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2020 Conference Wrap: Big Ten

Analysis

It’s still hard to believe the 2020 college baseball season is over after just four weeks of play. Most conferences didn’t even reach league play before the coronavirus halted the season, so it would be pointless to give out any legitimate awards or draw any sweeping conclusions from our meager sample size. With that in mind, we won’t be releasing a 2020 All-America team, or naming a national Player of the Year or Freshman of the Year.

But informally, we can still take a look back at those first four weeks and highlight some players who stood out. Keep in mind that nonconference strength of schedules vary dramatically, and four weeks really isn’t a long enough period to even determine how strong a given schedule truly was. With those caveats out of the way, here are some superlative picks for the Big Ten, which played four weeks of action and was slated to begin league play this past weekend.

Here are the superlative categories:

  • Best Team
  • Most Surprising Team
  • Most Impressive Hitter
  • Most Impressive Pitcher
  • Best Senior
  • Best Freshman
  • More Fab Freshmen
  • Breakout Player
  • Breakout Pitcher
  • Updated Top 10 Prospects For 2020 Draft

BEST TEAM

Michigan

It was an up-and-down first four weeks of the season for Michigan, but throughout the Wolverines flashed the big-time upside that made them the Big Ten’s most talented team on paper preseason and our pick for the best team in the conference. Opening weekend wins against defending national champion #2 Vanderbilt and #9 Arizona State set expectations sky high for last year’s College World Series runners-up, and even through a 5-7 run over the last three weeks of the season (including three losses to Connecticut) the Wolverines continued to look the part of an Omaha contender.

Standout OF Jordan Nwogu paced the offense, slashing .353/.389/.456 through his first 72 plate appearances, while junior SS Jack Blomgren helped to set the table, reaching base at a .444 clip while batting .286 and swiping six bags in seven attempts. Junior OF Jesse Franklin, who missed the first four weeks of action due to a broken collarbone, would have provided a big boost to the offense upon returning to lineup following a loud 2019 campaign in which he finished second on the team in home runs (13) and provided big time on-base and power production with a slash line of .262/.388/.477. 

On the bump, redshirt-freshman Steven Hajjar met the very high pre-season expectations set for him and was well on his way to a breakout year, posting a 3-0 record in his first four starts while sporting a 2.70 ERA and striking out 24 in 20 innings of work. Friday night ace Jeff Criswell held opponents to a .205 average while posting a 1.13 WHIP over his 24 innings of work, while freshman RHP Cameron Weston was off to an impressive start in the pen (and a midweek start against Stanford), allowing just one earned run in 10 innings of work. Even with some early season struggles, pound-for-pound the Wolverine staff still presented as one of the deepest and most talented in the conference, capable of hanging with the top programs in the country.

With a challenging opening month behind it and Franklin’s return to the offense within sight, the Wolverines were well poised for a strong run entering conference play. While not the hottest team in the Big Ten when the season was prematurely ended, they remained the team to beat and a potential 2020 regional host.

UPDATED TOP 10 PROSPECTS FOR 2020 DRAFT

  1. Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota (No. 5 on our overall Top 250)
  2. Dillon Dingler, C, Ohio State (No. 31)
  3. Jeff Criswell, RHP, Michigan (No. 39)
  4. Seth Lonsway, LHP, Ohio State (No. 52)
  5. Jordan Nwogu, OF, Michigan (No. 59)
  6. Mason Erla, RHP, Michigan State (No. 60)
  7. Jack Blomgren, SS, Michigan (No. 71)
  8. Jesse Franklin, OF, Michigan (No. 78-INJ)
  9. Blake Beers, RHP, Michigan (No. 168)
  10. Randy Bednar, OF, Maryland (No. 184)

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