Best College World Series Stories of the 2010s

The College World Series at a magical time in the baseball season – as the major league season hits the dog days of June and July, the best collegiate talent gathers in Omaha, Nebraska for a double elimination tournament that has produced some classic moments. However, with the coronavirus pandemic cancelling this past CWS, it gave me time to reflect on some of the best stories from Omaha over the past decade. Here are my top 5 inspiring CWS runs from the 2010s. 

#5.  2013 UCLA

UCLA wasn’t necessarily a massive underdog to reach Omaha, as they were a top-20 team in the nation and a top seed in their region entering the NCAA Tournament. After breezing through the Los Angeles regional with a 3-0 record, the Bruins surprised fifth-ranked Cal State Fullerton, a titan in the college baseball world, sweeping the favorites in a two-game Super Regional on the road. At 44-17, the Bruins entered the College World Series with the worst record among the eight teams, with no CWS titles to their name and just a 4-9 overall record in Omaha. 

However, UCLA continued to breeze through the field – you would have hardly known they were the 6h seed in the event. Facing traditional powerhouse and 57-win LSU in the opener, UCLA won 2-1, and they matched that score against NC State to reach the semifinals. There, they had two chances to take down the #1 team in the nation in UNC, but the Bruins needed just one. Their pitching continued to dominate, as UCLA won 4-1. In the best-of-three championship series, UCLA got a somewhat welcome surprise as Mississippi State, the 7th seed in Omaha, emerged as their challenger for the championship. The Bruins eked out a 3-1 victory in the opener, and they sealed their dominant championship run with an 8-0 victory in the championship, giving up just four runs in five CWS games. 

UCLA’s pitching staff was led by tournament MVP Adam Plutko, who’s Game 1 gem (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R) gave the Bruins the jump in the championship series. 

#4. 2010 TCU
The Horned Frogs are one of two teams on this list that didn’t win the title, but their run to the College World Series semifinals in their first ever appearance was still inspiring enough to land them at #4. TCU played the 2010 season in the Mountain West Conference, so although they put together 51-win regular season, the Horned Frogs entered the NCAA Tournament ranked just 15th in the country. They cruised through their regional on their homefield, but they found themselves in a battle versus #2 Texas in the Super Regional. After winning a 3-1 opener, TCU was clubbed 14-1 in Game 2, seemingly shifting all the momentum to the Longhorns in the winner-takes-all battle. However, TCU rebounded and stunned their in-state rival with a 4-1 victory that got them to Omaha for the first time in program history. 

TCU found themselves facing Florida State, who was making their 20th appearance in the College World Series, second most in the field. The Horned Frogs didn’t blink, dismantling the Seminoles 8-1. After a setback to #6 UCLA, TCU proved their victory over FSU was no fluke, beating the tradition-laden program 11-7 in an elimination contest. 

TCU reached the semifinals and gave the sixth-ranked Bruins a big scare, winning the first game 6-2 to set up a winners-take-all clash with a championship series berth on the line. Despite their ultimate defeat in the semifinals, TCU’s season was regarded as a highly successful one and an extremely unexpected run given their lack of history and mid-major conference. Head Coach Jim Schlossengale was named the national head coach of the year. 

#3. 2019 Michigan

The 2019 Wolverines are the other team not to win a title that makes our list. Michigan entered the season with no College World Series appearances since 1984, and their last title coming in 1962. Not only that, but the Big 10 themselves were in the midst of a ridiculous cold streak in college baseball – since Michigan’s 1984 appearance only Indiana in 2013 had reached Omaha. The Wolverines didn’t look like the class of the conference for most of the season, and they didn’t win the Big 10 championship, but they slipped into the NCAA Tournament as a three-seed in their regional. However, once in the tournament, the Wolverines turned up the heat. 

Michigan smacked Creighton and Cincinnati to quickly reach their regional final. After suffering a setback to the Blue Jays, Michigan rebounded to beat Creighton for a second time and earn a date with the #1 team in the nation in UCLA. The entire three-game Super Regional was must-see baseball, with the Wolverines clawing out a 3-2 victory in Game 1, before succumbing 5-4 in extra innings of Game 2. The series came to Game 3, and Michigan wasn’t about to waste their deep tournament run, as they edged out the Bruins 4-2 in the elimination game, earning their first CWS berth in 35 years. 

Michigan was understandably a huge underdog in Omaha, as, with the exception of Auburn (1997), every team had been to the College World Series this decade. Five of the top-8 teams had survived this far, so Michigan didn’t have a cushy schedule by any means. However, the Wolverines were rolling, and they weren’t slowing down, beating Texas Tech and Florida State to reach the semifinals. They matched up with the Red Raiders once more, absolutely dismantling the boys from Lubbock, 15-3, to reach the championship. 

Michigan didn’t quite bring the Big 10 to glory, but they came extremely close against SEC powerhouse Vanderbilt. Michigan beat the Commodores, ranked second in the country, 7-4 in the opener, but they couldn’t quite get over the hump, losing the series in three games. Despite the final result, Michigan’s resurgence put the Big 10 back on the map and was one of the best stories of the decade. They were led by Tommy Henry on the mound, and Jimmy Kerr (1B), middle infielders Ako Thomas and Jack Blomgren, and outfielder Jesse Franklin, all of whom made the all-tournament team. 

#2. 2015 Virginia

If not for the #1 team on this list, Virginia may have been the most unlikely champion of the decade. The Cavaliers had finished as the CWS runner-up in 2014, but their 2015 season had been an absolute roller coaster, as UVA went 15-15 in ACC play, and with just 39 wins in the season, they held their breath on selection day, getting into the tournament as a 3-seed in their region. However, the Cavaliers cruised, with a 3-0 record to reach the Super Regionals, where they faced and swept a fellow three-seed in Maryland. 

The Cavaliers entered the College World Series faced with a daunting field including #2 LSU, #4 Florida, #5 Miami, and #7 TCU. Virginia got unranked Arkansas in the first round and escaped with a 5-3 win, before slipping past the Gators in a 1-0 shutout to reach the semifinals. There, they matched up with Florida once more, needing one win with two opportunities to do so. They needed both, losing 10-5 in their first effort. The Cavaliers scraped through to the championship round on the strength of a 5-4 upset of Florida, earning UVA a title-series rematch with Vanderbilt. 

The championship series looked bad for the Cavaliers, who appeared overmatched in a 5-1 Game 1 loss. However, buoyed by an elite start from Josh Sborz, Virginia bounced back with a 3-0 shutout victory in Game 2, and they closed out the Commodores in Game 3, 4-2 to cap off one of the most unlikely championship runs in recent college baseball history. 

#1. 2016 Coastal Carolina

This was the obvious choice, as even though Coastal Carolina entered the NCAA Tournament as a higher seed than Virginia, the Chanticleers had zero history in the College World Series and as a member of the Big South, they weren’t taken seriously as a title contender by most major media outlets. However, the Chanticleers beat #9 NC State in two of three contests throughout their regional to reach a Super Regional against #8 LSU. There, the Big South representatives swept the Tigers to reach Omaha for the first time in school history. 

The Chanticleers earned a stunning victory to start their College World Series journey, toppling the top-ranked Florida Gators 2-1. That win alone may have been enough to call their debut journey to Omaha a success, and it looked like that would be the high point when they were smacked by TCU 6-1 in their next contest. However, Coastal rallied to edge #5 Texas Tech 7-5, followed by a pair of victories over the Horned Frogs to reach the championship against an unseeded but heavily favored Arizona team. The Wildcats blanked Coastal 3-0 in the first game, but the Chanticleers responded with a 5-4 victory in Game 2. In the deciding battle, Coastal turned to Andrew Beckwith, the national leader in wins, who had already pitched two complete games in Omaha. He didn’t go the distance in Game 3, but his 5 ⅔ innings were enough to keep Arizona at bay. The Chanticleers built a 4-0 lead in the sixth inning and staved off the Wildcats just enough for a 4-3 title-clinching victory. An absurd and unprecedented run by the Chanticleers that was the no doubt choice for the #1 slot here.

Ranking The Power Conferences in Football, Basketball, Baseball

With Playoff berths and bowl games, March Madness appearances and trips to the NCAA Tournaments on the line, conversations always arise every season about which conferences are the most competitive in every sport. The SEC, Pac-12, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, and Big East in basketball battle for supremacy, so let’s rank them in the major sports – football, basketball, and baseball. 

Baseball

  1. Pac-12
  2. SEC
  3. ACC
  4. Big 12
  5. Big 10

The top two in this list was pretty clear, as the Pac-12 and SEC have long been the most dominant conferences, combining for 30 College World Series titles between the two of them. The Pac-12 leads the way with 18 (titles won by an active Pac-12 member) although current members USC, Arizona State, Arizona, and Stanford have combined for 23 championships. After Spencer Torkelson was taken first overall this past year, the Sun Devils lead with four #1 overall picks in the MLB draft. The only major category the Pac-12 trails in is total CWS appearances, where they fall just short to the SEC (103-101).

The ACC comes in third, despite having just two College World Series titles as a conference. The ACC gets to Omaha frequently (96 total appearances), but they rarely bring it home as Florida State, Clemson, and North Carolina represent the top 3 programs with the most CWS appearances without a championship (46). Current member Miami has four championships, but only one as an active ACC member, and Virginia has the other ring. It was a battle between the Big 12 and Big 10 for the cellar, and it was the Big 10 taking last place with only 29 total appearances in Omaha, albeit six championships. Texas and Oklahoma State have combined for 32 first round draft picks, and no Big 10 school has more than 10. 

Basketball

  1. ACC
  2. Big East
  3. SEC
  4. Big 10
  5. Pac 12
  6. Big 12

The ACC was the clear choice for #1 here. They’ve won three of the past five national championships and are tied for the most with 15 overall. They have the most NCAA Tournament appearances with 398, the most first round draft picks with 202, and tied for the most #1 draft picks with 11. No contest

After that, it got a little dicey. I was leaning towards the SEC for second, but the Big East’s recent superiority tipped them over the edge. They have three championships since 2013, whereas the SEC hasn’t won one since 2012. It was close to a toss-up for their but I went with Big East at #2, and the SEC for #3. 

After those initial three selections, the Big 10, with 11 #1 picks (T-1st), 132 1st round picks (132), and 10 national championships (4th) were the clear choice to slide into the fourth slot. They haven’t been very relevant, with only one title in the 21st century, but there’s lots of history and talent in this conference.

The Pac-12 and Big-12 were separated by a razor-thin margin and bring up the rear in the power conference rankings. The Pac-12 used to be one of the best, but they’ve faded from relevancy in recent years. Despite 15 national championships – tied for first with the ACC – the Pac-12 was largely fueled by UCLA’s dominance and their 23-year championship drought is the longest ongoing drought by any major conference. They slot in fifth, with the Big 12 bringing up the rear, running last with 50 first round draft picks, only one national championship, and next-to-last in NCAA tournament appearances. 

Football

  1. SEC
  2. Big 10
  3. ACC
  4. Pac-12
  5. Big 12

I would say it was the dramatic unveiling of the best conference of the best college sport, but did anyone ever doubt who was finishing #1 here? Led by Alabama’s recent dynasty, the SEC have 25 national championships, including ten of the past fourteen. They’re second all-time in #1 picks and first-round picks, and top to bottom, they have more elite talent and depth than any other conference.

The Big 10 and ACC were a toss-up for second place. People love to mock the ACC, but they’re the only non-SEC conference to win national championships since 2005. They may not be loaded with talent top to bottom every year, but they’ve boasted some of the best teams of this past decade, and throw in Miami’s dynasty in the late 20th, early 21st century, and the ACC isn’t the laughingstock people make them out to be. However, the Big 10 does edge them out – they have 296 first round draft picks, which ranks first, eight #1 overall picks, and 22 national championships, marks that rank third and second respectively. Their biggest knock is a lack of recent national success – Ohio State has won two titles this century, but that’s it for the Big 10.

Bringing up the rear is the Pac-12 and Big 12 with championship droughts of 16 and 15 years respectively. The Pac-12 has featured some elite talent with 14 #1 draft picks, but they rank last in total first-round picks and national championships. USC’s mini-dynasty from 2003-2005 helps the Pac-12 avoid the basement, an honor belonging to the Big 12. The Big 12 only have two championships since 1985 – every other conference has at least three titles since 1997. Oklahoma has really been the only team doing anything on the national level since Vince Young and the Longhorns in 2005, which lands them in the basement.

Overall, regarding these three major sports, the SEC has to be considered the most complete conference, with the ACC coming in a close second. Both came in with a trio of top-3 finishes and a #1 ranking. Overall, I’d rank the SEC #1 and the ACC 2. After that, I’d say the Pac-12 takes #3, fueled by their dominance on the diamond, and the Big 10 clocks in at #4. The Big 12 was the clear choice for last place, as they took last place in two of the three sports, with their fourth-place finish in baseball saving them from a sweep of the cellar.

MLB Draft Grades: SEC – Mississippi State With A Dominant Draft, Florida Struggles

The SEC made MLB draft history when they had four of the first six players selected in the most recent draft, but how did individual programs fare – let’s score each of the 14 SEC teams from 0 to 10.

Mississippi State – 8.7
The Bulldogs had one of the best drafts in the country and in the SEC from a collegiate standpoint, as Mississippi State saw two first-round draft picks and three in the first two rounds. First rounders Justin Foscue and Jordan Westburg weren’t drafted out of high school, and the Bulldogs turned them into elite prospects in just three years. Meanwhile they kept JT Ginn as a second rounder despite recent Tommy John surgery. Their biggest concern is making sure high schooler Blaze Jordan doesn’t sign with the Boston Red Sox and gives the Bulldogs access to one of the best high school bats in the country. Great program, great draft. 

Arkansas – 5.1
The Razorbacks got an early surprise when their elite prospect – outfielder Heston Kjerstad – went second overall, but then they watched their other projected first rounder Casey Martin drop all the way into the middle of the third round, so it was a bit of a strange draft for the Razorbacks, and it’s tough to judge the program much off this shortened draft. 

LSU – 4.3
LSU had two draft prospects, both who were considered fringe first-rounders, but both slipped at least ten spots, with pitcher Cole Henry going 55th overall, and outfielder Danny Cabrera went 62nd. Nothing too much of note for the Tigers – both Henry and Cabrera will likely go pro, but their draft-day slips don’t reflect very well on LSU. 

Texas A&M – 5.0
I listed the Aggies as a loser in yesterday’s draft analysis article – as I believe they are going to lose more prospects then they anticipated. Asa Lacy went fourth overall, which reflects well, but projected third rounders Zach DeLoach and Christian Roa skyrocketed over thirty picks higher than their expected value. It’s a great long-term look for the program, if Texas A&M converts on the recruiting front, but the Aggies will be a little weaker than they anticipated in 2021. 

Ole Miss – 8.3
If Mississippi State boasted one of the best drafts in the country, at least Ole Miss wasn’t far behind. The Rebels saw both of their picks go in that perfect zone of above slot value, without going so high that they become a much higher risk of turning pro. Shortstop Anthony Servideo and third baseman Tyler Keenan went in the third and fourth rounds respectively. No top-tier talent, but the Rebels did a solid job turning these prospects into draft commodities, without seriously endangering their short-term hopes as a program. 

Auburn – 5.2
Relatively neutral stuff here from Auburn. Projected first rounder Tanner Burns slipped a little bit but snuck into the back end at pick #36, while hurler Bailey Horn somewhat unexpectedly heard his name called in the fifth round. They probably would have liked to see Burns go a little closer to his slot value, but Horn’s selection was an unexpected addition, so tough to judge this one. 

Alabama – 6.5
The Crimson Tide had one legitimate draft prospect in outfielder Tyler Gentry, and he went right about where he was supposed to, early in the third round. Alabama finished last in the SEC West last season, so this is about as good as it gets on the diamond for the Tide. 

Vanderbilt – 7.8
Vandy had a top-five pick in Austin Martin, arguably the best player in the draft, but then projected second rounder Jake Eder dropped all the way into the fourth round. Right-hander Ty Brown jumped into the third round, and hurler Mason Hickman rounded out the Commodores’ stable of picks. Lots of volume and a first rounder, so it’s hard to critique one of the best programs in the country too much. 

Georgia – 6.1
The Bulldogs came into the draft with two projected first-round hurlers, and while Emerson Hancock went sixth overall, Cole Wilcox tumbled down into the third round. Up and down draft, although the bonus is Wilcox may opt to stay another year with Georgia – he has three years of eligibility left and should be a first rounder in another year. 

Tennessee – 6.4

The Volunteers came away from the draft with three picks, headlined by eleventh overall pick Garret Crochet. Meanwhile, outfielder Alerick Soularie made one of those jumps that’s scary for a college program, from a projected early fourth rounder into the middle of the second round, where the signing bonuses became extremely enticing. Dangerous territory for the Volunteers, but overall three draft picks is a solid showing in the draft. 

Missouri – 4.6
The Tigers did very little in this draft, with only one significant draft prospect that fell 34 spots further than expected. Missouri is a middle-of-the-road SEC team, and they had a very middle-of-the-road type of draft. 

Florida – 1.0
Florida is one of the best programs in the country and won a national championship in 2017, appearing in the College World Series in 2018. Despite a tough year last year, it’s not customary for Florida to have elite talent on their roster. They only had two projected draft picks coming into last week’s draft, but then the Gators saw neither player selected, putting an exclamation point on a low point in the Florida baseball program.  

South Carolina – 6.0
Carmen Mlodzinski gave South Carolina a first round pick, but that was pretty much all the Gamecocks got in this year’s draft. About what was expected from a struggling SEC program. 

Kentucky – 4.0
Kentucky is one of the worst teams in the SEC, and they really had nothing to lose or gain from this draft with no top-level prospects. No draft picks and nothing much else to comment on here from the Wildcats.

MLB Draft Grades: ACC – Louisville leads the way

We’re going Dave Portnoy pizza review style for this piece, grading every ACC college baseball program draft. The grades included how successful programs were in getting players drafted, but also rating their short-term losses and gains from prospects going unexpectedly high facing greater temptation to turn pro. Each grade is 0 to 10 – let’s see who won and lost the draft in the ACC.

Miami – 5.2
Miami saw all three of their projected draft picks get picked, led by RHP Slade Cecconi. Cecconi was selected 33rd overall, right around his projected slot, but the Hurricanes saw Chris McMahon slide into the second round as a projected first rounder. Any more of a slide would have been a blow towards Miami’s reputation of producing top-level pro talent. Meanwhile, shortstop Freddy Zamora skyrocketed from the 100th ranked prospect to 53rd selection –  a great look on the recruiting front, but the Hurricanes now will have a tough time bringing back an elite multi-year starter.  

Virginia – 4.3
The Cavaliers had only one real draft prospect for 2020 in bullpen arm Andrew Abbot. He was a projected fourth-rounder, but he didn’t hear his name called over the course of the two-day draft. No draft picks from a team that won the national championship just five years ago is tough. They are engaged in brutal recruiting battles within the ACC, and not turning out pro talent will make winning some of those recruits an uphill battle.  

Duke – 7.7
The Blue Devils had only one draft prospect in Bryce Jarvis, who became the second ever 1st round pick in program history. The other one was Marcus Stroman, so that bodes well for both Jarvis’s success, and Duke’s improving program. Jarvis was a projected first rounder, so keeping him was always unlikely, and seeing him go 18th overall – after being a 37th round pick in high school – is a good look for the Blue Devils. It was only one pick, so Duke now need to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder. 

Georgia Tech – 6.4
Georgia Tech was a tough assignment, as they had a very confusing draft. They had one projected draft pick, but saw two players selected – but their one projected pick remained on the board. Defending ACC batting champion Michael Guldberg went 98th overall towards the end of the third round, so the Yellow Jackets will need to hope he won’t be enticed by a signing bonus expected to be in the $600,000 area. Outfielder Baron Radcliffe was a late pick in the fifth round, and shortstop Luke Waddell (ranked 125th by MLB.com) went unselected. Very tough draft to gauge, but ultimately not a bad one for the Yellow Jackets. 

Virginia Tech – 8.2
The Hokies saw both of their draft prospects drafted well above slot value with Ian Seymour (115th) going 57th and catcher Carson Taylor (194) going 130th. The Hokies got a great grades not only for their success in the draft, but also they look great compared to Virginia’s struggles, giving the Hokies an inside track on in-state recruiting. Seymour may turn pro, but Taylor likely stays on with another three years of eligibility, so overall a highly successful draft for Virginia Tech. 

North Carolina – 7.8
Aaron Sabato came in as a projected early second rounder and went late in the first round as UNC’s only top prospect. Not much to complain about there. 

Pittsburgh – 4.0
No top draft prospects. No draft picks. Nothing much to say for one of the worst teams in the ACC on this one.

Notre Dame – 6.5
The Fighting Irish saw projected fifth-round pick Joe Boyle drafted 143rd overall, about 20 picks ahead of where he was expected. He was their only legitimate prospect so nothing much to speak of here for Notre Dame, solid results, and a little better than expected. 

Clemson – 7.1
The Tigers had two pitchers – Sam Weatherly and Spencer Strider – selected last week. Weatherly went within a few picks of his expected slot value at 81st overall, and Strider jumped from outside of MLB.com’s top 200 prospects into the fourth round. It was a good showing from the Clemson prospects, without jumping into the world of seven-digit signing bonuses that would almost certainly draw these hurlers into professional ball. 

Louisville – 9.2
Louisville had two first round picks in pitchers Reid Detmers and Bobby Miller. Both hurlers went from late draft selections out of high school (32nd and 38th rounds) to top-30 picks in 2020, so that says a lot for the Cardinals’ program. Outfielder Zach Britton also heard his name called in the fifth round, although he seems like a likely candidate to return to Louisville for another run at the College World Series. 

NC State – 6.8
The Wolfpack can thank the San Francisco Giants for taking their battery pair in catcher Patrick Bailey and left-handed hurler Nick Swiney in the first two rounds. Projected fifth-rounder Tyler McDonough remained unselected. Swiney jumped into the second round, so he may test the professional waters, which would be a tough loss for NC State, but it was ultimately a good day for the Wolfpack.

Florida State – 5.4
The Seminoles had two players drafted, both slightly under slot value, and one potential selection in outfielder Elijah Cabell left on the board. Nothing spectacular, and nothing particularly unexpected from FSU. 

Wake Forest – 4.6
From a program standpoint, seeing junior Jared Shuster jump fifty spots into the first round may have been nice for the Demon Deacons. But now they will likely lose Shuster to the Atlanta Braves’ organization, and no other Wake Forest player heard their name called. It’s a bit of a bittersweet feeling for the Demon Deacons after this draft. 

Boston College – 4.0
Same deal as Pittsburgh here. No real prospects, No draft picks. Nothing more to say.

MLB Draft: College Teams And Players Who Won and Lost the Draft

Much is made of which MLB teams had good and bad drafts, with each team’s selections graded and separated into distinct winners and losers. But what about collegiate teams? College baseball is more affected by the draft than most other sports, as high school prospects battle a decision between signing with the team that drafted them, or honoring their commitment to play at the NCAA level. So which teams and players were most impacted by the results of the shortened, two-day, five-round MLB Draft? 

Winner: Texas
There’s one reason for Texas making the winner’s category, and that reason is Jared Kelley. Kelley became the first ever draft pick out of Refugio High School in Texas, but despite being ranked as the 12th best prospect by MLB.com, Kelley’s name went uncalled during Wednesday’s first round. Fears of the power-throwing righty being a tough sign caused Kelley to slip all the way to the Chicago White Sox at pick #47. Why is that good news for Texas? Because if Kelley was considered a tough sign near the top of the first round, it’s going to be way tougher for the White Sox to lure the Texas product from his in-state commitment. The slot value for pick #12 is 4.4 million, the 47th overall pick comes with an expected 1.6 million dollar signing bonus. Getting Kelley to leave his home state for barely a third of the money is going to be a tough one to sell for the White Sox, leaving Texas ready to enjoy the luxuries of a stud who looks like he’ll be one of the best pitchers in the country. 

Losers: Mississippi State, Arizona

On the flip side of Texas’s situation is Mississippi State and Arizona, who both couldn’t have been too happy with the Boston Red Sox. For Arizona, they watched one of their premium prospects in Nick Yorke get drafted 112 spots above his ranking, going from a projected fifth-round pick to 17th overall. While the Red Sox did make the pick to save some money on the slot value of the 17th pick, they will likely make an offer far more competitive and enticing to Yorke, who was described by Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin as “the best high school hitter in the nation”. Arizona may not have anticipated it being a battle to keep Yorke in the program for the next three years, but Boston just made it a lot harder. Meanwhile. Mississippi State was likely ecstatic when viral slugger Blaze Jordan slipped all the way to the third round. The further he slipped, the more it looked like they would be benefiting from the services of one of the nation’s best power hitters, until Boston swooped in and grabbed the Missouri product at 89th overall. Boston did not have a second round pick, and they will either not sign Yorke or sign him for below slot value, leaving them with plenty of money to throw at Jordan, making his decision a lot tougher. With some of their top prospects’ future on their teams in doubt, Mississippi State and Arizona are in the losers category for this draft. 

Winner: Austin Martin
Slipping from a potential first overall pick to fifth may not be a ideal situation normally, I think this a massive win for Austin Martin. Martin got drafted to the Toronto Blue Jays, meaning he avoids the hapless organizations of the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, and the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Jays are the only team out of that group of five that has recently shown some upside, and they have a recent track record of developing elite prospects like Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It’s a great situation for the best all-around player in the 2020 MLB Draft.

 Loser: Texas A&M
The Aggies knew they were losing Asa Lacy, their ace left-hander was picked fourth overall. However, they then saw outfielder Zach DeLoach go 36 spots earlier than his ranking suggested, and pitcher Christian Roe jump 41 slots. Both juniors, it looks unlikely they’ll return to the crowded collegiate rosters, with their expected signing bonuses jumping up by nearly a million dollars, leaving Texas A&M floundering a little more than expected in a highly competitive SEC next season. Long-term, however, the Aggies may look like a winner if they can turn this draft night surprise into success on the recruiting front.

THE TREND THAT MIGHT CHANGE BASEBALL AS WE KNOW IT

The MLB Draft has never been the primetime sporting event that many fans of the league hope for it to be one day. This has always been due to the fact that the players drafted will not see MLB playing time for another three to four years – in the best case scenarios. However, the 2020 Draft had a greater trend that might shorten the time it takes players to reach the show, while also increasing the talent that college baseball fans will see on fields across the country.

The first high school player drafted this year was Robert Hassell at eighth overall to the Padres. This is far from just three years prior when each of the top three picks hailed from high school, not college. This trend towards more mature collegiate prospects rather than the raw high school arms and bats might just be a passing fad because of the circumstances of this draft, but I don’t believe this to be the case. I believe that, because of the various changes that are bound to occur as a result of the pandemic and its impact on professional sports, high school baseball players will become more likely to end up on college fields rather than in major league farm systems. 

This is a bold claim for anyone to make, especially after seeing last year’s second overall pick, high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., have success despite foregoing his offer to play at the University of Oklahoma. The problem with players such as Witt and many other aspiring baseball stars who have been drafted out of high school is that many casual baseball fans see the success stories, but neglect to see those who fail before reaching the peak. 

According to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), only about 27.5% of high school players chosen in the first round of the draft ever make it to the MLB. This number, compared to the 39.3% of college players who reach the show, demonstrate that many high school prospects just fail to pan out at the same rate as collegiate athletes. This difference is only exacerbated when you look beyond the first round. High school players drafted within the 2nd – 5th rounds reach the MLB about 14% of the time, much less than the 25% of college players able to do the same. 

The sheer fact that college players are more likely to make it to the MLB is not the sole determining factor behind my belief that more high school players will choose the route of higher education rather than the minor leagues. 

High school players who are drafted in the early rounds of the draft also tend to demand higher pay than those in similar positions coming out of college. For many MLB teams, it’s easier to pick a player with less negotiation leverage, such as those from college, rather than dealing with the threat of losing a top draft pick for nothing in return. The Houston Astros know this story all too well as their No. 1 overall pick from 2014, Brady Aiken, decided against signing with the team because of an offer that was lower than slot value. There are stories like these every single year from the draft. Nick Lodolo was the 41st overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft, but did not sign with the Pirates. Instead, he played three years at Texas Christian University and was drafted 7th just three years later.

College baseball is also a growing sector of the NCAA and, now more than ever, it is a legitimate option to spur playing in small towns for major league clubs, in order to shine in large collegiate conferences. This natural cycle is mutually beneficial for players and colleges alike. The colleges are able to brand their new star athletes to sell more seats and gain more exposure for their school and program. This exposure then leads more high school prospects to ignore the glamorous cash that the draft has to offer, delaying their entry into minor league baseball and playing competitive baseball for a much wider audience in college instead. 

The MLB is often seen as the league for old men. The demographics of its fans might support this narrative. However, recent draft trends suggest there might be a change on the horizon – one that many people might not recognize at first, but will, no doubt, change the way that the game is viewed and grows. If more collegiate programs are able to gain the notoriety that Vanderbilt, Florida, and South Carolina have established, the door for baseball to regain its status as America’s Pastime might not be too far away. 

2-Round MLB Mock Draft

Welcome to the College Kids Talking College Sports MLB Mock Draft. It covers the first 72 picks – two full rounds. No explanations are written here, but if you are interested in a particular selection, or your favorite team’s picks, or have comments, as always you can contact our writers at collegetalking@gmail.com, or leave a comment.

FULL MOCK DRAFT

Round 1

Detroit Tigers: Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Arizona State

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Martin, OF/3B, Vanderbilt

Miami Marlins: Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M

KC Royals: Nick Gonzales, SS/2B, New Mexico State

Toronto Blue Jays: Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA

Seattle Mariners: Emerson Hancock, RHP, Georgia

Pittsburgh Pirates: Zac Veen, OF, Spruce Creek HS (FL)

San Diego Padres: Heston Kjerstad, OF, Arkansas

Colorado Rockies: Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota

Los Angeles Angels: Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville

Chicago White Sox: Ed Howard, SS, Mount Carmel (IL)

Cincinnati Reds: Austin Hendrick, OF, West Allegheny (PA)

San Francisco Giants: Mick Abel, RHP, Jesuit (OR) 

Texas Rangers: Jared Kelley, RHP, Refugio HS (Texas)

Philadelphia Phillies: Garrett Crochet, LHP, Tennessee

Chicago Cubs: Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East HS (PA)

Boston Red Sox: Tyler Soderstorm, C, Turlock HS (CA)

Arizona Diamondbacks: Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma

New York Mets: Robert Hassell, OF, Independence HS (TN)

Milwaukee Brewers: Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia

St. Louis Cardinals: Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina

Washington Nationals: Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake (CA)

Cleveland Indians: Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke

Tampa Bay Rays: Jordan Walker, 3B, Decatur HS (GA)

Atlanta Braves: Casey Martin, SS, Arkansas

Oakland Athletics: Chris McMahon, RHP, Miami

Minnesota Twins: Patrick Bailey, C, NC State

New York Yankees: Dillon Dingler, C, Ohio State

Los Angeles Dodgers: Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State

Round 1 Supplementary

Baltimore Orioles: Bobby Miller, RHP, Louisville

Pittsburgh Pirates: Austin Wells, C, Arizona

Kansas City Royals: Drew Romo C, The Woodlands HS (TX)

Arizona Diamondbacks: Nick Loftin, SS, Baylor

San Diego Padres: Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn

Colorado Rockies: Daniel Cabrera, OF, LSU

Cleveland Indians: Aaron Sabato, 1B, UNC

Tampa Bay Rays: Slade Cecconi, RHP, Miami

Round 2

Detroit Tigers: Carson Montgomery, RHP, Windermere HS (FL)

Baltimore Orioles: Alika Williams, SS, Arizona State

Miami Marlins: Blaze Jordan, 1B, DeSoto Central HS (MS)

Kansas City Royals: CJ Van Eyk, RHP, Florida State

Toronto Blue Jays:  Dax Fulton, LHP, Mustang HS (OK)

Seattle Mariners: Kevin Parada, C, Loyola HS (CA) 

Pittsburgh Pirates: Logan Allen, LHP, Florida International

San Diego Padres: J.T. Ginn, RHP, Mississippi State

Colorado Rockies: Cade Horton, RHP/SS, Norman HS (OK)

Chicago White Sox: Burl Carraway, LHP, Dallas Baptist

Cincinnati Reds: Cole Henry, RHP, LSU

San Francisco Giants: Seth Lonsway, LHP, Ohio State

Texas Rangers: Carson Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe HS (AZ)

Chicago Cubs: Clayton Beeter, RHP, Texas Tech

New York Mets: Masyn Winn, RHP/SS, Kingwood HS (TX)

Milwaukee Brewers: Justin Lange, RHP, Llano (TX)

St. Louis Cardinals: Tanner Witt, RHP, Episcopal HS (TX)

Washington Nationals: Jared Jones, RHP, La Mirada HS (CA)

Cleveland Indians: Isaiah Greene, OF, Corona HS (CA)

Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Santos, RHP,  Mount St. Michaels Academy (NY)

Oakland Athletics: Jeff Criswell, RHP, Michigan

Minnesota Twins: Jake Eder, LHP, Vanderbilt

Los Angeles Dodgers: Kyle Harrison, LHP, De La Salle HS (CA)

Round 2 Supplementary

Miami Marlins: Kyle Nicolas, RHP, Ball State 

Detroit Tigers: Drew Bowser, 3B, Harvard-Westlake HS (CA) 

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan McLean, 3B/RHP, Garner HS (NC) 

Seattle Mariners: Cam Brown, RHP, Flower Mound HS (TX)

Cincinnati Reds: Ryan Hagenow, RHP, Farragut HS (TN) 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Hudson Haskin, OF, Tulane

San Francisco Giants: Ben Hernandez, RHP, De La Salle (IL)

San Francisco Giants: Petey Halpin, OF, St. Francis (CA) 

New York Mets: Alejandro Rosario, RHP, Miami Christian (FL)

St. Louis Cardinals: Nick Garcia, RHP, Chapman

Washington Nationals: Daniel Susac, C, Jesuit (CA) 

Houston Astros: Tommy Mace, RHP, Florida

MLB Draft Feature: Nick Swiney, LHP, NC State

Despite being ranked 79th on MLB.com’s top 200 prospects, NC State left-handed pitcher Nick Swiney was projected as a first-round pick in Keith Law’s first mock draft for the Athletic? Why? Well there’s a few reasons why there will be more than a few teams hoping to secure his services in the upcoming 2020 draft. One of the most impressive stats about Swiney is his near-spotless record on the mound. Between 2+ seasons with the Wolfpack and his final two high school campaigns, Swiney is 32-3. At NC State, he is 15-1 over 50 appearances (8 starts). Despite not featuring what scouts traditionally label as ‘dominant’ stuff, opponents have struggled to hit the southpaw, managing just a .191 average against Swiney over his career. This year, the in-state product has seemingly fixed one of the pressing concerns in his game – his control – while transitioning into a starter for the Wolfpack. His dominant – albeit shortened – junior season has Swiney skyrocketing up draftboards. Heading into the season, Swiney was a projected late fourth round pick, possibly early in the fifth round. Recent predictions have Swiney slotting in as high as the first round, with very few seeing the Wolfpack lefty dropping too far past the second round. 

Projection

As mentioned above, Swiney transitioned to a starter this year for NC State, and he showed no signs of needing an adjustment period. He fired off 28 stellar innings over four starts, allowing just four earned runs, 13 hits, and six walks. After 49 walks in his first 87 ⅓ career innings, the improved control addressed a major concern in his game, and he didn’t seem to sacrifice his swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 42 batters. Swiney’s biggest improvement in his stuff has been an improved feel for his changeup, giving him the three-pitch combination necessary to be an effective starter. He’s got a solid fastball that plays up to 94 mph, sitting consistently in the low-90s, and he features a curveball that scouts are high on as an above-average offering with high upside. Swiney is absolutely a high-upside play for whoever selects him in the upcoming draft, and he can be developed as the starter, with the comfort of knowing he has two years of collegiate experience in the bullpen.

 Prediction: Round 2, Pick 55, Washington Nationals

Only seven teams in the MLB do not have a left-handed pitcher in their top 10 prospects, so it’s a tough need to identify within farm systems. The Nationals have southpaw Matt Cronin as their 10th-best prospect according to Bleacher Report. However, it’s a coveted position to be deep in, and if Swiney remains available this deep into the second round, the Nationals should definitely jump to secure his services. He could develop as a starter, or maybe provide some relief to Washington’s heart attack-inducing (albeit World Series-winning) bullpen. Definitely look for Swiney to be a high-upside pick in the first two or three rounds in a couple of weeks.

Daily Headlines: Bowling Green Baseball Saved By Alumni Donations

Many universities across the country have been facing financial hardships in their athletic department, with the lack of a spring sports season, and potential cancellation or delay of the fall sports season, threatening budgets and forcing college to make tough decisions. One such tough decision came from Bowling Green, who had announced that they, in response to a 2-million dollar shortfall in their budget, would be cutting the baseball program, whcih, by their estimates cost $750,000 a year to run. However, the Falcons were saved by an impressive donation campaign by their alumni and fanbase, which committed about 1.5 million dollars over the next three years, giving Bowling Green a temporary respite to their crisis. The Bowling Green athletic department officially reinstated the baseball team, and they’ve said they are currently pursuing potential long-term funding solutions, working with a select group of baseball alumni. The Falcons last made the NCAA Tournament in 2013, as they’ve struggled in their past few years in the MEAC. 

ND-Navy Dublin game moved to Annapolis

For the first time in the lengthy history of the Notre Dame vs. Navy football rivalry, their annual clash on the gridiron will take place at Navy’s home stadium. Although the game has been played in Maryland on several occasions, it has always taken place at various naval bases. The 2020 match-up was originally scheduled to be their second ever meeting in Dublin, but the COVID-19 concerns caused those plans to be scratched. Long assumed to be moving stateside, it was announced on Tuesday that the Irish and Midshipmen will play in Annapolis for the first time ever. This makes the most sense as programs, and the NCAA as a whole, scramble to try and set up a feasible way for the season to proceed as scheduled. 

Mountain West cuts several postseason tournaments

As part of an 18% reduction in their operating budget, the Mountain West Conference announced that they would be eliminating the postseason tournaments for baseball, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s soccer, meaning that the regular season champions for those sports will represent the school in the NCAA Tournament. Swimming, Diving, Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field, and Golf were among the other postseason tournaments modified or shortened. Other cost-cutting methods included shortening baseball and softball series to two days, with a doubleheader, while the volleyball conference slate was reduced by two games.

MLB Draft Feature: Aaron Sabato, 1B, UNC

Aaron Sabato started his collegiate career by hitting .186 in his first fourteen games, and questions were raised about whether UNC had made the right decision to recruit and start the undrafted Connecticut high school prospect. However, Sabato quickly quelled those doubts and answered the bell in a big way for the Tar Heels, absolutely tearing the cover off the ball for the rest of his freshman campaign. The right-handed hitting first baseman seemingly never missed a barrel in the last three-quarters of the season, hitting .343 with 18 home runs, 25 doubles, and 63 RBI. Not known for his speed, Sabato also legged out a triple en route to hitting for the cycle in a rivalry victory over NC State. His on-base percentage checked in at a stellar .453. Although his sophomore season waas cut short, Sabato had hardly cooled down, hitting .292 with seven dingers in just 19 contests. Sabato has transitioned from a little-hyped, slumping first baseman to one of the best collegiate prospects in the upcoming draft. After Arizona State’s Spencer Torkelson, Sabato is considered by many the next best first baseman available on this year’s draft board. He’s ranked 41st on MLB.com’s Top 200 prospects. 

The question is not whether Sabato will get drafted – as he is a fringe first-round pick, and certainly an early second-rounder – but whether he intends to turn pro, with three seasons of eligibility remaining at UNC. The Tar Heels won the 2019 ACC championship and were one game away from the College World Series last season, losing a Game 3 Super Regional contest at home to Auburn. This year, North Carolina was 12-7 when the season was cancelled, and despite some early season ACC struggles, they promised to be one of the premier programs in the country once again. Sabato may want to return to Chapel Hill, but he also may take advantage of being one of the most sought-after players at his position and head for pro ball right away. 

Projection

Sabato is most certainly a power and offense-first player, but his defense is certainly respectable – he had a .981 fielding percentage his freshman year, improving that mark to .991 in his most recent campaign. Offseason shoulder surgery placed some questions on his range, but scouts applaud his reliable hands, a much-needed attribute to stick at first base long-term, rather than projecting solely as a designated hitter. Comparisons have been made between Sabato and the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso, although Sabato has featured more raw power than Alonso did in college. Considering Alonso hit 53 home runs last season, that’s not a bad comparison at all for the UNC sophomore. Look for a team to jump at Sabato’s power and offensive upside early in this year’s draft, grooming him as their next great power hitter. 

Prediction: Round 1, Pick 22, Washington Nationals

Some may say this is a touch early, considering Sabato’s 41st ranking, and a first-round draft pick will only be spent on the UNC prospect if teams are convinced he’s returning to college. If he is, though, the Nationals have one of the worst farm systems in baseball, and they don’t have a standout prospect at first base. They’ve got franchise player Ryan Zimmerman manning the position now, along with Eric Thames, but they are 35 and 33 years old, respectively, and so now is a great time to scoop up a player like Sabato. It would be a great situation for the Tar Heels’ first baseman, as the Nationals are the defending champions, and with Zimmerman holding down first base, there’s no need to rush Sabato’s development. Give him a few years in the minors, and Sabato could be ready to slug it out with the best of them in America’s capital.