Let the games begin, everyone. It is my honor and some might call it pleasure to return to Minor League Ball this year for another season of weekly college baseball recaps. Tune in next Monday at 9 AM for my debut weekend roundup for the 2015 season. I will follow the same format I used last year, featuring the highlights of the weekend from all of the so-called "major conferences" in the college baseball world along with a mid-major highlights section.
I will also feature a weekly hitter of the week and pitcher of the week "award" at the end of each column, usually highlighting a spectacular performance from a particular 2015 MLB draft prospect, but I'm open to featuring "other guys" too if the performance merits it.
The major conferences, as far as college baseball is concerned, are generally the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big 12, and Big West.
Its fluid from year to year but other conferences that have found themselves among the top 6 in conference RPI and will get good coverage include the Big Ten, American, C-USA, Sun Belt, Mountain West, and MVC.
Other conferences that have been top 10 in conference RPI before and feature teams at the top worth following include the SoCon, Atlantic Sun, Southland, Big South, CAA, and WCC.
Why follow college baseball this year? That's not even a question for college baseball nerds like myself but as a non-mainstream college sport (but getting there), I feel the need to address such question. What initially got me hooked on college baseball was my love of the MLB Draft and gaining knowledge on all the top prospects. A great way to familiarize with the top college prospects is to watch them play. With ESPN networks set to air the most regular-season college baseball games ever, there will be ample opportunities to tune in.
One noteworthy storyline to follow this season will be what effect - if any - the implementation of the new baseballs with flatter seams has on total runs scored. This article interestingly points out that while the intended effect of this change is to create less drag on the ball as it travels through the air off the hitters bat, pitchers may end up the benefactor, having a more comfortable grip of the ball.
The go-to hub of college baseball content this year just might be the newly revamped D1baseball.com. They have my been my primary scoreboard for all D1 baseball scores each weekend in the past. But, this year they have added a formidable writing staff that includes notable names like Aaron Fitt (formerly of Baseball America) and Kendall Rogers (formerly of Perfect Game) to expand the website's content and coverage of all things college baseball and MLB draft related. Here is their 2015 season preview index.
The various pre-season rankings:
Vanderbilt is the consensus number one team in the land regardless of which poll you choose to look at. With good reason, too. The Commodores won their first national championship in 2014 and return eight starters to their lineup including potential top ten pick, Dansby Swanson. They return their weekend rotation - Carson Fullmer, Walker Bueller, and Tyler Ferguson - in what could be the most lethal 1-2-3 punch in recent memory. Expect to see those three names called early in the draft this June.
Here's a look at the pre-season all american teams released by the NCBWA last week.
Eric Sorenson, perhaps the biggest college baseball nut in the world, ranks and previews all 301 division I baseball teams in his entertaining and informative blog, college baseball today.
Perfect Game ranks the top 100 college draft prospects (subscription required)
Here's a look at ESPN's college baseball TV schedule
Finally, I leave you with the pre-season top 20 draft names you need know as compiled by MLB.com. Expect to see these names show up often in my weekend roundups.
20. Tyler Jay - LHP - Illinois
19. Chris Shaw - OF - Boston College
18. Alex Young - LHP - TCU
17. Gio Brusa - OF - Pacific
16. Dillon Tate - RHP - UC Santa Barbara
15. D.J. Stewart - OF - Florida State
14. Richie Martin - SS - Florida
13. Jake Lemoine - RHP - Houston
12. James Kaprielian - RHP - UCLA
11. Riley Ferrell - RHP - TCU
10. Cody Ponce - RHP - Cal Poly Pomona
9. Kyle Cody - RHP - Kentucky
8. Ian Happ - OF - Cincinnati
7. Alex Bregman - SS - LSU
6. Carson Fullmer - RHP - Vanderbilt
5. Dansby Swanson - SS/2B - Vanderbilt
4. Kyle Funkhouser - RHP - Louisville
3. Nathan Kirby - LHP - Virginia
2. Walker Buehler - RHP - Vanderbilt
1. Michael Matuella - RHP - Duke
Again, Vandy's talent is just not fair...
That's all I got for now. I look forward to seeing the South Carolina Gamecocks play ball this Friday. As a season ticket holder, I will see many talented ballplayers from the loaded SEC schools make their way to Columbia this year. That means I plan on doing some video write-ups on any notable prospects I see in addition to the weekend roundups starting next Monday.
"Stay classy, not crassy" - Chris Slade