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CBB Top Position Players for 2008 (Second Edition)

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.

CBB Top Position Players for 2008

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.

CBB Top Pitchers to Watch in 2008

We are starting up with our previews of the 2008 season. We have broken down the top five pitchers in the country. Stay tuned for more previews of the upcoming season as the season gets closer.

Aaron Crow, Jr. Missouri

Crow was named the top pitching prospect in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League this summer. Crow has a mid-90’s fastball with a plus slider and a solid cutter. Crow went 9-4 with a 3.59 last season but got bombed in the NCAA Tournament by Louisville as he let up seven runs in 2/3 of an inning.

Jacob Thompson, Jr. Virginia

Thompson had a breakout season in 2007 where he led the Virginia Cavaliers to the NCAA Tournament. He had a perfect 11-0 record with a 1.50 ERA. Thompson has a low 90’s fastball with downward action on it with a solid curveball. Thompson pitched over the summer for the USA National Team where he got a chance to pitch in the Pan Am Games. He went 1-2 with a 1.27 ERA in 21.1 innings. He was shutdown after the Pan-Am Games to rest his arm for the 2008 season.

Brian Matusz, Jr. San Diego

Matusz is a 6’4 left handed power pitcher for the University of San Diego baseball program. In 2007, He led the Toreros to the number 1 seed in the San Diego regional with a 10-3 record with a 2.85 ERA. He also struck out 163 strikeouts in 123 innings. He pitched for the USA National Team this summer where he compiled a 3-1 record with a 1.33 ERA in four starts. He was also shut down for the summer after the Pan-Am Games to rest his arm.

Kyle Gibson, So. Missouri

Gibson is a 6’5 right handed sinker ball pitcher who was named the number 3 overall prospect in the Cape Cod League by Baseball America and number 9 by Perfect Game. He lead the Missouri Tigers with help from Aaron Crow to the NCAA Tournament as he had a 8-3 record with a 4.12 ERA as he served as the closer with seven saves. He is expected to make the move to the rotation in 2008 and give the Tigers two legitimate aces on the staff.

Ryan Perry, Jr. Arizona

Perry dazzled scouts in the Cape Cod League with a mid-90’s fastball which hit 97 on some guns over the summer. He struggled in 2007 with the Arizona Wildcats as he went 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA. Perry was recovering from a January 2007 accident when he crashed his motorcycle going over 80 MPH without a helmet on which he walked away with a broken non-throwing arm. Perry pitched in 18 games coming out of the bullpen while picking up four saves. His record for the CCBL season was only 1-2 with a 4.15 ERA. He is expected to become an impact player in the Pac-10 for the 2008 season.

The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Cape Prospects for providing the videos for some of the pitchers.

Wood Bats vs Metal Bats

One of the biggest complaints I hear about watching college baseball is that metal bats have ruined the game. I disagree with this but when you watch a game played with wood it is usually lower scoring then a metal bat game. Is it more exciting to go to a 8-7 game or a 1-0 bunting game? I personally rather watch the players hit the ball hard all over the field instead of watching a guy get on with a walk and get bunted to second waiting for that groundball to get through the hole. The issues between Wood and Metal bats injuries could have been solved for about $50,000 according to an article by Jeff Passan which can be read here.

Oregon baseball thoughts

The University of Oregon announced on July 13th that they were bringing back baseball to the Eugene school after a 26 year absence. The school ended up dropping the wrestling program and adding competitive cheerleading to the athletic program. The reason that was quoted by the Oregon athletic department to add baseball was that the sport is seeing increased growth across the country.

I believe that this is true in the suburbs but Baseball has seen a major decrease in urban areas. The main reason is the increasing cost in competing on select teams which in some communities start before the age of 12 when a kid in the city of Miami can go play a game of basketball for weeks on end at the playground for 20 bucks with a decent basketball. I would like my readers to drive by a baseball field this weekend and see how many kids are playing on their local Little League field. Also, look at the Little League World Series and see how many African-American kids participated in the final eight. There was a report on Say Hey which is one of the top sports blogs on the internet that only two out of the eight US teams had any African American kids. (Click here for article). The other experiment is to look at a MLB baseball game and see how many players are minorities from United States. You will be surprised with how low it actually is.

The other problem I see with Oregon adding baseball is that the wrestlers at the school now will have to transfer to continue their athletic careers and possibly make the Olympic team. Baseball has been removed from the Olympics starting in 2012 due to the lack of interest in the sport around the world. We did see a very well attended World Port Tournament in Holland this summer with over 3,000 people attending some of Team USA games but we also saw the debacle which was the Pan-American games. During that tournament, we saw multiple delays with the field due to poor drainage and even had the tournament readjusted a day before it started due to insufficient lighting.

The final problem I have with Oregon is that they couldn’t support baseball 26 years ago. What has changed in Eugene to say they can support a Pac-10 team? They currently have no stadium and need to build a brand new facility.

I also think that the Oregon Athletic Department is aiming way too high with the help of Phil Knight for a new head coach. The Oregon Athletic Department has already interviewed Tim Corbin and planned on bringing in Dave Serrano before he backed out. There was some reports on the Internet that Phil Knight had earmarked so much money that whoever took the job would be one of the top five coaches in the nation in terms of salary. Why has Oregon not looked at some of the top assistants on the West Coast instead of a current head coach? How many top head coaches are going to leave a successful place to restart a program which will not have the full usage of scholarships until 2011-2012 season?

I just felt like sharing my thoughts on the situation in Eugene and hope that the Oregon program will be a success but they need to overcome the obstacles I have outlined above.

Yankees sign Brackman

The New York Yankees signed Andrew Brackman to a four year guaranteed deal which is worth a minimum of 4.5 million to a maximum of 13 million. The College Baseball Blog attended one of Brackman’s starts in the 2007 season (sat about four people over from Keith Law of ESPN) and was less then impressed with his performance. He did not show me first round type material but throws a very hard fastball but his curveball needs a lot of work. The biggest issue that I have over Brackman is the arm issues he ran into at the end of the NC State season which hampered the Wolfpack’s chances in the NCAA and ACC tournaments. There is not much mileage on his arm since he pitched in only 78 innings in 2007 while pitching in a combined 71.1 innings in his freshman and sophomore seasons. He was visiting famed surgeon James Andrews this week to look at his inflamed elbow where Tommy John surgery might be needed.

NC State Release
River Ave. Blues Article
CBB article on Brackman’s start against Boston College

Thoughts on NCAA Baseball Tourney


The game of College Baseball is starting to see a ton of parity. We have a Big East squad in Louisville making their first appearance in an NCAA Regional. They went into Missouri this weekend and defeated both Miami and Missouri twice. The Cardinals are just one of the northern teams that got through a regional as Michigan went into Vanderbilt and beat the Commodores twice. Vanderbilt was the number 1 overall seed in the tournament. The Texas Longhorns were also shocked by UC-Irvine and Arkansas went down to Oklahoma State. San Diego also went 0-2 in the Regional they hosted at San Diego State.

We also saw seven ACC teams receive bids to the NCAA Tournament but only two ended up getting into the next round of the tournament. The FSU Seminoles were a huge disappointment as they started the season with a perfect 23-0 record before losing to Jacksonville. The Seminoles were flawed as they did not have the pitching staff like the top teams in the country. They were exposed with only a two deep pitching staff in Bryan Henry and Michael Hyde. The history of the Seminoles have always been a strong hitting team but fail in the NCAA Tourney because of the lack of pitching depth. They have been to the CWS the most times without winning a title by making it 15 times to Omaha. Is it the coaching? I don’t think it is Mike Martin’s Sr. fault but his entire coaching staff needs to do a better job in recruiting better players. He needs to focus on getting some lights and pitchers that can dominate games like Jacob Thompson.

Tallahassee Democrat Article on Mike Martin and 2008

Virginia also bowed out of the tournament early this year but the injury bug hit the Cavaliers as they headed down the stretch. Greg Miclat had surgery on his torn labrum before the Boston College series while Brandon Guyer and Brandon Marsh each got injured in the NCAA Regional knocking them out of the NCAA Tournament. This meant the Cavaliers were missing a whole third of their lineup in which they were not able to overcome. The Cavaliers will lose All-American candidate Sean Doolittle but return Jacob Thompson who will headline the starting pitching rotation next season.

Daily Progress Article with O’Connor

I will be starting my Super Regional Previews on Wednesday and I expect to be done them by late Thursday evening so come back for some great Super Regional coverage.