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2011 College World Series: Predicting the Top 10 Breakout Stars

Joseph HealyCorrespondent IJune 19, 2011

2011 College World Series: Predicting the Top 10 Breakout Stars

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    If Westlake is the best power hitter still playing, Zunino is probably number two. He has a .371 batting average, 18 homers and 66 RBI.

    Like Westlake, he also leads an offense that puts up a ridiculous amount of runs. As a team, the Gators have the potential to put up a ton of runs during the next two weeks.

    Zunino is also charged with the task of handling one of the most talented pitching staffs in the nation, and it's a task that he handles well.

    The fact that he has to catch nine innings every game adds to his resume as one of the best players in the entire College World Series field.

Aaron Westlake: Vanderbilt

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    For my money, Westlake is the best power hitter in the field. The Vanderbilt slugger is hitting .349 with 17 home runs and 54 RBI.

    In Game 2 of their super regional series with Oregon State, Westlake crushed three monster home runs to help his Commodores move on to Omaha.

    With the new bats in college baseball being significantly toned down, his prodigious power is even more impressive.

    Couple his skills with the good chance that Vanderbilt makes a deep run in the College World Series, and you have a formula for a huge star of the two week event.

Mike Zunino: Florida

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    If Westlake is the best power hitter still playing, Zunino is probably number two. He has a .371 batting average, 18 homers and 66 RBI.

    Like Westlake, he also leads an offense that puts up a ridiculous amount of runs. As a team, the Gators have the potential to put up a ton of runs during the next two weeks.

    Zunino is also charged with the task of handling one of the most talented pitching staffs in the nation, and it's a task that he handles well.

    The fact that he has to catch nine innings every game adds to his resume as one of the best players in the entire College World Series field.

Danny Hultzen: Virginia

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    Describing Danny Hultzen as a possible breakout star might be slighting him, considering the amount of publicity he is already getting.

    Hultzen was the second player taken in the MLB Draft a couple weeks ago.

    He is 12-3 with a 1.49 ERA. He has also struck out 151 batters in 108.2 innings pitched.

    When he isn't on the mound, Hultzen has a pretty solid swing at the plate. On the season, he is batting .320 and has driven in 35 runs.

Tyler Naquin: Texas A&M

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    Naquin, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, is a guy who can beat a team in any number of ways.

    He is hitting .390 with 23 doubles, seven triples and 44 RBI. He can swipe bases with his plus speed, and he never gives less than a full effort when he is out on the field.

    He covers a ton of ground in the outfield, and as evidenced by his seven outfield assists, he has a cannon for an arm.

    Simply put, Naquin is the type of player that the fans really cling to, and he is a joy to watch.

Colin Moran: North Carolina

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Colin Moran has given the Tar Heels everything they could expect from an untested freshman and then some.

    Moran was named the ACC's Freshman of the Year, and rightfully so. Moran is hitting .342 with nine home runs and 71 RBI. He is the one that really makes UNC's offense go.

    North Carolina has merely a decent offense around him, so if the Tar Heels are going to have any level of success in Omaha, it will be with great thanks to a large deal of production from Moran.

    Pictured: Not Colin Moran

Jackie Bradley, Jr.: South Carolina

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The addition of Jackie Bradley, Jr. to this list might seem odd. After all, Bradley has missed most of the later part of the season with an injury.

    That is the same reason why I think he has a great chance to do some great things in Omaha. Last year, Bradley was named the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series. He has had great success on this grandest of stages, and he will be more than ready to get back out there.

    There will be little expectation tied to him, particularly early on, and that's a good thing for him. Teams will work around other hitters in the lineup to pitch to Bradley, working under the assumption that he will be rusty.

    That's a dangerous thing for opposing pitchers. Bradley is a veteran hitter with a great approach at the plate. Don't be surprised if it is he that comes up big for the Gamecocks in Omaha.

Michael Roth: South Carolina

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Roth exploded on to the scene last year with a great start in the College World Series championship series for the Gamecocks.

    Even though he did not factor into the decision in what turned out to be an extra inning affair, Roth put his team in a great position to win.

    Roth parlayed that great start last year into a great season at South Carolina. Roth is 13-3 with a microscopic 1.02 ERA.

    The Gamecocks don't have a lot of starting pitching depth behind him, so it will be on Roth to give them great starts every time out.

Preston Tucker: Florida

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    Along with Mike Zunino, Tucker is the other half of the Gators' slugging duo in the middle of their lineup. Tucker is hitting .312 with 14 home runs and 69 RBI.

    He has a flair for the moment as well. Trailing Mississippi State 6-4 in the seventh inning of Game 3 of the super regionals, Tucker blasted a three-run homer to dead centerfield to put Florida up for good.

    Tucker has a ton of protection around him in the lineup, not the least of which is Zunino. The Gators look poised to make a deep run in Omaha, and Tucker promises to be right in the middle of it.

Sam Stafford: Texas

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    On Saturday night, Longhorns ace Taylor Jungmann lost his third start in a row. He was thought to be the one that would carry the pitching staff through the tournament, but now, that might fall to Sam Stafford.

    Stafford will be set to go in their elimination game against North Carolina. It appears to be an assignment that he can handle. Stafford is 6-2 on the season with a 1.72 ERA.

    Sometimes the biggest stars are the ones that are forced into roles they wouldn't normally have to take on. In this case, Stafford will be playing the role of the staff ace, trying to get Texas back through the loser's bracket and into the championship series.

Jason Esposito: Vanderbilt

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    While teammate Aaron Westlake will turn more heads with his towering home runs and hulking physique, Jason Esposito continues to plug away and put up numbers very comparable to Westlake.

    Esposito is hitting .350 with nine home runs and 59 RBI. He is also dangerous on the base paths, as he has 15 steals.

    If opposing pitchers find a way to bottle up Westlake (granted, it's doubtful), Esposito will be there to pick up any slack.

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