With MLB dragging their heels, to put it politely, baseball will go on, and this weekend the college game kicks off the 2022 season.
I just thought I’d share what I’ll be watching and following this weekend, and why.
Matchup: Bryant vs. East Carolina, 1 PM PT | ESPN +
Why Watch: ECU LHP Carson Whisenhunt (6-3/210, 91-94 mph FB, CB, CH) has a chance to be a Day 1 pick.
Matchup: Maryland vs. Baylor, 4:30 PM PT | ESPN+
Why Watch: Baylor OF Jared McKenzie is a consensus Top 100 pick with a shot to be among the first 40 players selected.
Matchup: Kent State vs. Coastal Carolina, 1 PM PT | ESPN+
Why Watch: Coastal SS Eric Brown is among the better mid-major players in the country and starts the season with a shot to play his way into Top 100 territory, led by above-average defense.
Matchup: Kentucky vs. Jacksonville State, 1 PM PT | ESPN +
Why Watch: Kentucky SS Ryan Ritter is a plus defender with tons of versatility whose bat has upside but a ways to go.
Matchup: Connecticut vs. South Florida, 3 PM PT | ESPN+
Why Watch: UConn lefty Reggie Crawford, of course. It’s a huge fastball firmly in the mid-90s and one of the better lefty left-handed breaking balls in the class. There are questions about the future role, but tons of arm strength ad a power breaking ball is a great start.
Matchup: New Mexico vs. Oregon State — Sanderson Ford Classic
Why Watch: Oregon State southpaw Cooper Hjerpe is a fastball-curveball-changeup starter with athleticism and some physical projection left. It’s an average fastball, but the curveball flashes plus. It’s a Day-2 talent without more fastball value, but there’s room on the frame for more weight, and the velo could tick up a bit.
Matchup: Albany vs. Georgia
Why Watch: UGA is always loaded with talent on the mound and this year the Bulldogs are led by right-hander Jonathan Cannon, who has touched 96 mph and starts the season with a plus changeup and average slider.
Matchup: Long Beach State vs. Mississippi State
Why Watch: Not only is it a matchup of Top 25 teams, the Bulldogs have two potential first-round picks in RHP Landon Sims (93-98, best breaking ball in the draft in a 70 slider, and size MLB clubs adore) and catcher Logan Tanner (huge arm, great chance to catch long-term, 15-20 HR pop).
Matchup: Illinois State vs. Arkansas
Why Watch: The Razorbacks boast three of the top 50 draft prospects in the class, and it’s conceivable all three end up first rounders; Cayden Walace, a strong-armed infielder likely headed for 3B in pro ball, right-hander Peyton Pallette (65-grade FB and CB, thin frame), and 2B Robert Moore, the son of long-time MLB exec Dayton Moore.
Matchup: Wright State vs. Georgia Tech
Why Watch: Tech is a top program known for major leaguers such as C Jason Varitek, SS Nomar Garciaparra, 1B/3B Mark Teixeira, C Matt Wieters, and most recently C Joey Bart — sensing a trend here? Kevin Parada, the Jackets’ current star catcher, has a chance to be taken in the top 10 if he has a big year and answers a few questions.
Matchup: Arizona vs. Kansas State
Why Watch: Arizona’s catcher Daniel Susac is a Matt Wieters type in that he’s tall (6-foot-4) and big (220), but projects well enough defensively. He’s already showing above-average power, but there’s probably more there if a club can find the key. Susac is a potential Top 25 pick.
Matchup: Georgia Southern vs. Tennessee
Why Watch: Two words: Blade Tidwell. He’s a prototypical righty. Projectable at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, fastball up to 99 mph and easy at 93-96, average changeup, curveball with upside, a slider that may be plus right now, and solid-average control and command. He’s a Top 10 guy for me with a chance to go in the Top 5 with a big spring.
Matchup: Charleston Southern vs. Mississippi
Why Watch: The Rebels have two prospects with a chance to on Day 1 in C Hayden Dunhurst (bat questions, but above-average glove), and right-hander Derek Diamond (92-95 mph, average slider and changeup).
Matchup: Cal State Fullerton vs. Stanford
Why Watch: Stanford star Brock Jones has average or better tools across the board, led by foot speed and bat speed, suggesting a chance to stick in center and hit 20 homers.
Matchup: Oklahoma State vs. Vanderbilt
Why Watch: Why not? It’s two top-10 teams loaded with talent, including three Cowboys that could land in the Top 100 picks (RHP Justin Campbell, a 6-foot-7 four-pitch righty with upside to spare, RHP Victor Mederos and his 95 mph fastball, CB, SL, CH combo, and 3B Nolan McLean, who has a chance to go in the first round if he shows a better hit tool). Vandy’s switch-hitting SS Carter Young is a potential first-rounder.
Matchup: James Madison vs. Florida State
Why Watch: Seminoles LHP Bryce Hubbart has mid-first upside and fellow southpaw and teammate Parker Messick isn’t far behind.
Matchup: Liberty vs. Florida
Why Watch: The Gators are littered with talent, including for potentially headed for the top three rounds. Outfielder Jud Fabian has big upside with plus power and a chance to stay in the middle of the field, LHP Hunter Barco, who is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and already into the mid-90s with a plus slider, 3B Sterlin Thompson (LHB, 55 hit, 50 power), and RHP Brandon Sproat (6-3, 210, has hit triple digits, including 97 as a starter, but struggles hitting spots).
Matchup: Towson vs. Miami
Why Watch: RHP Carson Palmquist visits the mid-90s with command and an above-average slider.
Matchup: Maine vs. LSU
Why Watch: The Tigers, per usual, have a lot of talent, starting with potential top 10 pick in 3B Jacob Berry, a switch hitter with at least 60-grade power and some Spencer Torkelson-like whispers of the hit tool. The risk here, like with Torkelson, is the defensive profile, and it’s more than risk, he’s going to end up at first base. LSU 2B Cade Doughty could sneak into the first-round on the strength of an above-average hit tool and a shot to stay up the middle on defense. The Tigers also boast outfielder Dylan Crews, who batted .362/.453/.663 with 36 XBH (18 HR) a year ago as a freshman. He’s not draft-eligible until next year, but goodness gracious, Crews and Berry in the lineup together is scary.
Matchup: Rice vs. Texas
Why Watch: Texas might be the best team in the country. Oh, and Troy Tulowitzki is on David Pierce’s staff.
Matchup: Michigan vs. Texas Tech
Why Watch: Tech star 2B Jace Jung has a shot to be a top-5 pick come July. It’s a plus hit tool and plus power, though he’s a first baseman long term.
Matchup: Washington vs. Cal Poly
Why Watch: Mustangs SS Brooks Lee may be the best hitter in college baseball, and he does it from both sides of the plate with above-average power. If I’m the Orioles at No. 1, I’m considering Lee if I think he can at least play some second base, or if I feel really good about Lee’s shot to hit .300/.400/.500 on the strength of 40 doubles and 20 homers, a profile that works at the hot corner.
Matchup: New Mexico vs. Gonzaga — Sanderson Ford Classic
Why Watch: Zags lefty Gabriel Hughes is a physical right-hander with two plus pitches, including a fastball touching 98 mph, and projectable command.
Matchup: UC Santa Barbara vs. San Francisco
Why Watch: Jordan Sprinkle has the feet and arm to stick at shortstop long-term and be very good there, taking some pressure off the stick, but there’s ability there, too.
Jason A. Churchill
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