The NCAA Division I season gets underway in two weeks, a long-awaited addition to the feeder league system and thus the pool of available talent for the annual amateur draft.
We take a look at the likely contenders and some individual players of note, including some Bull League second generation players who hope to live up to their names in future seasons.
NCAA DIVISION I starts Sunday, February 11.
HOOSIERS THE TEAM TO BEAT
The Indiana Hoosiers could be the team to beat in 2018. The Big-10 Conference team features two pitchers who rank in the Top 10 NCAA prospect rankings, sophomore Jonathan Davis and senior Alex “Doorbell” Arnold, along with two outfielders with some measure of speed and power that paint a picture of a team that has a complete package.
Davis is a finesse pitcher projected to have great control down the road, and while he may not set any big league records, he will most likely end up a solid workhorse mid-rotation starter, a commodity that is always in demand in the Bull League. Arnold, meanwhile, is adept at keeping the pitches low in the zone, with a great selection of “C” pitches – a cutter, curve and changeup. The 22-year-old from Port Orange, Florida, could end up a first rounder in the June draft if things go well.
Chris Gonzales and Jason Brown are two Top 100 outfielders who will patrol the lawn at Bart Kaufman Field, and both have solid speed and cannon arms. Should they also prove they have the right swings, they are projected to be decent home run hitters who will provide the needed run support for Indiana to take the top of their conference this year.
ALL EYES ON YAGASLOV IN NOTRE DAME
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are expected to do well in the Atlantic Coast conference, with only FSU and Duke projected to give the only serious opposition. And when the Irish take to the field in two weeks, many eyes will be looking at 3B Nick Yagaslov, the son of Bull League Hall of Famer Yuri Yagaslov.
Currently ranked as the #5 NCAA prospect, the 20-year-old Nick has blazing speed, a disciplined approach to the plate, and some measure of his father’s power swing. His high expectations center around his bat, rather than his glove, he will at least provide a solid effort on the field, and at any rate, will trouble pitchers enough to make teams overlook any defensive inefficiencies.
Notre Dame can also lean on a defensive shortstop said to have a good power swing, Alex Mathis, who will mainly provide defense up the middle, but could also potentially send some balls out of the yard at timely moments. Other Top 100’s make up the rest of the infield, but the lack of top talent pitching could hurt the Irish in the long run when it comes to making a run at the playoffs.
LSU THE PROBABLE SOUTHEAST LEADER
The LSU Tigers will likely be the team to beat in the Southeast conference, with two great looking kids working the infield, and a Top 10 prospect pitcher to anchor the rotation. Eric Roberts is that anchor, a lefty-throwing 20-year-old from Ohio, who could develop into a power throwing hurler if scouts are correct. He currently clocks a 95 mph fastball, and is said to be a reliable defensive player as well.
He is supported by a cast of infielders that includes a potential future top hitter in 3B John Taylor, should he make improvements, and utility shortstop/second baseman, Frank Paulat, who will at least at the college level provide a solid all around role filler.
PAC-12’s USC COULD HAVE BEST OUTFIELD
The USC Trojans could field one of the best defensive outfields in NCAA baseball this year, with grinder Danny Mork patrolling center field, and Joey Jernigan over in left.
Mork has ridiculous hustle, a speedy baserunner with incredible range. His defensive qualities alone make him worth a look, but scouts also project good contact and plate presence. Whether he develops into a good hitter may depend on his ability to improve his power swing and lay off the bad pitches, but at 19 he will have some time to develop still.
Jernigan’s speed and range is almost as good as Mork’s, but lacks a lot of the drive and hustle. However, with a little work on his consistency, he may end up a more disciplined batter, and could hit well at the top level once he refines his swing.
TWO OTHER HALL OF FAMER SCIONS TO WATCH
The great Carl Simms name is legendary in the Bull League, and the Hall of Famer hold many league records – so many in fact, the MVP award was named for him this year. His son, Carl Jr., hopes to one day earn the trophy baring his father’s name, and believes the UCLA Bruins will be the place where he begins that path to sucess.
Carl Simms Jr. will have his work cut out for him. The 35th ranked NCAA prospect is considered good, but not yet great. He has solid defensive skills and could stay in the outfield, but what many will be watching will be to see if his power develops as expected. Despite his famous name, he just wants to blend in, and play his role to help his team, and so that humility may help him develop in the long run.
Meanwhile, another Hall of Famer, pitcher Ricky Geraldo, will have an opportunity to see his family name return to the Bull League someday. Michigan State Spartans outfielder John “Little G” Geraldo is the 22-year-old son of the legendary left-hander, who was inducted only last year. The junior Geraldo has ample speed and will cover a lot of ground in the outfield, making him a valuable defensive player, but he also has already developed a keen eye at the plate and will certainly break into the top level at some point as an every day regular.
Whether any of these HOFer sons will follow their father’s footsteps into the hallowed Hall is up for debate, and of course it’s far too early to predict that sort of success. But one thing is for sure, the future draft pools will be brimming with talent.