Who are the best major-league prospects playing in the college baseball tournament?
Michael Roth could run for office in Columbia, S.C. — and he would win in a landslide.
The former Gamecocks pitcher started back-to-back College World Series Championship-clinching games in 2010 and '11 before leading South Carolina back to Omaha in '12. The lefty starter was a ninth-round pick by the Los Angeles Angels last June and has already made his MLB debut.
LSU’s Kevin Gausman was a part of history in last year’s tournament as well. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft who has already made his Baltimore Orioles debut watched Stony Brook upset his Tigers in Baton Rouge Super Regional play last year in heart-breaking fashion.
Florida’s CWS run last year was spearheaded by names like Mike Zunino, Brian Johnson and Paco Rodriguez. Rodriguez, a second-round pick by the Dodgers, debuted last year and has become one of the more dependable relievers for the Boys in Blue. Zunino has crushed his way to AAA-Tacoma for the Seattle Mariners after being the third overall pick in the ’12 MLB Draft while Johnson also was taken in the first round by the Red Sox.
In all, eight College World Series teams produced 53 total MLB Draft picks in 2012. Five of those were first-round picks — Zunino, Johnson, Stony Brook’s Travis Jankowski, Florida State’s James Ramsey and UCLA’s Jeff Gelalich.
The point of all this information? The best players in college baseball will be on display in the NCAA Tournament over the next month and many will be starring for your favorite MLB team sooner rather than later. So with regionals set to get underway this weekend, they have some unfinished business. Who are the top prospects to watch in the tournament?
Potential Top 10 Picks:
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma (6-4, 240)
With Mark Appel and Stanford left out of the bracket, Gray become the top pitching prospect to watch. The two-seeded Sooners will be visiting Blacksburg, Va., with a good chance at an upset because of Gray. The power righty was 16th nationally in earned run average (1.55 ERA) after allowing just 19 runs in 110.0 innings, while his 127 strikeouts were fourth overall. Gray has a powerful fastball that touches 98-99 and he also will throw a slider and a change-up.
Kris Bryant, 1B/3B, San Diego (6-5, 215)
There are thousands of college baseball players and only two hit more than 20 home runs this year. But only Bryant topped 30 as he blasted a nation's best 31 long bombs — which is more home runs than 225 of the 296 TEAMS in the nation. The massive prospect hails from Las Vegas originally and his huge frame and raw power project him as either a first or third baseman in the majors. The third-seeded Toreros will have to battle through the UCLA Bruins in the first round this weekend.
Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina (6-3, 215)
Much like Bryant, Moran projects at either corner infield spot and this gives him some versatility. He also appears to be very “signable” and that could work in his favor come draft day. He led the nation with 83 RBIs and hit .376 while becoming the seventh Tar Heel to win ACC Player of the Year honors. He doesn’t have Bryant’s power but he has led North Carolina to the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas (6-4, 190)
If you are looking for an upset pick this tourney, take the Hogs and their excellent pitching staff. The two-seeded Razorbacks will visit host Kansas State this weekend and Stanek's four-pitch repertoire will be on full display. He has a quirky release, but features a powerful fastball (touching 97), a plus-slider and will mix in an improving change-up and adequate curve. He was a third-round pick two years ago and has clearly improved his stock. Pitching in the best league in the nation, his 1.40 ERA (90.0 IP) is 11th nationally.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State (6-1, 210)
The Bulldogs were gifted a regional host assignment and the SEC’s home run leader (15) will be the star of the show in Starkville. He also has played catcher and has an arm that might intrigue scouts as well. Will his versatility help his draft stock or does he lack a true position?
D.J. Peterson, 1B/3B/OF, New Mexico (6-1, 210)
The third-seeded Lobos won the Mountain West conference by a wide margin and Peterson was a huge part of that. His .411 average was third nationally and his 18 big flies finished third in the nation as well. The smooth swinging righty is one of the best pure hitters in the nation and will make New Mexico a tough out in the Cal-State Fullerton regional.
Other Potential First-Rounders:
Alex Balog, RHP, San Francisco (6-5, 210)
The big righty has been a late riser in the draft process and should slip into the first round. He will lead the three-seeded Dons into the Eugene Regional to face Rice, Oregon and South Dakota State.
Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Florida (6-2, 205)
The talented Gators arm blossomed on the 2012 CWS team as his no-hitter against Bethune-Cookman in the Gainesville Regional a year ago helped propel UF to Omaha. He has a plus fastball and three upside pitches
Ryan Eades, RHP, LSU (6-3, 200)
As one of two aces for the SEC tourney champs, Eades has a chance to make himself some money in this tournament. He has excellent command of all three upside pitches and will throw his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s. He struck out 75 batters in 93.2 innings.
Bobby Wahl, RHP, Ole Miss (6-3, 200)
The Virginia native won nine games with 76 strikeouts in 90.2 innings in the nation’s toughest league. He was No. 2 in the SEC in batting average against with a nasty .189 mark. He uses a solid fastball, upside slider and tricky change-up.
Jason Hursh, RHP, Oklahoma State (6-2, 200)
A redshirt sophomore who was a sixth-round pick in 2010 has a fastball that tops out at 97-98 and has an above-average slider. He missed all of last year after Tommy John surgery and will lead the Pokes into the Louisville Regional as a three-seed.
Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Vanderbilt (6-3, 190)
Led the best SEC team in history while leading the conference in strikeouts (106) and opponents batting average (.179). He was fourth in innings (105.1), third in wins (10) and posted a 2.05 ERA for the year.
Chad Pinder, 3B, Virginia Tech (6-2, 192)
The Hokies were 11th in RPI at season’s end and it earned them a spot as a Regional host. Pinder’s bat is a big reason as he has improved each year and has been above .300 his entire NCAA career. He has the size and athleticism to stick at third.
Michael Lorenzen, OF, Cal State Fullerton (6-3, 195)
He has a big arm and defensive skill to stick in center field. He’s been inconsistent at the plate but has led CSF to a national seed (No. 5) and a 48-8 record. He also doubles as a flame-throwing closer for the Titans.
Trevor Williams, RHP, Arizona State (6-3, 230)
He began his career in the pen and made the transition to the rotation with relative ease. He will lead the second-seeded Sun Devils into the Cal-State Fullerton Regional this weekend. He works quick and locates but won’t overpower hitters.
Kent Emanuel, LHP, North Carolina (6-4, 205)
Earned ACC Pitcher of the Year honors on the nation’s No. 1 team. He doesn’t have elite velocity but he has above-average command and knows how to win.
Others to watch:
Jared King, OF, Kansas State (5-11, 200)
Dillon Overton, LHP, Oklahoma (6-2, 170)
Daniel Gibson, LHP, Florida (6-3, 220)
Stuart Turner, C, Ole Miss (6-2, 220)
Colby Suggs, RHP, Arkansas (6-0, 225)
Jimmie Sherfy, RHP, Oregon (6-0, 175)
Zane Evans, C, Georgia Tech (6-2, 220)
Jacoby Jones, 2B, LSU (6-3, 200)