The NCAA Super Regionals concluded on Monday, just as the first night of the MLB Draft was unfolding. This Saturday, the Omaha Eight begin the final leg of their journey to a national championship.
It’s a heck of a week to be a collegiate baseball player.
Many of the big-name upperclassmen were drafted this past week. Pundits have been scouting and mock drafting a lot of these guys for the past three years, anxious to see where they land.
That’s why the timing is right to prepare for the 2018 MLB Draft.
While all eight of the teams in Omaha took some big hits to the MLB Draft, there is plenty of talent out there ready to take center stage next season. Let’s take a look at some of the sophomores to keep an eye on during the next week and a half in Omaha.
(Note: This isn’t a ranking or a projection for next season by any means. This is only a look at some sophomores who could make their presence felt atop the draft board next June).
- FLORIDA GATORS
The Gators pump out a lot of big league talent, especially in the pitching department of late. Brady Singer is going to to create a lot of buzz next season. He was Alex Faedo’s wingman for most of the season, the No. 2 to one of the elite talents in Omaha right now. The 6-foot-5 righty shifted from the bullpen as a freshman to the rotation this season with ease. Singer went 7-5 ,with a 3.29 ERA and an impressive 3.72 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Also keep an eye on Jackson Kowar. Like Singer, he’s a 6-5 right-hander. Kowar went 12-0 in 17 starts this season, posting a 4.00 ERA. He has some command issues, walking 42 in 101 innings, but most tall, lanky young pitchers do.
Nelson Maldonado had a big sophomore season at the plate. He led the Gators in batting average (.304) while adding six home runs, tied for second-best on the club. His bat will need to help fill the power void should J.J. Schwarz sign with the Tampa Bay Rays.
- OREGON STATE
If you were impressed by Nick Madrigal’s freshman campaign in 2016, then 2017 showed you that he is an unquestioned 2018 first-rounder. The second baseman raised his average 50 points to lead the No. 1 team in he country with a .383 batting average. He added four home runs and 19 doubles, swiping 16 bases and showing plate discipline well beyond his years. He walked more times than he struck out for the second season in a row. Fun fact: his twin brother Ty Madrigal, pitches for St. Mary’s.
Outfielder Trevor Larnach is also seen as a potential first-rounder in 2018. He improved to a .304 hitter after posting a .157 batting average in platoon work his freshman season. Larnach hit 16 doubles and three home runs.
It’s hard to get any national acclaim on the mound or at the plate when all-world superstar Brendan McKay continues to do both. But the Cardinals, who have pumped out a lot of high draft picks the past two seasons, have a few more to keep an eye on in Omaha.
Bryan Hoeing didn’t have the best season on paper, but the 6-6, 228 pound right-handed redshirt freshman has the build the scouts love to see. He also pitches in one of the premier programs in the country, so you can bet all eyes will be on him in 2018.
Sam Bordner had an insane year out of the bullpen for the Cardinals. He, too, is 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds as well, so he is an intimidating presence on the mound. Bordner improved his ERA from 4.15 in 2016 to 0.47 this season, despite seeing a slight dip in his strikeout rate. He allowed just three extra base hits in 28.2 innings pitched.
Outfielder Josh Stowers is already seen as the next Cardinals first-rounder. He’s coming off a well-rounded season, hitting .311 with six home runs and 22 stolen bases.
Alex Lange and Jared Poche’ are leaving Baton Rouge after the CWS, and that means there are some huge shoes to fill in the rotation. Freshman Eric Walker has the ace spot locked down, but they are hoping Caleb Gilbert can step up. The 6-2 righty had a great season, making four starts in his 26 appearances. Gilbert went 6-1, with a 2.42 ERA and an impressive 56-to-9 strikeout-to-walk rate in 48.1 innings. He came on for Poche’ and picked up the win in the Super Regional deciding game, pitching 5.2 innings of shutout ball, striking out six.
The Horned Frogs have a sophomore ace who built on an impressive freshman season with an undefeated sophomore campaign. Jared Janczak went 9-0 with a 1.97 ERA, striking out 91 in 82.1 innings. The 6-1 righty will be one of the most coveted junior pitchers next season. Janczak was dealing in the Supers, striking out 10 in 6.1 innings of two-run ball.
- FLORIDA STATE
Cole Sands was part of the starting rotation for the second consecutive season. Though his numbers weren’t the best, the 6-3 right-hander will certainly cause some draft buzz heading into 2018. He went 6-3 with a 5.05 ERA, striking out 72 in 82 innings pitched. He hurled two shutout innings in FSU’s 19-0 Super Regional clincher.
Cal Raleigh is the big-hitting catcher who will draw some interest, homering in the 19-0 victory. Outfielder Jackson Lueke became a Seminoles folk legend, however. After leading the team in batting (.379) and on base percentage (.494) as a freshman, Lueke capped off a big sophomore campaign with a walk-off single in Game 1 of the Super Regionals. It was his fourth RBI-single of the game.
- CAL STATE FULLERTON
Colton Eastman and Brett Conine combined for a stellar Game 3 in the Super Regionals, helping the Titans eke their way past long-time rival and host Long Beach State. Eastman, a 6-3 righty who tied the freshman record for most strikeouts in a season last season, hurled seven innings while striking out eight, an unearned run the only blemish on his day. His 1.09 ERA and 10.09 strikeout-per-nine aren’t too shabby, either.
Conine came in to relieve his teammate and tossed two shutout innings of his own, striking out three and picking up his 15th save of the season. If the Titans expect to hang around Omaha, all arms will be on deck, and these two are certainly pitchers to watch.
- TEXAS A&M
Brigham Hill and Corbin Martin will be big losses to the draft, but Stephen Kolek should claim a spot atop the rotation in 2018. He didn’t appear in the Super Regionals, and depending on how long the Aggies hang around in Omaha, he may not get to the hill there, either. But if he does, watch out.
Kolek was fearless in the Regional winner against top-seeded Houston. He went 8.1 innings, striking out nine and walking one while allowing just one earned run. He will be a featured part of the Aggies 2018 rotation, and playing in the conference that he does, that will garner him instant attention.