2017 Division II Baseball Preview

About a decade ago the NCAA developed a “Life in the Balance” initiative aimed at defining the D-II experience. Basically it’s a philosophy that intertwines academics and life skills with athletics. It seeks to find the happy medium between competition and education. That same balanced philosophy has seemingly seeped into the soil of baseball diamonds across the nation as never in my years in forecasting D-II baseball have I found the playing field to be so level.

Typically about 50 teams are seriously polled and evaluated in determining the preseason favorites with another dozen or so given a keen eye as well in deciding if they are among the nation’s elite. This season a true figure of how many teams received significant consideration is easily double that. Scores of pages of statistics from schools across the county were scrutinized, inspected, examined and asked to turn their heads and cough to pick the best of the bunch.

There are 25 teams listed below, but the number easily could have been much higher. There are several squads with national title talent not on the list. Two schools who advanced to the D-II Baseball Championship last season didn’t make the cut, nor did last year’s preseason No. 1 or half the teams which were in the final rankings.

It is because of that equilibrium that an extra effort was made to look at the teams from top to bottom. They weren’t judged on last year’s performance, but rather this year’s potential. Following are the schools determined to be most likely to making the trip to Grand Prairie, Texas this May to decide which school will top the list after the final dogpile and hoist the championship trophy above their heads.

2017 Perfect Game Division II Preseason Top 25 Teams

Rk. 2016 School ST ’16 Record
1 3 Tampa Spartans FL 41-10
2 1 Nova Southeastern Sharks FL 44-16
3 13 West Florida Argos FL 36-17
4 10 Cal Poly Pomona Broncos CA 42-19
5 16 USC Aiken Pacers SC 40-18
6 25* Lubbock Christian Chaparrals TX 37-19
7 NR Minnesota State Mavericks MN 36-18
8 8 Colorado Mesa Mavericks CO 43-13
9 25* Dixie State Trailblazers UT 40-14
10 NR Belmont Abbey Crusaders NC 39-16-1
11 NR Point Loma Sea Lions CA 32-16
12 NR North Georgia Nighthawks GA 32-20
13 NR Emporia State Hornets MO 39-19
14 5 Franklin Pierce Ravens NH 48-9
15 19 Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles IN 38-21
16 15 Mercyhurst Lakers PA 43-14
17 NR St. Mary’s Rattlers TX 32-21
18 2 Millersville Marauders PA 53-7
19 NR Wayne State Warriors MI 28-24
20 NR Florida Tech Panthers FL 29-21
21 20 Angelo State Rams TX 39-22
22 NR Augustana Vikings SD 37-17
23 NR Azusa Pacific Cougars CA 30-20
24 NR Henderson State Reddies AR 31-25
25 NR Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters TN 28-21

1. Tampa Spartans, Sunshine State Conference
The seven-time national champions spent last year firmly positioned in the top five for the duration of season and were the second-ranked club heading into the postseason. However a pair of surprising home upsets in the South Regional foiled their opportunity to bring home an eighty trophy. This season anything less than taking home a third title in six years will be a disappointment for the Spartans who somehow look even better than they did last spring. Leading batsmen Kevin Santa and Laz Riveria, who each batted well over .400 last season, return, as well as four other regular hitters who hit over .350. Christopher Williams was the team’s ace last season and will be back for another year on the mound. Despite winning 10 games with 72 strikeouts in 74 innings, his top spot in the rotation isn’t assured as he’ll be pushed by newcomer David LeBron, who excelled at the College of Central Florida. Garrett Cave, a transfer from Florida Atlantic, dazzled over the summer in the Cape Code League where he was an all-star, leading the league in saves while striking out 34 in 19 1/3 innings.

2. Nova Southeastern Sharks, Sunshine State Conference
Much of the meat of NSU’s sirloin caliber club is back on the menu and will be focused on being the first team to take home back-to-back titles in 10 years. Leading slugger Brandon Gomez, whose 21 homers and 75 RBI topped the team, will once again be firmly entrenched in the heart of the lineup. The everyday Shark lineup also has top performers back at the important shortstop and catcher positions – an absolute feather in any coach’s cap. D-I transfer Jeremy Vasquez was an everyday starter at Florida and excelled in the Cape Cod League over the summer and the presence of his bat makes an already potent offense more formidable. NSU will be without their top starter and closer from last season, but do have a pair of everyday arms who made a dozen starts apiece to solidify the staff while transfers establish themselves. Derik Beauprez and Devin Meyer both headed up I-95 from the University of Miami and are expected to play major roles on the staff.

3. West Florida Argonauts, Gulf South Conference
The Argos spent the bulk of last season in the top 10 but faltered when the games really counted, bowling out of both the GSC and South Regional tournaments with narrow upset losses. The ’11 national champs will be looking to right their postseason wrongs with a team heavy on quality pitching combined with a plethora of potent bats which puts them on the short-short list of title contenders. The pitching staff is paced by J.T. Granat whose 2.49 ERA was among the best in the South Region. Granat and Walker O’Connor each earned eight wins and were All-Region selections. Also back is bullpen bully Jarrod Petree whose pitching prowess was profiled in the New York Times back in 2006 when he was a wee 12 years old. Petree only allowed 29 hits in 47 innings while striking out 45 after a move to the UWF bullpen. Noteworthy transfers to Pensacola include Brian Browning from Ole Miss, Jared Middleton – who redshirted at Florida State – and Brandon Harmon from the College of Central Florida.

4. Cal Poly Pomona Broncos, California Collegiate Athletic Association
The Broncos will be favored to make their third trip in a row to the Division II Championship Series with a clubhouse thick with returners from last year’s team. What give CPP an edge is their top-shelf pitching staff which has become the calling card of Coach Randy Betten’s teams. Ryan Alsworth is the leading returner who starred in a dual role last season. In 26 appearances he made five starts, earned eight saves and played a part in five shutouts. Alsworth will be joined on the staff by two transfers who have very high ceilings. Jeff Bain made seven starts and earned a 3.49 ERA while tossing for Cal and Kyle Dohy struck out 32 batters in 20 1/3 innings at Citrus College after starting his college career at Cal Northridge. The offense isn’t going to knock any covers off the ball but does have the potential to be explosive. Seven experienced everyday players are back, six of who batted at least .299. The most prolific position player returning is Chris Stratton who hit .364 with 25 stolen bases.

5. USC Aiken Pacers, Peach Belt Conference
Head Coach Kenny Thomas has led the USC Aiken baseball program to predictable perennial success, advancing to the NCAA Tournament eight times in the past 12 seasons with an average of nearly 40 wins during those dozen years. Nevertheless, a trip to the final eight has proven to be an elusive next step for Thomas and his teams. Last season USCA was a win away from making the road trip north to the Division II Championship Series, but their celebration was usurped by conference rival Lander. 2017 could be the Pacers’ year as a formidable nucleus is back from last season’s squad. The Pacers’ batters should be bruising with seven hitters back who tallied the sesquicentennial mark in at-bats; two of which, Mitchell Price and Zach Moore, can be especially damaging with the bat as they hit a combined .337 with 30 home runs in the middle of the USCA lineup. On the mound Aiken has a pair of pitchers who threw well in dual roles, Connor Riley and James Lynch, who combine with seasoned starter Nick Yobbi to form a solid base of a staff.

6. Lubbock Christian Chaparrals, Heartland Conference
The Chaps earned 37 wins last season, 14 more than 2015. If they continue that same ascension this year their record this season will be 51-5 and an even more remarkable 65-0 in 2018! Those jumps obviously won’t happen, but what could be in the cards for the Chaps is their first trip to the Division II Championship Series since making the move to the NCAA in 2014. While the offense doesn’t have any big boppers it is a lineup full of hard hitters who’ll have little trouble accumulating runs. Five regular starters will be in back action, each of who can compile All Conference stats. Of the five Justin Bustamante and Brent Stewart are the most impactful players who are legitimate professional prospects. The team added former UT Arlington outfielder Caleb Koedyker who may be the long ball threat the lineup could use. The pitching staff looks imposing with two solid starters in Russell Reber and Ricky Contreras returning from last season. If another arm or two develops the Chaps could go far.

7. Minnesota State Mavericks, Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference
Head Coach Matt Magers’ Mavs 2016 season was a disappointment considering the justifiably high expectations the club had at the beginning of the season. MSU was ranked ninth in the preseason, but fell out of the rankings mid-spring and never recovered. Instead of earning their fifth trip to the championships in Magers’ eight years, the team tallied the highest loss total while he has been at the helm. That’s not to say Mavs weren’t good, not by any means, they just weren’t quite up to their usual snuff. Regardless, last season should be considered more of an aberration than expectation for 2017. The pitching staff has three members of the rotation back, two of who put up particularly impressive numbers despite pitching in the offense-friendly NSIC. Dalton Roach held opposition to a .245 average and stuck out 89 batters in 67 1/3 innings with a 3.34 ERA. Brody Rodning earned First Team All NSIC honors for the second season as a sophomore. Nick Belzer, who originally signed with Kansas State after high school and Hawaii after attending junior college, could also be a welcome boon to the staff. Offensively four top hitting position players return highlighted by shortstop Luke Waldek.

8. Colorado Mesa Mavericks, Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference
The Mavericks earned their 10th RMAC title in 12 seasons, but were unable to advance to the Championship Series for the third time under Head Coach Chris Hanks as a pair of close upset losses ended their season in the South Regional. The Mavs’ upper hand this spring will once again be its dominant pitching staff. Last year the team had a 3.18 ERA, nearly 2 1/2 runs less than the conference average and a full 1 3/4 runs lower than their closest competitor. Expect similar numbers in 2017 with über-ace J.R. McDermott back on campus. Last season he earned the saSouth Central Region Pitcher of the Year as a freshman after tallying a tiny 0.92 ERA in 68 1/3 innings which included 77 strikeouts – 19 of which were earned in a single outing. In addition to some other proven arms, CMU added a pair of lefthanded hurlers in Eli Thornquist from Gonzaga and Chris Ramirez via Colorado Northwestern. The offense looks to be in pretty good shape as well. They don’t have some of the high average hitters they’ve featured in the past but still have plenty of pop. Bligh Madris and Kyle Serrano both have All American caliber bats and shortstop Zach McLeod is a Bermuda Triangle with his glove, ensnarling every ball that gets near.

9. Dixie State Trailblazers, PacWest Conference
Considering all the talent Dixie State has coming back they actually may be underrated despite being already positioned in the top 10. The Trailblazers finished last season with a school Division II-era record 40 victories and went deep into the West Regional before being ousted like an overserved bar patron. Much of the moxie filled team is back in St. George with plenty of talent in the everyday lineup and pitching staff to make a deep postseason run. Two imposing arms top the staff in Dylan File and Mason Hilty. The duo amassed 168 innings between them and earned 16 wins with only a pair of losses to their name. Five other pitchers who accounted for 138 total innings will also be back in school. Offensively Drew McLaughlin, who hit .408, and top prospect Trey Kamachi, cap a strong offense attack that will be without two of the biggest statistical achievers last season, but still packs an Anderson Silva-esque punch. Reece Lucero, a redshirt senior, hit .376 in limited action and could be the player who makes their very good team great.

10. Belmont Abbey Crusaders, Conference Carolinas
The Crusaders return 17 players that contributed to last season’s 39-16-1 record, a win total 14 games higher than 2015, which was in turn seven wins more than in 2014. That’s an astonishing 21-game improvement in just three seasons under Head Coach Chris Anderson. Despite the nearly exponential improvement already, expect Abbey to eclipse the 40-win barrier this season. The offense includes three players who earned All-Conference Carolinas accolades; Nick Beinlich, Colin Rosenbaum and Nick Nunziato. The two Nicks combined for 31 home runs and Rosenbaum led the team with a .389 average and 22 doubles. On the mound Blake Waldren is a legitimate No. 1 and will be joined by Cameron Busby, who threw 80 1/3 quality innings at Georgia College last spring. Three other Crusaders who threw 20-plus innings will be back, one of which – Jeff Thompson – is said to have made some major strides since last season.

11. Point Loma Nazarene Sea Lions, PacWest Conference
The Cougars haven’t been ranked previously in the Perfect Game Top 25, so their appearance on the cusp of the top 10 is telling for the level of optimism headed into the season. The pitching staff finished 10th in the nation last year and returns all four starters along with the majority of the bullpen.  The top starters, Kellen Sheppard and Kevin Lillicrop, had 2.41 and 2.64 ERAs respectively, threw 153 2/3 innings and had nearly a combined 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season. Ryan Garcia is the Las Vegas’ favorite to earn PacWest Player of the Year honors after batting .371 with 13 home runs last year. He’ll have four teammates back with him in the starting lineup who hit over .300 with at least 100 at-bats. Sheppard, one of the pitching aces, also batted .340 with seven home runs in only 103 at-bats.

12. North Georgia Nighthawks, Peach Belt Conference
NGU returns nearly their entire roster from last season and should challenge for their second Peach Belt Conference title in three seasons. While both their offense and pitching are potent, it’s the men on the mound that should make the Crusaders contenders. Eight of 10 pitchers who made at least 10 appearances will be back on the staff. While the staff will be without their bread and butter man from last year, they will receive a boost from a returning Dylan Peppers who earned seven wins and stuck out 75 batters in 72 innings two seasons ago. Six everyday position players will be back on the field, punctuated by Trevor Sams, who earned the team triple crown with a .354 average, 13 homers and 65 RBI. Michael George, who hit .325, .390 and .368 in two and a quarter seasons at Valdosta State, will give the team a lift in the lineup and help solidify an already deft defense.

13. Emporia State Hornets, Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association
The Hornets have put their atypical sub-30 win seasons from a couple years ago in their rearview mirror as they’ve flew the “W” at least 39 times each of the past three years. The potency of the offense will be slightly suspect as they’ll need to replace their two best bats, a .391 speedster and a 22 home run slugger; however ESU does have an astonishing eight players back who had at least 100 at-bats and hit over .292 from last season. At least one of those first-rate returners – most likely Wade Hanna who hit .335 with 13 doubles, six triples and five homers – should rise up to be the offensive sparkplug the team needs. Transfer Mason Brown from Garden City CC may also fill that void. Like with the offense, the top two statistical performers will be gone, but there are some good players waiting in the wings. Jordan Plank, who K’d 80 in 74 1/3, will have to step up his game, as well as transfers Seth Holman, who is back from Tommy John surgery, and Tyler Buss, who previously pitched at Oral Roberts.

14. Franklin Pierce Ravens, Northeast 10 Conference
For the first time in 18 seasons the Ravens will have a new head coach, but Franklin Pierce’s winning ways should continue under new skipper Mike Chambers. The Ravens should once again tout a terrific pitching staff as almost every arm from last year’s club which complied a 2.32 team ERA will be back, along with transfer Cody McPartland who was a First team All-Region selection. The serendipitous signing of McPartland occurred after Dowling College closed and filed for bankruptcy. The offense is deflated from year’s past, especially from last season, but coaches are comfortable with the team’s ability to score runs. The handing over of the coaching reigns along with the re-stocking of the offense will likely lead in a change in offensive direction for the Ravens. Matthew Janik, FPU’s Director of Athletic Communications, colloquially described the revamped offense as being, “More long balls and gaps, less steal all the bases.”

15. Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles, Great Lakes Valley Conference
The Eagles made their second trip in three seasons to the Division II Championship Series last year and will be a favorite to pack their bags once again. USI has their entire rotation back, capped by Devin Williams, who earned a 1.95 ERA last season in 12 starts, and Lucas Barnett, who threw six complete games (three of which were shutouts). Bolstering the staff will be touted transfer Justin Watts who struck out 89 batters in 100 innings while throwing at Northern Kentucky. The offense is a bit sketchy, but Sam Griggs and Drake McNamara can hit for average and power and give Head Coach Tracy Archuleta some returning dependable bats. New Mexico Junior College transfer Angel Torres hit .412 with 32 extra-base hits to generate a .777 slugging percentage and could ignite the offense.

16. Mercyhurst Lakers, Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference
The Lakers earned a hard-fought 43 wins last season, but couldn’t get past conference-mate Millersville in the Atlantic Regional to have their season end a pair of wins short of reaching D-II’s elite eight. The Lakers will have a slight edge over the Marauders and the rest of the PSAC this season thanks to a stout offense and their typical stubborn pitching staff. Cam Balego, Chris Gonzalez and Jimmy Latona will provide the punch at plate. While each of the trio can perform, the overall abilities of Gonzalez make him the player to watch for what could be a breakout year. There is going to be a changing of the guard pitchingwise, with some familiar names no longer in the Lakers’ boxscores, but Matt Minnick has the chutzpah to become the next Mercyhurst ace.

17. St. Mary’s Rattlers, Heartland Conference
Midway into the ’16 season the Rattlers were a pedestrian 15-13, but had a strong second half, going a much more respectable 17-8 to finish with over 30 wins for the 11th consecutive season. Reaching that mark this season shouldn’t require the M. Night Shyamalan twist required last spring as almost the entire offense is back from last season, which would be a bummer for Head Coach Charlie Migl if St. Mary’s batters weren’t any good, but they are. Five returning Rattlers batted at least .317 and each of them had double-digit doubles. Two of those players, Jack Kaiser and Donnie Perez, earned Preseason All-Heartland Conference honors. Kaiser batted .356 with 10 home runs while Perez hit .349 with nine homers last spring. The Rattlers do have a number of pitchers back but their numbers lack the overall luster of the offense and don’t project on paper to be as dominating as StMU staffs have been the last couple of years. The transfer of Holden Grounds from Virginia could be a coup for the coaches as he could be the ace the team needs in addition to having a great name for pitcher.

18. Millersville Marauders, Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference
The Marauders were an unquestioned top three team the entirety of last season and advanced to the D-II championship, but fell short against a determined and destined Nova Southeastern club. The strength of last year’s team was an experienced and masterful pitching staff which won’t be quite as formidable this season, but still pretty gosh darn good. Cordell Shannon won nine games with a 2.94 ERA and will take the torch passed from the three pitchers who were lost to the pros. Penn State transfer Eli Nabholz will help soften the blow, but Head Coach Jon Shehan will have to rely primarily on underclassmen if the team is to challenge last year’s end result. Chas McCormick and Mitch Stoltzfus, who batted a combined .413 with 41 doubles and 16 home runs, will have to steward the offense which will be infused with youth.

19. Wayne State Warriors, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
The Warriors started the decade with 30-plus win seasons and finished first or second in the GLIAC annually, but have taken a bit of a tumble the last two years. Nevertheless, WSU appears to be back on track with an offense chock of delicious goodness and a pitching staff fortified with essential talent and experience. The top five hitters from last season are back in town and that quintet has the ability to score early and often. The chief three, Griffin Harms, Brad Baldwin and J.T. Conti, each batted over .375 with over 20 doubles. Chris Horvath and Addison Pawelek are the top two starters back, and while neither put up dominating numbers they were effective.  Improvements by them, along with a couple other members of the upperclass staff, could make WSU a formidable foe this season.

20. Florida Tech Panthers, Sunshine State Conference
The Panthers were positioned just outside of the top 10 to start last season but fell faster than a politician campaign promise to tumble out of the Top 25 midway through the spring without much of a threat to return. The most impactful players from last year’s club have returned for another attempt to play up to their potential. The team has two bona fide starters in Ty Cohen and Tyler Deel. Cohen has legit pro potential and earned nine wins last season as he nearly hit the century mark in strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings. Deel was a bit more forgiving on the mound bit did demonstrate flashes of brilliance which had him pitching for the Florida Gators early in his college career. Drew Beyer is a dream closer who Head Coach Greg Berkemeier can bring in to get a much needed out. During 44 innings on the mound last season he only walked six batters while striking out 55. The lineup can score enough runs to create long lasting psychological damage on their opposition. Former PG All-American John Sternagel hit .381 with 22 doubles and 36 stolen bases last spring and Daniel Szpik, who was second on the team with a .379 batting average, is also back for another season.

21. Angelo State Rams, Lone Star Conference
The Rams advanced to the Division II Championship Series for the second consecutive year last season, their third such trip in program history. If ASU is to reach the final eight once again it will likely be on the coattails of their pitching staff, which may, or may not, be one of the best in the nation. Matt Shannon was particularly formidable last season as he fanned 118 in 113 innings while earning a crisp 2.71 ERA. He, along with Kenton Schroter and Joe Hausen, who add another 100 innings for 2016 experience, will help Head Coach Kevin Brooks sleep easy at night. What could really make the staff something special is if a couple of former Big 12 hurlers can regain their old form. Ryan Smith, a former Baylor pitcher and Louisville redshirt, has been hampered by injury and unable to pitch to his ability. Jake Matthys was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2013 at Kansas State when he compiled a 9-1 record, 1.89 ERA and nine saves, but his college career has had a Joe Charboneau career path since then. The offense will need to step up as well with Jay Gonzales being the only player who hit over .300 back from last season. Zach Fleet, a transfer from Tarleton State, will help alleviate some of the pain on offense, as will Jacob Boston, a recruit from Mesa Community College.

22. Augustana Vikings, Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference
IMHO, the Vikings were the best team left out of the NCAA postseason last spring. Augie earned 37 wins and went 26-8 in a rugged NSIC, but were bypassed when regional invites were handed out. That shouldn’t be the case this season. Head Coach Tim Huber’s team has an opportunistic offense which should create problems for their opposition up and down the lineup. Patrick O’Donnell hit a jaw dropping .468 last season with 23 doubles and 11 home runs. He and three other Sioux Falls sluggers who hit over .350 should have the team challenging to reach the team 500 run mark. There are a number of pitchers back on campus, and while none have spectacular stuff, it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider them near sensational. The staff will get a lift from Cincinnati transfer Dalton Lehnen who is an all-conference caliber addition.

23. Azusa Pacific Cougars, PacWest Conference
California collegiate teams commonly aren’t known for their power hitting ability, but the Cougars will definitely have opposing outfielders playing close to the warning track this season. The everyday lineup has two Ruthian sluggers in Adrian Tovalin and Pablo O’Connor. Tovian belted 22 home runs while O’Connor added another 15. They don’t lack contact ability either as they batted .365 and .337 respectively. The pitching staff doesn’t have their two most dependable throwers from last season returning, but another formidable duo has arrived on campus to take their place. Kyle Murray pitched two seasons at Cal State Fullerton and Billy Oxford is a transfer from St. Mary’s (Calif.) where he pitched over 40 innings the past two seasons. They’ll join steadfast ace Billy Sanford on the APU staff as they look to challenge in a very, very good PacWest Conference.

24. Henderson State Reddies, Great American Conference
The Great American Conference has a number of good teams, but none who appear quite ready to have the ‘great’ label affixed on them, at least not yet. Nevertheless, Henderson State definitely look like they could be something special with an experienced and talented pitching staff and a handful of starters which could earn them a second trip to the final eight in three years. Chris Hunt and Luke Tebbetts are senior pitchers who each reached the century mark in innings last season. They’ll reunite with Zach Eschberger who made 15 starts as a true freshman and led the Reddies in wins. The three of them, along with reliever Blake Patterson, accounted for over 70 percent of the pitches thrown by HSU hurlers – and these were quality innings as well. If they elevate their game the Reddies will unequivocally be a team to reckon with. Offensively Henderson State has some quality bats with two-time All-GACer Jordan Taylor and two other top offensive players. They also added Parker Jones from the University of New Orleans to solidify the starting lineup.

25. Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters, South Atlantic Conference
Head Coach Jeff Sziksai’s Railsplitters make their Perfect Game Top 25 debut as they nicely return six of their top nine hitters in terms of total hits from last season as well as their top half-dozen pitchers in regards to innings pitched. Eric Kalman topped the team in batting average last year with a .368 average. Once he reaches base it will be up to Mason Ewers in the middle of the lineup to bring him home, a task he shouldn’t find too formidable as he batted .326 with a dozen home runs last season. The pitching staff is headed by Ethan Elliott who pitched brilliantly as a freshman and finished with a 10-2 record and a 3.29 ERA. If Elliott and fellow weekender Brandon Jean can combine to consistently put up numbers LMU could be a dark horse contender to make their way to the Division II Championship Series.

2017 Division II Top 30 Prospects

Rk. Plyer POS. YR B-T HT WT School Hometown ST
1 Garrett Cave RHP JR R-R 6-4 205 Tampa Bushnell FL
2 Dan Jagiello RHP SR R-R 6-3 195 LIU-Post West Islip NY
3 Chris Corbett C SR R-R 6-1 195 Rollins Stokesdale NC
4 Kevin Santa SS SR L-R 5-11 175 Tampa Yabucoa PR
5 Jeremy Vasquez IF/OF JR R-R 6-0 210 Nova Southeastern Palm City FL
6 Laz Rivera 2B SR R-R 6-1 185 Tampa Miami FL
7 Logan Browning OF/LHP JR L-L 5-7 165 Florida Southern Lakeland FL
8 Derik Beauprez RHP JR R-R 6-5 222 Nova Southeastern Cherry Hills Village CO
9 Dylan File RHP JR R-R 6-1 190 Dixie State St. George UT
10 Clark Scolamerio OF JR L-L 6-0 180 North Greenville Greenville SC
11 Garrett King RHP JR R-R 6-4 189 Cal Baptist Anaheim Hills CA
12 Layne Henderson RHP JR R-R 6-4 200 Azusa Pacific La Verne CA
13 Alex Calvert RHP/IF RSO R-R 6-3 205 Erskine La Plata MD
14 John Sternagel SS SR R-R 6-1 195 FIT Rockledge FL
15 Richie Rivera OF JR R-R 6-0 180 Tampa St. Petersburg FL
16 Devin Myer RHP RSO R-R 6-3 200 Nova Southeastern Coral Springs FL
17 Shane Benes 3B JR R-R 6-2 222 Drury Town & Country MO
18 Jeff Bain RHP JR R-R 6-4 210 Cal Poly Pomona Pasadena CA
19 Dylan Woods SS SR R-R 5-10 175 Nova Southeastern New Smyrna Beach FL
20 Adrian Tovalin 3B JR R-R 6-2 222 Azusa Pacific San Diego CA
21 Mitch Reeves 3B SR R-R 6-2 215 Florida Southern Winter Springs FL
22 Tyler Deel LHP SR L-L 6-4 215 FIT Jacksonville FL
23 Zach McLoed SS JR R-R 6-1 190 Colorado Mesa Trabuco Canyon CA
24 Michael Carpin RHP JR R-R 6-3 220 Erskine Mt. Pleasant SC
25 Ty Cohen RHP JR R-R 6-1 195 FIT Woodstock GA
26 Igor Baez C SR R-R 6-1 185 Flagler Orlando FL
27 Cannan Cropper RHP JR R-R 6-0 180 North Greenville Salisbury MD
28 Matt Williams RHP/UT SR R-R 6-3 200 GVSU Geneva IL
29 Brian Ray OF RJR L-R 5-10 175 Arkansas-Monticello Crossett AR
30 Griffin Harns OF RSR R-R 6-2 200 Wayne State (MI) Bingham Farms MI

Garrett Cave’s talents have long been known. Upon graduating college he was ranked as the 109th player overall in the high school class of 2014. He spent his first two seasons at FIU before deciding last summer to transfer to Division II power Tampa. Before making the move to Tampa Cave took to the fields of the Cape Cod League, leading the circuit in saves (10) while routinely displaying one of the league’s top fastballs. He garnered this report from Perfect Game’s Jheremy Brown as the league’s 11th-ranked prospect:

After Cave’s transfer from Florida International to Tampa became public this summer the former Yankees draft pick immediately vaulted to the top Division II prospect available for the 2017 draft. But don’t read into the transfer too much in terms of Cave’s talents as the wiry, quick-twitch righthander established himself as one of the top arms on the Cape where he was able to harness his plus stuff and simultaneously made vast improvements to his overall command. In 61 career innings at FIU, Cave finished with 64 strikeouts, 59 walks and a 4.87 ERA with half of his 25 appearances coming as starts. While serving as a closer on the Cape Cave appeared to be a completely different pitcher. Still showing the same electric stuff, Cave appeared in 20 games through the regular season, which spanned 19 1/3 innings, and in that time he struck out a remarkable 34 batters while walking just 13 and surrendered just 10 base hits. His right arm is plenty live and full of electricity as it comes through the backside, attacking hitters with a fastball that regularly works in the 93-95 mph range, bumping upwards of 96 and 97 mph with cut action and plane to the bottom of the zone when on top of the ball. Scouts will be locked in on Cave during the spring and follow his progress, especially if he’s back in a starting role. His curveball was among the best this past summer and it gives Cave a second swing-and-miss pitch, a consistent above average offering that’ll flash plus in the upper-70s, working into the low-80s with hammer depth and 12-to-6 shape. He worked comfortably off of that two-pitch combo this summer, and though scouts will want to see a third pitch in a starting role, he has the stuff to be a dominant bullpen piece right now.

Originally appeared on Perfect Game website: https://www.perfectgame.org/Articles/View.aspx?article=13482

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