North Carolina's Colin Moran has the bat to be a star in the big leagues.
The 2013 College World Series is drawing to a close, with UCLA holding a 1-0 series lead over Mississippi State entering Tuesday's Game 2, but the future for some of the best and brightest players in Omaha is incredibly exciting.
We started with a field of 64 teams that dwindled down to eight. Those final eight made the journey to TD Ameritrade Park in Nebraska. The event has increased in popularity in recent years thanks to national television coverage, which also gives fans a look at some of the top incoming--either this year or in the not-too-distant future--prospects.
To give you an idea of who the best of the best in Omaha were this year, here is a look at the players who will go from being stars of the College World Series to shining on the All-Star stage in Major League Baseball.
Note: These are only players whose teams made it to Omaha (LSU, Mississippi State, Indiana, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oregon State, Louisville and UCLA).
Hunter Renfroe was a first-round pick to San Diego in the 2013 MLB Draft
Renfroe has a long career ahead of him, starting in the San Diego Padres' system very soon, but he still has to take care of business in Omaha to get Mississippi State back into the series with UCLA.
Taken with the 13th pick in the 2013 MLB draft earlier this month, Renfroe has big tools and arguably the most upside of any college position player from this year's class. He has a lot of power that hasn't always shown up in games because of poor pitch recognition and some swing problems, like a big leg kick and weight transfer that leaves him lunging more often than not.
Renfroe's best present tool is his speed, because it is plus-plus and plays in games when he is in the outfield and on the bases. He also has a great throwing arm, especially as a center fielder, and that helps him project as a plus defender at a premium position.
There are going to be some concerns about his ability to hit against better quality stuff, as well as his lack of track record in college. Prior to 2013, when he hit .351/.437/.629, Renfroe didn't hit over .252 in a season.
But the tools Renfroe possesses suggest a very good, potentially great, player at the next level.
Nick Burdi has one of the most electric arms of any pitcher available in next year's draft, but you probably won't hear his name mentioned until later in the first round or even in the competitive balance round because he is a reliever.
There might be a team out there that believes they can turn Burdi into a starter, similar to what the Los Angeles Dodgers are doing with Chris Reed when they drafted him out of Stanford in 2011, though he will have to prove he has a third usable pitch and clean up his delivery.
Right now, Burdi has a huge fastball, one of the best in the nation. He can hit triple digits in short bursts, though he might have to dial it back a little bit if he moves into the rotation. The heater is complemented with a knockout slider that has Matt Harvey-type velocity.
There is a lot of effort in Burdi's delivery. He is very stiff in the wind-up and doesn't use his lower half well, relying solely on arm strength. But as a two-pitch college reliever, the Louisville closer could move quickly and be an All-Star big league reliever by 2016.
Colin Moran was the best hitter on the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the College World Series. His knack for hitting led to the Miami Marlins taking him with the sixth overall pick in this year's draft.
When the Tar Heels were upset by North Carolina State and UCLA, Moran was able to move forward with his professional career. He has yet to sign with the Marlins, but now that he isn't playing in Omaha anymore, there is nothing standing in the way of negotiating.
Eventually a deal will get done and the Marlins will be able to plug him into their farm system. Moran has one of the best hitting approaches in the country, rarely chasing anything out of the zone and working counts into his favor. He had an incredible 63-25 walk-to-strikeout ratio this season. His swing is a bit unorthodox, as he starts his hands around his ear and drops them below his shoulder when transferring his weight, but he makes it work with good bat control.
Third base might not be an ideal position for him, as he doesn't always read the ball well off the bat and has limited range of motion, but his arm strength and accuracy will play there. He may not be more than a fringe-average defender.
But the bat is the calling card for Moran, and it is a very good one.
Even though there were two notable pitchers in LSU's rotation this season--Nola and Ryan Eades, who was taken by the Minnesota Twins in the second round--Nola is the star of the show and will be an early first-round selection in 2014.
There are some red flags with Nola, some that he can control and others that aren't his fault. For instance, he uses a three-quarters arm slot that prevents him from getting on top of the ball and his off-speed stuff can flatten out at times. He is also a little short for a right-handed starter at 6'1".
But the stuff looks good when Nola is at the top of his game. He throws a plus fastball that has some movement because of his arm slot. His curveball is an above-average offering, though it tends to get slurvy since he doesn't get on top of the pitch. He also shows some feel for a changeup, though it isn't better than an average pitch right now.
Given the strength of his fastball, as well as his feel for two off-speed pitches, Nola does have good upside for a college starter and plenty of things that a big league development staff can work with to turn him into a star.
When you are a player whose only value lies on offense, you have to really be able to hit in order to get a lot of attention in the draft, let alone be a potential first-round pick.
Indiana's Kyle Schwarber is a catcher right now but will move to first base when he gets drafted in 2014. He doesn't have the most athletic body, at 6'0", 235 pounds, but he can really hit. He took huge steps forward with the Hoosiers this season, hitting .366/.456/.647 with 18 home runs and 29 extra-base hits.
In this era of college baseball, where there are whole teams who aren't hitting more than 25-30 home runs per season, a player like Schwarber, who has legit plus power and an above-average hit tool with improved pitch recognition skills, has tremendous value.
There is some hesitation in saying that Schwarber will be an All-Star because there is virtually no value he provides with the glove. But I do find that hitters in the draft are becoming an even bigger luxury now than they ever were.
The final two players on the list come from the same school and could be the first pair of teammates to go first and second in a draft next June.
Let's start with shortstop Trea Turner, who is just an incredible athlete and continues to grow as a player the more you watch him play. He played shortstop for the first time at North Carolina State this season and made it look easy.
Turner's best tool is his speed, which is true plus-plus and in the elite category of baseball players in the country. He's not Billy Hamilton, because no one is, but he can sit in the next tier of speedsters easily.
That speed helps Turner's range at shortstop, to both the left and right, and he has more than enough arm strength to stay at the position in pro ball.
Offensively, Turner had a fantastic season with the Wolfpack. He had a solid freshman season, hitting .336/.432/.459 in 63 games, but improved upon that with a .368/.455/.553 line in 56 games.
He has a short, quick swing with a direct path to the ball and will generate a lot of hard contact, though he isn't likely to have more than fringe-average power because he doesn't have great bat speed or strength.
But a plus defensive shortstop with speed and ability to hit for average and 10-12 homers per year is an extremely rare commodity.
Carlos Rodon, a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top player as a freshman in 2012, will enter next season as the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft (presumably to the Miami Marlins.)
Since stepping onto campus, Rodon has been dominant for the Wolfpack. He went 9-0 with a 1.57 ERA and a 135-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17 games last year. The 20-year-old lefty followed that up with a 10-3 record, 2.99 ERA and a 184-45 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 132.1 innings this season.
The stuff supports the results Rodon has gotten with North Carolina State. His fastball will sit in the low 90s and touch 95-96 on occasion. He has good control of the pitch and is getting better at commanding it to all four quadrants of the strike zone, though that will be one of the big areas he has to work on.
But Rodon's knockout pitch is a slider that sits in the low 80s with hard, sharp tilt down in the zone and is an absolute nightmare for right-handed hitters to make contact with. He does have to keep developing his changeup to reach his ultimate ceiling, but left-handed pitchers with two plus pitches don't last very long on draft day.