College World Series 2012: Mike Zunino and 5 Players Who Will Explode onto Scene
With the 2012 College World Series set to begin today, the country is going to be introduced to players people have never heard of, but will know well by the end of play in Omaha.
Every year, certain players burst onto the scene and steal the show. Whether they do so with their clutch performances, inspiring background or personal stories—or simply their tremendous talent—the result is always the same: They are remembered.
This year's top players include multiple first-round draft picks, providing for an exciting week and a half in Omaha.
Here are the five players who are going to take the country by storm this College World Series.
Travis Jankowski, OF, Stony Brook
Travis Jankowski is the best player on cinderella-story Stony Brook's squad. The junior was drafted earlier this month in the first round by the San Diego Padres (44th overall).
Jankowski has been on fire all season long—batting .422 (fifth in the nation) with five home runs. His real advantage, though, is on the base paths. Jankowski has 36 stolen bases (sixth in the nation) on the year and is a threat to score as soon as he's on first base, which is often considering his .485 on-base percentage.
With that sort of speed, Jankowski can cover a ridiculous amount of ground in center field, allowing him to chase balls down in the gap and turn potential extra-base hits into outs.
If Stony Brook is going to continue their underdog story, look for Jankowski to be the preeminent reason.
Jeff Gelalich, OF, UCLA
Heading into the College World Series, many are considering UCLA the favorite to win it all. If that were to happen, you could bet Jeff Gelalich would have his fingerprints all over those wins.
While Gelalich doesn't do anything remarkably well, his ability to do everything exceptionally makes him the Bruins' best offensive weapon—.365 BA, .485 OBP, 11 HR, 15 SB. A stellar junior season compelled the Cincinnati Reds to select Gelalich with the 57th overall pick in this month's draft.
Gelalich is the leader of one of the best college baseball teams in the country and will show why in the next week and a half.
David Starn, P, Kent State
Senior Kent State pitcher David Starn is the lone pitcher on this list. This, however, is not due to the lack of pitchers that could make a name for themselves in Omaha, but instead to the tremendous numbers Starn has put up.
The senior was one of the best pitchers in college baseball in 2012—racking up 123 strikeouts, good enough for eighth in the nation, accompanied by an above-average ERA at 2.21.
Kent State, like Stony Brook, came out of nowhere this postseason and has already shocked big-name schools such as No. 5 Oregon.
If the Golden Flashes are going to make any sort of run in Omaha, they'll need Starn to be on top of his game—which he has been thus far in the postseason. Evidenced by his outstanding strikeout numbers, he has the ability to shut teams down at any point—a weapon that is extremely valuable especially in tournament play.
Look for Starn to make a major impact for the Golden Flashes and possibly lead them deep into the College World Series.
Mike Zunino, C, Florida
Florida catcher Mike Zunino is perhaps the best player in the College World Series. The junior has had a tremendous 2012 season and has carried that success into the postseason.
At 6'2'' and 220 pounds, Zunino has shown tremendous power as well as the ability to hit for average—he batted .322 this season, slugged a .678 and his 19 home runs were good enough for fourth in the country.
Smashing home runs is a lot more difficult in college baseball these days due to the new bats, but Zunino is one of the few players who has handled the change seamlessly—he has 19 homers in each of his two seasons with the new bats.
It's no surprise that he was selected third overall in the MLB draft by the Seattle Mariners. Keep an eye out for the Zunino in the major leagues sooner rather than later.
With his sort of ability, the All-American is going to be one the major stars at this year's College World Series. Gator nation will be hoping that ability is enough to carry the team to a National Championship.
James Ramsey, OF, Florida State
Another first-round draft pick that will be on display in the College World Series is Florida State outfielder James Ramsey. The senior was taken No. 23 overall by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ramsey made the right choice to come back for his senior year after being drafted in last year's MLB draft. He hit .382, had an on-base percentage of .519, slugged .673 and hit 13 home runs for the Seminoles in 2012.
He's been on fire in the postseason as well—earning the NCAA Regional's Most Outstanding Player award.
In addition to being the Seminoles' most important player on the field, Ramsey is also their team captain and leader off the field. He has a good head on his shoulders and is strong in his faith—evidenced by his interview with MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch (via Stlouiscardinals.com).
I felt like I had a huge platform for my faith, and not just the city of Tallahassee, but across all of college athletics. I was the president of two different campus organizations and had some leadership things to tend to for another year. I wanted to finish my degree in the honors program where I finished Magna Cum Laude in finance, really showing that you can go back and earn your degree that no one can take from you. Obviously, I want to go and win a national championship, as well.
Adding that sort of maturity and leadership to Ramsey's exceptional on-field abilities yields one tremendous baseball player—exactly what Ramsey is.