Pedro Alvarez, Vanderbilt.
This hard-hitting, Junior third baseman from Horace Mann High School in the Bronx, New York is one of the pre-season favorites for the Golden Spikes Award and was the only 2007 Golden Spikes finalist to return in 2008. Alvarez is lethal at the plate, as a career .360 batter with an NCAA high 40 career home runs (among active players). In 2006, he hit .329 with 22 home runs and 64 RBI en route to earning National Freshman of the Year. In 2007, he improved to .386, 18, 68, which leading Vanderbilt to a number 1 ranking for the majority of the season. Alvarez is deadly from the left side of the plate and is protected in Coach Tim Corbin’s lineup by being sandwiched between another pair of returning all-America players, RF Dominic De la Osa (.378, 20, 62) and SS Ryan Flaherty (.381, 4, 57). Alvarez is also a spectacular fielder with cat-like reflexes and a cannon arm; however, Pedro’s flair for the dramatic defensive play also leads to his fair share of errors. Those errors and a tendency to strikeout too often will be the items Alvarez looks to improve in his swan song season.
Dominic de la Osa, Vanderbilt
Hitting in the coveted “Mickey Mantle spot” (in front of Pedro Alvarez, as Mantle did when Roger Maris hit 61), Dominic de la Osa exploded in 2007, proving to be one of the top speed-power guys in the nation. Entering last season with a .300 average and 16 home runs in solid, if unspectacular Freshman and Sophomore years, “of the Bear” set career highs with a .378 average, 65 runs, 23 doubles, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. A consensus first team All-America, de la Osa was expected to be a first day pick in the MLB draft before plummeting to the 10th round and the Tigers. An abysmal summer on the Cape left de la Osa with more to prove and he returned to man Rightfield as a Senior for Coach Corbin.
Justin Smoak, South Carolina
Joining Brett Wallace and Yonder Alonso as the elite first basemen in College Baseball, Smoak enters his Junior year in second place on the career homerun list among active players. As a Freshman, he hit .303 with 17 homeruns and 63 RBI. Smoak improved on those numbers last year, hitting .317 with 19 homeruns and another 63 RBI. Most impressive, however, is Smoak’s patience, with 94 walks against 79 strikeouts. The switch-hitting lefty is also thrifty with the glove, sporting a career .994 fielding percentage. Smoak is perfectly positioned for a true, breakout season in a good hitter’s ballpark.
Yonder Alonso, Miami
Alonso was named the top first baseman in the Cape Cod League in 2007. He hit an outstanding .338 for the summer after hitting .376 with 18 homers during the 2007 season for the Hurricanes. Alonso is a patient hitter as he walked 64 times during the collegiate season and 36 times in the CCBL. He only struck out 56 times combined. He needs to work on his defense as he is limited to playing only first base. He should develop more power before getting drafted in 2008 as he will become stronger and a better hitter. Alonso should be able to compete for many National Player of the Year awards in 2008 in addition to conference accolades.
Buster Posey, Florida State
Posey is one of the College Baseball Blog’s favorite players. He moved to catcher before the 2007 season as the Seminoles had an opening behind the plate. Buster hit .382 with 3 homers and 65 RBI at FSU while spending his summer with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox where he batted .281 as he struggled to adjust to the Cape Cod League pitching. One scout told us that Posey improved his draft stock with the move behind the plate but needs to refine his catching skills as he is raw at calling games and blocking pitches. Posey should be one of the top catchers in the ACC competing with Tim Federowicz for conference awards. The CBB will be seeing Posey this season when FSU comes to Boston College for a three game set. The CBB expects Posey to be drafted in the top five rounds of the 2008 draft.
Brett Wallace, Arizona State
Wallace led the Sun Devils back to the College World Series in 2007 where he hit an outstanding .404 for the season while hitting 16 home runs. He won the Pac 10 Triple Crown as was named the Player of the Year in the conference. Brett spent the summer of 2007 with the USA National team where he competed in the Pan-Am Games and the World Port Tournament. He hit .312 with two homers and 26 RBI for the summer. Wallace is a big guy as he is listed at 6’1 245 pounds so he struggles in the field and will likely be stuck at first base in MLB or moved to DH if he is put in the American League.
Thanks to NewYorkDore for helping out with some of the previews.