National Perspectives on Big 12 Baseball

As the Husker baseball season draws near, you're going to be seeing a lot more of me around Corn Nation. I'm going to do my best to keep you updated and informed on the Husker baseball team in 2007. If you're wondering who the heck I am, my name is Ryan, I live in Lincoln where I attend UNL, and I'm a writer for fellow SBnation site Beyond the Boxscore. I also run my own site, The Pastime, which is so baseball-heavy it might make non-fanatics uneasy.

Without further ado, let's get to the reason I'm writing today: a look through some national perspectives on the Huskers, and their Big 12 competition in 2007. As is the nature of this site, please let me know if you disagree with anything I've written. I'd love to discuss anything about the upcoming season.

The full rundown with my commentary is after the jump.

NCBWA Pre-season All-Americans

Tony Watson - SP - Nebraska - 1st Team

For outside observers, Watson may have been hiding in the shadow of Joba Chamberlain last year, but he was every much the ace Joba was. He put up a 2.78 ERA in 100 1/3 innings, with a 69:24 K:BB ratio. He's the only Big 12 player to be named to the 2007 Pre-season All-American squad, and much of the success of the Huskers will ride on his shoulders.

Matt Smith - C - Texas Tech - 3rd Team

Smith was an offensive powerhouse for Tech last year, putting up a .377 average with 7 homers and 46 RBI. As a freshman. If he can avoid the apocryphal sophomore slump, he will key the Red Raider offense. He's a big reason Tech will contend for the Big 12 crown, or at least finish in the top 4-5.

Roger Kieschnick - OF - Texas Tech - 3rd Team

I was really hoping that Roger was the brother of former Brewer and Longhorn super-utility man Brooks, but it appears that it's not so. Brooks is from near Corpus Christi, and Roger is from the Dallas area. Even without that fraternal connection, Roger has managed to make an impression. Last year, as a freshman, he hit .359 with 9 home runs and 55 RBI. He's half of a very solid sophomore duo with Matt Smith, above.

Ryan Wehrle - SS - Nebraska - 3rd Team

If Ryan Wehrle can maintain or build upon his 2006 form, when he led the Husker in average (.367) and was third in homers (8), he should not only help the Huskers toward Omaha, but could garner postseason accolades. He'll also improve his draft status, up from a 18th round pick to a likely top 4 or 5 round selection. He's not only an offensive power, but plays excellent defense.

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Rivals.com Pre-Season Team

Tyler Mach - 2B - Oklahoma State - 1st Team

Tyler Mach has put together a nice career at Okie State, and was named the Big 12 co-Player of the Year in 2006. With the exception of his freshman year at Edmonds Comm. College, Mach has hit at every level. He batted over .400 every year in High School, and has hit over .350 in each of the last two years at OSU. I'm not sure why he wasn't named to any of the three NCBWA Pre-Season All-American teams for 2007. His .364 average and 16 homers would have bettered any of the selections at 2B. Perhaps it was because he made 13 errors for a .911 fielding percentage, the worst fielding percentage of all Cowboy regulars. He also walked only 19 times on the season, showing little plate discipline. He was drafted incredibly low, in the 40th round by the Cardinals.

Corey Brown - OF - Oklahoma State - 1st Team

Corey Brown was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2005 after hitting .380, and followed that up by hitting .347 last year, with 13 homers. He also led the Cowboys in strikeouts, though, with 57 whiffs in 216 at-bats, a fairly high rate of 26.4%. He has good plate discipline, also leading the team with 42 walks. If he can connect more often, he'll be a great force this year.

Tony Watson - SP - Nebraska - 2nd Team

I touched on Watson's impact above, but there are a couple more things I'd like to point out about the left-handed junior from Iowa. He's not shown an ability to strike people out at a high rate, but he can limit them to a low average and get outs. He posted a WHIP of just 1.11, a batting average against of .236, and allowed only 21 extra base hits in just over 100 innings.

He allowed a batting average of balls in play (BABIP) of .262, which is low. MLB average is .290, and there isn't a general consensus on college BABIP average. What that means, though, is that it's likely that Watson was getting lucky on some balls being hit at defenders. I'd look for him to regress to the mean slightly, with an ERA just above 3.00. I'll get further into this next week, when I take a look at how the 2006 Huskers performed and what that means for 2007.

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Baseball America Pre-season All-Americans

Matt Mangini - 3B - Oklahoma State - 2nd Team

Mangini played last season for North Carolina State, but trasferred over the summer to Oklahoma State. He's a great player who hit .343 last year. He'll make for a mean middle of the order with Corey Brown and Tyler Mach.

Corey Brown - OF - Oklahoma State - 2nd Team

As I highlighed above, Brown can be a force. He hit .347/.462/.644 (avg/obp/slg) for the Cowboys last year, and from what I can tell, is a good defensive outfielder.

Jordan Danks - OF - Texas - 2nd Team

After being drafted out of high school by the White Sox in the 18th round, Danks chose to go to Texas. He posted a .319/.429/.517 line as a freshman, and if he can avoid regressing, should help offset the loss of Drew Stubbs.

Bradley Suttle - 3B - Texas - 3rd Team

Suttle is yet another strong Big 12 sophomore. When this draft class becomes eligible, I'll be surprised if Big 12 schools don't dominate the first few rounds. Suttle hit a modest .301/.366/.429, but as a freshman third-baseman, that's more than adequate. If he develops some more power to improve upon his four homers, he could be fearsome. For now, he's just pesky.

Roger Kieschnick - OF - Texas Tech - 3rd Team

The only thing I'll add to my take on Kieschnick above is that he could reduce his strikeouts. He fanned 42 times in 2006, and with only 9 homers, he's not making it up in power. Yet.

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Rivals.com Pre-season Team Rankings

  1.  Texas
  2.  Oklahoma State
  3.  Nebraska
  4.  Baylor
  5.  Texas Tech
  6.  Oklahoma
  7.  Texas A&M
  8.  Missouri
  9.  Kansas
  10. Kansas State
My take on those rankings is that Oklahoma State is ranked too high, and Kansas is too low. The Big 12 is a very strong conference this year, and I think the standings will change significantly down to the last weeks before NCAA regionals.

Oklahoma State has some excellent hitters, that's not in doubt, but their pitching staff has some key holes, such as starters. Their top two returning starters, Matt Gardner and Olover Odle, are both mediocre upper-classmen with ERAs over 4. They're going to have to count on some freshman to step up and contribute, otherwise they'll have to score a lot of runs to get to the NCAA regionals. Which, of course, they're capable of with Tyler Mach, Corey Brown and NC State trasfer Matt Mangini.

Kansas comes into 2007 without its top three weekend starters from last year. That's going to hurt them, but they have some young talent in Nick Czyz and Andy Marks, who both posted ERAs over 5.00 in 2006 and walked too many batters, but limited batters to hitting well under .300. They should improve, and some returning offensive players should help. I don't see Kansas finishing second to last in the Big 12, but with the strength of the conference, anything can happen.

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National Pre-season Rankings

I'll post the rankings that have been released to this point, without commentary, because really, at this point, they're just guessing as much as I would be.

Baseball America

  1. Rice
  2. Miami
  3. Clemson
  4. Texas
  5. North Carolina
  6. South Carolina
  7. Arkansas
  8. Vanderbilt
  9. Virginia
  10. Wichita State
  11. Tennessee
  12. Georgia Tech
  13. UCLA
  14. Cal State Fullerton
  15. Tulane
  16. Oregon State
  17. Nebraska
  18. Florida State
  19. Pepperdine
  20. Arizona State
  21. Evansville
  22. Oklahoma State
  23. Winthrop
  24. TCU
  25. Ole Miss
NCBWA Pre-season Rankings
  1. Rice
  2. Clemson
  3. South Carolina
  4. North Carolina
  5. Miami
  6. Texas
  7. Virginia
  8. Arkansas
  9. Cal State Fullerton
  10. Georgia Tech
  11. Vanderbilt
  12. Nebraska
  13. Ole Miss
  14. Arizona State
  15. Florida State
  16. Tulane
  17. Oregon State
  18. Wichita State
  19. Georgia
  20. Pepperdine
  21. Oklahoma State
  22. TCU
  23. UCLA
  24. Stanford
  25. Tennessee
  26. Baylor
  27. Oklahoma
Collegiate Baseball Pre-season Rankings
  1. Rice
  2. Clemson
  3. South Carolina
  4. Arkansas
  5. North Carolina
  6. Miami
  7. Texas
  8. Vanderbilt
  9. Nebraska
  10. Virginia
  11. Georgia Tech
  12. Cal State Fullerton
  13. Florida State
  14. Arizona State
  15. TCU
  16. Tulane
  17. Wichita State
  18. Tennessee
  19. Pepperdine
  20. Ole Miss
  21. Baylor
  22. Georgia
  23. Stanford
  24. Oklahoma State
  25. Southern Cal
  26. Oklahoma
Rivals.com Pre-Season Rankings
  1. Rice
  2. North Carolina
  3. South Carolina
  4. Virginia
  5. Miami
  6. Texas
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Arizona State
  9. Arkansas
  10. Clemson
  11. Ole Miss
  12. Cal State Fullerton
  13. Georgia Tech
  14. Oregon State
  15. Oklahoma State
  16. UCLA
  17. Nebraska
  18. Wichita State
  19. Pepperdine
  20. Tulane
  21. North Carolina State
  22. Georgia
  23. Kentucky
  24. Alabama
  25. Winthrop
All of the polls agree that the Big 12 should be led Texas and Nebraska, then Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma fall into the mix. Rivals.com seems to think more highly of Oklahoma State, while Collegiate Baseball puts them below Baylor. This, if anything, speaks to the strength and parity of the top half of the Big 12 this year.
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