Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

CWS 2018: Field of 64 announced with Regional predictions



First College Baseball post of the season!   And it comes with the announcement of the field of 64 for the 2018 tournament.

Here’s a nice summary of the field from, including a conference breakdown.

Quick summary of the field: No Miami, no UVA, no TCU in big surprises for big programs.  The field is also missing perennial powers like Rice and Wichita State this year.  Kentucky seems to be the biggest snub … but they were sub .500 in their league and was one-and-done in the SEC tournament.  One win there and they’re probably in.  Northeastern probably the most controversial at-large bid, having their one-bid conference slot “stolen” by UNC-W but not really having earned it on their season.  There’s some sniffling at the national seeding of (in particular) the ACC teams, but otherwise most of the pundits I read think this is a pretty solid field.

Here’s your National seeds:

1. Florida
2. Stanford
3. Oregon State
4. Ole Miss
5. Arkansas
6. UNC
7. Florida State
8. Georgia

That’s a solid SEC showing; four of the top 8 national seeds and 10 teams overall in the tourney.

Next seeds

9. Texas Tech
10. Clemson
11. Stetson
12. ECU
13. Texas
14. Minnesota
15. Coastal Carolina
16. NC State.


Quick predictions (here i’ve put in the teams by Super Regional match-up):

1. Florida; cakewalk regional; their #2 is Jacksonville?  See you in a couple weeks.
16. NC State: Get the seed over Auburn; if they save their Ace NC State could be in the Loser’s bracket really quickly.  I think Auburn advances here.

2. Stanford: got no favors by getting the always-tough Cal State Fullerton team in their regional, but their #2 seed Baylor is manageable.
15. Coastal Carolina: gets UConn as their #2 seed and their tough arm Tim Cate.  Coastal has played tough down the stretch though and should advance.

3. Oregon State; tough regional with LSU and San Diego State; Oregon State will have to earn this.  Part of me hopes they go out early so the Heimlich stories die soon.
14. Minnesota; gets two west coast teams in UCLA and Gonzaga; i do not give Big10 baseball teams much credit … but they might be able to handle UCLA this year.

4. Ole Miss; gets a tough Missouri State team (with top draft prospect Jeremey Eierman), but i’m not sure they’re that scared of their #2 Tennessee Tech.
13. Texas: i’d be more scared of TAMU as a 3-seed than Indiana as a #2 seed this year.  TAMU somehow is a #3 seed despite being a top 16 team by RPI and possibly being in the host discussion.  Meanwhile Texas is not as strong as its #13 seed in this tournament looks … I smell an upset here.

5. Arkansas: gets two traditional smaller-school baseball powers in Southern Miss and Dallas Baptist; does anyone ever know how these teams will fare?
12. ECU: gets a tough #2 in South Carolina; can they survive the SEC power?  I’m not sure they can and think South Carolina advances.

6. UNC: gets a manageable region thanks to a Big10 team as their #2 seed.
11. Stetson: two great arms in this region in Gilbert and McClanahan with USF … but Oklahoma State looms too.

7. Florida State: A solid regional here with SEC and Big12 powers.  Florida State is always a tough out though.
10. Clemson gets Vanderbilt again … which means one good team goes home early, again.

8. Georgia: they should be able to get past Duke in this weaker regional.
9. Texas Tech has to face off against Louisville, who for the first time in a few years doesn’t have a top-10 draft pick leading their line.


Local rooting interests in the tournament: amazingly, zero DC/MD/VA colleges made this tournament.  No UVA, no Maryland, no Liberty, no VCU or ODU or any of the CAA teams that sometimes sneak in.  Here’s a quick peek at the DC/MD/VA players I could think of who will be playing:

  • #12 Seed ECU has the former dominant LHP Jake Agnos (Battlefield HS in Haymarket) on their staff; he had 80 Ks in 60 innings split between starting and relief roles and stepped it up in the post-season tourney.
  • LSU moved Zach Hess (Lynchburg/Liberty Christian Academy) into the rotation this year and he was the saturday starter all spring; he went 7-5 with a 4.43 ERA and saw his draft stock drop significantly (he’s a draft-eligible sophomore this year).  I wonder if he stays in school another year to rebuild value as a starter.
  • #15 Coastal Carolina has several Virginia-natives in starting roles, including weekend starter Zack Hopeck (Heritage HS in Leesburg) and starting OF Kieton Rivers (Nansemond River HS in Suffolk).
  • #16 NC State has three VA-natives on their pitching staff, including staff-ERA leading Kent Klyman (Jamestown HS in Williamsburg).
  • South Carolina’s friday starter is Cody Morris, who dominated Maryland prep for Reservoir HS in Laurel.  They also feature a starting catcher Hunter Taylor from Nandua HS in Onley VA.

Significant Draft picks from the top seeds worth noting: here’s some of the guys we’re hearing rumors about being 1st rounders in June:

  • Florida; no wonder they’re #1: they may have three guys taken in the top 10 picks.  Weekend starters Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar and clean-up hitter Jonathan India the players to watch, plus Michael Byrne who was All American pre-season as their closer.
  • Stanford: paced by two top-end starters getting 1st round buzz in Kris Bubic and Tristan Beck.
  • Oregon State: Nick Madrigal may be a top 5 guy and be lightening fast to the majors.  Ace is the highly controversial Luke Heimlich (if you don’t know who he is … he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated a few weeks back; google it).  OF Trevor Larnach is getting some 1st round buzz too.
  • Ole Miss; Ace starter Ryan Rolison was the top prospect in the Cape Cod league last  year.
  • Florida State: Tyler Holton was All-American last year and pre-season All American again this year.
  • Auburn: likely 1-1 Casey Mize is their friday starter.
  • Stetson: ace Logan Gilbert has seen his stock fall but is still likely a mid-1st rounder.
  • South Florida’s ace Shane McClanahan could go high.
  • Duke’s Griffin Conine has a famous pedigree and could be a 1st-day pick.
  • Texas Tech’s starter Steve Gingery has a long line of awards behind his name.
  • Clemson’s Seth Beer has been mashing ever since he arrived at school, winning the Dick Howser award as a freshman.  He could be a sleeper pick late in the 1st round.

33 Responses to 'CWS 2018: Field of 64 announced with Regional predictions'

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  1. Uh oh, Matt Skole made his big league debut yesterday with CWS and went 2-3 with a HR and BB. I’m shocked this hasn’t generated any comments yet today!


    29 May 18 at 5:13 pm

  2. Nah, good for Skole to get a shot.

    Draft coming up. I’d guess pitching early again for the Nats, and maybe even as many as last year. My guesses for the 1st rounder are:
    Mason Denaburg (but I don’t think he falls)
    Daniel Lynch
    Shane McClanahan
    Ryan Rolison
    Kumar Rocker.
    My guess is they pick McClanahan, but I would take Rocker. Really like him.

    And, is it just me, or does Heimlich profile as the kind of guy Rizzo takes a flyer on? I hope not, but it fits his M.O. Big talent with some kind of question mark


    30 May 18 at 9:26 am

  3. Skole: good for him. Indeed, surprised MartyC hasn’t pipped up, along with pointing out that Giolito sucks and Reynaldo Lopez is going to win the AL Cy Young award.

    Draft: i’ve got a post with a gazillion mocks on it. I’ve seen Denaburg many times on it. Lynch would be too early, I think McClanahan would already be gone. Rolison too; he’d be a solid Rizzo pick. Rocker may be there … but is really controversial this year; how good is he?

    What’s odd about all these mocks is that almost all of them have Rizzo picking a prep pitcher. Which has happened exactly three times in him picking for nearly a decade of top 10 rounds, let alone 1st round. Giolito, Luzardo and Cole. that’s his entire top 10 round history of high school arms. He ALWAYS takes college arms.

    Heimlich does NOT appear to be a Rizzo guy. No boras connection, but more importantly there’s “character issues” and then theres “felony if he was an adult” issues. Rizzo is already eating crow by the “i told you soers” about Romero; I just cannot see this organization taking him.

    Todd Boss

    30 May 18 at 2:08 pm

  4. I can see Rizzo maneuvering to take Heimlich. I just hope he doesn’t choke.


    30 May 18 at 2:09 pm

  5. Heimlich “kind of a question mark?” You guys have read about him right?

    Todd Boss

    30 May 18 at 2:12 pm

  6. Wow, I go on vacation and miss both the Soto and Skole debuts! OK, so one is a little more monumental than the other. With guys like Adams and Reynolds available for virtually nothing, there’s little reason to miss Skole, although good for him for making The Show.

    Soto’s just here until Goodwin is ready, right? They’re going to send him back down, right? He’s going to hit a rough patch at some point, right? But what happens if he doesn’t . . . (A nice “problem” to have.) At some point this season, the Nats should have their OF pick of Harper, Eaton, Taylor, Robles, and Soto. From that crew, who are your starters in the postseason? The simple answer is Harper/Taylor/Eaton, but it seems to get less simple by the day.


    30 May 18 at 4:26 pm

  7. I didn’t mean to say Heimlich’s offense was only a question mark, I’m aware of what it is and it’s horrible. The question mark was meant to say that Rizzo has drafted big talent even if it had an issue attached, like injury or Romero’s past. Although I think it’s fair that the behavior of Romero may make him cautious before drafting another troublemaker so high.


    30 May 18 at 5:25 pm

  8. I think Soto goes back down when Eaton is here, assuming no injury to Taylor or Harper. If he could play CF, I think they’d keep him and bump MAT to the bench, but he has to play everyday and I don’t think he can handle cf.


    30 May 18 at 5:27 pm

  9. Btw, why is Rocker controversial? I haven’t read anything like that. He looked good in the little bit of video that I saw


    30 May 18 at 5:35 pm

  10. Rocker “controversial” in that scouts seem to really disagree on how good he is. Some apparently think he’s a top-5 talent, others don’t think he’s a first rounder.

    Todd Boss

    30 May 18 at 5:43 pm

  11. Send Soto down? No way. He’s slashing as we speak .320/.414/.560.

    As long as he’s putting up a line like that, someone else makes way. Honestly what i’d do is stick either Eaton or Soto in CF, Taylor to the bench, Stevenson to AAA.

    Todd Boss

    30 May 18 at 5:45 pm

  12. MAT is slashing .201/.269/.353. I know someone has to play CF. Will Eaton be healed enough to consider in center? Would they consider using Bryce there?

    Look, there’s no reason for Soto to be on the bench with the big club. But if he keeps hitting, he’s a lot more useful in the lineup than Taylor is. It’s not getting ahead of ourselves to think that Soto can be a more consistent hitter than Taylor is. He’s done it at every level.

    Larger point — if you haven’t looked at the standings recently, the NL is a mess right now. A wide-open run to the World Series is there for the taking. Put your best eight on the field. If they don’t happen to include Taylor or Zimmerman, too bad. The Dodgers sent A-Gone home last year and didn’t miss him at all.

    Is Soto up for good? It will be interesting to see. He didn’t make the Super Two date, which is generally in June. It’s beyond amazing that a guy who started the season in A ball, not even A+, came up before the Super Two date.


    30 May 18 at 8:30 pm

  13. As for the topic of the post, I would love it if the Nats took Seth Beer. Most of the mocks have him into the 30s in the picks. It’s hard to judge his production, though, as teams don’t pitch to him. A couple of rounds after Beer, take the injured Luken Baker.

    Heimlich? A thousand times no, particularly on the heels of the Seth Romero debacle.


    30 May 18 at 8:39 pm

  14. :-). Welcome back from vacation, KW.

    Soto just hit a ball 18” off the plate for a single to left, making it 2-0. I’m totally fine leaving him up but he has to play everyday. I don’t think Eaton’s leg makes him ready for CF but if that’s wrong, then sign me up


    30 May 18 at 9:13 pm

  15. Nats are now 1,079-1,079 all time. It has taken seven winning seasons to overcome the awful early years and get to .500.

    Nats also now in first place. The Braves and Phils currently sit in the wild card slots. If the season ended today, the playoffs would not include the Cubs, Dodgers, or D-Backs.

    Wally, I don’t think Eaton will be CF-capable. Todd has jumped up and down for years that Bryce could play CF. Why not? What are they saving him for?


    31 May 18 at 5:33 am

  16. Max ERA 1.92, WHIP 0.85, with 120 Ks in only 79.2 IP. Wow.


    31 May 18 at 5:38 am

  17. I don’t see them putting Bryce in CF. He could probably be slightly better than awful (not doing so well in RF, which is lower on the defensive spectrum), but they’ve been so respectful to him in his walk Year, that I just don’t see them disrupting him like that. So it’s eaton, MAT or Goodwin, unless they try Soto. I’d say the likelihood when everyone is healthy is Soto goes down (65%) or Eaton plays CF (35%).


    31 May 18 at 7:13 am

  18. Just noticed that Bryce has an astoundingly low BABIP of .209. If you believe in the “due theory,” he’s the guy. Yes, the league leader in HRs is due to heat up.

    No, I don’t think the Nats will play Bryce in CF, although I also don’t know why not. My guess is that Bryce would do it in a heartbeat if allowed. It’s Boras who would be unhappy. But hey, if Bryce wants to be a Yankee, CF is the only place he can play in NYY, right?

    In related news, I think Soto’s rapid emergence will have significant impact on the Nats’ Bryce decision. I always said that I didn’t think Robles would keep them from trying to re-sign Harper. Soto is a different story. He’s much more of a middle-of-the-order bat than Robles is. I have been a holdout for years in thinking that the Nats would bid big to keep Bryce, but with Soto on the scene, I’m no longer so sure.


    31 May 18 at 9:00 am

  19. Steamer projects Juan Soto to have a 117 WRC+ for the rest of the year. Nineteen year old Bryce Harper put up a 121 WRC+ in MLB, and Soto’s minor league numbers are famously better than Harper’s (albeit in a much smaller number of plate appearances).

    With a full complement of healthy outfielders, including Eaton, Goodwin, and Robles, I’m pretty confident that Soto is one of the three best hitters along with Eaton and Harper. The question is whether the better offense is enough to compensate for the necessarily worse defense. I think I would try Harper in CF. Although his defense in RF hasn’t been rated very well statistically, I think his big problem is plays around the wall; his speed seems fine to me. There are fewer walls in CF compared to the corners, and fewer balls are hit to the CF wall because it’s farther away. So I think Harper would be passable in CF, especially with guys like Eaton and Soto (who are both fast; and Eaton we know has good range) in the corners. Chelsea Janes reported yesterday that Eaton is going to play rehab games in CF. I think I’d prefer to be cautious with him and try Bryce in CF, but if they think Eaton is up for it, that’s ok with me.

    Whether the offensive gain is worth the defensive cost depends upon the replacement. If it’s MAT, the answer is clearly yes. The jump from his 80 WRC+ to Soto’s 117 is enormous. It’s a different question if the replacement is Robles. I could see the delta between Robles and Soto in defense/baserunning as larger than the delta in hitting. But Robles is a ways away, and he should play a bunch of rehab games before he’s part of the conversation.

    The Nats are in a division race. They need to play their best players. Soto is one of their three best OFs, and he will be when Eaton comes back. He may not be when Robles comes back, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

    Soto stays.


    31 May 18 at 10:39 am

  20. Is Eaton healthy enough to play CF? Probably not. We’ve talked about it before here, but Eaton’s knee injury probably is a full year before he’s really “confident” on it. Now, playing OF isn’t the same as playing football or basketball, with quick cuts and stop/start … so maybe he can gut it out. BUT, he’s now coming off a blown knee AND ankle surgery. I think you kind of have to put him in LF for the time being.

    So that means you put either Harper or Soto in CF. Honestly … based on what i’m seeing, I think you put Soto there. Yes I have pounded the drum for Harper in Center in the past … but he’s bulked up, he’s not as fast as he used to be. I think Soto is a better choice right now. younger, nimbler. Plus there’s the “don’t mess with a good thing” aspect; i want Harper focusing on hitting right now, not re-learning how to play CF.

    Here’s Soto highlights from last night. 3 hits, great OF relay from left. stolen base at third. Jeeze … this kid is legit.

    Todd Boss

    31 May 18 at 11:30 am

  21. Honestly … and i know this is homer hype and over projecting … but is Soto already putting his name into the Rookie of the Year race? I know everyone is already ready to give the AL award to Ohtani and the NL award to Acuna … but it was Villanueva in SD who won the april NL rookie of the month, and Soto’s numbers look like they project a lot better. Acuna’s numbers were pretty solid but now he’s hurt and out for a bit.

    Soto’s readiness combined with Robles’ potential makes me basically think that the Nats can and will move on from Harper. Harper has a 144 wRC+ for the year, right in line with his career 142… and he’s got a god-awful BABIP so he should be improving over the course of the season. Soto’s is 176 as we speak … with a .440 babip so we should be expecting some regression. But still … Harper’s 140 wrc+ at $30M+/year or say Soto settles into a 120 figure …. at the MLB minimum. Which one are you going to take?

    Todd Boss

    31 May 18 at 12:49 pm

  22. A couple Q&As from Keith Law’s Chat:

    Greg Bird is The Word: Considering Hicks is a FA after 2019, & Florial is a ???, if the Yanks signed Harper, could he handle CF mostly full-time? If he still has a Mantle fascination, they could give him # 77 & sell him on playing that position. And throw $400 million at him, of course…
    Keith Law: I think he can handle CF, but my question would be whether that would increase the chances of him getting hurt (covering more ground, plus he still plays like his hair’s on fire).

    Derek: Adam Eaton is heading on a rehab assignment and scheduled to come back next week. What should the Nats do upon his return? It seems clear that Harper, Eaton, and Soto are the three best bats and should play most of the time. CF defense would be a problem, but the extra offense more than makes up for it, in my opinion. Who of those three would you stick in CF? I can make a case for and against each one.
    Keith Law: Soto can handle CF.


    31 May 18 at 2:49 pm

  23. ha i’m reading that right now and figured “Derek” was you 🙂

    Todd Boss

    31 May 18 at 3:25 pm

  24. It’s funny because when Soto was mostly in the ether, a rare creature hardly seen, there was scuttlebutt that he was LF/1B-only, maybe having to end up at 1B. Some guru types were repeating this. Based on this supposed info, there was a fair amount of speculation that Robles was more valuable than Soto because Soto was “bat only,” or at least “bat first.” Well, we’ve had a SSS thus far, but that guy who cut off the ball to the gap on Tuesday and made the perfect relay to Trea sure looked like he could cover some ground. He’s no Adams or Lind in LF, that much is certain. He wouldn’t be my first choice in CF, simply because he has had little or no time there and MLB parks can be tricky. But it may not be a stretch for him to start working there some during BP.

    As for Eaton, the ankle injury may have been a blessing in disguise because it gave his knee two more months to recover.


    31 May 18 at 3:50 pm

  25. I too find it hard to believe that the guy we’re seeing was pegged as only a “corner outfielder” defensively. He’s listed as 6’1″, 185. Byron Buxton, largely considered the fastest guy in the majors and the best rated defensive CF in the majors last year … is listed as 6’2″ 190.


    Honestly … the “right” configuration next year might very well be Soto-Robles-Eaton (which would be a sick, awesome defensive outfield), or perhaps Eaton-Robles-Soto if Eaton loses a step thanks to all his injuries.

    Todd Boss

    31 May 18 at 4:10 pm

  26. All love to Soto.

    But I don’t see the same things defensively as you guys, or KLaw for that matter. He seems to be a poor LF with a weak arm to me. I agree that he’s one of their three best regular OF bats, but Could I take him in cf full time? I dunno, not sure. MAT is pretty valuable out there.

    I think what happens in a few weeks depends. Is everyone back with demonstrated health and they have a five game lead? If yes then I think he goes back down until Sep or another injury. Is he still hitting or does the Babip gods drop him to .250? Not sure what happens.

    Are they losing other offensive guys and he is maintaining his pace? He stays.


    31 May 18 at 6:56 pm

  27. I don’t know that Soto would be my preference in CF. He has little to no experience there, and learning on the fly in the majors isn’t recommended. If I had to bet, I would say that it’s going to be Eaton in CF, despite the injuries. For 2019, I’d bet on Eaton in RF, Robles in CF, and Soto in LF.

    Feeble effort by the hitters in ATL on Thursday, by the way.


    1 Jun 18 at 8:01 am

  28. Maybe Eaton is good enough to play there when he comes back. Love Taylor’s defense … but his offense has reverted to form.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jun 18 at 3:22 pm

  29. Goodwin is in center today 6/1/18 … that’s a wrinkle.

    Todd Boss

    1 Jun 18 at 4:16 pm

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  33. […] Field of 64 announcement with Regional predictions and highlights of top-end draft prospects. […]

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