SEC Baseball Tournament 2012: Top Players to Watch in Conference Tourney

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2012

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 27:  Catcher Robert Beary #4 of the South Carolina Gamecocks makes the out against Mike Zunino #3 of the Florida Gators in the 9th inning during game 1 of the men's 2011 NCAA College Baseball World Series at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha on June 27, 2011 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The SEC features some of the best baseball teams in the nation, so the conference tournament will surely provide plenty of great play from the country's top players. With the spotlight on them like never before, now's their chance to shine.

Let's take a look at three players worth watching over the next week as the conference's top 10 teams battle it out for a championship. LSU won the regular season title and therefore enter the tourney as the top seed.

Raph Rhymes (LSU)

Rhymes flirted with a .500 batting average for a while before finishing with an impressive .469 mark. His dominance allowed the LSU offense to thrive en route to the regular season crown, and the Tigers need him to keep raking.

What makes him such a great hitter is the ability to make consistent contact. He finished with just 11 strikeouts. The more often you can put the ball in play, the best off you are, especially at the college level where the defense isn't as strong.

While he doesn't have much power, the Tigers just need him to get on base so the sluggers can bring him around. Judging by his performance so far, that's exactly what he'll do.

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Mike Zunino (Florida)

One year after being named the conference's player of the year, Zunino was able to back it up with another strong season for the Gators. He cranked out 15 home runs and drove in 51 runs while hitting .324 to lead Florida.

In addition to his success at the plate, Zunino did a pretty nice job behind it as well as the team's catcher. He helped navigate a young pitching staff to a great campaign, making him one of the most well-rounded players in the country.

Even though the Gators weren't able to secure one of the first-round byes, Zunino gives them a good chance to pull out the championship anyway.

Corey Littrell (Kentucky)

Littrell has a terrific season on the mound for the Wildcats. He went 8-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 14 starts. He also struck out 74 batters in 85 innings while walking just 21. Those ratios allow him to avoid the big innings that plague so many college pitchers.

Kentucky enters the tournament as a bit of a dark horse because the conference has so many top teams, but Littrell should keep them in every game he starts. If the other starters hold up their end of the bargain, Kentucky could be a nice sleeper pick.

The biggest thing for Littrell will be keeping his poise. Since he relies on control, he can't afford to get overexcited and start walking guys. As long as that doesn't become an issue, he'll roll.