campaign in which he slashed .349/.414/.555.
This season, it will be hard to top the type of numbers he put up last year, but as long as Vaughn does not have a sudden drop off in production, his power bat will likely be taken within the first few picks of this year’s draft.
If it weren’t for Adley Rutschman’s level of success at the plate last season, Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers would likely be the most talked-about catcher in the upcoming draft. His college career thus far has consisted of a .281 AVG, 21 HR, 82 RBI and a .993 fielding percentage.
Even with solid offensive production, Langeliers’ defense behind the plate has been more of his calling-card, especially his cannon arm. He has the hardware to back it up, as he won an ABCA Gold Glove Award last season.
It should be mentioned that the Toronto Blue Jays selected Langeliers in the 34th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, but he instead decided to play college ball at Baylor. So far, this decision has proven to be a smart one and will likely pay off in a big way this summer when he is selected within the first few picks of the draft.
I have often found that it is easy to overlook the start of the college baseball season. Most people wouldn’t think to watch baseball in the middle of February, myself included. Not only does the season start “early,” it ends “early” too. Unlike Major League Baseball, the college baseball season wraps up in the middle of the summer. This year’s College World Series will be over before we even reach the month of July, with the championship series scheduled for June 24-26.
With all of this in mind, keep an eye on the aforementioned teams and players over the next few months. I am curious to see if Oregon State can go back-to-back, or if a program without a previous national title can rise to the top and make a surprise championship run, like Coastal Carolina did in 2016.