On Thursday, we completed the college baseball countdown that we began 100 days ago. Along the way, we talked about big stories in college baseball like Florida’s stacked team, the race for the first overall pick, and last year’s final two teams, Vanderbilt and Virginia, coming back for another run. We also talked about some players, teams, and leagues off of the beaten path. But from beginning to end, it was a lot of fun for me to write, and I hope that you had some fun reading it as well.
If you want to go back and relive any part of the countdown, visit our index page here.
The fact of the matter, though, is that there was also a lot of stuff that was on my mind that just didn’t make it into the countdown.
So, just in time for opening day, I figured I would drop some of those thoughts here, in bite-size format.
- I think the MAC is going to be really fun. Kent State is the favorite, in my mind, particularly with a rotation of Lauer, Ravel, and Jensen-Clagg, but Ohio is going to have something to say about the conference race, led by dynamic outfielder Mitch Longo, as will Central Michigan.
- Quietly, Southeast Missouri’s run in the OVC has been pretty impressive and they’ve done a great job of collecting talent there. On a side note about SEMO, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is a really lovely town and I highly recommend stopping off there if you ever find yourself traveling up I-55 that direction.
- How will offense trend in 2016? Obviously the lower-seam baseball made a big difference in 2015, but will we see offense dip a little below 2015 levels as teams adjust or will offensive production continue to rise as programs change their recruiting approach toward building an offense to match the new landscape in the sport?
- Has St. John’s found a new gear as a program? They’ve always been a really solid program, but it kind of feels like they’ve taken a step forward and are now emerging as a more national player every year. The Big East is a competitive league at the top, but the Johnnies seem to have a stranglehold on it at the moment.
- Does the gap between Bryant and the rest of the NEC in the regular season get wider or smaller? They’ve kind of lapped the field over the last three seasons, winning the league regular season crown by four, five, and four games, respectively. For that matter, in 2012, the year prior to this three-year run, they won the league by three games, before they had even completely transitioned to Division I.
- Is it crazy to think that Navy, the favorite in the Patriot League, might have what it takes to win a regional? They return just about everyone from a team that went 37-20 last year, and Luke Gillingham is a staff ace that most power conference teams would love to have.
- Who will be the most impactful freshman in 2016? It sure seems like the crop of freshmen this season is as impressive as any in recent memory. Luken Baker from TCU, Nick Madrigal from Oregon State, Seth Beer at Clemson, and Connor Kaiser at Vanderbilt all seem like possibilities, and that’s just to name a few.
- Jameson Fisher at Southeastern Louisiana should be a lot of fun to watch. He missed all of last season due to injury, but in 2014, he was a force for the Lions. He hit for average, got on base at an impressive clip, and showed quality gap power.
- You know how some players seem like they’ve been around for a decade or more? For me, the player that most seems that way heading into this season is Esteban Tresgallo of UAB. I remember him playing quite a bit as a freshman at Miami way back in 2012. Now, he’s one of the most feared hitters in Conference USA with the Blazers.
- Duke is an interesting team to me. In recent years, they’ve had talented individual players like Marcus Stroman and Michael Matuella, but they’ve never really had the requisite depth to get into a regional and be a real player in the ACC race. It may not come to fruition in 2016, but that is changing. The Blue Devils are building some real depth, and I would bet on them being relevant in the ACC race sooner rather than later.
- How does the West Coast Conference shake out? San Diego and Pepperdine have had something of a duopoly going in the league for a while, but programs like Saint Mary’s and Loyola Marymount have been building for several years now, and BYU is annually in the mix. Will any of those latter three programs unseat the former two who have been at the top for so long?