By John Sickels
The College World Series is (as the name implies) the premier event for collegiate baseball and the highlight of the spring NCAA season. It is virtually always a prime showcase for top amateurs about to turn professional, and 2010 is no exception. Each team in the tournament has at least one player -- and often more than one -- with a major league future. Here is a look at the players to watch on each CWS club.
Seth Blair, RHP: Drafted in the supplemental first round by the St. Louis Cardinals last week, the Illinois high school product has emerged as the Sun Devils' ace and the anchor of the pitching staff, due to improved command of his hard 90-95 mph sinker. He also has a solid curveball and slider, and will mix in a cutter on occasion. He's 12-0, 3.35 with a 104/24 K/BB in 102 innings thus far in 2010.
Others To Track: Jordan Swagerty, RHP; Merrill Kelly, RHP; Kole Calhoun, OF-1B; Drew Maggi, SS; Jake Barrett, RHP; Raoul Torrez, 2B.
Kyle Parker, OF: Drafted in the first round (26th overall) by the Rockies last week, Parker slammed 20 homers and drew 53 walks this spring. On the negative side, he strikes out a lot and is a bit raw as a hitter, but his power is undeniable. He's also a star quarterback, but scouts believe that his professional future is on the diamond, hitting home runs in Coors Field.
Others to Track: Mike Freeman, 2B; John Hinson, 3B; Jeff Schaus, OF; Casey Harman, LHP; Brad Miller, SS.
Kevin Chapman, LHP: College teams can use a shutdown closer just as much as major league clubs, and the Gators are blessed with one of the best NCAA relievers in Chapman. He's saved 11 games so far this year, with a 1.48 ERA and a 43/7 K/BB ratio in 43 innings, allowing only 28 hits. His 90-95 mph fastball and wicked slider earned him a spot in the fourth round of the draft, picked by the Kansas City Royals.
Others to Track: Matt den Dekker, OF; Austin Maddox, C; Preston Tucker, 1B; Tommy Toledo, RHP.
Tyler Holt, OF: The sparkplug of the Seminoles offense, Holt hit .352/.468/.628 this year with 12 homers, 56 walks, and 30 steals in 33 attempts. Despite the gaudy numbers, he lasted until the 10th round of the draft, selected by the Cleveland Indians. Scouts aren't sure he'll hit as well with wood as he does with metal, but his patience and speed will be on display in Omaha.
Others To Track: Mike McGee, OF-RHP; John Gast, LHP; Geoff Parker, RHP; Stephen Cardullo, INF.
Zach Neal, RHP: Although he lasted until the 17th round this year (picked by the Florida Marlins), the starting pitcher has been a key factor for Oklahoma's success this spring, going 8-3 with an 88/23 K/BB in 99 innings. Neal's 4.65 ERA is a bit misleading, as he was definitely the Sooner's ace. His fastball is average at 88-90 mph, but his slider and changeup are effective, and he's strong under pressure.
Others To Track: Danny Black, INF; Garrett Buechele, 3B; Cameron Seizer, 1B; Jeremy Erben, RHP; Jack Mayfield, RHP; Caleb Bushyhead, INF; Chris Ellison, OF.
Blake Cooper, RHP: Although teammate Sam Dyson has a better arm and went higher in the draft (fourth round to Toronto), Cooper is the genuine ace here, going 12-1, 2.81 with a 105/35 K/BB in 118 innings so far. Drafted in the 12th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cooper has mediocre velocity in the 87-90 mph range, but mixes his breaking pitches and changeup with aplomb, showing exceptional pitching feel.
Others To Track: Sam Dyson, RHP; Whit Merrifield, OF; Bobby Haney, SS; Steven Neff, LHP; Parker Bangs, RHP; Matt Price, RHP; Jackie Bradley Jr, OF.
Matt Purke, LHP: The most interesting player for TCU is Purke, a freshman starting pitcher who went a stunning 14-0 this spring, leading the nation in victories, with a 3.23 ERA and a 133/28 K/BB ratio in 103 innings. Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the first round in 2009, he turned down a reported $4 million bonus and took his 95 mph fastball and wicked slider to the Horned Frogs. He will be draft-eligible again in 2011 and the lanky lefty will most certainly be an early pick once more.
Others To Track: Bryan Holaday, C; Greg Holle, RHP; Steven Maxwell, RHP; Matt Curry, 1B; Tyler Lockwood, RHP; Jason Coats, OF; Kyle Winkler, RHP.
Gerrit Cole, RHP: Like TCU's Purke, Cole won't be eligible for the draft until 2011, but the former first round pick (Yankees 2008) should be one of the early names called next June. He went 10-3, 3.25 with a 138/49 K/BB ratio in 108 innings this year, allowing just 76 hits, thanks to his mid-90s heat and big-breaking curveball. His command will wobble at times, but he's so overpowering that he usually gets away with it.
Others To Track: Rob Rasmussen, LHP; Dan Klein, RHP; Matt Grace, LHP; Garett Claypool, RHP; Erik Goeddel, RHP; Brett Krill, OF; Nick Gallego, INF; Trevor Bauer, RHP; Tyler Rahmatulla, INF.