In today’s column we continue to prepare for the upcoming college season by presenting our Preseason First Team All-Americans. Just one note, however. The players selected for this team are done so based on their performance as well as their pro potential.
This is especially important for position players, who will have to make the transition from aluminum bats to wood once their collegiate days are over.
As a result, preferential treatment is admittedly given to hitters who have enjoyed success swinging wood bats in summer league play.
Ryan Ortiz, Junior, Oregon State – An offense-first catcher who has made significant strides defensively. Extremely quick to the ball. Has also added power as he's filled out. His quick release compensates for a fringe average arm. Needs more work blocking pitches in the dirt.
Ben Paulsen, Junior, Clemson – Generates terrific power with a balanced left-handed stroke. Unlike most home run hitters, he has almost no uppercut. His swing does get long at times, however, which leaves him susceptible to high, hard stuff. A slick fielder with exceptionally soft hands.
Robbie Shields, Junior, Florida Southern – Don't let the Division II school fool you. He derives outstanding bat speed from strong wrists and forearms, which results in power to all fields. Currently a shortstop, but his lack of range will likely force a move to second. His bat also projects at the hot corner.
Grant Green, Junior, Southern California – A new generation, five-tool shortstop in the mold of Troy Tulowitzki. Gets good extension on his swing with the ability to hit for both average and power. Sure-handed in the field with a cannon arm. Should be a top five pick in June.
Derek Dietrich, Sophomore, Georgia Tech – A strong left-handed hitter in the Robin Ventura mold. Has undeniable power but is also adept at shortening his stroke with two strikes. He might outgrow shortstop, but his arm plays anywhere on the diamond. A probable first round pick in 2010.
Dustin Ackley, Junior, North Carolina – A hitting machine who sprays line drives all over the field with a short, crisp swing. Boasts great speed. Should be ready to man center field in '09 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery last summer. The second-highest ranked position player after Green.
Kentrail Davis, Sophomore, Tennessee – Draft eligible sophomore has a potent left-handed bat capable of scorching line drives to all fields. Runs very well despite stocky build, though he's expected to slow considerably once he reaches his late 20's. A poor fielder whose weak arm limits him to left field.
A.J. Pollack, Junior, Notre Dame – Despite two solid seasons in South Bend, he didn't gain notoriety until he hit .377 on the Cape in '08 while flashing an impressive mix of power and speed. A solid center fielder who could enhance his value by moving to second base in the pros.
Blake Smith, Junior, California (Berkeley) – An interesting two-way player. At the plate he reminds scouts of Ryan Klesko with his light-tower power. On the mound he hits 93 mph on the gun and also features a sharp curveball. He currently profiles best as a rifle-armed, power-hitting right fielder.
Stephen Strasburg, Junior, San Diego State – The most complete college pitching prospect since Mark Prior in '01. Throws a fastball which reaches the high 90's, a hammer curve and solid changeup, all with extraordinary command. Has a large, durable frame and sound mechanics.
Alex White, Junior, North Carolina – Another premier pitching prospect. Repertoire features a fastball in the mid 90's and a wicked slider, though he must work on his command and fine tune his changeup. Accomplished athlete with the stamina necessary to maintain his velocity deep into games.
Kyle Gibson, Junior, Missouri – The latest stud in a long line of Missouri aces. Already hits the low 90s with his fastball and should add a few more ticks once he fills out. Also throws the best slider in the college ranks. However, he still needs to tighten his motion and refine his mechanics.
Andrew Oliver, Junior, Oklahoma State – Eligibility is in doubt due to alleged relationship with a pro agent. Still, his talent is evident every time he takes the mound. Throws a heavy 92-93 mph two-seamer as well as a cutter. Curveball and changeup also show promise. Pinpoint control.
Matt Harvey, Sophomore, North Carolina – Likely the No. 1 ranked pitcher in 2010. Throws a lively 92-94 mph fastball with late, darting life, in addition to a first-rate curve and changeup. Excellent mound presence. His lanky build and easy arm action leave plenty of room for projection.
Kendal Volz, Junior, Baylor – Had far more success coming out of the bullpen for Team USA than as a starter for Baylor. Throws mid 90's heat with a power curveball. His lack of a changeup and intimidating mound presence could translate into a closer role in pro ball.