10 players to watch in college baseball

Florida pitcher Brady Singer pumps his fist after an inning-ending strikeout during last year's Super Regional in Gainesville. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]
RHP Brady Singer, Florida

Singer enters the season projected to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Detroit Tigers in the Major League Baseball draft in June. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior made 19 starts, pitched 126 innings and went 9-5 in 2017. He made two starts in the College World Series, winning both and striking out 21 in 14 innings. He set a CWS finals record with 12 strikeouts against LSU in Game 1. Singer and fellow Gator Jackson Kowar, also expected to be a first-round pick, are joined by Tyler Dyson in one of the nation’s most formidable weekend rotations.

LHP Shane McClanahan, South Florida

McClanahan is rated as the No. 1 or 2 draft-eligible left-hander in the college game. The 6-2, 188-pounder came back from Tommy John surgery to strike out 12.32 per nine innings last season, ranking eighth in the country. He also led the American Athletic Conference with a .181 batting average against. With a 97-mph fastball and effective changeup, McClanahan draws comparisons to Chris Sale and is on track to be the highest draft pick in USF history.

INF Nick Madrigal, Oregon State

At 5-8 and 165 pounds, the junior is out of the mold of 2017 American League MVP Jose Altuve. Madrigal was player of the year and defensive player of the year in the Pac-12 last season. He batted .380 with 20 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 40 RBIs. He also stole 16 bases in 18 attempts. He split time between second base and shortstop last season and committed just five errors in 233 chances.

OF/RHP Matt Wallner, Southern Mississippi

The Golden Eagles’ sophomore star could be the best two-way player in the nation now that Brendan McKay has moved on. The 6-5, 220-pound Wallner batted .336 with 19 homers and 63 RBIs last season. He had a .655 slugging percentage and, after taking 45 walks, a .463 on-base percentage. A hip injury limited him to nine pitching appearances; he was 2-0 with three saves and a 1.84 ERA.

SS Jeremy Eierman, Missouri State

Eierman is coming off one of the greatest offensive seasons in Missouri Valley Conference history. The free-swinging junior was fifth in the nation with 23 homers, led the Valley with 68 RBIs, scored 37 runs and had 39 extra-base hits. He also batted a team-high .341 with runners on base, drove in 26 runs with two outs and reached base in 33 straight games.

OF/1B Seth Beer, Clemson

Beer won the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball’s top player in 2016 and was a semifinalist last year. Remarkably consistent over his 125 career games, with 34 homers, 30 doubles, 123 RBIs and 126 walks. He reached base via a hit or walk in 66 straight games with a plate appearance. Last season he batted .298 with 16 homers, 17 doubles and 53 RBIs and was second in the ACC with 64 walks.

1B Luken Baker, TCU

The 6-4, 265-pound Baker figures to play a prominent role as the Horned Frogs try to reach a fifth straight CWS. Before a season-ending injury May 12, he had a .317 batting average, eight home runs and eight doubles, and 20 of his 41 RBIs came with two outs. He was a two-way player as a freshman but gave up pitching after straining an arm muscle.

RHP Casey Mize, Auburn

Mize has blossomed into a first-round prospect after going undrafted in high school. Last season he went 8-2 with a 2.04 ERA and 109 strikeouts despite missing three starts because of an arm issue. His strikeout total was the highest by an Auburn pitcher since 1999. Mize led the nation with a 12.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio and struck out 11.73 batters per nine innings.

OF Garrett Mitchell, UCLA

Rated as one of the top freshmen in the country, he raised eyebrows in the wooden-bat West Coast League last summer when he batted .462 with one home run, a triple and three doubles in just 13 at-bats. He chose to go to college after slipping to the 14th round in the 2017 draft. He figures to start in right field and, with his upside, projects to be the centerpiece in the Bruins’ lineup before long.

OF Griffin Conine, Duke

The son of retired major leaguer Jeff Conine was his team’s MVP in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game last summer after leading the Blue Devils in every major offensive category last season. His 13 home runs were the most by a Duke player since 2010, and his 56 RBIs were the most since 2009.