A slew of lefties in the Pepperdine/San Diego series this weekend could mean trouble for a top player, and a few teams look to prove themselves before the regionals.
You can bet the Pepperdine/San Diego series was bookmarked by scouts a long time ago, as it could be the opportunity to see Brian Matusz go up against Brett Hunter just one month before the draft. Matchups like that can happen in February, where non-conference games can pit a few of the best in the nation against each other, but in May, they're few and far between. I know I was looking forward to it.
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A selection of surprise teams, good programs, and underrated college squads you should keep in mind following this year's season.
Many of us have already began rejoicing that baseball is back, in as much as pitchers and catchers reporting represents the return of baseball. But this Friday baseball will be back in another sense, as the college baseball season's uniform start date will see almost an entire nation's worth of universities hit the field for the first time. Since the New Year, we have gone over the nuances of the college game, the changes it will undergo, the players likely to be the most dominant, and we have gone through the teams themselves. After looking at the 2007 Omaha teams and then reviewing last year's next-best teams last week, I wanted my last pre-season college piece to review 16 more teams that could make some noise in 2008. It's a mix of good programs and underrated programs.
The pressing questions facing each NL squad this spring are revealed, while Nolan Ryan rejoins the Rangers, and the Mets show their humility.
Spring Training is nigh, as pitchers and catchers start reporting on Wednesday, and keep trickling into camp throughout Florida and Arizona as the week progresses. Last week, we took a look at the key question facing each American League team in spring training. This week, let's take a look at the key question each National League team faces:
What does the future hold for the eight teams who made it to Omaha last year?
In the three weeks we have left before the college baseball season begins, it's time to turn our attention to the teams most likely to vie for this year's championship. To start that process, let's being with a progress report on the eight teams that were in the hunt for last year's championship at the College World Series. Omaha in 2007 was scene one of the most unlikely combinations of Cinderella stories the CWS has ever seen, so it was only fitting for Oregon State to make the glass slipper fit again in a successful title defense. It's hard to imagine Omaha this year featuring all eight of last year's teams back, because as you will see each team is facing some pretty big hurdles this spring.
Having been constructed primarily through the draft, the core of this young Diamondbacks team is one you'll be seeing play together for a long time.
Unlike the Red Sox, Arizona is very much a team built from scratch, with 14 of the players on their 25-man roster coming from the draft or through international signings. Add in some prudent trades, a couple of waiver claims, and a handful of lower-level free agent signings, and you have yourself a young playoff team that is lined up to contend for years to come.
Two NL West teams, two 1990s expansion teams, two teams long on youth and short on experience.
It may not play well on the Upper East Side, on Newbury Street, or the Main Line, but this National League Championship Series has the makings of a great series. The Rockies and Diamondbacks are evenly matched teams with comparable strengths and weaknesses, and each has a number of young stars or stars-in-waiting well worth watching. Both swept more experienced opponents in the first round, striking a blow against the notion that experience is a determinant of postseason fate. This is simply a terrific series ahead of us, one that despite the locations-both teams' home parks are among the better hitters' parks in the game-could feature more low-scoring games than its AL counterpart.
A quick overview of what to expect from all 30 ballclubs.
It has already been the year of the milestone in baseball. Trevor Hoffman became the first reliever ever to reach 500 saves. Sammy Sosa hit his 600th home run and Frank Thomas belted his 500th. Craig Biggio got to 3,000 hits, and Roger Clemens reached 350 wins. The biggest milestone of all is just around the corner-Barry Bonds has 751 home runs, four away from Hank Aaron's all-time record.
Aside from personal achievements, a number of interesting races are developing in the two leagues and six divisions. Now that the All-Star Game is behind us, here is a division-by-division look at what to expect in the second half of the season:
Kevin gets inside thirty skulls at once, and pegs his top picks for all thirty teams.
1. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
It's the worst-kept secret in the game. David Price came into the season as the top prospect in the draft, and then went out and pitched as well, if not better than expectations. The D-Rays have insisted that Price is just part of a three-player mix that includes California prep third baseman Josh Vitters and Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters, but that's just a cover-your-ass move. It's Price, and it has always been Price.
Will makes fantasy players and Juan Encarnacion fans weep openly, along with updates on Kerry Wood, J.J. Putz, Carl Crawford, and B.J. Ryan.
I also see people absolutely desperate to figure out their fantasy teams, begging for something, anything on the guy they just overdrafted. Here's an e-mail from FR: "I hate you. When I read you, it's like walking on ice that I'm not sure is going to hold. You've killed my team with Mauer, Kotsay, and Baldelli." Umm, FR, I tried to warn you. Add in some conference calls and a cough I got that sounds like Doc Holliday in Tombstone, and baseball's the ground for me, the center that holds. So powered by Peets' and NyQuil (not together), on to the injuries: