The regular season college baseball season begins this Friday, February 20th – I know, I can’t believe it either. Content this week is going to be extremely college-centric because, quite honestly, college opening day really can sneak up on a guy. Lots and lots and lots of college content this week, so be forewarned.
To celebrate the return of baseball into our everyday lives, let’s take a stroll around the college baseball landscape and see what we see. What better starting point than the youngest of the young, the players with that wonderful new-ballplayer scent, the college freshmen? After the jump, enjoy a sampling of some of the finest freshmen — non-draft-eligible, although some listed players are actually part of the 2010 draft class — to watch this season…
C – Ben McMahan (Florida)
1B – Chase Davidson (Georgia)
2B – Adam Smith (Texas A&M)
3B – Zack Cox (Arkansas)
SS – Jason Esposito (Vanderbilt)
OF – Zach Cone (Georgia)
OF – Brian Humphries (Pepperdine)
OF – Bryan Haar (San Diego)
McMahon has plenty of power, but will have to compete with four other catchers for playing time with the Gators. Davidson is slated to be the Bulldogs everyday RF, but his long term home could be at first. An eventual position switch to first would do nothing to quiet the Jim Thome comps some scouts have floated out there regarding Davidson’s lefthanded swing, supersized frame, and approach at the plate. Smith is a total cheat on my part – he will start the season out as the Aggies primary shortstop, and, if he ever moves off of short, it will be to third base, not second. 2B are made and not born, however, so we’ll just have to work with what we’ve got. Cox’s profile is that of a watered down version of San Diego’s star sophomore, Victor Sanchez – gifted natural hitter, power that should develop but hasn’t quite yet, currently average with the glove but room for growth. Esposito will join fellow freshman Joe Loftus on the left side of a dynamic Vandy infield.
Cone is part of one heck of a freshman class that Dave Perno put together at Georgia. The aforementinoed Davidson and Cone are both first round position player talents down the line, righthanders Cecil Tanner and Michael Palazzone are in the same potential first rounder boat, and contributions are expected from three freshmen (Levi Hyams, Colby May, and Jonathan Taylor) right out of the shoot. Unlike Cone, who is expected to slowly ease into life as a collegiate athlete, Humphries is a good player right now and a guy expected to help carry the Pepperdine offense in 2009. Haar has a pro body, good defensive instincts, and an advanced approach at the plate.
RHP – Gerrit Cole (UCLA)
RHP – Alex Meyer (Kentucky)
RHP – Sonny Gray (Vanderbilt)
Cole was a first round pick in 2008 and, barring injury, will be a first round pick in 2011. Huge fastball, improving secondary stuff, questionable delivery – that’s Cole. He’s the early favorite for Freshman Pitcher of the Year. Meyer turned down big money from Boston last summer to fulfill a lifelong dream of playing college ball at Kentucky. Sonny Gray is one of my favorite players in his class. It’s hard not to love a plus-plus fastball coming out of an undersized (sub six-foot) frame.
LHP – Brett Mooneyham (Stanford)
LHP – Ross Hales (Texas A&M)
LHP – Nick Maronde (Florida)
Mooneyham shares similar strengths with Alex Meyer (low-90s velocity, above-average breaking ball, average change), but does it all lefthanded. Hales won’t crack the Aggies rotation to start the season, but his long range forecast is a good one. Maronde’s lanky 6-3, 195 pound frame suggests a great deal of projection to come.