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2016 College World Series Preview

Postseason

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In our preseason Top 25 capsules, we used the 20-80 scouting scale to grade each team in various facets of the game. Five of the eight teams that reached the College World Series were ranked in our preseason Top 25, so we thought it would be instructive to revisit and revise our preseason grades for those five teams (which were ranked Nos. 1, 6, 8, 19 and 24 in the preseason). Arizona, UC Santa Barbara and Texas Tech were not ranked in the preseason and will be subjected to the scrutiny of the 20-80 scale for the first time. Here’s how we explained our grading system in the preseason (we’ll use the same criteria here):

Scouts grade prospects on how their tools compare with those of an average major leaguer, but for our Top 25, we rate talent relative to an average NCAA tournament team. In addition to grading our Top 25 teams on typical tools like hitting for average, hitting for power, speed and defense, we have divided the fifth tool (arm) into two categories: starting pitching and bullpen. We’re also giving teams a grade for Experience/Intangibles—think of it as a team’s “makeup”, if you like. For each category, a grade of 50 is average, comparable to a typical NCAA tournament contender; 60 is above-average; 70 is well-above-average; 40 is below-average; and 30 is well-below-average. Twenty and 80 are the extreme limits in each direction.

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Bracket One


FloridaGators2015FLORIDA

Record: 52-14. Preseason ranking: 1. Ranking at end of regular season: 3.


GRADING THE GATORS

Hitting

Preseason: 65

Revised: 55

The Gators typically won’t overwhelm teams at the plate, but the lineup is more than good enough to put up a lot of runs if hard-hitters such as Pete Alonso and J.J. Schwarz are clicking on all cylinders, as they were in the series finale against Florida State. Buddy Reed (.261/4/32) is a real X-factor here and could be primed from a strong showing in Omaha, while the Gators, ranked 24th nationally in batting average, have another good one in shortstop Dalton Guthrie (.309/1/22).

Power

Preseason: 70

Revised: 60

This is a team that finds ways to get it done from a power standpoint. Pete Alonso has been an absolute tear the past couple of weeks and has 13 homers despite missing several weeks with a hand injury, while J.J. Schwarz is on fire and has seven homers, and catcher Mike Rivera has some big-time pop as well with nine homers of the season. UF has seven players with double-digit doubles and they rank 18th nationally in homers with 1.17 per game, while also ranking 31st and 21st, respectively, in doubles and triples per game.

Speed

Preseason: 65

Revised: 55

The Gators aren’t an ultra speedy team top to bottom in the lineup, but there are several guys to watch from a team that ranks 14th nationally in stolen bases and 23rd nationally in stolen bases per game. The most obvious speedster is center fielder Buddy Reed, who can be a terror when he gets on base, sitting 24 for 27 in stolen bases this season. Meanwhile, Deacon Liput, Dalton Guthrie and Jonathan India are all guys that can be a threat on the bases.

Defense

Preseason: 65

Revised: 65

Though this team ranks 34th nationally in fielding percentage, don’t let that national ranking fool you: The Gators are an elite defensive club with a .983 fielding percentage and elite defenders at important positions. For instance, Dalton Guthrie and Deacon Liput are absolute rocks up the middle, while Mike Rivera is terrific behind the plate and  Buddy Reed covers a ton of ground in the outfield and has a strong arm to boot. The Gators aren’t going to beat themselves.

Starting Pitching

Preseason: 80

Revised: 70

The Gators have one of the nation’s elite starting rotations. Alex Faedo has a big-time arm with the ability to get into the mid-90s, while Logan Shore and his fastball, changeup, slider combination really tamed Florida State this past weekend. There was some concern about Shore going into the weekend because of some inconsistencies, but he appears to be right back on track. Meanwhile, A.J. Puk is the real X-factor here. He had six walks against Florida State, but showed potential with his mid-80s slider at times. As usual, his fastball velocity sat in the 94-95 range, and got up to 96-97 as well. Puk is a real wild card, while Faedo and Shore are more consistent options.

Bullpen

Preseason: 65

Revised: 70

The Gators have one of the best bullpens in college baseball, and it all starts with Dane Dunning, a righthander who sits low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, while also showcasing a real weapon of a breaking ball. Meanwhile, Shaun Anderson and his powerful fastball/slider combination is a nightmare to deal with on the back-end of games, while Kirby Snead is a lefty with experience and quality stuff, and Scott Moss is a potential X-factor to watch. Moss started in the SEC tournament and was just terrific, sitting low-90s with his fastball with an outstanding slider. He, too, gives the Gators another high-level option out of the pen.

Experience/Intangibles

Preseason: 70

Revised: 70

Florida has one of the oldest pitching staffs in this field, and it’s one with a lot of experience pitching on this stage. Meanwhile, Alonso, Schwarz and others have experience on the offensive side of things. The Gators are playing at a very high level right now, and won’t be deterred by anything in Omaha.

—Kendall Rogers

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Coastal Carolina Chanticleers logoCOASTAL CAROLINA

Record: 49-16. Preseason ranking: 24. Ranking at end of regular season: 17.


GRADING THE CHANTICLEERS

Hitting

Preseason: 65

Revised: 70

Coastal has lived up to preseason expectations that it would be one of college baseball’s most dangerous offensive teams. Veterans Anthony Marks and Michael Paez are skilled catalysts atop the lineup, and the Chanticleers are loaded with players who hit for both average and power through most of the lineup — though the bottom third is considerably more pitchable if second baseman Seth Lancaster remains sidelined with the knee injury that kept him out of the super regional clincher.

Power

Preseason: 65

Revised: 70

The Chanticleers lead the nation in home runs, with four players who have 15-plus homers (Zach Remillard, G.K. Young, Paez and Connor Owings) and two others who have seven apiece (Tyler Chadwick and Lancaster). Those numbers are a bit inflated by Coastal’s homer-happy home ballpark (which is why this grade is only a 70), but they continued to mash in the super regional at Alex Box Stadium. However, it remains to be seen how their power will play in pitcher-friendly TD Ameritrade Park.

Speed

Preseason: 60

Revised: 65

Billy Cooke is the only true burner among Coastal’s regulars, but this lineup is loaded with aggressive, intelligent baserunners who like to push the action with their speed, helping them rank among the nation’s top 10 in stolen bases. Cooke (26-for-32), Lancaster (15-for-17), Owings (14-for-15), Remillard (14-for-16) and Marks (14-for-20) are all capable of stealing a base at any time, and they do it at an impressive success rate.

Defense

Preseason: 55

Revised: 55

Coastal improved from 200th in the nation in fielding last year (.963) to 100th this year (.970), and the veteran defense generally handles the routine plays well. Paez is a playmaker at short (though he does have 17 errors), and the tandem of David Parrett and Matt Beaird are very good behind the plate. The outfield has excellent range, led by the speedy Cooke and Marks. Lancaster’s status is a bit of a concern, as replacement Cameron Pearcey is less experienced and made a couple of costly mistakes in the super regional.

Starting Pitching

Preseason: 55

Revised: 55

The Chanticleers moved versatile veteran righty Andrew Beckwith into the rotation down the stretch, and he provided the rotation with real stability. Fourth-year junior righty Alex Cunningham is a proven veteran workhorse behind him with a low-90s fastball that bumps 93-94 and feel for two quality offspeed pitches. Lefty Zack Hopeck and ultra-talented freshman righty Jason Bilous (who owns a 92-96 fastball) give the Chants two quality starting options behind them, depending on the matchup.

Bullpen

Preseason: 55

Revised: 60

Coastal has one of college baseball’s best closers in junior righthander Mike Morrison (7-1, 1.06, 11 SV), who can pitch multiple innings and miss bats with his filthy slider. Power-armed sophomore Bobby Holmes is another proved righty who can pitch multiple innings and showed incredible poise in tight spots at Alex Box Stadium. And Austin Kitchen gives the Chants a nice option from the left side. This isn’t the deepest bullpen, but the CWS format allows teams to rest every other day, so Coastal should be just fine with its three main men (and Hopeck or Bilous could also function as swing men).

Experience/Intangibles

Preseason: 60

Revised: 60

This marks the first trip to Omaha in Coastal Carolina history, and a first-year participant hasn’t won it all since 1956 (Minnesota). But aside from the lack of CWS experience, Coastal scores well in this category, because this is a veteran-laden team filled with postseason experience, and they proved their mettle time and again during a white-knuckle ride through the Raleigh Regional and the Baton Rouge Super Regional. It’s a resilient, high-character club that plays with abundant energy and emotion, but not at the expense of focus. The Chanticleers will be a tough out in Omaha.

—Aaron Fitt

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TCU90x90TCU

Record: 47-16. Preseason ranking: 19. Ranking at end of regular season: 13.


GRADING THE HORNED FROGS

Hitting

Preseason: 60

Revised: 65

The Horned Frogs have made some impressive strides offensively despite losing a few key pieces from last year’s lineup. Freshman Luken Baker is an obvious key addition, smacking nine homers thus far and establishing himself as one of the nation’s premier hitters, while this team as a whole has a terrific approach one-thru-nine, and guys such as Elliott Barzilli, Dane Steinhagen, Evan Skoug and Josh Watson have power potential, with Cam Warner also showing an ability to find holes through the infield the past couple of weeks. TCU is hitting at a very high level right now, hitting .304, which ranks 24th on the national stage.

Power

Preseason: 55

Revised: 60

Having seen the Frogs in the past couple of weeks, I really like the way this club stacks up from a power standpoint. Baker has outstanding hands and finds a way to hit it out of the ballpark, even when pitches are thrown on the inside part of the plate, while Barzilli, Steinhagen, Warner, Skoug, Austin Wade and Josh Watson are all guys who have double-digit doubles totals. The Frogs ranks 11th nationally in terms of doubles as a team, while they sit at 41st nationally in homers.

Speed

Preseason: 60

Revised: 65

The Frogs are more than willing to test the arm of opposing catchers, and they typically have quite a bit of success. For instance, the Frogs rank top 20 nationally in stolen bases and have six guys with 10 or more stolen bases, with Connor Wanhanen sitting pretty with nine of his own. Wade leads the charge in the stolen base department with 13. The Frogs didn’t sit idle on the bases against A&M last weekend, and I wouldn’t expect that to change in Omaha.

Defense

Preseason: 55

Revised: 55

We really like what we saw from the Frogs defensively this past weekend against Texas A&M. Third baseman Elliott Barzilli showed consistent actions despite having one error on the weekend, second baseman Cam Warner is solid, and Evan Skoug, though he may not have a particularly strong arm, is a rock behind the plate and is a good receiver. Dane Steinhagen, Austen Wade and Josh Watson also have very good command of the outfield, while shortstop Ryan Merrill can be a weak link at times with 18 errors on the season.

Starting Pitching

Preseason: 55

Revised: 65

The Frogs have pitched extremely well the past couple of weeks, and no one looked better than imposing righthander Brian Howard, who tossed an absolute gem in the series finale against A&M. Howard sat 88-91, and up to 92 mph with his fastball, while his cutter and slider were outstanding, his slider sitting in the mid-80s with sharp break. Also keep close tabs on redshirt freshman righthander Jared Janczak, who was a location specialist against the Aggies with his slider, while also showing feel for a changeup and fastball that sat in the 88-91 range, and up to 92 mph. There’s also Mitchell Traver, who was sharp after the first inning against A&M. Traver sat 92-93, and up to 94-95 mph with his fastball, while also showcasing a sharp breaking ball.

Bullpen

Preseason: 55

Revised: 55

The Horned Frogs have a few arms to watch in Omaha, but everything starts with freshman righthander Durbin Feltman and Brian Trieglaff. Feltman showed electric stuff last weekend with a fastball up to 94-95 mph along with a breaking ball, while Trieglaff is another righty who sits low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, along with a quality slider. Ryan Burnett and Preston Guillory also are worth watching out of the pen.

Experience/Intangibles

Preseason: 50

Revised: 55

The Horned Frogs have played incredibly well the past couple of weeks, and we’ll see if that trend continues in Omaha. TCU is far from the most experienced team in this field, but after taking care of business in College Station, don’t expect this team to be star-eyed at TD Ameritrade Park.

—Kendall Rogers

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Texas Tech logoTEXAS TECH

Record: 46-18. Preseason ranking: NR. Ranking at end of regular season: 9.


GRADING THE RED RAIDERS

Hitting

Preseason: NR

Revised: 60

The Red Raiders might rank in the 50s nationally in terms of team batting average, but don’t make the grave mistake of assuming this team isn’t explosive. It is. Tanner Gardner is a true table setter for this team with an OBP approaching .500 and a .382 batting average, while Eric Gutierrez, Cory Raley, Stephen smith and Tyler Neslony are all very good hitters who can find different ways to get on base, while also having the ability to clear the bases. Tech is experienced at the plate and has some versatility throughout the lineup.

Power

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 60

Tim Tadlock’s club has more than enough power to cause some serious headaches for opposing teams during the next two weeks. The Red Raiders rank 37th nationally in terms of homers overall, while they sit at seventh nationally in terms of doubles per game. That tells you this team has plenty of potential in the power department. Gutierrez, Smith and Neslony are guys you must pitch smartly, as the trio has combined for 32 homers, while Raley and Garcia both are guys that can get ahold of balls, and Gardner and Michael Davis have combined for 38 doubles. It’s easy to see why we like the Raiders from a power perspective.

Speed

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 45

The Red Raiders can be relentless at times at the plate, but a silver lining? Don’t look for this club to wear you completely out trying to steal bases … or so we think. Tech ranks 71st nationally in stolen bases with only Raley sitting pretty with double-digit stolen bases, 19-for-19 on the year to be exact.

Defense

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 60

Don’t look for the Red Raiders to find ways to beat themselves this weekend. Orlando Garcia and Michael Davis are very solid up the middle, while Gutierrez is an absolute rock over at first, and the outfield is littered with guys who have experience in big situations.

Starting Pitching

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 55

There’s a lot of youth in this rotation for the Red Raiders, by you know what? In this type of environment, that sometimes is a good thing. Davis Martin leads the way for the Red Raiders, and in addition to a 2.73 ERA in just over 82 innings, he’s a sinker-ball specialist. Steven Gingery is another quality arm for this team that can be hit-or-miss at times, while the wild card here could be freshman lefthander Erikson Lanning. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder, allowed just two hits in seven innings against East Carolina last weekend, and sat upper-80s with his fastball, while also showing good feel for a slurve and changeup.

Bullpen

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 55

The Red Raiders are much like their Big 12 counterparts in TCU in the sense they like to use a couple of pitchers to log a vast majority of the innings out of the bullpen. Whippy lefthander Hayden Howard has been an absolute rock out of the pen this season, sitting with a 2.95 ERA in 79.1 innings, along with eight saves. Howard sits in the low-90s with his fastball and possesses a quality slider, while Robert Dugger is an other quality arm to watch. Dugger has good secondary stuff and is the most consistent arm out of the pen with a 2.34 ERA in 57.2 innings, along with 48 strikeouts and 20 walks.

Experience/Intangibles

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 60

Remember when the Red Raiders made the trek to Omaha two years ago? Well, guess what? The Raiders have several players from that team still on this year’s CWS club. Though there’s some definite inexperience in the weekend rotation with youngsters Davis Martin and Steven Gingery leading the way, the lineup is loaded with veterans including Gutierrez, Smith, Neslony, Gardner and others. The experience in this lineup should outweigh the butterflies some arms might have.

—Kendall Rogers

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Bracket Two


UC SANTA BARBARA

Record: 42-18-1. Preseason ranking: NR. Ranking at end of regular season: NR.


GRADING THE GAUCHOS

Hitting

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 50

Statistically, UCSB is the epitome of an average offensive team — not poor, but not great. The Gauchos rank close to the national median in scoring and OBP and in the bottom third in batting. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story; this is a typical scrappy West Coast offense that ranks in the national top 10 in HBPs and the top 25 in sacrifice bunts. UCSB is opportunistic on offense and makes opponents pay for mistakes. The only regular hitting better than .300 is Devon Gradford (who has just 119 at-bats), but the Gauchos have several skilled bat handlers who know how to hit situationally. Nobody exemplifies that approach better than leadoff man Andrew Calica, who is hitting just .265 but has a .441 OBP and nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts, while also ranking second in the nation in HBPs.

Power

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 45

UCSB has surprising pop for a Big West team that excels at small ball. Hulking first baseman Austin Bush leads the way with 11 homers and a .479 slugging percentage, and he hit multiple huge home runs during UCSB’s run to Omaha. JJ Muno (5 HR), Calica and Josh Adams (4 HR apiece) also bring occasional home run pop, but this team’s power is mostly to the gaps, aside from Bush, who gives the lineup a real intimidating presence in the middle.

Speed

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 50

Santa Barbara ranks 52nd in the nation in stolen bases, as Calica (18-for22), Muno (17-for-22) and Clay Fisher (14-for-18) are all proficient basestealers. But none of them have blazing speed; their stolen base numbers are based more on their instincts.

Defense

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 55

Here’s another category where the numbers don’t tell the whole story. UCSB has a solid .973 fielding percentage, but the Gauchos have one of college baseball’s most sure-handed shortstops in the uncommonly instinctive Fisher (.982), a rock-solid catcher in Dempsey Grover and a very good center fielder in Calica. That up-the-middle core makes UCSB an above-average defensive team.

Starting pitching

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 45

The Gauchos are very confident every time ace Shane Bieber takes the mound. Back in Week Two, coach Andrew Checketts described Bieber by saying, “I love vanilla ice cream, and he gives you a lot of it.” It isn’t overpowering stuff, with a fastball that sits at 87-90, an average slurve and a decent changeup, but he really knows how to locate it and keeps hitters off balance effectively. It gets a little dicier behind Bieber in the rotation, however. Freshman righty Noah Davis has a live arm and a bright future, but his 4.70 ERA is indictative of his inconsistency. And No. 3 starter Joe Record is a competitive workhorse with below-average stuff.

Bullpen

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 55

Santa Barbara’s MVP this season has been lefthander Kyle Nelson (7-2, 2.02, 9 SV, 71.1 IP), one of college baseball’s most effective stoppers. With a mid-to-high-80s fastball, Nelson doesn’t overpower hitters with velocity, but his delivery is deceptive and his slider/cutter is devastating. He can single-handedly shorten games by entering in the middle innings and taking the Gauchos over the finish line. Righty Trevor Bettencourt and lefty Kyle Hatton form the core of a solid supporting cast, though neither has big stuff.

Experience/Intangibles

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 55

Like Coastal Carolina, UCSB is making the first CWS appearance in program history, so how the Gauchos respond to the big stage will be critical. This is also a fairly young team with a boatload of first-year starters. But there’s just something magical about this group of players, who have dramatically exceeded expectations all year long — particularly in the postseason, when they stunned one of the most talented and experienced teams in recent years at the Louisville Super Regional, winning on a walk-off grand slam by pinch-hitter Sam Cohen against first-rounder Zack Burdi. That moment will go down in history as one of the most improbable, incredible, enchanting moments in super regional history. Can UCSB keep the magic going for another two weeks? It seems like a long shot, but then again, it was a huge long shot for the Gauchos to get this far in the first place. The locals are certain to embrace this plucky bunch of underdogs, and by now they have proven they can beat the most talented teams that college baseball has to offer.

—Aaron Fitt

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Oklahoma State University logoOKLAHOMA STATE

Record: 41-20. Preseason ranking: 8. Ranking at end of regular season: NR.


GRADING THE COWBOYS

Hitting

Preseason: 60

Revised: 55

The Cowboys did not get the production they expected from mainstays Ryan Sluder (.211) or Dustin Williams (.227), which contributed significantly to the team’s mediocre .268 batting average. But switch-hitting senior shortstop Donnie Walton (.342) lived up to his billing as one of the Big 12’s best hitters, and juco transfer J.R. Davis (.353) emerged as a key catalyst, while fellow transfer Garrett Benge (.296) turned in a solid season. And veteran Conor Costello (.367 in 98 AB) returned from injury to provide a major boost in the second half, especially in the postseason. This is a very patient, experienced lineup that works counts and really makes pitchers work hard for outs.

Power

Preseason: 55

Revised: 50

Despite his poor batting average, Williams has made a real impact with his lefthanded power bat, leading the team with 14 home runs. Costello and Sluder also have big raw power (even though neither has more than five home runs this year), while Walton, Benge, Cory Hassel and even catcher Colin Theroux provide occasional pop. The numbers say this isn’t a particularly powerful team, but the team has more raw juice than the stats show.

Speed

Preseason: 55

Revised: 50

Oklahoma State ranks inside the national top 50 with 81 stolen bases, led by Hassel (16) and Walton (14), neither of whom has better than average speed (and Hassel has also been caught stealing 10 times). Sluder and Davis are good athletes with solid speed that plays more on the defensive side than the basepaths. There are no game-changing burners on this team.

Defense

Preseason: 55

Revised: 65

This is one area where the Cowboys really excel, ranking 15th in the nation with a .978 fielding percentage. Walton may not have premium range or arm strength, but he is one of the most instinctive and reliable shortstops in college baseball, and he anchors a rock-solid infield defense. Sluder and Hassel are standouts in the outfield, and Theroux has a solid arm behind the plate (but also 18 passed balls, a rather alarming figure).

Starting pitching

Preseason: 60

Revised: 60

Heading into the season, the strength of Oklahoma State’s pitching staff looked like its depth, but the roles were unsettled. Righthander Thomas Hatch quickly settled the No. 1 starter role, lowering his arm slot and showing dramatically improved command of a lively 91-94 fastball, quality slider and changeup. He earned Big 12 pitcher of the year honors, and he rates as the most dominant starting pitcher on this half of the bracket. Righty Tyler Buffett spent most of the year in the bullpen but emerged recently as a rock-solid No. 2 starter thanks to his solid-average fastball and swing-and-miss slider. He held both Clemson and South Carolina to one run over seven strong innings in his two postseason starts. And tall freshman Jensen Elliott is a very good No. 3 with advanced feel for a quality three-pitch mix from a tough angle.

Bullpen

Preseason: 65

Revised: 60

It took most of the year for Oklahoma State to figure out what roles best suited its deep stable of arms, but the Cowboys got it sorted in the end. Righty Trey Cobb made 12 starts but eventually found his way to the back of the bullpen, where his fastball plays up and his wicked slider is a real weapon when a strikeout is needed. Remey Reed, Michael Mertz and Blake Battenfield give OSU three more trusted power arms from the right side, and electric but enigmatic lefty Garrett Williams has the ability to smother lefties when he’s got his best command. He’ll be a major key in Omaha.

Experience/Intangibles

Preseason: 60

Revised: 60

Oklahoma State is making its first appearance in Omaha since 1999, when head coach Josh Holliday was a star player for the Cowboys. So the sport’s biggest stage is new to all of the players on this roster, but this is a very experienced team loaded with upperclassmen who proved their mettle by winning a regional in the hostile environment of Clemson and a super regional in the similarly hostile atmosphere of South Carolina. Even more impressively, Oklahoma State became the first team since Georgia Tech in 1992 to reach Omaha without ever trailing in a game. This team is playing at an exceptionally high level when it matters most.

Aaron Fitt

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Miami Florida logoMIAMI

Record: 50-12. Preseason ranking: 6. Ranking at end of regular season: 2.


GRADING THE HURRICANES

Hitting

Preseason: 65

Revised: 60

Heading into the season, we thought Willie Abreu and Jacob Heyward needed to have big offensive seasons to replace the production of David Thompson and George Iskenderian in order for Miami to make another Omaha run. Heyward is hitting just .286 and Abreu (.286) has had an up-and-down season, but glove-first middle infielders Brandon Lopez (.385) and Johnny Ruiz (.346) surprisingly emerged as dangerous offensive weapons to help pick up the slack behind superstar Zack Collins, who is simply one of college baseball’s most dangerous — and disciplined — hitters. And Carl Chester (.344) blossomed into a premier catalyst atop the lineup as a sophomore. The Hurricanes have real threats from one through nine in the lineup, making this one of the best offensive teams in this CWS field.

Power

Preseason: 60

Revised: 60

Collins and Abreu both have enormous raw power from the left side, combining for 27 of the team’s 49 home runs (which ranks inside the national top 50). That pair can change any game with one swing of the bat, but Heyward and Edgar Michelangeli (who blasted huge homers in the ACC tournament and the super regional clincher) can also hurt opponents with the long ball lower in the lineup.

Speed

Preseason: 65

Revised: 55

Chester is one of the fastest players in college baseball, who has been clocked as fast as 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash. But he’s still developing as a basestealer, as evidenced by his less-than-stellar 16-for-26 stolen base rate. The only other double-digit stolen base guy is heady veteran Christopher Barr (14-for-15), whose instincts make his average speed play up. Lopez, Abreu, Heyward and Randy Batista are all decent runners who can swipe the occasional bag.

Defense

Preseason: 60

Revised: 70

Miami leads the nation with a .983 fielding percentage, led by the rock-solid duo of Lopez and Ruiz in the middle infield. Barr is a true standout at first base, uncommonly athletic and agile for his position — his glove work has saved the Hurricanes plenty of errors over the last several years. Chester has exceptional range in center field, and Collins has worked very hard to turn himself into a good defensive backstop, with just three passed balls, though he’s fairly average at controlling the running game.

Starting pitching

Preseason: 50

Revised: 50

Miami doesn’t have any starters with dominating stuff, but it does have two dependable lefthanders atop the rotation in Michael Mediavilla (11-1, 3.11) and Danny Garcia (9-4, 3.48). Garcia has the better stuff, with a tick more fastball velocity and a better breaking ball, but Mediavilla has better command and an outstanding changeup when he’s at his best. The No. 3 starter spot is a question mark, as righty Jesse Lepore has been banged up. Freshman Andrew Cabezas, who has excellent life and average velocity on his fastball, looks like the current favorite to take the ball should Miami need a third starter – but the CWS is spread out enough that the Hurricanes may be able to ride Mediavilla and Garcia most of the way to the championship.

Bullpen

Preseason: 70

Revised: 60

Miami’s bullpen is anchored by power-armed righty Bryan Garcia (1.95 ERA, 18 saves), the school’s all-time saves leader. With a fastball that can reach 94-95, a power slider and a decent changeup, Garcia has the arsenal to overpower opponents, but he also has a tendency to make the end game an adventure at times. Losing sidewinder Cooper Hammond to injury after just 5.2 innings was a big blow, but strike-throwing righty Frankie Bartow (2.73 ERA in 52.2 IP) emerged as a trusted bridge guy to save Miami’s bacon. Former ace Thomas Woodrey has struggled all season and was demoted to the bullpen after 11 starts; he has a 4.98 ERA on the season, but Miami needs him to perform well in Omaha as the key lefty out of a fairly thin bullpen. Cabezas also figures to see some meaningful bullpen innings early in the CWS.

Experience/Intangibles

Preseason: 60

Revised: 70

This category is Miami’s greatest advantage over the rest of this bracket. The Hurricanes are the only team on this half with any CWS experience; reaching Omaha for the second year in a row is a big advantage. This is a very experienced, confident lineup that plays with uncommon swagger (that can sometimes rub opponents the wrong way, as it did in the super regional clincher against Boston College). Miami never believes it is out of a game even when it is down in the late innings, and it has an uncanny knack for coming back to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Longtime coach Jim Morris has two national championship rings already, and he’s hungry for another before he retires after the 2018 season. This might be his best shot.

Aaron Fitt

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Arizona Wildcats logoARIZONA

Record: 44-21. Preseason ranking: NR. Ranking at end of regular season: NR.


GRADING THE WILDCATS

Hitting

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 60

The Wildcats are clicking on all cylinders and are a very dangerous club to watch in Omaha. Overall, this team is hitting .292 and is ranked just 56th nationally in terms of battling average and in the mid-90s in terms of slugging percentage, but the Wildcats have found ways to get it done in the postseason. Zach Gibbons and Cody Ramer are quality hitters who just finds way to get on base, while Ryan Aguilar and Bobby Dalbec are versatile hitters who can get it done in a variety of ways. The Wildcats have another quality hitter to watch in J.J. Matijevic, who like most of these guys, has the ability to get on base with singles, while also hitting with some pop.

Power

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 40

If you’re looking for a serious power surge this weekend, you’re not likely to see it coming from the Wildcats. Arizona ranks 195th nationally in terms of homers, with no one in double digits and Aguilar and Dalbec leading the charge with eight and seven homers, respectively. With that said, there’s more to power than just homers, and the Wildcats do have guys who can spray the ball into the gap, including Gibbons, Ramer, Matijevic and Dalbec.

Speed

Preseason: N/A/

Revised: 50

The Wildcats aren’t a team that would be classified as one filled with speed demons, but this is a team that can cause issues because of their gritty and sometimes wild approach. The Wildcats will hit a home run, then come back the next time around in the lineup, and have that guy lay down a bunt, which sets the runners on base in motion. It’s a true wild card mentality. With that, speed-wise, Gibbons, Ramer, Aguilar and Oliva all have the ability to swipe some bases.

Defense

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 65

The Wildcats are what I’d call stable from a defensive standpoint. They are one of the nation’s better teams in the category, entering the CWS with a .976 fielding percentage, which ranks 31st nationally. Meanwhile, they are very stable up the middle with Louis Boyd and Cody Ramer leading the charge, while in the outfield, Jared Oliva has strong command of what goes on out there. Behind the plate, Cesar Salazar did a very solid job in the Lafayette Regional and has made limited mistakes this spring.

Starting pitching

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 60

The Wildcats don’t have a starting pitcher that just totally overwhelms you, but they’ve got a nice crop of guys who, simply stated, just get the job done. Nathan Bannister has had an incredibly heavy workload the past couple of weeks, so it will be interesting to see how the Wildcats utilize him in Omaha. He was very impressive in the Lafayette Regional, making two appearances, and from his impressive frame, sitting upper-80s with his fastball, while also throwing multiple pitches, including a slider, for strikes. Meanwhile, the real wild card here could be Bobby Dalbec (2.92), who showed his usual power fastball and crisp overall stuff in a near complete game performance against Mississippi State last weekend. JC Cloney (2.86) and Kevin Ginkel (2.82) are other guys who could start in Omaha should they be needed.

Bullpen

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 45

It will be interesting to see how the Wildcats size things up from a bullpen standpoint in Omaha given Dalbec’s terrific start against Mississippi State last weekend. With that said, the Wildcats have plenty of solid options. Along with Dalbec, Kevin Ginkel is another guy with a big-time arm and a 2.82 ERA in 54.1 innings of work, while Cameron Ming has good stuff and has tallied 50 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 67.2 innings of work. Arizona has other options to choose from as well, though, those options aren’t quite as consistent as the arms above.

Experience/Intangibles

Preseason: N/A

Revised: 50

It’s pretty safe to say that Arizona lacks experience in this situations. The Wildcats had scuffled the past couple of seasons, but first-year coach Jay Johnson has this team believing. After all, why the heck not? They only went to two of the toughest places in college baseball — Louisiana-Lafayette and Mississippi State — and took care of business. While they get an average grade in this department for having little Omaha experience, don’t sleep on this team at all.

—Kendall Rogers

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