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Opening Day

Boston College/VCU  and BYU/Northern Colorado kick both get started in a little bit less than two hours. Whichever game gets the first pitch off first will have the honor of officially opening the 2013 Division I baseball schedule. To honor this most wonderful of baseball days, let’s take a quick spin around what you (yes, you!) need to know about the internet’s best ways to ingest college ball this year.

I’ve said it before and I’m happy to say it again: the most indispensable site for what I do here on the site is the data page at College Splits. I can’t say enough about how much that site has helped me in my goal to have a strong quantitative counter to the overwhelming amount of scouting notes I’ve accrued over the years. The mix of stats and scouting is so important to what I do, and I’d go crazy running around from site to site looking for the former without the searchable database that only College Splits offers. The park/schedule adjusted stats make it darn near perfect.

A close second in the race for most valuable site is  D1 Baseball. Every team, every game, every schedule, every box score. Once the season starts, this site might as well act as my unofficial home page. I’m a fairly normal guy in most respects — steady job, wrapping up grad school, good relationship, leading man smile — but the amount of time I’ve spent on College Splits and D1 Baseball (with no rooting interest in the sport, by the way) over the past few years is enough to get me committed. I purposely didn’t plan a trip to see a game tonight — tomorrow is a different story, stay tuned for that — just so I could be around to read every single box score I can as today’s set of games unfold. Here are the links for this weekend’s games:

If all you do this year is check in on those two sites on a daily basis, you’re good to go. But why limit yourself? Another thing I’ve said time and time again, but don’t mind repeating is my admiration for the work Aaron Fitt puts in at Baseball America. He’s a hard guy to link to because he doesn’t have a specific author’s page or anything — here’s the college preview, written by various members of the staff but Fitt’s stuff is clearly noticeable as a step above — so my suggestion is to just cruise around the BA site and read everything you can with his byline. His first weekend preview of the year is a good starting point. The two high school guys, Nathan Rode and Conor Glassey, are very, very good as well, especially Rode.

A notch below is where you’ll find Perfect Game’s Kendall Rogers. Rogers is really good at what he does — all college ball, all the time — but he’s not a great fit for what I do here, simply because I’m more of a pro prospect guy than a straight up fan of college baseball. Like Fitt, the man has an outstanding network of sources and is at the top of the charts when it comes to breaking news. He’s also an undeniably great follow on Twitter – very informative, limited personal mumbo jumbo. All of the guys dedicated to prospects at Perfect Game — off the top of my head I’ll single out Patrick Ebert, Frankie Piliere, David Rawnsley, Todd Gold, Jeff Dahn, and, when we’re lucky, Jerry Ford — are excellent evaluators and writers. You have to take much of what they say about high school talent with a grain of salt — they are in the business of promoting guys who play at their showcases, after all — but when one of those guys writes something, I read it.

A guy I link with Rogers in my mind is College Baseball Today’s Eric Sorenson. You don’t read Sorenson for prospect information, but you can always count on him for funny, insightful, and comprehensive (to say the least) views on the game. Like Rogers, the guy clearly has a passion for college baseball and it comes across beautifully in his writing. As the two primary college ball only guy (non-prospect division), Rogers gets the edge in breaking news and appears to have more resources to work with at his disposal, but Sorenson writes so damn well that you can’t help but read and enjoy.

I owe a great deal to Baseball Prospectus for turning me into the baseball fan I am today. The golden years of that site — I’d put it around my time in college, so ’04-’08ish — provided content that taught me something new on a daily basis. I don’t check in these days as often as I did then — they’ve lost a lot of good men and women, there’s more competition, there’s less work to be done fighting the good fight — but whenever I do, there’s something there that will either make me think…or make me laugh. Can’t ask for much more than that, right? The bad news is that I’ve never been a huge fan of their brand of prospect coverage. I’m happy to get into why at a later date — today is a happy day, so I won’t dwell too much on negatives if I can help it — but I’m encouraged by the idea of their new “scouting staff.” In theory it’s a great thought and I think Jason Parks is a fine choice to lead the team, but I have my doubts about actual names brought in to do the “scouting.” Say what you will about the departed Kevin Goldstein, but the man knew how to take a step back and let his sources do the talking, especially when it came to the amateur draft. Consider this entire paragraph one great big “wait and see” with respect to their upcoming draft coverage. It always bummed me out that they would ignore amateur ball until late-May and then swoop in as experts on the subject, so hopefully, if nothing else, the increased year-round emphasis will create a more creditable final product.

The number one thing I love about Baseball America’s draft coverage is their reliance on contacts within the game. There’s very little “scouting” done by their staff, and I consider that a good thing. They watch the games and report on what they see, but don’t base their opinions solely on their personal views. I guess this doubles as my indirect criticism of ESPN’s Keith Law. I like Law enough, but too often get the impression he thinks what he sees in one game supersedes the information that professional scouts have literally been gathering for years. I also think it’s a shame that ESPN no longer has a writer dedicated solely to amateur baseball. I get that you need context when evaluating prospects — it’s good that Law sees a variety of ball, from the bigs to the minors to the college/HS ranks — but at some point you have to believe the content is just stretched too thin. The loss of rising star Kiley McDaniel (now at Fox Sports) hurts in this regard. I’m excited to follow McDaniel at Fox Sports this spring, by the way. He’s another guy with a highly recommended Twitter feed.

I can’t finish up without mentioning one of my favorite indy sites, Big League Futures. I don’t check in on the site as often as I should, but the guys over there, especially Matt Grabusky, have done a great job of doing what I had originally sought out to do: aggregating the best in amateur prospect coverage on a daily basis and linking it all in one spot. In a sense, it’s almost like MLB Trade Rumors but for college and high school prospects. Much of the original content doesn’t thrill me, but the value of that aggregation makes it a quality site worth bookmarking.

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