The USA Today NCAA Baseball Coaches Preseason Poll was released on Thursday. Today, we’ll take a look at three teams not on that list that you need to keep an eye on this season.
NCAA Baseball Top 25
Defending NCAA Baseball Champion Vanderbilt will start the season the season as the nation’s top ranked team. Louisville will start the season at number two, and Texas Tech (#3), Georgia (#4) and Arkansas (#5) round out the top five. To check out the whole list, click this link.
However, just because a team didn’t make the preseason Top 25 doesn’t mean that team won’t be fun to watch. Today we’re going to go over three teams that didn’t make the list, but teams you need to watch in 2020.
Michigan is getting all of the attention out of the Big Ten, and for good reason. The Wolverines were arguably the best story in college baseball last season, making at all the way to the College World Series Final. But the Minnesota Golden Gophers have a chance to surprise in 2020, thanks in part to a couple of very intriguing arms.
Not only will the Gophers return several starters in the field, but their top two arms, Max Meyer and Patrick Fredrickson will enter their junior seasons in 2020. Fredrickson was one of the top freshman in the country in 2018, helping the Golden Gophers get to the Super Regionals. Last year, however, was a tough one for the righty, as he recorded a 5.59 ERA across 48.1 innings, while walking 32. Fredrickson will look to rebound in 2020, while fellow Minnesota pitcher Max Meyer looks to cement himself as a future first-round pick.
Meyer was flat out dominant in 2019, striking out 87 in 76.2 innings with the Golden Gophers while limiting hitters to a .202 batting average. The right-hander boasts a powerful fastball along with a wipeout slider, with some scouts believing that Meyer’s slider is the best one out of all the pitchers eligible for the 2020 Draft. With two very intriguing arms that are eligible for the 2020 MLB Draft, you’ll want to keep an eye on the Golden Gophers this season.
Fordham may not be in a Power 5 Conference, but the Rams are certainly a team to watch entering 2020. Last season, Fordham won the A-10 Conference Championship last season, but could not advance past the Regionals in 2019. This season, Fordham will return several of their starters in the field, including junior infielder/outfielder Jake MacKenzie, who batted .305 for the Rams in 2019, and hit .291 in the Cape Cod League this past summer.
Fordham’s rotation, though, will be the focus of this year’s team, as the Rams have several pitchers who can make things very difficult for hitters. Right-hander Matt Mikulski has been a strikeout machine for the Rams, as he retired 89 batters in 82 innings in 2019 with Fordham via the K, and struck out 26 over 19.1 innings at the Cape last summer. Junior righty Joseph Quintal missed most of last season with an injury, but he was effective when he was healthy, posting a 2.66 ERA while striking out 23 batters in 20 innings for the Rams. And then there’s John Stankiewicz, who didn’t even start last season in the Fordham rotation. He finished it, though, as one of the top pitchers in the nation in 2019, as he ended the year in the top 10 in both ERA and WHIP. Stankiewicz also became the first player since 1997 to win All-American honors for the program.
With a talented pitching staff and a veteran lineup, the Rams should be a fun team to watch in 2020.
There are quite a few teams in the SEC that have received a ton of attention over the past few months. Vanderbilt will look to repeat in 2020, while Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi State are just a few of the teams looking to knock the Commodores off. But there is one team in the SEC that I think is getting overlooked a bit, and that’s the University of Tennessee.
Tennessee finished 2019 with a record of 40-21, with infielder Andre Lipcius leading the charge. Lipcius blasted 17 home runs and recorded a .985 OPS, but the junior infielder won’t be a Volunteer in 2020, as he was drafted by the Tigers in the third round this past June. Despite the loss of Lipcius, Tennessee will still field a talented group of hitters, including Evan Russell, who had 17 extra base hits in his sophomore season in 2019, and junior outfielder Alerick Soularie. After a fantastic season at San Jacinto JC, Sourlarie’s first season with the Volunteers was phenomenal, as he recorded a .357/.466/.602 slash line last season, and hit 11 home runs and drove in 46 runs in 2019. He’s expected to be a early pick in this year’s draft, and is someone to definitely watch this spring.
As for Tennessee’s pitching staff, all eyes will be on junior left-handed pitcher Garrett Crochet. Crochet made 18 appearances (6 starts) in 2019, and was effective at striking out batters, retiring 81 across 65 innings last season via the K. The lefty also recorded the program’s first NCAA Tournament win since 2005 this past June. But Crochet’s MLB Draft stock jumped significantly after having a very strong fall in 2019. According to MLB Pipeline, Crochet’s fastball, which already played up well, jumped up in velocity, as he sat in the 96-100 MPH range. The lefty’s fastball has received plus grades, and that pitch, along with his slider, which has also received high grades, should make Crochet a first-round pick this upcoming June.
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