The NCAA baseball tournament begins on Friday at noon Eastern kicking off the greatest weekend for college baseball fans followed by the MLB draft on Monday. It makes prospect nerds like me giddy, so I figured I would give a breakdown of who to watch in each Regional and a brief overview of how I feel about that Reginal.
Host team & Location: Florida; Gainesville, FL
Teams: Florida, Jacksonville, Florida Atlantic, Columbia
First Pitch: Noon EST
Top Prospects: Brady Singer, RHP, Florida; Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida; J.J. Schwartz, 1B/C, Florida; Jonathan India, 3B, Florida; Tyler Frank, SS, Florida Atlantic
Sleeper Prospect: Deacon Liput, 2B, Florida
Underclassman to Watch: Tommy Mace, RHP, Florida
Overview: The number one prospect to start the year, Singer has three plus pitches and has shown well at the biggest of stages in college baseball, he would still be a candidate at the first pick of the draft if not for such a dominant season from Mize. Kowar will battle a Stanford pitcher (foreshadowing alert) as the best Saturday starter in college baseball. He has two plus pitches and a curve that is solid. He will be a future starter near the top of a rotation and, for the Gators, an incredible duo on the hill in any series. Schwartz is all power and little else that holds up as a solid tool. He is not terrible behind the plate, and that may be his best way to climb through an organization. He has the power to play first, but that will really limit his value for a player who is already a Senior and has no real leverage in the draft. India has had a fantastic season, going from a solid college player to keep an eye on to a sure fire first round pick. He is a Golden Spikes semi-finalist and if I had a vote (which I don’t) I would have him second behind Casey Mize. Tyler Frank is the lone non-Gator I will be paying attention to in this Regional, as he has a very good arm at short to go with a solid glove, arm, and bat. He has played many positions in his high school and college career, so there are plenty of scouts who think he can become a super utility guy and may even give him a shot behind the plate with his quick feet and strong arm. Liput is often overlooked with the Gators due to there being so much talent around him, but he shows a very good eye at the plate and plays a good second base. He has some pop and could become a lower pick that climbs his way through an organization. A look at Mace’s numbers this season won’t show someone who was all that effective, but the Freshman has excellent raw ability, and pitched well against a very good LSU lineup in the SEC tournament. Time will tell if he gets much time on the mound in this Regional, but if Florida wants to repeat as National Champions, he will have to pitch important innings for the Gators.
Host team & Location: NC State; Raleigh, NC
Teams: NC State, Auburn, Northeastern, Army
First Pitch: 2 PM EST
Top Prospects: Brett Kinneman, OF, NC State; Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn;
Sleeper Prospect: Brock Deatherage, OF, NC State
Underclassman to Watch: Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn
Overview: Kinneman is a power first hitter with good range in the outfield and an arm that may lead some teams to trying him in right, but will likely wind up a left fielder. Casey Mize is easily the top player in this year’s draft with his splitter the best pitch of anyone in the class. Unless the Detroit Tigers decide to go with a selection to save money, Mize will be the first name called on Monday night. Deatherage hit over .300 for NC State this season with 14 home runs, an OBP just shy of .400 and a slugging over .550. In a Regional that is incredibly top heavy, he may be one of the sneaky ones to get some love come draft day. Burns had a very good Freshman season with an ERA of 3.13 in the ultra-competitive SEC over 74 innings. He walked a few more batters than you would like to see, but overall he made a case to be a potential Friday night starter as a Sophomore next year.
Host team & Location: Texas Tech; Lubbock, TX
Teams: Texas Tech, Louisville, Kent State, New Mexico State
First Pitch: 2 PM EST
Top Prospects: Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech; Davis Martin, RHP, Texas Tech; Grant Little, OF, Texas Tech; Josh Stowers, OF, Louisville; Adam Wolf, LHP, Louisville
Sleeper Prospect: Devin Mann, 2B, Louisville
Underclassman to Watch: Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech
Overview: Gingery may have the best changeup in this year’s class and shows impressive command. Unfortunately he is out with Tommy John surgery. Martin is a very smart pitcher, often varying his delivery times, and has three solid pitches, but he has slid since the start of the year. One last good look in the Regionals could be big for him. While Martin has slipped this season, Little has really improved his stock. He has a good approach at the plate and plays a very good outfield and garnered some love on some All American teams. Stowers best tool is his speed and plays a solid center field. His first step is a bit of a question and he does not have much of an arm, so an eventual move to left may be in the cards, but he is a solid gap-to-gap hitter that can put up a decent average and has room on his frame to add strength. Wolf is a long lefty that has four solid pitches, the best of them being his cutter that he can add more shape into more of a slider if he needs. He has experience as both a starter and reliver, but he will definitely be given every chance to prove himself as a starter at the next level. Mann absolutely tore up the ACC tournament and plays a strong second base. He has never put up huge numbers but seems to be a leader for the team and just gets the job done. Like Grant Little, Josh Jung made a couple All American teams this season, hitting .381 and slugging .650 while playing solid defense.
Host team & Location: Georgia; Athens, GA
Teams: Georgia, Duke, Troy, Campbell
First Pitch: 2 PM EST
Top Prospects: Griffin Conine, OF, Duke;
Sleeper Prospect: Jimmy Herron, OF, Duke
Underclassman to Watch: Adam Laskey, LHP, Duke
Overview: This is one of those Regionals that should have good baseball, but if you are looking for impact draft picks, look elsewhere. Conine had a rough start to the season, falling as low as seventh in the lineup, but has been on fire down the stretch. Herron did have more walks than strikeouts and was successful in 21 of 23 steal attempts. He may be a sneaky pick by a team in the 5-10th rounds, but his upside is limited. Laskey easily has the most upside, but he struggled this year too. He mixes between a high slot and high 3/4 slot with good balance, but caught too much of the plate too often this year.
Host team & Location: Arkansas; Fayetteville, AR
Teams: Arkansas, Southern Miss., Dallas Baptist, Oral Roberts
First Pitch: 3 PM EST
Top Prospects: Blaine Knight, RHP, Arkansas; Eric Cole, OF, Arkansas; Grant Koch, C, Arkansas; Isaiah Campbell, RHP, Arkansas; Nick Sandlin, RHP, Southern Miss.; Jameson Hannah, OF, Dallas Baptist
Sleeper Prospect: Matt Duce, C, Dallas Baptist
Underclassman to Watch: Casey Martin, 3B, Arkansas
Overview: Blaine Knight has a four pitch mix with elite velocity, a plus slider, with both a curve and change that are solid. To go with that, he shows good command making him seem like a prototypical starting prospect, but his slender frame and lack of extended summer innings leaves a question to his durability. Cole does not have a bat that will play great at the next level, but he has the speed, arm, and defensive chops to cut it at all three outfield positions and could develop into a decent fourth outfielder someday. Koch is a solid defender behind the plate and has excellent feet when throwing out runners. There are questions with the bat but there is power in it, and there will always be room for a solid defensive catcher that can knock a few balls out of the park. Campbell got just two outs in 2017 before missing the remainder of the season and being granted a medical redshirt making him a draft eligible Sophomore. He threw just over 58 innings this year while battling some injuries but had a better strikeout rate than Knight. An unhealthy year and two more years of eligibility may make him a tough sign, but he has three potential plus pitches that make him really intriguing if a team saves money early in the draft. Sandlin has seen time as a closer and starter, but he may be a rare sub-6’ righty that can make a career as a starter. He has incredible deception throwing from a multitude of arm angles that make his average to better stuff play as plus stuff. Hannah is one of my favorite guys to watch as he can fly on the bases and covers a ton of ground in center. He is also a very good hitter that can put up a good average with good gap power currently. Duce was drafted in the 14th round last year by the Mets but decided to return to Dallas Baptist for his Senior year. He did not have a great year, really struggling at the plate, but he is an athletic catcher with leadership ability who has shown quality in the bat in the past. Casey Martin was not a highly touted Freshman by many outlets, but he quickly made an impression with the Arkansas staff, batting third for much of the year for a team that ended as the fifth seeded team in the country. He had the team’s best batting average and led the team in home runs and OBP.
Host team & Location: East Carolina; Greenville, NC
Teams: East Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio State, UNC - Wilmington
First Pitch: 2 PM EST
Top Prospects: Adam Hill, RHP, South Carolina; Ryan Feltner, RHP, Ohio State
Sleeper Prospect: Noah McGowan, 3B, Ohio State
Underclassman to Watch: Bryant Packard, OF, East Carolina
Overview: Adam Hill has good extension and downhill plane on his cross-body delivery that makes his fastball that typically tops out around 95 play up even more. Mix that with his with both a slider and changeup that flash as solid pitches, and he has a good pitch mix, although his control may eventually move him to the bullpen. Feltner has one of the better fastballs in college baseball, touching 98 at times this year. He shows an impressive change, but his slider and command just aren’t where they need to be and he may be moved to a relief role quickly in pro ball. McGowan was a JuCo transfer last year and was an All-Big Ten First Team selection in his senior year. He hit .359 and drew one fewer free pass than he struck out. Given he is a senior, he could be a second half of the first ten rounds selection for a team to save money but still add a quality player to their system. Packard got some All-American love as a Sophomore this year hitting .403 with 14 home runs leading them to the 12th overall national seed.
Host team & Location: Texas; Austin, TX
Teams: Texas, Indiana, Texas A&M, Texas Southern
First Pitch: 5 PM EST
Top Prospects: Kody Clemens, 2B, Texas; Jonathan Stiever, RHP, Indiana; Mitchell Kilkenny, RHP, Texas A&M
Sleeper Prospect: Nolan Kingham, RHP, Texas
Underclassman to Watch: Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M
Overview: Cody Clemens, the son of Roger, should be a higher draft pick than the eighth round that both his brothers went. He does not have the speed or average of a typical middle infielder, but he has some pop and does field the ball well. Stiever has a good fastball that he can really command, while he has a breaking ball that morphs between a curve and slider to go with a change that is good enough to make him a real starting pitching prospect in the future. Kilkenny has skyrocketed up the ranks this season pitching as a reliever the last two years before starting the season as a Sunday starter, but ending it as the Friday night guy and hands down ace of the staff. Kingham has been the ace for the Longhorns but was bumped for an academic attendance violation during the season to go with an underwhelming season has seen his stock slip. He is in need of a big weekend in Austin. Lacy was the top prep lefy arm in the state of Texas according to Perfect Game in 2017 and pitched well for the Aggies over just under 40 innings for the Aggies. He is a future ace of the staff and an arm to watch this weekend where he will likely be coming out of the bullpen.
Host team & Location: Ole Miss; Oxford, MS
Teams: Ole Miss, Tennessee Tech, Missouri State, Saint Louis
First Pitch: 3 PM EST
Top Prospects: Ryan Rolison, LHP, Ole Miss; Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State; Dylan Coleman, RHP, Missouri State
Sleeper Prospect: Kevin Strohschein, OF, Tennessee Tech
Underclassman to Watch: Thomas Dillard, OF/1B, Ole Miss
Overview: Rolison is one of the better lefty arms in this year’s class with a four pitch mix and a delivery that is repeatable and will keep him as a long term starter. The only real question is whether or not he will sign as he is a draft eligible sophomore with the upside of being in the top 10, if not top 5, next year. Eierman has the power and arm of a third baseman, but the instincts and fluidity of a shortstop. He has regressed in his ability to hit for average this year, focusing more on power after Missouri State lost a good amount of power from last year’s lineup. Coleman has an excellent fastball and very good slider to go with an improving curve. His change needs work as does his command, but he is an excellent starter that can cause problems in a Regional. Strohschein was the OVC Player of the Year, hitting over .400 and hitting 18 home runs with more RBIs and Runs than games played. A big stage against elite competition could have a real impact on his draft stock. Dillard is below average defensively in the outfield and strikes out a good amount, but he possesses a lot of power with very strong wrists and forearms that allow him to drive the ball even if he gets jammed or out in front of the ball.
Host team & Location: Stanford; Palo Alto, CA
Teams: Stanford, Baylor, Cal State Fullerton, Wright State
First Pitch: 5 PM EST
Top Prospects: Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford; Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford; Nick Hoerner, SS/2B, Stanford; Andrew Quezada, RHP, Cal State Fullerton; Colton Eastman, RHP, Cal State Fullerton, Ryan Weiss, RHP, Wright State
Sleeper Prospect: Brett Conine, RHP, Stanford
Underclassman to Watch: Erik Miller, RHP, Stanford
Overview: Beck was a draft eligible sophomore in 2017 but missed the whole season with a stress fracture in his back. He had a solid year in 2018 but was a bit less dominating than his Freshman year. That said he will still flirt with being a first round pick on Monday and should get the Cardinal off on the right foot on Friday. Bubic took over as the Friday night starter in 2017 when Beck was down with the injury, but moved back to Saturday’s this year where he was one of the better Saturday starters in the country. Hoerner is a finalist to be named the top shortstop in college baseball, possessing solid tools in all but power. Fullerton also has a strong duo with Quezada and Eastman both arms capable of being high picks. Weiss will have to be excellent to give Wright State a shot in game one, he doesn’t have an overpowering pitch, but good arm-speed on his change helps his fastball play up. Conine was one of the best closers in 2017 but his numbers slipped in 2018. That said, he still has the shot to be an arm teams like as a possible quick moving reliever. Miller was a little unlucky in terms of ERA as the Sunday starter for Stanford, but could become the Friday night arm next year.
Host team & Location: Coastal Carolina; Conway, SC
Teams: Coastal Carolina, UConn, Washington, LIU Brooklyn
First Pitch: Noon EST
Top Prospects: Jason Bilous, RHP, Coastal Carolina; Tim Cate, LHP, UConn
Sleeper Prospect: A.J. Graffanino, SS, Washington
Underclassman to Watch: Mason Feole, LHP, UConn
Overview: Tim Cate is the star of this regional, but he has been limited due to injury down the stretch. No telling how much he pitches, but when he is on the mound he is a much watch as he may possess the best curveball in this year’s draft class. Jason Bilous has a great arm with a true plus fastball, but the command is simply poor. He is a future reliever but as a starter for Coastal Carolina he can be dominant, or tough to watch due to the lack of command. Graffanino is the son of former big-leaguer Tony Graffanino. He has some draft buzz as he led his high school team to a state title in Arizona but it was clear he was going to honor his commitment to Washington. He has average tools across the board but could be a potential signing out of this year’s draft. Feole filled in quite a bit in Cate’s absence and earned himself First Team All-Conference honors as a freshman. He has a shot to be the ace for this team in the North East for the next two years.
Host team & Location: Clemson; Clemson, SC
Teams: Clemson, Vanderbilt, St. John’s, Morehead State
First Pitch: Noon EST
Top Prospects: Seth Beer, 1B/OF, Clemson; Ryley Giliam, RHP, Clemson
Sleeper Prospect: Reid Leonard, SS, Morehead State
Underclassman to Watch: Reid Schaller, RHP, Vanderbilt
Overview: Seth Beer is hands down the top prospect in the Clemson Regional. He is a likely first day pick that can hit for average and put up big power while walking more than he strikes out. His downfall is his lack of another tool being an extremely slow runner which limits his outfield prospects, and a below average glove even at first base. Gilliam has excellent stuff showing a plus fastball and curve to go with a solid changeup, but his command may lead him to a future in the bullpen. Leonard is one of five finalists for the Brooks Wallace Award for the nation’s best shortstop. He is an elite defender but the bat is a question at the next level. A good Regional may earn him a reasonable draft position, but more than likely he will return for his senior season. Schaller appeared in 17 games his freshman year, starting two and earning the save in another. He has more than a strikeout per inning and more than four per walk. His WHIP and ERA were not great, but he is a Freshman in the SEC, there is a ton of upside in the future for him.
Host team & Location: Florida State; Tallahassee, FL
Teams: Florida State, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Samford
First Pitch: Noon EST
Top Prospects: Cal Raleigh, C, Florida State; Cole Sands, RHP, Florida State, Rhett Aplin, OF, Florida State; Jake Magnum, OF, Mississippi State; Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma; Kyler Murray, OF, Oklahoma; Jake Irvin, RHP, Oklahoma
Sleeper Prospect: Jackson Lueck, OF, Florida State
Underclassman to Watch: Drew Mendoza, 3B/SS, Florida State
Overview: Pretty safe to say this regional has some real talent in it. Steele Walker will likely be the top pick of the group as a toolsy outfielder, but Kyler Murray is not somebody to overlook in that same outfield. Raleigh has been the leader for Florida State, Magnum seems like an old veteran as he has been on the playoff stage with Mississippi State for years it seems. Lueck is a very good outfielder for the Seminoles, and Mendoza continued his impressive Sophomore season by hitting the ACC winning double in extras in the conference tournament.
Host team & Location: North Carolina; Chapel Hill, NC
Teams: North Carolina, Purdue, Houston, North Carolina A&T
First Pitch: 2 PM EST
Top Prospects: Austin Bergner, RHP, North Carolina; Kyle Datres, 3B, North Carolina
Sleeper Prospect: Trey Cumbie, LHP, Houston
Underclassman to Watch: Tyler Baum, RHP, North Carolina
Overview: If you are looking for one Regional to ignore completely, this might be the one. Both Bergner and Datres were on some preseason watch lists and put up good enough seasons to land on MLB.com’s top 200 draft prospect list as well. That said, neither has particularly great upside, although Bergner does have a potential plus fastball and change which could make him a valuable starter in time. Baum could be in line to be the Friday night starter next year for North Carolina despite average numbers this year and Cumbie struck out more than a batter per inning this year for Houston.
Host team & Location: Stetson; DeLand, FL
Teams: Stetson, South Florida, Oklahoma State, Hartford
First Pitch: 1 PM EST
Top Prospects: Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida; Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
Sleeper Prospect: Carson Teel, LHP, Oklahoma State
Underclassman to Watch: Mitchell Senger, LHP, Stetson
Overview: This Regional is all about McClanahan and Gilbert. They will both go somewhere in the middle of the first round on Monday night, and this is the last chance to impact scouts. While it would be incredible to see them in the same game, it looks like they will both pitch Friday against Oklahoma State and Harford respectively. Teel was an All-Big 12 First Team starting pitcher while Senger clinched the Atlantic Sun title by pitching a shutout.
Host team & Location: Minnesota; Minneapolis, MN
Teams: Minnesota, UCLA, Gonzaga, Canisius
First Pitch: 2 PM EST
Top Prospects: Terrin Vavra, SS, Minnesota
Sleeper Prospect: Kyle Molnar, RHP, UCLA
Underclassman to Watch: Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA
Overview: Terrin Vavra is the top prospect by a long shot in this rather underwhelming Regional. He has an elite eye at the plate and ability to his for average, but that is really his only plus tool. His ability to stick on the left side is a question mark and he won’t provide much in terms of power. Molnar pitched for the first time since 2016 last weekend going just one inning, walking two and striking out one. He has as much upside as any in the Regional and it will be really interesting to see if he is able to put in a few good innings that get a team to pull the trigger on the second day of the draft.
Host team & Location: Oregon State; Corvalis, OR
Teams: Oregon State, LSU, San Diego State, Northwestern State
First Pitch: 4 PM EST
Top Prospects: Nick Madrigal, SS, Oregon State; Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State; Cadyn Grenier, 2B, Oregon State; Drew Rasmussen, RHP, Oregon State; Zach Watson, OF, LSU
Sleeper Prospect: Hunter Fedducia, C, LSU
Underclassman to Watch: Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State
Overview: Oregon State has one of the better lineups college baseball has seen in recent memory. Madrigal and Larnach could both go in the top half of the first round, with Grenier a possible first day selection. Zach Watson is another player who could be selected the first night of the draft. Feduccia is a fascinating player to me, possessing a smooth swing and really athletic, but doesn’t have any real plus tool. Rutschman could be a guy that is talked about early in the first round in 2019.