While some people say, and I certainly won't argue, that March Madness is one of the greatest spectacles in American sports, one phenomenon that I feel is overlooked every year is the College World Series. People dismiss it as kids who weren't good enough to be drafted, playing in a league that still lets them use metal bats, and that is about as far from true as can be.
Yes, they still use metal bats, and no, not all of these kids are drafted by major league squads, but consider this: One of the cornerstones of Moneyball, the strategy employed by Billy Beane to make the Oakland Athletics competitive with a small payroll, was to focus on drafting college players.
Why? Because while there are certainly cases (Bryce Harper, anyone?) of kids being good enough right out of high school to compete at the major league level, for every one of those success stories, there are about 50,000 failures.
College players are more polished. Instead of making the jump from facing high schoolers to facing professionals, they are given more time to adapt and grow their game so that they are more pro-ready when they step into the big leagues.
A few players who are still at the collegiate level this year are going to make a big impact quickly for their respective teams at the next level. Let's take a look at a few of them.
Mike Zunino, C, Florida, Drafted Third Overall by the Seattle Mariners
Zunino was taken in the 29th round by Oakland in 2009 but decided to attend the University of Florida instead, and the decision has paid off.
He has developed into one of the best catchers in the nation with great leadership qualities and a skill set that should translate nicely to the next level. He has a strong and accurate arm and blocks the ball extremely well behind the plate.
On offense, he has a strong, smooth swing with great pop, and it shouldn't take long for him to make his way onto the Mariners' roster.
Zunino is 0-2 with two walks and an RBI so far this CWS. His Gators look to avoid elimination Monday night at 5 p.m. vs. Kent State.
Jeff Gelalich, RF, UCLA, Drafted 57th Overall by the Cincinnati Reds
In the notoriously difficult PAC-12, Jeff Gelalich hit .365 with an on-base percentage of .458 while slugging .558. His numbers are nice, but they don't tell the whole story.
Gelalich has above average speed, which certainly helps on the basepaths, but also comes into play in the outfield. He has the speed to play either center or right in the majors, but his average arm strength will probably force him to stay in right. He has developed excellent patience at the plate, and his compact swing will translate well to the next level.
According to the scouting website Coast 2 Coast Prospects, Gelalich is similar to Bobby Abreu in his all-around game.
Gelalich is only 1-8 with two RBI this CWS. Look for him to try to help the Bruins defeat Florida State and avoid being sent home Tuesday night at 8 p.m.
Who will have the best pro career?
James Ramsey, OF, Florida State, Drafted 23rd Overall by the St. Louis Cardinals
According to C. Trent Rosencrans, baseball blogger for CBSSports.com, "Senior outfielder James Ramsey has been called the Tim Tebow of the Seminoles for his leadership, faith and all-around good-guyness."
While I'm sure as a Seminole, you'd rather never hear Tim Tebow's name ever again, the reference is meant as a compliment. Ramsey has the type of game where he isn't going to blow you away with his physical skill set or his numbers, but between his steady production and leadership, he's the kind of guy you want on your team.
He's incredibly consistent, has surprising power for someone his size and is a good base stealer.
He's 3-8 with an RBI and two walks this CWS and will be matching up with Gelalich Tuesday night at 8 p.m. to see who goes home empty-handed and who stays in Omaha.