2016 College Baseball Top 20 Preseason Rankings

UVA Champs 560x313Of the three major sports in the NCAA, baseball suffers on many fronts including lack of support, funding, and overall quality. In recent years, those problems have been compounded by a rule change. Since the 2011 season, collegiate baseball switched to the current BBCOR bats which are nothing more than aluminum bats that work the same way as wooden bats. The NCAA decided to change the bats because the sport was becoming a joke with some teams averaging nearly 2 home runs a game. (LSU, 1998)

The drastic change in the bats turned a game that was high-scoring and fun to watch into a boring drag that lost a lot of viewers. The old-school baseball fans loved it but what the NCAA did not realize is that those people were a much smaller of a group than the rest of the fans. So while we admit that College Baseball isn’t as popular as other collegiate sports, that doesn’t stop us from putting a quality effort towards covering it. As the 2016 season approaches (games begin on Friday), we wanted to give you a quick sneak peek at the top 20 teams heading into the season. Enjoy, as much as you can with some crappy bats.

20. Oregon

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2015 Record (Pac-12): 38-25 (6th)

Head Coach: George Horton (8th Season)

2016 Outlook: The toughest pitch to hit is a breaking ball from a left-handed hurler. The second toughest pitch to hit is a fastball from a lefty. Needless to say, hitting off left-handed pitchers is tough since most college players just aren’t used to it yet and have very little practice against it. Oregon is going to beat a lot of teams they probably shouldn’t this season simply because they have 3 LHP in their starting rotation including Matt Krook who is going to be a first round draft pick next summer in the MLB draft. The Pac-12 just isn’t going to be able to stop these guys in 2016 and they will move into the top ten or higher before May.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Tim Susnara, So.

1B: A.J. Balta, So. (RS)

2B: Travis Moniot, Fr.

SS: Mark Karaviotis, Jr.

3B: Matt Kroon, Fr.

LF: Austin Grebeck, Jr.

CF: Nick Catalano, Sr.

RF: Jakob Goldfarb, So.

DH: Phil Craig-St.Louis, Sr.

Pitchers

LHP: Cole Irvin, Jr. (RS)

LHP: Matt Krook, So. (RS)

LHP: David Peterson, So.

RP: Stephen Nogosek, Jr.

19. Oklahoma

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2015 Record (Big 12): 34-27 (3rd)

Head Coach: Pete Hughes (3rd Season)

2016 Outlook: Alec Hansen is the best pitching prospect eligible for the 2016 MLB draft, and it isn’t even close. He is a right-handed version of Randy Johnson. His 100 mph fastball is tough to hit but his slider keeps getting better and he added a curveball into the mix a few years ago making him a potential future Cy Young award winner in the pros. When you have a pitcher that will dominate like Hansen, all you need is players around him that are good enough, and Oklahoma has a few of those in 2016.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Domenic DeRenzo, Fr.

1B: Austin O’Brien, Jr.

2B: Kyle Mendenhall, So.

SS: Sheldon Neuse, Jr.

3B: Quin Walbergh, So.

LF: Alex Wise, Sr.

CF: Ben Hollas, Jr.

RF: Steele Walker, Fr.

DH: Chris Andritsos, Fr.

Pitchers

RHP: Alec Hansen, Jr.

RHP: Jake Elliott, Jr.

LHP: Austin Kearns, Jr.

RP: Sheldon Neuse, Jr.

18. Michigan

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2015 Record (Big Ten): 39-25 (3rd)

Head Coach: Erik Bakich (4th Season)

2016 Outlook: The Wolverines somehow got into the NCAA Tournament last season after a slow start. It took them most of the season but they finally started to click when it counted the most, in the postseason. The pitching is there, their defense is tough, and Carmen Benedetti is one of the nation’s best two-way stars. If the Big Ten is going to Omaha this year, it will be behind the Wolverines.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Harrison Wenson, Jr.

1B: Carmen Benedetti, Jr.

2B: Jake Bivens, So.

SS: Michael Brdar, Jr.

3B: Drew Lugbauer, So.

LF: Cody Bruder, Sr.

CF: Johnny Slater, Jr.

RF: Jonathan Engelmann, Fr.

DH: Matt Ramsay, Sr.

Pitchers

RHP: Ryan Nutof, So.

LHP: Brett Adcock, Jr.

LHP: Evan Hill, Sr.

RP: Carmen Benedetti, Jr.

17. Cal State Fullerton

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2015 Record (Big West): 39-25 (1st)

Head Coach: Rick Vanderhook (5th Season)

2016 Outlook: Cal St. Fullerton is the biggest surprise from 2015 as all that talent came together at the right time, helping them build into one cohesive unit, something every coach dreams of. The entire infield and outfield returns for 2016 and the pitching remains nearly as strong as the last few years. Colton Eastman is going to be a big name in a few years so it should not surprise anyone if he has a terrific Freshman campaign. The Titans should easily be in the top five very quickly as there is very little chance they lose a game in the first few weeks.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Chris Hudgins, So.

1B: Tanner Pinkston, Sr.

2B: Tristan Hildebrandt, So.

SS: Timmy Richards, Jr.

3B: Taylor Bryant, Jr.

LF: Tyler Stieb, Sr. (RS)

CF: Scott Hurst, So.

RF: Ruben Cardenas, Fr.

DH: Jerrod Bravo, Sr.

Pitchers

LHP: John Gavin, So.

RHP: Connor Seabold, So.

RHP: Colton Eastman, Fr.

RP: Chad Hockin, Jr.

16. TCU

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2015 Record (Big 12): 51-15 (1st)

Head Coach: Jim Schlossnagle (13th Season)

2016 Outlook: When you look at the lineup and you see the Senior title next to the name, any TCU fan should feel a bit of excitement. You cannot teach experience, it is part of growing up in baseball and the TCU Horned Frogs have plenty of it. The only part that scares the TCU faithful should be that many of the holes that need to be filled are going to be filled with Freshman.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Evan Skoug, So.

1B: Connor Wanhanen, So.

2B: Cam Warner, Jr.

SS: Ryan Merrill, Jr.

3B: Elliott Barzilli, Jr.

LF: Josh Watson, Fr.

CF: Nolan Brown, Sr.

RF: Dane Steinhagen, Sr.

DH: Luken Baker, Fr.

Pitchers

RHP: Mitchell Traver, Jr. (RS)

RHP: Brian Howard, Jr.

RHP: Luken Baker, Fr.

RP: Preston Guillory

15. Coastal Carolina

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2015 Record (Big South): 39-21 (2nd)

Head Coach: Gary Gilmore (21st Season)

2016 Outlook: Coastal Carolina? Who? That is the reputation they have had since they hit the big time in 2010. Now they are simply riding out the wave they made and with a veteran lineup like this, they could be battling for Omaha and a Top 8 seeding.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: David Parrett, Sr.

1B: Tyler Chadwick, Sr.

2B: Seth Lancaster, So.

SS: Michael Paez, Jr.

3B: Zach Remillard, Sr.

LF: Connor Owings, Sr.

CF: Anthony Marks, Sr.

RF: Dalton Ewing, So.

DH: G.K. Young, Jr.

Pitchers

RHP: Alex Cunningham, Jr. (Redshirt)

RHP: Bobby Holmes, So.

RHP: Jason Bilious, Fr.

14. N.C. State

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2015 Record (ACC): 36-23 (5th, Atlantic)

Head Coach: Elliott Avent (20th Season)

2016 Outlook: All it takes to win is one great pitcher. The rest of the team will rally around Andrew Knizner and Cory Wilder this season causing trouble for almost every team they face. If not for such a young inexperienced hitting group, they would be much higher on the list.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Andrew Knizner, Jr.

1B: Preston Palmeiro, Jr.

2B: Ryne Willard, Sr.

SS: Joe Dunand, So.

3B: Xavier LeGrant, Fr.

LF: Brock Deatherage, So.

CF: Josh McLain, So.

RF: Shane Shepard, So.

DH: Chance Shepard, Sr.

Pitchers

RHP: Cory Wilder, Jr.

LHP: Brian Brown, So.

RHP: Johnny Piedmonte, Jr. (RS)

13. UCLA

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2015 Record (Pac-12): 45-16 (1st)

Head Coach: John Savage (12th Season)

2016 Outlook: UCLA has one solid prospect heading into the 2016 MLB Draft but it is only because they are so young. This ranking might be a year too soon but just you watch the Bruins in 2016. They not only have a chance at moving into the top ten, they are building the foundation for 2017 and 2018.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Darrell Miller, Jr. (RS)

1B: Sean Bouchard, So.

2B: Trent Chatterton, Sr.

SS: Nick Valaika, So.

3B: Luke Persico, Jr.

LF: Brett Stephens, Jr.

CF: Christoph Bono, Sr. (RS)

RF: Eric Filia, Sr. (RS)

DH: Kort Peterson, Jr.

Pitchers

RHP: Grant Dyer, Jr.

RHP: Tucker Forbes, So.

RHP: Griffin Canning, So.

RHP: Kyle Molnar, Fr.

12. Louisiana-Lafayette

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2015 Record (Sun Belt): 42-23 (3rd)

Head Coach: Tony Robichaux (22nd Season)

2016 Outlook: When ULL is ranked this high, everyone else begins to worry. Their schedule, once again, isn’t going to hurt them as they only face a few teams considered to be contenders in 2016. (LSU in March, TCU, Rice and Texas in late February) So when the home runs start rolling, so will the wins. That ballpark they call home is made for hitting and this team has a handful.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Nick Thurman, Sr.

1B: Stefan Trosclair, Sr.

2B: Hunter Kasuls, Fr.

SS: Brad Antchak, Jr.

3B: Brenn Conrad, Jr.

LF: Keenon Fontenot, So.

CF: Kyle Clement, Sr.

RF: Ishmael Edwards, Jr.

DH: Steven Sensley, So.

Pitchers

LHP: Gunner Leger, So.

RHP: Wyatt Marks, So.

RHP: Nick Lee, Fr.

RHP: Reagan Bazar, Jr.

11. Mississippi State

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2015 Record (SEC): 24-30 (7th, West)

Head Coach: John Cohen (8th Season)

2016 Outlook: 2015 was about as bad as it can get for the Bulldogs but they don’t seem too worried as they have fielded a team that could potentially put them in the top of the SEC West standings. Their pitching is going to carry them as their hitting gets settled in which makes them a big time underdog looking for revenge.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Elih Marrero, Fr.

1B: Nathaniel Lowe, Jr.

2B: John Holland, Sr.

SS: Luke Alexander, Fr.

3B: Gavin Collins, Jr.

LF: Cody Brown, Jr. (RS)

CF: Jacob Robson, Jr. (RS)

RF: Reid Humphries, Jr.

DH: Brent Rooker, So. (RS)

Pitchers

RHP: Dakota Hudson, Jr.

LHP: Daniel Brown, Jr.

RHP: Austin Sexton, Jr.

RHP: Zac Houston, Jr.

10. Virginia

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2015 Record (ACC): 44-24 (2nd, Coastal)

Head Coach: Brian O’Connor (13th Season)

2016 Outlook: How do you recover from an unexpected National Championship in 2015? Well, for Brian O’Connor, it was not that difficult as he has a ton of returning starters from last season and a pitching staff ranked as one of the best in the ACC. It is not that difficult to imagine a repeat this season for the defending champs.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Robbie Coman, Sr.

1B: Matt Thaiss, Jr.

2B: Ernie Clement, So.

SS: Daniel Pinero, Jr.

3B: Ryan Karstetter, Fr.

LF: Pavin Smith, So.

CF: Adam Haseley, So.

RF: Kevin Doherty, Sr.

DH: Andy Weber, Fr.

Pitchers

RHP: Connor Jones, Jr.

LHP: Adam Haseley, So.

RHP: Tommy Doyle, So.

9. Oklahoma St.

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2015 Record (Big-12): 38-20 (2nd)

Head Coach: Josh Holliday (4th Season)

2016 Outlook: The Cowboys just might have the best team they have had in a very long time this year. It will take time for them to mesh into the unit they should become and once they do, they will be hard to stop.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Collin Theroux, Jr.

1B: Dustin Williams, Jr.

2B: J.R. Davis, Jr.

SS: Donnie Walton, Sr.

3B: Garrett Benge, So.

LF: Garrett McCain, So.

CF: Ryan Sluder, Jr.

RF: Corey Hassel, Sr.

DH: Jon Littell, So.

Pitchers

LHP: Garrett Williams, Jr.

RHP: Michael Mertz, Jr.

RHP: Trey Cobb, Jr.

RHP: Conor Costello, Sr.

8. California

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2015 Record (Pac-12): 36-21 (3rd)

Head Coach: David Esquer (16th Season)

2016 Outlook: After finishing in 3rd place in the Pac-12 last season, Cal is looking for something better in 2016. They have one of the best pitchers in the country, Daulton Jeffries, and he should help them reach 50 wins and a trip to Omaha.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Brett Cumberland, So.

1B: Nick Halamandaris, Sr.

2B: Robbie Tenerowicz, Jr.

SS: Preston Grand Pre, So.

3B: Mitchell Kranson, Sr.

LF: Brian Celsi, Sr.

CF: Aaron Knapp, Jr.

RF: Devin Pearson, Sr.

DH: Brenden Farney, Sr. (RS)

Pitchers

RHP: Daulton Jefferies, Jr.

RHP: Ryan Mason, Sr.

LHP: Matt Ladrech, So.

7. LSU

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2015 Record (SEC): 54-12 (1st, West)

Head Coach: Paul Mainieri (10th Season)

2016 Outlook: The LSU baseball program has won 204 games in the previous 4 seasons including 57 wins in 2013 and 54 wins in 2015. They have sent a ton of players to the MLB in that time and have recruited some of the best pitching prospects in the country. So where is the CWS trophy? That is what every single LSU fan is asking right now. Good news for them is that the LSU pitching staff has Alex Lange and Jared Poche while their hitting is full of JUCO transfers and young freshman that have nothing but upside.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Mike Papierski, So.

1B: Greg Deichmann, So.

2B: Kramer Robertson, Jr.

SS: Trey Dawson, Fr.

3B: Cole Freeman, Jr.

LF: Beau Jordan, So.

CF: Jake Fraley, Jr.

RF: Antoine Duplantis, Fr.

DH: Bryce Jordan, So.

Pitchers

RHP: Alex Lange, So.

LHP: Jared Poche, Jr.

RHP: Riley Smith, Jr.

6. Oregon St.

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2015 Record (Pac-12): 39-18-1 (2nd)

Head Coach: Pat Casey (22nd Season)

2016 Outlook: Drew Rasmussen is going to be a first round draft pick in 2017 which is going to make 2016 his coming out party. We should see a kid turn into a man this year as he will transform into the pitcher MLB scouts have been drooling over for a few years. He will help a solid Beaver pitching rotation get even better.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Logan Ice, Jr.

1B: K.J. Harrison, So.

2B: Cadyn Grenier, Fr.

SS: Trever Morrison, Jr.

3B: Nick Madrigal, Fr.

LF: Kyle Nobach, Jr.

CF: Elliott Cary, So.

RF: Trevor Larnach, Fr.

DH: Billy King, Jr.

Pitchers

RHP: Drew Rasmussen, So.

RHP: Travis Eckert, Sr.

LHP: Luke Heimlich, So.

5. Vanderbilt

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2015 Record (SEC): 51-21 (1st, East)

Head Coach: Tim Corbin (14th Season)

2016 Outlook: Vanderbilt is one of the most consistent baseball programs in the past ten years thanks to Tim Corbin. We were reluctant to rank them so high but how can anyone deny such a loaded pitching staff?

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Jason Delay, Jr.

1B: Tyler Green, So. (RS)

2B: Tyler Campbell, Sr.

SS: Connor Kaiser, Fr.

3B: Will Toffey, So.

LF: Ro Coleman, Jr.

CF: Bryan Reynolds, Jr.

RF: Jeren Kendall, So.

DH: Alonzo Jones, Fr.

Pitchers

RHP: Kyle Wright, So.

LHP: John Kilichowski, Jr.

RHP: Jordan Sheffield, Jr.

LHP: Ben Bowden, Jr.

RHP: Hayden Stone, Jr.

4. Miami (FL)

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2015 Record (ACC): 49-17 (1st, Coastal)

Head Coach: Jim Morris (23rd Season)

2016 Outlook: It has taken a few seasons but Jim Morris has finally built the Miami baseball program back to the top of the nation. They should be heading to Omaha as one of the nation’s top seeds as they are going to be exciting to watch this season.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Zack Collins, Jr.

1B: Christopher Barr, Jr. (RS)

2B: Johnny Ruiz, Jr.

SS: Brandon Lopez, Sr.

3B: Romy Gonzalez, Fr.

LF: Jacob Heyward, Jr.

CF: Carl Chester, So.

RF: Willie Abreu, Jr.

DH: Edgar Michelangeli, Jr. (RS)

Pitchers

RHP: Thomas Woodrey, Sr.

LHP: Danny Garcia,

LHP: Jesse Lepore, So.

RHP: Andrew Cabezas, Fr.

3. Texas A&M

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2015 Record (SEC): 50-14 (2nd, West)

Head Coach: Rob Childress (11th Season)

2016 Outlook: Texas A&M is going to discover real quick if they belong this high in the rankings as they open up SEC play against Auburn but then have to host LSU and travel to Gainesville for a series against Florida in consecutive weeks. If they want to win the SEC, those two series this early in the season is going to give them an idea of whether or not they can do it. It would have been much easier if projected starting LHP Tyler Stubblefield had not been dismissed from the team not but a few days ago.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Michael Brash, Sr.

1B: Hunter Melton, Sr.

2B: Ryne Birk, Jr.

SS: George Janca, Fr.

3B: Boomer White, Jr. (RS)

LF: Joel Davis, Jr.

CF: Nick Banks, Jr.

RF: Blake Kopetsky, Sr.

DH: Ronnie Gideon, Jr.

Pitchers

RHP: Kyle Simonds, Sr.

RHP: Jace Vines, So.

RHP: Tyler Ivey, Fr.

RHP: Ryan Hendrix, Jr.

2. Louisville

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2015 Record (ACC): 47-18 (1st, Atlantic)

Head Coach: Dan McDonnell (10th Season)

2016 Outlook: If not for the Florida Gators, Louisville would be the top choice for the best team in the country. They have one of the best lineups coming into 2016 and should easily win 60 games as losses are going to be far and few between.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Will Smith, Jr.

1B: Brendan McKay, So.

2B: Nick Solak, Jr.

SS: Devin Hairston, So.

3B: Blake Tiberi, So. (RS)

LF: Corey Ray, Jr.

CF: Logan Taylor, Jr.

RF: Colin Lyman, Jr.

DH: Danny Rosenbaum, Sr.

Pitchers

RHP: Kyle Funkhouser, Sr.

LHP: Brendan McKay, So.

LHP: Drew Harrington, Jr.

RHP: Zack Burdi, Jr.

1. Florida

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2015 Record (SEC): 52-18 (2nd, East)

Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan (9th Season)

2016 Outlook: The SEC and the NCAA hasn’t had a team this talented since South Carolina in 2010 or LSU in 2009. The 2016 Florida Gators are built for one thing, winning a College World Series Championship. They have one of the best pitching staffs in the country with a few MLB prospects projecting to go as high as number one overall. (Puk) Anything less than a CWS Title game will be a disappointment for Coach O’Sullivan.

2016 Projected Lineup (MLB Prospects in BOLD)

C: Mike Rivera, So.

1B: Peter Alonso, Jr.

2B: Jonathan India, Fr.

SS: Dalton Guthrie, So.

3B: Deacon Liput, Fr.

LF: Jeremy Vasquez, So.

CF: Buddy Reed, Jr.

RF: Ryan Larson, Jr.

DH: J.J. Schwarz, So.

Pitchers

LHP: A.J. Puk, Jr.

RHP: Logan Shore, Jr.

RHP: Alex Faedo, So.

RHP: Dane Dunning, Jr.

RHP: Shaun Anderson, Jr.