The College Baseball Blog is continuing their series of previews on the Top Players in the Country with our second edition of the Top Position Players for 2008.
Zach Putnam, Michigan
When Putnam signed with the Wolverines in November of 2005, he was immediately tabbed as an impact player. Rated the #3 High School player by Baseball American as a Senior, he presented an intriguing two-way prospect. In the two years since, he has emerged as just that. As a Freshman, he earned Freshman All-America honors on the hill, going 6-2 with a 2.51 ERA and a save. He struggled at the plate, but emerged as a hitting threat in the Outfield and at DH as a Sophomore. He hit .330 with 8 Homeruns and 59 RBI to complement an 8-5 record with a 3.87 ERA. He starred in the Corvallis Super-Regional, carrying a no-hitter into the ninth inning against eventual NCAA champion Oregon State. Putnam features excellent mechanics on the hill, with a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a slurvy slider and a changeup with excellent tail. At the plate, Putnam shows good contact (1:10 K:AB ratio) and solid power potential. Putnam projects to be the Big10’s top player and figures to join Nate Recknagel and Derek VanBuskirk in leading Coach Maloney’s Wolverines to a pre-season top 25 ranking.
Dustin Ackley (UNC)
Dustin Ackley is a 6’1 184 pound sophomore outfielder/first basemen. He had one of the best seasons in the history of college baseball for a freshman. He finished the season with a .402 average while starting all 73 games in 2007. Ackley picked up consensus national freshman of the year award from Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, and Rivals.com. Dustin should be able to lead the Tar Heels back to Omaha as they try to make their third straight appearance in the CWS Championship series.
Allan Dykstra (Wake Forest)
Allan Dykstra is entering his junior season after having two stellar seasons with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Dykstra stands at 6-5 225 pounds and hits from the left side. Dykstra has had impressive power numbers in his first two seasons hitting 15 homers as a freshman and 18 as a sophomore. He has also spend his first two summers in the Cape Cod League where he starred for the Chatham A’s. In the CCBL, He hit .308 with five homers and 31 RBI in forty games. The CBB took in a game in 2007 when Dykstra went 2-8 in a 17 inning loss to Boston College. Dykstra came up in many key situations but could not deliver any key hits to take control of the game. A full report on this game is available here. Wake Forest should be able to make a run into the top four of the ACC behind Dykstra’s bat in the middle of the order.
Dennis Raben (Miami FL)
Dennis Raben enters his junior season looking to bring the Miami Hurricanes back to the promise land after a disappointing 2007. Raben is a 6-3 220 pound outfielder who also chips in occasionally as a pitcher. Raben had a solid 2007 season as he hit .280 with 12 homers. He picked up many awards this summer including being named the third best prospect in the Cape Cod League by Perfect Game Crosschecker. He hit .298 with six homers against the top pitching in the country. Some scouts expect Raben to move to first base after college because of his side. He can’t play first base at Miami because Yonder Alonso is already taking that spot and is one of the best players in the nation.
Ryan Lavarnway (Yale)
Ryan is a 6’3 210 pound catcher from Yale who might be the best player in the Northeast. He led the nation in batting average (.467) and slugging percentage (.873) during the 2007 season. He broke the Ivy League hitting streak record with a 25 game streak which carried over from the final 2 games of the 2006 seasons which was carried over in the first 23 games of the season. The CBB saw Lavarnway in a doubleheader at Harvard where he showed a strong bat but needs some work behind the plate as he was having problems making throws down to second base including some going into the outfield. Full Report on the doubleheader is available here. This is a player to watch in 2008 that might not be on everyone’s radar. The CBB will see the Yale Bulldogs this spring against Harvard, Brown, or Penn.
Thanks to NYDore for helping out with some of the previews.