College World Series: Vanderbilt-Virginia -

Vanderbilt OF Rhett Wiseman eyes extra bases (Shotgun Spratling)


2015 All-Fitt Team

I never take for granted how fortunate I am to write about college baseball for a living. I love going to baseball games, and I enjoy getting to meet so many impressive young men who excel in the sport every year. As a way to honor the great players of college baseball, here’s my annual All-Fitt team, a list of the players I most enjoyed watching and spending time with in 2015.

You’ll notice there are four Vanderbilt players on this year’s team — and there could have been more than that. Vandy’s veteran core is an uncommonly likable group, in addition to being very, very good. Anyone who’s gotten a chance to spend time with the Commodores over the last two years can’t be surprised that this team has a chance to win its second straight national championship tonight. Much like the Michael Roth/Matt Price South Carolina teams that won back-to-back titles, and the Darwin Barney/Mitch Canham Oregon State teams, these Commodores have very special makeup, and that really matters. But Virginia’s got some of that Gamecock/Beaver mojo too, even if they can’t match Vandy for star power and outsized personalities. That’s probably one reason Virginia is in this position right now — that is a team full of unassuming grinders, and the sum is better than the parts. With that said, a Virginia star leads off the 2015 All-Fitt team:

C: Matt Thaiss, Virginia: Thaiss stood out for his powerful lefthanded bat every time I saw him, but I also enjoyed his soft-spoken insightfulness in the postgame. Tough kid, and very smart.

1B: Zander Wiel, Vanderbilt: He owns one of the best names in college baseball, and he has the personality to match. His impressions of teammates Rhett Wiseman, Jeren Kendall, Carson Fulmer and Ro Coleman had me in stitches.

2B: Einar Muniz, Alabama State: The All-Fitt team has a long history of honoring vertically challenged players, and the 5-foot-5 Muniz was a true joy to watch during the opening weekend in Florida. He plays with incredible energy and passion, and he was a lot of fun to talk with after the game, too.

3B: Josh Tobias, Florida: I remain completely amazed that Tobias made it through an entire 65-game season with just one error at the hot corner. Great story of a guy who figured it all out as a senior and became a really, really good all-around player, as well as a quiet leader. He’s a class act.

SS: Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt: The guy can do it all on the baseball field, and he makes it all look so easy. Such a fluid defender — and he made several plays this year that simply dropped my jaw. Also one of the most charismatic people in college baseball; have enjoyed talking with him a great deal over the last two years.

OF: Willie Abreu, Miami: Abreu’s fun-loving personality and big grin won me over in Omaha. You could tell he was really eating up the College World Series experience — I loved when he had coach Jim Morris and two other players pose for a photo with him on the press conference dais.

OF: Rhett Wiseman, Vanderbilt: Like Swanson, Wiseman has a magnetic personality — they both go out of their way to say hello and start a conversation whenever you see them around the ballpark, and they’re always fun to talk with. Wiseman is one of the most thoughtful quotes in college baseball, and also one of the most exciting players, offensively and defensively. Tim Corbin called Wiseman one of his all-time favorites this week, and I can see why.

OF: Buddy Reed, Florida: I dig Reed’s game — he’s a switch-hitting center fielder with superb range in the outfield and emerging power potential. This guy’s got a chance to be a top-10 overall pick next year, if he continues to develop at the rate he has over the last year. Very exciting player to watch.

DH: Alex Bregman, LSU: I hate putting Bregman at DH, because one of the reasons he’s so much fun to watch is because of his superb defense at shortstop. One of the best all-around players of his era, and his bold personality was a perfect fit for one of college baseball’s marquee programs.

SP: Thomas Eshelman, Cal State Fullerton: Thomas Eshelman is a national treasure — there’s no other way to put it. To watch Eshelman is to watch a master craftsman at age 21. I mean, 321 strikeouts and 18 walks in 376 career innings? That’s unfathomable. He could walk 13 straight batters without recording an out, and he’d still hold the all-time NCAA record for fewest walks per nine innings. He’s an outstanding person, too.

SP: Carson Fulmer, Vanderbilt: It’s hard to take your eyes off Fulmer when he’s on the mound — he’s just a ball of energy, bouncing around the mound, attacking hitters without fear, and then always turning around and greeting all of his teammates before he leaves the field between innings. Love that. His stuff might the the most electric of any pitcher in college baseball, and his personality is incredibly genuine.

SP: James Kaprielian, UCLA: It seems like UCLA has a pitcher or two on this list every year — the kids in that program are always exceedingly friendly and well spoken, and Kaprielian fits that mold very well, much like Adam Plutko, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer before him.

SP: Alex Lange, LSU: I have a lot of appreciation for the great ones, as you can tell from some of the names on this list. Lange is a great one already, and he’s just a freshman. Guys with stuff this electrifying are truly a treat to watch, and his command is advanced for his age.

RP: David Berg, UCLA: Berg is an incredible success story, a recruited walk-on who became the best college closer of all time. His resilience and consistency were just amazing. Had a chance to sit down with Berg for an extended interview as his career was winding down, and it was one of the highlights of the season for me. He is a very special, down to earth guy.

Honorable Mention: Logan Ratledge, NC State; Kevin Kramer, UCLA; Corey Ray, Louisville; Joe Serrano, Arkansas; DJ Stewart, Florida State; Cameron Newell, UC Santa Barbara; Richie Martin, Florida; Josh Sborz, Virginia; Preston Morrison, TCU; Keaton Jones, TCU; Michael Matuella, Duke; Ro Coleman, Vanderbilt; Jeren Kendall, Vanderbilt.

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