Nationals Arm Race

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

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UVA’s 2015 baseball recruiting class ranked top-10

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The publication Collegiate Baseball Newspaper recently announced its Top 40 college baseball recruiting classes, and 2014 CWS runner-up UVA was ranked 9th.  LSU, Wichita State, Florida, San Diego and Oklahoma State comprise the surprising top 5, though the rest of the top 10 contains some of the expected collegiate powerhouse programs.  In late October, Baseball America ranked UVA’s class even higher, at #2 in the country behind only LSU.

(Also: UVA announced their 2015 schedule on 9/25/14, schedule here).

UVA published their own press release, which detailed the names in their recruiting class.  A good friend (UVA alumni who has taken a big interest in the squad with their recent success) asked me to react to the class with what I knew.  Here’s what I wrote:

(Here’s what I wrote about UVA-committed players after the 2014 draft, and some of these guys were covered in my “pre-2014 season draft prospects” piece).

Derek Casey: he’s the player I’d be most happy about coming to school, were I a UVA fan.  He was a 3rd round talent, undefeated in his HS pitching career, 93-94 on the gun.  He should go far towards replacing the arms UVA stands to lose after next season to the draft (basically, all three of their projected weekend starters are Juniors in 2015).
Pavin Smith probably replaces Mike Papi like-for-like in the lineup; big lefty 1B/OF type.  Well regarded nationally.
Charlie Cody was more highly ranked on prospect boards before his Senior year; he’s a good bat addition.  At one point early in 2014 he was ranked as high as #34 for all HS prospects nation-wide by one ranking service.
Bennett Sousa is another guy who got a lot of national recognition even if he wasn’t drafted.  93mph from the left hand side, another future starter.
Tommy Doyle: its hard to say just how good he is: yes he got drafted (by the Nats in the 34th round) but his drafting seemed to be one of those “draft a local kid to appease a part-owner’s buddy” kind of things.  He pitched at a small high school (Flint Hill Prep in Oakton) with almost no competition, making it really tough to gauge how good he is.  He also played for a no-name travel team instead of someone like the Evoshield Canes.  What he does have going for him is his size: he’s 6’6″ and hitting 91, which probably comes out of his hand about a foot closer to the plate than a guy who is 6′ even, making it look that much faster.  If he can add a few mph, he’ll be a beast.
Jack Gerstenmaier, like Cody, had his stock drop in 2014 for whatever reason.  He was a 1st team PerfectGame All-American for the region at one point.  But Gerstenmaier-Cody could be UVA’s double play combo for years.

Of the rest of UVA’s announced class, I don’t know anything about them, even the local guys.  I’d guess that a couple of them are good talents … but most of them might be on minimal-to-no scholarship.

UVA lost a big-time recruit last minute in Devon Fisher (no relation to 2014 supp-1st round pick Derek Fisher); he was a catcher from Portsmouth who got drafted and then signed with Boston.  20th rounder so probably not for a lot of cash, which makes it that much more of a surprise.  He would have pushed this class up the rankings for sure.

With the new draft rules in place, its likely that guys like Cody, Casey and Gerstenmaier let it be known they had strong college commitments and thus that hampered their draft status.  Same thing happened to Conner Jones last year.  Good for UVA that they draw so well.

It seems UVA is quite setup for the future in terms of arms:

  • 2015 rotation: Kirby, Waddel, Sborz on weekends, one of the freshman/sophomores (Jones?) mid-week.
  • 2016 rotation: Choosing from Jones, Bettinger, Sousa, Doyle and Casey.  not bad.

CWS Group Play review; Final set

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Here’s a look at our CWS coverage so far in 2014:

Now lets review the group play in Omaha.  Compared to the blitz of games during regionals (100+ games in four days) and super-regionals (where there were nearly 40 games in a long weekend), covering the CWS is pedestrian; there’s just a couple of games a day for nearly two weeks.

My pre-CWS predictions are with Vanderbilt from the top and UVA from the bottom, but UVA’s path through to the CWS finals is a lot tougher.  Lets see how things played out.


In the Top Bracket (UC Irvine, Vanderbilt, Louisville, and Texas):

UC Irvine continued their surprising run this post-season by getting 3 runs late on Texas’ starter Nathan Thornhill and taking the first game 3-1.  Meanwhile, Vanderbilt got to wild Louisville starter Kyle Funkhowser behind their flame-throwing converted closer Carson Fulmer and took their first game 5-3

In the first elimination game, Texas handed Louisville’s Anthony Kidston his first loss of the year and put the Cardinals 2-and-out 4-1.  In the winner’s bracket game, UC Irvine tagged Vanderbilt’s stud Tyler Beede for four runs early and knocked him out in the 4th, but Walker Buehler relieved and threw 5+ innings of no-hit ball as Vanderbilt’s offense stormed back to take the winner’s bracket game 6-4.  This sets up Vanderbilt nicely for the rest of the tournament and confirms them as the early favorite to advance to the final.  In an elimination game, Texas got a solo homer from C.J. Hinojosa and 8+ shutout innings from middle-reliever Chad Hollingsworth to eliminate UC Irvine 1-0 in a matchup of two of the games most tenured and respected coaches Augie Garido and Mike Gillespie, with nearly 3,000 combined wins between them.  Texas must now beat Vanderbilt twice over the 6/20/14 weekend to advance to the CWS final.  Texas did their part in the first game, knocking Vanderbilt’s starter out before the first inning was complete and winning 4-0 to force a doe-or-die 6/21/14 game.  In that do-or-die game, Vanderbilt outlasted Texas with a walk-off infield single in the bottom of the 10th to advance 4-3.


In the Bottom Bracket (Texas Tech,Virginia, Ole Miss and TCU):

TCU saved their #1 starter and got by Texas Tech 3-2 in the opener, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th after not being able to touch TTU starter Chris Sadberry.  Texas Tech’s coach is probably kicking himself right now; Sadberry had given up just 3 hits through 7 innings and sat on 101 pitches; his reliever immediately coughed up the game.  Meanwhile, UVA’s Nathan Kirby pitched a gem in their opener, holding Ole Miss to just one hit over 7 innings and supp-1st rounder Mike Papi drove in the walk-off run as UVA won 2-1.  UVA’s work is cut out for them though, having to face first rounder Brandon Finnegan in the winner’s bracket game.  In that marquee TCU-UVA matchup, UVA couldn’t do much against Finnegan (8ip, 1 ER) but their own co-ace Brandon Waddell also held the Horned Frogs in check (7ip, 1ER).  The game went into extras .. many extra innings, finally won by UVA in the 15th 3-2 (tying the longest CWS game ever).  UVA’s closer Nick Howard threw 4 innings and 60 pitches, which makes me wonder if we’ll be hearing complaints about his usage (perhaps not; he was a starter his first two years at UVA).  Then, In the loser’s bracket, Ole Miss put Texas Tech out in a close 2-1 game, then similarly eliminated TCU 6-4.  Ole Miss must now beat UVA twice over the 6/20/14 weekend to advance to the CWS final.  And they couldn’t do it: behind 8 innings from their #3 and #4 starters (Josh Sborz and Artie Lewicki UVA topped Ole Miss 4-1 to advance to the CWS finals.


CWS finals: #13 Vanderbilt versus #3 UVA.

Game 1 on June 23rd, Game 2 on June 24th and (if necessary) Game 3 on June 25th.

Kirby versus Beede in game 1; Kirby sits on 8 days of rest after throwing just 85 pitches on June 15th.  Vanderbilt burned their ace Fulmer in the bracket final, leaving Vanderbilt at a definite disadvantage in the pitching matchup.  In game 2, UVA has Waddell set to go with 6 days rest while Vanderbilt has to go with their #3.  Sborz/Lewicki could tandem pitch a deciding game 3 for UVA with four full days rest if neither guy is used in the first two games, while Vanderbilt could bring back Fulmer on 3 days rest (to the likely ire of pitch count scouts, despite the fact that he only threw 90 pitches on 6/21).  UVA’s pitching is setup just about as good as you could hope for and have the bats to match; you have to think they’re the favorites.


Resources: d1baseball.com has all the CWS results in easy-to-consume fashion.  Their live scoreboard is great and is up-to-the-minute all throughout the weekend with links to the ESPN box scores.  Collegesplits.com has a ton of great data on college players.  And the Washington Post is providing great coverage of UVA’s trek through the college playoffs.

Local 2014 Draft Prospects: Post-draft summary

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Jacob Bukauskas was among the area's highest ranked draft prospect. Where'd he go? John McDonnell/Washington Post via getty images

Jacob Bukauskas was among the area’s highest ranked draft prospect. Where’d he go? John McDonnell/Washington Post via getty images

We started looking at DC-local draft prospects early this spring with a comprehensive pre-season review of all local draft prospects.  Then at mid-spring season we took at look at just the best local prospects.   Now that the Rule 4 draft has occurred, lets talk about some of these big-time names from DC/MD/VA and who went where.

I’ll list these players with local ties in the order they were drafted, which it should be noted, turned out to be vastly different from their pre-draft ranking order.  Like with other posts, I’ll put in rankings for the player from four reputable ranking sources pre-draft for prospects: Keith LawBaseball AmericaMLB.com and MinorLeagueBall (though, as we’ll see by the rankings below, I’m not sure I think MinorLeagueBall’s rankings are worthy; they’re *way* off on some players who went in the upper rounds).  After the 10th round, we’ll just focus on “name players” or high schoolers who got previous mention; lets be honest, the odds of a high school star being bought out of his college commitment drastically drops after just the first few rounds.

Editor’s note: post-signing deadline I updated this with signing status and bonus for first 10 rounds of picks.  Actual bonus tracker from MLB.com here, slot values for each pick here.

The MLB Draft Tracker is the best tool out there for finding info on players and is used heavily here.

  • 1st Round/#19 overall by Cincinnati: Nick Howard, UVA rhp reliever (Law #63/BA #25/MLB #31/MinorLeagueBall #40).  Jim Callis reports that Howard’s stock was rising fast ahead of the draft, and MlbDraftInsider predicted an early 2nd round pick for Howard.  Shocking everyone, he went right after the Nats picked at #19 in the first round.  A surprise pick; he was projected to be just the third UVA player selected and perhaps a 2nd rounder.   He was a Sunday starter for UVA but moved to the bullpen in 2014 and showed a significant strike-out tool (he had a 15.88 K/9 rate on the year, albeit in just 28 innings closing games for UVA).  I wonder if Cincinnati is thinking they can move him back to a starting role, because drafting a reliever this high is (in some pundit’s minds) a waste of a first round pick.  Signed for $1.995M, $100k under slot.
  • Supp-1st Round/#37 overall by Houston: Derek Fisher, UVA OF (#15/#31/#26/#31).  Keith Law video breakdown.  Law predicted back of first round despite his ranking him as the 15th best prospect.  Scout.com predicted the same.  MlbDraftInsider predicted mid-first round.  They were all wrong; Fisher lasted until the mid supplemental 1st round, and odds are that Houston got a steal of a player here.  Fisher’s production was hampered by a broken hamate bone this season, causing him to miss time and lose power, so this pick was projecting his excellent sophomore season.  I think Houston will find a quick-to-the-majors corner outfielder who can slot nicely into a #2 or #6 slot.  Signed for $1.534M, exactly slot.
  • Supp-1st Round/#38 overall by Cleveland: Mike Papi, UVA 1B/OF (#43/#43/#45/#81.  Keith Law video breakdown.  Law predicted mid 2nd round.  MlbDraftInsider predicted early 2nd round.  But Papi’s strong finish clearly jumped him on Cleveland’s board, who nabbed him in the supplemental first round.  He profiles as a professional hitter, lots of line drives, lots of walks (I think of Nick Johnson).  Signed for $1.25M, about $250k under slot.
  • 2nd Round/#45 overall by Chicago Cubs: Jake Stinnett, SR RHP from U of Maryland (#51/#67/#72/#213??).  Stinnett clearly made himself a ton of money with his showings at the ACC tournament (8ip, 3 ER and 10ks versus UVA) and the CWS regional (8ip, 3runs against ODU).  He is the first college senior off the board, to a team (the Cubs) that is trying to rebuild itself, so one may wonder if this is a pre-negotiated/below-slot deal with a guy who won’t have a ton of leverage so that the Cubs can throw extra cash later on.  Either way, Stinnett was likely to go in the 2nd round regardless, so the Cubs don’t do much of an over-draft here.  Signed for exactly $1M, about $250k under slot.
  • 3rd round/#78 overall by Chicago Cubs: Mark Zagunas, C from Virginia Tech ((Law out of top 100/#111/#149/#106).  Zagunas profiles as a Jason Kendall like catcher; good defense, contact hitter who doesn’t strike out a ton.  But Law thinks he projects as a backup catcher and thinks this is a bit of an over-draft.  No matter; Zagunas became one of the first players to sign when he took an under-slot deal over the weekend.  Signed for 615K, about $100k underslot.
  • 3rd round/#83 overall by Toronto: Nick Wells is a LHP from Battlefield HS in Gainesville (Law out of top 100/#119/Out of MLB’s top 200/#343) who has a College of Charleston commit and who sits low-90s on the gun.  He’s popped up from being just a good HS pitcher to being a potential 3rd-4th rounder.   Slot is $661k.  Might be signable; that’s a lot of money.   Battlefield lost in the 6-A north regional quarters to McLean; i’m not sure which game Wells pitched (perhaps their first round game, a 4-0 win).  UPdate: named to Baseball America’s 2nd team All-American team for 2014.  Signed for $661k, exactly slot.
  • 4th Round/#111 overall by Seattle: Ryan Yarbrough, a senior LHP from ODU (na/#407/na/na) who I hadn’t seen on any pre-draft rankings.   I was surprised to find him at least on BA’s list.  He was a weekend starter (some Friday, some Saturday) for ODU this year but struggled to a 6-7, 4.50 ERA on the season.  In the CWS regional he pitched in relief in the first of their two-and-out losses to Maryland.  No offense to Yarbrough, but a 4th round senior draftee (slot value $471k) who likely is an org-arm more befitting of a mid-20s round pick looks like a complete money-saving move by Seattle to free up cash for other picks.  Signed for just $40k, more than $430k under slot.  Seattle went WAY over-slot with its 1st rounder and supp-2nd rounder and needed to make up for it with a ton of under-slot guys.
  • 4th Round/#116 overall by Milwaukee: Troy Stokes from Calvert Hall College in Baltimore (na/#316/na/#260).  He profiles as an undersized lead-off/CF and is committed to Maryland.  I can see him signing for slot frankly based on this draft position.  Maryland loses a recruit that could have really helped them.  Signed for $400k, about $50k underslot.
  • 4th Round/#127 overall by Tampa Bay: Blake Bivens is an RHP from George Washington HS (aka GW-Danville near the NC border) (na/#124/na/#140).  He’s committed to Liberty but has been consistently 90-93 on the gun with reports of good secondary stuff.  Projected as possible 3rd-4th rounder and indeed that’s where he went.  GW-Danville is a 4-A school that got upset in their conference semis, hence his absence from the prep radar.  His slot value is $404k; is that enough to get him out of going to Liberty?  I would think so, even given Liberty’s run to the CWS this year we’re not talking about a big-time program (though, that being said, I don’t know jack about Bivens personally, and he might be quite religious, which would explain his commitment to small-school liberty despite his talents).  Named to Baseball America’s 3rd team all-american.  Signed for $462k, about $60k above slot.
  • 7th Round/#213 overall by Kansas City: Brandon Downes, CF from UVA.  I’d accuse this of being a money-saving senior sign draft pick, but Downes is a junior.   Slot is $176k; if he gets slot he may sign.  That’s a lot of money.  Signed for $150k, about $25k under slot.  Not bad for a senior sign.
  • 7th Round/#222 overall by Oakland: Brandon Cogswell, ss/2b from UVA (na/228/na/268).  MLB’s profile projects him as either a 2nd baseman or a utility guy professionally.   I wonder if he’ll sign; slot figure is $164k and he’s a college junior.  Maybe this is a peak for him.  Signed for $200k, about $35k over slot.
  • 8th/#226 by Houston: Bobby Boyd, an undersized junior CF from West Virginia U (not ranked on any list) but who hails from Silver Spring and who went to St. Johns.   Completely unnoticed by any pre-draft ranking team; is this a punt of a draft pick?  .356 average (good) but just a .389 OBP (bad … just 10 walks all year).  Signed for $140k, about $20k under slot.
  • 8th/#250 by Detroit: Artie Lewicki, UVA’s mid-week/4th starter who got a ton of work in the ACC and regional tournaments.  A nice senior draftee for Detroit.  Signed for $60k, about $90k underslot.

 

  • 10th and 14th rounds: the only two JMU players were taken; Ty McFarland and Chris Huffman.  McFarland is a senior third baseman and son of the longtime JMU coach Spanky McFarland while Huffman is a junior RH who may opt to return in hopes of a bigger bonus next year.
  • 15th/#454 by Washington: Ryan Ripken, 1B from Indian River CC but more famous for being the son of Cal Ripken, Jr.  You can’t help but make mention of this pick, not only because it was the Nats, but because of who it is.  I can’t find much of any scouting reports on the guy.  MLB.com has a story with some more data.
  • 17th/#540 by Washington: Alec Keller, a senior CF out of Princeton but who went to Douglas Freeman in Richmond.   I had never heard of Keller, but then again I didn’t really start following prep baseball closely until recently.  Of interest; perfectgame lists him at 5’6″, 110lb but mlb.com lists him at 6’2″, 200lbs.  That’s one heck of a college growth spurt :-).  I hope Keller gets some playing time in Viera and earns another summer of pro ball.
  • 20th/#600 by Arizona: Jacob Bukauskus, RHP from Stone Bridge HS in Ashburn.  Keith Law video breakdown.   The local area’s top ranked prospect, projected as a mid-to-late first round pick, goes 600th overall.  Bukauskas had informed all interested teams that he’s honoring his commitment to UNC.  the thought was that a team might draft him early 2nd round and offer him a huge-overslot deal (as Law thought would happen, with a potential $2M bonus).  Alas it did not, and this 20th round pick seems like a waste of a pick frankly.  In late May he was named the Gatorade State player of the year.  Baseball America 1st team All-American for 2014.  Stats for the season: 7-0, 0.00 ERA.  Word came out during the regional tournament that Bukauskas was being shut-down due to shoulder tendinitis; this likely was the reason he didn’t get drafted earlier.  It looks like he’s getting his wish and going to school.  UNC must be ecstatic.
  • 20th/#614 by Boston: Devon Fisher is a catcher from 6-A south champions and state favorite Western Branch HS (Portsmouth).   UVA commit.  Projects as a 4th rounder, not picked til the 20th.  Another likely victim of the new draft rules; in years past a saavy team like Boston would just throw $1M at him in the 20th and he’d sign.  Instead UVA likely gets a big-time player coming to school.  Update: Fisher signed with Boston instead of going to UVA.
  • 21st/#634 by Washington: Connor Bach, SR LHP from VMI.   I had no recollection of him previously, but NatsGM Ryan Sullivan reports that he played in the Cal Ripken league and left an impression.
  • 22nd/#675 by St. Louis: Derek Casey is an RHP from Hanover HS (Mechanicsville) with a UVA commit.  93-94 on the gun.  Projects as possible 3rd rounder.  Casey led Hanover to the 2013 AAA Virginia state title and Hanover is the favorite to win the 4-A title this year.  Another great sign for UVA; Casey likely is going to school.
  • 32nd/#958 by San Francisco: Hunter Williams is a two-way lefty player from Cosby HS in Chesterfield, VA who has skills both on the mound at at the plate.  He’s limited to first base in the field, which may make it tougher for him to get drafted and developed.  91 on the gun.  UNC commit, it should be interesting to see which way he focuses.   Projects as a 4th-5th rounder.
  • 35th/#1050 by Arizona: Justin Morris is a C from DeMatha HS who plays for the 2013 PerfectGame national champions EvoShield Canes traveling team (east-coast based travel team with a ton of big-time names matriculating these days).  He’s a Maryland commit but didn’t improve his draft stock much throughout the year.  He was #295 on minorleagueball’s pre-season list but doesn’t get picked until garbage time in the draft.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • 35th/#1054 by Washington: Flint Hill’s Tommy Doyle, a UVA commit who I didn’t think was a draft prospect, but who the Nats picked up in the 35th round likely to curry favor to a local interest.
  • 40th/#1096 by Milwaukee, Taylor Lane, a shortstop from Chesapeake but attending HS in Florida at the IMG academy.  Florida commit.

Local Names of note not drafted at all:

  • Charlie Cody is a 3B from the same Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake that just graduated Connor Jones.  He’s committed to UVA.  His stock seems to have dropped this spring and he’s joining Jones at UVA; he did not get picked at all.
  • Jeff Harding is a senior RHP from the Cambridge-South Dorchester school that just made it to Maryland 1-A’s state semis (after winning the title last year).  He’s committed to South Carolina.  I thought he’d at least get a late-round courtesy pick, but I guess not.
  • Brodie Leftridge is an OF from Highland MD who played for St. Johns in DC with a Tennessee commit.
  • Zach Clinton is a RHP from Forest, VA, plays for Liberty Christian HS (the Virginia state private schools champ) and is committed to Liberty.  On 5/27/14 he was named the co-state player of the year for private schools (along with Tommy Doyle).  No love from MLB teams though; he went undrafted and looks like he’s heading to his home town college.
  • Hunter Taylor, a C from Nandua HS in Olney, VA.  Named to the Baseball America 2nd team all-American list, was not drafted.  Committed to South Carolina.
  • Pavin Smith is a big lefty 1B/OF two-way player from Florida who will attend UVA after not signing.  It seems like he could slot right into the departing Mike Papi/Derek Fisher lineup holes.
  • Bennett Sousa is a LHP from Florida who now will attend UVA.  93mph, seems like he will slot into their rotation in a year’s time.

Summary: UVA has a ton of players drafted (no less than 8, and 7 of them likely are signing).  But they have a ton of commits from major names who didn’t get drafted and/or who got drafted so late that they stand little chance of signing.  Devon Fisher, Derek Casey, Tommy Doyle and Charlie Cody are all UVA commits likely going to school.  UNC also makes out like a bandit, getting both Bukauskas and Williams to school.  And Maryland looks like it will get at least two very decent players coming to school in Morris and Harding.


Some useful draft links for you:

 

CWS Super-Regionals recap and CWS field

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We’re through the initial field of 64, through the regional play, and now we’re through the super regionals.  Here’s a review of the action from the 6/6/14 weekend and a look at our CWS field of eight for 2014.

From a draft perspective, the super-regionals feature a number of high profile guys, as noted by MLB.com’s Joey Nowalk here.  Tyler Beede, Max Pentecost, Brandon Finnegan, UVA’s trio of 1st-2nd rounders (Derek FisherMike Papi and Nick Howard) and Maryland’s ace/2nd rounder Jake Stinnett are all names to watch.  Lots of good pitching in this super-regional.

Here’s how the super-regionals went down: we’ll look at these regionals in the original order of the top 8 national seeds.  Blue identifies the super-regional winners.

  • UC Irvine at #16 Oklahoma State: In Stillwater UC Irvine once again proved doubters wrong, sweeping two games quickly on the road to qualify for Omaha.
  • College of Charleston at Texas Tech: Texas Tech squeaked by Charleston 1-0 in the opener despite a stellar performance from local kid Taylor Clarke (8ip, 5 hits, 1 run).  Texas Tech won the 2nd game of the regional by the same score; Charleston’s pitching staff gave up 2 runs in 18 innings and lost both games.  Texas Tech to Omaha.
  • #3 Virginia hosting Maryland: Maryland (behind 2nd round pick Stinnett) shocked UVA in the opener 5-4, putting 5 runs on Virginia’s ace Nathan Kirby and knocking him out in the 5th.  Does Maryland have the pitching though to hold off the consensus CWS favorites?  Not in the 2nd game; Uva roared back to win 7-3 and force the tiebreaking game.  There UVA continued to batter the Maryland pitching staff and advanced to Omaha 11-2.
  • Stanford at #13 Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt destroyed Stanford in the opener (they were up 10-0 by the end of the 3rd) but Stanford took game 2 to force a super-regional tie-breaker.  In game 3 Vanderbilt jumped all over Stanford’s starter en route to 5 first inning runs and an eventual easy win.
  • Kennessaw State at #12 Louisville: Louisville outmatched the upstart Kennessaw State team and won two straight to return to Omaha.
  • #6 Louisiana-Lafayette hosting #11 Ole Miss: In game one Louisiana-Lafayette’s offense put 9 runs up in the first 3 innings and held on for a 9-5 win.  But Ole Miss fought back to win game 2 and force the tiebreaker.  In the deciding game, Ole Miss broke open a close, rainy game with 4 in the ninth to advance 10-4.
  • #7 TCU hosting Pepperdine: TCU got 6 decent innings out of its ace (and first round pick) Finnegan and held on for a 3-2 opening win.  Pepperdine forced the tiebreaker with its own 3-2 win in game 2.  In the decider, TCU won a back-and-forth affair by taking the lead with 2 runs in the top of the 9th and survived a rally to advance.
  • Texas hosting Houston: Texas took both games from Houston 4-2 and then 4-0 to qualify for Omaha.

CWS Field: UC Irvine, Vanderbilt, Louisville, and Texas on one side, Texas Tech,Virginia, Ole Miss and TCU on the other.

Interesting field; There’s just 2 national seeds left in this field (and just four overall), the lowest number of advancing seeds in the history of the tournament.  Its very much tilted to the lower side, with the two remaining national seeds in one bracket.

Quick predictions: Vanderbilt on one side, UVA on the other with Virginia as national champs.  Why not, eh?

CWS Field of 64 announced; teams and analysis

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CWS 2014 logo

Hot on the heels of our “local college team” post earlier this week, the full 64-team field has been announced.  (here’s a cool picture of all 64 uniforms in the tourney)

A preliminary announcement earlier on 5/26/14 stated the 16 regional hosts, each of whom is also automatically in the field.  The full field announcement came later in the day (link from College Baseball Blog and nicely formatted regional pairings from BaseballAmerica).  Oregon State got the #1 overall seed in the field of 64 and the Top 16 National seeds are:

  1. Oregon State: Pac-12 regular season champ (no tourney)
  2. Florida: SEC Eastern Division and overall regular season champion, Conference tourney runner-up
  3. Virginia: 2nd ACC coastal division
  4. Indiana: Big-10 regular season and conference tourney champion.
  5. Florida State: ACC Atlantic division champion.
  6. Louisiana-Lafayette: Sun Belt regular season and conference tourney champion.
  7. TCU: Big-12 2nd place regular season, conference tournament Champion
  8. LSU: 2nd SEC Western division, conference tourney champion.
  9. Rice: Conference USA regular season and conference tourney champion.
  10. Cal Poly: Big West regular season champ (no tourney)
  11. Ole Miss: SEC Western Division champion
  12. Louisville: American Athletic Conference regular season champion, Conference tourney runner-up
  13. Vanderbilt: 3rd SEC Western division
  14. South Carolina: 2nd SEC Eastern division,
  15. Miami: ACC Coastal Division and overall regular season champion,
  16. Oklahoma State: Big-12 regular season champion, Conference tourney runner-up

By inferring the stated match-ups of regional hosts, we infer the 9th-16 national seeds from the regional hosts: The 16 regional hosts *usually* are also the top 16 seeds of the tournament, though there have been some deviations from this in the past.  However these seem accurate based on RPI rankings and typical top-25 votes.

Seeding Analysis: I thought Oregon State was slightly over-seeded at #1; I think you have to put Florida or Florida State there based on their record, Strength of Schedule (SoS) and the conferences they play in.   Otherwise in some form or fashion I think your top 8 seeds are correct.   Some are complaining about Indiana but their RPI and BA ranks are top 8 material and there’s no team seeded 9-12 that can make a real strong case to rise.   I think teams like Houston, Washington and Texas were pretty hard done by not getting at least a regional host/9-16 seed.  How does the Pac-12 get the #1 overall seed but its 2nd best team doesn’t even rate a top 16 seed?  Meanwhile Houston is 10th in RPI and #15 in the latest BA poll, and they have to go to LSU to compete against a championship-calibre team.

(Note: CollegeBaseballBlog is reviewing every regional this week ahead of the weekend games.  Click here for an example).

Easiest RegionalsMiami, who in their 42nd consecutive CWS appearance gets Ivy league champ Columbia as its regional THREE seed and a team with a losing record as its 4th seed.  Of course, Miami’s prize will be a super-regional matchup with my tournament favorite Florida and a likely trip home.   Oregon State’s regional looks incredibly straight forward; its #2 and #3 seeds are from smaller baseball conferences and its #2 seed (UNLV) just lost their friday starter (Erick Fedde) to Tommy John.   Indiana’s regional looks pretty easy all things considered, and Florida State’s regional isn’t difficult, with middling SEC team Alabama and small conference schools to contend with.

Hardest Regionals: LSU; they get Houston, a team that should have been seeded as well as conference champ Bryant.  Oklahoma State got no favors with Nebraska and traditional power Cal-State Fullerton.  Rice gets #12 RPI ranked Texas to go with Texas A&M.  Ole Miss gets 14th ranked and under-seeded Washington to go with 25th ranked Georgia Tech and a pesky 4th seed in Jacksonville State.   Florida has three teams ranked inside of the RPI #50 in its regional; no cupcakes here and it includes the best #4 seed in the tourney (College of Charleston with local favorite Taylor Clarke).  TCU gets baseball powerhouse Dallas Baptist to go along with Sam Houston State, a team ranked in and out of the top 25 all year.  Lastly Louisville has a regional that looks like a fantastic basketball tournament; they have Kentucky, Kansas and Kent State.  Kentucky and Kansas were in the top 25 as recently as earlier this month and this could be a very competitive regional.

Snubs: West Virginia was the highest RPI ranked team left out (#38) but that was mostly on their SoS; they were barely a .500 team overall and were just 9-14 in divisional play.  Next in RPI rankings missing out were Mercer (#46), UCF (#48), and UC Santa Barbara (#50).  Central Florida likely was the “last team out” and Clemson/UC Irvine were the “last teams in.”  Duke may feel a bit unfairly done by; they finished ahead of two other NCAA teams in the conference standings.  CAA champ William & Mary just didn’t have the SOS to get in after losing the conference tournament.   Wright State won its conference going 25-4 in division only to lose the tournamnet to the team that finished dead last in conference play (Youngstown State).

(Links to other analysis from CollegeBaseballDaily blog, BaseballAmerica cool facts and tidbits, and BaseballAmerica field of 64 analysis by Aaron Fitt).

Local Rooting Interests: #3 overall seed and regional host UVA.  Liberty (#3 seed in Charlottesville region), Old Dominion (#3 seed in South Carolina’s region), George Mason (#4 seed in Rice’s regional), and U of Maryland (#2 seed in South Carolina region).  Tough matchup for Liberty.  Maryland returns to the tournament for the first time in 43 years, an amazing fact.  George Mason not only has to travel to Dallas, but they get two top 12 ranked teams in Rice and Texas.  Its hard to envision any of these teams besides host UVA advancing.

Big-time draft prospects to watch: Many of the biggest names in the upcoming draft failed to make the tourney (Carlos RodonBradley ZimmerSean Newcomb and Jeff Hoffman).  But you will have:

  • Aaron Nola, LSU’s friday night starter for the 2nd year running
  • Max Pentecost catches for Kennesaw State.
  • Michael Conforto, an OF with #1 seeded Oregon State
  • Brandon Finnegan, TCU’s #1 starter (a lefty who may be in Washington’s sights if he drops to #18 in the draft)
  • Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt’s #1 starter, who was a first rounder in 2011 out of HS but who failed to sign and has purported “make-up” issues (though finding links to whatever his transgressions may be are difficult)
  • Kyle Schwarber, Indiana’s backstop
  • Erick Fedde‘s team (UNLV) is in the tourney but he isn’t; he had Tommy John surgery a couple of weeks back.  Remember this name; more than one pundit has the Nats drafting him in 2 weeks time.
  • UVA has three 1st-2nd rounders of note as discussed here frequently: Derek FisherMike Papi and Nick Howard.

See more of the guys in play by scanning down MLBdraftInsider’s latest mock draft.  And mlb.com posted its link to the Tourney teeming with talent.

Regionals run from Friday 5/30/14 to Monday June 2nd (if needed).

My Regional winner predictions: I’ll go chalk with national seeds 1-8.  After that most of the 9-16 seeds could be in trouble:

  • I think Texas beats out perennially over-ranked #9 Rice.
  • I think #10 Cal Poly doesn’t have the SoS to compete with either Arizona State or Pepperdine and will get beat.
  • I like Washington over #11 Ole Miss.
  • I think Kentucky can outlast #12 Louisville.
  • I think #16 Oklahoma State could be in trouble with Cal State Fullerton looming as a pretty tough #3 seed.
  • I worry about small-conference #6 Louisiana-Lafayette’s lofty ranking (they’re #1 in the final BA poll) but they got a pretty easy regional.
  • Despite Houston’s pedigre I don’t think they can beat out #8 LSU, and someone has to go through Aaron Nola.  And despite some complaints with #4 Indiana’s seeding their bracket is pretty easy.

Other pundit regional predictions: CollegeBaseballBlog and MinorLeagueBall/Chris Slade.

But no matter what happens, I hope they bring along the “Bat Dog” for one of the regionals :-)


Useful College Baseball links to use: BaseballAmerica, and their top-25 lists.  d1baseball.com is fantastic and is the best place to get updated information on day-to-day data, standings, and tournament results.  PerfectGame.org has the best data on college players in their vast prep database.  Warrennolan.com has the best guesses on college baseball RPIs.  NCBWA does top-30 polls and other analysis.

Local 2014 draft-prospects; mid-spring Update

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Bukauskas is rocketing up the draft boards. Photo Bill Kamenjar/InsideNova.com

Bukauskas is rocketing up the draft boards. Photo Bill Kamenjar/InsideNova.com

This is the 2nd post in a periodic spring-long series looking at DC/MD/VA draft prospects for the 2014 season.

The pre-season review is here, going mostly on far-too-early lists of prospects from various sources.  Now that we’re a good way through high school and college seasons, its a great time to re-visit some names.  UVA remains ranked #1 in the BaseballAmerica college poll (ranking as of 5/5/14) on the backs of two guys we’ll talk about here.  But the big local baseball prospect news is all about one name in particular.

Lets talk about the three leading names that seem to be potential top-3 round picks in the coming amateur/Rule-4 draft.

  • Jacob Bukauskus, RHP from Stone Bridge HS in Ashburn has just shot up draft boards and gathered a ton of local attention.  He’s reportedly up to 98 on the gun and has given up just one RUN so far this season.   ESPN’s Keith Law drove to NoVa to see him a couple of weeks ago and filed this report (insider only), predicting he’ll be picked at the end of the first round.   The blog BaseballDraftReport wrote 1,000 words on Bukauskas here.   And the Washington Post’s Tariq Lee wrote a nice feature for WP’s AllMetSports.com and the paper a few weeks back on the prospect.  If you want to see Bukauskas, your time is running out for the regular season.  He’s throwing Stone Bridge’s mid-week games and goes tonight (5/6/14).  Stone Bridge’s schedule is here; they play at Tuscarora HS in Leesburg tonight, then are home to Broad Run on 5/13, and then play away to Freedom-South Riding on monday 5/19 before the post-season tournaments start.  Law has him ranked #29 in his early May Draft-preview, but broke a story this past week that has Bukauskas telling sources he wants to go to college (he’s committed to UNC).  I said it before; you don’t generally graduate a year early so you can turn down $1.5M and go to college; I still firmly believe someone is drafting him early and paying him well.   Likely Drafted at the end of the first round by all reports.
  • Derek Fisher‘s lofty pre-season status took a huge hit when he broke his hamate bone this season; he’s only played in 21 games this year.  But he seems to have returned from the injury and teams have a pretty good knowledge of how players react to this injury (they’re generally hampered for a year or so and their power numbers diminish badly).  Bad timing for Fisher; he could have made himself some money thanks to a thin crop of college bats this year.  Stats for the year: .325/.372/.513 with 2 homers, 12/4 K/BB in 21 games/80 at-bats.  Not a ton of walks but also not a ton of strike-outs considering his slugging.  Law has him ranked #17 in his early May draft-preview.  Likely Drafted later in the first round if teams aren’t scared off by his hand injury.
  • Mike Papi has rocketed up draft boards this spring; going from being considered the 3rd or 4th best draft prospect on his own team to being talked about as an early 2nd round pick.  His slash line: .289/.446/.493 with 8 homers, 32/40 K/BB ratio in 46 games and 152 ABs.  That’s nearly a 1.000 OPS using the BB-Core bats.  Law has him ranked #38 in his early May draft preview.  Likely Drafted in the early to middle second round.

A note on UVA: they were pre-season #1 and have maintained that high ranking using a weekend rotation of three SOPHOMORES.  They might be matriculating a bunch of hitters this spring, but they’re going to be a major force on the mound.  Add to their rotation two big-name freshman that we talked about in draft-posts last year (namely, Alec Bettinger and Connor Jones) and the Cavaliers look like they’ll have a historic pitching corps in 2015.

Other names on Keith Law’s top 100 early may draft-preview:

  • Nick Howard, RHP from UVA.  (#59)
  • Jake Stinnett, RHP from Maryland (#89)

Mock Draft links for several sites/blogs that do such things.  Most draft pundits are now off of NC State’s Carlos Rodon as 1-1 thanks to his diminished velocity and over-use this season (he’s had several outings that had him at 130+ pitches to the abject horror of some scouting personnel).  Most experts now have San Diego LHP prep pitcher Brady Aiken as the likely #1 overall pick, meaning that baseball will go another year without ever having a prep RHP selected 1-1 overall.

  • BaseballDraftReport.com’s top HS pitchers list Bukauskas as the 5th best HS pitching prospect in the land.  That’s pretty heady praise considering that the guys listed ahead of him are all top-10 draft pick talents or close to it.
  • MLBDraftInsider.com does Mock First round drafts: this 4/15/14 link has Bukauskas and Papi in the top 50.  By this 5/5/14 version, Fisher is back, Bukauskas is rising and Papi is holding steady as an early 2nd rounder.
  • MLB.com has a top 100 list of draft prospects in some rough order put together by their staff (presumably including Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo) and they’ve got nice little write-ups on the prospects.

Fyi: here’s links to the latest Nationwide High School Polls; not a lot of love for DC/MD/VA high-schools here.

  • Baseball America top 25 high schools: only Western Branch HS in Chesapeake is mentioned for local schools.  That link was dated 4/22/14; the new rankings due out 5/6/14 show Cosby replacing Western Branch in the top 25 behind their top player Hunter Williams.
  • USA Today top 50 high schools: Western Branch #23.  Rankings are as of 4/30/14; new rankings due out 5/7.
  • MaxPreps/Freeman top 25.  Interestingly Freeman has Midlothian’s Cosby HS as #3 in the land.   Max Preps has FOUR VA schools ranked in the mid-30s right now: Freeman, Cosby, Woodside and Western Branch (in that order).  Rankings as of 5/4/14.
  • PerfectGame.org top 50: only Western Branch listed, at #43 (as of 5/5/14)

So, no national love for Bukauskus’ Stone Bridge right now; I’m guessing they’ll have to make some regional noise before getting any notice.  They also play in a pretty weak baseball district (playing a bunch of newer Loudoun County schools) and don’t have to face NoVa powerhouse programs like Lake Braddock and Robinson on a regular basis.  Local All-Met rankings have Stone Bridge (13-1) at #1 and Madison #2, fitting in that Madison’s sole local loss was to Stone Bridge in the season opener.  Local baseball factories St. Johns and Riverdale Baptist are in the top 5, along with a slew of Maryland schools.  I’m hoping these two teams get a chance to meet in the regional tournament; I have no idea if Stone Bridge has a strong enough #2 to make it there.  It could make waiting to see Bukauskas risky; would you throw  him in the first district/regional game or try to save him for a tougher match up?

Can’t wait for regionals and I can’t wait for a shot to see Bukauskas live.

Local draft-prospects to keep an eye in for the 2014 draft

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UVA's Derek Fisher is likely a mid-first round pick, the area's highest projected for 2014.  Photo via pennlive.com

UVA’s Derek Fisher is likely a mid-first round pick, the area’s highest projected for 2014. Photo via pennlive.com

I enjoyed writing about our local players and their draft prospects in 2013 (full 2013 draft results for players with DC/MD/VA ties here).  So here we go for a similar look in for 2014.  Believe it or not, local High Schools kick off play this week, despite the 6 inches of snow we just got.  Perfect Game just released their pre-season All-Atlantic Region team (and the Washington Post All-Met team did a nice review of it);  it  includes some names listed below in our local section.

I’ll talk about local prep kids, then MD/VA college prospects and then branch out to a larger MD/VA prep collection of players mentioned on various draft prep lists (links to which are at the bottom).

Here’s some names to keep an eye on for the 2014 season:

Washington DC Area Local Prep Players

  • Jacob Bukauskas, a 16-yr old rising senior (he reclassified to skip a year of HS) who plays for Stone Bridge HS in Ashburn, is already up to 93 on the gun in showcase events and is going to graduate early to qualify for the 2014 draft.  He is committed (incredibly early) to UNC, but you generally don’t graduate HS a year early so you can go play 3 years in college.  #162 on MinorleagueBall’s list.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Justin Morris is a C from DeMatha HS who plays for the newly crowned 2013 PerfectGame national champions EvoShield Canes.  He’s a Maryland commit but may improve his draft stock with a strong 2014 spring.  #295 on minorleagueball’s list.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Tommy Doyle is a big (6’6″) RHP from my home town of Vienna, playing at Flint Hill Academy in Oakton.  PG has him at 91 and he’s committed to UVA.  I wonder if the competition he’ll face at the small private school Flint Hill will hamper scouting efforts.  Not in minorleagueball’s top 300.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Brodie Leftridge, a CF from Highland, MD (outside of Columbia) but going to local power St. Johns Prep.  Committed to Tennessee.   Profiles as a leadoff/CF type; ran a sub 6.6 60 per perfect game.  Ranked #256 on MinorleagueBall.com.   Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.

Slim pickings of local HS guys this year unfortunately.  I may have to venture out to Ashburn to see Bukauskas throw.

College Guys in MD/VA:

  • Derek Fisher is a lefty corner outfielder at UVA who passed up 6th round money out of HS and now projects as a possible mid 1st rounder.  Law has him higher than others, ranked 14th on his top 50.  MLBDraftInsider has him 16th, as does minorleagueball.  But we have seen relative talent ranking does not always equate to draft positioning in the modern bonus-limit era.  Minorleaguebaseball.com posted this profile of Fisher in early Feb, with a pretty detailed overview of his game and a prediction for middle-of-the-first round.  Nonetheless, he profiles as a good college bat in a draft that doesn’t have a ton of them, and he’ll probably go high.
  • Mark Zagunas, C from Virginia Tech, #41 on MinorleagueBall’s list.
  • Nick Howard, RHP from UVA, #111 on MinorleagueBall’s list.  He’s a weekend starter, but may be in trouble of losing his spot thanks to two standout sophomore starters who look to be your friday/saturday guys and the addition of freshman Connor Jones (who was a 1st round talent last year out of HS).
  • Brandon Downes, CF from UVA, #145 on MinorleagueBall’s list.
  • Mike Papi,1B/corner OF from UVA, #176 on MinorleagueBall’s list.
  • Troy Stokes, OF from UMaryland, #209 on MinorleagueBall’s list.
  • Brandon Cogswell, ss/2b from UVA, ranked #225 on MinorleagueBall’s list.
  • K.J. Hockaday, SS from Harford Community College (which is in Bel Air, MD; I had to google it).  #235 on MinorleagueBall’s list.
  • Jake Stinnett, sr RHP from UMaryland, has started the season strong and is getting some notice.

Five players in the top 225 draft prospects on UVA’s squad; no wonder they’re getting some heady pre-season praise (#1 on Baseball America’s pre-season rankings, ahead of NC State which boasts two potential top 5 overall picks).  Keith Law wrote specifically about UVA’s talent pool 2/25/14, saying that they’ll likely have their top five guys drafted in the first 3 rounds this year.

High School MD and VA Guys, from around the rest of the State

  • Charlie Cody is a 3B from the same Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake that just graduated Connor Jones.  He’s committed to UVA.  Sullivan has him as the #34 HS prospect in the country in mid 2013.  He is known for his speed: a 6.6 60 time.  It should be interesting to see how he fares this spring and whether his stock rises enough to merit a top draft pick.  Here’s some video of a couple at-bats from baseballinstinct.com.  Ranked only #208 on MinorleagueBall’s list.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Jeff Harding is a senior RHP from Cambridge, MD committed to South Carolina.  PG has him up to 94 on the gun but he’s really undersized (listed as 5’11” 165).  Sullivan lists him as #44 HS prospect in the nation in mid 2013.   Minorleague ball has him at #75.  He seems like a good bet to head to school.  Fair or not, pitchers are considered too small these days unless they’re 6’4″.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Hunter Williams is a two-way lefty player from Cosby HS in Chesterfield, VA who has skills both on the mound at at the plate.  He’s limited to first base in the field, which may make it tougher for him to get drafted and developed.  91 on the gun.  Another UNC commit, it should be interesting to see which way he focuses.  Minorleagueball has him at #103.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Jack Gerstenmaier is a SS from Freeman HS in Richmond with a UVA commit.   #232 on MinorleagueBall’s list.   Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Devon Fisher is a solid catching prospect from Portsmouth, VA who is either at Greenbriar Christian Academy (a decent baseball development school) or Western Branch (per PG).  UVA committed.  He’s rising in the ranks by virtue of good showcase efforts.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Hunter Taylor is a C from a small HS on the Delmarva peninsula in Olney, VA (which I had to look up), who also plays with EvoShield and is committed to South Carolina.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Chase Pinder (brother of Va Tech 2013 2nd rounder Chad Pinder) is a senior SS from Poquoson, VA, committed to Clemson.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Taylor Lane is a taller SS/3B prospect also from Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake, committed to Florida.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Troy Stokes is an undersized OF with power from Calvert Hall College in Baltimore with a Maryland commit.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.
  • Derek Casey is an RHP from Mechanicsville, VA with a UVA commit.  Ranked #223 on MinorleagueBall.com.  Pre-season PG all-Atlantic 1st  team.

Lots of local guys on EvoShield; click here http://canesbaseball.net/canes-alumni/ for a look at their alumni.  AAU/Travel baseball is taking over the world.  Also, every guy listed here was on PG’s All-Atlantic team, so that’s clearly a good list to start from for prep interest.

A reminder; there’s almost no baseball talent within the District itself.  The DCPS baseball programs are in terrible shape (as talked about in this excellent WP Magazine article from a couple weeks ago), and the colleges within the city limits that do play baseball (GW, Georgetown in Division I, Gallaudet in Division III NEAC Conference and Catholic in Divison III Landmark Conference) are generally not power-house programs.

Lastly, Here’s some links to draft prep lists that profile national high school talents.