NCAA Baseball Regionals 2012: Stars You Must Watch in Prestigious Tournament

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2012

Photo from SECdigitalonline.com
Photo from SECdigitalonline.com

The NCAA baseball tournament may not receive the hype or anticipation that March Madness annually gets, but there are still future major league stars in play you won't want to miss.

If you're a fan of teams that select high in the upcoming MLB draft, this tournament is a great opportunity for you to scout future potential players for your favorite team.

Here are three guys you should be keeping a close eye on.

Mark Appel, RHP (Stanford)

He's widely considered the top pitching prospect in the college game, and he'll be looking to lead Stanford on a long tournament run.

Appel was 9-1 this season with a 2.37 ERA and led the Pac-12 in strikeouts with 116. He's currently the slight favorite over Byron Buxton to be the first-overall pick by the Houston Astros in this year's MLB draft, so you could be watching a future major league ace.

Appel will impress you with his velocity and biting slider, though he is prone to bouts of inconsistency at times. But he's also in the running for the Dick Howser Trophy, given to the top college player in the country, so those bouts don't last terribly long.

Oh, and if you watch Stanford, keep an eye out for third baseman and pitcher Stephen Piscotty—also a likely first-round selection.

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Mike Zunino, C (Florida)

Second-ranked Florida should probably call him Mike Piazza rather than Zunino, because that's the type of hitter he's been there in his career.

This year, he's hitting .323 with 16 home runs and 55 RBI. Last year, he hit .371 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI, earning himself SEC Player of the Year honors.

The Junior certainly paces the Florida offense, and he was a huge factor in last year's College World Series. If you only focus on one position player during this tournament, be sure you catch Zunino in action.

Kevin Gausman, RHP (LSU)

Gausman will likely be one of the first two college pitchers off the board, and for good reason: He was 10-1 in 15 starts (107.2 innings) with a 2.84 ERA, 125 strikeouts and only 24 walks for LSU this season.

If the seventh-ranked Tigers are going to make a deep run in this tournament, they'll need Gausman to be as nasty on the mound as he's been all season.

I wouldn't bet against him.

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