As the season winds toward the midway point most fans, whether they admit it or not, are beginning to cast a gaze toward the postseason. We’ve put together our first college baseball National Seeds Projections with the No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies taking the cake as the overall No. 1 seed after an impressive 27-2 run out of the gate and a 7-2 early stretch in the SEC.
We have taken into consideration the same criteria the Selection Committee will use when they put the NCAA Regionals together on Selection Monday with the top being overall record followed by overall and out of conference RPI. We also look at road record and RPI and how the team has performed both over the last 15 games and against the teams rated 1-25 in RPI before taking into account head-to-head and common opponent records.
Future releases will not be as detailed, we want to give you a little introduction to each team. Early next week we will release our first field of 64 with the eight national seeds in the same release.
Texas A&M Aggies (27-2, 7-2 SEC)
You can’t help but speculate about where this squad would be if starters Tyler Stubblefield and AJ Minter weren’t missing due to injury. In spite of losing the equivalent of two Friday night starters in the duo, the Aggies staff has a 1.96 ERA and .225 OBA. Texas A&M is No. 4 in RPI with a No. 8 out of conference mark and a 4-1 record against the RPI 1-25.
In their absence Grayson Long and Matt Kent have stepped up combining to go 11-0 with a 2.65 ERA and 87 strike outs against 18 walks. With these guys at the top and a stingy bullpen to make sure the game stays where it is after six, the Aggies are going to be a tough out.
Additionally, Texas A&M has been nearly unstoppable at the plate with a team .316 average and 7.5 runs per game. Nick Banks (.429/.581/.492) is the central cog of the offense with 26 runs scored while the top five bats are all hitting over .300.
“I’ve seen this team several times this season and have to admit they look like a top contender to me.” – Minimalist Mark, College Baseball RPI Analyst
TCU Horned Frogs (21-4, 4-2 Big 12)
TCU has made a pair of west coast swings, winning 2-of-3 at Arizona State and then winning 2-of-3 at the Dodgertown Classic with wins over Vanderbilt and UCLA. TCU settles in at No. 5 in RPI with a No. 2 non-conference RPI and a 5-3 mark against the RPI 1-25. The Horned Frogs are winning in a familiar fashion with a 1.76 ERA with a lot of hurlers with Omaha experience on the roster.
The weekend rotation consists of Mitchell Traver (4-0, 1.13), Preston Morrison (6-0, 1.79) and Alex Young (5-1, 0.98) with Trey Teakell (14 app 1.16 ERA) and Riley Ferrell (7 saves 1.42 ERA) in the pen. Lead-off man Cody Jones (.379/.547/.468) sparks the offense with 27 runs scored and nine steals while clean-up man Evan Skoug leads with three homers and 21 RBI.
Vanderbilt Commodores (22-6, 7-2 SEC)
Any discussion about Omaha must come through the defending champion Commodores who returned most of the squad from 2014. We expect their No. 13 RPI will go up as they hit the meat of the SEC even though this team has surprised us with a couple of out-of-place early losses to Santa Clara and Indiana State which leaves their out of conference RPI at No. 32.
However, the Dores seem to be rounding into dominant form just in time for SEC play, having won 11-of-13 games. This beast is only getting stronger with Walker Buehler’s (2-0, 1.93) return to the rotation where Carson Fulmer (4-1, 1.50) has been dominant all season.
Likewise, the bats have been alive, with the four-headed monster of Rhett Wiseman, Dansby Swanson, Zander Wiel and Bryan Reynolds dominating the middle of the lineup with slash lines above .300/.500/.400 each with 15 homers.
“When I put the data with what I see when I’ve watched this team play only one thought comes to mind…Juggernaut!” – Realist Ray, College Baseball RPI Analyst
UCLA Bruins (21-5, 8-1 Pac 12)
Riding an eight-game winning streak and winning 10-of-11 since being swept out of the Dodgertown Classic, UCLA is looking solid at No. 6 overall and No. 4 out of conference in RPI. The Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the nation and are dominating the early going out west with a neutral site series win over North Carolina.
UCLA’s success has been due to balance. The offense has come alive in ways that it just didn’t in 2014 with Kevin Kramer absolutely mashing opposing pitchers to the tune of a .410/.629/.512 slash line with four homers and 31 runs scored. Add to his production the trio of Ty Moore, Chris Keck and Luke Persico who are each .300/.400/.400 slash-liners with Keck’s six long balls and 28 RBI leading the team.
Let’s not forget the pitching with a James Kaprielian (6-1, 2.35), Grant Watson (4-2, 1.76) and Cody Poteet (2-1, 3.10) handling the rotation with David Berg (6 saves 1.35 ERA) waiting to close out any games that are left close.
Florida Gators (23-6, 5-4 SEC)
Florida was a 2014 National Seed that missed Omaha after losing in the Regional it hosted and now sits at the No. 10 RPI (No. 5 non-conference). However, the Gators are back, and most of the squad is a year more experienced and poised for a long season run having won 2-of-3 SEC series while splitting with No. 12 UCF and taking a series from No. 10 Miami.
Logan Shore (4-2, 1.89) seems to have shook his early inning homer issues for now and Dane Dunning (4-0, 2.38) has been solid in the rotation with AJ Puk (5-2, 4.20) on his way back. Taylor Lewis (6 saves 2.65 ERA) has proven to be more than adequate at the end game to close out the pen.
Harrison Bader continues to make his case for national player of the year with eight homers, 33 RBI and a phenomenal slash line .367/.733/.491 with Josh Tobias hitting well in the clean-up spot guaranteeing more hitters’ pitches. The entire lineup is at .300 or greater with Richie Martin on the bottom at .296.
LSU Tigers (23-5, 5-4 SEC)
The Tigers have one of the deepest rosters in the country and have gotten off to a tremendous start this season with a couple of hiccups, the most recent being a home series loss to Kentucky. They find themselves with the No. 22 RPI and at No. 13 out of conference but are a combined 7-1 on the road or at neutral sites. LSU went unbeaten at the Houston College Classic with wins over Houston, Baylor and No. 19 Nebraska but hasn’t faced a daunting schedule so far.
Jared Poche’ (5-1, 3.48) has faced some struggles since taking over the Friday night role while Alex Lange (5-0, 1.20) has dominated on Saturdays. Jesse Stallings (10 saves 1.76 ERA) is a raging bull of a closer and quite fun to watch. LSU is hitting .330 as a team scoring nearly 7.5 runs per game with power and consistency top to bottom in the lineup. Alex Bregman (.304/.557/.373, 6 HR, 25 RBI) is the key bat in the middle of the lineup and leads the Tigers with 14 steals while Jared Foster (.337/.723/.409, 7 HR, 26 RPI) is cleaning things up at the bottom and Mark Laird (.378/.459/.448) continues to be ridiculously dynamic with 10 steals and the team lead with 29 runs scored.
Arizona State Sun Devils (18-7, 7-2 Pac 12)
Arizona State is arguably one of the most challenged teams up to this point in the year with an RPI at No. 8 and a strength of schedule at No. 4. Series wins over Oklahoma State, Long Beach State and a series loss to No. 1 TCU lay out the out of conference slate for this squad. This cardiac bunch is 9-3 in one run games which means that in nearly half their games the final at bat has mattered.
“This is one occasion where all the RPI data is screaming at us that this is a team to keep an eye on.” – Literal Larry, College Baseball RPI Analyst
The emergence of Seth Martinez (1-0, 2.34) has helped bolster things as Ryan Kellogg (5-0, 3.26) and Brett Lilek (2-2, 4.40) continue getting back to the form most expected them to be at this season. Let’s not forget the power arm in Ryan Burr (10 saves 0.46 ERA) finishing things out on the back end.
The offense has found some pop with 12 homers coming mostly from RJ Ybarra (4) and Colby Woodmansee (2) in the middle of the order while Johnny Sewald keys a lot from the lead-off spot with 23 runs scored and 10 steals with a .416 on-base-percentage. So far, the offense has been role-oriented and fabulous at getting the clutch hit when needed.
Louisville Cardinals (21-7, 11-1)
The Cardinals are back and have emerged as the clear front-runner in the ACC with an 11-1 start that includes sweeps of Boston College, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech with a series win over No. 10 Miami as well. Their out of conference resume isn’t as strong, especially with the early fluke series loss to Arkansas State which is demonstrated in their No. 18 overall RPI versus a No. 156 out of conference rating.
Kyle Funkhouser (3-2, 2.40) and Zach Burdi (3 saves 0.00 ERA) continue to perform at an All-American level even though the latter is battling through an injury. The offense is beginning to find its stride led by lead-off man Sutton Whiting (.387/.472/.511, 9 steals) with Corey Ray (.302/.457/.359) rounding into a dynamic offensive presence and a premiere bat in the lineup leading the squad in homers (3), RBI (23), runs (18) and steals (13). The Cards are averaging just 5.2 runs per game waiting for clean-up man Zach Lucas’ (.229, 2 HR) bat to come alive.